Thursday, December 02, 2004


In a daring leap over childhood division of labor principles, this is the year I made krumkake on my own. Krumkake, for the unenlightened, is a traditional Scandinavian cookie: light, crispy and cardamon-flavored, made one at a time on a flat griddle with fancy designs. Unlike other Scandinavian traditions, such as lutefisk and cosmologies in which everything freezes, it is generally well received among those from more southerly climates. Being Scandinavian, however, the making of it must involve some suffering.

When I was growing up, we made krumkake on the traditional cast-iron forms, which must be heated to the precise temperature over the stove and flipped midway through the baking process. Then you burn your fingers while rolling them up. (Some people shape them into cones, but we would rather store more.) Several of them would stick, requiring a session with a wire brush to clean out all the grooves. This painstaking process was reserved for my much more patient and attentive sister, who despite this still usually ruined most of the first batch trying to get the griddle to the right temperature. The evidence usually disappeared by the end of the day. In later years we would join a great Norwegian Baking Day at Camp Woodworth, but even so I was usually relegated to mixing batter or the toilsome task of rolling out lefse.

As a wedding present I received one of the modern krumkake irons, which cooks them two at a time on a non-stick surface at the precise right temperature. Last year I didn't feel up to making the attempt, but this year I decided the time was right. Sure enough, the new machine does make the process if not effortless, at least not a major ordeal. You still burn your fingers rolling them up, though, so it still counts as Norwegian cooking.

I note with displeasure, however, that the manufacturer is "Villaware," an Italian company. How can an Italian company possibly understand the nuances of Scandinavian cooking? (They should at least form a subsidiary to concentrate on Scandinavian cooking implements--they could call it "Pillageware.") That probably explains why the iron doesn't press the krumkake quite as thin as the old cast-iron ones do, resulting in a slightly less crispy and delicate cookie. So maybe some day I'll have to try for the whole cast-iron experience.

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