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Kanelkake; a simple, everyday Norwegian cinnamon cake

It’s no secret that Scandinavians have a special love for cinnamon and Norwegians are no different.  Cinnamon has been documented to be used in cooking since the 17th century in Norway, but started to be imported already in the 13th century to convent gardens and to major cities.  Bergen was one of the main cities for spice trade.  The traditional Norwegian farmer remained however skeptical at this stage to using these foreign spices.  Spices and herbs were associated with status and wealth for the longest time. In the middle ages, people in Norway ate very few vegetables, but spices and herbs were added to meat (which was also sparse and reserved for the richer population).  In the 17th century it became more common place to use cinnamon to add flavor as well as to preserve foods.

cinnamon

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find any popular pastries not containing cinnamon in Norway (although perhaps a bit of an exaggeration), but you won’t find this one complaining!🙂

I love recreating simple cakes such as the one I am featuring today, “kanelkake” (kanel is Norwegian for cinnamon), because it’s very light and not overly sweet.  Most cakes I have come across in the United States are either covered in frosting or buttercream, which makes them a “special occasion” cake at best. This is more like a coffee cake or a breakfast bread even, that you can enjoy in the morning or a Tuesday afternoon (or any other day!).

The best part for me is that it contains no dairy or eggs, but is still super juicy, light and fluffy and of course- flavorful with a nice kick of cinnamon!  My chef husband devoured half of this cake before I even got to it – so if you make it, hide it in a special place, and be sure to have a piece while it’s nice and warm right out of the oven!!

KANELKAKE (Cinnamon Cake)

1 1/4 cup almond milk (or other plant based milk)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or neutral oil
2/3 cup coconut sugar or cane sugar
2/3 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups all purpose or spelt flour

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Dress a 9X9 inch rectangular baking pan (like a brownie pan) with parchment paper (or 20x30cm pan for those of you in Europe).

Combine all ingredients in the order above in a large bowl, and pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until a cake tester runs clear in the middle. Cool on a rack before you dive in!!

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Norwegianpancakes

A silly, yet popular Norwegian tale about a pancake that got away

Ok, so this is a blog post I’m not sure will really translate very well into English, but I happened to come across it earlier and it brought back so many wonderful childhood memories I just had to at least give this a try!  This might be a funny story for the Norwegian-Americans who are reading this, to tell your children or grandchildren or you may even have heard this story! And for the Norwegians (like me), you may have completely forgotten about this tale from when you were a little child until now, just like me!

Food and childhood memories are so closely linked together, in fact it’s how I justify why I love certain dishes as much as I do, because there is no other reason than sentimental ones (some Norwegian food can be, admittedly quite strange to the outsider).

Last week I managed to recreate the thin, crepe-like Norwegian pancakes we typically have for dinner,  in a dairy free and eggless form for breakfast to my husband, who was craving them.   I was worried he was not going to be crazy about the new version, but I’m happy to report that both the flavor and texture came out beautifully.  I have included the recipe in this blog post, and you can feel free to skip the “funny” story about the pancake I grew up with and go right to it🙂

This folklore tale is a “regeleventyr”, which means it’s a fairy tale that rhymes in a way, but it won’t in English, however you will still get the jist of it.  It’s hard to decide who to feel sorry for – the hungry people in the tale or the pancake (I tend to side with the pancake).  You be the judge! Ok here we go. The names in parentheses are the Norwegian words for the characters in the story, that rhyme:)

pannekaka

THE PANCAKE

Once upon a time, there was a women with seven kids, whom she cooked pancakes for. The pancakes were made from raw milk, it was laying there in the pan, rising so big and fluffy, and the kids were standing around the pan, and the old father looked upon.

“Oh please, mom, let me have a little pancake, I’m so hungry”, said the first child.

“Oh please”, said the second child

“Oh pretty, please”, begged the third child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear you, please”, begged the fourth child

“Oh pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the fifth child

“Oh beautiful, pretty, kind, dear, good mom, please”, begged the sixth child

“Oh beautiful, ,pretty, kind, dear, good and sweet mom, please”, begged the seventh child

“Yes, my dear children”, said the mother,  “just be patient and wait until I can turn it around, then you will all get a piece, just have a look and see how thick and fluffy it’s getting!”

When the pancake heard that, it became scared, and all of a sudden it turned itself, initially wanting to jump out of the pan, but it turned on the other side, and cooked a little on the other side too. It became a bit firmer  so it got the strength to jump out of the pan and on to the floor, and then it rolled across the room and out through the door.

