fruktsuppematno

Bringing Back an Almost Extinct Classic: The Fruit Soup (Fruktsuppe)

Fruktsuppe, sometimes labeled as “Grandma’s favorite dessert” is hard to come by on a menu in Norway today, the tradition seem to have slowly faded away.  Along with prune porridge,  fruit soup is considered a dying dish in Norwegian cuisine.  But according to Norwegian gourmet food magazine, Aperitif, this classic was a regular dessert on Norwegian tables at least once a week as late as the 1960s during the winter months. This was a time when fresh fruits was a luxury – oranges were reserved for Christmas and Easter, and a banana here and there along with an old, wrinkly apple…

Because of the above, fruit soup was traditionally made from dried fruit, and not fresh, although damaged or bruised fruit could be used in the soup as well. These days, when you see fruit soup being served, most likely it will be made from fresh fruit, as we have an abundance of that today.  For the purpose of reliving the good old times, I’ve chosen to include a recipe using dried fruit.

driedapricots

Fruit soup is sometimes also served with Norwegian “pannekaker”, the crepe like, slightly sweet traditional pancakes we still enjoy very much today.

Here are some ideas for dried fruit you can use:

driedfruit

Hope you will try this almost extinct soup recipe – it makes for a hearty, refreshing and somewhat healthy dessert that is easy to whip up even on a weekday night!

FRUKTSUPPE

adapted from aperitif.no

200 grams (1 cup)  assorted dried fruit (mango, apricots, papaya, prunes, dried apples, oranges, golden raisins)

1 quart (1 liter) water

2- 3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp potato starch (or corn starch, you can also use arrowroot)

juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

(optional: Add a cinnamon stick or some whole cardamom, cloves and star anise for additional flavors, and strain them out before pureeing).

Rinse the dried fruit and let it soften in water for about 20 minutes.  Dice them up into 1/2 inch pieces.  Bring the water up to a boil in a medium pot, and add the fruit pieces. Let them simmer for 10 minutes.  Dissolve the potato/corn starch in a little cold water (about 3 tbsp) –  and whisk into soup.  Bring to a boil and add the fresh lemon juice. Let cool.

Pour the soup into a blender and puree until smoooth.  Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream on top or mascarpone and some sliced almonds.    Serves 4.

(To learn how to make vegan sour cream click HERE, and for a vegan recipe for mascarpone click HERE).

fruktsuppematno

Image from mat.no

havrekjeks2

Havrekjeks – Norwegian grandmothers’ favorite cookie

It’s the 4th Sunday in advent today, as well as my birthday, so I figured I would go out with a big bang ending my Christmas preparation baking with some of my favorite cookies (next to kransekakestenger). These cookies are so simple, yet  just so heavenly, and for some odd reason only baked (for the most part) during Christmas. The thing is, once you’ve got a taste for it, these are cookies you will want to bake again and again…

havrekjeks2

Many Norwegians remember visiting their grandmother and her serving these up alongside a pot of hot black coffee… The traditional “havrekjeks” do not contain chocolate pieces, but rather are enjoyed with a slice of the special brown cheese Norwegians make (brunost or geitost, read more about that tradition HERE).  While these cookies seem almost like peasant food because of their simple ingredients (with the exception perhaps of the generous amount of butter), they are simultaneously regarded as a special treat, which is why I find them so fascinating.

havrekjeks1

The addition of chocolate pieces have proven to be particularly popular among children, so that is why you will see the more modern versions of this cookie made with chocolate.. (I’m a kid at heart, what can I say).

Thought I would leave you with this wonderful recipe as a last “hoorah” before we enter into Christmas week! Happy baking!!

HAVREKJEKS MED SJOKOLADE  (Oatmeal Biscuits with Chocolate)

1 tbs ground flaxseed

3 tbs water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 stick vegan butter (or about 113 grams)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chip

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dress a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl, add the vanilla extract and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add in the flaxseed mixture and combine well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in the oatmeal and chocolate chip in the end.   Using a medium cookie scooper, scoop spoonfuls of the batter onto the cooking sheet – you should get about 30-32 cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool off and enjoy!

Havrekjeks

 

havrekjeks3

lussekatter1

Saffron Rolls To Shine a Light On Santa Lucia Day

Today , December 13th, we celebrate Santa Lucia Day in Scandinavia. This tradition stems from  a combination of the celebration of Saint Lucia and the Norse “lusse” celebration.  There are many theories behind why we celebrate this day,  I will shine a light (no pun intended) on a couple of them here in this blog post.

Saint Lucia,  a rich, Roman virgin, was born in the year 283 in Sicily, Italy and was killed (most likely in the year 304) because of her faith  during the crusades in the Roman Empire in the 4th century.  Lucia was Christian and faithful in her belief, but she was engaged to a man who didn’t believe in God.  Her father was dead, but her sick mother wanted Lucia to marry rich, but Lucia didn’t want that.  After Lucia’s prayers to the holy Agatha,  Lucia’s mother miraculously got well and canceled her wedding.  As thanks, Lucia donated her entire fortune to the poor.

