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Christmas gingerbread sandwich cookies

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Mömmukökur (Mama's Cookies)

My mother only makes these gingerbread cookies before Christmas, but they are excellent at any time of the year. When I was little, I really thought it was my mother's own recipe.

Different people have different ways of making Mömmukökur. My mother makes them very thin and bakes them until they are dark brown and crisp. Others make light brown, thicker cookies that soften quickly once the icing is on. Mother allows them to stand until completely cooled, before putting in tins for storage. This is to ensure that they will stay crisp. Then, just before Christmas - usually on Þorláksmessa (December 23rd) - the four of us (my parents, brother and I) sit down together and make cookie sandwiches, sticking the cookies together two by two with vanilla butter icing.

125 g butter/margarine
250 g golden syrup
125 g sugar
1 egg
500 g flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 portion butter icing

Melt together the butter, sugar and golden syr…

Sarah Bernhardt cookies - Sörur

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Like several other great artists, most famously the ballerina Pavlova and opera singer Nellie Melba, actress Sarah Bernhardt had some sweet desserts named after her. There is a Sarah Bernhardt cake, and then there are these delicious confections called Sarah Bernhardt cookies, invented by a Danish pastry chef who wanted to honour the actress.
These cookies, which we usually just call "Sarahs", are a great favourite of mine, and I try to make some every year for Christmas.



Note:
I have updated the recipe. The original has one thing wrong with it, which is that the buttercream icing has a tendency to separate when made like the recipe tells you to. I found more precise instructions on how to make this kind of icing in my trusty cooking encyclopedia, and have added them into the original recipe (in closed brackets) for those interested. The downside to the new version is that it does not yield enough icing for all the macaroons (at least if you like to use as much as I do). A lit…

Spicy gingersnaps - Piparkökur

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The Icelandic term for gingersnaps and gingerbread cookies literally means “pepper cookies”.
These unusual gingerbread refrigerator cookies not only contain pepper, but also paprika. My mother modified the recipe from one she found in an old recipe booklet.

500 g flour
500 g brown sugar
250 g butter
2 eggs
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered cloves
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp paprika

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add soft butter and eggs and knead until smooth. Cool in the refrigerator overnight. Roll out into sausage shapes of even thickness, pinch or cut off small portions and make little balls out of the dough. Put on a cookie sheet covered with baking paper and press your palm on top of each ball to flatten slightly. Bake at 200°C until browned.

Update: I made a batch on Saturday. These are very good gingersnaps. Instead of making balls and flattening them with my hand on the cookie sheet, I cut the dough rolls into thin slices (abo…

Cinnamon 'snails' (Kanilsnúðar) & Jewish Cookies (Gyðingakökur)

An anonymous commenter requested a recipe for Cinnamon 'snails', so here it is. This first recipe is the way my grandmother makes them. The second recipe is included for those who can not get their hands on hartshorn (baker's ammonia).

This is originally a recipe for Jewish Cookies, which are a Christmas staple in many Icelandic homes. I have included instructions for both cookies and 'snails'.

According to Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, author of the Icelandic food encyclopedia Matarást,  Jewish cookies got the name because they were originally made and sold by Jews, who presumably had a different name for them. It's a bit ironic that they should have become associated with Christmas in Iceland.

Cinnamon 'snails'/Jewish Cookies

175 g flour
100 g butter or margarine
1/2 tsp hartshorn powder (baker's ammonia) – see Note
60 g sugar
1 egg
1 tbs sugar

For cookies:
10 almonds

For 'snails':
Sugar and cinnamon, mixed together, approx 4 parts sugar to 1 pa…

Rice Pudding - Hrísgrjónagrautur

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This lovely pudding is served for lunch at my parents' house almost every Saturday, and we all love it. This is a cheap, nourishing, tasty meal, which I make much too seldom in my own home.
At Christmas, we have a small serving of rice pudding before the main meal of hangikjöt. According to tradition, my mother hides a peeled almond in the pudding and we each choose one bowl. The person who finds the almond (usually my brother) gets a small gift, typically some chocolate.

1/2 litre water
200 gr. rice (do not use quick-cook or instant)
1 1/2 litre whole milk
1 tsp salt

Cook the rice in the water until it's almost completely absorbed. Add the milk and lower the heat to simmer. Continue cooking until the rice is tender (the whole process takes about an hour). Add salt and serve with cinnamon sugar.

