I’m blown away by how much you guys love my rúgbrauð recipe for traditional Icelandic rye bread, so I wanted to share another Icelandic favorite! Kleinur used to be a Christmas tradition but today they’re eaten year-round all over the country. You can find kleinur anywhere there’s coffee, and Icelanders really love their coffee!
These little donuts have a wonderfully spicy aroma thanks to kneading lots of cardamom and nutmeg into the dough. Kleinur don’t need a glaze or filling, maybe a light dusting of powdered sugar, and they’re at their best still warm out of the frying pan. Homemade have a crispy outside and soft, tender center, simply so much better than the soft bags you’ll find in Icelandic grocery stores.
I made these in memory of my Icelandic grandmother. She was a Christmas baby and always worried that no one would remember her birthday with all the excitement of the holiday – so Amma, I made these especially for your birthday, alongside the oranges you found at the foot of your stocking as a little girl.
Amma would talk about the foods at the Jólabasar christmas bazaar and þorrablót midwinter festival for weeks, and she’d always buy a big bag of kleinur to dip in coffee. You can’t find basic Icelandic foods at many places in the States – not to mention some of the more out there dishes, like hákarl or svið – so I’m slowly trying to recreate my favorite foods from these festivals with my grandmother. (Svið may be delicious, but it is still very, very far down the list.)
The twisted cruller shape is simple to make: the dough is cut into elongated diamonds and one tail is pulled through a slit to form a knot. Some variation of these, also called klenät, klena, or klejne, can be found nearly everywhere in Nordic countries. You can make the dough several days ahead of time, so these would be a perfect addition to a Christmas morning spread!
Gleðileg Jól – Merry Christmas to everyone!
Kleinur Icelandic Crullers
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 t. baking powder
- 1 t. baking soda
- 2 t. ground cardamom
- 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 t. salt
- 3/4 cup butter cold & sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- flour for rolling
- vegetable oil for frying
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
- Cut butter into the dry mixture. Add eggs, yogurt, and milk and stir just until combined.
- Knead the dough just until it forms a ball, then cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Heat about an inch of oil in a large flat-bottomed pan over high heat.
- While oil is heating, roll the dough out to about 1/8″ thick on a well-floured surface.
- Trim the edges and cut into 2-1/2″ strips. Cut diagonally across the previous cuts into 4-1/2″ strips to create elongated diamonds.
- Cut a small slit lengthwise in the center of each diamond. Gently pull one end through the slit to create the cruller twist.
- Lower kleinur in the hot oil one at a time, working in small batches so the pan isn’t crowded. Fry on each side for 30-60 seconds until golden brown, then set on a rack lined with paper towels.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes, then dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.