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This recipe is from the talented Gísli Matt, chef and owner of acclaimed Slippurinn in Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands), Iceland. It is featured in his new cookbook Slippurinn - Recipes and Stories from Iceland, which can be purchased through Gísli Matt directly, or through Phaidon.

Kleina (pl. kleinur) are twisted doughnuts found throughout the Nordic region that are usually eaten at Christmastime, though in Iceland they are eaten year-round. They first appeared in Icelandic cookbooks in the 18th century and they were originally fried in lamb fat. We have a special, knobby wooden cutter for making them called a kleinujárn, which was once made from whalebone.


  • 35 g brown sugar
  • 90 ml milk
  • 50 ml cream
  • 6 g cornstarch
  • 120 ml whey
  • 20 g butter, cubed


  • 2 g cardamom
  • 150 g icing (confectioners’) sugar


  • 250 g all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Zest of 1 lemon, with some reserved for plating
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Saltverk Flaky Sea Salt
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ L vegetable, or other neutral oil for deep frying

To make the caramelized whey, first whisk together the brown sugar and whey in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Reduce the mixture by half while whisking. In a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch, milk, and cream and whisk together until the cornstarch has blended well with the milk and cream. Add this mixture to the pot of brown sugar and whey mixture and bring to a boil while whisking. Remove from heat when the texture is thick and glossy. Once off heat, add the butter while continuing to whisk. Cool down before serving.

The cardamom sugar is simply made by blending together cardamom and icing sugar into a fine powder.

To make the kleina, mix the eggs and sugar in a mixer with knobs of softened butter. Add the milk and mix with clean hands. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and grated lemon zest, once mixed, add this mixture to the wet mixture to form a dough, kneading it until smooth and shiny. Chill, covered with plastic, for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a 6 mm (¼”) thickness and cut into a 2.5 cm (1”) diamond shapes (appx 20).  Stretch each piece of dough and make a small slit at one end of the diamond, then fold the other end of the diamond through the slit

While prepping the dough, heat the oil in a deep fyer to 150°C (300°F) and deep-fry for about 4 minutes until golden brown.  Plate the kleinur with the caramelized whey as a dipping sauce, dusted with the cardamom sugar and additional lemon zest.  They are best when served immediately.

Serves: 4

Image courtesy of Gísli Matt, @gislimattand Karl Petersson, @karlpeterssonphoto


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