strandabakelse

Stranda bakelse; a local Norwegian fjord pastry you never heard of

Stranda bakelse is a very unique cookie from my region of the country, Sunnmøre, more specifically, my neighboring town of Stranda.  The name literally means “baked item from Stranda” and is extremely hard to find outside of this area.  All the more important to keep the tradition alive, and I really wanted to devote a post to this particular delicacy.  Here is a photo of the little picturesque village of Stranda, also home of one of the most gorgeous ski resorts in the country:

stranda

While the very classic Stranda bakelse cookie is traditionally eaten for Christmas and select other special occasions such as weddings and confirmations in Norwegian households, I see no reason to not bake this all year around.  Especially during summer, when we typically crave lighter desserts,  the Stranda bakelse could be your perfect choice.  Delightfully light and crisp in texture,  with a slightly sweet flavor, this very thin pastry makes for a wonderful sweet snack, either plain or, as in my house and more correctly, cut in half,  spread with a layer of local butter and folded and cut again.   So simple, but incredibly special.   Alternatively, eat it with a side of lightly whipped cream with fresh, seasonal berries.  My mouth is watering already!

Standard ingredients in the stranda bakelse batter include eggs, flour, sour cream, sugar and heavy cream.  We Vikings do love our dairy, yes!  Probably because dairy was such a luxury in the past, we make up for it today by going overboard and adding it wherever we can.  Can you blame us?  Dairy products in Norway tastes ten times better than anywhere else in the world, and I’ve traveled to quite a few places…

As with any recipe, the proportions and ingredients vary from family to family,  based on their experiences making this cookie.  Somewhat similar to the krumkake,  the stranda bakelse is much thinner and crispier, although not as buttery. Unlike the krumkake, the Stranda bakelse does not get rolled into a cone, but stays flat and can keep for longer.

strandabakelse1

Many have proudly kept old irons with the two-sided ornate patterns, used in the making of  Stranda bakelse by their parents and grandparents, along with the family recipes and stories that accompany them.  The oldest iron I learned about that is still in existence, is from 1733. While older irons were used over a live flame or heat from the stove top, more modern irons are electric with non stick surfaces and even come with a timer and the ability to cook multiple cookies at a time.  As the romantic I am, I much prefer the older version, because of its authenticity and it also requires a certain technique and skill.

strandabakelseiron

Jon Bratli, a lifetime Stranda resident, has been making Stranda bakelse irons  by hand according to the old school method since 1985.  Today he is 80 years old, and has made 164 irons in total since he started, all with personalized  numbers branded into the irons before they are delivered.  In an exchange this spring, he told me he has shipped several irons over to the U.S. to customers who have requested them, even as wedding presents. The pattern he uses is over 100 years old.   If you are interested in ordering one of these extremely unique and rare irons, Jon’s contact details are at the bottom of this post. Here he is at work:

jonbratli

strandabakelse2

Below is Jon’s recipe for Stranda bakelse. I can’t think of a more appropriate recipe to post than from the man himself; this fantastic craftsman who has dedicated his retirement to making these old irons with so much local history.  If you want to try the recipe out without the special Stranda bakelse iron, you could try it on your krumkake iron (more readily available for purchase in the U.S.) , but I will definitely recommend you get in touch with Jon to get this rare gadget before it disappears completely from the market.  I can’t see people making these by hand much longer…   A true gem in the Norwegian culinary history!

STRANDA BAKELSE

Adapted from Jon Bratli’s Facebook page “Stranda Bakelse”

1 1/4 cup full fat sour cream

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup (60 grams) sugar

1 egg

1 quart + 1/2 cup water

800 grams (3 1/3 cups or 1 lb 12 oz) all purpose flour

Combine the sugar and the water, and whisk in the egg.  In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream until almost soft peaks, and combine in the sugar-water-egg mixture.  Add in the sour cream, whisk until combined and add in the flour last.   Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour before baking.

You are now ready to bake your stranda bakelse. You will need an electric stove top about 17cm in diameter (7 inches). Sometimes there is a small circle in the middle of the stove top, if so, place a nickle in the middle (large enough to fill the hole) to avoid the stranda bakelse to form a lighter ring in the middle.

When the iron is heated through, place a small scoop of batter in the center. There is no need to spray /coat/ brush the iron with additional grease because the batter contains enough fat to easily release the cookie after it is baked.  Carefully close the top of the iron, and with either paper towels or a regular towel in your hand, press down on different parts of the iron to make sure it is cooking evenly.  Turn the iron so that the stranda bakelse cooks evenly on both sides.

The heat is not to be too high, you have to go through a few trial and error sessions to see what level is best for you iron (differs according to iron, stove top, etc).  Here, the “practice makes perfect” saying really comes into place. Sometimes batter will ooze out on the sides of the iron, cut this off either with a potato peeler or thin knife.   When the stranda bakelse is done, remove it carefully from the iron, and place onto a flat surface.  Place a flat object (not too heavy but heavy enough, like a dish/platter or wooden board) on top of the stack of stranda bakelse as you continue baking, to keep them flat/ prevent them from curling.

Store the stranda bakelse in a tight cookie box, you may place a plate on top of them inside the cookie box as well. These will keep for a couple of weeks at least if not longer!  Below is a photo of my mother’s stranda bakelse she made for my niece’s confirmation last month when I visited. As you can see, the pattern is different than Jon’s, and this is the beauty of these unique cookies.

strandabakelse

All photos in this post as well as the below recipe borrowed with permission from Jon Bratli. Visit his Facebook page or contact him at +47 70 26 15 80, or email @flybillett.no.

4 thoughts on “Stranda bakelse; a local Norwegian fjord pastry you never heard of

  1. Euan says:

    Hi Sunny. You have a lovely blog, but I especially love this post. There was a program on British TV a while back where the hosts (the “Hairy Bikers”) visited a lovely 94 year old lady called Nikka in Norway – who knows, maybe it was even in Stranda! – who made these bakelse. Ever since then I have wanted to make them, and I have spent a lot of time searching fruitlessly on the web for an iron like hers, which I think was very similar to the one you have shown here. As it happens I am going to the Hardangerfjord and Bergen for a week in September and my plan is to try and find one. But if that fails, I may have to get in touch with Jon and see if he wants (and I can afford!) a commission🙂

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Signor Biscotti! Thanks for your kind comment, I appreciate you checking out my blog! Safe trip to Norway – I would be VERY surprised if you find the Stranda bakelse iron anywhere else but in Stranda and the immediate surrounding areas as it is an extremely limited and local vessel, but I am sure you can find similar irons (the patterns are usually what differs from region to region, in addition to the recipe of course). I am sure Jon would be happy to hear from you should you decide on the specific Stranda bakelse iron – good luck and keep me posted! Thanks again!

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