In Sweden, tradition runs deep, very deep. During the days before the Christmas holiday in Stockholm, I visited the Historical Museum of Wines and Spirits. After experiments with Smakorgeln, the “Scent Organ,” which, at the touch of a button, produces...
..the smells of any number of herbs and spices, I was, not unexpectedly, offered a sampling of glögg, the customary Christmas drink in Sweden. Naturally, it came with ginger snaps (pepparkakor) another time-honored tradition. Then, as a special treat, some other not dissimilar, cookies were served.
They were delicious.
Asked about them, sommelier Leena Jansson, told me that she had just made them herself, from a recipe by Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). A German saint and a most accomplished woman – abbess, author, counselor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet, visionary, and composer – Hildegard was also a cookie-maker truly to have stood the test of time.
In Sweden her cakes are called nervkakor, which, in rough translation, means nervous cakes – a reference, presumably, to the calming effect they’re supposed to have on the nervous system.
Here the recipe:
Mix butter and sugar thoroughly. Stir in the eggs, then the rest of the ingredients. Knead the dough until smooth and shape it into six rolls. Let the rolls rest overnight, preferably in a plastic bag, then cut them, add some chipped almonds, and bake for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Written and photographed by Bo Zaunders
Nervous or not - the cookies of the 12th century were delicious.
All of Stockholm fills up with small shopping areas where eager city dwellers pick up little gifts, decorations and special food items - here at the Stortorget, 'The Large Square' behind Stockholm's castle in the Old town.