Homemade caramels to bring you holiday happiness

Most of the time I’m happy to share the recipes I come up with on the blog, but this time there was something in me that thought I should just keep this one a secret and perhaps profit off of starting a caramel business. The caramels came out that good.  I didn’t exactly re-invent the wheel with my recipe, however I was just amazed at how amazing the caramels turned out, and no “real” butter or cream was used.

You might ask “why bother making my own caramels when I can buy delicious ones in the store? I’m here to tell you: bother. There’s nothing more satisfying than to see that sugary liquid turn into a golden brown and the liquid magically transform into chewy, delightful caramel.  Making your own candy for the holidays is magical; it brings extra joy to the house and since it’s not perfect looking or uniform in size, extra charming too!

I used my tried and true Earth Balance for butter and to replace the heavy cream I used full fat coconut milk. For those of you who are not crazy about coconut don’t fret, there is absolutely no coconut flavor left in the finished product, only the creamy, rich thickness reminiscent of cream.

Norwegians have a love for many things caramel flavored.  Of course we have the best chocolate covered caramel candy, but there is also “karamellpudding”, our flan /creme caramel/creme brulee, and all kinds of caramelized almonds and fudge we put on our decadent cakes.

During Christmas,  it’s customary in many homes to make your own caramels. It wasn’t in my house growing up, but it’s a tradition I’m happy to adopt.  While I’m not one to eat candy on a weekly basis, I allow myself a little extra during the holidays and I also think it makes for a wonderful gift.  Personally I find it much more touching to get a gift that somebody took time out to make rather than get a gift gard or some other no name present. Then again, it’s also the thought that counts …

You can flavor the caramels with chocolate, vanilla, cardamom and anything else you desire… I decided to just make them plain this time and topped them with some coconut flakes and walnuts.  Yum!

For the below recipe you will need 2 sauce pans; a smaller 2 quart pan (2 liters), and a larger 4 quart (4 liter) pan., as well as a candy thermometer or an instant thermometer you can read the temperature of the sugar mixture. This is important for the success of the recipe!  Here’s my candy thermometer at work:

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VEGAN CHRISTMAS CARAMELS

1 x 13 oz (about 400g) can full fat coconut milk

4 tablespoons vegan butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup (3.5 dl) organic sugar

1 cup (2.5dl) organic light brown sugar

heaping 1/3 cup (1 dl) organic light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla pasta

Directions:

Dress an 8×8  baking dish with parchment paper, leaving some paper hanging over the edges. Brush the paper with a little oil and set aside.

Heat the coconut milk, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in the larger 4-quart saucepan, and stir until the sugar is blended in and you have a thick grainy paste.  Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Don’t stir the sugar after this point.  (Note:  The sugar will bubble up and increase in volume when you add the cream which is why you use a larger pan.)

Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat.  Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring.   When the syrup reaches anywhere between 250°F and 325°F (125-165 degrees Celcius), turn off the heat and carefully pour in the coconut milk-butter mix while whisking. Once it has been added, return the pan to medium-high heat and let the caramel come to a boil without stirring.   Remove from heat when caramel reaches about 245-250 Fahreneheit (120-125 degrees Celcius) and quickly whisk in the vanilla before pouring the caramels into the prepared baking pan.

Place the caramels aside for at least a couple of hours or overnight.  Once the caramels have cooled down, you can cover the pan.  When the caramels have set you can remove it from the pan and peel off parchment paper and using a sharp knife, cut into small squares.  Top with anything you desire. Store in an airtight container – keeps for about 2 weeks (but I doubt they will last that long!).

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Peppernøtter; a Norwegian Christmas cookie with a deceiving name

Continuing my yearly holiday series of Norwegian cookies, I realized I have never shared my recipe for these delightful, two-bite sized cookies called peppernøtter.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, as they are a bit anonymous compared to the other famous seven kinds we insist on including in our baking repertoire every Christmas.  Which again is ironic, because they are just like potato chips; you can’t stop at just one!

Peppernøtter are in many ways similar to gingerbread cookies, or pepperkaker, as we call them in Norwegian.  I read somewhere it can be described as a smaller, angrier version of pepperkaker, which made me laugh.  Filled with the warming holiday spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove with a healthy dose of black pepper, they are positively addictive and easier to bake than pepperkaker.  While they may not be as popular as their cousin, they are certainly not less delicious.

Peppernøtter are also more doughy as opposed to crispy, and have a savory element to them which makes you not feel too guilty if you happen to eat them for breakfast… hey, I will definitely not judge you!

