Norway: Fattigmands Bakkelser

Fruits and berries mature slowly in the cold climate. This makes for a tendency to smaller volume with a more intense taste. Strawberries, blueberries, lingonberries, raspberries and apples are popular and are part of a variety of desserts, and cherries in the parts of the country where those are grown. (If you've ever visited an Ikea store, you'll have a chance to try lingonberries cooked in several different ways!)

The wild growing cloudberry is regarded as a delicacy. A typical Norwegian dessert on special occasions is cloudberries with whipped or plain cream.

German and Nordic-style cakes and pastries, such as sponge cakes and Danish pastry (known as "wienerbrød", literal translation: "Viennese bread") share the table with sweet breads - "kaffebrød" (literally: "coffee bread", named for its accompaniment, not ingredients), waffles and biscuits. Cardamom is a common flavouring.

The Norwegians, like the rest of us, have many traditional cookies that cook mainly at Christmas: Sandbakels, Pepperkaker, Morkaker and, of course, Fattigmands Bakkelser.

My family doesn't have a Danish bone in their body, but Fattigmands Bakkelser was a cookie that we made every Christmas, sometimes flavored with Cardamom and sometimes with Cinnamon. I think my Dad liked the name of the cookie more than the cookie itself, as he always called them "Fat Man's Buckles"!

Fattigmands Bakkelser

10 egg yolks
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. cognac or other brandy
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large mixer bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar about 10 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Stir in cream, cognac, cardamom and lemon peel. Mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Cover; chill at least 3 hours.
Heat fat or oil (at least 2 inches deep) to 375°. Divide dough in half. Roll each half very thin, 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick, on well-floured board. Cut dough into 4"x2" diamonds. Make 1-inch horizontal slit in center of each; draw a long point of diamond through slit and curl back in opposite direction.

Fry in hot fat about 15 seconds on each side or until light brown. Drain.

Store in airtight container. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioners' (icing) sugar.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

Indonesia: Kue Semprong

Literally translated, Kue Semprong means smokestack cookie. The Kue Semprong is a very thin, rolled (usually or sometimes flat to display the pattern of the cookie maker in this case an elephant on one side and a snail on the other) sweet cookie. The cookie dough is made and rolled out and then placed in the maker and trimmed. The cookie maker is then clamped using the fastener on the end and placed in a fire for a short time. When the maker is removed from the fire the cookie is immediately rolled and set aside to cool. They are light delicious treats and it is very difficult to stop eating them once you have started. These are also sometimes filled with chocolate or other sweets.

Kue Semprong (Love Letters)

1-3/4 cups rice flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten to a froth
1-3/4 cup thick coconut milk from 1 ½ coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds, washed and dried (optional)
Oil, for brushing

Mix rice four, sugar, cinnamon and eggs. Pour in coconut milk a little at a time and keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Add sesame seeds if desired

Heat Kue Semprong mold on a charcoal fire or stove and brush the inside with oil. Pour in 1-2 tablespoons batter and cover the mold. Turn the mould to distribute the heat evenly. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Shape the cookies immediately after cooking and while it is still hot and soft. You can roll it or fold it twice to form a quarter-circle.

Recipe courtesy of Yasa Boga at Indo Lists.

An authentic Kue Semprong iron is up on eBay for auction. Click here to see the auction.

Switzerland: Apfelküchlein

Switerland's cuisine is amazingly diverse. It incorporates cuisine many of their neighbors such as Italy, France and Germany.

When it comes to sweets, the Swiss utilize a variety of fruits in their recipes. All over the country, fruit is featured in many desserts from delicious fruit tarts to simplistic fresh berries and cream. This recipe for deep fried apple cookies incorporates the decadently sweet and tart flavor of apple cider that is in keeping with the Swiss tradition.

Apfelküchlein (Deep fried apple cookie)

4 or 5 tart apples (e.g. MacIntosh, Jonathan, etc.)
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
½ teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
5 fl. ounces apple cider
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of oil
Juice of a lemon
Oil (for deep frying)
Confectioner's or cinnamon sugar

Add flour, hazelnuts, salt, one tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla sugar to a bowl and mix well. Add apple cider and stir to combine. Mix in 2 egg yolks and one tsp of vegetable oil.

