Simple Yet So Delicious: Norway’s Wildly Popular Raisin Buns

As we often hear, simple foods is often best, and that is certainly true when it goes for Norway’s classic “rosinbolle”. This fluffy, slightly sweet cardamom scented bun filled with plump raisins are the favorites of many.  Millions of these are being devoured yearly by Norwegians, we can’t seem to get enough.  In fact, baking “boller” has now become super trendy in Norway, and the variety of recipes that are floating around is astounding!

rosinboller2

Image: kk.no

Norwegians are definitely proud of their buns (no pun intended), and are known across Scandinavia for this specialty.  Often you hear the slogan “world’s best buns” around these creations, and I have to say… it’s not an exaggeration!

I was inspired to make rosinboller this week because it’s winter vacation in Norway, and many Norwegians pick some of these up at their local gas stations (yes, they sell freshly baked goods there – in fact some gas stations in Norway sell more “boller” than they sell gas!!) on the way to their cabins in the mountains, where they will spend the week skiing, catching some sun (hopefully) and being with family and friends.  This tradition also repeats itself a few weeks later during Easter.  It’s also considered the “healthiest” alternative among pastries, because it has no creamy or sugary sweet filling but is just a delight on its own.

Try out my dairy free, eggless cardamom buns that turned out OH so AHmazing…. I’m still reeling over the delight of the first bite, right out of the oven!! Happy baking!

ROSINBOLLER

1 stick vegan butter (around 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups (350ml) plant based milk

1/2 cup (150 grams) confectioner’s sugar

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour (about 10 dl)

1 cup raisins

plant based milk for brushing buns

Place the raisins in a small bowl,  cover with hot water and let them plump up for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pot over the stove and add in the milk.  Bring it to a temperature of about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (about 43 degrees Celcius). Make sure the mixture is not too hot or it will kill the yeast or too cold.

Add the mixture into a stand mixer bowl.  Whisk in the confectioners sugar, salt, cardamom and yeast and let sit for 2 minutes. With a dough hook, start adding in the flour gradually.  Continue kneading on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm spot.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 degrees Celcius).  Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Pull the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface, and work in the raisins. Knead a few times until all the raisins are incorporated. Divide into about 12 even pieces (or 14, depending on how big you want your buns to be), and roll them into round shapes.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets. cover with a towel and let rise again for another 15 minutes.

Brush the buns with some plant based milk and place in oven, bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden on top.

rosinboller

Havrekjeks – Norwegian grandmothers’ favorite cookie

It’s the 4th Sunday in advent today, as well as my birthday, so I figured I would go out with a big bang ending my Christmas preparation baking with some of my favorite cookies (next to kransekakestenger). These cookies are so simple, yet  just so heavenly, and for some odd reason only baked (for the most part) during Christmas. The thing is, once you’ve got a taste for it, these are cookies you will want to bake again and again…

havrekjeks2

Many Norwegians remember visiting their grandmother and her serving these up alongside a pot of hot black coffee… The traditional “havrekjeks” do not contain chocolate pieces, but rather are enjoyed with a slice of the special brown cheese Norwegians make (brunost or geitost, read more about that tradition HERE).  While these cookies seem almost like peasant food because of their simple ingredients (with the exception perhaps of the generous amount of butter), they are simultaneously regarded as a special treat, which is why I find them so fascinating.

havrekjeks1

The addition of chocolate pieces have proven to be particularly popular among children, so that is why you will see the more modern versions of this cookie made with chocolate.. (I’m a kid at heart, what can I say).

Thought I would leave you with this wonderful recipe as a last “hoorah” before we enter into Christmas week! Happy baking!!

HAVREKJEKS MED SJOKOLADE  (Oatmeal Biscuits with Chocolate)

1 tbs ground flaxseed

3 tbs water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 stick vegan butter (or about 113 grams)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chip

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dress a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl, add the vanilla extract and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add in the flaxseed mixture and combine well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in the oatmeal and chocolate chip in the end.   Using a medium cookie scooper, scoop spoonfuls of the batter onto the cooking sheet – you should get about 30-32 cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool off and enjoy!

Havrekjeks

 

havrekjeks3

Saffron Rolls To Shine a Light On Santa Lucia Day

Today , December 13th, we celebrate Santa Lucia Day in Scandinavia. This tradition stems from  a combination of the celebration of Saint Lucia and the Norse “lusse” celebration.  There are many theories behind why we celebrate this day,  I will shine a light (no pun intended) on a couple of them here in this blog post.

