Fyrstekake; a Norwegian classic cake improved

I have to admit, fyrstekake was never my favorite Norwegian cake.  The versions I grew up experiencing were always very dense, sometimes dry and most often too rich to even enjoy more than one bite.  Perhaps this is why I’ve been hesitant to make it regularly.    I am thrilled to report that my efforts to veganize this cake produced a result I am much happier with than the cakes I used to eat as a child and one I wrote about before I went vegan.

Interestingly, ever since going plant based, I’ve been enjoying re-making classic recipes and have found that in many instances I’ve fallen in love with dishes that didn’t traditionally excite me. Fyrstekake is definitely one of these instances.

So what is fyrstekake? “Fyrste” means prince royal in Norwegian, so this really is a cake fit for royalty! Today, it might have a reputation as an old fashioned cake, perhaps not for everybody and definitely not a cake younger people make that frequently.  Filled with a delicious almond base similar to frangipane, and too much butter to admit, it’s rich, decadent and definitely all about the almonds.   While not the prettiest cake to look at, we all know looks can deceive, and when this cake is baked right – it’s juicy and super enjoyable.

Fyrstekake is for many people associated with Christmas, and is said to have originated sometime in the 1860s at Erichsen’s Bakeshop in Trondheim and was the bakery’s pride and joy – and secret.  The ingredients were always measured out and weighed the night before the cake were to be baked, after the bakers had gone home. Eventually, the bakeshop closed down, and the secret was out.

The trick to a successful fyrstekake is in the buttery dough.  Often there is too much dough compared to filling, which causes the cake to be dry.  Going more conservative with the amount of dough as well as making it lighter,  is key.   I like to use brown sugar instead of regular or confectioner’s sugar in the filling,  as I find it adds a nice caramel-like flavor that adds to the cake. Many recipes have cardamom in the almond filling while some don’t – I elected to omit it in this recipe but you can add in 1/2 tsp if you so wish. I also used Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg, but if you can’t find that in your local shop, you can substitute 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seeds combined with 6 tbsp water).

Fyrstekake holds the memory of sitting outside our cabin in the mountains with an afternoon cup of coffee, enjoying the sun. It’s a rustic cake that is a meal in itself, and definitely will please those who are into hearty, nut-filled cakes.

Let me just forewarn you: this is not a cake you want to make or eat if you’re on a diet – there’s nothing light or healthy about it.  Loaded with butter, sugar and nuts, it’s a special occasion cake, but a little slice will go a long way, so make sure you have someone to share it with!

VEGAN FYRSTEKAKE

For the pai dough:

2 1/2 cups or 300 grams all purpose flour

1/2 cup or 100 grams organic confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 sticks (about 200 grams) vegan butter

1 tbsp ground chia seeds combined with 3 tbsp water

For the almond filling:

2 sticks (about 200 grams) vegan butter

1 cup or 200 grams organic brown sugar

1 1/2 cups or 200 grams almonds, ground

2 tbsp VeganEgg mixed with 1/2 cup ice cold water

1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

3-4 drops almond extract (optional)

a little plant based milk for brushing on dough

demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of cake

DIRECTIONS

To make the pie dough:

Add the flour, confectioner’s sugar, baking powder and butter in a food processor.  Process until a dough forms, add in the chia egg.  I like to grind the chia seeds in a blender with the water to make it more gelatinous first, I find that improves the blending.

When the dough forms, pour it onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into two; 2/3 should be for the bottom of the cake, and 1/3 for the top.  Shape the dough pieces into a circle, lightly wrap with plastic wrap and leave in fridge for an hour or two.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   Lightly grease a round pie plate – mine measures 10 inches (25 cm).

Make the almond filling:

Grind the almonds in a food processor.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla paste or extract, VeganEgg mixture, then the flax egg.  Combine well.

Pull out the dough from the fridge. Roll out the large piece on top of parchment paper into a circle larger than your pan.  You’ll want to roll it out on a piece of paper or mat because the dough is very buttery and will stick and be difficult to transfer off the table if you don’t.  Carefully transfer the dough circle onto the pie pan and push it down and up against the edges. Cut off any additional overhang.

Pour the almond mixture into the prepared dough.
Roll out the smaller piece of the dough and with a pizza slicer, slice into 1-inch strips. Place them criss cross on top of the almond filling, brush the dough with a little plant based milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar (or regular sugar).

