I was somewhere between child and teenager when I asked my Po to show me his beloved recipe for Smolaning. In my family these were the way to many a loved one’s heart and I wanted the secret to them. It seemed that I alone wanted to hold in my hands the power of this biscuit/cookie/edible magic. So I asked.
My grandfather was Swedish by birth, Nebraska raised, and a Mississippi transplant. Po was my hero, my inspiration, and my biggest champion. He was also a gardener, a pilot, an artist and a baker, employing equal parts creativity, knowledge and mad scientist to all his endeavors. None reflected this more than his approach to cooking. Smolaning were the epitome of this genius.
In my grandfather’s kitchen, these delicious Swedish hand me downs had evolved into a ribbon shaped half pretzel. Slightly sweet, this rye flour concoction was the perfect bite with anything. They were good with jam, or without, the perfect bite with ice cream, and delightful just by themselves. We spent the day making sheet pan after sheet pan of them. My Po’s baking style was a plethora of influences – historical, scientific, personal taste, and “just for the heck of it let’s try this.” So with the only written copy of this sought after family recipe and a tummy full of rye I walked into the future equipped with pure culinary magic.
Fast forward many years later and my brother’s birthday was on the horizon. I wanted to give him the perfect gift and I thought of the Smolaning. Po had passed many years back and the recipe I had so lovingly coveted was lost after much time and many moves. I decided to make it my mission to recreate the recipe my grandfather had shared with me so many years before.
I researched Scandinavian pastries on the internet, finding nothing with that name, nor what I recalled of the recipe’s magic. After much frustration I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and get in the kitchen to begin my own discovery. I took what I remembered, rye flour, sugar and sour cream and explored similar recipes for Swedish Kringla.
I made batch after batch, none quite the way I remembered, but I got closer each and every time.
Finally I arrived at my nearest representation just in time for the birthday dinner. They were softer for sure, but the taste was very much like those of my memory. I had traveled through time all the way back to that wide open kitchen with its grand farm table covered in tray upon tray of cooling Smolaning, hands deep in that sticky dough with my Po proudly watching as I rolled and shaped his legacy with my hands.
Almost a year later, my father found that handwritten recipe I had saved all those years ago. It was written on a piece of torn cardboard from a discarded box. There were also countless napkins, scrap papers and cereal boxes with the jewels of my culinary heritage written in my grandparent’s hands. Were my Smolaning exactly the same? No. Was the journey worth it? Most definitely. What had been missing from my version of Po’s Smolaning? I’ll never tell.
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
(generous amount, about 1/2 the nutmeg shaved)
- 1 tsp molasses (generous), optional
- 2 1/2 cups rye flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in sour cream.
Add sugar, nutmeg and molasses and mix till combined.
Combine rye flour, baking soda and baking powder in separate bowl.
Mix into wet ingredients. Dough will be sticky. Form a ball, pinch off a bit and roll it into a pencil and shape into half pretzel shapes, like ribbons.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes.
Written by Allison Jenkins / Photography by Scott Speakes