October 22, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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.

Food52 Review: 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

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.

More Great Recipes:
Cookie|Grains|One-Bowl Baking|Make Ahead|Serves a Crowd|Winter|Christmas|Vegetarian|Snack

Reviews (50) Questions (0)

50 Reviews

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.<br />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.
Theresa P. December 13, 2016
Can you put these cookies through a cookie press?
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 14, 2016
No, I think the dough would be too thick and stiff.
Bonnie December 19, 2016
Of course you could try it, but it seems like it would be too thick for a cookie press.
mudd November 5, 2017
who is Emily?
Rebecca December 12, 2016
How long can the dough chill for? I was wondering if I could make the dough on Wednesday night and then actually bake the cookies on Saturday morning
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 12, 2016
If you make it that far ahead I would wrap it very tightly/put it in an airtight container and probably freeze it, then let it defrost in the fridge the night before.
melissa December 20, 2015
i enjoyed this recipe -- it's very likeable, a pretty mild cookie. i used 2 large eggs (about 58 g each) instead of medium and added a little bit extra flour to compensate. i was only able to chill the dough for four hours instead of the suggested overnight, but i think they still taste great!
rlsalvati December 20, 2015
Can't wait to try these. Did a bit of scouting, the conversion for unsalted butter is 1/4 tsp. table salt per 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter. I've got pounds of butter in the freezer for holiday baking, none of it salted.
Joanna December 19, 2015
I only have unsalted butter, if I use that, would I need to add some salt?
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 20, 2015
I would. A couple pinches!
TimandKendra Z. December 19, 2015
I added some extra flour to compensate for the little extra egg :) praying and believing they will still taste amazing! :)
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 20, 2015
Hope they worked out! :)
TimandKendra Z. December 19, 2015
Making these now! Looking forward to trying something new. I don't have medium eggs so I used two large. Do you think it will still turn out ok?
KH December 18, 2015
These were very yummy! They reminded me a little of shortbread as you mentioned. I used a gluten free flour blend and they turned out great! (mine were probably more crumbly because of the GF flour which is pretty normal, but so delicious!) thank you! My almost 2 yr old daughter enjoyed helping too!
Julie M. December 17, 2015
Thank you for the salt update! We will try these! I was about to set out our unsalted butter, glad I checked with you :)
Julie M. December 17, 2015
Is there no salt in this recipe? Should the butter be salted or unsalted?
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 17, 2015
The recipe itself calls for no salt, but I do use salted butter. I don't think I've ever come across unsalted butter in Norway! I'll update the recipe to make sure that that's clear.
bex December 15, 2015
I forgot to add that we are going skiing this weekend -- both downhill and xc-- so I will make extra cookies to bring to the mountains!
Author Comment
fiveandspice December 17, 2015
FUN! :)