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

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 accidents. They include:
  • not letting the hot oil get into contact with water, 
  • never leaving the frying pot or deep-fryer unattended, and, in case of accidents, 
  • having a fire-blanket and/or fire extinguisher at hand. 

I am including 2 recipes, one with hartshorn powder and one without it, as hartshorn seems to be quite difficult to find outside Europe. Both recipes are mixed and handled in the same way.

Ready to fry dough and fried kleinur.
1st recipe:
500 g flour
40 g margarine/butter, soft
2 tsp baker's ammonia/hartshorn salt (ammonium carbonate)
2 medium eggs
1 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk, sour milk or buttermilk
150 g sugar
2 tsp essence of cardamom

2nd recipe:
1 kg flour
150 g butter
250 g sugar
3 eggs
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp powdered cardamom
a few drops of vanilla essence
250 ml buttermilk or cream

Mix together dry ingredients. Mix in the margarine/butter and then eggs and milk/cream, followed by the essence of cardamom or vanilla essence. Knead into a fairly soft dough. Avoid over-kneading, as this will make the doughnuts tough.

Making the twist.
Roll out the dough until fairly thin (2-3 millimeters thick), cut into strips (these should be anything from 5-10 centimeters wide, depending on weather you want small or big doughnuts) and then cut diagonally across the previous cuts to make diamond shapes. Cut a small slit in the centre of each diamond and gently pull one end through the slit, to make the twist in the doughnuts.

Heat the frying fat. It must be very hot, and will have reached the right temperature when a doughnut browns and cooks through in about 1 to 1:30 minutes.

Genuine Icelandic twisted doughnuts are fried in sheep tallow, which leaves a special taste, but this is now considered unhealthy because of all the saturated fat.
I use about 2/3 cooking fat and 1/3 tallow, which produces healthier kleinur that still have that old-time tallow flavour. If you can't get tallow, use about a litre of vegetable cooking fat that can be heated to a high temperature, for example canola or coconut oil.

When they reach this colour, remove from fat.
Most deep-fryers can not get the oil hot enough for frying kleinur - but they are safer than using a pot on the stovetop. If you do use a fryer, heat the oil to the maximum temperature, and allow the oil a short time to heat up again after each round of doughnuts.

Interesting tidbit:
I found an American recipe for twisted doughnuts in The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker (New York, N.Y., Harper & Row, 1989). The recipe is taken from an old American cookbook, and although the twisting method is quite different, the recipes themselves are clearly related.


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 sheet bake at 180-200°C for about 10 minutes. This dough will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.


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.