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The name of this cookie is quite deceiving, as the recipe doesn’t call for nuts at all (nøtter means nuts in Norwegian).   The cookies were so called, because when they were created back in the 16th century they were made without baking powder and consequently they turned hard as nuts.  The generous addition of spices was not done only to add flavor to the cookies, but also to symbolize wealth and power, which was common in the Middle ages.  Still to this today, the aromas of cinnamon, ginger, clove and cardamom is what signify Christmas.

Old fashioned they may be, but peppernøtter remain incredibly popular among Norwegians to this day.   They are also super simple to veganize, because the original doesn’t contain nuts, and substituting plant based butter and milk is as easy as a walk in the park and produces the same flavor and texture as dairy products.

(Shameless plug and gift suggestion: If you are interested in seeing how Norwegian dishes can successfully be veganized, I highly recommend getting my latest ebook which is a collection of my favorite Norwegian  recipes from this blogg and beyond. Makes for a perfect gift too and will turn any skeptic into a believer if you thought meat, fish and dairy was necessary to create authentic tasting Scandinavian food)

Don’t forget to enjoy peppernøtter with a glass of gløgg, it is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit!

(P.S. they also make for a wonderful, edible gift! Just put them in mason jars and put a bow on it and voila, you’ve got a personalized, delicious Christmas present!)

VEGAN PEPPERNØTTER

Makes about 30 pieces

1 stick (113g) vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

heaping 1/2 cup (150 grams) organic sugar

1/4 cup organic light corn syrup (50 ml)

1/4 cup (50ml)  coconut or soy based half and half

2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups (400 grams) all purpose flour (add more if dough looks wet)

Whisk together the butter, sugar and syrup in a small sauce pot and heat up until sugar is dissolved.  Add in the half and half, spices, baking powder, soda and flour and combine until you have a smooth dough.  Let rest in fridge for about an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius),  Dress two baking sheets with either a silpat or parchment paper.

Using a tbsp cookie scooper, roll out the dough pieces in the shape of a small ball and place on cookie sheets.  Lightly press them down with the back of a fork.

Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

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A Mackerel-less spread perfect for your smorgasbord

I’ve been speaking of and writing a lot about baking, cookies and cakes around the holidays as being a very big Norwegian tradition.  But what about the savory dishes? Don’t they get any love?

Of course. In fact, this time of year, long, leisurely breakfasts we call “julefrokost” are cherished (we’re talking hours),  and nobody does breakfast spreads better than the Norwegians.  Well, maybe the Swedes and Danes are up there too, I guess you can say we just love this meal in Scandinavia!  We love our open-face sandwiches and get very creative with the toppings.   Savory spreads are typically preferred over sweet, and one of the classics are “makrell i tomat”, or “mackerel in tomato sauce”.  These are sold in stores in cans and are widely popular.  The production of this product started in 1950s, and several surveys have shown this is one of the most preferred toppings in the country.  Even small kids love it and ask for it in kindergartens.

Here’s what the cans look like, Stabburet is one of the most widely sold brands:

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Fish for breakfast you might ask? Hmmm…  Well, I participated in this tradition for a long time, but now I choose to leave the fish alone, as our oceans are severely overfished and also heavily polluted. Fish that once might have been nutritious are now riddled with mercury, bacteria and a number of chemicals that have been linked to numerous health issues. Fish is high in cholesterol and most of the fat in fish is not heart-healthy, despite popular belief.  I’m sure I’ll step on many Norwegian toes now, as mackerel in tomato sauce has been touted as one of the healthiest things you can eat… Well the research and scientific proof is there… If you are concerned about the environment and the rapid depletion of our oceans, I recommend this site.   But I digress…

I long have wanted to re-create many of the traditional spreads I grew up eating, like liver pate (leverpostei) and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs which I’ve done successfully,  but I never thought I would be able to find a vegan recipe for ‘makrell i tomat’.

That is, until I came across the ingenious recipe from my friend and fellow Norwegian vegan food blogger, Jane Helen, who runs the widely popular blog Veganmisjonen.  Jane is one of the most inspiring, positive and creative cooks I know, and she has done more for the food world and vegan movement in Norway than perhaps anybody else thus far.

Jane graciously agreed to let me translate and re-print her recipe for the vegan faux mackerel in tomato sauce which she cleverly entitled “Sprell i tomat”.     She replaced the mackerel with sun-dried tomatoes and red kidney beans, and uses nori flakes to re-create the “fishy” taste in the spread.  Along with some tomato paste, and adding a salty taste with soy sauce, I can tell you the result is amazingly similar to the original!

Jane also recently released a fantastic cookbook all about vegan burgers, here I am with her book that she so kindly sent me as a present!