Bake in oven or about 50 minutes.   Check in on cake after 30 minutes – the dough might get a bit dark, so cover with foil for the last 20 minutes.

Let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before digging in!

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Norwegian “Sunshine Sweet Rolls” to celebrate spring

With Easter fast approaching and the first day of spring just passed, my mind goes to foods that reminds me of the bright sunshine, and “solskinnsboller” definitely fits the season.  Decadent, fluffy cardamom buns with a “sun” in the middle of vanilla custard, these sweet rolls are perfect to enjoy on an afternoon while sitting against the wall of your cabin in the Norwegian mountains, enjoying the sun and the crisp air.  Especially after a long cross country ski trip, where you most likely have burned several hundred calories!

Solskinnsboller, or solboller as they are sometimes called, is directly translated as “sunshine buns” or “Sunshine sweet rolls”. They are often enjoyed on the “sun day” in places in northern Norway to celebrate the return of the sun after a long, dark winter.  Funnily enough, in the later years, buns have been created called “mørketidsboller”, (darkness buns) which are eaten during the dark days of winter and they are glazed with chocolate and are also filled with vanilla custard.

Solskinnsboller are different from skoleboller, which I’ve written about in the past.  Skoleboller typically are topped with sprinkles of coconut and confectioner’s glaze, and sunshine buns often are filled with additional things like cinnamon sugar and butter, oranges, almonds, chocolate.. anything your heart desires, essentially.    I did add some confectioner’s glaze to my rolls, just to be rebel 🙂

These buns are in classic, Norwegian style; light, soft and juicy with a scent of cardamom which makes it impossible to stop at having just one!

My trick with veganizing these buns were definitely with the vanilla custard, as it isn’t as yellow as the ones made with egg.  While I tried using turmeric, it turned it more of an orangey green color.   If you care about the color (the taste is exactly the same as regular vanilla custard!) you can try applying some yellow food coloring.    Alternatively, you can always buy instant pudding mix such as Jell-O or this one from Organics, which I prefer. Just remember to use LESS plant based milk than you would regular milk, and almond milk works best.

Try these out and you might have some new fans very soon!

SUNSHINE BUNS

Makes about 15 buns

For the buns:

500 ml non-dairy milk

2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

2/3 cup or 150 grams vegan butter

1/2 cup or 100 grams sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

6 1/4 cup or 750 grams all purpose flour (more flour might be needed)

For the sugar cinnamon filling:

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup or 110 grams brown sugar

1/4 cup or 60 grams vegan butter, melted

For the vegan vanilla custard:

2 cups (500ml) of plant-based milk

2 tsp vanilla paste

1/4 cup or 50 grams sugar

4 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp agar agar

1/2 tsp turmeric or vegan yellow food coloring (optional)

For glaze (optional):

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

about 3 tbsp water – or enough liquid to make it into a paste

To make the buns:

Heat up non dairy milk and vegan butter in a small pot on the stove, until it reached a temperature of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celcius. Sprinkle in the instant yeast with a little bit of the sugar and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, sift in the flour, cardamom, salt and sugar, attach it to the stand with a dough hook and combine the dry ingredients. Slowly drizzle in the milk-yeast-butter mixture and knead until you have a firm, smooth dough.

Cover the dough with a clean towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit / 250 degrees Celcius.  Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle.  Using a brush, spread the butter evenly across the rectangle and sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture on top.

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Roll the rectangle up starting from the widest end until you have a “sausage” link, and divide the link up to about 14 or 15 pieces.     Place them on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rest another 20-30 minutes.

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When ready to bake, make an indentation at the center of each bun with your fingers, and fill the center with a spoonful of the vegan vanilla custard.  Brush the buns with a little vegan butter and bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes until golden on top.

Let buns cool on a wire rack, and drizzle confectioner glaze on buns right before serving.

To make vanilla custard:

Heat up the plant based milk with the sugar, add in the cornstarch and agar agar and simmer for about 10 minutes until it starts to thicken.  Whisk in the turmeric or yellow food coloring and  remove from heat. Let cool in fridge for an hour or longer until the custard sets.

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Horn: Norwegian crescent rolls

Norwegians love to bake, and while all countries have their own versions of pretty much any dish in existence, I don’t think there’s anything quite like Norwegian “horn”.  The closest would probably be crescent rolls but I will refer to them as “horns” for the rest of this blog post, as there is just something very special about the Norwegian kind.

