The recipe we inherited from Bestemar left much to the imagination - including referring to ingredients in the instructions that are not listed in the ingredient list! Apparently everyone knew how to cook then and such attention to detail was unnecessary. This is my much-fleshed-out recipe. Perhaps with this my cousins can make a tin or two for next Lille-Yule! Just kidding, I know Kleiner is a Degn-McPeck responsibility.
Bestemar’s Danish Kleiner
Takes 3 to 4 hours – or three nights
Makes about 4 dozen “Susan-sized” cookies, 3 dozen “Alma-sized)
Susan = My Mother
Alma = My Grandmother (mother’s mother)
Bestemar = My Great-grandmother (mother’s father’s mother)
2 mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Stout wooden spoon
Flat work surface
Wax paper or parchment paper
Dinner fork or frying scoop
Pan deep enough for frying (at least 2 inches deep)
Brown wrapping paper or brown paper bags cut to lie flat
Small paper bag
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or cardamom
½ cup butter, melted
4 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4-5 cups flour (depends on how finer the flour is – the finer the flour, the more you need)
1½ pounds shortening or oil (I like to use grapeseed oil because it has a buttery flavor. Sue and Alma always used Crisco vegetable, i.e. soy, oil)
2 cups sugar for decorating
1 tsp vanilla or other flavoring, like cardamom (optional)
Making the dough
(1) Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together until smooth with hand blender.
(3) In a separate bowl, sift together baking powder, salt and 3 cups of the flour.
(4) Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the dough, adding about ¼ to ½ a cup of flour at a time. You will only be able to use a hand mixer for first cup or so of flour, then move to a sturdy spoon. (I have broken wooden spoons mixing the dough before – beware!)
The last cup of flour usually needs to be worked in by hand a tiny bit at a time. You want the dough to be pulling off the sides of the bowl, but not as firm as pie dough. (I’ve never tried a free standing mixer for this, let me know if you try it and it works).
(5) Let dough chill in refrigerator or cool room before shaping. It should be firm and easy to roll out (this takes about half an hour). Susan generally made it a little softer - about like bread dough, then kneaded in more dough when she rolled out the cookies.
Shaping the cookies
(1) Roll out a softball-sized hunk of dough to about ¼ inch thick. You can try a bigger hunk as you get used to the process. Thinner dough is harder to work with and can fall apart when frying. Thicker dough takes longer to cook and can be a bit cakey. Sue tended to roll the cookies thicker than Alma.
(2) Using an upside down butter knife, draw parallel lines through the dough, about 1 inch (Susan size) to 1½ (Alma size) inches apart. You can make them even bigger if you like. According to Susan, Bestemar made them the size of donuts.
(2) Draw crossing, almost-perpendicular lines, across the first lines, in order to create diamond shapes. Cut a 1/2 to 1 inch slit in the center of each diamond shape (depending on how big you make the cookies). Remove edge pieces.
Cooking and finishing
(2) Line some trays or your flat work surface with at least two layers of brown paper. The brown paper needs to be reasonably close to the fryer.