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I will be cooking up a storm from this book, and will blog about one particular Norwegian Christmas inspired dish soon.

If you don’t feel adventurous enough to try the faux mackerel for breakfast, I suggest offering this as a pate or spread at a holiday party with some bread or crackers if you want to serve something different than the typical hummus or pate.  I bet people will love it!

Click here for Janes original recipe if you would like to check it out (in Norwegian), and I highly recommend exploring the rest of her blog out too!

VEGANMISJONEN’S “FAUX MACKEREL” SPREAD  (Sprell i Tomat)

Makes about 1 quart

3.5 ounces (100 grams) sun-dried tomatoes

about 1 cup (2.5dl) boiling water

roughly 1/3 cup (50 grams) raw almonds

3-4 tbsp nori or dulse flakes (less if you want less fishy taste)

heaping 1/3 cup (100 grams) tomato paste

6 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp chopped chives

1 tsp smoked paprika

pinch of chili powder

3.5 ounces (100 grams) canned water chestnuts, drained

7 ounces (200 grams) canned red kidney beans, drained

Directions:

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Drain.

Add the nori/dulse flakes, almonds and drained sundried tomatoes to a food processor and roughly chop a few times. Don’t over process as you want texture to remain.

Dump the mixture into a bowl, and add the tomato paste, olive oil, soy sauce, onion powder, chives, paprika and chili powder and combine well.

Add the water chestnuts and beans to the food processor and roughly chop them by pulsing a few times. Add to the rest of the mixture, combine and you’re done!   The spread tastes even better if you leave it overnight in fridge so the flavors have a chance to blend.

Spread on your favorite whole grain bread  and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack!

Jane Helen is a vegan food blogger originally from Telemark but resides in Oslo where she works full time blogging and teaching cooking lessons around Norway. She is the author of two books, Veganmat På Sitt Beste (Vegan Food the Best Way) and  Kjøttfrie Burgere (Meatless Burgers).

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Serinakaker; one of the original Norwegian Christmas cookies veganized

Serinakaker is regarded as one of the original, classic Christmas cookies in Norway and are classified as “småkaker” (small cookies).  These are small butter-sugar-flour cookies with a ruffled pattern, topped with sliced almonds and sugar and are known as many Norwegians’ favorite among all the Christmas cookies baked during the holidays. They have been baked for over 100 years in Norway.

The term “småkaker”was not put into use until the 19th century, when it became more common for people to bake and ovens were introduced to the common household.   Whereas the classic cookies I’ve been sharing over the holiday period are considered classic Norwegian, many of the cookies we bake today in fact originate from other countries.   I will write more about this topic in a future blog

Before the 1800s, mostly breads, flatbreads and lefse were baked, and around the holidays people didn’t skimp on all the decadent ingredients that were otherwise used sparingly, such as sour cream and the best flour you could get.  Barley and oat flour were most commonly used, but in cookies wheat or rye was needed, which traditionally had to be imported. After 1880,  people got access to inexpensive Russian flour and this stimulated the interest and tradition of baking cookies.

Serinakaker have a generous amount of butter, and the traditional version has eggs, but I subbed a cashew based yogurt and with great results.   Eggs really aren’t needed in baking, as I’ve mentioned many times before, as it merely acts as a binder. I’ve used everything from applesauce to mashed bananas,  ground flax or chia seeds mixed with water, silken tofu and cornstarch to bind batters and doughs with the same exact outcome as when I used eggs.

This recipe was inspired by my friend and colleague, Mari Hult, who I’ve mentioned before and has one of the best vegan food blogs in Norway called Vegetarbloggen.

Thanks, Mari for spearheading making all the wonderful Norwegian Christmas cookies accessible to those who either can’t consume dairy or eggs or choose to be vegan!

Biting into these cookies really brings back fond memories of sitting around the coffee table with family and friends in a cozy, candle lit Norwegian home, drinking coffee and enjoying this time of year.  I hope I can bring a little comfort to your home too with this recipe!

If you love Norwegian food and are interested in a book that has a collection of all the classic dishes, including cookies and cakes for the holidays, don’t forget to pick up a copy of my latest ebook which as my favorite recipes. You can purchase it HERE.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the serina cookies as much as I do, I would love to hear your thoughts!

NORVEGAN SERINAKAKER

Makes about 25 cookies

  • 1 stick plus 2 tbsp (150 grams) vegan butter, cubed and room temp
  • 9 oz / 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) organic sugar
  • 2 tbsp non dairy yogurt (I used Forager cashew yogurt)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp potato or corn starch
  • 1/3 cup (1 dl) sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup (1 dl) pearled sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).  Grease two cookie sheets with a little oil or dress them with parchment paper.
Place the flour and baking powder in a big bowl, and crumble in the room temperature vegan butter with your hands.  Add in the vanilla extract and sugar as well as the non dairy yogurt and combine until you form a dough. If it’s a little wet, you can add a touch more flour and/or sugar.

