Advent Song

Advent Season is the Christian “countdown” in celebration of Christmas day. Starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, a candle is lit and a hymn or poem is cited. On the following Sunday two candles are lit and so on, until the Sunday before Christmas.

There are a few different songs and poems, but this one is the most famous in Norway.

Adventsangen

Nå tenner vi det første lys
Alene må det stå
Vi venter på det lille Barn
som i en krybbe lå

Nå tenner vi det andre lys
Da kan vi bedre se
Vi venter på at Gud, vår Far
skal gi sin Sønn hit ned

Nå tenner vi det tredje lys
Det er et hellig tall
Vi venter på at Kongen vår
skal fødes i en stall

Nå tenner vi det fjerde lys
og natten blir til dag
Vi venter på en Frelsermann
for alle folkeslag

The Advent Song

Now we light the first candle
It must stand alone
We wait for the little child
who laid in a manger

Now we light the second candle
Then we can see better
We wait for God, our Father
to give his Son down here

Now we light the third candle
It is a sacred number
We wait for our King
to be born in a stable

Now we light the fourth candle
and night turns into day
We wait for a Saviour
for all mankind

Christmas Cookies

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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:

Pepperkaker (Gingerbread)
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.

Pepperkaker Recipe

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.

Ingefærnøtter recipe

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.

Fattigmann Recipe

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.

Krumkaker Receipe 1

Krumkaker Recipe 2

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.

Kokosmakroner Recipe

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.

Goro Recipe

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.

Method
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.

Tykklefser Recipe

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.

Hjortetakk Recipe

Serinakaker
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

Method
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.

Sandkake Recipe

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.

Sirupsnipper Recipe

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.

Christmas Stars recipe

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

Method
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.

Kransekaker fingers

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!

Smultringer

Smultringer, (or lard rings in English), are a traditional donut that are very popular in Norway. They can be bought in packs at the supermarket throughout the year here, but come Christmas, you can buy them fresh and hot from street and market vendors. As such, they are not donuts to be iced, but a dusting of cinnamon-sugar makes them very moreish. These donuts are quiet easy to make yourself at home, if you have the donut dispenser on hand.

In Norway you can buy the donut dispenser at any good kitchen boutique, even at supermarkets. There are many recipes for smultringer, but I use the one that came on the dispenser box and it has never failed me – the rings come out light and fluffy every time.

This recipe makes enough for a small army. For a family of four, I advise to half the ingredients.

Ingredients
6 eggs
450g caster sugar

4dl whole milk
4dl sour milk
2.5dl full cream

3 small teaspoons of horn salt
1 small teaspoon of baking soda
4 teaspoons of Cardamon
ca. 1300gr. white flour

500g copha/hydrogenated coconut oil for frying

Caster sugar and cinnamon for seasoning

Method
Beat together the eggs and sugar. Mix together the whole milk, sour milk and full cream. Mix together the horn salt, baking soda, cardamon and white flour. Blend all ingredients together to a thick consistency. If the dough is too runny, you can let it stand in the fridge until it thickens to the right consistency.

The dough can keep in the fridge covered for a few days. It will separate but you can re-stir to bring it back to its thickness.

In a small bowl, mix together a few table spoons of caster sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon for a season mix to coat the donuts. Judge quantity to your liking – I tend to like a lot more cinnamon in my mix.

 

Cooking prep
When the smultringer dough is ready, prepare your cooking station.

Have a donut dispenser clean and ready. Have a drip plate to set it on when not in use.

For a drip tray, I like to use a flat long baking tray with paper towelling to collect the oil drips. On top, I set a lattice baking rack. This means the donuts will get the air they need underneath to crisp.

I use a mesh oil skimmer to flip and pick up the smultringer.

Also, I use a deep pot for the copha to control and flicks or splash.

 

Cooking
Melt the copha on a medium heat – 180C.

Pour the dough into the dispenser.

Test the oil for cooking by putting a small drop of dough in. If the oil bubbles/fries around the dough, it is warm enough.

To get well-shaped donuts, it is best to keep the dispenser full as the heaviness of the dough helps it to come out quicker as it drops into the oil. Use the finger grips of the dispenser to open and shut the bottom. Yes, you will likely make some shape-challenged smultringer at first, but practice makes perfect!

Keep an eye on the cooking donuts and turn over with the oil skimmer when medium brown. When cooked on both sides, set the donuts on the rack to air-dry. Make sure they have their own space. When they are dry and cooler, then they can be stacked.

When cool to touch, one-by-one put the donuts in the small cinnamon-sugar bowl to coat. Flip and then set aside. Repeat with each donut. I prefer this method over sprinkling on the cinnamon-sugar as you get a thorough coating.

Then, enjoy!!

 

 

Advent Season

In Norway, Advent season is when Norwegians prepare for Christmas. Even though it is the darkest time of the year, it is full of activity, lights, parties and yummy food.

Advent is essentially a countdown to the first day of Christmas, December 25th. The observance starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and is celebrated by lighting a candle. Traditionally, four candles are used to represent each Sunday – one lit on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so fourth. With each lighting of the candle, it is custom to sing the Advent Song.

Advent Candles

Advent season features the colour purple, as purple symbolises anticipation and preparation. Traditionally, four purple candles are used, however it is now common to have white candles, or even red. The candles are typically set in a table candelabra, either in a circle or a row, and placed on a table or in a window. A decorative plate is sometimes used with the base decorated with tinsel or baubles.

The Christmas Calendar is a feature of Advent season. Calendars start a countdown from the 1st of December to the 24th. Every day a surprise of goodies, toys or special messages, awaits. Advent calendars are usually wall hangings with pockets, however, there are also many modern varieties such as matchboxes with draws, a string of mini-stockings dressing windows, or a hanging clothesline with pegs.  A most recent addition is a string of gingerbread, each cookie with the number of the day, to be eaten.

Traditional Orange-clove Calendar

A more traditional Advent calendar is made with an orange and cloves. 24 cloves are spiked into the orange, which makes a yummy Christmasy smell. Each day a clove is taken out and when there are none left in the orange, you’ll know tomorrow is Christmas Day. These calendars are popular in Norway as they smell delicious and rest perfectly in table wreaths or Christmas platters

To make the orange-clove calendar:

  • 1 lovely smelling orange
  • 24 cloves with long stalks to mark each day from 1st of December to Christmas
  • Toothpick

Think of a pattern before you start pushing in the cloves – a heart, zig-zags, a tree, etc.  (Mine above is very imaginative… straight lines!)  Use a toothpick to mark out your design – the holes also help to put in the cloves. Insert the stalk end of the cloves into the orange. Each day of Advent, pull out a clove and refresh the Christmas smell in the room.

Concert Season

First Advent Sunday marks the start of the Christmas concert season in Norway, and a lot of towns have their first Christmas concert on this day.  Christmas concert season continues to the 1st week of January – there are 20 Day of Christmas, and so the season isn’t officially over until the 13th of January.

Lighting of the Christmas Tree

First Advent Sunday is also the day for the Lighting of the Christmas tree celebration in the town square.  This is a big event in many cities around the country as the community celebrates together the coming of Christmas by holding hands to walk around the tree, while singing Christmas songs.