This post has been a long time in coming. A very long time. Maybe 120 years or so in truth. Thanks to Selma Gronvall Hall my great great grandmother, Gail Lonnquist Wells my grandmother and Beth Wells Stordahl my mother and countless other Swedish and Norwegian women this recipe endures and that endurance now, has prompted me to share it with you. Have you ever thought about the history of a recipe? How long actually have we been making the food of our ancestors or someone else's ancestor's?
History is a magnificent thing. Often times overlooked in our workaday, hurry up and go world, our own personal history anchors us, shapes us, transforms us in a ways we are little aware. We, whether realizing it or not, make decisions based on our history, even the history of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. The stories we hear or even the ones we hear only pieces of are full of events, circumstances either real or inferred. Histories can be bad, histories can be good but the reality is we all have it; history. I never met my great great grandmother, nor did I meet my great grandmother but I have in a way met them; through this recipe.
As a small child I recall my grandmother and mother making this recipe, and how they would tell me that the recipe and the tins to make them with came from Selma, my great great grandmother. Selma was born in 1860 in northern Sweden and as an immigrant resided on the shores of Lake Superior in Ashland, Wisconsin. A diminutive woman she raised many children and lost several, one of whom was my great grandmother who sadly died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Somehow despite the vagaries of time and circumstance we still have this small piece of her, her recipes and her baking tins. How fitting that it's the recipes that tell the stories and provide this link, this window into the past that we would otherwise be missing.
Despite the fact that this recipe is an old one for our family, it lives on in other places. In Sweden these cookies are known among other things as Mandel Formar (almond forms). In Norway they are made without almonds and are known as Sandbakkels.
However they are made, they an integral part of the coffee table culture of both countries. Traditionally in Norway when you have guests for dessert or coffee, custom dictates you serve seven different varieties of cookies. "Seven Sorts" as it's commonly called. That is quite simply, a lot of cookies. These cookies or tarts if you like, definitely are at home on the coffee table. The lovely thing about them really is they can be gussied up, filled with seedless jam and crowned with whipped cream and berries or they can be eaten plain with the lightest dusting of icing sugar. Either way they are simply delicious.. These tart tins are not difficult to find, well stocked kitchen stores carry them or you can find them for purchase here.
Do you have a family recipe that you cherish or a baking pan or pot that has survived the years? If you don't yet I encourage you to find one, make one, ask your parents or relatives for one. It's never too late to start purposefully cultivating your food history. Future generations will thank you for it.
Selma's Mandel Formar
1 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. almond meal or finely ground blanched almonds
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 C. flour
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter and the sugar until light. Add the egg, almonds and the extracts. Mix thoroughly. Add the flour and combine. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 min. Spray the tins with cooking spray. Cooking spray with flour works particularly well.
Pinch off about 2 T. of dough and using thumbs press evenly into tart forms. Bake on a cookie sheet 10-15 minutes until the edges start to turn light brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes or until the tins can be handled. Flip the tins over in your hand and quickly tap them on the bottom with the back of a large spoon. The tarts should fall readily out. Once cool fill with whipped cream and berries.
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 C. icing sugar
Whip cream, almond extract and sugar until stiff peaks form. Using a pastry bag with a decorative tip, pipe the cream into the tarts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.