I remember a little over three years ago when I decided to go vegan for the animals, and I thought to myself “Christmas will never be the same”, because I thought that when I made the conscious choice to give up meat, fish, dairy and eggs, there would be nothing left to eat in the Norwegian cuisine. And most certainly was I not going to be able to enjoy all the delightful Norwegian cookies we make – 7 different kinds every year, at the very least!
Boy, was I wrong. Little did I know that vegans are super creative, and that includes Norwegian vegans! I’ve been following the super talented blogger and now cookbook author, Mari Hult from Vegetarbloggen for a while now. My niece brought back her newly released cookbook “Sykt godt” from Norway earlier in the fall, which I have been thoroughly enjoying. Her recipe for mandelstenger (literally translated as ‘almond sticks’) was my inspiration for today’s blog post. Spoiler alert: they turned out amazingly good, so get excited!!
The vegan movement is growing in Norway, as people are getting increasingly aware that their meat and dairy heavy diets may not be the healthiest choice. Heart disease, cancer and obesity has risen dramatically in Norway as in the rest of the western world and processed and fast food is plentiful everywhere . That is not to say every choice we make has to be 100% healthy, but overall, if we choose to be more conscious about what we put in our bodies, our health will benefit as a result. This is also the basis for my health and life coaching which you can read more about over at arcticgrub.com.
To get back on track: Christmas is definitely in the house in the Gandara household! I realize a lot of my readers are very in touch with the classic, Norwegian recipes of old times such as krumkaker (still wildly popular in Norway), sandkaker, fattigmann and goro (not so much), sirupssnipper and more. Regardless, Norwegians are known to go a little nuts with baking cookies during this holiday, it’s simply not Christmas until you’ve got at least a handful of different varieties (7 to be exact) baked and boxed up.
But what kind of cookies do Norwegians like to make and eat in 2016? In addition to today’s cookie, others include brune pinner (very similar to mandelstenger), kokosmakroner, mandelflarn, julekaker/julemenn, pepperkaker, smultringer, hjortetakk and risboller to name a few. I’ve also seen the influence of American and other international pastries in Norwegian households, as my fellow countrymen have embraced the love for brownies, muffins and biscotti.
Mandelstenger are soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and is almost like candy it’s so good. They are very similar to the better known ‘kransekake’, as the base for the batter is ground up almonds. I’ve also seen versions of this called “heksefinger” (witch fingers!) and “Finnish bread.”
Super quick to make and requires few ingredients, it has become a favorite of many people. Even though it may be considered a ‘modern’ recipe, this cookie has existed for a long time in Norway’s cuisine in different versions, and were by many considered one of the “7 types of cookies” made for Christmas (read more about that in my blog archives here.)
You can make these gluten free recipe simply by omitting the all purpose flour and substituting either gluten free flour or cornstarch, it just helps bind the batter together.
I hope you will enjoy these as much as I did, they will most definitely continue to be part of my Christmas cookie baking tradition going forward!
Makes about 20 pieces
7 0z/ 200 grams whole almonds
3 oz/ 80 grams vegan butter
6 0z (3/4 cups) / 160 grams sugar
3 tbsp soy yogurt (I used the brand Kite Hill which is deliciously creamy and tangy) plus extra for brushing on top of batter
4 tbsp all purpose flour (sub gf flour or cornstarch if gluten free)
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius).
Dress a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Set aside about 10-15 whole almond and roughly chop them up. These are to be sprinkled on top of the cake batter.
Grind the remaining almonds in a high powered blender or a food processor into a mealy flour.
In a stand mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the soy yogurt. Add the ground almond meal, all purpose flour and baking powder, stir until just combined.
Press the dough onto the parchment paper dressed cookie sheet into a large square – the batter should be about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Spread a little soy yogurt on top and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.
Bake in oven for about 15 minutes on the bottom shelf, remove from oven and using a pizza cutter, slice into about 2 inch thick/4inch long pieces, while the dough is still soft.
Place back in oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Keep them in a container with a tight lid. Will last for about a week.