“Horns” is another example of one of those nostalgic foods that fill my heart with happiness. In appearance these savory pastries are reminiscent of crescents or croissants, but dare I say they are a healthier version, as they contain only a fraction of the butter croissants do.  “Horns”  are heartier and not as fluffy as croissants, but definitely not as dense as crescents.  I think both the flavor and texture of “horns” is what positively sets them apart from any other savory bun or pastry out there.

Sitting down with some type of Norwegian baked goods and a cup of hot cocoa or coffee, is one of the reasons why life is worth living.  There is a great satisfaction, perhaps rooted in deep childhood memories, in allowing yourself this luxury every so often and is probably why I too, as many Norwegians, love baking.

It’s typical to fill the “horns” with something like cheese and ham, in fact I remember in high school I would buy these massive sized ‘horns’ in the school cafeteria and I’m pretty sure that was an entire week’s worth of calories but every student loved them.

In Norway, horn are served both for breakfast and lunch, brought on picnics and on hiking trips for that extra special treat.   There are endless variations of “horn”  – one of my favorites are “pizza horns”, filled with tomato sauce and cheese (vegan in my case, of course).  You can pretty much fill them with anything you want, so long the filling isn’t too runny and will spill out.

There are two main ways to make them; with white, all purpose flour, and whole wheat or whole grain flour.  The white version is typically is baked with a touch of cardamom, and the whole grain one with sesame seeds or other type of seeds like pumpkin, sunflower or flaxseeds.  Black sesame seeds are also common, and in my case, since I only had white sesame seeds, I chose chia seeds and it turned out wonderfully.

No doubt if you visit a Norwegian bakery, you will see some type of these baked, half moon shaped delicacies and I highly recommend you try one. You’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love them the minute they bite into one.
Now luckily, you don’t have to go to Norway to experience eating one, you can just make my recipe. And might I add that these turned out mouthwateringly delicious? Just ask my husband, a non vegan, picky food snob. So there!

If you want to fill the horns,  you will do so as you roll up the triangles before letting them rise again on the baking sheet. I made mine just plain and they were gorgeous just like that.

P.S. You can easily freeze these guys too so I recommend making a double recipe and heat them up in the oven whenever you want to have them – they are delicious just slathered with vegan butter, and perhaps add some vegan cheese or jam too if you wish!

NORWEGIAN BAKED HORNS (not the Viking ones)

1 1/2 cups (3.5dl) plant based milk

1/2 stick (50 grams) vegan butter

2 1/2 tsp dried instant yeast

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

3 1/4 cups (400grams) all purpose flour

1 3/4 cups (200 grams) whole wheat flour

plant based milk for brushing crescents

sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. for sprinkling on top

Heat up the butter and milk in a small pot until the mixture reaches about 98 degrees Fahrenheit/ 37 degrees Celcius.  Pour into the bowl of a standmixer and sprinkle in the yeast and the sugar and let sit a couple of minutes until it starts to foam.

Attach the dough hook on your stand mixer and add in the flours and the salt, and knead for 5 minutes on medium speed until you have a smooth, firm dough.  Cover with plastic or a clean towel and let rest until double in size, 1-2 hours.

Grease or line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit/210 degrees Celcius.

Pour the dough onto a clean, floured work surface, cut the dough in half, and with a rolling pin, shape each piece into a large circle.  Cut the circle into six triangles.  Roll each triangle up, starting from the widest point, until you have a crescent shape.

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Place the crescents on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Brush the crescents lightly with some plant based milk and sprinkle on seeds of choice and baking in the oven for about 15 minutes until lightly golden up top.  Serve warm with vegan butter, jam or vegan cheese, and your favorite hot beverage.

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Polarbrød; Scandinavia’s pita bread

In January most people are swearing off bread and other carb laden foods, but that doesn’t have to include healthy, whole grain breads such as polarbrød. These fluffy, pillowy creations have been popular for quite a few years as an alternative to the traditional, whole grain loaves so commonly eaten and see around Norway.  They are similar in look to pita bread, except Norwegians tend to eat these for breakfast or lunch, topped with whatever smears or other “pålegg ” eaten during these meals.  (“Pålegg” is essentially anything you could possibly put on a sandwich).