“Hey!!” yelled the woman, and all the kids and even the old father tried to run after it to catch it.  But the pancake rolled and rolled and soon it was so far gone that the women and children couldn’t see it anymore, because the pancake was faster than they were.

pannekakeeventyr

After a while of rolling, the pancake met a man.  “Good afternoon, pancake” said the man.

“God bless, man”, said the pancake (mann, brann)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,”  the man asked.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and kept rolling until it met a hen.

“Good afternoon, pancake”, the hen said

“Good day, hen,” replied the pancake. (høne pøne)

honepone

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the hen.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, and a man,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling like a wheel until it met a rooster.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the rooster

“Good afternoon, rooster”, replied the pancake (hane, pane)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the rooster.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man and a hen,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling as fast as it could. After a long while it met a duck.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the duck.

“Good afternoon, duck” replied the pancake. (ande, vande)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the duck.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen and a rooster,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and continued rolling until it met a goose.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the goose

“Good afternoon, goose”, replied the pancake. (gåse, våse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the goose.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster and a duck,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and hurriedly continued to roll down the road.

After a long, long time of rolling, the pancake came across a gander.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the gander.

“Good afternoon, gander”, replied the pancake. (gasse, vasse)

“My dear pancake, not so fast, please stay a bit so I can eat you,” begged the gander.

“No, I have managed to run away from a woman, her old man and seven screaming children, a man, a hen, a rooster, a duck and a gander,  I will manage to run away from you as well,” replied the pancake and rolled quickly down the road.

After a long while, the pancake encountered a pig.

“Good afternoon, pancake,” said the pig

“Good afternoon, pig”, replied the pancake (gylte, grisesylte)

“My dear pancake, stay a little while, no need to hurry off.  Let’s walk together through the woods, I heard it’s not safe to walk through there alone.”

The pancake thought that made sense, so it agreed.

pigpancake

But after while, they came up to a creek.  The pig could float on water due to his flesh, so he had no problem crossing the creek, but the pancake could not.

“Sit on my face,” the pig said, “and I’ll carry you over”. And so the pancake did.

“Oink, oink”, said the pig and ate the pancake in one gulp.

And when the pancake couldn’t go any further, neither could this tale!

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Silly, right?? I guess I’m still finding these tales amusing🙂

Enjoy the pancake recipe and as always, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!!

NORWEGIAN PANCAKES (vegan)

2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 cups (700ml) plant based milk

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Add the flax seed mixture in with the plant based milk and our over the dry ingredients, combine until no more streaks of flour are visible, then add in the butter. Don’t over mix.  Let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes before pouring a small amount in a lightly oiled or buttered frying pan over medium heat. Cook until lightly brown on both sides.

Top with fresh blueberries or blueberry jam or any topping you wish!

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barleyvegsoup1

A Nordic Root Vegetable Stew to Celebrate The Return of the Sun

I was inspired to right about this special day from old times in Norway, as I’ve recently noticed how the sun rises earlier and stays later in the day, making me feel ready to bid winter adieu and get ready for longer, brighter and lighter days.

Sunfest, or “Solfest” as we call it in Norwegian, is a date that is difficult to pinpoint, because it varies from town to town whether the sun is completely gone during the winter, and when she returns.

Like all other life, humans are also dependent on the life and the energy the sun gives us, and this was felt even more so in earlier times, when the only light people had were the day light (i.e. no electricity).  In many counties in Norway, it has been a long standing tradition to celebrate the day the sun returned, especially in small towns where the sun is gone for a long time during the year.

There is an old custom all over Norway where one would place a dab of butter in the window sill, and let the sun melt it. “Sun, sun, give me summer butter, here is some winter butter”.   From the town Selje, the following story is told:  “The first time the sun shone after she had been gone mid-winter, mother spread butter on the wall where the sun shone, and greeted her ‘welcome’.   From another town called Davik, the tradition of placing the butter in the window sill was customary the first day the sun shone, and here it was around February 8th.  If the butter melted, the year would be a good one both weather wise and generally.  This was a day filled with lots of happiness, dance and and songs about the sun.  When the sun is gone for months at a time, it’s definitely worth celebrating its return!

Here is a photo of Svalbard, where the sun’s return is typically celebrated around March 8th:

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Photo Credit: Kristin Sørdal

On this day, it was fitting to serve something colorful and good, a dish you could make in one pot, with ingredients that most people have in house or can easily get during this time of year.  Since root vegetables are in abundance in Norway around this time (and also in New York, where I currently live), I wanted to throw a variety of these in a pot with some vegetable stock and barley (“bygg” in Norwegian), which is the most traditional and widely grown grain in Norway.  We also use barley flour/meal in the popular potato dumplings “raspeballer” as well as in waffle batters, in addition to adding it to soups, salads and even breakfast porridge.  I soak the barley in cold water a few hours before cooking it, which makes it easier to digest, but it’s not necessary.

