Klejner (plural) are a fried pastry (in German: Siedegebäck) that are eaten in the month of December in northern Europe. It is uncertain from where this Yule treat has its origin, but the first mention of a Klejne (singular) is in the 14th century in Denmark.
This Danish Yule treat can be found in many Danish and Icelandic cookbooks from the 18th and 19th centuries, which makes perfect sense due to the history those two countries have together.
However, this fried pastry could be much older, and it is possible that this Yule treat is so old that it might date back to the Viking Age. Which was before Scandinavia and large parts of Northern Europe were Christianized. It was back when the people were heathens, and at a time when it was the winter solstice and Jolablot that was celebrated instead of Christmas.
Klejner are not made in an oven, in fact, they are so old that they predate the first kitchen ovens. The pastry is made by using some of the most basic ingredients around the house such as flour, eggs, and sugar, and then fried in a pot with warm cooking oil.
Besides being eaten in the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Faroe Islands, and Iceland for Christmas. They are also very well known in Northern Germany, and in the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, again because of the close ties with those countries. The people who settled in North America during the 19th century might also have brought this Scandinavian Christmas tradition with them.
The Norwegian name for Klejner ”Fattigmann” is really fitting because it means a poor man’s cookie, and it is a cheap cookie to make if you just make Klejner/Klenät with its most basic ingredients.
The name Klejner/Klenät by country
- Danish – Klejner
- Norwegian – Fattigmann
- Swedish – Klenäter
- Icelandic – Kleinur
- Lithuanian – Žagarėliai
- English – Klenät
- German – Siedegebäck
Klejner recipe (easy)
The recipe below is a modern-day version of the old Yule treat, the ingredients in the recipe like cardamom and lemon were extremely rare and expensive in the 14th century, so they were most likely not used. It is relatively easy to cook Klejner, however, you should always be careful when cooking in a pot filled with hot oil.
You will need a pastry cutter for this recipe, if you don’t own one, I would recommend this one, the prices always change a bit but you can check it out by following this link to Amazon. I also use a skimmer in stainless steel, which makes it much easier to cook them in warm oil, I also have a link here to Amazon for that.
- 500-gram wheat flour
- 125-gram butter
- 150 gram Sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon of ammonium bicarbonate
- Lemon zest from 1 organic lemon
- 1 tablespoon of cardamom
- 3 tablespoons of cream
- Palmin (for frying)
How to make Klejner/Klenät
- Put the wheat flour in a bowl and mix it with the ammonium bicarbonate, lemon zest, and cardamom.
- Chop the butter into smaller pieces and put them into the bowl and mix it together.
- Put the sugar, eggs, and cream into the bowl, and knead the dough.
- Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for an approx 2 hours.
- Roll the dough out to approx 2-3 millimeters thick, and cut it out with a pastry cutter into strips to about 3 centimeters wide and 7-8 centimeters long. Then cut a long scratch in the middle of each Klejne.
- Pull one end of the dough through the long scratch that you cut before, and fold them.
- Put the Klejner into the refrigerator or somewhere cold for approx 30 minutes.
- Warm up the Palmin until it is warm (medium heat), and put a few of the Klejner into it at a time.
- Cook them until they are light golden brown and rise to the surface (approx 1 minute on each side). Then take them out and place them on a piece of paper towel to remove the excess oil.
They taste best if they are served after they have been made or on the same day. If your kids can keep their hands off them, you can store them in a cookie jar until Christmas day, they should last for about a month.