Holidays are often the time to explore one’s culinary roots, but last Christmas we had a broken stove, and couldn’t get a new one delivered until after the holiday. It had a tragic accident before I could do ANY baking, so we were without homemade goodies, including Kringle, Norwegian anise-flavored rolls, which are one of my husband’s favorites.
I put the new jar of anise seed in the cupboard, and promised to make the Kringle once we had the new stove. Considering it’s now March, I decided I really should make good on my promise.
Family traditions are often surrounded by mystery. Unfortunately, we don’t have my late Mother-in-Law’s recipe, and the cookbook from my husband’s hometown has EIGHT different recipes for Kringle. I have a love/hate relationship with this cookbook from northern Minnesota. It has all sorts of recipes for hotdish and Scandinavian specialties, and great things to take to potlucks, but there are very few instructions. The recipes always assume that you have some basic knowledge of how the dish is put together. Sometimes it’s just a list of ingredients, or helpful instructions like “Flour enough so you can roll them into Kringle shape”. What? I didn’t even know what Kringle shape was the first time I made them. When picking a recipe, I usually ask my husband, “Do you know Mrs. Suchandsuch?” or “Who is a better cook: Mrs. Blahdeeblah or Mrs. Whatsherbutt?”
The Kringle recipes vary greatly. Some call for yeast. Others use baking powder. Some have buttermilk or sour cream. Some call for anise and others don’t. One has nutmeg. How does one choose?
When picking a Kringle recipe a few years ago, I eventually ditched the community cookbook and went online for answers. I found a recipe by Heather Whitney that was extremely helpful. It no longer seems to exist online, but it had very clear instructions and great photos, making it the perfect recipe for a Kringle novice. The only problem I found with the recipe was that it didn’t include any salt. I think a 1/2 teaspoon salt is a necessary addition. This time I also brushed them with an egg wash and dusted half the Kringle with a course Himalayan salt. The egg wash creates such a beautiful golden color.
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (between 105 and 115 F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened salted butter
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon anise seeds, crushed (just put them in a baggie and use a mallet if you don’t have a mortar and pestle.)
2 eggs, room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand about five minutes, until the yeast foams.
2. Add the rest of the sugar, the butter, salt, half and half, crushed anise seed, and eggs. Beat well.
4. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (up to 24 hours).
5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Take globs of dough that are about the size of a ping pong ball. Flour your surface and hands and gently roll into a skinny log, about eight inches long. I just do this in the air, and keep flouring my hands.
6. Twist the logs into figure-eight shapes, tucking the ends underneath, and place on the baking sheet.
7. Let the Kringle rise on the baking sheets for one hour.
8. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with course salt if desired.
9. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes.
This makes a lot of Kringle (about 30). I recommend eating them warm from the oven, and reheating the leftovers. They will go stale pretty quickly, so freeze anything you don’t plan on eating within a couple of days.
My husband says his Mom’s recipe had a stronger anise flavor. Either his taste buds have mellowed or she may have used more anise in her Kringle. The addition of anise extract is also used in some recipes.