Ice Cream Cake with Gjetost Filling

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

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

icecreamcake4

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

4 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

100 grams (3.5 oz)  shredded brunost

100 grams (3.5 oz) all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Filling:

* 1 quart vanilla ice cream   * see below

100 grams (3.5 oz) shredded brunost

60 grams (about 2 oz) hazelnuts, chopped

To make cake:

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

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

To make filling:

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

icecreamfillingbowl

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

icecreamfillingcake

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

icecreamcakewrapped

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

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

VANILJEIS  (Home made Vanilla Ice Cream)

Adapted from Martha Stewart magazine

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped

2 cups cold milk

6 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

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

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

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

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

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

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

icecreamcake3

Princess cake + Norwegian cheese = Valhalla

I don’t know what possessed me to want to bake today. The weather in NY has been yucky all week, muggy, humid with oppressing heat intermingled with thunder and lightning and heavy rainstorms. Not exactly ideal conditions for baking. But … my love for geitost (also called “brunost” meaning “brown cheese”) won, and thus I wanted to create another recipe that involved this lovely cheese. If you are not already familiar with this unique, Norwegian cheese, please visit my previous post here, where I go more into detail about what it is and how it is made.

This cake offers multiple layers of flavors; a yeast dough flavored with cardamom, smeared with melted brown cheese, butter, sugar and maple syrup (what’s not to love??) and a home made rum cream. Fluffy, sinful and amazing… that must be the first three words that come to mind. Did I mention sinful? Cheese AND booze? Sign me up! I imagine this is what the big Viking Warriors who fought hard back in time and gave their lives, would want to eat once they arrived to their paradise, or Valhalla, as we call it in Norse mythology.

valhalla

“Valhalla” by Max Bruckner

Melting the brown cheese, heightens the buttery, tangy flavors already present in the cheese from the process of making it when caramelizing the whey, so the liquid becomes a sophisticated caramel sauce. You can also add a bit more liquid to the sauce (adding cream), making it slightly runnier, to drizzle over ice cream, or even this cake.

For those of you who don’t secretly eat gjetost plain by the slice (one of my bad habits), here is a recipe you can put to use if you are pressed for creative ideas of what to do with your hunk of cheese. When I tasted this cake out of the oven, I was truly brought back to Norway eating this yeasty dough… it was just so moist and flavorful.. reminding me of great mornings and afternoons at the bakery spending time with my friends over a cup of coffee and delicious baked goods. Believe me – you will be the star of the night (or day) if you serve this up to your family, friends, guests or neighbors… just be prepared to be asked for the recipe! Luckily, I will share it with you below…

PRINSESSEKAKE MED BRUNOSTFYLL (Princess Cake with Brown Cheese Filling)

120 g butter (1 stick)

1 cup low fat milk

1 packet rapid rising yeast (or 50 g fresh cake yeast)

2 eggs

70 g (2.5 oz) sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 lb (500g) all purpose flour

Gjetost/brown cheese filling:

75 grams (3 oz) shredded TINE gjetost

100 grams (3.5 oz) granulated sugar

60 g butter (1/2 stick)

1 tbsp maple syrup

brunostfilling1

brunostfilling2

*Rum Cream *recipe to follow

To make cake:

Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat and add the milk. Remove from heat, and add in the packet of yeast (make sure the mixture is not too hot – only about 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit).

In a stand mixer or by hand, whisk eggs, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add in the milk-yeast mixture. In a separate bowl , combine the flour and cardamom. Add in the flour mixture to the liquid and combine until you have a smooth dough. Let rise covered with plastic wrap in a warm spot for about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the gjetost filling. Combine all the ingredients in a small pot over low heat on the stove, stir until everything is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Make the Rum Cream:

1 3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

150 g (5 1/4 oz) granulated sugar

2 eggs

40 grams (1.5 oz) cornstarch

4 tbsp rum

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and cornstarch thoroughly together until no more lumps are showing.

