Kringle: The Nordic Pretzel

The kringle is a familiar Scandinavian pastry here in the U.S. among those familiar with Nordic cuisine. Often times referred to as the Nordic pretzel because of its similarity in shape, it is said to have arrived in the 13th century with the Roman Catholic monks.  Denmark is the country in Scandinavia best known for their “kringler”, and although I’m Norwegian must admit they perhaps have the slight upper hand when it comes to developing creative varieties of this delicious knotted-shaped pastry.

The kringle symbol is one of the few ancient guild signs still used, and a traditional golden kringle sign is often hung outside bakery shops. The shape is said to symbolize hands folded in a cross like pattern across the chest ) to mimic the way people prayed in the Middle Ages. (and not folding hands as is done today). According to history, a 7th century monk wanted to reward his students with small pieces of bread shaped in same way the children kept their arms during prayer.   He named the baked good “pretiolas” – “a little reward”.   The idea was quickly adopted across Europe, and the kringle became a symbol of luck and a long,  prosperous life.   The kringle achieved particular fame in 1510, when Turkish troops attempted to dig their way into access Austria by digging their way underground through the wall into Vienna. The bakers, who were the only ones at work at that time of night, heard the noise,  and the attack was stopped as a result.  As a reward the bakers received their own seal, which among other things included the kringle, which later became the bakers’ symbol.

kringlebakersymbol

Solvang Bakery in California:

solvangbakeryThe Norwegian word “kringle” is an old word, meaning ring or circle.   In his introductory notes in his royal history saga stories,  Snorre Sturlasson (an Icelandic poet and politician) described the creation of the world as  “Kringla heimsins” (the world’s circle) in Norse. His sagas have later become known as “Heimskringla”.  Who knew this pastry had such a long and interesting history?

Bergen is the place in Norway best known for their kringle.  The tradition most likely came from German or Dutch salesmen who conducted business on the dock in the coastal city (“Bryggen”).  Perhaps this is where the connection to the German, salty pretzel comes in?  Regardless, kringler from Bergen was hugely popular all over the country.  Fishermen from the north were not shy – they even transported kringler back home north in empty coffins!!

Both sweet and savory versions of kringler exists,  some are filled with nuts, confectioners glaze and pastry cream among many other delectable things.  “Kringler” in my area of Norway however, more often than not, are not filled, but rather plain – the pastry cream filled version we refer to as “wienerbrød” and I have a blog post about these amazingly tasty pastries here.

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I should also  quickly mention the correct pronounciation of kringle is “Kring-LUH” – not “Kring-EL” which so many Americans say and I sometimes don’t connect the dots about which pastry they are trying to tell me about 🙂

Last year I posted a recipe for “aniskringler” – a kringle flavored with whole anise seeds, which is probably one of the oldest kringle recipes out there.  Most Norwegians who remember this version, probably had their grandmothers serve this – as was the case with me. I love the simplicity of the flavors and preparations in it; both savory and sweet, with a touch of anise (sometimes likened to licorice but it’s more earthy).  Today I wanted to update the recipe to eliminate the dairy in the recipe – it is so easy to make these with plant based ingredients and I promise you won’t even taste the difference!

BESTA’S KRINGLER    (Grandma’s Kringler)

1 1/4 cup almond milk

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

about 90 grams or about 6 tablespoons margarine or vegan butter

70 grams granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp whole anise seeds

400 grams or 3 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Additional anise seeds for sprinkling on kringler

Almond milk for brushing kringler

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit (240 degrees Celcius).  Line some baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small pot, gently heat up the milk and butter until around 90 degrees F/32 degrees C.  Add in the yeast and stir to combine.  In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid.  Knead until a dough forms.  Cover with a towel,  place in a warm spot and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

On a clean work surface,  sprinkle some flour and start kneading the dough until smooth and shiny.  Cut the dough into about 20 equal pieces, and roll them out to links.  Shape them into a pretzel and place on prepared baking sheets.  Cover with a towel and let them rise again for about 20-30 minutes.

Brush them with a bit of almond milk and sprinkle on whole anise seeds.  Bake in oven for around 10 minutes until nice and golden on top.  Spread some plant based butter on these babies and enjoy!!

aniskringler

Brytebrød; for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Norwegians love to bake, and it’s a craft they have mastered to perfection.  From cakes to cookies, breads and everything in between, there is something so special about baked goods from my home country.  Most creations fit in the “rustic” category, and this brytebrød is typical of what you may find on modern Norwegian tables today.   As with so many dishes, a trend seems to spread quickly across the country (taco Friday, anyone?), and in the past couple of years I’ve seen brytebrød  in almost every Norwegian household!  Shaped as buns and baked close together in the oven so they attach, the buns retains  moisture and get extra juicy when made this way.

I am convinced that this bread must have been created in honor of the old, Norwegian saying that goes “Den som gir stakkaren tørt brød, skal sjølv få lide svolt og nød“, which translates into “He who gives the poor man dry bread, shall himself suffer hunger and despair.”

These buns will guarantee a happy life filled with tasty food, as these are super moist, light and fluffy and an an absolute delight to snack on!

