Norwegian Fattigmann (Poor Man’s Cookies)
Fattigmann, or “poor man’s cookies,” are some of the most nostalgic Norwegian Christmas cookies for me. When I ate the first fattigmann of this batch it instantly felt like Christmas (it also helps that it snowed in Bergen last night!). Fattigmann are made from a simple cookie dough spiced with cardamom, cut and folded into long diamond shapes and then deep fried. These date back to the Middle Ages and since they’re cooked on a stove, people without ovens could make them.
They’re called poor man’s cookies because they’re made with historically expensive ingredients like butter, flour, and cream, so after making them you’ll be poor. Perhaps they’re also a metaphor for Christmas.
Swedes make similar cookies called klenäter, and in Denmark they’re called klejner. Fattigmann taste similar to smultringer, but I think they’re easier to make.
Deep fried cookies can look intimidating, but I actually find that these are some of the easiest Norwegian Christmas cookies to make. And the frying part is quite fun! The main thing to remember when making these is that the dough has to sit in the fridge over night (or at least a few hours), so plan accordingly.
You can find all of my Scandinavian Christmas recipes here.
If you don’t like cardamom, you can swap it out for cinnamon instead. And I always like to grind my own cardamom seeds, as pre-ground cardamom doesn’t have much flavor (if you use pre-ground cardamom, double the amount).
You may need to add flour to the dough so it’s not too sticky to roll out. Add just enough so that you can roll the dough without it sticking to the rolling pin. It should be easy to roll out. Roll the dough quite thin (about 3 mm), but not so thin it breaks. You can also stretch it out with your hands a bit, like a pizza crust.
Use a pastry wheel (or pizza cutter) to slice the dough into long strips and then cut the strips diagonally into diamonds. Then use a knife to cut a slit in the center of each diamond.
To shape the fattigmann, flip the top of the diamond through the slit in the middle and pull through. The dough is quite stretchy, so it should handle some pulling as you shape it. And don’t worry too much about getting the shape perfect, as it will change a bit during frying anyway and these are meant to look rustic.
The trickiest part of deep frying the fattigmann is keeping the fat at a stable temperature so the cookies don’t burn or undercook. I use a cooking thermometer to make sure the fat remains around 355°F (180°C). If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, you can put the end of a wooden spoon or a wooden skewer into the fat – if it bubbles, it’s hot enough to cook the fattigmann. If the fattigmann start browning too quickly, turn down the heat.
Drop the fattigmann into the fat with a fork and then flip them when the bottoms turn golden (usually about a minute on each side, but it depends on their size and the temperature of the fat). Don’t let them get too dark! I remove them with two forks and cool them on a rack covered in paper towels. Be sure to dispose of the fat properly after it has cooled.
My grandmother didn’t dust her fattigmann, but I think they look pretty with a dusting of powdered sugar. It’s up to you!
You can switch the recipe from US measurements to metric by clicking from “US Customary” to “Metric” under Ingredients.
Norwegian Fattigmann Cookies
- Rolling Pin
- pastry wheel or pizza cutter
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 tbsp cognac
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 16 oz lard or vegetable oil
- powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy (you can also use an electric mixer for this).
- In a separate bowl, whip the cream and add the cognac. Then fold the cream into the egg mixture.
- Add the flour and cardamom and mix until you have a smooth dough. Cover the bowl and set in the fridge over night (or four a few hours).
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface. If the dough is too sticky to roll, you might need to knead in a generous amount of flour until you can roll it out.
- Use a pastry wheel to slice the dough into long strips and then slice each strip into diamonds. Cut a slit in the center of each diamond and pull one end of the diamond through the slit.
- Heat the lard or oil in a large pot to 355°F (180°C). If you don't have a cooking thermometer, you can put the end of a wooden spoon or a wooden skewer into the fat – if it bubbles, it's hot enough to cook the fattigmann.
- Gently drop each fattigmann into the fat and fry until each side is a light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack covered in paper towels.
- Optional: dust the fattigmann with powdered sugar.