Norwegian Krokan-is; the world’s best?

As I continue to moan about the hot and humid weather, the only thing I could even fathom making in terms of food this week was… ice cream! Besides being my favorite kind of dessert, there is nothing that compares to that cooling feeling of ice cream with a creamy, sweet and crunchy mouth feel of Norwegian “krokan-is”.  Dangerously good!!

krokanis4

“Krokan” is a word we use in Norwegian that I haven’t been able to find a direct translation for in English – but describes caramelized sugar combined with butter and chopped  nuts and comes from the French word “croquant”, which means crunchy. There are a variety of other desserts that contains krokan,  including mousse dishes, the Norwegian cream cake “bløtkake” and a delicious milk chocolate called  “krokan rull” (krokan roll), popular among many Norwegians and non-Norwegians who have tried it:

krokanrull

I haven’t quite been able to find anything similar in the U.S.  to krokan-is in my years here.  Sure, there is praline ice cream and other vanilla ice creams with nuts and caramel, but there is a pure flavor combination to this Norwegian ice cream I can’t quite put words to;  it is just simply unmatched and must be experienced.   Mention krokan-is to anybody from Norway and they all seem to get this dreamy look on their face.  Look at this beautiful home made krokan brittle:

krokanbrittle

Krokan brittle is also sprinkled on soft serve vanilla ice cream in Norway, typically a big hit on May 17th, Norway’s constitution day:

krokansoftis

Making home made ice cream is ridiculously easy,  especially if you have one of these inexpensive ice cream makers (about $60 on Amazon.com):

icecreammaker

It’s perfectly fine to follow and make this recipe  even if you don’t have an ice cream machine, don’t despair! Serve it as is or spooned into a waffle cone. Some like it served with chocolate shavings – I prefer to take in all the wonderful, caramelized flavors of the krokan and the pure vanilla flavor of the ice cream and enjoy how perfectly well they go together.

Warning:  Once you make this,  going back to store bought ice cream or any other ice cream for that matter, will be very, very difficult.  This might be my favorite creation so far!  Happy ice cream making!!

KROKAN-IS

4 egg yolks

150 grams sugar

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split in half

For Caramelized Nuts:

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp butter

1 /2 cup almonds or hazelnuts (or a combination of both),  roughly chopped

Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean pod, and place in sauce pot with the milk and bring to a near simmer.  Take off heat and let cool off for a few minutes.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and well combined, add in the heavy cream and the milk mixture and mix well.

Melt the sugar and butter in a saute pan over medium heat until it starts darkening and turning into liquid, making sure it does not burn (do not move away from stove).  Add  the nuts and let it turn into a caramel color.

nutsandsugar

Pour the nut mixture onto a large sheet of parchment paper and let it seize up and harden.

krokan

Chop the mixture into small pieces and if making ice cream by hand, add into the ice cream mixture, stir to combine.  Place in freezer and stir every five-ten minutes to avoid the mixture from forming crystals. Alternatively,  pour mixture into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Typically the ice cream is churned for about 30 minutes, and the nuts added during the last 5 minutes. If the mixture isn’t thick/hard enough, you can always transfer ice cream to a separate airtight container and  freeze for a few more minutes.    I like mine pretty soft.  The result is something like this (Norwegian viking pewter spoon optional):

krokanis1

* Note: I’ve also seen this ice cream made with the Norwegian spreadable goat cheese Snøfrisk, and I can only imagine how lovely this would be! Try adding a container of that in for an extra tangy taste! My next batch will contain this cheese for sure!

krokanis3

Munkeby; a cheese made by monks

Ever since I started this blog,  my purpose and desire have remained to spread my knowledge about Norwegian cuisine through my native Norwegian experience living abroad, as well as trying to increase people’s awareness of my country’s food and traditions.  Mainly because I felt whenever “Scandinavian food” was mentioned,  everybody’s thoughts always went to Sweden or Denmark.  I heard of  “Swedish meatballs” and Danish “smørrebrød” and nobody had knowledge of any Norwegian food.  Norway fell in the background somehow,  and when questioned if they could name a Norwegian dish,  people’s faces would turn into a huge question mark.