Saint Lucia,  a rich, Roman virgin, was born in the year 283 in Sicily, Italy and was killed (most likely in the year 304) because of her faith  during the crusades in the Roman Empire in the 4th century.  Lucia was Christian and faithful in her belief, but she was engaged to a man who didn’t believe in God.  Her father was dead, but her sick mother wanted Lucia to marry rich, but Lucia didn’t want that.  After Lucia’s prayers to the holy Agatha,  Lucia’s mother miraculously got well and canceled her wedding.  As thanks, Lucia donated her entire fortune to the poor.

When Lucia’s fiancee found out there would be no wedding, he told the emperor about Lucia’s Christian faith.  During this time, Christians were being persecuted, everyone was to worship the emperor.  She refused to do so and remained faithful to her beliefs. As punishment, she was given a death sentence by burning.  The tale goes she died holding a burning candle in her hands.  The name Lucia, is a female version of the Latin name Lucius, which means “light” or “brightness”.  Very early on, people started building bonfires and holding a festival of light in Sicily to honor her name .

santalucia

The tradition of letting a white clad Lucia spearhead a parade with girls dressed in white with candles in their hands and hair, started in Germany after the reform in 1536. In Norway this tradition really only began just a couple of decades ago, while this celebration has a much longer history in Sweden.  It is believed the “Santa Lucia” celebration has became more popular as of late in Norway because of the number of Swedish people moving there to work.

santaluciatog

In older Norwegian farmer tradition, this day also went by “Lussidagen”, “Lussinott”, “Lussimess” or “Lussi langnatt” (Lussi long night).  It was regarded the longest night of the year; when water turned to wine, and the animals in the barn were able to talk.  People complained that this night was as long as two nights put together. there were a lot of trolls and other evil creatures out during that night, so people were to stay indoors.
All the major work for Christmas had to be done by this day. If somebody was still baking or brewing bear, Lussi, a female troll, would appear and yell down through the chimney:  “Don’t brew or don’t bake, don’t keep big logs on the fire. If you do, your dough will divide in two,  your grinding stone in seven, and your baking/work table in fifteen pieces” (this sounds a little better in Norwegian, haha!).  She would then punish the people who were still working.   Young women were believed to be able to see their future husband if they fasted, and trolls went from house to house to make sure everything was prepared for Christmas.   So in short, this night was thought to be long, dark and dangerous, and was named after Lucifer, the devil, and not Lucy, the saint.

tussikatt

This story might be more in line with another popular belief, that most likely started in Germany around the 17th century.  The story goes that on this night, the devil, in form of a cat, would give naughty children a beating, while Jesus, in the form of a child, would hand out rolls to all the good children.  Since the devil was scared of light, the rolls (lussekatter) were colored with the bright yellow spice of saffran to keep him away.  Lusse is the name for Lucifer, and “katter” is Norwegian for “cats”.

So a lot of stories around these lovely saffron buns, wouldn’t you agree? I could go on and on, as stories vary from country to country, but I have to have some material for Christmas of 2016 as well, right? 🙂

In the mean time, I will leave you with my recipe for lussekatter, as always dairy free and eggless, but nonetheless just as delicious as (and healthier than) the traditional recipe!   We enjoy these straight out of the oven, preferably accompanied by a cup of rich, hot chocolate while watching the snow fall outside…. Happy baking and Happy Santa Lucia Day!!

LUSSEKATTER

100 grams (about 1 stick) butter plus extra for brushing dough

1 cup plant based milk

1 packed dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

1 gram saffron

100 grams granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cardamom

about 3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir together, set aside. The temperature of the liquid should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.   Pour the liquid into the bowl of a standmixer and sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for a couple of minutes. Attach the dough hook and add in the sugar, saffron, salt and cardamom. Slowly add in the flour (start with 3/4 of the amount) and add in more flour as needed. The dough should be smooth and firm.   Cover the dough with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise until double in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

On a clean, lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in four equal pieces, then divide those again in four, so you have 16 pieces. Roll each piece into links about 6 inches (15 cm) or longer. Shape them any way you want, here is an example of different shapes you can try out:

saffronbuns

Image  from Julbaket/receptfavoriter.blogg.se

Here are some of my shapes (as you can see, I need to perfect my skill, lol):

lussekatterpre1

 

lussekatterpre2

 

Place them on to two baking sheets dressed with parchment paper, cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celcius).

