Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When "kaka" Means Yummy!

In 1999, I taught school in the local jail. (Yes, even juvie delinquents have to attend school while incarcerated.) As I wrote in this post, I loved the job. It was entertaining, to say the least. While there, I once met a young female student (Amanda) who sadly commented that her mother was "big into the Sons of Norway," and was probably at home baking Norwegian treats for Christmas. (See, even normal, Christmas-cookie-making moms have children who go astray sometimes, unfortunately.)

I'd always been interested in my Norwegian heritage. To make a long story short, I got Amanda's mom's phone number and ended up at her house, where she was kind enough to let me shadow her as she went through her Christmas baking. We made fatigman, rosettes, and krumkake (pronounced croomkaka); all delicious, of course, but the easiest, and my favorite was the krumkake. Making krumkake has been a favorite tradition at our house ever since. Here's how it goes....

The basic recipe amounts are listed below, but I quadruple it in this post, which makes 60-70 (I lost count of how many I was eating!)

3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter

Vanilla may be substituted for any other flavoring, but we have always favored vanilla. You will also need a krumkake maker, which can be found at any kitchen supply store (or even some hardware stores!)

First, gather your ingredients.The directions I have say "throw everything all together and mix. However, I melt the butter first and let it cool a bit while cracking the eggs. Add the liquid ingredients and mix, along with the sugar.At this point, remember that the Kitchen-aid Mixer you used last year was your neighbor's (and much bigger), so from here, you might need to wing it. It was touch and go here, folks! We added the flour very slowly, mixing with a large wire whisk, and it turned out fine.Remember to stop and put your life in your hands by tasting the batter (raw eggs and all!)The batter needs to chill for at least four hours (better overnight, actually). Separate the batter into 1.5 or 2-qt containers to work in small batches (or it will get too warm and soft).While you're waiting for it to chill, notice the pigsty in the kitchen. When you're ready, turn the griddle on to heat up. Assemble your tools.Have butter ready to grease the griddle. As you can see, I also put plenty of paper towels beneath the griddle, as butter and batter is sure to leak out all over your counter top, otherwise. I like to use the small Pampered Chef scoop to scoop up batter and place on the back half of the griddle.Gently let the cover set down, but don't clamp it shut yet; wait about 30-45 seconds before clamping it tightly. Each pair of krumkake take about 80 seconds to cook.

The first several are part of the learning curve...(too little, or too much batter)As you can see, my krumkake is not perfectly round, because that isn't how I roll, heehee. I am far from perfect and don't pretend to be (so, in-your-face, Martha! :) Okay, to be honest, I do try to make them perfect; I'm just not that good at it and don't care enough about it to lose sleep over it. I would be open to easy tips for perfectly round krumkake, but as my mother says, "You should see them in your stomach!" They'd only be perfectly round for the few seconds from your hand to your mouth, so why bother?! I haven't had any complaints so far...

Guess what Cooper's looking for?? (He keeps the floor nice and clean during Christmas baking!)I almost forgot that you can also use the doojobby that comes with the krumkake maker to roll your krumkake into cute little cones to fill with custard or whipped cream or whatever you like. (Careful! They're HOT!)I've done this; krumkake filled with custard is so close to heaven, it will have you looking for the "white light," but I rarely have time to go to that extent. Plus, they get eaten (plain) so fast that I don't see the need.

So, that's it for my holiday baking; sugar cookies and krumkake. Someone might twist my arm to make gingerbread men, but so far, I'm in the clear.

What is a must in your holiday baking traditions?
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