When Lucia’s fiancee found out there would be no wedding, he told the emperor about Lucia’s Christian faith.  During this time, Christians were being persecuted, everyone was to worship the emperor.  She refused to do so and remained faithful to her beliefs. As punishment, she was given a death sentence by burning.  The tale goes she died holding a burning candle in her hands.  The name Lucia, is a female version of the Latin name Lucius, which means “light” or “brightness”.  Very early on, people started building bonfires and holding a festival of light in Sicily to honor her name .

santalucia

The tradition of letting a white clad Lucia spearhead a parade with girls dressed in white with candles in their hands and hair, started in Germany after the reform in 1536. In Norway this tradition really only began just a couple of decades ago, while this celebration has a much longer history in Sweden.  It is believed the “Santa Lucia” celebration has became more popular as of late in Norway because of the number of Swedish people moving there to work.

santaluciatog

In older Norwegian farmer tradition, this day also went by “Lussidagen”, “Lussinott”, “Lussimess” or “Lussi langnatt” (Lussi long night).  It was regarded the longest night of the year; when water turned to wine, and the animals in the barn were able to talk.  People complained that this night was as long as two nights put together. there were a lot of trolls and other evil creatures out during that night, so people were to stay indoors.
All the major work for Christmas had to be done by this day. If somebody was still baking or brewing bear, Lussi, a female troll, would appear and yell down through the chimney:  “Don’t brew or don’t bake, don’t keep big logs on the fire. If you do, your dough will divide in two,  your grinding stone in seven, and your baking/work table in fifteen pieces” (this sounds a little better in Norwegian, haha!).  She would then punish the people who were still working.   Young women were believed to be able to see their future husband if they fasted, and trolls went from house to house to make sure everything was prepared for Christmas.   So in short, this night was thought to be long, dark and dangerous, and was named after Lucifer, the devil, and not Lucy, the saint.

tussikatt

This story might be more in line with another popular belief, that most likely started in Germany around the 17th century.  The story goes that on this night, the devil, in form of a cat, would give naughty children a beating, while Jesus, in the form of a child, would hand out rolls to all the good children.  Since the devil was scared of light, the rolls (lussekatter) were colored with the bright yellow spice of saffran to keep him away.  Lusse is the name for Lucifer, and “katter” is Norwegian for “cats”.

So a lot of stories around these lovely saffron buns, wouldn’t you agree? I could go on and on, as stories vary from country to country, but I have to have some material for Christmas of 2016 as well, right? :)

In the mean time, I will leave you with my recipe for lussekatter, as always dairy free and eggless, but nonetheless just as delicious as (and healthier than) the traditional recipe!   We enjoy these straight out of the oven, preferably accompanied by a cup of rich, hot chocolate while watching the snow fall outside…. Happy baking and Happy Santa Lucia Day!!

LUSSEKATTER

100 grams (about 1 stick) butter plus extra for brushing dough

1 cup plant based milk

1 packed dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

1 gram saffron

100 grams granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

about 3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir together, set aside. The temperature of the liquid should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.   Pour the liquid into the bowl of a standmixer and sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for a couple of minutes. Attach the dough hook and add in the sugar, saffron, salt and cardamom. Slowly add in the flour (start with 3/4 of the amount) and add in more flour as needed. The dough should be smooth and firm.   Cover the dough with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until double in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

On a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in four equal pieces, then divide those again in four, so you have 16 pieces. Roll each piece into links about 6 inches (15 cm) or longer. Shape them any way you want, here is an example of different shapes you can try out:

saffronbuns

Image  from Julbaket/receptfavoriter.blogg.se

Here are some of my shapes (as you can see, I need to perfect my skill, lol):

lussekatterpre1

 

lussekatterpre2

 

Place them on to two baking sheets dressed with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).

Stick raisins in the dough /creases of the shapes, brush the rolls with melted butter and place in oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden on top, fluffy and moist on the inside. Enjoy!!

lussekatter1

 

lussekatter2

 

lussekatter3

julebrod

Julebrød; a “must bake” Norwegian Christmas Bread

I wanted to rush to the computer straight after I baked my veganized version of “julebrød”  yesterday (also called “Julekake” meaning Christmas cake) because I simply couldn’t wait to tell you all how fluffy, juicy and flavorful this  bread turned out!!  This is, if I can be so bold, the best version of julebrød I have made and tasted to date, and I don’t say this lightly!

