Sandbakkels: Why Tradition Is Important


Paige Baines

Sandbakkels are a type of Norweigen cookie, and baking them is a tradition in my family.

Paige Baines, Assistant Editor

Most families have traditions. Whether it be a small party or large generational event, they have something that they do together. In my family, we make sandbakkels. 

Sandbakkels are a Norweigen cookie made of only four ingredients: a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, and a pound of almonds. “Anything more is not Norweigen,” my grandma always says. 

Each time she looks at an online recipe with anything other than those four ingredients, she says, “See, this says eggs and almond extract. Real Norwegians don’t use that stuff.”

Making these cookies can take up to five or six hours, but the process is simple.

You mix all the ingredients together in a large mixer, then take a small amount of dough and press it into metal sandbakkel tins, slowly working your way from the inside to the out and towards the edge and scraping the excess back with the rest of the dough.

Each batch bakes for about 10 to 15 minutes, and once they are done and cooled, you take the cookiestill in its sand dollar-sized tinand tap the side of the tin against the table until the cookies either slide out or crumble. 

When making sandbakkels, it’s important to press the dough to ideal thickness in its shell-shaped tin. (Paige Baines)

There is a real art to getting the thickness just right. If too thin, then they break or burn and then shatter when they hit the table. If too thick, then they don’t cook all the way and refuse to leave the comfort of their shell. 

“My dad was absolutely the best at forming these little shells and getting the thickness just right,” my grandma said. “We used to laugh about that… we should just turn it over to him, but, you know what, they never get finished because they are so time consuming.”

My grandma and her family have been making these cookies together for as long as she can remember. They would all sit around the kitchen table and spend hours pressing the dough in her mother’s tins and talking. 

“When our friends came over, they’d wash their hands and join in,” she said. “It became [known that] anybody that came to the Kjome house were subject to having to make these during the Christmas holidays.”

Anyone and everyone would make sandbakkels and enjoy them over several days, and there were always plenty of cookies to go around. 

Family traditions — like making sandbakkels — are important for connecting with loved ones. (Paige Baines)

But as much as my family loves these cookies, it’s never really about the end product.

As we spend hours on end trying to find the bottom of the seemingly never ending mixing bowl, we spend time talking— telling stories of what we did the day before, what our favorite Christmas movie is, you name it. Making sandbakkels isn’t about the cookies themselves, it’s about checking in with family.

This tradition we have may take the form of a delicious Norwegian pastry, but more so, it is an excuse to sit down with loved ones and connect with someone who we might not often share time with.

As much as we love our families, we sometimes need excuses to see them, and my family’s excuse is sandbakkels. We spend the day together, mindlessly working and eating cookie-crumbled remains as we go.

We carry this tradition with us, because, though it may seem as basic as making a cookie with only four ingredients, it’s time spent together.

Sandbakkels are special because of the conversations, the laughter, and the quality family time they provide. They’re about doing something unique with my family, and in the end, that is more important than any cookie.