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Seven Sorts refers to the seven traditional Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies – an array of treats that sit on most Norwegian Christmas tables. The light cookies are the short breads and the dark cookies are the ginger breads. However, there is a dispute about which seven are the original – there are actually over twenty cookies to choose from. Below are a few of the most popular Seven Sorts:
Gingerbread is a cookie made of dried ginger, syrup and spice. The cookies are often decorated with icing and candy. In Norway it is used to make gingerbread houses and Christmas Tree decorations, and there is great debate whether pepperkaker should be added to the seven sorts list.
Ingefærnøtter / peppernøtter (Ginger nuts)
This cookie is similar to a gingerbread dough. They are shaped into little balls and baked until hard – just like nuts. These are very easy to make but do need some time to sit.
Fattigmann (Poor Man)
These cookies are made with cream, about eight egg yolks and brandy, rolled and then deep fried. It certainly doesn’t live up to its name. This cookie is an old recipe that dates back more than 100 years.
Krumkaker (Curved Cake)
This is a waffle cookie, cooked in a special griddle and then rolled into a cone shape. They are normally filled with whipped cream. These waffle cookies are nearly the same as waffle cones for ice cream – just smaller and more delicate.
Kokosmakroner (Coconut Macaroons)
These are meringue and coconut cookies. Usually chewy when fresh, they can form a hard crust on the outside. They are the easiest of the seven sorts to make.
Goro (Well Off)
These cookies are similar to the Fattigmann cookies but are cooked in a special griddle with a floral stamp. The cookies turn out rectangular and very flat with the floral design cooked into them.
Brune pinner (Brown Sticks)
This cookie is cooked as a flat log and then cut into fingers just out of the oven.
200g butter, 200g sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 tbs light syrup, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla sugar or a couple of drops of vanilla essence, 300g plain flour.
Topping: egg, pearl sugar, chopped almonds.
Oven 175ºC. Beat butter and sugar. Blend in the rest of the ingredients. Knead and split into 4 logs. Flatten the logs on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Beat egg and brush on top of logs. Sprinkle sugar and almonds. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Slice into fingers while warm.
Tykklefser (Thick flat soft-bread)
This is a very soft cake, more like a pancake, made with sour milk and can be cooked in the oven rather than a hot plate like thin lefse. It is normally made into a sandwich filled with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Hjortetakk (Deer Antlers)
Similar to lefser, Deer Antlers is named after the raising agent hartshorn salt, also called ammonium bicarbonate. It does make the kitchen smell of ammonia while they bake but the cookies turn out delicious.
A very simple cookie; this one isn’t on everyones list of seven sorts. It is usually topped with chopped almonds.
150g butter, 250g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp vanilla sugar or a couple of drops of vanilla essence, 100g sugar, 1 egg
Topping: beaten egg, chopped almonds and pearl sugar
Oven 175ºC. Rub butter into flour, baking powder and vanilla. Add sugar and beaten egg. Work the dough together into a sausage. Cut into equal portions and roll into little balls. Place balls on an oven tray with baking paper. Press a little, brush with egg and sprinkle on almonds and sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.
Sandkake (Sand Cakes)
Sand cakes are a simple short cake that is baked in little cup molds. They are sometimes filled with jam, jelly or fruit and cream.
Sirupsnipper (Syrup Snaps)
These are similar to gingerbread but with more sugar to make them sweeter and very crunchy. The are dimond shaped and usually decorated with a peeled almond.
Julestjerner (Christmas Stars)
Christmas Stars are a traditional shortbread cookie. They are cut into stars and it is custom to decorate them with chopped almonds. Julestjerner are very similar to Serinakaker.
Berlinerkranser (Berlin Rings)
A shortbread that uses a cooked egg yolk to thicken the dough.
2 hard boiled egg yolks, 2 raw egg yolks, 125g sugar, 300g flour, 250g butter
Topping: egg white and pearl sugar
Oven 175. Mix hard boiled and raw egg yolks together. Add sugar, beat well. Add flour and soft butter, alternating. Leave to cool for a few hours. Roll into thin 5 inch long sausages and form into rings, crossing the ends. Brush with egg white and sprinkle over pearl sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
Kransekaker (Circle Cake)
Kransekaker is a ring cake made with alomonds, powdered sugar and egg whites. It is decorated with a zig-zag of icing to keep the layers fixed. As a seven sort it is made into fingers. Usually left plain, kransefingers can be decorated on the end with chocolate and sprinkles.
It is common to serve seven sorts on a tier tray in the middle of the table during festivities at Christmas. They are used to accompany coffee or as a daily nibble. Many of the cookies such as pepperkaker, peppernøtter, macaroons and kransefinger can sit out for several days.
It is fun to have a good selection of seven sorts but making seven batches means a lot of time and a lot of cookies. What we do is set aside two hours of ‘make and bake’ time as a family activity. We only make 1/4 recipes. It means we make only six to eight cookies of each variety (instead of the standard 24). Many of the recipes use the same ingredients so if you plan it well you can share almonds, eggs, yolks and cream. The order that works best for us is:
We make sirupsnipper, ingefærnøtter, sandkaker and serinakaker and put them outside in the snow to cool. Recipes say leave over night but we find that isn’t necessary. They are out in the cold until we are finished cooking the other cookies first. If you don’t have an Arctic winter outside then the fridge is perfectly fine too (we just find we never have room in the fridge this time of year!) Next, we make the krumkaker and berlinerkranser because they need to rest for 30 minutes to thicken. Then we make brune pinner and the easiest, macaroons. After, the cooled doughs are rolled and baked. We call these our seven sorts of eight!
That doesn’t mean we miss out on the other seven sorts – usually we have already made pepperkaker by the first Sunday of Advent for our Christmas tree decorations, so there is no need to bake more here. And kransekaker is such an everyday cookie/cake that it is easier to buy the ready-made dough, roll and bake. Goro wouldn’t be the same without the iconic print, and since we don’t have the special griddle, we don’t bother as the dough/flavour is very similar to krumkaker anyway. Later on in the season we may make smultringer and hjortetakk together as they need frying. The one we would normally skip is fattigmann because that needs 8 egg yolks and cognac!
One thing you may have noticed about the seven sorts is that there is no chocolate. Chocolate is not a traditional Norwegian ingredient at Christmas. It is a modern addition but has not moved into the seven sorts arena.
There are also several cakes and treats that have become Christmas usuals in Norway, and we will certainly be making them too!