The ultimate carrot cake

Ok, so carrot cake may not be from Norway, but it sure is an extremely popular cake in that part of the world.  Besides, dishes seem to transcend to different countries, with slight variations of ingredients, methods and flavor profiles. The cake is said to have originated in Sweden, but it is not known for sure.  Carrot puddings were enjoyed by people in Europe all the way back to medieval times, as carrots were used as sugar substitutes in sweet dishes.  Regardless of its origins – sometimes you just need that easy, fool proof recipe that everyone is going to be ooh’ing and aah’ing over – and this one is definitely it!!

There are probably as many recipes as there are opinions about carrot cakes out there; some insist to include raisins and nuts, some think that is sacrilege, some like to add different spices, others like the carrot cake to be plain, while some think there should be no sugar in the cake, because the carrots are sweet enough and the list goes on.

My recipe is one I received from my sister, the best baker I know of Norwegian cakes and other goodies. I’ve altered it slightly, just adding some spices to it and also added in a little sour cream in the frosting.   Incredibly juicy, aromatic and flavorful, it is light and airy and makes it simply impossible to have just one piece.  This is my chef husband’s favorite cake, he claims I make the best one he’s ever tasted.  I happily take the compliment, since he is not typically a fan of sweets and it’s hard to get him to be excited about cakes.   His birthday was this past Thursday and of course I had to whip up my famous carrot cake! I also brought it to a get together this afternoon where it disappeared within an hour –  it was such a huge hit I’ve been asked to make it at an upcoming birthday party for a group of people.

I think the frosting is just as good as the cake here – tangy and sweet flavors intermixed, just delicious!

Got you curious about how wonderful this cake is? There’s only one way to find out – test it out and let me know if you agree!!

KRYDRET GULROTKAKE  (Spiced Carrot Cake)

For cake:

4 eggs

1 1/2  cups (300 grams) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar

2 cups (350 grams) all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1 lb (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled (preferably carrots from the farmer market)

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) canola or vegetable oil

For the frosting:

8 oz (225g) cream cheese

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool

300 grams (10 oz) confectioners sugar

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and adjust oven rack to the middle position. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.

Combine flour, salt, vanilla sugar if using, and spices in a bowl.  In a food processor,  shred the carrots (you should have about 4 cups).

gratedcarrots
Pour shredded carrots into a separate bowl. Wipe out the food processor and fit with the metal blade. Process eggs and sugars until light yellow and frothy, about 20 seconds.

frothyeggs

With the machine running, pour in the oil slowly. Mix until combined and pour into a large bowl. Fold in the dry ingredients and the carrots, combine until no streaks of flours remain.

carrotcakebatterbattercarrot

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for a couple of hours.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting.  Process the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in clean food processor until combined. Scrape down as needed, before adding the confectioners sugar. Process until smooth, a few seconds.

frosting

Run a pairing knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off parchment paper, and move cake onto a serving tray.  Using an offset spatula, spread the cake with the frosting. Cut into serving pieces and serve!

carrotcake1

Plukkfisk; a satisfying fish dinner from Bergen

I’m always looking for new recipes or different ways to cook proteins. Living in the U.S,  I find that most people under utilize fish, as I sometimes think that people find it a bit intimidating to cook it.  Preparing fish is the easiest thing in the world and so tasty, not to mention healthy. I miss my weekly fish dinners I grew up with in Norway and my goal for the remainder of the year is to cook more of it, not just to get more variety in my diet but also because it’s incredibly nutritious and flavorful!  Fish is delicate, so the idea is to be gentle with it, so as to let the mild flavors and soft texture shine.  You can certainly play around with spices and seasonings, just make sure that whatever fish you pick will be able to hand it. Heartier spices can be used for meatier fish like salmon and swordfish, for instance, while  lighter fish such as pollock, and cod would taste best if using milder spices.

The fish market in Bergen (Fisketorget):

fisketorgetbergen

Plukkfisk is a classic Norwegian dish which consists of pieces of fish, potatoes and onion cooked in a bechamel sauce.  The dish is originally from Hordaland county, on the west coast of Norway and the home of the second largest city in the country, Bergen.  Cod is traditionally used as the fish, but you can use any white fish you like.  Some people like regular cod or klippfisk (dried cod) instead of lightly salted cod, while others swear pollock is the best.  Regardless of what you decide, the common denominator of this dish is that it is incredibly delicious and satisfying.  When mentioning this dish to many of my Norwegian friends, they get a sort of dreamy look on their face, followed by “oh my, my mouth is watering by just you mentioning the name plukkfisk!”  Today this dish is enjoyed all over Norway, so we certainly thank Hordaland for coming up with this delicacy!

“Plukk” means “pick” in Norwegian, and refers to the fact that you pick the fish and the dish is served in small pieces.  Plukkfisk has been likened to that of the French “brandade”, and I’ve seen international varieties of this dish served with mashed potatoes, garlic and olive oil, which is also quite tasty.

klippiskbrandade

Image from morgenbladet.no

Back when I grew up in Norway, it wasn’t uncommon for families to serve fish two, three, even four times a week.  As kids we weren’t exactly jumping up and down about this, but plukkfisk seemed to always be a popular dinner. Perhaps because of the white sauce, the hearty potatoes and the bacon that went with it, it was less “boring” and packed a lot more flavor than many other dishes.   A very popular weekday dinner choice, it’s also easy to put together.   Today you find people serving serrano ham or prosciutto with the fish as a fancy alternative to the bacon, but in general, the dish is not as common as it used to be.  Many Norwegians probably recall getting plukkfisk served whenever they visited their grandparents.  It’s also one of those dishes  that were made of leftovers which is why it has also been referred to as the fish version of lapskaus.  As with many classic foods however, I see this becoming trendy among the younger population once again, and many restaurants and chefs have created updated, more sophisticated recipes using klippfisk as inspiration.

