Like anybody with eyes and ears, I’ve spent my adult life nursing what we’ll call a strong appreciation for Scandinavia and its contents. The landscape is dazzling, the houses quaint, and the population fascinating: scrubbed, stoic, and robustly egalitarian.
Many of them have glacial blue eyes, hair the color of sunbeams, and cheeks awash with health. If ugly ones exist, they’re difficult to spot.
When they’re not busy skiing and hiking, I can only assume that Norwegians are snacking; like everything else that they seem to do better (mastering second languages, work-life balance, being tall), their baked goods are unparalleled.
There’s a clear template of offerings and an “if it ain’t broke” orthodoxy to how they’re served. It is food made for eating and not for uploading to Instagram. You won’t find a viral cronut-esque sensation, but you will discover a lineup of snacks so tried and true, you could order with your eyes closed. But why would you want to have your eyes closed? It’s Norway, and everything is exquisite.
A far cry from the saccharine stateside mall bun, Norwegians render their version pragmatically, raising the spice, lowering the sweetness, and serving it more or less unadorned. A dusting of pearl sugar in lieu of the typical drizzle is all they need.
Great for: all-day snacking, blotting coffee.
Less so: those emotionally fastened to the American rendition.
Be sure to: uncoil slowly and deliberately, submerging alternate bites in hot liquid.
A favorite among tiny Scandinavians, skolebrød is a subtly-sweet yeasted roll that’s custard-stuffed, cardamom-spiked, and misted with coconut.
Great for: when you can’t decide between a kannelboller and a krembolle (see below).
Less so: n/a.
Be sure to: purchase within school hours. Supplies exhaust rapidly and attempts to nab one after 3:00 p.m. will likely be thwarted by a mass of pint-sized, button-nosed Nordics.
This chocolate-swiped, milky-soft bun oozes custard when probed. More, please. Somewhere between quietly exhilarating and downright erotic, the experience of tearing open a krembolle is the Nordic equivalent of cracking the top of a crème brûlée.
Great for: heartache, food fights, the lactose enthusiastic.
Less so: the early hours of the morning.
Be sure to: buy a second for that friend who "just wants a little bite" of yours.
(Muesli bread with brown cheese)
This translates appropriately to “brown cheese,” and its caramel notes can be disorienting to the foreign palate. Is it cheese? Yes! Can you put it on a salad or sandwich? No. Brunost is sweet, wonderfully fatty and faintly reminiscent of dulce-de-leche; made by boiling down milk, cream, and whey until the water evaporates and milk sugars caramelize. A halfway point between fudge and cheddar, it is reasonably subtle and perfect on bread. A typical Norwegian might eat this for breakfast, to fuel up for a busy day of being more attractive than you.
Great for: breakfast, lunch, any time, all the time.
Less so: those with sweet-savory boundary issues.
Be sure to: add jam for a Scandi approximation of PB&J.
Knekkebrød is robust, lightweight, and well-suited to hiking—the gastronomic equivalent to performance fleece and a good savory prelude to the raunchier options on hand. Though it was once considered a snack reserved for the lower-class, knekkebrød is now a household and bakery staple, made by combining rye flour with seeds and nuts and baked until crisp. Top as you please.
Great for: outdoorsy fitness types, eschewers of sugar.
Less so: those here for a good time and not a long time.
Be sure to: deploy toppings! A knekkebrød in its birthday suit is a desolate affair.