Stick raisins in the dough /creases of the shapes, brush the rolls with melted butter and place in oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden on top, fluffy and moist on the inside. Enjoy!!

lussekatter1

 

lussekatter2

 

lussekatter3

Julebrød; a “must bake” Norwegian Christmas Bread

I wanted to rush to the computer straight after I baked my veganized version of “julebrød”  yesterday (also called “Julekake” meaning Christmas cake) because I simply couldn’t wait to tell you all how fluffy, juicy and flavorful this  bread turned out!!  This is, if I can be so bold, the best version of julebrød I have made and tasted to date, and I don’t say this lightly!

Delicate, slightly sweet with a subtle, welcoming flavor of the traditional cardamom spice used in Scandinavian baked goods, I am sure this will be your new favorite bread if you haven’t already tried it.  No eggs needed here, they turned out absolutely perfect:

julebrod2

The history of baking this Christmas bread can be traced back to pre-Christian, norse times and was one of the traditions Norwegians carried with them.  The bread was made from one of the last corn husks in the fall, and the bread was placed in the homes as decoration through the entire Christmas period.  The bread was not to be eaten, and was packed away and put in a special chest where people would store corn over the winter. The bread was brought out and unpacked when the spring harvest started.  When the plowing started, it was divided between the workers and the horse.   Some of the bread was also mixed into the seeds that were to be planted, as a form of fertility magic. Another interesting fact, is that the corn husk seems to stem from old rituals surrounding fertility, and several priests in Norway and Sweden tried to ban this “Un-Christian” tradition.

A sister and brother pictured in Oslo in 1905 with a Christmas tree and “Julenek” (resembling corn) or wheat husk in preparation for Christmas:

juleforberedelser

Photo by Anders Beer Wilse/ Oslo Museum

In old Denmark, Christmas bread was believed to cure headaches and snake bites, so if you find yourself with a migraine, perhaps try this recipe out … If your headache still doesn’t go away, your taste buds will at least thank you!!

julebakingstiftendk

Image from stiften.dk

This bread is wonderful as a special treat for breakfast during Christmas, but equally appropriate to serve up in the afternoon or evenings for friends and family. You can top it with cheese or jam, as is customary in Norway.   The traditional recipe includes “sukat”, or candied citrus peel, in addition to raisins – but I clearly remember meticulously picking those small green pieces out of my bread each and every time I had a slice growing up, so I decided not to include them (as most people do) in my recipe. If you would like to add sukat, just add equal amounts to raisins.

I hope you will try out my eggless recipe, you will not be disappointed,  I promise!!

JULEBRØD  (Julekake)

1 stick butter (about 125 grams)  plus extra for brushing dough

2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk

1 packet dry yeast

2/3 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

3-4 cups all purpose flour (start with 3, then add more as needed)

2/3 cups raisins

Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir. The mixture should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and drizzle the yeast in, let sit for a couple of minutes until the yeast starts to bubble (This way you know it’s active and working).

Attach the dough hook, and add in the sugar, ground cardamom and flour.  Knead the dough for several minutes until the dough releases from the bowl and you have a smooth, firm dough.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

On a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, divide the dough in two equal pieces, and knead in the raisins equally into both doughs. Roll out to a big “bun”, flatten them a little into oval shapes, and place on a prepared /greased baking sheet.   Cover with a towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the top of the breads with melted butter and place in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top.  Cool the breads on a cooling rack, slice and spread with butter and enjoy with a cup of hot coffee, Norwegian style! 🙂

julebrod

julebrodskiver

 

And finally, add two pounds of pepper….

While I wouldn’t suggest you do this when making the popular Norwegian Christmas cookies “pepperkaker”, the Norwegian word for “ginger bread cookies”, there is a famous “pepperkake” song by famous Norwegian playwright and children song writer Torbjørn Egner that goes something like this (It rhymes in Norwegian, so won’t sound as good in English!):

“When a pepperkake” baker bakes pepperkaker

He first grabs a saute pan

and two pounds of margarine

In the pan, the butter melts

And the next thing he must do

is to whisk the butter with two pounds of sugar

and while the butter and sugar is foaming

he adds 8 egg yolks 

which he swirls around in the pan

with two pounds of flour

and in the end he adds a small teaspoon of pepper

and whisks the batter around

and dumps the dough on a cutting board

Now the story goes, if you want “double peppered” ginger breads, you add only one teaspoon of sugar, and two pounds of pepper… but let me tell you, that is a lot of pepper!!!

