I made Krumkake this morning. I love these delicious rolled-up Norwegian cookies that are as pretty to look at as they are to eat. Oh - the choices! Do I fill them with whipped cream goodness? Or do I leave them as-is (I choose to leave them alone.) Do I take a bite of the cookie in its rolled-up form? Or do I carefully break off pieces with my fingers or my teeth and delve toward the center slowly, a layer at a time, as if I were a cookie archaeologist?
Right now, as I'm sitting at my laptop at the kitchen table, my fingertips are still smarting from handling them. My back and feet ache from standing in one place for over an hour because I had to make a double batch even though I knew it would take forever to prepare the entire platter full of cookies! It was worth it.
The Krumkake Iron
Let me tell you about the first time I ever saw Krumkake. It was all due to Ruth Hansel, a widowed neighbor and a member of the church I attended as a child. Ruth was very tall. She was thin. She spoke with a mild accent. She had a great, loud, huffing laugh that made me want to laugh too. I remember thinking Ruth was strong-looking, as in a squared jaw and large hands and a no-nonsense manner about her. To me, Ruth was a kind, generous, fascinating 'old lady' - looking back, I imagine she was some eighty years old.
My oh my, could Ruth make Krumkake! She invited me over to help her make them one December when I was nine years old. I showed up at her door with the apron my mother had stitched for me. "Come in, Honey!" Ruth called from the kitchen, "I can't leave the iron."
Her kitchen was small, with scant counter space. But every inch of that counter space was filled with teetering stacks of white rolled cookies, hundreds of them, thousands of them (at least to my eyes.) Plates and platters and cookie trays held rows upon rows of them.
"Krumkake!" Ruth hollered. (She always hollered.) "Come in! Wash your hands! Take over for me at this iron, would you? I'll show you how."
And she did. Ruth taught me how to put the perfect amount of batter on the iron, how to let them cook until the steam stopped seeping from the edges of the iron, how to lift the cookies with the edge of a pancake turner, how to roll them up - QUICK! QUICK! - on the handle of a wooden spoon.
Quick! Quick! Before they cool!
My cookies weren't as pretty as hers. How could they be? She was a master who made untold numbers of them every year of her long life (I imagine!) Gradually, my attempts became better-looking and Ruth allowed me to stack my cookies alongside her perfect ones.
Best of all, I presented a platter of Krumkake to my family at the end of our afternoon together.
I now have my own Krumkake tradition, thanks to Ruth Hansel. I bought my own Krumkake iron ten years ago. I found a recipe that seemed close to Ruth's. I practiced my rolling technique, and soon I was making stacks of the cookies.
The batch of Krumkaka I made today are destined for a cookie exchange my husband and I are going to tomorrow. It always pleases me to offer a type of cookie that one doesn't see very often - I admit, I enjoy the "ooh's and aah's" and the excited faces as people reach for a cookie. And I think of Ruth, who taught me to make them.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh powdered cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
6 Tablespoons water
Cream together the butter and the sugar. Scrape the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping the bowl each time. Add the vanilla and the cardamom. Add the flour. Add water until batter is the consistency of a thick cream sauce.
Spoon approximately one Tablespoon onto ungreased preheated Krumkake iron. Cook about one minute until lightly golden brown. While warm, roll around a wooden spoon handle.