Delicate, slightly sweet with a subtle, welcoming flavor of the traditional cardamom spice used in Scandinavian baked goods, I am sure this will be your new favorite bread if you haven’t already tried it.  No eggs needed here, they turned out absolutely perfect:

julebrod2

The history of baking this Christmas bread can be traced back to pre-Christian, norse times and was one of the traditions Norwegians carried with them.  The bread was made from one of the last corn husks in the fall, and the bread was placed in the homes as decoration through the entire Christmas period.  The bread was not to be eaten, and was packed away and put in a special chest where people would store corn over the winter. The bread was brought out and unpacked when the spring harvest started.  When the plowing started, it was divided between the workers and the horse.   Some of the bread was also mixed into the seeds that were to be planted, as a form of fertility magic. Another interesting fact, is that the corn husk seems to stem from old rituals surrounding fertility, and several priests in Norway and Sweden tried to ban this “Un-Christian” tradition.

A sister and brother pictured in Oslo in 1905 with a Christmas tree and “Julenek” (resembling corn) or wheat husk in preparation for Christmas:

juleforberedelser

Photo by Anders Beer Wilse/ Oslo Museum

In old Denmark, Christmas bread was believed to cure headaches and snake bites, so if you find yourself with a migraine, perhaps try this recipe out … If your headache still doesn’t go away, your taste buds will at least thank you!!

julebakingstiftendk

Image from stiften.dk

This bread is wonderful as a special treat for breakfast during Christmas, but equally appropriate to serve up in the afternoon or evenings for friends and family. You can top it with cheese or jam, as is customary in Norway.   The traditional recipe includes “sukat”, or candied citrus peel, in addition to raisins – but I clearly remember meticulously picking those small green pieces out of my bread each and every time I had a slice growing up, so I decided not to include them (as most people do) in my recipe. If you would like to add sukat, just add equal amounts to raisins.

I hope you will try out my eggless recipe, you will not be disappointed,  I promise!!

JULEBRØD  (Julekake)

1 stick butter (about 125 grams)  plus extra for brushing dough

2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk

1 packet dry yeast

2/3 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3-4 cups all purpose flour (start with 3, then add more as needed)

2/3 cups raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir. The mixture should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and drizzle the yeast in, let sit for a couple of minutes until the yeast starts to bubble (This way you know it’s active and working).

Attach the dough hook, and add in the sugar, ground cardamom and flour.  Knead the dough for several minute until the dough releases from the bowl and you have a smooth, firm dough.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

On a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, divide the dough in two equal pieces, and knead in the raisins equally into both doughs. Roll out to a big “bun”, flatten them a little into oval shapes, and place on a prepared /greased baking sheet.   Cover with a towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the top of the breads with melted butter and place in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.  Cool the breads on a cooling rack, slice and spread with butter and enjoy with a cup of hot coffee, Norwegian style! :)

julebrod

julebrodskiver

 

pepperkakegalleriet

And finally, add two pounds of pepper….

While I wouldn’t suggest you do this when making the popular Norwegian Christmas cookies “pepperkaker”, the Norwegian word for “ginger bread cookies”, there is a famous “pepperkake” song by famous Norwegian playwright and children song writer Torbjørn Egner that goes something like this (It rhymes in Norwegian, so won’t sound as good in English!):

“When a pepperkake” baker bakes pepperkaker

He first grabs a saute pan

and two pounds of margarine

In the pan, the butter melts

And the next thing he must do

is to whisk the butter with two pounds of sugar

and while the butter and sugar is foaming

he adds 8 egg yolks 

which he swirls around in the pan

with two pounds of flour

and in the end he adds a small teaspoon of pepper

and whisks the batter around

and dumps the dough on a cutting board

Now the story goes, if you want “double peppered” ginger breads, you add only one teaspoon of sugar, and two pounds of pepper… but let me tell you, that is a lot of pepper!!!

While I like a lot of spice in my cookies, I also want them to be slightly sweet, but perhaps not as sweet as say, a chocolate chip cookie.  These cookies are a perfect companion to the Norwegian version of mulled wine popularly called gløgg in Scandinavia (read more about it and get my recipe here) and is equally popular among kids and adults.  The common tradition is snacking on pepperkaker and sipping on som gløgg while decorating the Christmas tree on the day before Christmas eve, and also creating and decorating ginger bread houses. Nothing is as festive, and between the gløgg and the pepperkaker, the smell coming out of the kitchen is nothing short of amazing.

gloggogpepperkake

The “must include” ingredients in Norwegian ginger bread cookies, include syrup (in the U.S. you can use maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, or light or dark corn syrup to substitute), ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Cardamom is also commonly used. Pepper, despite the name of the cookie, is not a necessary ingredient in the cookie.

pepperkakegalleriet.no

Image from pepperkakegalleriet.no

Image from pepperkakegalleriet.no

Ginger bread cookies are probably the most traditional of Christmas cookies found in Norway, and arrived in Norway around the 17th century.  Household stoves didn’t become common until the 19th century, so most of the ginger bread cookies came from professional bakeries or big farms that had ovens.  Ginger bread houses are also very popular, and the city of Bergen has claimed the title to have the biggest gingerbread town in the world for about 25 years now!