There are many variations of klippfisk, and as always – you will find a myriad of sides to go with it.  Grated carrots in form of a slaw is also nice, mixed in with a squeeze of fresh orange juice.  When making this though, remember that butter is the most important ingredient.  Don’t be afraid to use a little extra in this dish, as it is considered to be the most important flavor.  The below recipe is inspired from a recipe I saw on matprat.no – you can use this as a foundation to build your own dish or follow it precisely.   Like many dishes in the Norwegian cuisine, this dish as a great taste but may look a bit “pale” , so it’s nice to garnish it with some green, fresh herbs in addition to the bacon to liven it up a bit.

PLUKKFISK MED BACON

1 1/2 lb of cod, cleaned and picked of bones, cooked

10 Yukon gold potatoes

2 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced

1 leek, thinly sliced

3 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tsp salt

white pepper to taste

For the bechamel sauce:

5 tbsp butter

5 tbsp all purpose flour

1 quart whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp)

12 slices thick bacon

Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water, until almost done (some resistance when piercing them with a fork or cake tester).  Let them cool and dice into cubes.

To make the sauce, gently heat the milk in a small saucepan. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, add in the flour. Let it form a roux (but not brown) and start gradually adding in the warm milk while constantly whisking.  Season with salt and pepper and let cook for about 10 minutes.  The sauce should be relatively thick.

In another large sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the onions and leek until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.  Add in the cubed potatoes, bechamel sauce and pieces of fish and let simmer on low heat for a couple of minutes to let the flavors blend.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Saute the bacon in a dry pan until crisp.  Serve the plukkfisk topped with the crispy bacon, additional sliced leeks or chopped chives, and a dollop of butter and flatbrød or regular bread.

plukkfisk

Photo Source:  http://www.dinmat.no

Kalvedans – a dessert so good the calves dance

This dessert is Norway’s answer to France’s creme brulee or Italy’s panna cotta.   Kalvedans is made from raw milk from cows that have just given birth,  from the first, second and part of the third day following the arrival of the baby calves.  Technically this is not really milk, but a nutritious secretion from all mammals following birth, before regular milk is produced.  This liquid is particularly high in protein  (15%) , but low in lactose (milk sugars).  It also has a higher content of vitamin A than regular milk.  Because the milk- like liquid is so rich in protein, no addition of eggs is necessary because the milk coagulates when heated.  Now you might think “ew this doesn’t sound appetizing”, but in the old days, it was important to use every bit of the raw ingredients available. It was vital for the economy, but it also gave people creativity to make exciting (and delicious might I add)  products and dishes.  Besides, this is where you really can understand the close connection people had to their food! I think it’s great to carry this tradition on.

kalvedansfinnmarken

Image: finnmarken.no

This raw milk dessert was hence named “kalvedans”, which translates into “calf dance”.   Not sure the calves were dancing as much as the humans after having tasted this deliciousness, however it makes for a fancy name!  A much richer flavor than any creme brule I’ve ever tasted, it relies on the complexity and freshness of the raw milk rather than the sugary sweetness of the caramelization that creme brule goes through.

My favorite aunt, Gudrun, lived only a stone’s throw away from us in my home town of Sykkylven, and she along with my uncle Nils had a farm with many cows, chickens, horses and other animals.   Aunt Gudrun was widely known as the number one cook in town,  she cooked everything from scratch and was like a lexicon when it came to old, traditional dishes and how to make them.   She was one of the few people I had heard of that regularly made kalvedans, and it was in fact in her house I tasted it for the first time. Later on, my mom learned to make it and she would get the milk from aunt Gudrun.  I vividly remember the excitement I felt when I learned that aunt Gudrun’s cows had given birth, as I knew that was synonymous with upcoming kalvedans.  There was something magical about this dish, not like any other dessert out there.  The flavor cannot be replicated anywhere else,  it epitomizes the flavor of a specific place, almost like wine mimics its terroir.  I feel so fortunate now thinking back to my childhood, and how I grew up eating foods that originated from around the corner. There were no processed foods (with the exception of the rare product here and there), everything was made from scratch and the animals that so generously produced the foods we enjoyed were respected and honored.

kalv

To this day, I regret not spending more time with my aunt on my regular trips to Norway, not only to to learn old techniques from her, but to listen to more of the stories she had from growing up.  She died a few years ago at the age of 92, the oldest of five children, and she is dearly missed.

The recipe calls for one third raw milk, and two thirds regular milk.  One is to use the first milk from the cow after the calves are born.  If the second or the third milk is used, the regular milk portion has to be reduced.  Almond extract or cinnamon and a bit of sugar is added to the milk, and the mixture is placed in a hot water bath, where the temperature is carefully watched so that the milk doesn’t boil.  The pudding is baked for about 1 hour, and enjoyed with additional cinnamon and milk.  Other names for this dessert could be “råmelkspudding”, “kjelost” or “spannost”.

ramelkspudding

Image: bygdekvinnelaget.no

Naturally, raw milk is extremely hard to get a hold of these days, but perhaps you can develop a relationship with your local farmer and ask him or her if it would be possible to get access to some.  Technically not legal in the U.S. as all milk has to be pasteurized (the same goes for cheese), I always feel sorry for people who never get the opportunity to discover the true, rich flavors of raw milk products.

