Friday, December 11, 2009

Serinas make the holiday season sweeter

By Helen Klein

The aroma of roast turkey has not yet dissipated, in my home, before the fragrance of butter and spice-laden holiday cookies fills the air.

I have been baking Christmas cookies since the tender age of 16, when I clipped some recipes from a magazine that my mother had lying around our apartment.

That year, I made my very first gingerbread and spritz cookies, from recipes that I still use and treasure, though, over the years, I’ve augmented my repertoire considerably, baking as many as eight or 10 varieties -- 1,000 cookies or more -- each season.

Indeed, December wouldn’t be December in my house without the ritual of cookie-baking, which my children have come to expect and enjoy, as well as participate in.

A couple of years ago, I was challenged by my son to reproduce a batch of holiday cookies I had bought at a Christmas fair at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.

Called Serinas, they were at once buttery and delicate, rich but not cloying, with a haunting almond taste. I found some recipes on the Internet, and tried one. The result was, shall we say, underwhelming.

So, I headed back to Our Saviour’s last year, and found the woman who had baked the Serinas that we enjoyed so much. Else Liebermann, who brought her mother’s recipe here from Norway several decades ago, was extraordinarily gracious, and agreed to share her recipe with me.

Baking the cookies was one of the things that the children in her family enjoyed doing at her mother’s elbow, Else recalled. “We rolled the cookies but my mother did the egg white and sprinkles. Otherwise, we’d get it all over the place,” she reminisced.

Because it utilized a traditional Scandinavian ingredient, called hjortetakk, and because Else made the cookies entirely by hand, the recipe required some tinkering before I could try it. Heading back to the Internet, I found a substitute for hjortetakk -- baking soda and baking powder in equal parts. I also reworked the methodology so I could use my heavy-duty mixer for the dough.

While I can’t attest that my cookies taste exactly like Else’s, or have the exact texture (mine were chewier; hers are denser), they are a tasty addition to the cookie assortment I bake every year, and one I hope that my children will make -- and perhaps even share with their children -- in decades to come.


4 cups flour
1-1/3 cups sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1½ cups butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup pearl sugar
1 egg white, beaten

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together.Cream butter and sugar in mixer till light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla, and beat to mix.

Incorporate flour mixture, a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring until just absorbed.

(To make by hand, as Else does, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. To that add, butter, egg and vanilla and work it all together with your hands.)

Roll the dough into little balls (less than 1 inch), then roll the dough balls in beaten egg white, coating one side in the sugar and almond mixture.

Put on buttered baking sheet, sugared side up and spaced 1 inch apart, and press them down with a fork.Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. They are ready when the underside is golden, and the crumb is fully formed, but the cookies are still soft when lifted with a spatula.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to cooling racks. Store airtight in a tin.

Makes about 70 cookies.


Anonymous,  December 12, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

Hi! came across your recipe for serinas. They are actually called Serina Kaker and the item the woman put in her recipe was not Hjortetakk, as this is another deep fried cookie translated deer antler, but ammonium carbonate. You can purchase bakers ammonium through King Arthur flour and other places on the web. Hope this helps you!

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