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What makes these breads unique is that they typically are frozen immediately after being baked, following the original method of how they came about.  Read on…

Polarbrød (Polar Sandwich) is actually a Swedish brand of breads sold in stores in Norway and has a long history in Scandinavia dating back one hundred years. Johan Nilsson was the founder, and when he started his bakery back in the late 19th century.  He didn’t have much capital, and while he had ingredients like flour and spices, he lacked yeast.  He solved this by trading his “spark” (pictured below) for one kilo of yeast.

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Image from polarbrod.no

In the 1950s, the business was taken over by Johan’s grandson, who started a bakery and cafe with his wife Greta.  The couple saw huge possibilities with this bread.  But in order to scale the business and sell to the entire country of Sweden, they had to find a way to distribute it. How could they keep the breads fresh when they were to ship it all over the country?  To avoid spoilage, Greta tried freezing the already prepared sandwiches, and it became a huge success. She baptized them “Polar Sandwich”, and the rest is history.

Today, the business is run by Greta’s granddaughters, Karin Bodin and Anna Borgeryd.  They are 5th generation and plan to continue the family business for generations to come.  In Norway, polarbrød has been sold since 2002, and the family business Findahl & Krogh AS is responsible for sales and marketing of this bread.

The details above were translated from the website polarbrod.no

Instead of buying the already made polarbrød in the stores, many Norwegians opt to make their own.  Super easy to make and they are quick to bake too, I can see why this tradition is so popular in many modern homes.

There are a million varieties of polarbrød using different flours and the ratios vary as well.  You can add seeds like chia or flax for added texture and  I hope you will try mine out, I also use these as pita breads and serve them with hummus and other dips.

WHOLE GRAIN POLARBRØD

Makes 16-20 pieces

4 tbsp or 50 grams vegan butter

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) non-dairy milk

1 cup (200ml) water

2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) dry yeast

2 tbsp maple or brown rice syrup

2 tsp salt

1 scant cup (200 ml) quick oats, roughly pulsed in blender

1 1/4 cup (300 ml) whole wheat flour

1 scant cup (200 ml) rye flour

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) all purpose flour

Melt the butter in a small pot, add in the milk and water and combine. The temperature should be around 110F, then drizzle in the dry yeast, let sit for about 5 minutes.

Place yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients, and knead on medium for 5-6 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Add more flour or liquid as you see fit.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).  Place a baking sheet in the oven.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to a link. Cut each link into 8-10 pieces, shape the pieces into a ball, then with a rolling pin form a circle that’s about 1/2 inch thick (1cm or so). Use a chopstick or a fork and prick some “holes” on top of each circular piece.

Cover the pieces with towels and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Place 4 or 5 pieces in the oven on the baking sheet at a time, and bake for about 3 minutes.  They should be slightly puffed up and light brown on top when done. Quickly remove them, add another 4-5 pieces and repeat until you have all the breads baked. Cover them with a clean towel while they cool off, this will help them stay moist.

These breads should be enjoyed right out of the oven, or wrapped up and placed in freezer as soon as they have cooled off.  They will thaw in about 30 minutes and will taste just as good out of the freezer as fresh.  Top or stuff with your favorite spreads, like vegan cheese, lettuce, sliced peppers, cucumbers, bean pate or even hummus!

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Sirupssnipper; a spiced and uniquely shaped Norwegian Christmas cookie

Have you ever wondered what exactly the origins of Christmas cookies are? And perhaps, even more specifically, the traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies?

Many of the cookies we bake today weren’t even Christmas cookies originally.

By the 19th century, ovens were commonplace in almost every household in Norway.  This is also when cookbooks were written and published for the general masses, the term “Christmas cookie” was originated and the list of which cookies to bake for the holidays was formed and started to look like the ones we have today.

The Christmas cookies we have today can be divided into three categories:

The oldest cookies we know are the “iron” cookies.  They are baked in different irons, like goro and krumkaker.  It’s unclear how long these irons have been used in Norway, but in Europe we can trace it back to the 15th century.

Another form of cookies are the “smult”, or lard, cookies, like smultringer and fattigmann.  Lard cookies most likely stem all the way back to the Middle Ages. Fattigmann arrived in Norway and the end of the 18th century, or beginning of the 19th century.  The name is misleading, (fattigmann translates to “poor man”) because the ingredients to bake the cookie were both expensive and exclusive.

