Enjoy a tradition that is rapidly disappearing in Sweden―serving seven cookies on a tray. It's not for everyday, of course, but for special occasions like a Christening party or when you have special friends over.
Sju sorters kakor (Seven kinds of cookies)
A custom that is sadly on the wane in Sweden but should get revived: seven kinds of cookies at the “kafferep” (coffee parties for ladies). The tradition has been known since the 19th century. In 1720, Stockholm already had 15 so-called “kaffehus” (cafés), where coffee was served with buns in a French manner. From time to time drinking coffee was prohibited in Sweden, and wheat wasn’t much harvested until the 19th century. When coffee again became legal to drink in 1822, it also became a custom to serve “småkakor” (little cookies), but the ingredients in those were usually too expensive for most people. During the 19th century more and more recipes for cookies came out and a certain competitiveness was developed between hostesses, which in turn lead to the seven kinds of cookies at each visit.
Why seven? The number seven has had a magical meaning for people for thousands of years. It might be connected to natural phenomena, like the seven colors in the rainbow. Many cultures through the centuries have supported the cult of the magic number. According to mythology, the city of Rome was built by seven kings, and according to Islam, Allah created seven heavens on top of each other. In the first book of the Bible, God created the world in seven days. And later, anyone who dares to kill Cain “will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Seven years of plenty and seven years of famine appear in Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41, and in Exodus 13 there are seven days of the feast of Passover. The fall of the walls of Jericho takes place on the seventh day after marching around the city seven times. Jesus is known to have had seven last words (or sayings) on the cross. And seven is the number of the wonders of the ancient world.
Below are recipes of seven of the most popular Swedish cookies.
Drömmar (Dreams) Swedes aren’t as in love with cookies as Americans, but there’s one cookie that most Swedes know and love, and that is “drömmar.” A “dröm” was always found on the tray when “sju sorters kakor” were served.
Ingredients for about 6 dozen:
2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ tsp salt, 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened), 1½ cups sugar, 1 tsp crushed baker’s ammonium, ½ tsp almond extract, 1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut.
Sift together flour and salt. Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in ammonium carbonate and almond extract until combined well. Mix in flour mixture at low speed just until blended, then stir in coconut. Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.
Bake cookies in batches in upper third of oven until pale golden around edges, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
Dammsugare (Vacuum cleaners) Another really popular Swedish cookie that most people actually buy (if in Sweden try the Delicato brand), but they are actually not too difficult to make at home. This cookie is also called “arraksrulle” or “punschrulle” or “säkring.” We have many names for the things we love … (Kärt barn har många namn … )
Ingredients for about 40 cookies:
¾ cup cookie or cake crumbs (as long as they're neutral in flavor, use anything), ½ cup butter (softened), 3 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp powdered sugar, 2 tbsp punsch liqueur (if you can't find any, then use Amaretto or Frangelico instead), ¾ cup marzipan and green food coloring, ½ cup dark chocolate, melted
Start by placing the crumbs in a bowl―a regular bowl if you're doing this by hand or with handheld beaters, or in the bowl of your Kitchen-Aid if you have one. Mix in the butter, and then cocoa, powdered sugar and punsch. You need a fairly firm dough that can easily be shaped, so add ingredients accordingly, and taste it, too. Roll out thin logs of the dough, and place in the fridge to firm up. In a bowl mix the marzipan with a few drops of the green food coloring until even, using your fingers. Roll out the marzipan and shape it around the dough logs. Place them seam-side down, and cut into smaller lengths. Dip the ends in melted chocolate, and something more if you like―colored sugar, sprinkles, crushed nuts or coconut. Keep them in a cool place. These cookies taste best the day after they’re made.
Hallongrottor (Raspberry caves or Raspberry thumb print cookies)
A common Swedish pastry that of course has its American equivalent in the thumb print cookie. An easily baked, molded cookie.
½ cup sugar, 2 sticks butter, ⅓-½ vanilla pod + 1 tsp sugar (vanilla sugar substitute), 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut butter into chunks and add to dry ingredients. Mix well using your fingers or a pastry cutter. Roll the dough into a loaf and cut it into even slices. Roll each slice into a walnut-sized ball and place in a small cupcake form. Using your thumb, make a depression in each ball, and fill this with a teaspoon of raspberry jam. Bake for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Also try replacing the raspberry with lingonberry jam (and put a little cinnamon in the dough).
Havreflarn (Oatmeal cookies) A biscuit-like pastry that contains, as its name suggest, mostly oat (havre). The “flarn” usually look like flat cookies but when homemade you want to give them their pretty rolled shape.
½ cup butter, ¼ cup sifted flour, ½ cup sugar, ¾ cup quick cooking oats, 2 tbsp, light cream
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour baking sheets. Melt butter in medium saucepan, and add the rest of the ingredients and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir briskly. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 4 inches apart on well-greased and floured baking sheet. Bake only 5-6 cookies at a time for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove carefully with spatula and place over rolling pin, glass or mug so they curl and become firm. If the cookies harden before they can be removed from the cookie sheet, then re-heat in oven for a few seconds to soften.
Kryddkakor (Spice cookies) Ingredients:
2¼ cups flour (sifted before measured), 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened, 1½ cups sugar, 1 egg, ¼ cup molasses
Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt and set aside. Beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Add egg and molasses and mix well. Add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Using about 1½ teaspoon dough for each, roll dough into balls. Roll them in the remaining ½ cup of sugar so they are fully coated. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet, space cookies 2 inches apart. Bake until set, 9-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Kolasnittar (Caramel cuts) Great cookies with caramel flavor.
1 cup butter, ⅔ cup sugar, 1 tbsp light-colored molasses, 1 tbsp vanilla, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour and baking powder and quickly work to a smooth dough. Split the dough in 4 evenly sized pieces. Roll out to "sausages" as long as the baking plate. Put these "sausages" two and two together on baking paper on the plate and flatten them out slightly. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-18 minutes. Cut the "sausages" in diagonal cuts.
Finska pinnar (Finnish sticks) Also known as Finska fingrar (Finnish fingers). A pastry the size of a finger (actually a bit thicker), that can also have a slight vanilla taste. It is not known why they are called Finnish, it seems only logical to believe they originate in Finland.
2½ cups sifted flour, ½ cup sugar, ½ pound butter (slightly softened), 1 tsp almond extract, 1 egg (slightly beaten), ½ cup finely chopped blanched almonds, pearl sugar or crushed loaf sugar
Combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter. The mixture should form crumbs the size of a pea. Sprinkle the almond extract over the top. Knead the mixture lightly but well to distribute the flavoring. Divide the dough into eight parts. With lightly floured hands, roll the dough into long strips about the thickness of your little finger. Cut into 2-inch lengths, press the tops with your finger to flatten slightly. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, sprinkle with the almonds and pearl sugar. Bake in a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until a delicate golden brown.