While I like a lot of spice in my cookies, I also want them to be slightly sweet, but perhaps not as sweet as say, a chocolate chip cookie.  These cookies are a perfect companion to the Norwegian version of mulled wine popularly called gløgg in Scandinavia (read more about it and get my recipe here) and is equally popular among kids and adults.  The common tradition is snacking on pepperkaker and sipping on som gløgg while decorating the Christmas tree on the day before Christmas eve, and also creating and decorating ginger bread houses. Nothing is as festive, and between the gløgg and the pepperkaker, the smell coming out of the kitchen is nothing short of amazing.

gloggogpepperkake

The “must include” ingredients in Norwegian ginger bread cookies, include syrup (in the U.S. you can use maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, or light or dark corn syrup to substitute), ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Cardamom is also commonly used. Pepper, despite the name of the cookie, is not a necessary ingredient in the cookie.

pepperkakegalleriet.no

Image from pepperkakegalleriet.no

Image from pepperkakegalleriet.no

Ginger bread cookies are probably the most traditional of Christmas cookies found in Norway, and arrived in Norway around the 17th century.  Household stoves didn’t become common until the 19th century, so most of the ginger bread cookies came from professional bakeries or big farms that had ovens.  Ginger bread houses are also very popular, and the city of Bergen has claimed the title to have the biggest gingerbread town in the world for about 25 years now!

Here is a photo of it :

Bergenpepperkaketown2

Image from visitbergen.com

I have heard there is perhaps competition to be found in Minnesota, and would love some of my readers to contribute to photos if anyone has any!

In Norway, gingerbread houses are made to serve first and foremost as Christmas decorations during the holiday, but when Christmas is over, it gets eaten by the kids 🙂

I naturally had to experiment with a recipe that contains no eggs or milk, and as always – it is super easy to eliminate these animal foods and create just as tasty of a product with plant based alternatives. I’ve included my recipe below, which I really hope you’ll be tempted to try out!! The cookies turned out perfectly imperfect looking, just as I like them – because that is the sign they are home made and not made by a factory or bakery – the best kind!!

PEPPERKAKER

1/3 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup molasses or maple syrup

1/4 cup plant based milk or soy creamer

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp cinnamon

Sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil and sugar for a couple of minutes.  Add the syrup, milk and vanilla extract. Add in the dry ingredients until a stiff dough is formed. Dump out onto a surface and pat down to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly grease two cookie sheets.   Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with your cookie cutters.

pepperkakeshapes

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes.

pepperkakerubakt

The cookies might seem soft, but will quickly harden up once they cool off. Mine turned out not perfect, but oh so tasty! 🙂

pepperkaker

If you would like to decorate the cookies, just mix 1 cup of confectioners sugar with 2-3 tbps water until desired consistency, add into a pastry bag and decorate away! 🙂

 

An Edible Holiday Wreath To Celebrate Advent

The four weeks leading up to Christmas have always been my favorite, more so than the actual day of Christmas. The anticipation of the celebration to come with all its preparing; the baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating and holiday parties, is a very special time in Norway and when everyone deviates from their normal routines to celebrate and enjoy themselves. This period is called “adventstid” (time of advent).

What is advent? The word “advent” comes from the Latin word Adventus (Redemptoris) and means “the Lord’s arrival”, and has been used as a name for this time period all the way back to the year 400, according to the website “Aktiv i Oslo“.

Historically, the month of December was traditionally a hectic time in Norway.  People were busy with everything that had to be prepared in order to properly celebrate Christmas, and not a time for fun.  In the old times, this period actually used to be a time for fasting.  Around the year 480, it was decided that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday people were to fast during this time.  This was to spiritually prepare  for the birth of Jesus Christ. Many Catholic countries still practice fasting, but in protestant countries such as Norway, this tradition hasn’t had much meaning since the 16th century.   Still, among farmers in the country, there were significant restrictions around food during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

All the “good stuff” were to be saved for Christmas; not like today where we munch on ginger cookies and drink “gløgg” (a special Scandinavian mulled wine recipe) during the entire month of December.  The norm was to use as little “pålegg” (toppings) on sandwiches as possible,  and prepare simple dinners,  with fish being the center piece. Perhaps this is why we still eat “lutefisk” (a special fish prepared in lye) on Christmas Eve?  People would feed their children a lot less food during the time of advent, so that they would really look forward to, and appreciate everything that belonged to Christmas!  Perhaps we should employ a little more of this habit today, when we bask in so much luxurious food leading up to the holiday, that we are almost too full to properly enjoy the big dinner on Christmas itself?