The last type of cookies are the ones that require an oven to bake them. Pepperkaker, sirupssnipper, berlinerkranser and sandkaker are in this category, and they arrived in Norway around the 17th century.  Before ovens were commonplace in people’s homes, these kind of cookies had to be bought in bakeries or were made on farms that had big ovens.

Today I wanted to give you my family recipe for sirupssnipper, which of course, I’ve veganized.  They are a unique looking triangular shaped cookie that uses a specific pastry wheels to arrive at the jagged edges.  Of course, no self-respecting Norwegian Christmas cookie is without an almond, which is placed whole in the center.

Sirupssnipper was a staple in my childhood home in Norway growing up, my mom always had dozens and dozens of them, and they were always part of the multi-layered cookie tray.  This is also the first time I’ve covered them on my blog, so I’m excited to bring you my version!

Happy baking and as always, let me know what you think if you decide to give them a try!

 

SIRUPSSNIPPER (vegan)

1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar

2 sticks (200 grams) vegan butter

2 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tbsp water (2 flax ‘eggs’)

1 cup (250 g) light syrup

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 1/4 tsp baking soda (or if you have “hjortetakk salt add 1/4 tsp of that plus 1 tsp baking soda)

about 1 lbs (500 grams) flour

a scant cup (100 grams) blanched almonds

a little non-dairy milk for brushing the cookies

Directions:

Whisk the sugar and vegan butter  until light and fluffy in a standmixer. Add the flax eggs.
In a small pot, gently heat up the syrup, mix in the spices and add to the sugar-butter mixture and fold in.  Finally, add in the baking soda and flour until you have a firm dough.   Cover the dough and place in fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.

Prepare a couple of cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius).

Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/2 inch thin.  Using a ruler and a ribbed pastry wheel, cut out cookies into triangles, about 2 1/2 ” x 2 1/2″ (5x5cm) in size.  In Norway you have a special cookie cutter called trinsle that cuts on these triangles for you:

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Place a blanched almond in the center of each cookie and brush them with a little non dairy milk:

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Bake the cookies in the oven for 5 minutes.  The cookies will keep about a week in an airtight container preferably made of metal and stored in a cool, dark place.

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Peppernøtter; a Norwegian Christmas cookie with a deceiving name

Continuing my yearly holiday series of Norwegian cookies, I realized I have never shared my recipe for these delightful, two-bite sized cookies called peppernøtter.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, as they are a bit anonymous compared to the other famous seven kinds we insist on including in our baking repertoire every Christmas.  Which again is ironic, because they are just like potato chips; you can’t stop at just one!

Peppernøtter are in many ways similar to gingerbread cookies, or pepperkaker, as we call them in Norwegian.  I read somewhere it can be described as a smaller, angrier version of pepperkaker, which made me laugh.  Filled with the warming holiday spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove with a healthy dose of black pepper, they are positively addictive and easier to bake than pepperkaker.  While they may not be as popular as their cousin, they are certainly not less delicious.

Peppernøtter are also more doughy as opposed to crispy, and have a savory element to them which makes you not feel too guilty if you happen to eat them for breakfast… hey, I will definitely not judge you!

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The name of this cookie is quite deceiving, as the recipe doesn’t call for nuts at all (nøtter means nuts in Norwegian).   The cookies were so called, because when they were created back in the 16th century they were made without baking powder and consequently they turned hard as nuts.  The generous addition of spices was not done only to add flavor to the cookies, but also to symbolize wealth and power, which was common in the Middle ages.  Still to this today, the aromas of cinnamon, ginger, clove and cardamom is what signify Christmas.

Old fashioned they may be, but peppernøtter remain incredibly popular among Norwegians to this day.   They are also super simple to veganize, because the original doesn’t contain nuts, and substituting plant based butter and milk is as easy as a walk in the park and produces the same flavor and texture as dairy products.

(Shameless plug and gift suggestion: If you are interested in seeing how Norwegian dishes can successfully be veganized, I highly recommend getting my latest ebook which is a collection of my favorite Norwegian  recipes from this blogg and beyond. Makes for a perfect gift too and will turn any skeptic into a believer if you thought meat, fish and dairy was necessary to create authentic tasting Scandinavian food)

Don’t forget to enjoy peppernøtter with a glass of gløgg, it is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit!