In a sauce pot, add the milk, cream and sugar and bring nearly to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly pour in 1/3 of the hot milk mixture into the egg-cornstarch mixture. Careful not to let the eggs scramble. Add the egg mixture back into the sauce pot and heat up slowly once again, constantly whisking until the mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Pour into a shallow bowl or sheet pan with edges, and place in fridge to cool.

Preheat oven to 375F. Coat a 9-inch spring form cake pan with nonstick spray.

Once dough has risen, place onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Press the first half into the prepared cake pan.

princesscakehalfdough

Spread the gjetost filling on top along with half of the chilled, prepared rum cream.

princesscakefilling

Roll out the other half to a rectangle 20×30 cm (50 x 75 inches). Smear the other half of the rum cream onto the dough and roll into a tight sausage.

princesscakehalfdough2

Cut the rolls into 1 inch pieces, and place on top of the cake in the spring form cake, forming a circle.

princesscakebefoven

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for another 3o minutes.

Brush with some egg whites and bake in the bottom of the oven for about 30 minutes until golden.

princesscake2

princesscake

A strudel recipe rich in flavor

I can’t think of any other food product as authentically Norwegian as brunost (“brown cheese”), or gjestost   (goat cheese). This unique cheese goes by both names and is made from goat or cow milk or a combination of both.  More correctly, I should say it is actually more like fudge than cheese, as it is caramelized whey leftover from cheese making, that is pressed into a cube to look like and be consumed as cheese.  Gjetost is the symbol of Norwegian food culture.  In a previous post I explained all about this cheese and its history, if you haven’t read it I strongly encourage you to do so by clicking here.  I mentioned there that when showing this cheese to Americans or any other foreigners, upon first glance they would mistake it for either caramel or nougat, dulce de leche, toffee or some sort of chocolate.  I guess it can look like that when cut like this:

geitost

Geitost truly is an incredible product, packed with layers of flavors that gets the mind working the minute it hits your lips.  While most people use it as a topping on pieces of bread or crackers (for breakfast or lunch), on waffles or in savory foods, it is less common to see it used in sweet dishes, like dessert.   This is a shame, because it has the ability to contribute a wonderful nutty, caramelized flavor with a lot of depth to dishes like pie, cakes, sweet rolls and even sauces to be poured over ice cream!

A few years ago I was so happy to see that Norseland started to import “Ekte Geitost” to the U.S.  Previously only Ski Queen was available in the U.S., and while that is also a wonderful product with a very similar flavor profile, I got a special “homecoming” feeling when I saw the Ekte Geitost in the stores.  This is how the packaging looks like:

ektegeitostEkte Geitost, means “Real goat cheese”, is made from 100% goat milk, and has an intense sweet, caramel flavor that turns tangy, and then finishes slightly salty.  It is incredibly rich, so a little goes a long way.   Ekte Geitost is perhaps the style of brunost with a taste that most resembles the way this cheese was made on the farms in Norway in the old days.  Slightly milder and rounder than other cheese, it is my clear favorite among the many types Tine makes today (and there are many!).  Here are a couple of others – snapped at a grocery store in Norway last month:

brunoster

brunoster2

I wanted to come up with a recipe to showcase how this cheese can be utilized in a dessert, and by trying out a few different recipes, I finally came up with a strudel type dessert.   A strudel is a layered pastry, originally from Hungary with a sweet filling (sometimes savory), which is often served with powdered sugar.   The dough used in Hungary and Austria is very elastic, and is not a puff pastry traditional in other countries. I made a simple butter dough, filled with tart and sweet apples mixed with some sugar and cinnamon, crushed almonds and shredded gjetost and baked in the oven…. what could go wrong here? Nothing!  Apples and cheese go well together in both pies and grilled cheese sandwiches, so why not add in gjetost? They came together so harmoniously you would think they were created for each other, I was really pleased with how this dessert came out!

strudel2

Try this out this weekend for Father’s Day if you can get a hold of this cheese in your town – a lot of American gourmet stores (and even regular grocery stores) carry the Ski Queen, and in larger cities also the “Ekte Geitost”. Either cheese would be just fine in the strudel.  I think you will make Dad happy with this one!