Divide the batter into two and roll each part gently out to “sausage” looking links. Divide each link into 10-12 pieces or more, roll them into small balls, and place on the prepared cookie sheets.

With the back of a fork, press lightly onto each ball to flatten them, making a nice pattern.  Mix the potato/corn starch with the water in a small bowl and brush the top of the cookies with the mixture. Sprinkle with almonds and sugar and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.

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A cake that smells like Christmas

“Krydderkake”, as it’s called in Norwegian, translates to “spiced cake” and is a juicy cake filled with lots of warming holiday spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and all spice.  The cake is a welcome change to all the cookies we typically see on tables this time of year.

This is a very simple cake presented without fuss.  Typically it’s just sprinkled with powdered sugar or sometimes a light confectioners glaze .  Many people forget about krydderkake, which is a shame really, as there is nothing quite as delightful and satisfying as having a slice of this cake with a cup of coffee or tea, or even a glass of gløgg, especially on dark, cold winter nights.

Krydderkaker have been made for generations in Norway, some have raisins and a variety of spices in them, as with most other recipes – the cake ingredients from family to family.   What they do have in common are heaps of flavor that brings out a smile on people’s faces as soon as they bite into it. Thought of as festive and decadent despite its modest look, it’s a staple in many homes and a sign that Christmas is here.

Another great feature about this cake is that it’s just as appropriate on a festive table during Christmas as it is as a packed lunch or snack if you’re going hiking.  Perfect for a Sunday afternoon snack or when you are inviting people over for a dinner party.

Many people call it the ‘lazy man’s cake’, because it’s just so simple to put together, and I have to agree.  Make this for when you want to entertain, but really don’t feel like going all out in the kitchen yet still want to impress!

Whereas the classic recipe calls for eggs, I decided to replace them with homemade applesauce, thinking that apples are such a wonderful companion to all the previously names holiday spices. It gives the cake a really juicy texture, and you don’t have to worry about the cholesterol and saturated fat in the eggs, but I’ve added back some fat in form of a generous amount of vegan butter.

A cake like this makes both your body and soul feel happy.  Don’t think twice about attempting this one!

NORVEGAN KRYDDERKAKE

1 stick plus 1 tbsp (150 grams) vegan butter

1 1/3 cup  (300 grams) brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup (180ml)  applesauce

13 1/2 oz (400 ml) all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 cup (55 grams) chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F (180 degrees Celcius).  Prepare a loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper

Place butter, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the applesauce and combine well.   Add the rest of the ingredients and make sure they are well integrated.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake the cake for about 60 minutes.  Check the cake half way through, if it starts to get dark on the top, cover it with a little parchment paper.  Cake is done when a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before removing it from the pan and sprinkle with a little confectioner’s sugar if you wish.

(You can also bake this in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan or even a 9 or 10 inch cake pan, for a a different shape. I would reduce the baking time to 40 minutes or so. )

 

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Karbonader; Norway’s hamburger

I remember when I first became vegan and started thinking about all the dishes I had grown up with that I would no longer be able to enjoy.  Come to think of it, most traditional Norwegian foods have either meat, fish, dairy or eggs in them.  But as I started researching, experimenting and speaking with other vegans, I quickly realized that no animals are needed to re-create the same flavors as the ones I had grown up with.

In fact now, over 4 years eating plant-based diet, I have been able to make anything I want to eat that reminds me of home.  Karbonader is one of the latest meals I tested out. These “meat cakes” are slightly different than the more common Norwegian “kjøttkaker”, in the sense they are bigger, flatter and are mixed with less ingredients.  In fact, they are more reminiscent of an American hamburger (although everything is bigger in America so they are not as big 🙂

Traditionally, karbonader are made with ground beef or veal, and perhaps combined with an egg and some sauted onions.  You will see it served with caramelized onions and boiled potatoes, and sometimes topped on an open face sandwich and served cold, with onions and perhaps a garnish of fresh curly parsley.

The word ‘karbonade’ can refer to both the ground meat mixture and the finished dish, and according to earlier Norwegian regulations, were not to contain more than 6% fat.  The word ‘karbonade’ is also used in association with seafood, for instance ‘fiskekarbonade’, which is made with roughly chopped and churned ingredients, rather than the finely ground meat used in ‘fiskekaker’.

