I have inherited a few Norwegian instincts from my mother: a biological compulsion to put myself in the path of the sun’s rays, an absurd love of shrimp and an instinctive acceptance of the janteloven. I am embarrassed to admit I have also taken things from Norway that genetics did not entitle me to.
I was nine years old when my family moved to Stavanger. A week after we arrived I started to bend the rough terrain to my will, seeking shortcuts that would allow me to forgo the clumsy route to the school bus stop, which involved scaling a steep hill only to descend it once I had reached the top. I quickly found I could shave about ten minutes off my “commute” by squeezing through a small gap in the neighbor’s hedge and tiptoeing surreptitiously across the foreign garden.
By October I had lost all sense of discretion and led a friend through the garden without faltering. Suddenly my friend stopped in front of a plum tree I’d never noticed before. Tender oval fruits hung from its branches, their ruddy purple tones veiled by shades of milky blue. We agreed to run back immediately after dropping off our backpacks.
A few minutes later we stood panting in front of the tree. As if by some unspoken code, we began stuffing the plums into our tee shirts, exposing our bellies to create cloth baskets. After a minute of silent fruit picking, the front door burst open to reveal an elderly woman protesting fiercely in Norwegian. Plums scattered across the lawn as my heart rose up into my throat. We abandoned our loot and we ran.
My mother tells me I felt guilty enough to confess to the day’s offense the very same evening, but I don’t recall the confession nor the punishment. I feel less guilty about sharing a recipe for a family favorite: Kransekake.
Kransekake is made of chewy almond rings stacked on top of each other to form a tower, with simple white icing connecting the layers. Once assembled, layers are taken off of the bottom (starting at the top is a major faux pas) and broken into bite-size pieces around the remaining rings of the tower. It is traditionally made for weddings and in celebration of National Constitution Day.
My interpretation of a recipe by Tusen Ting.
Makes about 12 rings (I couldn’t resist eating a few before making the tower 🙂 )
Before you start:
This recipe is not difficult but the dough needs plenty of resting time to allow the flavor to develop and to ensure the rings do not lose their shape while baking by spreading too much. Give yourself two days to complete this recipe.
A kransekake mould will make your life easier but you can also use a steady hand and some measuring tape (which is what I did for this post)!
This recipe calls for almond meal (ground almonds with skins still on) and not almond flour (usually blanched with skins removed). Both should work although I prefer almond meal as it makes the cookies even chewier.
750g almond meal
750g powdered sugar
5 egg whites
Mixing the dough:
- Mix the almond meal and powdered sugar in a large bowl.
- Then add in the egg whites until a soft dough forms.
- Quickly knead on a worktop to ensure ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Shape the dough into a log and wrap with plastic wrap.
- Place in the fridge to rest overnight.
Shaping the dough:
- Take a portion of the dough and roll it out into a long sausage, about 3-5cm thick.
- Use a measuring tape to cut a 10cm long slice.
- Connect the two ends and form a circle.
- Place the circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Continue to cut the sausage, increasing each round by 2cm (12cm, 14cm, 16cm…)
- Repeat until all the dough has been shaped into circles (this went up to a circle of 32cm for me).
- Allow the circles to rest in the fridge overnight.
- Seriously you have to do that part. If you try to bake them right away they will spread and look sloppy when you take them out of the oven (trust me, I tried it).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and then bake for 8-10 minutes (you probably won’t be able to fit all the rounds at once and that’s okay, do them in shifts).
- Once they have cooled, arrange the rings from smallest to largest.
Simple White Icing
200g powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
- Combine the powdered sugar and the water. Add more water if necessary. The icing should be slightly more viscous than honey.
- Transfer the icing to a pastry bag and cut a small hole.
- Starting with the largest ring, pipe a wavy design.
- Do the same on the second largest ring and then place this on top of the largest ring (try not to take too much time so the icing stays tacky and can act as a glue for the rings).