Today. the time of advent, or the 24 days leading up to Christmas Eve, is a much bigger celebration than it used to be.  Ever since the 19th century, it has been customary to put out a wreath with four candles, and to light one candle for each Sunday.  You will find these wreaths in kindergartens, schools, hospitals, office buildings and private homes all over Norway during this time.  Some wreaths are decorated with branches of spruce and pine cones,  live candles or some have electric wreaths or advent stars hanging in their windows.

adventskrans11

Image from citat-uglen.dk

Another tradition is putting up an advent calendar for the kids –  these can be purchased across stores in the country. This is a special treat and exciting for children, as they will get to open one “door” for each day leading up to Christmas, and behind the door is either a piece of chocolate or a toy.   These are traditions that are relatively new in our country.  People have gotten very creative with their calendars in recent times, I’ve even seen calendars for grown ups (one beer for every day for the fathers, for instance :).

This weekend, I was thinking I should make my own wreath to decorate with in our house, as there are none to be bought in stores in the U.S., because it is not an American tradition. Then I thought – hey why not make an edible one? My mother-in-law is visiting from Houston this week for Thanksgiving, and I always enjoy baking and cooking much more when I have guests that can actually enjoy all my food 🙂

I wanted to share a traditional recipe for this edible “adventskrans”, or advent wreath, with you, my wonderful readers.  I highly recommend this as a breakfast bread, or  serve a piece of this delightful pastry with your afternoon coffee or tea for guests. It’s slightly sweet, similar to perhaps a brioche, and flavored with either saffron or turmeric (I used the latter as I had run out of saffron), giving it a nice depth of flavor. Some people fill the wreath with marzipan and additional butter, but I like it less rich, so mine just has some raisins in the dough, topped with some sliced almonds and a little confectioners glaze.   The “adventskrans” is really easy to make dairy free and without eggs, and comes out delicately soft,  fluffy, juicy and super delicious. Happy baking!

ADVENTSKRANS

1 stick of butter (about 113 grams)

1 1/2 cups plant based milk

1 packed dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

100 grams (3.5 oz) or 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp saffron threads or ground turmeric

1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tbsp water)

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 cup confectioners sugar, mixed with 3 tbsp water or until desired consistency

about 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (about 600 grams)

1 tbsp butter plus 1/4 cup plant based milk melted, for brushing dough

Directions:

Combine the butter and milk in a small pot on the stove, and gently heat up.  It should be between 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure it’s not too hot, or you will kill the yeast.

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar and saffron or turmeric in the bowl of a stand mixer, and with a dough hook attached, combine. Start adding in the butter-milk mixture, then add in the flax eggs.  Knead for about 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise for about 1 hour, until double in size.

Place the dough on a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, add in the raisins in the dough, and knead for a few minutes with your hands.  Divide the dough in half, then roll out into  two equal sized links, about 20 inches (50 cm) long.

adventskransprep

Braid them together and form them into a circle like a wreath, and place on a prepared baking sheet.

adventskrans3

Cover with a towel and let rise for another 40 minutes.  In the mean time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celcius).

Brush the dough with the melted butter/milk, and top with the chopped almonds.

adventskrans2

Place the wreath in the oven in the middle rack and bake for 25 minutes or until golden on top.  Pull out and let cool off, while you prepare the confectioners’ glaze (this is optional- leave out for a less sweet pastry).  Drizzle with the glaze when cool enough and enjoy!

adventskrans1

Fall is for baking, preferably with cinnamon

Fall has become my favorite season of all the past few years. I’ve shared before that when living in Norway, it was my least favorite, as the summers were way too short, the temperature dropped dramatically and I knew the long, dark and cold winter was just around the corner. It was almost depressing, as we would have to wait for months to properly see the bright day light again. My opinion about this season has changed dramatically since living on the east coast, and now signifies pretty, colorful leaves on the trees, apple and pumpkin picking at local farms in my area,  hot apple cider, and cooler weather which allows for the creation of steamy, hot and comforting soups, stews and chilis, and last but not least: Baking!