In the old days, karbonader were regarded as a special meal reserved for Sundays or holidays,  not everyday food, because the ingredients were pricey and difficult to get access to.  The word originates from the Italian word carbone/carbonata, a disc of meat cooked over hot coals.

I decided to try making these meat ‘cakes’ yesterday for Sunday supper, but I was also super excited about making the side dishes that go with it.  I chose to make the classic mashed peas, potatoes (I chose to make mashed potatoes here even though most Norwegians will eat plain boiled potatoes), stewed and creamed cabbage and cranberry sauce.  Since I don’t have access to ‘tyttebær’, which is the Norwegian berry that makes a similar tart and sweet side sauce, cranberries will work just fine and I made enough to use for Thanksgiving dinner later this week as well.

I chose chickpeas as my ground ‘meat’ and added loads of delicious spices to add into the mixture. I’m happy to report it’s a dish I will make again and again and this is decadent enough to even serve as a Thanksgiving or holiday meal if you want to spice up your table with some Norwegian flavors!

NORVEGAN CHICKPEA KARBONADER

Makes about 9-10 karbonader

About 2 1/2 cups (or around 400g) cooked chickpeas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, diced

3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 celery stalk, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large chili pepper, finely minced (remove seeds if you dont’ want it spicy)

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1-2 tsp freshly chopped thyme or handful chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp potato or corn starch

In a medium sauce pan, add the olive oil over medium heat, add the onions, garlic, celery, pepper, and chili with a pinch of kosher salt and all the dry spices and saute for about 5-10 minutes until softened.

Add the chickpeas and sauted vegetables into a food processor along with the nutritional yeast and fresh thyme or parsley and pulse a few times until you have a mixture that holds together slighly. Don’t puree it because you want some whole chickpeas still and pieces of vegetables to create texture.

Pour the mixture into a big bowl and add the flour and potato/corn starch and mix well. Place in refrigerator for about 1 hour while you prepare the sides.

When ready shape into golf size balls and place them onto a baking sheet, flatten them with the palm of your hand.   Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute the karbonder on both sides until golden.   I like to serve it with a little gravy, but traditionally karbonader doesn’t require one. Click HERE if you want to get a recipe for the gravy I used.

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KÅLSTUING (Creamed Cabbage)

1 medium head of cabbage, shredded

4 cups (1 liter) water

1 tbsp salt

4 tbsp vegan butter

4 tbsp flour

about 1 3/4 cup (400 ml) broth/water from the cooked cabbage

3/4 cup (200 ml) plant based milk

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Place the shredded cabbage in a large pot with the water and cook for about 15-20 minutes until cabbage has softened.

Drain the water from the cabbage then in another large pot, heat up the butter on mediu heat, whisk in the flour and then slowly add in the cabbage broth and milk until you have a desired saucy consistency.   Let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes or so, then add in the nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Add in the cooked cabbage and combine well and taste for additional seasoning. Serve warm with the karbonader.

ERTESTUING (Mashed Peas)

2 cups (5 dl) frozen peas, thawed

1 heaping tbsp vegan butter

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

splash of plant based milk

Heat all ingredients up in a small pot, then mash lightly with a potato masher. Serve warm.

POTETMOS (Mashed Potatoes)

Serves 4

4 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

2-3 tbsp vegan butter, room temperature

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, room temperature

salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Drain the water off, add in the vegan butter and milk, season generously with salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Garnish with chopped chives if you’re fancy 🙂

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Serves 8

4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup (2.5dl) sugar

1 cinnamon stick

3-4 whole cloves

1 strip orange or lemon zest (optional)

splash of water

Bring all ingredients to a gentle boil in a medium pot, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or so until sugar dissolves and  berries are soft. Cool off.

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My recipe e-book is here!

I’m so thrilled to announce that my first official recipe e-book, “A Collection of Recipes from Arctic Grub” is now online and available for sale!

This is a collection of more than 60 of my favorite Norwegian recipes from my blog, in addition to some exclusives available only in the book, like my mom’s recipe for lefser! I’d say it would be worth getting the book just for that one recipe…

If you are looking for a “one stop shopping” for classic, Norwegian recipes that have been ‘veganized’ (plant based), but tastes just like the foods you’re used to, this book is for you!

From carrot ‘lox’, to whole grain and cripsy breads (knekkebrød), to Nordic root vegetable stew and Norwegian meatballs plus all the traditional Christmas cookies and decadent cakes you know and love – they are all here!

The nearly 130-page book is available at the very reasonable price of $19.99.

Click HERE to purchase the book.