- cook a handful of raisins with the rice for a few minutes before serving, for an authentic, old-fashioned "rúsínugrautur" (raisin pudding).

- The pudding is usua…

Half-moon cookies – Hálfmánar

My paternal grandmother always makes these for Christmas.

500 g flour
250 g sugar
200 g margarine
½ tsp hartshorn powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
100 ml (2/5 cup) milk
Cardamom essence to taste
Rhubarb or other jam

Mix together sugar, baking powder, hartshorn powder and flour. Add soft butter and mix until crumbly. Add egg, milk and cardamom essesnce and knead until smooth. Store in a refrigerator until cold through (overnight is usual). Flatten with a rolling pin and cut out cookies with a glass or circular cookie cutter. Put about a teaspoonful of jam in the center of each cookie, fold cookies in half and press edges together with a fork. Arrange on a lightly floured baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 7-10 minutes, or until golden.

Currant cookies - Kúrenukökur

I don't particularly care for these, as I don't like raisins in food and the currants remind me of them, but my grandmother loves them.

375 g butter, softened
375 g sugar
7 eggs, yolks and whites separated
a few drops of lemon essence
500 g flour

For decoration:
Currants, chopped blanched almonds, extra sugar (no amounts are given in the original recipe)

Cream sugar and butter, then add the egg yolks one by one, mixing well in between. Gradually add the flour, then the lemon essence. Whip the whites separately until stiff and fold into the dough.

Put the doughonto a baking sheet and spread evenly over the sheet, using a spatula. Sprinkle a mixture of currants, almonds and sugar on top. Bake at about 180°C until golden and cut into squares while still warm.

Coconut wreaths - Kókoshringir

My mother used to make these every Christmas when I was little. They have a buttery, coconutty taste and are great with tea or cold milk.

200 g flour
200 g dessicated coconut
150 g sugar
200 g butter, softened
1 egg

Mix flour, coconut and sugar. Fold in the egg and butter and knead. Run through a cookie press, taking lengths of about 8 cm. and forming them into circles. Put on a baking sheet and bake at about 180°C for about 8 minutes, or until they are a light golden colour.

Crullers or twisted doughnuts - Kleinur

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While technically they are everyday pastries, I think kleinur deserve to be included in the Christmas fare. I have added a second recipe for those who do not have access to hartshorn powder.

In many homes in Iceland a large cooking pot lurks in a kitchen cupboard. Its sides are black with burnt-in fat, and a guest might wonder what the monster is used for. Occasionally, in some homes as often as once a week, this pot will be pulled out from its hiding place and put to good use for frying doughnuts in. It is not unusual for a doughnut-maker to make a double or even triple recipe in one session.

Twisted doughnuts are not a specifically Icelandic phenomenon, but neither are they as common in other countries. Making these delicacies is time consuming and hard work, and therefore the batches are usually large to save time and effort.

Don't try this if you have never deep-fried anything before, as the frying fat must be very hot, and certain precautions must be taken to avoid acciden…

Siggi's cookies - Siggakökur

I don’t know who Siggi is or was, but the recipe is for dry chocolate chip cookies that can be stored for several months. It is one of three types cookies my mother always makes for Christmas. They are excellent dipped in coffee.

1/2 cup margarine or butter (softened at room temperature for no more than 40 minutes, or the cookies will spread too much)
6 tbs sugar
6 tbs brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts. My mother uses hazelnuts, but I bet it would also be good to use cashews, peanuts or macadamias.
1/2 cup (100 g) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (dark, semi-sweet is best)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Dash of lukewarm water, if needed

Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt and add gradually to the batter. Fold in nuts and chocolate, adding a little water if the dough gets too thick to stir easily. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough on a baking sh…

I'm back...for a while at least

It has been months since I last posted here, for several reasons that I will not go into. Because Christmas is getting nearer, I will be posting some Christmas recipes (mostly for cookies) in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and also bringing back to the top some (or all) of the Christmas recipes I have already posted.

The poll I posted about having ads on the site showed that most of my visitors do not object to the milder forms of online advertising, but in the end I decided that since I would not have full control over the kind of ads that would appear here, I am not going to have any ads at all.

Lifrarpylsa - Liver Sausage (Icelandic “Haggis”)

I made some liver sausage with a friend of mine yesterday. This is a popular Þorri food that is available year round in Iceland. It is the season for making liver and blood sausages right now.