I’ve supplied a basic recipe for kalvedans in this post.  You can enjoy it either warm right out of the oven or chilled – either way is tasty. Try this for a true taste of rural Norway!

KALVEDANS

3 cups raw milk, mixed from the 1st and 2nd day

1 cup whole milk

4 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300F.

Combine all ingredients and pour into a deep ovenproof, flame proof pan (a loaf pan would work).  Fill a deep tray with hot water that reaches half way up the form, place in oven and bake for about 1 hour.  Check to see that the pudding is firm before removing from oven. Can be served hot, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Many people serve it chilled topped with a raspberry or strawberry sauce, but in my house we ate it with cinnamon and poured milk over it.   Alternatively, if you want to serve it more like a creme caramel, you would pour melted, caramelized sugar over the top before placing it in the oven.

ramelkspudding1

Image: norsknatur.no

Arme riddere – a cooler name for French toast

Who knew Norway had French toast?  Pieces of white bread dipped in milk, eggs, cinnamon and sugar, then fried in a pan until golden brown and topped with jam.  The epitome of a decadent dish made with inexpensive ingredients. What’s not to love?  The french actually call this dish “Pain Perdu”,  while in Germany they call it “Arme Ritter” . In England it is referred to as “eggy bread” while the Scottish probably take the medal for the coolest name with “Gangsta Bread”.   In Sweden the term used is “Fattiga Riddare” and in Denmark and Norway,  the dish is called “Arme Riddere”.   This translates to “Poor Knights”.   Why the name?  If knights ate this dish,  I certainly don’t feel sorry for them.  🙂 There doesn’t seem to be an exact story behind the reason for the name, but “poor” would most likely refer to the fact that this is a cheap dish to make.   Finding use for bread that has gone stale and making it into a delicate and tasty meal, suggests that the dish has a long history and some researchers suggest it dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.  Where the knights come in seems to still be a mystery.

Arme riddere is an incredibly easy dish that qualifies for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack anytime of day. Using leftovers and any ingredients you have in your fridge or cabinets, this makes for a classic go-to meal not just in Norway, but everywhere in the world.  This dish is also something Norwegians would refer to as “restemat”, Norwegian for ‘leftovers’.  Coming up with a new recipe with leftover ingredients is one of my favorite things to do, there is a certain feeling of creativity and achievement that arises from this that I don’t get otherwise.

There are a million different varieties of Arme Riddere, not just sweet versions.  One of my favorite Norwegian websites to visit for ideas is matprat.no.  I like that they have a mixture of both classic and more modern recipes. Not living in Norway,  I love keeping up to date with how Norwegians come up with spin offs of traditional dishes, making them more current, and in some cases, more decadent. So props to this website for doing a great job and inspiring me to create my own!

So what type of arme riddere can you make? There is of course the classic version, as mentioned above.  Pieces of toast dipped in a standard egg-milk-sugar mixture, fry it in a pan and top with your favorite fruit jam:

armeridderematprat

Image: matprat.no

If you have day old bread and feel like making an easy dinner or snack, you can always add some cheese and ham, and top it with an egg, sunny side up. Delicious!

armeridderematprat2

Image: matprat.no

Some people choose to call this dish “Rich Knights” (Rike Riddere) because it can end up being quite rich, like this version, where sponge cake is substituted for regular toast, and is topped with whipped cream, red currants and crushed pistachios.  You can also add whipped cream, bananas, or fruits of your choice, perhaps drizzle it with chocolate sauce if you want to be extra naughty.

armeridderematprat3

Image: matprat.no

Below is a basic recipe you can use, and the toppings I will leave to your imagination, or you can take some inspiration from the suggestions above.  By the way, there is nothing wrong with using whole wheat or whole grain bread should you wish, this might be a good option for breakfast, in particular.  I hope you’ll have some fun with this dish, and add it to your repertoire this weekend! Don’t forget to visit my Facebook page for more tips, fun facts and posts on Norwegian cuisine http://facebook.com/forkandglass

ARME RIDDERE

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

6 pieces of day old bread (white)

butter for sauteing bread

Mix eggs, milk and seasonings together in a shallow bowl. Dip the pieces of bread thoroughly  in the mixture. Add butter to a saute pan over medium heat and place pieces in the pan, saute on each side until golden brown. Top with your favorite jam or drizzle with maple syrup and dust with confectioners sugar.  Alternatively, if you want a savory dish, top with sliced ham, turkey or chicken and/or an egg, sunny side up.

Lomper: the tortillas of Norway

This morning I just noticed a huge bag of Yukon gold potatoes in my cabinet that I had completely forgotten about. Luckily they were still good  but I wanted to make something with them before they started to sprout.   Being Norwegian of course I am not lacking in ideas of what to do with potatoes.  As I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts, where would Norway be without potatoes?  We seem to eat it with practically every meal, as this is an easy crop to grow in a  cold weather country such as ours.