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If you know of someone who would like to get this book for Christmas or the holidays, purchase it for them and send me an email to sunny@sunnygandara.com with a copy of your receipt and let me know what email  I should send it to and when!

I want to thank you all for your support of this blog, and by purchasing this book you will help me continue providing recipes, stories and information about Norwegian food, history and culture.  Thank you so much!!

Again, you can purchase the book by clicking HERE.

5 reasons to love Norwegian bread

As a typical bread-loving Norwegian, it can be difficult to live in a country that is protein obsessed and deathly afraid of carbs.  But it didn’t stop me from making today’s recipe of whole grain, multi-seeded loaves of bread that

I think I’ve shared my first experience arriving in the U.S. seeing all the plastic wrapped breads sitting on the shelves for weeks, thinking, “how is this possible? Why doesn’t the bread go bad?”  Yes, I know – I was pretty naive. Then I picked up a slice, only to discover that it was mostly air, and I was able to squeeze it in the palm of my hand and shape it into the size smaller than a ping pong ball.  I knew then, that this was not something I particularly wanted to put in my body.

This is when I became slightly obsessed with baking my own breads, buying specialty flours online and seeking out health food stores that would have the kind of darker, whole wheat and grain types we use back home.

Why eat Norwegian style bread, you ask? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Whole grains and seeds contain lots of nutrients and fiber, the latter helping you to stay fuller longer, causing you to eat less
  2.  It will help lower your cholesterol
  3. Stabilizes your blood sugar levels, helping you stay more energetic throughout the day
  4. Contributes to good digestion and gut health
  5. Can help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A bonus reason is that as opposed to white bread, whole grains and seeds contain tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help keep your body healthy. Why not opt for both healthy AND delicious if you’re going to eat? Norwegian bread is the way to go!

I am a believer in using quality grains and flours when making bread, cookies, pastries and cakes. I use organic products from smaller producers whenever I can, and wholeheartedly believe that if everyone would do the same, we would see less people intolerant of gluten and grains, and less obesity.

Yes, that’s right.  There has never been as much obesity in the world since the widespread popularity of the Atkins Diet, where red meat, bacon, eggs and cheese were touted as “health food” and food to eat if you wanted to slim down, whereas bread, pasta and rice were looked upon as the devil himself.

Come to think of it, growing up in Norway, we ate bread for breakfast, lunch and “kveldsmat” (a late night meal after dinner, because Norwegians eat dinner super early, around 5pm), and I never really saw any overweight people around. Food for thought, literally.

If you’re new to my blog, you might want to read my previous blog post about bread from my home region of Sunnmøre, which goes into more history and detail about breadmaking in Norway, and includes another recipe for bread.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there are MILLIONS of recipes for homemade bread in Norway, we just love bread that much.   The best thing about making your own bread is that you know exactly what is in it, there are no fake additives and preservatives that may wreak havoc on your body, and of course: it tastes ten times better than any store bought version you will find! That is, if you follow my recipe of course! 🙂

This bread is made in two stages. You’ll combine the ingredients in the first batch as listed below, then wait a few hours before you add the ingredients from the second batch.  Trust me, the breads will be well worth your efforts! You can also double the recipe to make six loaves and freeze them so you have for weeks to come (or if you’re as big of a bread lover as I am, only for two weeks, hahaha).

Happy baking and please comment if you do try it out or if you have any questions! You can also stop by my FB page, Arctic Grub, and join in on the discussion about Norway and Norwegian food there!

MULTI-SEED, WHOLE GRAIN NORWEGIAN BREAD

Makes 3 loaves

1st batch:

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) wheat bran

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) chia seeds

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) sunflower seeds

a heaping 1/2 cup (75g) pumpkin seeds

a scant 1/2 cup (100 grams) organic old-fashioned oats

1 cup (200 g) organic whole wheat flour

1 cup (200g) organic dark rye flour

4 cups (900ml) cold water

2nd batch:

1 cup (200ml) water

2 tbsp maple syrup or light syrup

2 tbsp sea salt

1 packet dry yeast or 50 grams fresh yeast

4-4 1/2 cup organic all purpose flour

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients from batch #1 in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl) and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Let sit for at least 2 1/2 hours at room temp, or overnight if you can. This will expand the seeds and make them chewy, which will help bind them to the dough.

After the mixture from batch #1 has been sitting for several hours or overnight, add in the ingredients from batch #2, perhaps holding back a bit of the flour.  Fit the dough hook of the standmixer on and mix for 5 minutes at low speed, then increase to high speed and knead the dough for another 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary, until you get a smooth, elastic dough.

