I love family recipes. There’s something so cozy and comforting about connecting to one’s parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents through food. One recipe I always enjoyed though we seldom made was danish trabak. I only remember having it a couple of times when I was a kid but it obviously made a lasting impression. It’s similar to biscotti in appearance but has a finer texture and is topped with a magical blend of cinnamon and sugar. A trabak experience is not complete unless you dunk the cookies in coffee or milk and so I believe that this counts as a legitimate breakfast.
This year, I decided to reconnect with my ancestry and bring danish trabak into my kitchen. Problem was…the recipe was nowhere to be found. I talked to my mom but she didn’t seem to have in anywhere. I did numerous google searches with all kinds of crazy alternative spellings and descriptive terms. Nothing. I thumbed through a scandinavian baking book looking for recipes that resembled what I imagined my trabak would look like. Nada. (Fun fact: Most danish cookies are really just the same dough formed into fun new shapes. Spritz! Sugar pretzels! Vanilla wreaths! If you don’t believe me, just buy yourself a tin of danish butter cookies.) My search seemed to have hit a dead end. Even a real, live Danish food blogger who I consulted on the matter had never heard of such a thing.
The breakthrough came when my dad got involved. The recipe is from his side of the family and he knows it’s for real because he remembers eating it when he was younger. He called my grandmother who referred him to my aunt who was finally able to dig it up in a 1970s Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Spencer, Iowa cookbook. The recipe had been submitted to the cookbook by my grandmother who got it from her mother-in-law, Mary. I think.
While the complete absence of this recipe from any other corner of the world throws some serious doubt on it’s legitimacy as a traditional food, I still choose to believe in it. Otherwise, I’d be calling great-grandma Mary a liar. And that’s just not nice. So here it is, the first publicly available trabak recipe since the one that surfaced in 1970s Iowa. Now I’ll never lose it again.
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar
– 4-5 cups of flour
– 4 tsp baking powder
– 1 cup butter, softened plus a 2 Tbsp, melted
– 3 eggs, beaten
– 1 cup milk
– 1 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 325F. In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, combine 4 cups flour and baking powder.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and beat until fluffy, a few minutes.
4. Add milk and vanilla to sugar and butter mixture. Mix until well-incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture, mixing continually until a soft dough forms. Add remaining flour until the dough has a slightly firm but pliable texture. The dough really will not become too firm, it just needs to be able to hold its shape.
5. Form the dough into 6-8 loaves and place on greased cookie sheets. Brush with melted butter and top generously with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for 1 hour.
6. Remove loaves from the oven and allow to cool just enough to be handled. Reduce oven temperature to 200F. Cut loaves at a diagonal in slices that are about an inch thick. Lay slices on their sides and return to the oven for about another hour, flipping halfway through. They are done when they are nice and crispy.
7. Dip in your morning coffee and enjoy!
* I added this post to Melt in Your Mouth Monday.