APPLE STRUDEL WITH GEITOST

Strudel Dough:

1 cup (250g) all purpose flour

1/2 stick (50g) unsalted butter, cubed

2 whole eggs

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

melted butter for brushing strudel dough

Filling:

4 large Gala/Jona Gold/Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

juice from 1 lemon to keep apples from browning

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

3 tbsp butter

2 tsp cinnamon

125 g (4 1/4 oz) or 1/2 cup shredded Ekte Geitost

Confectioners sugar for dusting

Combine all ingredients for strudel dough (including the salt) in a food processor and combine until it comes together. Dump onto a surface and knead into a disc, and let rest /chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F and  spray or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium low heat, add the butter, sugar and cinnamon and heat through until it melts and everything is combined.    Pour into a bowl and add the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the dough to a large, thin rectangle, about 14 x 20 inches, dusting with flour as needed so as to not tear the dough.  It’s important to get it thin enough but also thick enough so it won’t break when you fill it. Place the apple-nut mixture in a row in the middle (make sure it is not very liquidy, as that will assist in tearing the dough), and top with the shredded cheese.

strudeldough

strudeldough2

Fold /roll the dough over the filling and place onto the baking sheet.  Brush generously with melted butter and bake in the oven in the middle rack for 30-35 minutes until the top if golden brown.   Cool slightly and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Delicious when served with vanilla bean ice cream!

strudel

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You can purchase Ekte Geitost at Scandinavian Butik either online or visit them at 349 Main Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851. Tel (203) 529-3244. They are open Mon-Sat from 10am-5pm, closed on Sundays.

Norwegian Cheese 101

There’s more to Norwegian cheese than Jarlsberg and brunost.  Some of you may have recalled my blog post a couple of weeks ago about the infamous Norwegian caramelized goat cheese, also called “gjetost” or “brown cheese”.  Today, I was inspired to write about other Norwegian cheeses after having come across the following news article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/europe/norway-cheese-fire-shuts-tunnel.html?_r=0

Funnily, this story made news all around the world, hopefully people will not associate brunost with burning tunnels from now on!

norskost2

Back to our cheeses…Years ago, most cheeses were made on individual farms during the summer, at special dairy cabins high up in the mountains. The most common types of cheeses were a firm, mild, white cheese, as well as a pressed, granular large-curd cheese called gamalost (“old cheese” – see further down for more details). There was also a fermented cottage cheese, and another made with beer.  The white cheese was made with sweet or sour milk – typically the sweet milk was heated, then the sour milk added afterwards. The mixture was placed in a bag or container with small holes for the whey to escape, and the whey was reserved to make other types of cheeses (brunost, for example).  Not a drop of  milk gathered on these farms were wasted, and the entire process was overseen by the women, who were responsible for the animals on the farm.  The dairy industry has always been extremely important to Norway and while we may not see a lot of products represented in this country, we have a tremendously interesting selection and a rich, culinary history tied to cheese making.

I’ve always found dairy products in Norway (on average) to be richer and more flavorful than many other countries’ dairy products. The yogurts are smoother, the milk creamier and the cheeses have a nice, velvety texture that brings out every layer of flavor. I truly believe this has to do with our unspoiled nature our animals are fortunate enough to roam around in, but the Norwegian government also supports our agricultural industry in a way where it’s possible to make wholesome products without compromising too much of the quality.

I would like to focus on a few of our more well known cheeses in this post. However, while doing research I happened to come across a myriad of small dairy farms now producing incredibly exciting cheeses of the highest quality,  so I most definitely will come back and focus on individual producers in future posts!   For now, you should know about the following:

Nøkkelost

This cheese is also sometimes called “cumin cheese”, as it’s flavored with cumin, cloves and caraway spices. A semi-hard cheese, its name translates into “key cheese” (nøkkel = Norwegian for cheese) and has been made since the 17th century. The cheese is modeled after the Leyden cheese from Holland. The name comes from the symbol on the gates of the city Leiden. In the late 1860s, Leyden cheese used to be accepted as payment when trade was done between the two countries, and when the trade stopped, the Norwegians began making their own version of this cheese.