Let the dough rest for another 2 hours.  Prepare three loaf pans by greasing them lightly with oil.  Then pour the dough onto a clean work surface, divide it into three equal pieces.  Fit the pieces into each loaf pan (if you don’t have loaf pans you can also free bake them by shaping the pieces into loaves and placing them onto a baking sheet).

Cover the loaves with a clean towel, and let rest for another 45 minutes at room temp. Meanwhile,  heat your oven to 440 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celcius).

Brush the top of the loaves with a little water, and sprinkle additional chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or so until the bottom is hard and make a hollow noise when you tap them. Cool for about an hour (if you can wait) before slicing into ti. Serve with vegan butter and a cup of coffee or tea!

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A pumpkin bread recipe for when you want to impress

For someone who isn’t a huge pumpkin fan to begin with, this is a pretty big statement which I hope will catch attention.  Because your gustatory experience will depend on it. 

It’s not often I even get tempted by anything “pumpkin” and as a native of Norway, I never understood Americans’ obsession with pumpkin flavored everything. Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cakes… the list goes on. 
 
But as I had received two good looking pumpkins from my CSA share a couple of weeks ago that were just standing on my kitchen counter, I decided to make use of them other than turning them Halloween decorations.
First I started with making my own pumpkin puree, because honestly – every canned version I’ve ever bought tastes god-awful.  Bland, boring and everything I will not allow in my food. I will include a super simple recipe for it here as well, it will be so worth it!
I shared in a previous blog post that pumpkins weren’t traditionally very common or popular in Norway, until just the recent years when Norwegians have felt compelled to start celebrating Halloween, although that was never observed when I grew up in the 70s and 80s.   In 2011, 250 tons of pumpkin were sold, compared to 900 to 1,000 tons in 2014. So the trend is absolutely increasing.
You can also read more details about pumpkins in Norway and get a recipe for vegan pumpkin spiced cookies that have previously passed my taste test here.
 Why eat pumpkin after all? A few reasons:
1. It’s healthy, and provides only about 12 calories per 100 grams.  Pumpkin also contains a lot of fiber, which is great for the colon and the digestion.  It’s rich in vitamin A, which helps maintain good eye sight and healthy skin.
2.   There are tons of exciting varieties, like blue, red-orange, cinderella, cheese and ghost white. Check out this article for more info.
3. Pumpkin is super versatile, you can use them to make savory soups and stews, as well as in desserts and baked goods like the pumpkin bread I’m sharing with you today.
4.  You can bake it, saute it, puree it, boil it and pickle it! Endless ways to change up the texture and flavor.
5.  You can use the entire vegetable for so many things. The flesh can be used in savory and sweet dishes,  dry out the seeds and toast them, and add them to salads, soups, oatmeal, yogurts, etc. for a snack that can serve as a healthy fat source, and the actual skin can be carved out and used as a lantern for Halloween.
So are you convinced yet to give pumpkin a go? I don’t think Americans need a lot of convincing, but if you were even the slightest bit of a skeptic to this vegetable or to vegan baked goods, after you’ve tried this recipe you will be converted for life.  Big statement, I know, but I wholeheartedly believe this will be one of the best things you will make this fall!
With that, I wish you happy baking and a wonderful, flavorful fall period!

THE BEST EVER VEGAN PUMPKIN BREAD

adapted from Averie Cooks

 

Streusel Crust
1/4 cup (half of 1 stick) vegan butter slightly softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
about 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour,

Bread
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (homemade – recipe below)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup coconut oil melted (you can sub vegetable or canola oil)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or other plant based milk, at room temp
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan  with oil or vegan butter and dust with a little flour.

For the Streusel Crust

In a medium bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and toss with a fork until mixture combines and crumbs and clumps form. This is a moist streusel, but if yours seems very moist and is paste-like, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons flour, as needed to dry it out. Set aside.

For the Bread

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients through nutmeg, and whisk to combine. Using room temp milk will prevent coconut oil from re-solidifying, but if it does, a few small white clumps are okay.

Stir in the flour and baking powder until just combined, be careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter out into the prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle the streusel topping over the top, using your fingers to break up large clumps if necessary

Bake for about 40 to 44 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.

Allow bread to cool in pan, on top of a wire rack, for at least 30 minutes before turning out onto the rack to finish cooling completely.

Slice bread with a serrated knife in a sawing motion, careful to not compress the loaf. Bread will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week  wrapped in seran wrap and stored in a ziplock bag. Bread will keep airtight in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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PUMPKIN PUREE

1 large pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out

dash cinnamon

dash clove

dash nutmeg

sprinkle of salt

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).   Linke a baking sheet with foil.

