Make Ahead

Serinakaker

October 22, 2011
4.7 Stars
Photo by fiveandspice
Author Notes

These are my very favorite Christmas cookies. They're a traditional Norwegian holiday cookie, and one of the few we ever baked in my family. (Growing up, the only time there were *ever* cookies in the house was Christmas. My brothers and I hated only getting cookies once a year, but because of a few failed batches of cookies at other times of the year, we were also convinced that because of some curse, the only time of year that our oven could actually produce decent cookies was at Christmas!).

Serinakaker are extremely simple—basically just buttery shortbread thumbprint cookies. Yet somehow they taste so much more complex and delicious than you might expect. They're so good that one of my friends became completely addicted to them, and last winter, when out cross-country skiing, he got really tired and refused to go any further unless I came skiing by to offer him cookies. Miracle of miracles, my parents stopped by and they happened to be carrying some serinakaker in their pockets (this is what we do around Christmas instead of using energy bars), which they offered to him, and he finished the ski tour!

So yeah, they're that good.

The recipe I have is scrawled in Norwegian, in metric measurements, in an old, falling-apart notebook of my mother's. This version is my attempt at making it understandable for friends and others who wish to be able to make serinakaker. —fiveandspice

Test Kitchen Notes

With her Serinakaker, Fiveandspice has given us a classic cookie. It is all that is warm and comfortable in a butter-sugar cookie and, as promised, it is the perfect cookie to stash in a backpack for a wagon ride to feed the ducks at the pond. These cookies are a little denser than the soft cookies you can buy at the grocers but not at all heavy. And you can eat one with your morning cup of coffee and feel both full and not at all guilty. The one-bowl preperation method makes it ideal for cooking with children and the fact that you mush everything up with your hands had my four-year-old in paroxyms of joy! I took fiveandspice's suggestion and sprinkled some crushed pecans over the top in lieu of the pearl sugar and added just a drop or two of almond extract to go with the nuts and they were warmly received. What wasn't devoured by my family this weekend I brought into work today and they were gone before nine! —Niknud

Watch This Recipe
Serinakaker
  • Makes several dozen
Ingredients
  • 4 cups (500 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (300 grams) softened salted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten (or one big old American-sized egg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract if you have no vanilla sugar)
  • 1 egg white, for brushing the cookies with
  • Pearl sugar and/or chopped almonds, for sprinkling
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Blend the flour, baking powder, and butter together in a bowl until it looks kind of like sand, using your fingers to rub the butter into the flour. Next, blend in the sugar with your fingers. Finally, add the egg and vanilla. I still use my hands for this but you can also use a wooden spoon, and mush, smash, stir, and push the dough until it comes together into a ball (it often seems a bit on the dry side).
  2. Once you've formed it into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight. When you are ready to bake, let the dough warm up a bit; otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to work with.
  3. Break off pieces of the dough, and roll them into balls that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches across, and put on cookie sheets. Once all the dough is made into balls, press your thumb into each to make an indentation. Most of the cookies will crack around the edges as you press into them. If they totally fall apart, just smash them up and roll them into new balls, but if there are just some cracks, that’s part of the look.
  4. Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg white to glaze. Then sprinkle some pearl sugar and/or chopped almonds into each indentation. (Pearl sugar is a special type of sugar for decoration that looks like tiny white rocks, or something of the sort. If you can’t find any, you can use just finely chopped almonds.)
  5. Bake the cookies at 350° F for about 16 minutes, until golden. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool. These cookies are delicious with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, or a mug of hot spiced wine. However, they are the absolute very best as a snack while you’re out on the cross-country ski trails, if you happen to be a cross-country skier. They keep for a week or two sealed in cookie tins, and they also freeze and defrost well, if you want to make them ahead.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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  • Shannon Jilbert
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64 Reviews

rockgoblin86 December 24, 2021
The initial mix that I did was far too dry to consolidate into a ball of dough. to compensate added another egg to get more moisture to the dough. After my first wave in the oven I found the cookies to be a tad bland. I ended up throwing my diced almonds into the food processor with some candied christmas cherries and spreading that into the the thumbprints for the rest of the batch. So far my friends have given positivie reviews.
 
joe A. December 22, 2021
These cookies are fantastic. Such a great addition to the annual offering. I’m a little confused as to the measurements. Four cups isn’t 500 grams, as stated. It’s 800 grams, right? And 1 1/3 cups says 250 grams, which is more inconsistent. Unless I’m mistaken here, it might be beneficial to edit for accuracy.
 
Barbara December 22, 2021
I used the grams measurements and it worked out fine.
 
joe A. December 25, 2021
I still love the recipe but the numbers are off. A cup is 200g. Four cups is 800g not 550 so it is a little confusing. I have used 4 cups every time I’ve baked these but hearing that others use 500g and love them, I think I’ll drop it down to 700g and not use cups moving forward. I also always double the salt in most cookie recipes, which raises the flavor most times.
 
Susan T. December 14, 2021
Loved these. I used one large egg and Land O’Lakes high fat butter. After putting egg wash on and pearl sugar I put them back into the fridge to keep their shape. They were delicious.
 
lynnk December 13, 2021
I love this cookie recipe. It’s easy and easily changeable and always delicious. I’m going to make it with anise flavor and some anise seed this year.
 