Since I live in the U.S. now, my initial focus has been to share my recipes (both traditional and modern), stories and experiences growing up in the fjord country of Norway, with all my fellow Americans, but now my readers have shown to come from all over the world and I’m so delighted to hear from all of you and to find out you enjoy some of the posts I’ve put out.  Norway is not just about smoked salmon, “gjetost” and herring – we actually have developed quite a refined cuisine, and one of the foods I thoroughly think we could compete with the rest of the world is:  Cheese!

I realize I have written a lot about cheese lately, mostly Jarlsberg and gjetost, since these two cheeses are available in this country and my readers can get a hold of them.  But sometimes I need to write about products that are less known, in the hopes that someone will read this and get encouraged to import it!  So with that intro – let me present:  MUNKEBY Cheese!!

munkebyost

Image: fromagerie.no

This cheese is a semi soft washed cheese made from raw cow’s milk.   It is different from Brie, and connoisseurs will immediately realize that when smelling the aromas and by its feel and consistency.   With a sharp flavor, the consistency is creamy and melts slowly in the mouth.  The rind, which is fine and smooth, is washed by hand during the five week’s aging process.  The cheese is aged in a cellar on spruce planks and is turned daily.   The cheese is unpasteurized and completely natural without any additives.  Not necessarily easy to come by in Norway either because it is produced in such small quantities, it has become quite the sought after delicacy.

This is such a unique cheese, as it is produced by four monks in the first new monastery founded by the Abbaye de Citeaux since the 15th century (I encourage you to read about the history of the Abbey of Citeaux separately). Before arriving at the Munkeby monastery in Norway in 2006,  the brothers Father Cyril and Father Joe had both been responsible for the fromagerie in Citeaux for over 50 years between the two of them.  Here’s a photo of the French version:

abbayeciteauxcheese

There is not a whole lot of information about the original monastery Munkeby,  located in Frol by Levanger.  The Cistercian convent was well established before 1180, most likely founded by Lyse convent close to Bergen and shut down before Lyse founded the monastery  at Tautra in 1207.  The farm at Munkeby remained in operation under the Tautra convent until the reform period.  The ruins continued to speak to the people of Frol, who kept the monks’ traditions alive.  To the French monk’s big surprise (and the locals in Frol)  they were met by Norwegian farmers who had read Saint Bernard when they arrived in Norway in 2006.  Here are the four cheese making monks from left to right: Brother Cyril, Brother Arnaud, Brother Joel and Brother Bruno:

ystemunker

Image from Ivar Kvaal, dn.no

The locals had dreamed about founding a new monastery in the area, and the French monks had a desire to live a simpler convent life than the one in the larger, more complicated monastery organizations found in France.  They finally, after much discussion and planning with the locals, decided to build the convent  at a farm in town that was currently shut down.   Building a Catholic convent in today’s Norway certainly opens up to a lot of challenges and the need for communication and cooperation between the people, but the monks believed building a dairy farm would help bring the community together, helping the monks to understand daily life in Norway and also to learn the language.  There is the quick story of how the cheese came about!

The top quality milk used to make the Munkeby cheese comes from two neighboring farms in the area, and the brothers combine their experience to make a wonderful cheese that is based on both new and traditional methods.  The careful handling of the fresh milk keeps and develops a natural fullness and characteristics throughout the aging process.

munkebyost1Image from detnorskemaltid.no

Munkeby cheese has now become so popular in Norway that the monks no longer can keep up with demand. It has become the darling of many famous chefs and top restaurants in the country and the cheese has won several prizes in cheese competitions.  As one Norwegian chef, Tom-Victor Gausdal, wrote in a recent article:  “In a way,  I wish I were the only person who knew about this cheese, but some secrets are so great they just have to be shared!”

