Kringla. When you say that word to anyone that has known my family for a while, you can practically see them salivate. “I love kringla.” They will always say. The boys were just having a conversation about how much they loved kringla. “You just need to say one word when describing kringla. Yummy!” Nick told me.
For a long time I refused to learn to make kringla because it was something my grandma always made us. When I called her to tell her that I was going to visit, she’d say “I guess I need to get some sour milk.” I didn’t learn to make it until my grandma moved into assisted living. And still, I don’t want other people to make it for me. I don’t really want to hear about it if someone other than family makes it. I definitely don’t want to hear if someone changes the recipe. I am sharing this recipe, but reluctantly. Maybe someday I’ll be ok hearing about what other people do with kringla, but not yet.
A kringla, the way we grew up with them, is a knot of dough that tastes sort of like a sugar cookie and has a crumb kind of between a biscuit and a pancake. Dry like a biscuit, but softer and less flaky, like a pancake. It’s easy, it’s simple. It’s like a hug.
I had a boyfriend in college who told me his grandma made kringla. One day, he brought me something in a baggie. It was a knotted pastry, but it was more like a croissant. It was good. It was fine. It was not kringla.
I don’t remember ever having it fresh from the oven until I started making it myself. I remember having it handed over to us in a plastic bag that had been rewashed a few times. The kringla was always pale and dusted with flour. Biting into it there was always that first dryness of the flour, the softness of that hitting the tongue. Then there is this sweetness. It’s vanilla and sugar, but unassuming. Everything about it is just sort of soft and gentle. It sort of hits you with subtlety.
I have introduced many, many people to my grandma’s kringla. They grab the first one from the bag because they are hungry and because they can’t quite believe that I am THAT excited about something that is so modest. Just a pale gold knot of dough. It looks bland. It looks boring. It looks beige. It’s not something that will ever challenge the taste buds. And then they taste it. They might start the way I do, breaking off the end of the knot and then eating it from one end of the knot to the other. Savages bite it down the middle. As they finish, their hand reaches into the bag for another. They can’t help it. The next time I mention to them that my grandma is coming to visit they ask if she is bringing kringla. She didn’t always. Sometimes it was her chocolate chip cookies, but that’s another story.
Going through the recipes I inherited, I found a copy handwritten by my great-grandma Funk. I mentioned it to my mom. “Grandma Funk never made Kringla, that was a recipe your grandma got from Pearl Simpson.” “I’m pretty sure this is great-grandma’s handwriting.” “Oh, well then, she must’ve gotten the recipe from your grandma.” She conceded.
I found the cookbook in which Pearl Simpson had published her kringla recipe. One of those church cookbooks from Iowa where all the women are identified as Mrs. Husband’s Name and then gives the name of the town they lived in. It’s exactly the sort of cookbook you’d expect from Iowa in the 1950’s, a place where my parents assure me “ketchup was considered spicy.”
I started texting my siblings and posting on FB whenever I visited with Grandma and got two dozen kringla to eat at a later point, later like in the car on the way home. I liked to rub it in their faces. It was mean. I knew it. I intend to make it up to them someday. But for now…I have kringla and I bet you don’t.