I spend practically every weekend baking during fall and winter. I love the smell of dough rising and the smells that fill my kitchen;  it is the way I love to spend “me time”. It’s peaceful and I find it very therapeutical.  This time of year I love to browse through my Norwegian baking books, online blogs and Norwegian food sites to re-connect with my roots, and bring back those memories I cherish growing up in my house on Norway’s west coast with my mom at the stove, always creating something delicious. That is how I want my house to be as well. Luckily I have an American husband (and a dog!) who loves Norwegian food,  so I have an enthusiastic fan club at home 🙂

Today I wanted to share with you an amazing pastry I made over the weekend that was inspired by the Scandinavian Cinnamon bun Day that just passed.  It’s fondly called “flettebakst” in Norwegian, which translates directly to “braided baked goods”. ‘ Flette’ means braid, and ‘bakst‘ is a common word for pastries and baked goods.  Austria and Switzerland are both countries with a strong tradition of braided pastries, and other countries also have their braiding specialties.

Flettebakst can be both savory and sweet, and while it looks really intricate and difficult to make, it is quite easy, yet will impress your entire family when you place it on the  table.

This is a decadent pastry, and not for those looking to lose weight, but I will say that every bite of it is worth it… so try this for that one day when you would like to enjoy yourself a little extra! 🙂

BRAIDED CINNAMON ROSE WITH ALMONDS AND CINNAMON

adapted from godt.no

1 packed dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)

2 cups milk

3/4 cup organic sugar

1 tsp salt

150 grams (5 1/4 oz) vegan butter, softened and cut into cubes

1 tbsp flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Filling:

100 grams (3 1/2 oz) softened vegan butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped raw almonds

Almond (or other plant based) milk for brushing dough

Pearl sugar (or demarara sugar) for sprinkling on dough

Directions:

Heat the milk along with the ground cardamom over low heat until it reaches about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the sugar, salt and flax mixture and whisk until combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder and cinnamon with the dough hook attachment. Slowly add in the milk mixture and knead the dough on low speed for about 10-15 minutes.  Add in the cubed butter and knead for another 10 minutes until you have a smooth, firm dough that easily releases from the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Punch down the dough, sprinkle a little flour on a clean work surface and roll out the dough until you have a rectangle that is about 30 inches long (80 cm).  Spread the butter on the surface and sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped almonds evenly across.

flettebakstspread

Start rolling the dough together from the long side as if you were making cinnamon buns leaving the end side down. With a sharp knife, split the dough in the middle all the way through.

flettebakstsplit

Start placing one end over another and braid the dough together.

flettebakstbraid

Form the braid into a circle, and it will end up looking like this:

flettebakstrose

Prepare a 10 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper at the bottom and place the braided dough into it.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another 45 minutes.

flettebakstform

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the dough with the almond milk and sprinkle with the pearl /demarara sugar. Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Let cool on rack before releasing the spring form. Enjoy!

flettebakst3

 

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May 1st: The Cuckoo’s Day

The first day of May is traditionally a holiday in Norway, where most people take off and take a break from work (although one could argue that this year this is no different than any other Friday, as the trend in Norway is going towards a 4 day work week, with a lot of people getting in the habit of taking Fridays off).  But what is the history of this day, known as the “International Worker’s Day”? It started with a world congress in Paris in 1889.  Workers in the United States had fought a long time for an 8-hour work day and  May 1st was their gathering date. On this congress in Paris it was decided that this day were to be an international demonstration day. This has since developed into an observed holiday in many countries.

In Norway, it’s a sign of that spring is in full arrival, with a bit of green appearing on the birch trees, while the snow capped mountains light up the background, all of it surrounded by the stunning blue fjords. What could be more beautiful? Here is a photo my friend Pia took of my hometown of Sykkylven just a couple of weeks ago:

sykkylvenpia

Photo Credit:  Pia Janet Yksnøy

This day was historically also called the “Cuckoo’s Day” (gaukedagen).  The name may have stemmed from the pre-Christian name of the first summer month, the Cuckoo month.  (For those that don’t know, the cuckoo is a medium sized bird, not seen in the United States, but more in Europe and Asia).

Guira Cuckoo

On this day, it was important to notice which direction one would hear the first cuckoo from. For instance, it was a bad sign if one would hear it from the north.  Another rule was, when the cuckoo sang, the kids were allowed to go barefoot. This was something the children really looked forward to;  as soon as they heard the cuckoo’s hooting call, they threw off their shoes and socks and ran across the field in their bare feet.  To hear the cuckoo was important for various reasons, as it would signify what weather to expect; from rain, to cold , to sunshine and warmth.

May 1st is an important day for many, and is marked in different ways, such as participating in parades and giving speeches, celebrating workers and their rights. Others celebrate the day off with a long and delicious breakfast, and perhaps set the year’s first celebratory table out in the garden.  The day has brought both snow, sleet and gorgeous sun throughout the years, so when the weather agrees, it’s a particularly fun day for Norwegians!