Nøkkelost is available in the U.S. either through Scanspecialties.com,  igourmet.com or at various gourmet stores around the country.  You can also try to make your own if you are being adventurous! Below is a recipe:

Homemade Nøkkelost

10 quarts kefir or buttermilk

2 sticks + 1 tbsp (250 grams) butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cloves, crushed

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp salt

You can substitute cloves w/caraway if you prefer, but just know that the cheese will have quite a different flavor profile.

Heat up the milk and cook until the milk separates. Add in the other ingredients and heat up, but not hot enough so that the butter separates. Stir the mixture until it thickens, becomes smooth and releases from the bottom. Press the cheese into a container and let sit until cool.

Have this cheese with one of your favorite craft beers (Norwegian is best, of course:)), a very tasty combination!

nøkkelost

Gamalost

With roots going back to viking times, it’s not for nothing that the name of this cheese is Norwegian for “Old cheese”.  Most famously, this cheese was known for enhancing sexual prowess, and is dubbed the “Viking Viagra”.   This cheese is not for the faint of heart, as it is very smelly and requires an open mind. There is an old “recipe” for how it is made, which made me laugh:

“Take some cheese, stuff it in an old sock, bury it in manure under the barn, and when it is ready, it will crawl out.”

So for all those who can’t get their cheeses stinky enough – here’s a perfect one for you!!

This cheese is one of our oldest, most traditional food products, and is now protected by law, in an effort to preserve our food culture.

According to an article in the Norway Post, in the old days “skimmed cow’s milk was left to sour, heated, and then the curds were placed in cloth-lined wooden boxes, wrapped in dried marsh grass, and the aging process would begin. Every other day, for many months, the dairy maids would pull the boxes out from under their beds, where the cheese was stored, and rub the cheese by hand to help spread the bacteria evenly. By Christmas the cheese had fermented to a brownish gold color and was ready to eat.”

Gamalost is a hard cheese made from low fat buttermilk or kefir. It is sharp, somewhat bitter in flavor, with a granular consistency. It is quite low in fat, and sometimes dipped in aquavit. Because of its low fat content, it can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.

gamalost

Namdalsgomme

One of many local varieties of ‘gomme’ (“gomme” being the cheese that is created from cooking down the milk)  – this cheese has a round, sweet whey flavor, with hints of cardamom and cinnamon.  It is easy to cut, without being as smooth as cream cheese.  Namdalsgomme has an even, light brown color with a layer of cinnamon on top.
Not the most widely available cheese out there, it is still popular.  Namdalsgomme is perfect to spread on Norwegian lefser, lomper, and vafler as an accompaniment to your afternoon coffee.

gamalost2

Ridderost

Ridderost was developed in Norway in 1969, and has developed quite a reputation ever since, scoring high in taste tests and winning medals all over Europe. A semi-hard cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, it is light yellow in color with a bright yellow-orange rind, and has a buttery, soft texture with 60% fat content. Ridderost has a unique, rich aroma because of the coating of the bacteria culture on the outside. The cheese is putty aged, which is also very popular in Denmark, Germany and France. When the cheese is removed from its containers, it’s placed in a salt solution for about 4 hours, followed by a wash in the putty culture which gives it its individuality.  The cheese is usually sold in a wheel shape of about 4 lbs.

ridderost

This is a great cheese to add into salads, as an interesting addition to your cheese platter and even for dessert with some dried fruit. Dredged in a flour and egg mixture,  this cheese can also be fried and served with fruits and nuts.