Season pumpkin halves with the spices and place cut side down. Roast for about 1 hour until flesh is soft.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before scooping out the flesh, add to a high speed blender and puree until smooth. Let cool, refrigerate in an airtight container. Keeps for up to 1 week in fridge, you can also freeze it!

pumpkinbread

P.S. Don’t forget to follow my page on Facebook, Arctic Grub, where I post daily about food and culture from Norway!

Celebrate Apple Season With This Simple Norwegian Apple Cake

I’ve written about eplekake, Norwegian apple cake, a couple of times before on the blog, but it’s one I could write about multiple times over.   There are endless variations, such as a vegan version filled with marzipan which I shared here, and before I went vegan there was a vanilla custard variety here.  I’ve yet to measure up to some of the biggest food bloggers in Norway, one who can brag about having over 50 different recipes for apple cake alone! This will tell you how popular this is….

It’s the middle of apple season here in the gorgeous Hudson Valley of New York, and fall is the most magical time of year, in my opinion.  The leaves are turning and displaying gorgeous colors, the air is cool and crisp, and it’s all of a sudden ok to turn to comfort foods like creamy soups, stews, casseroles and baked goods again.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and right around the corner, but that’s for another blog post..

In Norway, there are signs of apples being in existence since the Stone Age (around year 850).  54 apples were found in good condition; a sign they were highly valued.  But it was the monks who started planting apple trees and made it commonplace.  They quickly discovered that Hardanger in the southwestern part of Norway was the most ideal place to grow apples, and since they have been planted all the way up to the county of Møre and Romsdal, where I’m from, as well as further north.  The difference is that the apples in the south are for commercial sale, whereas the ones found in the northern parts of Norway are for personal consumption.   The juicy varieties we have in Norway today, is a result of a long history of cultivating and perfecting them.

The most important Norwegian varieties are Summerred, Aroma, Rød Gravenstein, Rød Aroma, Julyred, Åkerø, Discovery, Rød Prins/Kronprins, Lobo and regular Gravenstein.

The apple cake is a very traditional cake in Norway, and most people have some type of relationship to it.   It’s the epitome of an autumn cake, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t like it!

Most of the Norwegian apple cakes are super decadent, containing tons of eggs, sugar and butter and while I certainly have enjoyed a piece or two hundred in my lifetime, I wanted to prove that no eggs or dairy is needed to create the same wonderful gustatory experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the VeganEgga product made by the company Follow Your Heart, as I set out to re-create one of my favorite foods; a Spanish tortilla layered with potatoes and caramelized onions.  As a side note I’m happy to report that the result was fantastic, with my egg-loving husband giving it a big thumbs up.  But this week I wanted to try the egg in baked goods to see how it acted.  I’m thrilled to announce that the cake ended up  as juicy, rich and flavorful as the one I grew up eating in my mom’s kitchen!  I’m typically not a fan of using ready-made vegan products, but in this instance, I’m going to be making a regular exception, the results were that good.

Of course there are plenty of options should you not have the VeganEgg available to you in stores where you live.  Combining a tablespoon of either ground chia or flax seeds with 3 tbsp of water will equal one egg, or you can also used mashed bananas, apple sauce, cornstarch and/or nut butters. In this instance, I would naturally choose apple sauce, to go with the flavor profile of the cake.   Remember, eggs only serve as a binder in baking,  so as long as you find something that can bind the batter/dough, you are good to go!

I hope you will try this version of eplekake, it comes together in no time – I use a small mandoline to slice the apples, much faster and you get uniform sizes, ensuring even baking.  If you are a fellow cinnamon lover (if you are Scandinavian I won’t have to ask), you can go a little over the top on the cinnamon-sugar mixture that you toss the apple slices in for extra enjoyment!

Happy baking and as we say in Norway: Velbekomme!

 

NORVEGAN EPLEKAKE

 

7 oz /200 grams vegan butter, room temperature (just shy of 2 sticks)

7 oz /1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp VeganEgg powder whisked together with 3/4 cups (180ml) ice cold water

7 oz/200 grams/1 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 tbsp /40 grams/1.5 oz potato starch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup/100 ml plant based milk

Topping:

2-3 large apples, cored and sliced thinly

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegan butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius). Dress a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the vegan butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and with the paddle attachment, whip it until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the VeganEgg mixture.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, potato starch and baking powder.  Add slowly to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and combine until no traces of flour are left.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and add the apple slices to it and coat well.  Carefully arrange the apple slices on top of the batter, stuffing the apples mid way down the cake batter in a circular pattern.

eplekake1

Dab the 2 tbsp of butter over the top and bake in oven for about 50-55 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  Serve with some whipped coconut cream or your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream!

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