Suse December 5, 2021
I made these this afternoon and am disappointed with the results. They didn't crack around the edges, nor did they hold a thumbprint. They are strangely dry and nearly tasteless. I aerated the flour, as I always do before measuring, so it's not because there was too much. The baking powder is brand new and they really puffed up and stayed that way. I'm Norwegian and I was hoping to mail these to my also Norwegian cousin, but I will have to make a different type of cookie.
 
Barbara December 14, 2021
I used two large eggs, because I never see medium eggs. The first time I tried just one large egg, but it wasn't enough moisture. I have made them by hand and in a stand mixer; I like both. Instead of a thumbprint, I used a fork print and the marks stayed better than the thumbprint. I've tried other changes to the recipe to see if they are more like my grandma's, but the egg change and using a good vanilla has worked for me. https://kitchenportfolio.blog/2017/11/08/in-search-of-my-grandmas-cookies-serinakaker/
 
Georgia M. May 12, 2021
My friends: I made these as written. I liked them. I had a little dough left over, and I wanted cookies. I did not want to mess around with the egg wash, so I pushed them flat with a thin, flat chocolate chip and I threw them in the oven. These I loved.

I did some research and, as far as I can tell, pretty much every serinakaker recipe calls for egg wash. So -- I may be a heathen, but I mean no disrespect to the good people (and mothers) of Norway. But I just prefer it without the egg wash and with a chocolate chip.
 
eluu December 23, 2020
I love these cookies with coffee! I ordered some pearl sugar online... three days after having received it, I opened the bag and lo and behold... the pearl sugar was actually the size of large pearls and thus my serinakaker ended up looking quite toothy and Halloween-like. But still, oh so tasty and addictive. So easy to make, can't wait to have my son join in on its making!
 
Emily T. December 12, 2020
Made half the recipe and chilled overnight (prob total ~18 hours chill time). My kitchen smells like absolute heaven right now! These cookies are super light and sweet, they taste sugary and of vanilla. It could be fun to add some other flavouring next time (cardamom, lemon zest, maybe cinnamon sugar on top?) If you're looking for a simple and solid butter cookie, this is it!
 
Emily T. December 12, 2020
Made half the recipe and chilled overnight (prob total ~18 hours chill time). My kitchen smells like absolute heaven right now! These cookies are super light and sweet, they taste sugary and of vanilla. It could be fun to add some other flavouring next time (cardamom, lemon zest, maybe cinnamon sugar on top?) If you're looking for a simple and solid butter cookie, this is it!
 
Emily T. December 12, 2020
Made half the recipe and chilled overnight (prob total ~18 hours chill time). My kitchen smells like absolute heaven right now! These cookies are super light and sweet, they taste sugary and of vanilla. It could be fun to add some other flavouring next time (cardamom, lemon zest, maybe cinnamon sugar on top?) If you're looking for a simple and solid butter cookie, this is it!
 
Shannon J. September 25, 2020
I’ve made these for a couple of years and every time everyone loves them.
 
Heather December 23, 2018
Made these for the first time this weekend and they turned out great! I used 2 large eggs (what I had in my fridge, and based on reviews saying it was really dry, I figured 2 couldn't hurt). I did all the mixing and rolling, but my 3 year old helped "decorate". We used turbino sugar on some and strawberry preserves on others. The mixing and rolling was a labor of love... but I had fun with it (used only my hands). I plan to make these a Christmas tradition.
 
Heather December 23, 2018
Turbinado sugar :) not turbino
 
Barbara December 22, 2018
I make these using the measurements instead of the weight, and I use 2 large eggs. The biggest difference for me is that I mix it in a stand mixer until it forms a nice malleable dough—never too dry or crumbly. You think it won’t reach that stage and then it all comes together. I don’t find any reason to refrigerate the dough before forming the cookies.
 
Kim December 26, 2017
I'm trying these now at half the recipe but I can't get the dough to stay in a ball at all. The dough is too dry. I used one large egg so I know it's not the lack of egg. Help?
 
Judy December 10, 2017
Just baked these. Really crumbly and kind of blah. Not sure what I did, but probably wont bake again.
 
Jenn December 4, 2017
I followed these direction exactly last year and cookies turned out perfect. I've tried this twice now this year and cookies are way to dry and I'm not able to do thumb print without them all completely crumbling?? Help! :(
 
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 4, 2017
Hi Jenn! This has actually happened to me before, and I've never been 100% sure why, but it may be to do with the size of the eggs, i.e. it may need a bit more egg. Or, sometimes I think it gets a little too cold when it rests in the fridge and needs to be just a bit warmer to be able to roll it and press it well.
 
witloof December 26, 2016
I couldn't find pearl sugar so I used turbinado.
 
witloof December 26, 2016
I brought these to a Christmas party today and they were delicious. Thanks!
 
Gretchen P. December 21, 2016
HELP! My first batch failed. The cookies went completely flat. What am I doing wrong?
 
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 21, 2016
Did you refrigerate it and shape it cold? That's the only thing I can think of.
 
ChefJune December 18, 2016
We always put jam in the thumbprint... preferably a jewel-red one.
Also my favorite.
 
witloof December 19, 2016
Too funny! I was just about to scroll through the comments to see if I could put jam on these. I have some gorgeous cherry butter that I think will be perfect.