Norvegia

A classic in Norwegian households, and probably Norway’s most popular cheese.  Made from cow’s milk, it has been made in Norway since the mid 19th century. With a mild flavor and creamy texture, it’s suitable for pretty much any dish; topped on open face sandwiches, shredded on pizza or mixed into sauces or made into a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. I’ve seen this cheese in a lot of U.S. stores, so should not be difficult to get a hold of for most.

norvegia1

norvegia

Try this recipe for a delicious grilled cheese, courtesy of Tine (the largest dairy producer in Norway):

Grilled Cheese w/Caramelized Onions

Serves 4

8 slices sourdough bread

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, halved and sliced thinly

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp vinegar

8 slices Norvegia cheese

8 slices of bacon

1 pear, sliced

2 tsp Dijon mustard

In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, add the butter, onion, sugar and vinegar, and caramelize the onion, this will take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.  Saute the bacon until crisp and reserve.

Heat up a saute pan or a sandwich /panini maker on medium heat.  Spread dijon mustard on the bread slices, add the Norvegia cheese, bacon and pears, and finish with another slice of Norvegia. Spread a bit of butter on the outside/top of the sandwich before placing it in pan or sandwich maker.  Cook until golden on the outside and the cheese is melted on the inside. Slice in half and serve with a salad or soup.

norvegiasandwich

Recipe and image courtesy of TINE

Pultost

Originally from Hedmark, this has a sharp, slightly fermented flavor.  Low fat and high in protein, it was, like gamalost, traditionally made from the remnants of butter production (butter was the most important dairy product in the old days in Norway, regarded as a luxury it was often used as payment for other goods). Both gamalost and pultost are made from sour milk, or buttermilk, and a cultured yeast is added to the milk. After being stored in a warm spot for a few days, the fermentation is stopped by adding salt to the milk and cooling it down. The cheese is then aged for several weeks, at which point caraway is added and the cheese is packaged and sent out for sale.  The traditional pultost is a loose, lumpy /crumbled cheese with a unique taste.

The origin of the name ‘pultost’ is unclear, but may come from the Danish word for lump, which is “pult”.  Other theories insist that it comes from the latin word “pulta” which means porridge. Today, three versions of pultost are made; from Hedmark (the original), from Løiten (this one is spreadable) and from Lillehammer (similar to Hedmark, but a bit milder in taste).

Try pultost on slices of rye or whole wheat bread, rolled in a lompe (or tortilla),  or with boiled or baked potatoes, sour cream and flatbrød. Cured meats and aquavit are also great partners.

pultost

Snøfrisk

Made from 80% goat milk and 20% cow’ milk, this cheese was introduced in 1994 in time for the Olympics in Lillehammer. It’s a soft, creamy, spreadable cheese with a fresh, but tangy flavor.  Milder than chevre, it is probably more closely related to the fromage fraiche family. Snøfrisk happens to be made close to the area where I’m from, in a town called Ørsta in north-western Norway.  The great thing about this cheese is that the only additive used here is salt, no stabilizers or preservatives are utilized. This is a source of pride for the cheese makers in Ørsta.

Other flavors are available too, such as juniper berry, dill, horseradish, thyme and forest mushrooms among others. There is now a firm cheese under the Snøfrisk label as well.

Try Snøfrisk in your cheesecakes or other creamy desserts,  as a nice creamy cheese addition to your cheese plate, in sauces or as a spread in your sandwiches. Snøfrisk is readily available in grocery stores across the country.

snofrisk

Clearly, there is a LOT more to say about Norwegian cheese, but hopefully this post helped introduce you to a few interesting items. As always, you can get many great Norwegian food items through online shops such as  Scandinavia Specialties, Ingebretsens, Vaersaagod and Scandinavian Food Store, among others.

 

Norwegian brunost – a cheese or not?

