Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Calendar: Krumkake and Cardamom Memories

Krumkake Iron & Cardamom Pods
While I do many things in the kitchen the way my mamaw (Bennie Eldridge Epperson) did, I always associate holiday baking with my grandmother (Karin Nordstrom Hood). I spent many an hour helping grandma make cookies before Christmas and then on the day I helped her make gravy and candied sweet potatoes. Baking with grandma is probably the only time I felt any connection to my Scandinavian heritage.

At Christmas we usually made krumkake, rosettes, spritz, and fattigmanbakels. The one that stands out most in my mind is krumkake. She never said, but I imagine grandma started making it as a child. As an adult, she often came home from work and spent the evening  standing over the stove making krumkake for an event the next day. She told me that once she made them for a friend or relative in the army (quite possibly her brother during WWII).  He wrote back, "Dear Karin, thanks for the crumbs."

The recipe is terribly simple: weigh four eggs, beat them, then add the same weight of flour and of sugar, then add some vanilla and cardamom seeds. We always put the seeds in a zip-top bag and then bashed them with a hammer. There. Is. Nothing. like the aroma of cardamom.

Mixing the batter is the easy part. To make the cookie you need a krumkake iron, which is heated over the stove. Ours is cast iron and belonged to either my grandmother's mother or aunt. When the iron is hot enough, you put a spoonful of batter in the middle of the iron and press the two sides together. This results in  a huge mess as dough oozes out between the plates, then it drips down into the stove. If you are clever, you have already covered the area under the burner with tin foil. When when the cookie is golden brown, you take it off the iron and then very quickly roll the cookie disk up all the while, trying hard not to burn your fingers.

Making krumkake is a time consuming, messy and occasionally painful process. I haven't made them much since my grandmother died, as it is just too much work. Perhaps I ought to buy one of the new-fangled electric krumkake irons that makes two cookies at a time. Then again, maybe the real reason I don't make them very often is it just is not the same without my grandma.


Greta Koehl said...

You're right - cardamom is wonderful. I love it in desserts as well as in curries.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post, Mandy. I think memories of time spent baking with a parent or grandparent are precious and priceless, becoming even more so as we get older. Nancy

Kathy Reed said...

I loved reading this post. I'm sure it's not the same if you make them without your Grandmother. I love the "Thanks for the crumbs" comment.

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