The gift of Danish butter cookies

Good morning!
So since this yule calendar is kind of like an anti-yule calendar I thought I might share an anti-recipe with you… because this yule calendar is about reclaiming stuff and creating a new story, a reason why to celebrate christmas, I need a reason, a real reason, this anti- recipe is kind of reasonable.

Here´s the story:
I come from Denmark. I live in the wild woods of Värmland, Sweden. Close to the Norwegian border.
This is Denmark: A land of milk and honey, butter, cream, cheese, pigs, bacon, cattle, wheat, rye, clover and fertile soil.
We call Denmark the hall of Freya, the goddess of fertility. We sing so every time there´s a football game going on, this is our national anthem “And this is the hall of Freya/this is the hall of Freya”. Wraaah! GOAL!
This is Sweden: a land of endless forest, forest lakes, rocks and wildlife.
This is Norway: fjords, mountains, skies.

There was a time when people would flee Denmark like Denmark was toxic. They would escape to America and try to build themselves a new life, a different life, they had hopes. They did so because the richness of my country was poorly distributed. A few people ate all of the butter and all of the cream, all of the bacon and all of the bread while people would die in the gutter, just read a Hans Christian Andersen story, it’s all there. The peasants die for their kings, the kings die from greed.
It was even worse for the Swedes. Half the country emigrated. HALF the country!
Let’s pretend they found a better life in America. Let´s pretend I have a rich uncle.

So why did I run away from my country? Why did I flee the hall of Freya, who would do that?

I did so because they plowed all of the land and killed all of the wildlife (except ONE wolf), they “corrected” every stream, all the streams runs in lines now. The took down the trees, drained the bogs, flattened the burial mounds of our ancestors, they fenced in everything “You are not allowed to walk here”. Pig farms. Pig transports on the highway. It stinks like shit out in the country… but nobody ever goes there anymore, everyone live in the city, the politicians just made another law: better the conditions for the factory farms, growth, growth, growth and I cry because of that, I do. This forest lady can’t breathe in a country where they took down all of the trees and you know what else happened? All of the ash trees got a disease so all of the ash trees are dying. In the country where the holy tree of life is an ash called Yggdrasil.

In the old days the farmers would leave 10% of the harvest for the “vætter”, the land spirits, the birds, the stones, the universe as such. Off course they don´t anymore so there is a question about land spirits that needs to be asked. Also there is the matter of the trolls. Even the trolls have fled the country. Everybody knows that. We are all taught so in kindergarten “Yeah, yeah, all of the trolls are gone” they say and then we sing songs about how the trolls live in Norway now.

There is dishonour and there is shame.
There is love for the Motherland.
I miss her. I miss the beeches and the birch, I miss the language and the air. It’s misty.

Yes. I fled the country like so many have done before me but as so many before me I haven’t forgotten her, not at all. Maybe I even consider this blog as a political act, an act of resistance, an act of fighting for her.
Maybe I do.

It was the hall of Freya, so fertile, you could throw a seed anywhere and something golden would sprout. Rich, dark soil. It was rich, dark soil until they sprayed it, not with fairy dust but with poison, and animals are screaming, echoes over the fields, nobody wants to listen.

Enough.

Enough.

(but you can’t kill the resistance, we hide in the woods, like Robin Hood, beware)
So now you know why the following recipe is important for me. This is national treasure. These cakes go way back and you can buy them in every market in Istanbul and the small shops of Tokyo. It’s the “Danish Buttercookies” I talk of, off course. This is the taste of my country. This is the smell. This is the feel.

We used to have a lot of butter and cream and bacon and meat, wheat, rye and all kinds of food. We used to have that in my country – in my country there is no need for anyone to go to bed hungry, no hungry children, no beggars,  this is the land of plenty… it’s just badly distributed.
So badly distributed.

This is how I think when I make Danish Buttercookies. There are stages of anger, grief, sorrow, acceptance and so forth, a new life afterwards.

 

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED

 

Around (you have to FEEL the consistency of the dough)

250 grams of butter
200 grams of sugar
1 vanilla pod (and maybe some extra vanilla)
1 egg
100 grams of almond flower (I just use crushed almonds)
300 grams of wheat flour

 

THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

Cut up the butter, cover it with sugar, touch it with your hands, knead. Until the butter and the sugar is integrated.