There are many ways of preparing liver, and the following is one method of preparing a good, nutritious meal from lamb's liver. This delicacy has relatives in various other countries. The most famous is do doubt the Scottish Haggis. This is an original traditional recipe. Below the instructions you will find a tip on how to make it lighter and healthier. Pork liver can be substituted for lamb's liver, and beef suet for the mutton suet, but for genuineness, you need lamb's liver and suet.

1 kg lamb's liver
50-100 g flour
approx. 450 g rye flour
750 ml milk
150 g oatmeal
30 g salt
1 kg sheep suet
Sheep's stomachs/tripe (optional), large sausage skins, or cooking bags

Wash and clean the liver and remove all blood vessels and membranes. Mince the liver thoroughly into a pa…

A personal restaurant review: Jómfrúin

A friend and I meet for lunch a couple of times a month, and recently we decided to try a new restaurant or café once every month, instead of always going to one of the same three places over and over. This month’s choice was Jómfrúin, a Danish-style smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) restaurant in Lækjargata in the heart of Reykjavík. Neither of us had eaten there before, but I have eaten party food from them on several occasions (at my workplace we sometimes order canapé versions of these bread dishes to serve to special guests).

The place is small and bustling with activity. The environment is in the plain café style, with old Danish advertising posters on the walls, dim lighting and paper tablecloths. The floor is tiled and there was too much noise in there for us to have a quiet conversation. The service was fast, efficient and friendly.

You can get most of the dishes in "full" and "half" portions, which is good, because a full portion is really a meal in itsel…

Cocoa soup - Kakósúpa

I loved cocoa soup and cocoa pudding when I was a child. The soup would be served with zwieback that we would crumble into coarse pieces into the bowl and then we would eat the soup while there was still some crunch left in the zwieback. On special occasions cocoa soup would be served with whipped cream and then it was like thick cocoa, only you ate it with a spoon. It was wonderful to come in from the chill of a winter's morning and sit down to some hot cocoa soup for lunch.

Cocoa pudding was poured into a large bowl prior to serving, sugar was sprinkled on top to prevent a skin from forming, and then we would eat it warm or cold. I never liked it much cold, preferring cold chocolate pudding made with Royal pudding mix, served with whipped cream mixed into it so it looked marbelised.

My mother never used cinnamon but sometimes she put a little bit of vanilla essence into the soup.

2 tbs baking cocoa
2 1/2 tbs sugar
250 ml water
1 cinnamon stick or vanilla pod (optional)
1 litre milk
1/…

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Icelandic style choux buns - Vatnsdeigsbollur (edited to add a photo)

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In Iceland, the last Monday before Lent is called Bolludagur, or Bun Day. On this day, we stuff ourselves with delicious, sweet buns, and many families eat meatballs or fish balls for dinner (bolla can mean both "bun" and “ball”). Two kinds of buns are made, one recipe uses yeast for rising, the other uses eggs. My mother always makes the egg kind, which are made with choux dough. As a result, I have never been able to acquire a taste for yeast buns.



125 g margarine or butter
250 ml water
125 g flour
4 eggs
400 ml heavy cream or whipping cream

Put the water and margarine together in a saucepan and heat until margarine is melted. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir until the dough is smooth and thick. Keep the saucepan on the hotplate while stirring. Remove from the hotplate and allow to cool a little. Break the eggs into a glass, one at a time, and stir to break the yolk. Pour into the dough and mix well. Drop on to an oven-plate with two tablespoons, keeping a good sp…

Þorrablót or Thorrablot (Icelandic midwinter feast)

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Þorri begins today, so I moved this post from last year to the top. Here you will find some information about the traditional Icelandic foods eaten at the Þorri feasts. The links will take you to recipes or instructions for making some of these foods.

Þorri is one of the old Icelandic lunar months. It always begins on a Friday, between the 19th and the 25th of January, and ends on a Saturday between the 18th and 24th of February. The first day of Þorri is called Bóndadagur or "Husband's Day/Farmer's Day", and is dedicated to men (formerly only farmers). In my family (and many others) , the women bring the men breakfast in bed on this day - just as the men will do on Konudagur “Woman's Day” (if they know what's good for them). Many women will give their husbands flowers as well. The flowers are a fairly new custom, introduced by flower shops in order to sell more roses. (They are trying import Valentine's Day for the same reason).

The tradition of a Þorr…