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Not unlike the knekkebrød recipe I posted the other day, this also contains a variety of seeds and thus makes for a bit of a healthier, but also more exciting option for breakfast, lunch or as an addition to your breadbasket or plate for dinner along with a soup and/or salad.  Thank you to my sister, Agnes, for providing the recipe listed at the bottom of this post!

This can also be considered a bread recipe for beginners, because it’s so simple to make and comes together pretty quickly.  The buns stick together after baking and the procedure of breaking them apart (“bryte” means break in Norwegian) is fun as you see the moist inside of bun appear  and heat rising from them.

Play around with the below recipe.  Change it up by reducing some of the all purpose flour and adding in some oatmeal for extra texture and flavor or use spelt, whole wheat or nut flours in the dough.  Add in some chopped, fresh herbs, like rosemary, tarragon, thyme and/or oregano or fill it with some sauteed garlic or nut based cheese.  Shape it into a loaf and slice it like a regular bread if you don’t want buns!

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You can even make the dough the night before,  and put it in the oven the next morning and you will have fresh bread for breakfast!

BRYTEBRØD

50 grams or about 3.5 tbsp each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds or whatever seeds you have in your pantry

50 grams margarine or vegan butter

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

3 – 3 1/2 cups water

1 tbsp flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water or 1/3 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

About 2 lbs or about 8 cups all purpose flour

Line a 13 X 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gently heat up the water and margarine in a small pot, until slightly warm.  Mix in the yeast.  In a separate bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients, pour in the yeast-water-margarine mixture with the flaxseed mixture or applesauce or vegetable oil and combine. Knead until a firm, smooth dough forms, about 10-15 minutes.   Cover dough and let rise in a warm spot (away from draft) for about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into desired sized pieces and roll into pieces that fits the palm of your hand. Place them in the prepared baking pan, slightly apart (they will rise in the oven and stick together, which they should).  Brush the top of the buns with a little almond milk (or other plant based milk you have in your fridge) and sprinkle on a variety of seeds of your choice. I like to mix it up and sprinkle different seeds on each bun, that way everyone can pick their favorite flavor and crunch 🙂

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Bake in middle rack for 30-40 minutes until nice and golden on top. Let cool on wire rack and dig in!

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Pickled Pumpkin; A Forgotten Recipe

January is a meager month in Norway, where it’s  typically so cold and dark nothing seems to ever be able to survive outside.   This is when we have to turn to our pantry for food, and to the mason jars we worked at filling over the summer and autumn with all types of fruits and vegetables that were in season at the time.  Preserving has been a huge part of Norwegian food culture always, just because the growing season for food is so short. The winters are long and brutal; the summers extremely short with very unreliable weather and temperatures.  This makes it extra important to stash away any and all produce cultivated in the short period where these thrived.

My mother would have an entire room downstairs crowded with cans, mason jars and all types of containers of pickled plums, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots and onions, just to name a few.  To this day, I think this was her “magic touch” to the dinners and desserts she served daily, as they all were incredibly flavorful and not lacking anything at all.  I always believe people become more creative the less they have to work with; taste, texture and color becomes even more important, and little goes a long way when designing a dish.

syltetgresskarkrydderorgImage from krydder.org

My mother always used to make pickled pumpkin, a vegetable not very common in Norway, as you rarely see this vegetable in stores.   Back in the day it was looked upon as an exotic food, something that we didn’t quite understand, but my mother was passionate enough about it to make it every single year.  I can’t say that I recall any of my friends’ mothers doing this, then again at the time I probably wasn’t too curious.  When staying at hotels across Norway, I have seen it on “koldtbord” tables (our version of the Swedish “Smorgasbord”, a buffet of a variety of cold plates) and it’s also added to fancy plates in fancy, high quality restaurants in Oslo.

With the American celebration of Halloween becoming more and more popular in my home country, I can only assume the use of pumpkins in food will increase, and not just be for decorating purposes anymore.  Pumpkin is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and a great source of vitamin B6, A, C and E among other nutrients.  Perfect January food!

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Pickled pumpkins are typically added as an accent to a main dish for a slightly piquant, acidic and flavorful addition.  They can also be added to soups, rice, stews or salads for extra flavor or as an addition to a (plant based) cheese tray or vegetable pate.  Experiment with this delicious condiment and you will be amazed at how much this can brighten and lift up a meal!

SYLTET GRESSKAR (Pickled Pumpkin)

2 lbs pumpkin,  cleaned, peeled and diced into cubes

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1  cup water

750 grams or 3 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

40 grams or about 3 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

15 whole cloves

10 whole allspice berries

2 cinnamon sticks (some people also like to add a vanilla bean pod)

1 -2 bay leaf

1 whole chili pepper (optional, leave this out if you don’t like heat)

Prepare /boil some clean mason jars in hot water to clean them and set aside.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, water, ginger and spices to a boil in a large pot and add the diced pumpkin.  Bring down to a simmer and cook until the pumpkin pieces are clear and tender, 3-4 minutes.  Using a  slotted spoon, scoop out the pumpkin bits and place into the prepared mason jars.