Freshly baked goods and a few flavorful salads are typical additions common when preparing a delicious May 1st breakfast.   “Tebirks”, also called “breakfast bread”, is a type of pastry that is popular to include, and can be made savory or sweet.   It is also commonly seen in Denmark, where it goes by “tebirkes”.   These pastries were particularly popular in the late 60s, but I love them even today, as it is a nice break from the traditional whole wheat breads that are offered at breakfast, and are a bit more decadent and festive.

As I’m not off on May 1st here in the U.S., I am planning on making these this weekend instead, but wanted to include a super simple recipe in time for today regardless, and have included a few pictures of what they look like.  Hope you all enjoy and that you will try to replicate a Norwegian May 1st breakfast this weekend too!

tebirks

Photo Credit: klikk.no

TEBIRKS  (vegan)

1 1/2 cups  plant-based milk (soy, almond or cashew milk works great, you can also use water)

50 grams/2 oz vegan butter (about half a stick – I like to use Earth Balance)

25 grams / 1 oz fresh yeast (or 1 packet dry yeast)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

about 1 lb of all purpose flour

50 grams/2 oz (about half a stick) vegan butter, melted

water or plant based milk for brushing dough

poppy seeds for decorating

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500F (250C).  Dress two baking sheets  with parchment paper.

Heat up the milk and butter until the mixture reaches a temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celcius).  Be sure to not overheat the liquid, as the yeast will die. Add in the yeast, followed by the sugar, salt and flour. Work the dough lightly together, it should not be too stretchy, but light.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll the dough out to a  8 x 32 inches rectangle (20x80cm).  Brush the dough with a the melted butter, leaving about an inch butter free around the edges.  Fold the dough in three parts and turn the folded side down towards the table and cut the dough into 2 inch pieces.  Let rise for another 30-45 minutes.  Brush the pieces with some plant-based milk and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.  Place them on the prepared baking sheets and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top.  Serve them warm, fresh out of the oven with butter,  home made strawberry jam or topping of your choice!

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Photo Credit: bakkedal.info

Tebirkes

Photo Credit:

Chocolate Cake: A Universal Delight

Norwegians are as passionate about their chocolate cakes as anybody else in the world, so it seems wrong not to include a recipe for one on Arctic Grub.  I have been looking to make the perfect chocolate cake for quite some time now, and I finally have a recipe that I am super excited about!

Chocolate cakes can take many shapes and forms, using lighter chocolate like milk chocolate or dark, poured into baking pans, cake pans, loaf pans or even muffin pans.  Here’s a picture of some classic Norwegian chocolates:

norsksjokolade

I prefer using dark chocolate, not just because it is void of any milk products, but because I find the flavor is much richer and deeper, and of course… dark chocolate contains more nutrients and has all the heart-protecting anti-oxidants. Here are some great reasons why you should choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate:

1.  Dark chocolate is brimming with monounsatured fatty acids.

2. It contains half the sugar of milk chocolate and four times the fiber.

3. Iron levels soar in dark chocolate and can help make you strong!

4. It’s got way more magnesium and twice the potassium.

5. Dark chocolate has more theobromin, the bitter alkaloid of cocoa that helps lower blood pressure.

darkvsmilkchocolate

Now, if I still haven’t convinced you which chocolate is better, all you have to do, is just make this chocolate cake and you will throw your hands up and agree with me! 🙂

It’s hard to believe this cake does not contain any dairy or eggs. Rich, yet still light and fluffy – it comes together in 6 minutes and you don’t need a bowl to mix the ingredients – you just mix them right in the cake pan! Quick, easy and delicious? Yes, please!   Don’t think the vinegar in the recipe is a mistake, the combination of vinegar and baking soda helps the cake rise.

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For the frosting, use a high quality chocolate like Valhrona or Callebaut.   For a more beautiful presentation and if you have a few more minutes, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl, and line the cake pan with parchment paper, oil the sides and dust with flour. This makes for an easy removal of the cake after it comes out of the oven and a more elegant look for guests.

I made this for my colleagues at work, and the cake was gone in minutes! Enjoy!