This blog is somewhat focused around traditional recipes from my homeland,  so what better food to make on a Saturday afternoon than Norwegian lomper?  I can hardly think of a more classic example of a popular food from my country. A soft flatbread made up with cooked potatoes and a bit of flour,  these have a long history in Norway and is similar to the Mexican tortilla,  Italian piadina,  Indian roti or  Middle Eastern lavash.  Every country in the world has their version of this type of flatbread, and is the epitome of every day foods that are highly loved.   Lomper also qualifies as a healthy wrap in that it is frequently made with whole wheat or whole grain flours and contain no fat (oil or butter).  Amazingly, they  are incredibly flavorful as well because of the potatoes, and have a  very attractive, soft and velvety texture.

Some  people think lomper is the same as  potato lefser ,  however  in  my opinion,  lomper are more rustic and thicker while definitely a lot easier and quicker to make than the traditional “lefser”.   Other names for lomper are potetkaker (potato cakes) and  hellekaker (the latter term is used  in western  Norway).   Potetkaker were usually eaten plain, and only on Sundays was it served with butter.  Hellekaker  were  made  with oatmeal, oat flour or barley flour prior to  the arrival of the potato in Norway.

lomper2

Lomper act as a wrap for both sweet and savory food.  You can make a delightful spread with butter, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, or fill them with sour cream and lingonberries,  and you have a delectable sweet treat. Add in smoked salmon and cream cheese with some chopped dill, or as I did tonight – grill strips of chicken, saute vegetables and add a dollop of tangy yogurt- cucumber  dip, and you have lunch, dinner or a savory snack in between meals. I love the versatility of lomper, plus it has that authentic Norwegian taste I so often have crave and brings me  right back home.  While I hear lomper is originally from Sweden,  this food has  such a long history in Norway, I feel that we can share the glory of who came up with this creation.

When making lomper you can use any type of flour or a combination of different flours. The best and most pliable lomper are made by using barley flour and potatoes. I’ve chosen a combination of flours in the recipe below, but feel free to substitute whatever you have in house.   You can also make them entirely gluten free, which is useful for those who are intolerant of gluten.

Please note the dough is not the  easiest to handle, and may take you a few times to master. The dough should just barely come together to be able to roll it out, but it might feel extremely porous compared to regular dough, because of the low quantity of flour added.   The key  is to be conservative with the flour, as the flour taste should not predominate, but let the flavor of the potato shine through and also avoid the texture from becoming too dense.  Use a very light hand when rolling it out, and make sure you constantly coat your rolling pin with flour (not too much!) to avoid it from sticking.

Adjusting  and achieving the correct heat on the griddle  or stove is  also important. If you bake them on too high of a heat ,the lompe will still be raw on the inside when done on the outside,  but if the heat is too low they become hard and chewy.  Experiment with a few at first and see what levels work best.  Most times, baking and cooking is all about trial and error!

The classic lompe might be the one with  lots  of good butter, sugar and cinnamon, this truly is a culinary experience! Humble yes, but sometimes simple is  the most satisfying. I sure had a big smile on my face this afternoon while enjoying them with my coffee!

lompecinnamonsugar

Another popular way to enjoy lomper is to  spread it with a bit of mustard, add a hot dog in the middle and roll it up. This is a popular substitute (and a more authentic Norwegian version) for the hot dog bun.  I also like to add shrimp salad on my hot dog (yes, very typical Norwegian) for an extra fancy version.   You will see the “pølse og lompe” being served at many stands during ball games in Norway and it’s also a popular street food on  17th of May (our national Independence Day).

lompehotdog

I probably made the most delicious lompe tonight for dinner, where I filled them with grilled chicken, sauteed onion, peppers and mushrooms and  a tzatziki dip.  I can’t explain the happiness I  felt other than to say it was heaven in a bite!

lompechickenThe limit to fillings is your imagination – anything will taste good wrapped in lomper, believe me! Instead of buying pre-made wraps at the supermarket, do yourself a favor and try this recipe out – while they may take a little work,  you won’t mind when  experiencing  the pleasure  of eating them when they are done, hot off the griddle with your favorite filling.   Enjoy!!

LOMPER

Makes about  14 lomper

2 lbs potatoes (you can use  either Russet or Yukon Gold)

1/2 cup  all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1/4 cup barley flour

1 tsp salt

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until soft when pierced through with a knife.  Drain  and mash  them with  a tsp of  salt.  In another bowl combine all the  flours, then add the mashed potatoes to the flour mixture. Knead until the dough starts to come together.  Please note that you must be careful  adding too  much flour – that will cause the lomper to get hard.  Resist the urge to add more because you think the dough is too sticky.   Lomper should be soft and almost velvety in texture when baked.

lompebatter

Divide the batter into 14 balls and roll out into about 20 cm/10 inch circles (about 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick). Place onto a 12 inch dry skillet  (or if you have a lefse griddle even better) or a grill on medium-high heat and cook until you get dark spots on both sides.  The lompe should not have any flour on the outside when placed in the skillet.

lompeongriddle

Place the lomper on top of each other on a plate and cover with a towel.   As you can see, some flour ended up on mine,  but practice makes perfect so next time they will be 100% flour free when done!  (They were still incredibly delicious though, if I may say so myself).  The fresh potato smell and the softness and freshness of the lomper truly is irresistible and can’t compare to anything you will get in the supermarket! What are you waiting for? Go on and make!

