Most Icelandic sweet treats hail from Denmark, which may have something to do with the former colonial power being the supplier of sugar to the country during the monopoly on trade from 1602 to 1787.
So ‘traditional’ Icelandic cakes, cookies and pastries, like kleina (twisted doughnut), are often also traditionally Danish.
This, I’ve found, applies to a fairly recent staple to the Icelandic Christmas cookie selection too, the irresistible nutty, nougaty, chocolaty sörur.
Apparently, the Danes were so impressed by the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), that they named these heavenly delights after her.
In my family, it has become a habit to reserve a day early in the pre-holiday season to make these rather complicated but oh-so-worth-it cookies.
Recipes and methods vary and we’ve discovered that the tiniest detail can significantly alter the texture and taste of sörur. Adding little tweaks through the years, we’ve developed our own special version.
This is the general recipe:
3 egg whites
3¼ dl (1.6 cups) icing sugar
200 g almonds, finely grained
3 egg yolks
150 g soft butter
½ dl (0.2 cups) syrup
1 tbs cocoa
1 tsp instant coffee
750 g dark chocolate
Whip the egg whites and carefully add the grained almonds (possibly exchange some of those for hazelnuts) and icing sugar. How finely you grain the almonds determines how soft and nutty or how crunchy and meringue-like your base will be.
Use a teaspoon to form coin-sized patties on a non-stick paper and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180°C (356°F). Watch the cookies closely and take them out of the oven as soon as they have a golden color. The base burns quickly.
Whip the egg yolks with the syrup (you can also make it yourself by boiling icing sugar and water) and then mix in with the butter.
Add the cocoa powder and coffee (some prefer to dissolve it in a bit of boiling water first). Let the topping cool before smearing it on the cookies.
After putting a generous teaspoon of topping on each cookie, dip the side that faces up into melted chocolate. The cookies are best stored in the freezer.
With the first Sunday in Advent coming up, my family is planning the next step of holiday preparations: making laufabrauð.
Also coming up are Christmas lights and ornaments, listening to carols, eating nuts and mandarins (and trying not to eat too many sörur this early in the season), baking more cookies, writing cards, and buying and wrapping presents.
The pre-holiday season is on!
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org