Here is a photo of it :

Bergenpepperkaketown2

Image from visitbergen.com

I have heard there is perhaps competition to be found in Minnesota, and would love some of my readers to contribute to photos if anyone has any!

In Norway, gingerbread houses are made to serve first and foremost as Christmas decorations during the holiday, but when Christmas is over, it gets eaten by the kids :)

I naturally had to experiment with a recipe that contains no eggs or milk, and as always – it is super easy to eliminate these animal foods and create just as tasty of a product with plant based alternatives. I’ve included my recipe below, which I really hope you’ll be tempted to try out!! The cookies turned out perfectly imperfect looking, just as I like them – because that is the sign they are home made and not made by a factory or bakery – the best kind!!

PEPPERKAKER

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup molasses or maple syrup

1/4 cup plant based milk or soy creamer

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp cinnamon

Sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and sugar for a couple of minutes.  Add the syrup, milk and vanilla extract. Add in the dry ingredients until a stiff dough is formed. Dump out onto a surface and pat down to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly grease two cookie sheets.   Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with your cookie cutters.

pepperkakeshapes

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes.

pepperkakerubakt

The cookies might seem soft, but will quickly harden up once they cool off. Mine turned out not perfect, but oh so tasty! :)

pepperkaker

If you would like to decorate the cookies, just mix 1 cup of confectioners sugar with 2-3 tbps water until desired consistency, add into a pastry bag and decorate away! :)

 

brentemandlergodtno

The Only Food You’ll Be Happy Is Burnt

As a Norwegian having lived in NY for 20 years, I have perhaps become more American in many ways than Norwegian with the times.  But there is a time of year where I am definitely still 100% Norwegian and when homesickness strikes hard, and that is around Christmas.  Nobody keeps up their traditions as well as Norwegians, it is simply what unites us as a country and makes us feel connected to our homeland.

norskjulenissemotiv

Food is naturally an important part of tradition, and when the aromas of “brente mandler” (literally translated as ‘burnt almonds) and gløgg (a delicious mulled wine flavored with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and orange rind, get my awesome recipe here) enter the room,  you know that the Christmas celebration is in full swing.   This snack is also commonly seen and made in other Scandinavian countries as well as Germany, while in other European countries people eat burned almonds all year round. Of course, the taste is not as special when you eat it during the hot summer months (unless it’s with a glass of nice, dry sherry perhaps sitting by the playa in Spain).. but I digress…

The recipe for “brente mandler” is super simple – equal parts raw almonds to sugar, mixed with a little water, place in a pan and bring to a boil, then keep stirring until the sugar caramelizes and coats the almonds with a nice, sugary glaze.  You can make a big batch of these, put them in mason jars and decorate with a nice bow and give away as wonderful edible Christmas presents for a nice, personal touch.  Or.. like I did this time around, just keep the entire thing for myself and place out on the table when guests come over for cocktails.  I will also save a container to munch on with mugs of gløgg for when we are decorating the tree!

mandlerno

Image from mandler.no

This was inspired by a recipe from the Norwegian food website godt.no by Elin Vatnar Nilsen.

Have fun “burning” your food – on purpose this time!! :)

BRENTE MANDLER (Burnt Almonds)

500 grams (2 cups) raw almonds

500 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar

about 1/2 cup water

Directions:

Rinse the almonds well beforehand. If you want to pour hot water over them to remove some of the “shell”, you can but it’s optional.  In a large pot over medium high heat, add the almonds, sugar and water and let the water evaporate into the almond sugar mixture.  The sugar will start to crystallize and the mixture will become dry. Turn up the heat and start stirring vigorously.  The sugar will now start to melt and coat the almonds and give them a nice golden color.  Make sure you stir well so that the bottom almonds don’t blacken.  Pour the almonds onto a silicon mat or oiled baking sheet and make sure you separate the nuts apart before they cool off completely and stiffen up.

brentemandlergodtno

Image from godt.no

adventskrans1

An Edible Holiday Wreath To Celebrate Advent

The four weeks leading up to Christmas have always been my favorite, more so than the actual day of Christmas. The anticipation of the celebration to come with all its preparing; the baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating and holiday parties, is a very special time in Norway and when everyone deviates from their normal routines to celebrate and enjoy themselves. This period is called “adventstid” (time of advent).

What is advent? The word “advent” comes from the Latin word Adventus (Redemptoris) and means “the Lord’s arrival”, and has been used as a name for this time period all the way back to the year 400, according to the website “Aktiv i Oslo“.