lompestack

lomper

“Nistepakke” – the classic Norwegian lunchbag updated

As a young student  growing up in Norway,  my mom (and sometimes my dad) would make my “niste” every day to bring to school : slices of homemade whole grain bread topped  with brown cheese, liverwurst with beets or cucumber, “fårepølse” (a sort of salami) or our famous caviar in tubes among other selections, wrapped in parchment paper.  This was my lunch  during break at school, there was no such thing as school cafeterias back then, until we got to high school and the selections weren’t that great then either. So we pretty much relied on our  little parchment wrapped sandwiches, and when I look back on it; it was a pretty healthy alternative to what children are offered today.

nistepakke1

Photo: frukt.no

Modern “nistepakker” today are not as limited, and can include many other options than just sliced bread.   Why not get creative and bring wraps, nut mixtures, whole grain waffles or pancakes topped with cheese or jam, yogurt with granola, pasta salads, fruit salads,  shrimp salads, scones… the choices continue.   The idea of a ‘nistepakke’  is that you can (and should) use leftovers from dinner the previous nights, mix and match foods you find in your fridge and cupboards  and come up with a quick recipe to create tasty, satisfying meals to bring along to school and work.  Not only is it healthier, but also more economical, and you definitely will know what you are putting in your body!

Lunsjboks

For two years, my husband and I were involved with the “Chefs Move to School” program in  our local community, where we would visit the school in our town and teach the kids (anyone from kindergarten to 8th grade) how to make healthy foods made with vegetables they grow in their school garden.  It was incredibly rewarding to see kids eat fresh vegetables, learning about the different types,  and be excited about making recipes that they themselves came up with. Kids are incredibly creative and their enthusiasm was infectious.  After we created a recipe together, we cooked it and tasted it, and the dish was then presented and served in the school cafeteria to all the children the following week. The children took ownership of it because they were involved in the process, and many chose to buy the special dish as opposed to many other not so healthy offerings in school cafeterias that are processed and frozen.  A great initiative  I wish more schools in this country would take part in.

Here is Mark (My husband) helping a student grind spices in the molcajete (mortar and pestle) at Haldane School here in Cold Spring:

HaldaneBroccoliday1

This made me think of Norway’s “nistepakker” and although many kids no longer bring their lunch bags, this is definitely a big Norwegian tradition, and I hope it comes back to popularity among kids today, because I firmly believe it helps curb obesity among young people and sets the standard for good life habits going forward.  Nistepakker are also popular to bring along on hiking and skiing trips. There is something wonderfully comforting in eating a homemade “nistepakke”!

Norwegians aren’t necessarily used to eating a hot lunch, they reserve most of their appetite for dinner, which is also typically not eaten as late as in other countries (5-6 pm at the  latest).  Lunch then would consist of room temp foods,  and often be a repeat of breakfast.  Lunch break is often a quick 30 minutes, so most prefer something casual and easy.   Some people think of ‘nistepakke’ as ultra Norwegian; humble, efficient and …stingy?  🙂  Norwegians traditionally would never go out to eat lunch at a restaurant or a cafe (as opposed to the Swedes), and were economically “sensible” by bringing their own food to work.   This of course is slowly changing with the  times. The discussion continues, but I think, if nothing else, niste is a healthy tradition!

palegg

Photo: Supermarket.no

In this post, I want to give you some alternatives to just plain slices of bread for your nistepakke or lunch box, as mentioned earlier.  I particularly like the idea of making some healthy waffles or pancakes, these are just as healthy and nutritious as whole grain breads, and even lighter on the stomach.

Another fabulous thing about these whole grain waffles is that they taste equally delicious with both sweet and savory toppings.   Try them spread with creme fraiche and topped with fresh little shrimp sprinkled with chopped dill, Norwegian “gjetost” topped with raspberry or blueberry jam, smoked salmon and guacamole, nutella and sliced banana, strawberry jam with sour cream, freshly sliced fruit with whipped cream, ham with sliced tomatoes and a dollop of mayonnaise or mustard, sliced boiled eggs with caviar, or goat cheese with cucumbers, sliced peppers and cracked pepper.  The options are endless! Whatever YOU like to eat – go for it!

Below are two recipes, the first one is an extremely healthy rye waffle recipe, while the second one is a bit more luxurious although still largely whole grain.  You can also make these into pancakes if you don’t have a waffle iron. Test them both out and let me know your favorite!

GROVE RUGVAFLER   (RYE WAFFLES )

Makes 8 “sheets” of waffles

1 cup rye flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup  skim milk or 2 %  milk

1  cup coconut milk

2 eggs

2 tbsp sugar

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl then mix eggs, coconut milk and milk in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients in to the dry ingredients and combine well to a smooth batter. Let sit for about 30 minutes before cooking the  waffles in your heart shaped waffle iron (or a regular iron will do just fine if you don’t have a  Norwegian one!).

hardevaflersynovedreyer

Photo Credit:  Synøve Dreyer, matprat.no

 

GROVE VAFLER   (WHOLE GRAIN WAFFLES)

150 grams  / 2/3 cups all purpose flour

125 grams / 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

75g / 1/3 cup rolled oats

2 eggs

2 tbsp honey or sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 cups milk

50 grams / 3 tbsp butter

Whisk eggs, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.  Separately, mix the flours and oats together in a bowl. Add in the flour mixture inter mixed with the milk. Melt the butter and add this in the end.  Let the batter rest for about 30 min before cooking it according to your waffle iron’s instructions.  Note: You can also make this batter the day before you want to make it – sometimes the waffles taste even better then!

grovevafler1

Photo Credit: tinepartner.no

Another option would be to include a salad in your “nistepakke”.  If stored in a cool place, I would recommend making this delicious cheese and shrimp  salad. You can bring crackers or slices of bread and enjoy with this, it’s a light and refreshing alternative to a sandwich and is a perfect food now that the weather is getting warmer and you may want food that are more summery and fresh.

