One of our favourite Christmas treats has always been freshly baked klejner, a really old recipe. As with all recipes, this has developed across the Nordic lands. In Iceland, it is slightly different from Denmark (the Danish version is small, less fluffy and more crumbly – in Iceland, much larger) and different again also from the Norwegian version. In Sweden, it is mostly popular in the south, and rarely eaten up north. Food travels and changes. It has many names: Kleinur, Klenät, Fattigmann…
This is our take on it. Now before you say “why add yeast in Klejner?” can we just say that whilst maybe not entirely how most do it, it’s a worthy spin on a Norwegian version of these fried pastries. These have the shape of Klejner, but are much more like a doughnut/beignet - and made with yeast – thus more fluffy and soft. They don’t keep long, so make these on the day of eating.
500mlcoconut oilor any oil with a high smoking point, for frying
icing sugarfor dusting
In a stand mixer, combine the lukewarm milk and yeast until dissolved, then add the sugar and stir again. Add the soft butter and egg, then start adding the flour, salt and cardamom, followed by the zest. You may not need all the flour, or you may need a bit more. Knead for around 3–4 minutes – it shouldn’t be runny or too sticky, but slightly springy. Leave in a covered bowl to rise for about an hour.
When you’re ready to cook the klejner, heat the coconut oil in a deep pan to 180°C/350°F.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, to a thickness of around 5 mm. Using a pastry wheel, cut into strips around 5 cm, then cut at an angle, but a bit longer (6 cm) so you end up with diamond shapes. Cut a slit in the middle of each one. To make the knot, pull one corner of the pastry through the hole in the middle and pull gently.
Carefully drop the klejner into the hot oil and fry, turning over halfway. Each will take 1 1/2–2 minutes. You will need to cook them in batches. Drain on paper towels and dust lightly with icing/confectioners’ sugar. These are best eaten on the day you make them.