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Keeping Norwegian cookie traditions alive

November 25, 2011
By DIANE SPEER , The Alpena News

With 10 eggs yolks, brandy, heavy cream and lard as ingredients, the Norwegian Bakkelse (pronounced "buckles") aren't for the faint of heart. For those looking to keep with tradition, however, these treats are a must.

The Bakkelse are just one of numerous time-honored Norwegian cookies that the ladies of Grace Lutheran Church in Alpena spent two days baking this week in anticipation of next Saturday's annual Christmas Yulefest Bake Sale. The Bakkelse also are known as "Poor Man's Cookies," which given the ingredients, makes church member Thelma Stevens scoff.

"No one who is poor could afford to make these with the ingredients in them," said Stevens, who oversaw the bake-athon held Monday and Tuesday in the church kitchen. "There's really nothing healthy about them."

Article Photos

News Photos by Diane Speer
Corky Gates, pictured above, tries her hand at making Norwegian Krumkaker horns in the kitchen at Grace Lutheran Church in Alpena. Below are pages from a more than 60-year-old cookbook that contains the cookie recipes the ladies at Grace Lutheran are making for the church’s annual Christmas Yulefest Bake Sale. The cookbook is owned by Thelma Stevens.

Grace Lutheran, whose ethnic roots are steeped in Norway, has been holding a Yulefest Bake Sale for more years than those participating in the bake-athon could remember.

While the woman of the church have continued to annually bake goods for the sale, many had gotten away from the traditional Norwegian cookies that were the original backbone of Yulefest. That's when Stevens got involved in pulling out old-time recipes from her more than 60-year-old cookbook and inviting others to join her in creating the traditional cookies for this year's Yulefest.

"It was time to get back to the Norwegian cookies," Stevens said. "They had always been made for Yulefest, but in recent years, the older ladies in the church had stopped making them and the younger girls didn't know how to make them."

Among those helping to keep the traditions alive at the bake-athon was Corky Gates. Though she confesses to being German, Gates still volunteered to make Krumkaker horns. The process involved pouring a batter for the horns into a press, cooking it, carefully lifting it out and then forming the cookie into a horn shape around a special tool. Afterward, the Krumkakers are filled with whipped cream, fruit or other sweet fillings.

"I'm all German, but I'm willing to be Norwegian by nutrition" said Gates, noting that she'd never made the Krumkakers before.

Grace Lutheran's pastor, Owen Williams, is of Norwegian descent. The ladies of the church like to relate a boyhood story he shared with them of how he used to help his mother bake the Krumkakers, but because he ate so many crumbled pieces during the process, she ultimately took his job away from him.

Even so, Williams enjoyed being at the church Monday, where the scents from the kitchen wafted into his office.

"It's great. I'm Norwegian," Williams said, before laughingly adding, "There's nothing like walking in and smelling the lard."

Also helping out the cause Monday, Eleanor Coddington and Gerry Rhoads were busy making Berlinerkranser or Berlin Wreaths, while Sharon Engstrom and Barb Engstrom worked on sand tarts. The making of the time-consuming Bakkelse fell to Chris Christopherson, Bob Greene and Elaine Hatch.

Born and raised Norwegian, Hatch had only made Bakkelse one other time, though her mother always included them in her holiday preparations. To make them, the Bakkelse dough is rolled out, cut with a special pastry knife, twisted into shape, deep fried and then dusted with powdered sugar.

"This is a resurgence to get the Norwegian flavor back into our Christmas cookies," Stevens said. "Some didn't even know what half of these things are."

Along with rekindling a renewed appreciation for the traditional flavors of the past, the baking sessions also were about fun and fellowship.

"This is the first time we've ever done this as a group for the bake sale," Stevens said. "If nothing else, we have had a lot of fun working together."

Grace Lutheran's Christmas Yulefest Bake Sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the church, located at 119 W. Dunbar. Other breads and homemade baked goods also will be available. Church member Darlene Freel is serving as the bake sale chair. For more information, contact the church at 354-2640.



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