OST OG REKE SALAT  (Cheese and Shrimp Salad)

adapted f rom melk.no

200 grams/7 oz jarlsberg, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

250 grams / 9 oz fresh shrimp, small

1 celery stalk, sliced thinly

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced small

1/2 head ice berg lettuce, chopped

Dressing:

1 1/2 cup low fat sour cream

juice from one lemon

1 tbsp ketchup

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

salt and white pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.   In a separate small bowl, combine all the ingredients of the dressing  and dress the salad lightly. Serve with a nice piece of homemade bread!

ostogrekesalatmelkno

Photo Credit:  melk.no

Trilogy of Scandinavian Breads Part 3: Barley rolls

In part one and two I covered breads made with rye and whole wheat, so it’s only appropriate that I include a bread made with barley in the final part of this series.  To switch it up a bit, I decided to make some rolls this time, or as we call them in Norway “rundstykker”. There is something special about these rolls in Norway, they taste to delicious, crunchy, light and wholesome –  I can’t seem to replicate them exactly the way they taste at home. But… practice makes perfect and these barley rolls sure come close!

Rundstykker

Barley has been grown in Scandinavia since the Stone Ages.  Barley means “what is cultivated”, and  is one of the oldest grains known to man. It was probably cultivated at the same time as durum wheat in Syria and Iraq, and was mentioned in old scriptures from China to ancient Egypt.  In the Bible,  barley was one of seven different types of porridge the Israelites were promised in the land of Canaan, as well as in the story where Jesus fed 5,000 people in the dessert, where the foundation of the foods were two loaves of barley bread and five fish.  In Norway, it was the first grain  cultivated, and was one of the most important foods in Scandinavia until the last century.  Today, unfortunately barley has taken a bit of a backseat but because of it’s nutritional value has started to gain some interest yet again.

In the old days, barley had a respectable place in medicinal history, where barley was used to heal many health conditions.  Porridge cooked with barley was  placed on many bodily areas to offset pain.  Barley’s high nutritional value was known from the old days, and in the old scriptures we learn about its capacity to provide strength and energy.

If you were to describe Nordic food,  barley surely would be in the top ten.  This is because barley is a very hardy plant, and its growth period is only 90-120 days, thus can be cultivated in climates with very short summers (like Norway).  Barley today is mostly used in beer brewing- a popular alcoholic drink in Scandinavia and the rest of the world.

byggryn

In old recipes, we see barley frequently as one of the ingredients, as barley were used in soups, stews, porridge, gratins, salads, baked goods such as cookies, rolls,  flatbreads (knekkebrød) and breads, as well as an ingredient for thickeners in sauces.  This grain is now being marketed as a healthy alternative to rice (barley risotto, anyone?) , because it provides more nutrients and fiber and naturally lowers cholesterol in the blood as well as lower risk for diabetes. Barley also contains a lot of iron and is rich in B-vitamins.

Barley does not contain enough gluten to really be a good baking flour, hence it’s always necessary to add regular wheat flour to the dough. But barley provides really good flavor when mixed with wheat, and has great capacity of binding with water. That means that breads made with barley stays juicy for a long time.

I found an interesting recipe back in the day for barley rolls – they have such depth of flavor and brings me back to a good, old Scandinavian bakery.   Please note, the rolls don’t get  golden/brown on top when done- they remain pale, just like the Nordic people 🙂

RUNDSTYKKER MED BYGGMEL  (Barley Rolls)

(makes about 24 rolls)

3 cups water

1 cup barley

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp sugar

75 grams fresh yeast / 1 1/2 packet dry yeast (3 1/2 tbsp)

1 tbsp whole coriander seeds, crushed

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup barley meal

4 cups all purpose flour

In a sauce pot, add the water and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, place a lid on the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the oil and sugar, stir to combine. Pour into a mixing bowl and let it cool to about 37C /98F.   Mix the yeast with a little bit of water and add into the barley mixture, along with the coriander, salt and barley meal. Add most of the all purpose flour.  Knead the dough well until smooth and firm.   Place in bowl and cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour.

 

barleyrollsdough

 

Place dough on a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary. Divide the dough in half, and roll out to a link about 12-15 inches, and cut each link into 10-12 pieces. Roll into rounds or oval shape and place on to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F.   Brush the rolls with milk and bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack, and enjoy with your favorite topping.  The texture of the barley, mixed with the barley meal, coriander and wheat flour is really something special!

barleyrollstray

barleyrolls2

barleyrolls

‘Tropical Aroma’ – Norway’s most popular chocolate cake?