Historically, the month of December was traditionally a hectic time in Norway.  People were busy with everything that had to be prepared in order to properly celebrate Christmas, and not a time for fun.  In the old times, this period actually used to be a time for fasting.  Around the year 480, it was decided that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday people were to fast during this time.  This was to spiritually prepare  for the birth of Jesus Christ. Many Catholic countries still practice fasting, but in protestant countries such as Norway, this tradition hasn’t had much meaning since the 16th century.   Still, among farmers in the country, there were significant restrictions around food during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

All the “good stuff” were to be saved for Christmas; not like today where we munch on ginger cookies and drink “gløgg” (a special Scandinavian mulled wine recipe) during the entire month of December.  The norm was to use as little “pålegg” (toppings) on sandwiches as possible,  and prepare simple dinners,  with fish being the center piece. Perhaps this is why we still eat “lutefisk” (a special fish prepared in lye) on Christmas Eve?  People would feed their children a lot less food during the time of advent, so that they would really look forward to, and appreciate everything that belonged to Christmas!  Perhaps we should employ a little more of this habit today, when we bask in so much luxurious food leading up to the holiday, that we are almost too full to properly enjoy the big dinner on Christmas itself?

Today. the time of advent, or the 24 days leading up to Christmas Eve, is a much bigger celebration than it used to be.  Ever since the 19th century, it has been customary to put out a wreath with four candles, and to light one candle for each Sunday.  You will find these wreaths in kindergartens, schools, hospitals, office buildings and private homes all over Norway during this time.  Some wreaths are decorated with branches of spruce and pine cones,  live candles or some have electric wreaths or advent stars hanging in their windows.

adventskrans11

Image from citat-uglen.dk

Another tradition is putting up an advent calendar for the kids –  these can be purchased across stores in the country. This is a special treat and exciting for children, as they will get to open one “door” for each day leading up to Christmas, and behind the door is either a piece of chocolate or a toy.   These are traditions that are relatively new in our country.  People have gotten very creative with their calendars in recent times, I’ve even seen calendars for grown ups (one beer for every day for the fathers, for instance :).

This weekend, I was thinking I should make my own wreath to decorate with in our house, as there are none to be bought in stores in the U.S., because it is not an American tradition. Then I thought – hey why not make an edible one? My mother-in-law is visiting from Houston this week for Thanksgiving, and I always enjoy baking and cooking much more when I have guests that can actually enjoy all my food :)

I wanted to share a traditional recipe for this edible “adventskrans”, or advent wreath, with you, my wonderful readers.  I highly recommend this as a breakfast bread, or  serve a piece of this delightful pastry with your afternoon coffee or tea for guests. It’s slightly sweet, similar to perhaps a brioche, and flavored with either saffron or turmeric (I used the latter as I had run out of saffron), giving it a nice depth of flavor. Some people fill the wreath with marzipan and additional butter, but I like it less rich, so mine just has some raisins in the dough, topped with some sliced almonds and a little confectioners glaze.   The “adventskrans” is really easy to make dairy free and without eggs, and comes out delicately soft,  fluffy, juicy and super delicious. Happy baking!

ADVENTSKRANS

1 stick of butter (about 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups plant based milk

1 packed dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

100 grams (3.5 oz) or 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp saffron threads or ground turmeric

1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tbsp water)

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 cup confectioners sugar, mixed with 3 tbsp water or until desired consistency

about 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (about 600 grams)

1 tbsp butter plus 1/4 cup plant based milk melted, for brushing dough

Directions:

Combine the butter and milk in a small pot on the stove, and gently heat up.  It should be between 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure it’s not too hot, or you will kill the yeast.

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar and saffron or turmeric in the bowl of a stand mixer, and with a dough hook attached, combine. Start adding in the butter-milk mixture, then add in the flax eggs.  Knead for about 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise for about 1 hour, until double in size.

Place the dough on a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, add in the raisins in the dough, and knead for a few minutes with your hands.  Divide the dough in half, then roll out into  two equal sized links, about 20 inches (50 cm) long.

adventskransprep

Braid them together and form them into a circle like a wreath, and place on a prepared baking sheet.

adventskrans3

Cover with a towel and let rise for another 40 minutes.  In the mean time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).

Brush the dough with the melted butter/milk, and top with the chopped almonds.

adventskrans2

Place the wreath in the oven in the middle rack and bake for 25 minutes or until golden on top.  Pull out and let cool off, while you prepare the confectioners’ glaze (this is optional- leave out for a less sweet pastry).  Drizzle with the glaze when cool enough and enjoy!

adventskrans1

flettebakst3

Fall is for baking, preferably with cinnamon

Fall has become my favorite season of all the past few years. I’ve shared before that when living in Norway, it was my least favorite, as the summers were way too short, the temperature dropped dramatically and I knew the long, dark and cold winter was just around the corner. It was almost depressing, as we would have to wait for months to properly see the bright day light again. My opinion about this season has changed dramatically since living on the east coast, and now signifies pretty, colorful leaves on the trees, apple and pumpkin picking at local farms in my area,  hot apple cider, and cooler weather which allows for the creation of steamy, hot and comforting soups, stews and chilis, and last but not least: Baking!

