Growing up around the northern suburbs of Melbourne meant growing up in a very multicultural area. Almost none of my friends were from white Aussie backgrounds and this meant I was incredibly lucky to grow up surrounded by a rich array of different cultures. One of the ways many of those cultures expressed themselves was through food. Every visit to friends’ houses after school introduced me to a world very unlike my own, and this was especially so at Christmas time. I remember so often being presented with platters full of Christmas cookies to take home of varying shapes and flavours I’d never seen before. Christmas at my house meant roast meats and salads and barbecues and pavlova and chocolate ripple cakes. But baking cookies was never one of our traditions.
This year I wanted to spend some time visiting those memories and cuisines from around the world. This year I want to send people home with giant platters of traditional Christmas cookies.
Klejne is a pastry that goes by a number of names, depending on which Nordic country you’re in. What it all has in common is that they are always a knotted pastry deep-fried in fat. While sold year round, klejne have become a staple at Danish Christmas celebrations. And like so many gorgeous Christmas treats, cinnamon is the star of the dish.
I started the dough off in the usual way, making a well in the centre before adding the melted butter and then most of the milk. Like any dough, how much moisture it needs can vary by region or by weather, so I always err on the side of caution and add the rest of the milk if and when needed.
The dough needs to sit in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out, but can be stored in the fridge for a week before use.
Once the dough has chilled the fun begins! You can eyeball this if you want to but using a ruler to guide you certainly makes life easier. The dough is cut into long strips and then cut again on the diagonal.
Those individual piece of dough are slit down the middle before being twisted into a knot.
Again they need to chill in the fridge to firm up and alleviate some of that stickiness in the dough.
After a good halfa to chill its time to get the oil ready. If you have a deep fryer this is probably easier, but I don’t. The dough needs to be fried at 180°C: too hot and the dough will cook only on the outside, too cold and the dough will soak up too much oil before it cooks.
They’ll only take a few minutes to turn golden and crispy.
While still warm give them a good sprinkle of icing sugar
All the twisting of the dough takes time but the interesting shape of curled pastry you get at the end make all the effort worth it.
The result is a lovely texture somewhere half way between a donut and a biscuit. The cinnamon and lemon comes through really strong, which surprised me given how little is used. They’re best eaten right after frying, but are still well worth it some time after.
Here’s how to get started on your very own batch:
A cinnamon based donut cookie hybrid that's a favourite at Danish Christmas celebrations
• 500g plain flour
• 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 125g caster sugar
• 1 tsp grated lemon rind
• 100g unsalted butter, melted
• 250ml milk
• vegetable oil for frying
• icing sugar, for dusting
- In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and cinnamon. Stir in sugar and lemon rind
- Make a well in the centre; add butter and half the milk. Gradually work the flour into the butter mixture; add the remaining milk a little at a time until a soft dough forms
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface; bring dough together without kneading. Pat into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
- Roll the dough into a large rectangle roughly 5mm thick. Cut dough into 3cm strips across the longest side. Trim strips on the diagonal into 8cm pieces.
- Cut a slit into each piece of dough; push one side through the centre slit and pull through to form the knot. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Place each on a tray lined with baking paper and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour
- Heat oil to 180°C. Fry biscuits in batches until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel, the transfer to a rack to cool. While still warm, dust with icing sugar.