Judging by the name,  my thoughts certainly don’t wander to the Nordic countries, but then again how does the saying go? “Opposites attract”? Which country does not love chocolate? And by adding a few spices into the cake, this could certainly qualify as “tropical”.   A deep chocolate flavor is produced by adding dark cocoa and  hints of cinnamon and nutmeg adds that little extra to make this a very special chocolate cake indeed.  There are several varieties of this cake – one can be made with just dark (chocolate) batter, another has a mixture of white and dark batter, which is the classic version, and the one I have selected to make for this blog post.  There is also a “light” version, with only white cake batter, but coated with chocolate cream.  This is definitely one of Norway’s most popular chocolate cakes.

tropiskaromakakestykke2

Many Norwegians remember getting served “Tropisk Aroma” when visiting their grandma’s house, or when attending confirmations, weddings and anniversaries.  The cake was even better if allowed to stand in a cool place for several days, but more often than not, the cake didn’t last that long.

Norway might not have the most sophisticated chocolate cakes in the world, but there’s  something to be said for that familiar flavor, look and consistency that just reminds you of HOME. Of a happy childhood, fun times with friends and family and recipes that makes you want to cook. That is why I love these cakes- most Norwegian cakes you whip up in less than 10 minutes and they taste delicious. Juicy, flavorful and satisfying – that is what I want in a cake.

Try this the next time you’re having friends or family over for coffee – a perfect companion to this cake.

TROPISK AROMA  (Tropical Aroma)

200 grams/7 oz butter, softened

1 1/2 cups (380g) granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 cups (450 g) all purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla sugar (or substitute vanilla extract)

1 3/4 cups milk or buttermilk

For the dark batter:

2  tbsp good quality cocoa powder

For chocolate glaze:

7 tbsp butter, softened

1 1/2 cups (380g) confectioners sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)

3 tbsp strong coffee

1 egg

To make cake batter:   Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Line two 10-inch cake pans (24 cm) with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl sift the flour, baking powder and spices together.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg well into the batter.   Add in the flour mixture and milk interchangeably, mixing until just combined (don’t over whisk).   Pour about 1/3 of the batter into a separate bowl, and whisk in the cocoa powder.

tropiskaromadividebatter

tropiskaromacocoabatter

Pour in the two batters into the two cake pans.

tropiskaromabatters

Bake the dark batter for about 15-20  minutes and the white batter for about 35 minutes (depending on your oven)  in the middle rack of the oven.

tropiskaromakaker

Remove and cool.   While the cakes are cooling, prepare the chocolate glaze. In a stand mixer, whip the butter with the confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla sugar. Add in the egg and the coffee and whisk until it forms a smooth glaze.

Carefully remove the parchment paper from the cakes. Divide the white cake in half,  smear some of the chocolate glaze in between the layers- place the dark cake in the middle, top with the second half of the white cake.  Glaze the rest of the cake with the chocolate cream- garnish with shaved chocolate on top if you wish. Some pipe ornate chocolate cream roses on top  which I think are really pretty too. I was in a hurry today so I just wanted to make  it and eat it! 🙂

This cake turned out soooo juicy and delicious – I promise you it will be your new favorite chocolate cake!!

tropiskaromakakehel

tropiskaromakakesliced

 

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Trilogy of Scandinavian breads Part 2: Kneippbrød

I don’t think there is a translation for Kneippbrød, because this bread was named after Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest and doctor who  was also one of the founders or naturopathic medicine movement. He is most commonly associated with the “Kneipp Cure” form of hydrotherapy- the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures which he claimed to have therapeutic or healing effects (source: wikipedia).

sebastiankneipp

In Norway however, Kneipp is most famous for his whole wheat bread recipe.  Dr. Kneipp was the first person to use the entire grain (the outside shell, kernel, germ, etc) when making bread. He believed that a healthy diet consisted of water and bread and many doctors and dentists prescribed kneippbrød for healing stomach, teeth and blood ailments.    Søren Mittet, a book publisher,  brought back the recipe to Norway after a hospital stay in Germany.   A baker named Hansen baked Norway’s first kneippbrød in 1895 and since then, kneippbrød has remained one of the most commonly eaten breads in Norway. It is estimated that 60  million kneippbrød are sold yearly in Norway, which means every Norwegian eats at least one bread per month…

Kneippbrød is a whole wheat flour bread, often a mixture of whole wheat and white whole wheat flour.

I used these flours in my recipe:

kneippflours

Skim milk is often the liquid base, and the bread has a crispy crust, which gives it a nice texture.  There truly isn’t a bread like it anywhere else in the world, that is how special I feel this loaf is!

kneipp2

While growing up this used to be my absolute favorite bread – mostly because my mom would not make it (and I think most would resort to buying it at the bakery as well), it was finer and much different from the breads my mom would make.  So of course I could only get it if my mom was in a good mood (or extremely busy and didn’t have time to bake her own bread)  and went to our local bakery to get it… Excitement always lies in something different, doesn’t it??:)

I was incredibly happy with my recipe for this bread- I don’t often brag about my breads, but this really turned out just like I wanted it to. I will say also that upon researching kneippbrød,  it was not easy to come upon a recipe ! So… to toot my own blog, I’m happy to include one and hopefully one that you will thoroughly enjoy! Keep in mind that baking times vary – some ovens are really strong, while others may take longer, keep an eye on the bread- baking it in the lowest rack does sometime cause a bit of burning on the bottom so please check within 30 minutes of baking that all is well. Happy baking!

