5 reasons to love Norwegian bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MULTI-SEED, WHOLE GRAIN NORWEGIAN BREAD

Makes 3 loaves

1st batch:

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

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

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

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

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

1 cup (200 g) organic whole wheat flour

1 cup (200g) organic dark rye flour

4 cups (900ml) cold water

2nd batch:

1 cup (200ml) water

2 tbsp maple syrup or light syrup

2 tbsp sea salt

1 packet dry yeast or 50 grams fresh yeast

4-4 1/2 cup organic all purpose flour

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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A pumpkin bread recipe for when you want to impress

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

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

THE BEST EVER VEGAN PUMPKIN BREAD

adapted from Averie Cooks

 

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

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

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

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

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

For the Streusel Crust

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

For the Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PUMPKIN PUREE

1 large pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out

dash cinnamon

dash clove

dash nutmeg

sprinkle of salt

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

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

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

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

Celebrate Apple Season With This Simple Norwegian Apple Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy baking and as we say in Norway: Velbekomme!

 

NORVEGAN EPLEKAKE

 

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

7 oz /1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

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

7 oz/200 grams/1 cup all purpose flour

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

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup/100 ml plant based milk

Topping:

2-3 large apples, cored and sliced thinly

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegan butter

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

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

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

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.

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

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

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Vegan cardamom scented cinnamon buns in celebration of Cinnamon Bun Day on Oct 4th

I’ve long been trying to perfect a vegan cinnamon bun,  or “kanelboller” or “kanelsnurrer” as they go by in Norwegian.  Luckily it’s not hard to veganize them, as they don’t need eggs nor dairy, and omitting these ingredients will not affect neither the flavor nor the consistency.

Nothing makes me as happy as when Cinnamon Bun day comes around every year on October 4th. As if we really need another excuse to whip up a batch of these gorgeous creations… but when in Rome…

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about cinnamon buns, you can find my previous posts (and recipes) here, here and here.   I will therefore not go into the well known love us Scandinavians have for cinnamon and baked goods in general in this post again. I of course welcome any questions in the comment section!

I regard these delightful, fluffy and flavorful pastries a vital part of the Norwegian (and Scandinavian) diet, and there are few things I find as enjoyable to eat.  Equally suitable for breakfast, an afternoon snack or even a post-dinner evening delight (us Norwegians drink coffee at all hours of the day), they serve as a decadent, yet familiar pastry on Scandinavian tables.  I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t get served pastries made from some type of yeasty cinnamon flavored dough when you’re visiting a Norwegian home, it would be an unusual experience – they are that widespread and popular!

In Norway we have a saying called “kjært barn har mange navn”, which loosely translates to “a dear/special child has many names”, and this is true about the cinnamon bun.  It goes by “kanelboller”, “kanelsnurrer”,  “kanelknuter” or “kanel i svingene” (cinnamon in the turns) interchangeably and there are as many recipes for them as there are inhabitants in Norway, I believe.  I have to say I’ve rarely met one I didn’t like, so you can safely attempt this recipe and expect decent results!

In this recipe I also have added ground cardamom to the dough in addition to the cinnamon spread, I find that this adds an even more authentic touch to the buns and I hope you’ll agree with me.  Fluffy and light, you may not want to share this batch with anyone (and I won’t tell).

Wishing you a happy Cinnamon Bun Day and a fun time baking!

NORVEGAN CARDAMOM SCENTED CINNAMON BUNS

Makes about 18 buns

1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) dry instant yeast

1 stick (113g) vegan butter, melted

1/2 cups (about 350ml) plant based milk (I used almond)

about 4 cups (500 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (120) grams granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon sugar spread:

heaping 1/4 cup (or about 4-5 5 tbsp) brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

about 1/4 cup melted vegan butter

In a small pot, melt the butter on low heat, then add in the plant based milk.  Carefully heat mixture up till about 110-120 Fahrenheit, make sure it’s not too hot or you will kill the yeast.

Pour the butter-milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast in with a little bit of the sugar. Let stand about 5 minutes until you see the yeast starting to foam or bubble. If it doesn’t, it means your yeast is dead and you’ll have to do it over.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients; flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt.

Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook and on low-medium speed, start adding the flour mixture gradually.  Beat on medium for about 5-10 minutes until you see a smooth, firm dough forming and that should leave the edges of the bowl (you may or may not need to add a little more flour).

Shape into a firm ball and leave in bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

In the mean time, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the spread, and melt the butter.

Punch down the dough, then using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to  a square that measures about 20 inches  (50 centimeter) on every side.

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Brush the dough with the melted butter and spread the cinnamon sugar evenly across the dough.

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Fold 1/3 of the squared dough towards the middle and the other 1/3 against the middle slightly overlapping the edges of the first fold and roll out again to a smooth square.  With a dough cutter, cut the dough diagonally into about 1 inch strips (2 1/2 cm).

For a visual tutorial on how to form the cinnamon knots/buns, check out this link.

Place the finished buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again for about 20-30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).

Bake the cinnamon buns for about 10 minutes until golden up top.

Enjoy with a strong cup of black coffee with good friends and family!

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