Holiday baking is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. It’s steeped in tradition, heritage and reminds me of my childhood. Growing up we made mint cookies and molasses cookies every year. Christmas morning my mom would serve her Christmas tea ring. The memories of making Christmas cookies with my family are some of my fondest. I’ve carried on many of these traditions making the mint cookies every year. Over the years, we’ve stopped making the molasses cookies in Florida as they take too much flour to make them manageable. In lieu of the tea ring, I’ve made my caramel rolls to serve at brunch for over a decade.
I had an amazing time exploring Scandinavia this fall with my son, brother and sister-in-law. It definitely strengthened the connection I feel to our family’s heritage. As a result, I wanted to infuse some traditional Norwegian and Finnish cookies into our holiday baking. My aunt, a lefse baking pro, provided us with the recipe for lefse. I found the recipes for the Norwegian cookies in Norwegian heritage groups on Facebook. Finally, I was able to find Finnish recipes via google.
The baking started off by baking the mint cookie dough. I planned to bake several dozen since these cookies were a sure bet. Unfortunately, dough vultures (a.k.a my kids) thwarted my first attempt. My next attempt had to be more covert. Indeed, my mom and I ended up baking three more batches. We had to hide the dough in one of our three refrigerators to ensure we’d have enough to bake cookies.
My holiday baking this year was more special since my mom was here. It made our culinary adventure through Scandinavian traditions more meaningful. Our first task was to make the dough for the kringlas (Norwegian) and juolutorttu (Finnish.) Each of these doughs was quite easy to make. The kringla is a sour cream dough, while the juolutorttu dough is more of a pastry dough. Normally, the doughs would need to rest for an hour or two. However, we left them rest overnight due to the climate in Florida.
The next morning we started by making the dough for the pulla, a Finnish sweet bread. Since the bread had to rise for 90 minutes, it was the perfect place to start. While it raised, we were able to make the juolutorttu and the kringlas. Traditionally, the juolutorttu is made with prunes, but I didn’t have any and I don’t really like prune. Consequently, we made ours with lingonberry, blueberry and cloudberry jam that I had purchased on my recent travels. Both of the cookies were a bit fussy to make, but they were much easier to make than I had to anticipated. The pulla was relatively easy to make and smelled divine.
As the pulla baked, I headed to the gym for a quick workout before we undertook making lefse. Once it was completed, we fired up the lefse griddle. (Naturally, I had bought an entire lefse baking kit.- get it here.) The lefse would be, by far, the most difficult thing we made that day. While I was at work the Friday before, my mom mixed up the dough since it had to sit overnight. Nonetheless, the lefse was still difficult to handle. Our first attempt was an utter failure, but we improved with each lefse. By the end of it, we were professionals.
In the end, we worse ourselves out will all of our holiday baking. On Christmas, we had a plenty of sweet Scandinavian treats to last til next Christmas. We had great beginner’s luck on all of our Scandinavian treats and I can’t wait to make them again next year. Below you’ll find the links to the Scandinavian recipes we used this Christmas.
Juolutorrtu (also called juolutorts or north stars)