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Add one egg.

 

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Remove the corns from the vanilla pod

 

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Crush the almonds. NOW IF you want to you can just buy almond flour but I never have that in my pantry. You adjust how course you want the butter cookies by how thoroughly you crush the almonds (you need to crush them real good if you want to follow this recipe)

 

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Also I might use a little bit of whole grain wheat flour but you don´t have to. Add the vanilla, the flour and the almonds, stir. (if the dough is too dry add a tiny bit of water)

 

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As for all things alive you have to check for consistency. Mindlessly following the recipe is not a guarantee, your eggs might be bigger or smaller than mine, you flour might be of another quality, there are all sorts of weird factors to take into consideration so here is my advice

1. Bake a lot of cookies. You´ll learn how to tell when the dough is perfectly saturated
2. Accept that you will fail
3. Always do a tester. One cookie in the oven. If it looks like this

 

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– you need to add more flour (can you see the angry face in the cookie? Cookies get really mad if you don´t give them enough flour)

Now put your dough into this thing (I don´t know what it´s called in english)

 

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A cornet maybe? Remember! If you didn’t smash the almonds enough this whole thing will end up killing you softly because pieces of almonds will clog the hole.

This being christmas and all let’s make them round and lets call them vanilla wreaths.

 

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I’m the kind of person who is NOT neat. I like it to be diverse. I like it rustic.
You may say it´s ugly. I may say it´s not.

Bake in your oven at around 175 degrees until they look burnt on the edges.

See? A pretty finger ring!

 

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I like to bake these cookies because they kind of embrace everything we try to do here. We try to take back that which belongs to us. Time. Life. Love Even the small things such as butter which is really a big thing: food.

 

 

 

DSCF4745

 

 

This is my reason to bake butter cookies: they remind me of my homeland and they remind me of wealth, there is plenty, there should be plenty for everyone. Especially for the kids.

 

 

16 thoughts on “The gift of Danish butter cookies

  1. Oh Andrea powerful post. You speak what I feel. Feeling similar here… Fled the country. Land of butter. Back in the 20s Danish and Lithuanian butter were widely exported. Miss those white sandy Baltic dunes. It is good you found the trolls again. 🙂 It is even better you are letting everyone know where they are hiding.
    Butter cookies are the best, we just made them on thanksgiving against the tradition of a pumpkin pie. 🙂

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  2. Vanillekranse med mandler er bare såååå godt! Og netop i Sverige kan man købe en fantastisk dims til at lave mandelmel på: en MANDELKVÆRN!!! Den ligner en lille sød udgave af en kødhakker, men med et fint rivejern i tromlen. Og spændes fast på bordet ligesom en kødhakker. Sådan en må du da have, Andrea! Er sikker på de kan findes i hobetal på svensk loppis!!! Iøvrigt en ret skøn post at læse, fra start til slut! Tak for kalendergaven!

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  3. The Hall of Freya is indeed a Magical and mystical place
    In the Middle of the peninsula jutting out into the Sea
    There is the Heaven Mountain, the Sky Mountain if you will
    (In Danish we dont destinquis, one word, same place, maybe)
    Exactly 147 meters above the Sea, One Four Seven
    They say the Mountain was not, could not be, formed by nature
    Nature do not form Hills in that way (cos it is really a hill)
    It was “discovered” by chance, or maybe not
    It is Home to two special Oak trees
    Next to it there is a lake, Yule/Jul Lake
    …. there is something about this place I just can figure out
    Like Shakespeares Pen, moved by Spirit
    Was this place created by the same Force?
    Why were we Called Vikings in the past?
    And why were we (apparently) so violent back then?
    Apparently so violent that it shames us collectlively even today!
    Raving madmen going Berserk with killing and raping ….
    I do not buy it, something rotten about all of that onesided blaming the Vikings ….. United (V) we are all Kings, devided we are less
    Way less ….
    Women had a different position in society back then
    and the sovereign right to choose who should be the Father of her children – Guessing it wasn’t to popular with out patriarchal neighbours
    History is souch a Strange thing, allways written by the Victors
    leaving the Truth bruised and battered in the wake
    (What about Her Story?)
    Go figure

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  4. I just noticed something. The cookies are the circle of life, too. Just like the wreath with evergreen boughs all intertwined with each other to form a circle. Let’s keep conscious – all we humans – and not let it escape us that there is a wheel of life and it’s not discovered by Disney and the Lion King (altho’ that’s all right, too). It’s been in existence forever and our ancestors finally realized it. Yah!