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MY FAVORITE, MOST DELICIOUS VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
Cake Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold, strong brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Chocolate Glaze
  • ½ pound dark/bittersweet chocolate
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Equipment: 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan, 2-cup measuring cup, double boiler
  2. Preheat the oven to 375º.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan.
  4. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla.
  5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly.
  6. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.
  8. To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the melted chocolate until smooth.
  10. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake.
  11. Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Pepperkaker: a staple on Norwegian Christmas tables

Pepperkaker is what the Norwegians lovingly call gingerbread cookies.  These are very common all over the country, not just as cookies served in people’s homes, but they are often seen placed on tables in retail stores, kindergartens, nursery homes and other public buildings as an offering during the Christmas holiday season. They are particularly suited to enjoy with the piping hot mulled wine beverage, “gløgg” –  the spices in both the cookies and the wine are similar, and nothing says “Christmas” quite like this combination.  Families will serve this while decorating the tree, wrapping Christmas presents or just as a snack or treat in the evening time while watching Christmas movies.

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Above image from ikeafamilylivemagazine.com

Tradition in Norway is to make seven different kinds of cookies before Christmas, and pepperkaker is often part of this series. There are strong opinions about which cookies exactly belong in the group of seven, and you are bound to hear as many different answers as there are Norwegians! But the most important thing, is that you select seven cookies that you and your family enjoy eating and perhaps have been part of your family history.  I don’t see how anyone could dislike biting into some pepperkaker, so I always include these in my seven 🙂  Kids always love to bake these, as they are easy, tasty, come in funny shapes and sizes and are also fun to decorate. For people who are extra motivated and ambitious, gingerbread houses are often made with the same dough recipe and decorated with ‘seigemenn’, an awesome Norwegian candy:

seigemenn

pepperkakehusImage from pepperkakegalleriet.no

It wasn’t until the 19th century, when the oven became a standard household appliance in Norway, that the true art of cookie baking kicked off.  In the 17th century, no specific cookies were defined as “Christmas cookies” and before that it was unclear which cookies were typically baked during Christmas. What people considered food tradition for this holiday, were also repeated and made for Easter and Pentecost.  The first trace of  the “seven different cookie” phenomenon was traced back about 100 years ago in western Norway, but then for a wedding, not Christmas.  They also included big “lefser” (a very traditional Norwegian soft flatbread made out of flour, milk and cream and spread with butter, vanilla sugar, and sometimes cinnamon), and on top two slices of bread and two types of cakes on top of that again.  They were the kinds of cookies and cakes we no longer regard as very fancy, but the emphasis was on the importance of serving seven different varieties.

pepperkakevisitosloAbove image from visitoslo.com

Along with “kringler“, more sophisticated types of bread and “kavring”  (buns, biscuits or bread that are dried in the oven), the pepperkaker arrived to Norway in the 17th century.  Since most people did not get ovens in their houses until the 18th century, as mentioned above, these cookies usually arrived from bakeries or large farms who were equipped with ovens. The tradition of pepperkaker continued to spread as more and more people started baking themselves when they acquired their own ovens.

So today I continue the tradition of making seven different kinds, and today is pepperkaker!

For best results, it’s preferable you make the dough for the gingerbread cookies the day before you bake them. This allows for all the spices to steep into the mixture, but also for the dough to get firm and cool enough so it is easy to handle.   This recipe is super simple to veganize as it traditionally contains no eggs, and I have just gone ahead and substituted plant based creamer /milk for traditional heavy cream. This way, these cookies, while they might contain their fair share of sugar, are at least low fat! But who’s counting calories this time of year anyway? I hope you like these!!

Awesome Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 50 cookies

1/2 cup light corn syrup (or use maple syrup or other liquid sweetener of your choice)

1 cup granulated sugar

150 grams (2/3 cups or 1 stick and 2 tbps) vegan butter

1/2 cup soy milk/creamer, or other plant based milk

3 -4 cups all purpose flour (enough to get a firm, smooth dough)

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsps ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar

1 tsp baking powder

First Day:

Combine the syrup, sugar and butter in a small saucepan, heat up until sugar is dissolved.   Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool down the mixture.  Whisk in the milk/cream, then gradually add the flour, spices and baking powder and stir until well combined. Cover the dough and place in fridge until the next day.

Second Day:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).

Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Knead the dough and roll out the dough until very thin, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using your favorite cookie cutters, start cutting out cookies and place on the prepared cookie sheets.

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Brush off any extra flour on top of cookies.   Bake for 8-10 minutes; the cookies are supposed to darken, but not become dark brown.

Cool off on a rack. If you want to decorate the cookies, you can mix some confectioners sugar with a few tbsp of water until proper consistency, place in a piping bag and let the artist in you out! Enjoy!

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