Around this time of year, people with whom you do business send you food gifts in recognition of the special relationship you have with them. If you've been really good for business, they'll send you a massive hamper flown in from somewhere like Zabar's or Dean & Deluca. If you're not quite at the top of their client list but still spend money with them, you get the medium-sized basket from Mrs. Beasley and Miss Grace. And if all you did was talk about maybe buying something next year when the economy improves, but they don't want to write you off just yet, you get the blue tin of Danish butter cookies.
Well, I hail from a Danish family and I'm here to tell you that those cookies all have names and, stunningly, most of them are actually reasonably authentic, mass-production quality issues notwithstanding.
Useless trivia? Well, consider this: you could be in a bar talking to someone who, unbeknownst to you, is a Dane. With your impressive knowledge of Danish cookie lore, you could end up invited to his or her apartment to feed him or her these cookies in bed. (What? What? IT COULD HAPPEN.)
Finsk brød. These flat, oblong biscuits, whose name means "Finnish bread", are one of the traditional desserts at Christmas, alongside rice pudding with hot cherry sauce. I'm not honestly sure why they're called Finnish, honestly, but they're always called that, or else finskes ("little Finnish things").
Vanille kranse. Danish for "vanilla wreaths", these are the U-shaped cookies. They're the cookie adaptation of a traditional Danish wedding cake (called kransekage and made of a tower of almond-flavored rings, in the center of which is often placed a bottle of liquor) and they're supposed to be round, but apparently manufacturing round extruded cookies is hard for modern machinery.
Kringle. These are usually called Danish pretzels in English. They're by far the most delicate cookie to make. My mother made dozens and dozens and dozens of butter cookies every Christmas, and you could tell when it was time to make kringle because we kids would get set to some task--any task--by my father, who knew better than to let us anywhere near my mother for that hour or so.
Kanelkager. Literally "cinnamon cakes", these are supposed to have cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top, and they're normally very hard. I can't honestly say I taste the cinnamon in the usual Royal Dansk tin of cookies (where you can tell them apart by their dark color), but when they're made properly they taste light and gently spicy, made with real cinnamon instead of cassia cinnamon (which is rougher and much spicier).
Butter cookies. Boy, they really phoned it in on this one. These are the light-colored round ones with the coarse sugar on top. They're just plain old butter cookies topped with sugar. Theoretically you could call these smørrekikser (butter cookies) but that just makes you sound pretentious, as though referring to any of these cookies by their Danish name doesn't already accomplish that.
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