Continue boiling the liquid until it thickens, about 15 minutes.  Pour the liquid over the pumpkin in the mason jars, screw on the lids, and let sit in room temperature overnight.   Keep the jars in a cool and dark spot until ready to use!

syltetgresskarmatprat

Image from matprat.no

Homemade and healthy Knekkebrød

Each time I go home to Norway, the meal I most look forward to is breakfast.    Norwegians and Scandinavians alike take this meal really seriously.   It is often a serious spread and the meal can go just as long as dinner.  Various spreads are placed on the table, mostly savory but also a fair share of sweet, all topped on freshly baked whole grain bread,  accompanied by strongly brewed black coffee with large glasses of milk.  I have switched to almond milk now, which I find rich and satisfying with a creamy taste, and contains 50% more calcium than regular milk  – a winner! 🙂

knekkebrodcappelendammforlagImage: Cappelen Damm Forlag

In my house, several pieces of bread were topped with the most luxurious of foods (all homemade by my mother of course, ranging from pickled herring, pates and jam made from berries in our backyard) and ended with knekkebrød, topped with Norwegian brunost and jam.  I often regretted not making the entire meal just of knekkebrød; there is something so satisfying, but yet light and easy digesting about these crispy crackers which are so popular throughout Norway and Scandinavia.  Filled with a plethora of various seeds, whole grain flours and oatmeal,  they are the perfect canvass for which to start a healthy snack or meal.

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While many households  choose to buy pre-packaged Wasa knekkebrød or a gourmet version thereof, it has become more and more commonplace and popular to make these from scratch. Super simple and quick to make, I agree the latter is the better choice! Here are some examples of store bought knekkebrød solutions you can find in Norwegian supermarkets:

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knekkebrodwasaIn January, you will see many Norwegians bring their “matpakke” (a packed lunch) to work containing two or more pieces of knekkebrød,  in an effort to cleanse their body from the riches of the gourmet foods of Christmas.  Often referred to as diet food, it does not taste like it, rather packs a ton of flavor and has a great, crunchy texture that is both satisfying and delicious.

A source of great antioxidants and healthy fats from the seeds, I think this is a perfect, ultra Norwegian food to kick start 2014 with!  I like them with Daiya cream cheese, a dairy free cream cheese that tastes so much more flavorful than the regular version,  with slices of tomato and cucumber, topped with dill or chives.   You can also spread hummus on them sprinkled with chopped olives, mint and roasted peppers for a more exotic alternative for lunch.

As always, I welcome any questions or comments!

CRISPY KNEKKEBRØD

225 grams or 1 cup oatmeal

225 grams or 1 cup rye flour

225 grams or 1 cup sunflower seeds

225 grams or 1 cup oat bran

225 grams or 1 cup sesame seeds

100 grams or 1/2 cup wheat bran

100 grams or 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

100 grams or 1/2 cup flax seed

2 tsp salt

1 tsp maple syrup

3 1/2 cup-4 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celcius).  Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Mix the maple syrup into the water and pour over dry ingredients, stir to combine. Let sit for about 10 minutes.   Spread the dough over the prepared baking sheets .  Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, remove from oven and cut with a pizza cutter into desired sized squares.  Place the crackers back in the oven, and bake for another 20 minutes.   Rotate them and bake another 30-40  minutes, a total of 1 hour to 1 hr 10 min baking time.

Let cool on a rack and they are now ready to dig into!  You can store these in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

knekkebroddinmatImage from dinmat.no

Happy New Year and a brief announcement

Hello my dear readers and a Happy New Year to you all! 

For the past couple of years I have been building this page around my Norwegian upbringing and background as a food professional, combining traditional recipes from my homeland with my interest in beverages and nature pictures from the fjord land of Norway.  For ethical and health reasons, I have recently decided to adopt a plant based diet and am currently developing and updating Norwegian recipes and ideas around my new lifestyle. Realizing that most of the Norwegian diet is largely animal driven, I hope you will continue to follow me as I will still be focusing on Norwegian traditions and history while aiming to give accurate information about how Norwegians cook and live.  My goal is to present recipes that showcase how most Norwegian recipes can be adapted to include plant based foods with the same exact result in taste and texture. However, if you decide that is not for you, my blog’s goal is not to convert you in any way, shape or form, and you can certainly substitute any ingredients you wish to suit your lifestyle.  Regardless, I sure hope you will be open to at least checking out what I will come up with, as I promise to have some exciting content on my blog this year!

My old recipes I have posted previously will of course still be available, as that is also part of what Arctic Grub is all about. I believe we are all interested in eating healthy (although rest assured there will be plenty of indulgent recipes here as well!) and I find that by offering this twist on my recipes, it will fill a void in the Scandinavian and Norwegian food scene in an area there is much interest. Please rest assured I’m committed to discovering and creating new ways of showcasing the wealth of what Norway has to offer food wise!

My hope is that you will stay with me on this journey, as I remain a passionate Scandinavian food and drink lover whose goal it is to continue to provide my readers with exquisite recipes! Thanks for all your support and I welcome any comments and questions!  Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2014!

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