I spend practically every weekend baking during fall and winter. I love the smell of dough rising and the smells that fill my kitchen;  it is the way I love to spend “me time”. It’s peaceful and I find it very therapeutical.  This time of year I love to browse through my Norwegian baking books, online blogs and Norwegian food sites to re-connect with my roots, and bring back those memories I cherish growing up in my house on Norway’s west coast with my mom at the stove, always creating something delicious. That is how I want my house to be as well. Luckily I have an American husband (and a dog!) who loves Norwegian food,  so I have an enthusiastic fan club at home :)

Today I wanted to share with you an amazing pastry I made over the weekend that was inspired by the Scandinavian Cinnamon bun Day that just passed.  It’s fondly called “flettebakst” in Norwegian, which translates directly to “braided baked goods”. ‘ Flette’ means braid, and ‘bakst‘ is a common word for pastries and baked goods.  Austria and Switzerland are both countries with a strong tradition of braided pastries, and other countries also have their braiding specialties.

Flettebakst can be both savory and sweet, and while it looks really intricate and difficult to make, it is quite easy, yet will impress your entire family when you place it on the  table.

This is a decadent pastry, and not for those looking to lose weight, but I will say that every bite of it is worth it… so try this for that one day when you would like to enjoy yourself a little extra! :)

BRAIDED CINNAMON ROSE WITH ALMONDS AND CINNAMON

adapted from godt.no

1 packed dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)

2 cups milk

3/4 cup organic sugar

1 tsp salt

150 grams (5 1/4 oz) vegan butter, softened and cut into cubes

1 tbsp flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Filling:

100 grams (3 1/2 oz) softened vegan butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped raw almonds

Almond (or other plant based) milk for brushing dough

Pearl sugar (or demarara sugar) for sprinkling on dough

Directions:

Heat the milk along with the ground cardamom over low heat until it reaches about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the sugar, salt and flax mixture and whisk until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder and cinnamon with the dough hook attachment. Slowly add in the milk mixture and knead the dough on low speed for about 10-15 minutes.  Add in the cubed butter and knead for another 10 minutes until you have a smooth, firm dough that easily releases from the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Punch down the dough, sprinkle a little flour on a clean work surface and roll out the dough until you have a rectangle that is about 30 inches long (80 cm).  Spread the butter on the surface and sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped almonds evenly across.

flettebakstspread

Start rolling the dough together from the long side as if you were making cinnamon buns leaving the end side down. With a sharp knife, split the dough in the middle all the way through.

flettebakstsplit

Start placing one end over another and braid the dough together.

flettebakstbraid

Form the braid into a circle, and it will end up looking like this:

flettebakstrose

Prepare a 10 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper at the bottom and place the braided dough into it.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.

flettebakstform

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the dough with the almond milk and sprinkle with the pearl /demarara sugar. Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Let cool on rack before releasing the spring form. Enjoy!

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Skoleboller2

Celebrating Back To School With Norwegian “Skoleboller”

The below is a repurposed text from a previous blog post I published back in January of 2013. I have since turned vegan, and wanted to make a version of the amazing and popular sweet rolls Norwegians are known for, called skolebrød or skoleboller, depending on where in the country you live. In my region in northwestern Norway where we have a strong baking tradition (and perhaps the biggest in the country), we call them skoleboller.  As we may be less than ecstatic to head back to school, work and a new season after the summer holiday and a fun Labor Day weekend, these delightful pastries might just put a smile back on your face!

Skoleboller, or skolebrød, translates into “school buns” or “school” bread, and are sweet cardamom buns, filled with a vanilla custard in the middle, decorated with confectioners sugar glaze and shredded coconut. I know, right? I don’t even have to put a picture up and your mind goes “wow!!” Cardamom is a beloved spice in baked goods in Scandinavia – I love this about our pastries, because it doesn’t make them so cloyingly sweet which is sometimes the case with similar treats from other countries. Norwegians pride themselves on being great bakers, and I think this creation proves why.  In the recipe in this blog post I have adjusted the ingredients slightly, I’ve added some whole wheat flour and also substituted blueberries as the filling in the middle to make the recipe more whole food based. I’ve also eliminated the traditional confectioner’s glaze that is added to make the coconut stick, to reduce the sugar content in the buns. The recipe was inspired by a post I came across in the Norwegian food magazine Aperitif last week.

