Kringle with marzipan filling, a cake baked in Scandinavia for festive occasions – and yes, that includes Christmas! This year you might not bother with Stollen but bake a kringle instead.
What is kringle?
Kringle is a Danish bake, but it’s quite mysterious. It is very hard to get to the bottom of that mystery, to establish what kind of bake it is, where exactly it comes from and in what varieties it may come.
It took me a while to find some original Danish recipes, as Danish kringle seems to be the hit mainly in America. On second thoughts though, asking Google a question in English is not going to bring back many results from Danish websites, is it?
But I got there in the end.
Kringle is a sweet bread pretzel – the most common Google translation of the word ‘kringle’ though far from precise.
First of all, they are not always, and not even most often, shaped like a pretzel. Kringler come in a doughnut shape, a stick or a loaf. Clearly many Danes think that shaping a pretzel with sticky pastry is just effort.
Secondly, although salty smaller kringler (saltkringler) are popular in other parts of Scandinavia, in Denmark kringle is usually sweet, sizeable and filled with what the Danes call ‘remonce’: a soft pastry filling made with sugar and butter, flavoured with spices, custard, raisins or nuts. Marzipan filling for kringle is one type of ‘remonce’.
So what does the pastry taste like? Like Danish?
Yes and no. Both classic Danish and kringle dough are yeast-leavened though in both cases you’d hardly guess. Both are extremely buttery: kringle dough looks practically like buttercream when it’s mixed.
But they do differ: there is no Danishly flakiness in kringles, but rather fluffy richness. It’s soft but not pillowy like brioche. It has a bite but no crunch of laminated dough. It’s delicious – and you just have to try it for yourself to know precisely what it is like.
I think that kringle must be related to all the North and East European bakes that are made from dough rolled around a filling. The closest is probably not pretzel dough, because it doesn’t usually come in a sweet edition, but rather German strudel or Polish strucla.
But whatever the origin, history and affiliation of kringles, they are jolly lovely bakes.
How to make kringle dough?
Very easily, if you pay attention to two points. One is very soft butter, so take it out of the fridge well ahead. The other is: grind your cardamom.
I know it’s a chore to extract those turdy-looking seeds (not trying to put anyone off but they do look like tiny turds) from the pods, then grinding them in a pestle and mortar and it always turns out to be not enough. But do make an effort, don’t use ready-ground cardamom because it smells of nothing.
Plus, you can grind the seeds pretty coarsely for a great fragrance and texture in the cake.
That apart, just beat all the ingredients together well, with a mixer or a spatula.
The dough will need to chill in the fridge for at least a few hours and up to three days, or else it will stick to all the surfaces and refuse to roll out.
How to make the marzipan filling?
You could theoretically use shop bought marzipan to cut corners but the remonce (filling) for kringle should be softer than that. And anyway homemade marzipan or almond paste (with lower sugar content) is much nicer than anything bought from the shops, and really easy to make.
It’s simply almost equal quantities of ground almonds and icing sugar, gelled together with an egg white and flavoured with lemon and rose water if desired. That’s all.
And it will keep in the fridge for a long time and even longer in the freezer.
How to shape a kringle?
If you really want to shape it into a pretzel, roll it into a really long narrow rectangle, fill and close up, then twist pretzel-style. But it will taste the same as shaped into a stick, so I know what I’d rather do. A ring is a compromise, and that’s what we have here.
Chilled dough is easy to roll but it sticks so dust everything with flour and use a dough scraper to prise it off the worktop.
Line up the marzipan in the middle, scatter raisins or nuts if you’re using them, then fold the dough over the filling and close the log. Make sure you seal the seam very well, pinching and rubbing the dough, otherwise it might crack and leach the filling – not a pretty outcome.
After that kringle should proof for an hour or so, though it will hardly rise but just puff up a bit and come to ambient temperature.
Paint the top with egg wash and scatter almond flakes and sugar pearls, before slipping it into the oven. And it actually tastes better on the following day than fresh from the oven.
More Scandi baking recipes
Fancy making Danish pastries without the fuss of laminating dough with butter? This is a revelation shortcut to making Danish pastry the easy way, plus recipe for homemade apple and raspberry fillings.
Julekake (pronounced yoo-le-kar-ka) is a traditional Norwegian Christmas bread, with Sukat (candied citrus peel) and raisins. Julekake is flavoured with cardamom and it’s best toasted, served with gjetost (brown cheese).
St Lucia buns, vibrant with saffron and elegantly twisted, are Swedish Christmas time bakes. Lucia Day and Lucia buns go back to the history of Lucia, an early Christian martyr.
More Christmas bakes
Panpepato, Italian classic Christmas dessert from the province of Siena, is the ancient version of panforte di Siena, Italian biscuits packed with fruit and nuts. Panpepato is spicy, peppery and very chocolatey.
Mohnstollen is a stollen log with poppy seeds, traditionally baked in Germany, Poland (makowiec) and Austria for Christmas. Brioche-like Stollen dough is spread with sweet and spiced poppy seed filling and rolled into a log.
Joululimppu, Finnish Christmas bread with rye flour, buttermilk, aniseed flavours and treacle – quite an unusual and wonderful Christmas bake. It means just that: ‘Christmas bread’.