KNEIPPBRØD

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups skim milk

1 cup water

1 packet instant yeast or 50 grams fresh yeast

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

4 cups whole wheat flour

4 cups white whole wheat flour

Heat the milk and water until about 37c/98F. Add the oil and then the yeast, let sit for a couple of minutes to proof.  Add in the whole wheat flour first along with the sugar and salt, then add in the white whole wheat flour.  Knead the dough for several minutes until you have a smooth and firm dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap place in a warm spot and let proof  for about one hour. Alternatively, place it in a cold spot for hours (called cold proofing)- if you choose this method, add the yeast to cold milk/water (see above), don’t heat it.  Proofed dough after one hour:

kneipprisendough

Knead the dough once again on a floured work surface, add more flour if necessary. Divide into two loaves, shape them and place into buttered loaf pans, and let them proof again for 1-2 hours.  Proofed loaves after one hour before they went into the oven:

kneippunbakedloaves2

Preheat oven to 400F (200C).  Bake in oven on the lowest rack for about 45 minutes.  Pour a bit of cold water over the breads about 5 minutes before they are done. Leave them in the oven until a crust has formed and is dried.  Cool on rack.

kneipploavesbaked

They are of course best when just out of the oven, but when stored correctly, these breads can last for several days (not in my house though! 🙂

kneippskive

Trilogy of Scandinavian Breads Part 1: Rye bread

Scandinavians are known for being big bread lovers and hence we are big consumers of this food.   Besides our famous open face sandwiches which we serve at various occasions, both breakfast and our evening snack often consists of hearty breads topped with a variety of meats, cheeses, jams and vegetables.

brødskive

Photo Credit: Svein Brimi

What distinguishes breads from Scandinavia is that most often they are made with whole grains and are often healthier, darker, denser and contain more nutrients (dare I say) than breads from the southern parts of Europe, where white flour dominates (baguetttes, focaccia, ciabatta, etc.).   Rye breads are particularly popular in Denmark, but Norwegians also love this type of bread.   Today I will start a trilogy of posts that will talk about specific breads from the Nordic countries, and hope you will join me in trying these out for yourself!

ryeloaf

Rye is a grain that arrived early in the Nordic countries, most likely from the old Russia.  The vikings were the first people who started to grow this type of grain, because they were of the opinion that rye gave them increased amounts of strength.  Besides, rye was used in both porridge and breads, and by the middle Ages, rye was the grain  most often used in Norway.

wheat as background

For a long period of time, the interest in rye was declining, and Norwegian neither grew nor used rye very much.  However, today’s research on how rye prevents certain illnesses and is a healthy addition to a diet, has helped increase the interest yet again in this grain.

Rye does not contain the same type of gluten as wheat. This means that rye bread never can be as light and airy as regular wheat breads.  Rye breads will turn out very compact and rather heavy so some people choose to add some regular all purpose flour to the mix.   Rye breads will keep for a long time, and the fiber content in rye helps keep the bread juicy and moist for a long time.  This type of bread also have a rounder, richer taste than breads baked with just regular flour.   Rye breads take a bit longer to rise, because the dough is heavier to work with and also a bit more laborious.  All this aside, it is definitely worth the effort!

I’ve included two different recipes for rye breads below – one that contains a mixture of rye and white flour, and another that is strictly made up of rye.  They can be made simultaneously quite easily, so test them out and find out which one you prefer!

JUICY RYE BREAD

(makes 2 loaves)

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/4 cups orange juice

50  grams fresh yeast or 1 1/2 packet dry instant yeast (3 1/2 tsp)

2 tsp salt

1 tbs caraway seeds

1 quart rye flour

4 cups  (or slightly less) all purpose flour

Mix warm water with cold orange juice, the temperature should be about 37 degrees Celcius/98 degrees Fahrenheit.  Crumble the fresh yeast or drizzle the dry yeast into the liquid and let stand for a couple of minutes until it makes bubbles.

In a separate bowl, mix the rye flour, salt,  and caraway. Mix in the yeast liquid and combine well. Add the all purpose flour until you have a firm and smooth dough. Let the dough rise in a warm spot covered by a towel for about 1 hour.

Place the dough onto a floured work surface.  Knead for about five minutes, add more all purpose flour if necessary. Divide the dough into two parts, shape them into loaves and place into loaf pans that have been coated with butter and/or spray.  Let the breads rise under a towel again for about 45 minutes or so.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush the top of the loaves with some water, and place in oven on the middle rack and bake for about 40-45 minutes.  Cool loaves, slice and enjoy with your favorite topping!

ryeloaves2

DANISH RYE BREAD   (Rugbrød)

1/2 cup water

1 cup buttermilk

50 grams fresh yeast or 1 1/2 packet dry instant yeast (3 1/2 tbsp)

50 grams /3 1/2 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

about 4 cups sifted rye flour

warm milk for brushing loaf

Melt the butter in a pot, add in water and buttermilk and combine, let the temperature reach about 37 c/98F.  Mix in the yeast and let sit for about 3 minutes to proof.

In a separate bowl, sift in the rye flour and salt.  Pour in the yeast mixture and knead until a smooth and firm dough.  Place the dough in a warm spot, cover with a towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Place the dough on to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  Roll the dough into a loaf size and place it into a buttered loaf pan.   Score the top with a knife, let it rise again for another hour, covered by a towel.  Preheat oven to 400F (200C).

Brush the top of the loaf with some warm milk, and bake on the lowest rack in oven for about 40 minutes.  Cool and slice into open face sandwiches, top with whatever your heart desires!

ryebreadsliced