(P.S. they also make for a wonderful, edible gift! Just put them in mason jars and put a bow on it and voila, you’ve got a personalized, delicious Christmas present!)

VEGAN PEPPERNØTTER

Makes about 30 pieces

1 stick (113g) vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

heaping 1/2 cup (150 grams) organic sugar

1/4 cup organic light corn syrup (50 ml)

1/4 cup (50ml)  coconut or soy based half and half

2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups (400 grams) all purpose flour (add more if dough looks wet)

Whisk together the butter, sugar and syrup in a small sauce pot and heat up until sugar is dissolved.  Add in the half and half, spices, baking powder, soda and flour and combine until you have a smooth dough.  Let rest in fridge for about an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius),  Dress two baking sheets with either a silpat or parchment paper.

Using a tbsp cookie scooper, roll out the dough pieces in the shape of a small ball and place on cookie sheets.  Lightly press them down with the back of a fork.

Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

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Serinakaker; one of the original Norwegian Christmas cookies veganized

Serinakaker is regarded as one of the original, classic Christmas cookies in Norway and are classified as “småkaker” (small cookies).  These are small butter-sugar-flour cookies with a ruffled pattern, topped with sliced almonds and sugar and are known as many Norwegians’ favorite among all the Christmas cookies baked during the holidays. They have been baked for over 100 years in Norway.

The term “småkaker”was not put into use until the 19th century, when it became more common for people to bake and ovens were introduced to the common household.   Whereas the classic cookies I’ve been sharing over the holiday period are considered classic Norwegian, many of the cookies we bake today in fact originate from other countries.   I will write more about this topic in a future blog

Before the 1800s, mostly breads, flatbreads and lefse were baked, and around the holidays people didn’t skimp on all the decadent ingredients that were otherwise used sparingly, such as sour cream and the best flour you could get.  Barley and oat flour were most commonly used, but in cookies wheat or rye was needed, which traditionally had to be imported. After 1880,  people got access to inexpensive Russian flour and this stimulated the interest and tradition of baking cookies.

Serinakaker have a generous amount of butter, and the traditional version has eggs, but I subbed a cashew based yogurt and with great results.   Eggs really aren’t needed in baking, as I’ve mentioned many times before, as it merely acts as a binder. I’ve used everything from applesauce to mashed bananas,  ground flax or chia seeds mixed with water, silken tofu and cornstarch to bind batters and doughs with the same exact outcome as when I used eggs.

This recipe was inspired by my friend and colleague, Mari Hult, who I’ve mentioned before and has one of the best vegan food blogs in Norway called Vegetarbloggen.

Thanks, Mari for spearheading making all the wonderful Norwegian Christmas cookies accessible to those who either can’t consume dairy or eggs or choose to be vegan!

Biting into these cookies really brings back fond memories of sitting around the coffee table with family and friends in a cozy, candle lit Norwegian home, drinking coffee and enjoying this time of year.  I hope I can bring a little comfort to your home too with this recipe!

If you love Norwegian food and are interested in a book that has a collection of all the classic dishes, including cookies and cakes for the holidays, don’t forget to pick up a copy of my latest ebook which as my favorite recipes. You can purchase it HERE.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the serina cookies as much as I do, I would love to hear your thoughts!

NORVEGAN SERINAKAKER

Makes about 25 cookies

  • 1 stick plus 2 tbsp (150 grams) vegan butter, cubed and room temp
  • 9 oz / 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) organic sugar
  • 2 tbsp non dairy yogurt (I used Forager cashew yogurt)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp potato or corn starch
  • 1/3 cup (1 dl) sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup (1 dl) pearled sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).  Grease two cookie sheets with a little oil or dress them with parchment paper.
Place the flour and baking powder in a big bowl, and crumble in the room temperature vegan butter with your hands.  Add in the vanilla extract and sugar as well as the non dairy yogurt and combine until you form a dough. If it’s a little wet, you can add a touch more flour and/or sugar.

Divide the batter into two and roll each part gently out to “sausage” looking links. Divide each link into 10-12 pieces or more, roll them into small balls, and place on the prepared cookie sheets.

With the back of a fork, press lightly onto each ball to flatten them, making a nice pattern.  Mix the potato/corn starch with the water in a small bowl and brush the top of the cookies with the mixture. Sprinkle with almonds and sugar and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.

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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

1 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

5-6 cups 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!

pumpkinbread

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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