To properly be able to enjoy this cheese, I recommend eating it in the simplest of forms; spread it on home made crackers or fresh bread, with a nice glass of wine (or aquavit!).   Maybe even rolled up in a Norwegian lompe  (potato flat bread, almost like a tortilla) with some sliced bell peppers and cucumbers or fresh sliced apples – get the recipe for lompe here.

If you can’t get a hold of Munkeby but want to get a similar idea of how the cheese tastes, try Reblochon, Brillant Savarin or Epoisses, all available in the U.S.  Then when you are in Norway get the real deal!

 

Note: The information in this article was taken from the Munkeby Monastery’s website www.munkeby.net

Ice Cream Cake with Gjetost Filling

Judging by my latest posts, you must all think I’m obsessed by “gjetost”, this unusual caramelized whey that is pressed to look like a brown “cheese”, often called “brunost” (Norwegian for “brown cheese”) in Norway.  And you would of course be right! It’s difficult not to dream about this cheese after you’ve tasted it, imagining all kinds of recipes in which it can be added.

The past week has been brutal weather wise in NYC, with temperatures in the mid nineties and humidity that has made it feel way above that.  Needless to say I haven’t wanted to do much cooking, as my kitchen has no AC and my appetite has been unusually weak.  But today my fingers were itching to do cook something, going on a week since the last time I posted, and I landed on … ice cream of course!! This is a “roulade” cake, or a Swiss Roll cake, with an ice cream filling. The filling is home made vanilla ice cream mixed with shredded brunost and hazelnuts.   The cake turned out so delicious, but more importantly – tasted like an ice cream cake I would have at home in Norway. There is a special rustic flavor I just can’t explain… except that it is to die for!  Try making it this summer – it will make for an interesting addition to your dessert offerings!

icecreamcake4

ISKREM RULLADE MED BRUNOST (Ice Cream Roulade w/Brown Goat Cheese)

4 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

100 grams (3.5 oz)  shredded brunost

100 grams (3.5 oz) all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Filling:

* 1 quart vanilla ice cream   * see below

100 grams (3.5 oz) shredded brunost

60 grams (about 2 oz) hazelnuts, chopped

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 400F (200C).  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Carefully fold in the all purpose flour , baking powder and shredded brunost.   Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for about 8 minutes.    Pour sugar on to parchment paper a bit bigger than the size of the cake, and when removing the cake, turn the cake on to the sugar coated parchment paper and cover the cake with moist a hand towel to prevent from cracking.  Let cool.

To make filling:

Make sure the vanilla ice cream is soft enough to handle (remove from freezer about 15 minutes before making filling). In a bowl, mix the vanilla ice cream with the chopped hazelnuts and shredded brunost.

icecreamfillingbowl

Spread the filling on to the cooled cake and roll it carefully together starting at the longest side.

icecreamfillingcake

Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in freezer to chill completely.

icecreamcakewrapped

When ready to serve, slice it into rounds and serve it with fresh fruit of your choice.

icecreamcake2

I’ve added a recipe for home made vanilla ice cream below.  If you don’t feel making your own, you can certainly use store bought ice cream (make sure to pick a good brand!) and eliminate this step.  Secondly, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can place the mixture in a regular bowl in the freezer, just be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so to avoid crystals from forming in the ice cream.

VANILJEIS  (Home made Vanilla Ice Cream)

Adapted from Martha Stewart magazine

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped

2 cups cold milk

6 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the vanilla beans and scrapings with the milk. Bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat, and let steep, covered, 30 minutes.

Prepare an ice bath; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed until thick and pale, about 4 minutes.

Place milk mixture over medium-high heat; bring just to a simmer. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup hot-milk mixture into egg-yolk mixture, beating on low speed until blended. Continue adding milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.

Return mixture to saucepan; stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Custard should retain a line drawn across the back of the spoon with your fingertip.

Remove pan from heat; stir in chilled cream to stop cooking. Pour custard through a fine sieve into a medium bowl set in ice bath; let stand, stirring occasionally, until chilled. Stir in extract. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Scoop out and fill your ice cream cake – you will be happy you went to the trouble of making your own ice cream!

icecreamcake3