Autumn is nearly upon us, which means crisp mornings and extra delicious kleinur. I rarely ever use the singular (kleina), because what is the point of only eating one? In Iceland, we eat these tasty treats most mornings, however, for me, they taste better when its chilly outside. I usually pop into a bakery to get a handful of kleinur and a coffee. If you have never known the joy of trying a kleina or shoving your face full of multiple kleinur, let me explain. Kleinur are knots of delicious deep-fried dough that are traditional in Iceland and throughout the region of Scandinavia. Kleinur is a regular breakfast option here in Iceland, but in other Nordic countries, it isn’t. Let us take a look at some interesting facts about kleinur, and even a recipe so you can make them at home.
Kleinur – Klenät – Fattigmann – Kleynur: It’s All Good
Like I previously mentioned, this Nordic pastry isn’t solely enjoyed in Iceland. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all have storied histories with this fried dough. However, Iceland is the only one to seem to eat this Scandinavian donut regularly. The diamond shaped breakfast pastry was originally thought to have become popular because they are delicious and very cheap to produce. Linguistics and Norwegian enthusiasts will tell you that when the word “Fattigmann” (the Norwegian version of kleinur) is split up; it translates to “poor man.” No one knows where this originated from, and that’s fine by me. Call me whatever you want as long as I get my morning kleiner.
We are fortunate in Iceland to be able to enjoy kleinur as regularly as we do. In Sweden and Denmark, they are considered a Christmastime delicacy. That blows my mind. They are so delicious why wouldn’t you eat them every day? I have trudged through many cold, windy, wet mornings, and I don’t think I would have survived some of them without the promise of a kleinur at the end of my commute. Thankfully, here in Iceland, we have many options for enjoying fistfuls of kleinur. They are sold in pre-packed bags of 12 at the supermarket, every cafe has them as a breakfast option, or if you have some time to kill, you could make some yourself.
Recipe for Traditional Icelandic Kleina
The basic recipe is straightforward, and lucky for you I found an extremely simple recipe right here. Out of all of the recipes that I have found for kleinur, this one is the easiest to modify if you are living in continental Europe or in North America. I recommend that you tweak your recipe, and swap out things that may be a pain in the butt to hunt down. A perfect example of this being the “½ tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds.” Cardamon isn’t in most kitchens outside of Iceland, and I usually recommend swapping it out for a sprinkle of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. The salt is for good luck, obviously.
Kleinur are great to make in batches at once and keep them in the fridge for breakfast. Obviously, the best way to enjoy kleinur is fresh from the fryer accompanied by a piping hot cup of coffee. However, if you make a bunch of them, you can wrap a few in a damp paper towel then pop ‘em in the microwave. They are incredibly portable and delicious for commuters on the go. There are a few us Icelanders out there who sprinkle powdered sugar or chocolate glaze on them (but only if we really need that an extra boost in the morning).
Icelandic Kleina aka Iceland’s Delicious Fried Dough
Lastly, if you have never been to Iceland, and want to make a fun, delicious autumn snack with friends, there is no better way to do that than to make some kleinur. The recipe is easy, they don’t require a whole lot of work to prepare (besides the kneading, but its basically a great forearm workout), and they will warm your soul when paired with a freshly made hot chocolate or coffee. And, the kicker is that you probably have all of those ingredients in your home already. So get cooking! Let me know if you have a secret ingredient in your families kleinur recipe that you think we should try.
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