Skoleboller used to be put in children’s lunch boxes as a special treat, hence the name.  I remember being overly excited when my mom (on special days) took me to the bakery after school and I was allowed to have a skolebolle.  This was something my mom would never bake at home – probably because it is a somewhat laborious task, and was also considered ‘kid food’ and my parents wouldn’t really eat them (they clearly didn’t know what they were missing!).  My other theory is that it’s impossible to have just one of these awesome tasting creations, so of course having them at home could prove problematic..

Skoleboller4

Skoleboller is a  wonderful pastry to prepare for your guests who are coming over  – with our without children – and is amazing with a cup of hot cocoa, or of course: that mandatory black cup of coffee Norwegians love so much!!

I hope you’ll enjoy my plant based version as much as I did…. Comment or hop over to my FB page to say hello -I would love to hear from you! Wishing you all a fabulous fall season!

A HEALTHIER SKOLEBOLLE

1 stick vegan butter (about 114 grams), at room temperature, diced into cubes

1 cup plant-based milk (Almond, soy, cashew, rice milk)

1 packed dry instant yeast or 25 grams fresh yeast

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

300 grams/1 1/2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour

200 grams/1 cup all purpose flour

Filling:

1/2 cup dairy free vanilla custard*

400 grams/2 cups fresh blueberries (you can also substitute frozen)

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 cup plant based milk for brushing buns

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Vanilla Custard:

3 tbsp organic cornstarch

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 cup plant based milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Add cornstarch and granulated sugar in a small pot over medium heat, and start gradually whisking in the milk. Continue whisking constantly to avoid lumps. If it takes a while for it to thicken, add a bit more cornstarch until you get the thickness/consistency you want. When the custard has thickened, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. As the custard cools, it will continue to stiffen up.

While the custard cools off, start preparing the dough your buns:

Add the instant yeast to the milk, which should be heated to about 110Fahrenheit, making sure to not have the milk too hot or it will kill the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes until the liquid begins to bubble. Combine the whole wheat and all purpose flours, sugar, salt and cardamom in a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and combine lightly. Add in the milk-yeast mixture and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and leaves the bowl. At the very end of the kneading process, add in the diced, room temperature butter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot to rise for about 45 minutes.

On a clean work surface sprinkled with flour, knead the dough a minute or two more, and divide into two equal parts. Roll out into links and divide into 12 buns.  Place on two greased baking sheets, cover with a towel and plastic wrap, and let rise for another 30 minutes.   Preheat your oven to 430Fahrenheit.

Poke a circle/dent in each bun and place a tbsp of the vanilla custard, a few blueberries on top and sprinkle with the sugar.

Skolebollerpre3

Skolebollerpre

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Brush the buns with the milk and sprinkle with shredded coconut and place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden on top.  The coconut will be toasted, but I like this flavor. If you prefer it to be raw/white, you can sprinkle the buns after you remove the buns from the oven.

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marsipankake

Celebrating May 17th With A Decadent Marzipan Cake

17th of May is Norway’s Constitution Day – it is easily the most important day of the year for many Norwegians, as we celebrate our freedom, and our ability to call our country our own. Norway was for many years under the rule of other nations (including Sweden and Denmark), which is why this day is particularly filled with emotions as we look back on our history where we were not allowed to celebrate or walk in parades to mark the birth of our nation.  On this day you will see a sea of red, white and blue all across the country – the colors of the Norwegian flag. Flag waving is looked upon as something celebratory and positive in Norway, a sense of pride, happiness and belonging.  With only 5 million people, we are a nation of close knit countrymen, we have something special in common that is hard to describe.

The day typically begins with getting dressed in our customary, gorgeous handmade “bunad” outfits, they are unique to everyone and differs according to what region of Norway you are from. I have a “Sunnmørsbunad” as I am from the region of Sunnmøre in northwestern Norway, and like every other Norwegian, think that mine is the most beautiful. Here I am pictured in Norway two years ago when I was celebrating my niece’s confirmation in my hometown of Sykkylven:

SynnovebunadThe bunad is typically given to everyone when they are confirmed, and it is a very generous gift, as they tend to cost thousands of dollars.  But they last for a lifetime (just make sure you don’t gain too much weight from the age of 15 on, ha!) and is worn during weddings, confirmations and other celebratory events as well.

The celebration starts with marching in parades, which is then followed by a large lunch.  So what do Norwegians eat on this very special day?  Typically you will see lots of “koldtbord” spreads (Norwegian for “smorgasbord” – a table filled with room temperature dishes such as salads, decadent open face sandwiches, seafood, cold cuts, cakes and other desserts), and the kids will indulge in plenty of ice cream, soda and hot dogs in the afternoon at various arrangements at schools throughout the country.  You can read all about the tradition and importance of ice cream on May 17th in my recent article for the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper here.