Set aside the dough to rest for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, peel and core the apples. Cut the apples in rings, each about ½ inch thick. Mix the lemon with 3 tbs of sugar. Toss the apples with the lemon mixture to keep them from browning and let them sit also for approximately 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt to the whites of two eggs and mix until it is stiff. Carefully fold it into the dough.

Heat the oil in a frying-pan (or deep fryer) to 375 F.

Dip one apple ring at a time into the dough and fry it immediately in the oil on both sides until it is lightly brown. Let the oil drain on a rack or paper towels.

Sprinkle confectioner's or cinnamon sugar evenly over the cookies while they are still warm and serve them immediately.

But they will also taste good when they are cold, especially if you serve them with some warm vanilla sauce.

Iraq: Klaicha

Iraqi food is rich and diverse, incorporating spices typical of Arabic cooking, such as saffron and mint. Extra food is usually cooked in case of surprise visitors, while expected guests are treated to many elaborate dishes. People eat their evening meal around 8:00 p.m. Most cooking is done on gas or paraffin-oil stoves, though in the cities, people often own microwave ovens to help shorten cooking time.

For dessert, people enjoy some of Iraq's local fruits, rice pudding, Turkish Delight, date or sesame cookies, or baklava - a pastry made with honey and pistachios layered between filo sheets.

Klaicha (Iraqi date cookies)

3 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter (1 cup)
3 tsp orange flower water or rose water
1/4 cup water
8 oz pitted dates
2 Tbsp butter

Sift flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into pieces and rub flour with fingertips until distributed evenly. Blend orange flower water or rose water with water and sprinkle onto flour mixture. Mix to a firm dough and knead lightly untl smooth. Rest dough for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop dates. Place in a pan with the butter and heat gently until dates soften, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

Roll dough into balls the size of a large walnut. Flatten a ball of dough in the palm of your hand and place a tsp of date filling in the center. Mould dough around filling and reshape into a ball.

Press ball into a carved mold similar to a tabi and place on an ungreased baking tray. Alternatively, place on a tray, flatten slightly and press tines of a fork obliquely around sides and across top, giving pastry a slightly conical shape.

Bake in a preheated moderately slow oven (170 C or 325 F) for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on tray - pastries will become firm and crisp on cooling. Store in a sealed container when cool.

Alternate shaping: Divide pastry into 3 equal portions and roll each portion into a rectangle 1/2" thick and 4" wide. Put one-third of the date mixture, shaped into a long roll, along one edge of pastry and roll up to enclose filling. Press edges and ends to seal and place rolls joint side down, on ungreased baking sheet. Decorate top with pastry crimper or any other means to make a design. Bake as for Klaicha above, cool and slice at an angle to serve. Store in a sealed container.

Egypt: Kahk bi Loz

Almond Bracelets are a favorite at engagement and wedding parties in the Middle East, as well as during the traditional ritual bath of the bride. This custom is still common in rural areas, where the female relatives assess the bride’s potential to be a good wife and bear children easily. The bride-to-be listens to this commentary (hopefully positive) while she bathes in scented water and while trays laden with sweets are passed around for everyone to enjoy.

Kahk bi Loz (Almond Bracelets)

5 cups almonds, ground
2-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 egg white, stiffly beaten
Orange blossom water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix almonds and sugar together. Add the egg white, stiffly beaten, to the amond/sugar mix. Add just enough orange blossom water to make a firm, dryish paste.

Knead the paste well and roll into thin sausages approximately 5" long. Bring the ends together forming bracelets the size of a small napkin ring. Decorate with a few blanched almonds if desired.

Arrange the bracelets on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. DO NOT allow the bracelets to color or brown or the taste will change.

Remove carefully from the cookie sheets once they have cooled.

Source: The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking by Claudia Roden, Knopf, NY NY 20001