Make Ahead


October 22, 2011
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
  • Makes several dozen
  • 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
  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.

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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.