Not only is this soup colorful and extremely tasty, it is also super healthy!  Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like barley decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy and overall lower weight. It’s a great source of fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. The same health benefits and nutrients can be said for the root vegetables in this soup. Basically – eat your root vegetable soup and you will do your body a huge favor!

rootvegetables

I added a beet to the soup, which colored it this really pretty red color almost like a Russian borscht, and also adds an extremely deep earthy flavor, which reminds me of home. If you don’t want to add this flavor or color to your stew, simply omit it.

Some people would freeze fresh herbs from summer over the winter, thaw it and serve on top of the stew.  Today, we luckily have access to fresh herbs year round.  You can use dill or parsley,  or even fennel fronds (typical in Norwegian soups), whichever you enjoy.  This makes a HUGE batch, which you can freeze and reheat in just a few seconds and have a delicious, hearty and healthy meal on your hands at any time! Velbekomme!

NORDIC BARLEY AND VEGETABLE SOUP

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 leek, white part only, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 celery stalk, diced

10 cups vegetable stock

4 cups water

a handful of fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 cup barley, soaked for a couple of hours in cold water

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

1 small celery root, peeled and diced

1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 turnip, peeled and diced

1/2 small head of red cabbage, sliced thin

1 beet, peeled and cubed

small bunch of kale (or Swiss chard or spinach), roughly chopped

freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

fresh herbs, such as dill or parsley, lemon wedges to serve

In a BIG soup pot, heat a little olive oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and leeks and season with salt. Saute for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the barley and coat well, then throw in the veg stock, water, bay leaves and thyme. and stir.  Add in all the root veg including the cabbage and beet, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add in the kale and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with a lemon wedge and some great, Norwegian bread!

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rosinboller

Simple Yet So Delicious: Norway’s Wildly Popular Raisin Buns

As we often hear, simple foods is often best, and that is certainly true when it goes for Norway’s classic “rosinbolle”. This fluffy, slightly sweet cardamom scented bun filled with plump raisins are the favorites of many.  Millions of these are being devoured yearly by Norwegians, we can’t seem to get enough.  In fact, baking “boller” has now become super trendy in Norway, and the variety of recipes that are floating around is astounding!

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Image: kk.no

Norwegians are definitely proud of their buns (no pun intended), and are known across Scandinavia for this specialty.  Often you hear the slogan “world’s best buns” around these creations, and I have to say… it’s not an exaggeration!

I was inspired to make rosinboller this week because it’s winter vacation in Norway, and many Norwegians pick some of these up at their local gas stations (yes, they sell freshly baked goods there – in fact some gas stations in Norway sell more “boller” than they sell gas!!) on the way to their cabins in the mountains, where they will spend the week skiing, catching some sun (hopefully) and being with family and friends.  This tradition also repeats itself a few weeks later during Easter.  It’s also considered the “healthiest” alternative among pastries, because it has no creamy or sugary sweet filling but is just a delight on its own.

Try out my dairy free, eggless cardamom buns that turned out OH so AHmazing…. I’m still reeling over the delight of the first bite, right out of the oven!! Happy baking!

ROSINBOLLER

1 stick vegan butter (around 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups (350ml) plant based milk

1/2 cup (150 grams) confectioner’s sugar

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour (about 10 dl)

1 cup raisins

plant based milk for brushing buns

Place the raisins in a small bowl,  cover with hot water and let them plump up for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pot over the stove and add in the milk.  Bring it to a temperature of about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 degrees Celcius). Make sure the mixture is not too hot or it will kill the yeast or too cold.

Add the mixture into a stand mixer bowl.  Whisk in the confectioners sugar, salt, cardamom and yeast and let sit for 2 minutes. With a dough hook, start adding in the flour gradually.  Continue kneading on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm spot.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).  Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Pull the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, and work in the raisins. Knead a few times until all the raisins are incorporated. Divide into about 12 even pieces (or 14, depending on how big you want your buns to be), and roll them into round shapes.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets. cover with a towel and let rise again for another 15 minutes.

Brush the buns with some plant based milk and place in oven, bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

rosinboller

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.

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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:

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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…

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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

 

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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):

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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!!

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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:

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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!!

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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