Its that time of year when us “creative-types” start thinking about Christmas (yes, it’s August!). I’m relatively new to the craft-fair scene and in 2016, for the first time I undertook a local craft fair in my village, Staplehurst with fellow crafters. It was a perfect time to test the water and try out the beginnings of what I now refer to as “my little taste of Norway”.
Although I do both graphic design and baking, it’s sometimes hard to take my design work to fairs as a lot of work I produce is bespoke. and so I usually turn to the bakery to create some delicious treats for the festive season. But as you can image cupcakes and sliced cakes aren’t the normal choice around this year. So I turned to my heritage for inspiration for what i would bring to the festive season in 2017.
My mother’s side of the family is Norwegian and it’s kind of become normal to have the treats and bakes we have as from as long as I can remember they have been part of my life. From warm waffles with jam, to tall towers of kranskaker, these recipes have always been used. So, I started small and picked the three favourites within my family and tried these out as well as some handmade traditional juelnisse (Christmas gnomes). It was a big hit and I got some wonderful feedback (which is always welcomed so I can improve for the following year).
And so this year I took a huge leap of faith and booked a three day Scandi market fair in London. I have attended and was christened and confirmed in the Norwegian church which co-hosts this market with the Finnish church just down the road, so the area is familiar to me and I still know a few people who work there. But to do this I needed to polish up on what I created in 2016, to bring something new to the table for 2017 but also improve on the previous year’s makes.
Branding was my first port of call, I’m lucky enough to still have family in Norway who kindly helped out with some traditional Norwegian ribbon (which is impossible to buy in the UK) as I knew I wanted this key to my design. Next was to look at what I had from last year and see where I could take it, after a lot of conversations with family and research I decided that id use a traditional tale of Norwegian bakes around Christmas to shape my whole thing.
And this was my story…
Syv julekjeks – seven types of Norwegian Christmas biscuits
There is something really special about baking those old family recipes. They have been passed down for generations and just the aroma can bring back memories of many childhood Christmases. I have been baking as long as I can remember and today I am sharing the love of baking with my young daughter and one day I hope she will pass our family recipes on to the next generation.
Baking is a fine art all year-round in Scandinavia, but come late November, the serious Christmas baking begins. In our family, we bake seven kinds of biscuits, a tradition from the 19th century, when the number reflected a family’s wealth and status. But today it just means we all get our favourites baked!
Baking has always brought our family together, and our Norwegian bakes are usually at the centre of these gatherings. Using five generations of family recipes, I am sharing my family’s “seven types” of Norwegian Christmas biscuits, for you to enjoy over the festive season with your family and friends.
Pepperkaker – Crisp, very thin gingerbread-like spiced biscuit,
traditionally decorated with icing sugar.
Smørkaker – A light, crumbly textured butter biscuit,
traditionally decorated with a fork impression.
Kransekake – Literally means ‘wreath cake’, usual takes the form of a series
of concentric rings but modernised into bite size marzipan fingers
decorated with icing sugar.
Brune Pinner – Syrup and cinnamon spiced biscuit shards, also called
‘caramel sticks’ and are very good to dip in the coffee.
Serinakaker – A cardamom and lemon scented buttery almond biscuit
with stamped ‘God Jul’ (merry Christmas).
Kososmakroner – Meringue and coconut cookies, like a macaroon
with a soft slightly chewy texture.
Sjokolade Pinner – Cocoa flavoured biscuit sticks with a chocolate brownie like taste, sprinkled with pearl sugar.
A lot of trials and testing was involved to selecting these seven as some bakes were too fragile to be packaged, some where too similar to others and I wanted to give a ‘little taste of Norway’ with these biscuits that I wanted them to be different to what you may have tried before.
Next was packaging something very new for me as my usual bakes are eaten within a couple of days, but my biscuits needed to be good for 4 weeks minimum, which is possible but only in an air tight bag. After more testing and designing I decided that to allow the beautiful nature of the Norwegian flag colours stand out the packaging needed to be neutral and after creating a new branding stamp as well as ingredients stickers and pack labelling I was all set to brand up my packaging (with some help from friends and family) I got x250 bags ready for filling.
I hand mix each batch of biscuits to ensure the constancy is correct (which I cannot easily do when in a stand mixer) so after baking over 40 batches of biscuits I had arms of steel, but it was worth it and I keep true to how my mother, grandmother and great grandmother would have made these biscuits.
To accompany my seven bakes, I wanted to take my much loved julenisse again, I had four design I had created in 2016, all with names and characters to give them that extra personal touch, each was named after someone I know who has played a part in my life…
Per – Loyal & Adventurous – moustache Julenisse
(mothers cousin who’s spirit has always inspired me)
Britt – Caring & Organised – mother Julenisse
(my Norwegian teacher when I was younger)
Helge – wise & faithful – Father Julenisse
(priest who confirmed and married us in Norway)
Solveig – playful & loving – plaits Julenisse
(Mothers cousin whose children we grew up with)
For 2017 I added two new designs as special editions, which featured Norwegian flag tag detail and curly locks instead of the straight fluffy hair.
Ella-Marie – Joyful & Brave – Curly daughter Julenisse
Named after my own daughter who inspires me every day
with her love and is often by my side when working.
Olav – Dedicated & Skilful – Curly Beard Julenisse
Named after the square (saint Olva’s Square) on which the
Christmas Scandi market 2017 was to be held to remind me of this event.
So after months of hard work and sewing and baking every second of every waking hour I took along over 300 julenisse (Christmas gnomes) and over 200 bags of biscuits ready to share these at the Scandi market, London. Final checks are done and car is packed up.
Due to the route needed to get there it was a super early start with my mother in tow we headed up to London to miss the rush hour traffic and get set up. It took about an hour for get everything arranged as I thought looked best and to ensure we were set for whatever the day would bring. It was a nice steady pace and people from all over London and the world seemed to be visiting this market, it was great to talk to people as the marker of these products and it was lovely to hear people comment on what I had designed and created.
The market is a mixture of some handmade items but also an eclectic mix of Nordic companies trading in the UK, so there’s lots to see and eat too.
When looking at my stock at the end of day one I was convinced I would be homing alot of the julenisse in my own house this year, but after a crazy busy Saturday I sold out of everything by 3pm, yes all gone and I had even baked Friday night after getting home at 9pm, to restock some more biscuits as a few flavours had sold out on the friday! WOW what an experience and a joy to what I had been able to achieve, it was a mix of emotions and I was so proud of myself for taking this leap. I would have never expected for such a good reception and meet some wonderful people, it was truly the highlight of the year for my small business and I learnt so much that im already excited for what 2018 could bring.
Planning for next year is already under way….
Check out my other blog posts to see what ive been creating or follow me on social media to keep-up-to date with new projects im working on…