    Thanks for the recipe! Can’t wait to try it! My hubster loves Danish Cookies and will even buy them at WalMart but I will stop him now. These will be the real thing!

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  5. As the granddaughter of Norwegians, I love the historical background you provide and your views on life in these beautiful countries. As a visitor, I was never aware of the things you speak of. My grandmother left Norway to work as a physiotherapist in the US and stayed because she fell in love with my grandfather. He was always very humbled by the fact that she “gave up her homeland” for him although they visit family who remain there regularly. While there are a lot of good things about America (some of which are also our greatest struggles like a very diverse population – good – who can’t agree on anything – bad), I often think the things I love most about your area of the world are the things that are harder to find here and it saddens me to think that this loss of old ways and natural spaces is happening everywhere. But, making your butter cookies will cheer me up! I also am thinking of trying kransekakke by myself for the first time (not sure I’m up to it since I’m not even sure I spelled it correctly!) Always made it with my grandmother but she gave me my own set of ring molds a few years ago so I need to carry on this tradition. That, and teach my little boys about Trolls. We have little ones made out of champagne corks (my Norwegian Great Aunts’ creations) that will help them love the old stories, too. Peace and thanks to you!

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    1. I find it ever so important NOT to forget the ancient stories. I don´t know why this is so important to me but it really is. There is so much folklore, so much mythology, such long traditions and a lot of it really makes sense if you take the TIME to really study it and understand it. There is such a thing as a Scandinavian people, we, the people, have forefathers, ancient stories that go several thousand years back.
      So taking back the stories and taking back the land…. this is important to me, this makes sense which is why I´ll tell some of these stories in this yulecalender. Thank you for reading 🙂

      As for the cakes: you are talking about “Kransekage” (literary “Wreath cake”). It is eaten on new years eve and it´s gooooood!! 🙂

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    2. ncfarmchick, I had been wanting to let you know how much I enjoy your comments and thoughts on Ben Hewitt’s blog. As I was going through Ben’s archives, I was finding many valuable thoughts in your comments, so thank you! Shame we are not neighbors, your little boys could hang out with my kids. 🙂 I have hard time reconciling the feeling that I belong to that European identity, and that I have to keep those stories, and the roots, and the pride, and at the same time to be open to the idea that those roots are slowly disappearing, due to immigration, emigration, mixed marriage, apathy, etc. I hear you.
      Andrea mentions half of the Swedes emigrated. Same with my country, Lithuania. Fourth of the population left the country since 1990 alone, myself included. We are somewhat like lost souls in limbo, not fully here or there, trying to cling to some traditions but knowing our kids will not have that. And there is quite a big friction among my friends who are say married to fellow countrymen vs a foreigner spouse, and lots of arguments how traditions should be followed, and how open or closed we should be to a “foreign” tradition and culture. .

      Tres Jolie, good point about the circle. These cookies are calling to me here at 2 am. 🙂 Feel like driving up to Walmart to get some. 🙂

      Andrea, what light do you have in your house when you take your pictures? Is this natural sunlight? candlelight?

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      1. I love these comments. Thanks!
        The light is yellowish because I have a shitty camera. That´s all. We have solar panels and a generator, in the dark times (like now) the generator runs too much….

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  6. I’m in Australia but we call the ‘cornet’ thing a piping bag. I don’t know why we call squeezing dough or frosting out of a squeezy bag ‘piping’ except that it comes out of a sort of tube/pipe, I suppose. I have my (home made) butter softening as we speak. I can’t let the festive preparations pass without making so many of these to share. Thank you.

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