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November 2016

November 22, 2016

Fattigmann (Poor Man Cookies)

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Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)The farm has become a blanket of white, with only the contrast of branches and jetting rock to add depth and structure. It’s tranquil and all encompassing.

With the holidays fast approaching and the weather conveniently allowing for more time indoors, baking is on the mind. For centuries, people have gathered around the oven, the stove, the griddle, and the fire to produce baked goods befitting of a celebration. It’s a social event from the moment the ingredients are combined all the way to the last bite.

Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies) Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann is a beloved Norwegian cookie served during Christmas. It most likely entered the Norwegian food culture around the late 1700s or early 1800s. Many cultures have their variety of this knot-shaped cookie, which are deep-fried. Italy has cenci fritti, France has merveilles, Sweden has klenater, Denmark has klejner, Iceland has kleina and the Faroe Islands have kleynur.

Its name (translated to ‘poor man’) is very misleading since its ingredients were both expensive and exclusive. Ingredients such as sugar, egg yolks, cream, and cognac were top commodities. These cookies were not an everyday occurrence for people with more ‘moths than money’ in their pockets. The name seems purely satirical, yet it is possible that the name could have derived from the Swedish term klenät. It then could have been translated to mean poor man or poor thing because in Eastern Norway, the word klen has this meaning. (Ganens Makt, Notaker)

Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann is relatively simple to make and quite an extravagant gesture. The dough is gently deep-fried until lightly brown and sprinkled with a generous dose of cinnamon powdered sugar. These are guaranteed not to last long. And don’t worry about not getting the shape right, they are quite forgiving when fried and I think it adds a more rustic and homemade charm when they vary a bit.

Fattigmann (Poor Man Cookies)

(Makes around 30 fattigmann)


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons (72 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used a good quality whiskey as that’s what I had on hand and it worked great)
  • 2 ½ cups (300 g) all-purpose flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 16 ounces (500 g) lard or vegetable oil
  • Cinnamon and powdered sugar for sprinkling

*You will need to prepare the dough a day in advance, so it can rest in the refrigerator overnight. At a minimum, make the dough at least a couple of hours ahead of time.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy and add in the cognac.

Whip the heavy cream until firm and fold it into the egg mixture.

Add the flour and cardamom and blend well. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the lard or vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

Roll out the dough very thinly on a lightly-floured surface. Using a pastry wheel (or a dull knife), cut the dough into diamond shapes and place a small slit in the middle of each diamond. Lifting one up at a time, pull one end of the diamond through the slit to make a knot-shape.

Check to see if the lard or vegetable oil is hot enough (it will begin to bubble when a drop of dough is placed inside). Place the fattigmann, a few at a time, in the hot lard/oil and cook until golden brown, turning once. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle the fattigmann with a mixture of powered sugar and cinnamon (3:1 ratio, or to your liking).

Store in airtight containers or place in the freezer.

♦ More Holiday Baked Goods: 

Krumkaker with Juniper Cream and Espresso Cream


Lefse from Mollas Bakeri

Lefse (Kling) from Uvdalsleiven Tradisjonsbakst

Nevada Berg

Nevada is a utah native and norwegian by heart. When not crafting culinary delights she enjoys her family time and tending to her animals. You most certainly can find her perusing her property for wild berries.

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  1. Thank you for introducing me to a new cookie! Are these best served right after they are cooked? I guess I’m wondering if they should be consumed immediately.

    • nevada says:

      Hi Shauna! These are great served right away, but also very good long after – just as long as you store them in a good cookie tin. Since they are a typical Christmas cookie, it is normal to store them and eat them when you want.

  2. Paul Strandoo says:

    Hi. Fattigmann have long been a Christmas tradition in our family. I was told that the name comes from the fact that a poor man has empty pockets — and the cookie is like a poor man’s pocket when displaying this fact (reach in your pocket and turn it inside-out).

    • nevada says:

      I love that story! First time I have heard it, but it’s a great tale to go along with these cookies – thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Chelsea Romero says:

    I was always told that they were called poor man’s cookie because after buying the ingredients to make them, you’d be poor. 😉

  4. Kristie says:

    Would this be ok to leave out the cognac? We try a new recipe for these every year to try to find the best, but I don’t want to add the alcohol. Thanks!

    • nevada says:

      You can certainly leave out the cognac if you prefer – no need to substitute it with anything, just omit it 🙂


    i have tried this cookie and when i fry it it never seems crispy, don’t know how crispy it is supposed to be. i have only eaten it once and i loved it. thanks,

    • nevada says:

      They should be crispy to the touch, but not too crispy when biting into. They should be firm but light-textured. Like an airy, gently crispy cookie (if that makes sense).

  6. Kathy says:

    Grew up eating my great grand mother’s recipe for fattigman bakkels. We NEVER used any alcohol (my grandparents were strict teetotalers), and we never put powdered sugar on ours. Also, used more cardamon (about a tablespoon). To me, the scent of cardamon is Christmas. Never whipped the cream either, just stirred it in after the eggs and butter were mixed. The dough should be slightly sticky if you have added the right amount of flour. I use a fattigman tool to cut them after rolling out (you can buy at specialty shops or on-line), and deep fry at 425F. A good fattigman is slightly crisp on the outside, but more like a good doughnut texture inside…it should have a little “chew”. You can freeze these after cooling and just let thaw at room temperature before serving. Even if you store at room temp in a air tight container, after a week or so you may find green hairy mold on them if you don’t freeze them!

  7. Richard Hatfield says:

    When these are made for the family, we cannot get enough!

  8. Richard Hatfield says:

    I want to try and use Linie Aquavit instead of cognac or brandy. Seems like a good idea to me.

  9. Kristi Hoff says:

    My parents used to make and bake at 20 different kinds of Scandinavian cookies for the holidays and now I’m making as many of them to sell to the Senior citizens who can’t make them anymore. Now I’m getting requests to open up a Norwegian bakery. I also make a Kransekake and a Blőttkake and Fyrstekakes.

  10. Mickey Gilbertson says:

    So many receps i remember from childhood in Fergus Falls, Minn with my stepmom Elsie,, thank you.

  11. Barbara says:

    I made these without alcohol only increasing the cream volume a bit. All I had on hand was half-and-half so the cream wasn’t whipped which I can’t recall my Nana ever doing. They are just lovely. Though I would like to know if anyone can tell me the difference in outcome between lard-frying and oil. I used sunflower oil. My Nana always used Crisco. Would one kind of frying fat make them crispier than another?

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