Because we currently live where Nordic treats do not abound, we must import. Or tackle solo, because no one knows what we’re talking about when we say, “Hey, where’s the best spot to pick-up lefse?” Let alone krumkake, sprtiz, fatigman or Snofrisk. The first year we lived in the South, I ordered spritz (and julekake) from our most favorite bakery, Larsen’s, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood; alas, it appears they’ve cesased delivering what we consider to be lifesaving buttery, melt-in-your-mount cookies (although they do still have other, limited items for sale online). For my daughter’s recent birthday, she requested — deep breath, krummake, homemade, from me to her class. Now, this crispy rolled cookie is not one to be taken lightly if it looks like you’re going to be on your own, at home, in the middle of the day (not grading papers like you should be) with only the blue birds outside to hear your anguised cries when your fingers are burnt to a nubbins — as in no feeling left in your finger tips.
So the day before her birthday arrives, and while I’ve searched exhastively around the internet’s Scandia food related shops, and considered a trip to NYC to find krummake — I buckle down with my coffee, put the butter on the counter and plug in my double-wide iron. To note, my iron is non-stick; I do have the over-the-burner iron, but given that we have a glasstop stove currently, this could easily lead to burned hair and gutted kitchen from the butter drips in addition to the no-feeling-left fingers.
It takes just one whiff from the cardamom jar, and I am there — as in, anywhere but here. I’m at my grandmother’s house on her 1950s kitchen stool, itching to get my fingers in the batter; I’m in my great grandmother’s kitchen with her indoor wood stove (something like this) in her tiny Tacoma house — or I’m in our old Seattle condo, rain pelting the windows, with friends gathered for our annual krumkake bake. Wherever my head is, my nose led me there and I am about 3,000 miles from my current kitchen — this is indeed the moment where food and memory collide.
I mix up a double batch, because not only will curious kids be eating this for the first time, but it’s also a good idea to allow for “flubs” which must be eaten by the family (and me) for testing purposes. I dollop in my batter for the first two cookies, close the lid and wait…butter is slowly starting to expel from the press and coagulate in a tiny pool on the counter — clearly I need to grab a cookie sheet to catch this before the butter melts my contact-paper covered counters (yes, it’s a thing and yes it works when you have 1965 ugly yellow formica countertops). Cookie sheet in place, I slowly prop open the lid — to see two golden yellow embossed circles — carefully I extract these delicacies, one at a time from press to towel and begin to roll cookie number one. Hold in place. Let go and sproing! Cookie one is loose and unrolling fast, so I hastily spatula cookie number two out for rolling, fingers not crossed because I can’t, otherwise I’ll drop and shatter this cookie. Cookie two — yep, hold breath…holds; my thumb didn’t quite leave a print on its now round shape, but I’m getting the idea that doing this solo, requires a distinct combination of pressure — and stamina (because now I’m hot, as in sweat on forehead).
At the end of this more than 60 minute baking session standing over the steamy, buttery press — I am thrilled that I’ve learned at my advanced age, that indeed I can climb Mt. Krumkake myself and succeed. But I’m left with one question, “Is there every really enough cardamom?” Answer: no — we all need a little cardamom, or comfort, wherever we can get it — and for me, it’s somewhere contained in that little spice jar.