Cake baking has always been a huge tradition in my home region of Sunnmøre, and May 17th is no different. While most cakes are filled with heavy cream (or rather whipped), eggs, milk and sour cream, I set out to find a recipe that would not use any dairy at all, being that I’m now vegan. The good news is that it is so easy to make most of these traditional cakes without resorting to dairy!  For those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, hopefully this alternative will be a nice addition to any celebratory event.

Marzipan plays a huge part in Norwegian baking and has always been a traditional ingredient, particularly in the making of “bløtkake” (a fluffy sponge cake filled and topped with whipped cream and decorated with fresh fruit).  Decadent, yes – but May 17th is undoubtedly the best day to justify such a luxurious treat.

marsipan

Image from nrk.no

While marzipan showed up in the market in the year 900 (thought to have come from the Arabic world), it most likely didn’t arrive in Norway until the 19th century along with the arrival of confectioners’ shops, and was for many years just known as an expensive confectionary product. Initially, because the ingredients were so rare, it was only reserved for the wealthier crowd, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that it started developing into a popular product for everyone. Soon, the creation of the marzipan figurines such as in the shape of pigs (“marsipangris”) for Christmas and Easter began to evolve and it’s now estimated that almost every Norwegian eats one marzipan figurine each during Easter (about.4.5 million of these candies are sold each year).

julemarsipan

Image from nidar.no

More recently, cakes from marzipan began popping up in all variations, and is now common in every bakery and household across Norway.

I found a delicious recipe for an awesome vegan marzipan cake on the wonderful Norwegian blog, Vegetarbloggen – authored by Mari Hult, a vegan cook from Stavanger, who offers a ton of delicious recipes.  For those of you who speak and read Norwegian, I highly recommend her blog!  As I’m still learning to veganize the entire Norwegian repertoire of classic foods, I often refer to her for inspiration and tips.

For the cream bit, instead of using heavy cream, you can use a chilled can of coconut milk (the fatty part will harden and form a “lid” at the top of the can which you can remove and use as cream to whip), or alternatively, if you don’t care for the flavor of coconut, another really interesting item I discovered recently is chickpea brine. Yes, it might sound nuts, but adding a little cream of tartar to the drained liquid from a chickpea can whips up beautifully and you can flavor it any way you want. This way you can also make “Pavlova”, a meringue cake typically made with egg whites, and is another very popular cake to serve on Constitution Day.

The below recipe is an adaptation from Mari’s beautiful “Marsipankake” recipe – I hope you will try it!  Hurra for 17. mai!!

17TH OF MAY MARZIPAN CAKE (vegan)

Sponge cake:

400 grams or 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

240 grams or 1 cup organic cane sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups plant based milk (such as almond, rice or soy)

3/4 cup organic vegetable oil

Vanilla Cream:

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

3 tbsp organic corn starch

1 vanilla bean, split

2 1/4 cup plant based milk

Decoration and montage:

1 can full fat coconut milk, left in fridge overnight

1/4 cup granulated, organic sugar

OR (alternative cream):

Drained brine from 1 x large can of chickpeas

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 cup granulated organic sugar

——

1/2 cup of strawberry or raspberry jam

Fresh blueberries, raspberries and /or strawberries

500 grams (about 1 lb) of prepared marzipan (I like the Odense brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Oil or butter 2 x 9-inch round cake pan and dust with a little flour to coat.

Prepare the vanilla cream first. Whisk together the sugar and corn starch in a small pot. Add the vanilla bean. Whisk in the milk and heat up on the stove over low heat, while continuously stirring (this is important so it does not burn). The cream will begin to thicken as it simmers, keep stirring for another few minutes before removing it from the heat and placing in the fridge. The vanilla cream will continue to thicken in the fridge.

To prepare the sponge cakes: Sift the flour, sugar, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl). In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and vanilla extract. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until all the flour is incorporated and no lumps are left, be careful not to overmix. It should take less than one minute.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, and let them cool  for 10 minutes before moving them onto a rack.

Let the sponge cakes cool completely before decorating with the whipped cream and berries.

To prepare the whipped cream, scoop out the top, thick layer of the coconut milk (it will have stiffened overnight in the fridge), and discard or save the liquid for another use.

Place in a bowl of a stand mixer with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and sugar and whisk until stiff peaks. Place in fridge while you prepare to layer the cake.

Place one of the sponge cakes on a plate. Spread a generous amount of strawberry or raspberry jam on the surface and let sit for a bit to have it soak into the cake.  Add some whipped cream, then vanilla cream on top.  Add another generous amount of jam onto the second cake layer and place that on top, jam side down.

Roll out the marzipan large enough to fit the entire cake (top and sides alike),and place it gently on top of the layered cake.  Fold the spillover against the sides to neatly fit.  Decorate the cake as in the photo with berries and you can also use additional marzipan by braiding it into roses (or ring) or other decorative figures. The options are endless!

marsipankake

Image by vegetarbloggen.no