When I was a college student living in San Francisco in the early 90s,  nothing made me more excited than receiving a care package of brunost from my family.  Regarded as the epitome of Norwegian food, the familiar taste brought back fond childhood memories,  of cherished time with my family at the breakfast table, going skiing in the majestic mountains close to my hometown, or visiting  near and dear friends and family where the food served to guests often were centered around brunost.  Topped on waffles, sveler and homemade savory cookies and crisps, accompanied with a nice cup of coffee? Yes, please!

brunost3

With its rich, caramel flavor, brunost is both tangy and sweet and almost fudge like in texture. Whenever I serve it to Americans, they look at it and first assume it’s peanut butter.  I’m always surprised at the reactions and look on the faces of my new countrymen when they taste gjetost. For some reason I would have thought they would find it strange and unappealing due to its sharp taste and un-traditional appearance, but every single person that has tried it, loves it and has even turned it into their new favorite food.  Precisely because it is so different and unique to anything else out there, I nominate brunost as one of my favorite food items in the world.  No other Scandinavian country can claim it either – another slam dunk for Norway! Ha!  So how did this ‘cheese’ come to be?

Unique to Norway, brunost making has been going on in this country for several hundred years. Brunost (which means ‘brown cheese’) plays a central role in our food tradition. There is a national pride connected to this product which is hard to explain. Closely tied to farming and rearing of animals, it was the milkmaid in the mountain dairy farms who was responsible for making brunost  in the very beginning.  In Norway, the women were the ones in charge of the pastures, while the men did the lumbering.  The women took care of the animals, and the dairy farms were their kingdom.  Because many men had seasonal work such as going out at sea, women were frequently left with the day to day responsibilities of running the farm. I believe this is a big reason that we have such strong females in our country to this day, we know how to take care of ourselves! But I digress….

budeie

Originally brunost was a cheese high in sugar and low in fat.  That changed in the mid 19th century, when Anne Hov, a woman from an area in Norway called “Gudbrandsdalen”,  began the practice of  adding cream or sour cream to the whey to create a richer cheese.  This is how the most popular brand today, “Gudbrandsdalsost” , came to be.  Anne Hov played a big role in turning brunost into a beloved product all across the country. We will touch on more details about the Gudbrandsdalsost later.

WHAT IS BRUNOST, AND HOW IS IT MADE?

The name literally translates into ‘brown cheese’ and is sometimes also referred to as ‘gjetost’, which means ‘goat cheese’.  This is, however a misleading term. Why? Because some ‘gjetosts’ are made from cow milk,  some from goat or a mix of the two.

Gjetost, or brunost,  is technically not a cheese, as it is made from the whey, which is the liquid remaining after the cheese has curdled or strained.  Whey consists of whey protein, water and lactose (milk sugars). The whey is separated from the cheese during the cheese making and cooked down.

Let’s consider a certain amount of goat milk goes in to make ‘white’ cheese. What is left behind afterwards is whey, to which warm, whole goat milk is added and a small amount of cow milk.  This causes the cheese mixture to coagulate and form a pudding consistency.  Most of the water is eliminated by coking the whey over moderate heat for several hours and under reduced pressure in a vacuum steamer, before being cooked in large pots at relatively high heat. The entire cooking process will take about 9-10 hours,  and the finishing cooking phase will  last  for about 1 1 /2 hours; this is when the cheese achieves its brown color.  The higher the temperature and pressure, the darker the color.  The browning of the cheese comes from the caramelizing of the milk sugars which develops under heat/ the cooking process.

brunostmaskin

Towards the end, some cream will be added.  The cheese will be ready when the mix is firm enough to knead, but should not be dry. The cheese will then be cooled down for about 20-30 minutes, and stirring is still important during this time.  This is because the sugar from the milk is dissolved in the water when the cheese is warm, but when it cools down, the sugar will crystallize. It is important to make sure that the crystals won’t turn so large that the cheese gets a “sandy” texture.

The cheese mass will be shaped and placed into appropriate wooden or plastic containers, and stored in a cool place until the following day. At this stage, the cheese will be packaged, or in case of the “specialty” brunost with patterns, will be decorated and smoothed out so that the edges are even.  A lot of work is behind this procedure, and after researching the making of brunost, I have decided to pay more respect to this cheese the next time I eat it and savor every morsel!

Brunost is found in many variations, and the differences lie in the proportions of whey, milk and cream, and whether the cheese is made from cow milk, goat milk or a combination of the two.

Norwegian brown cheese, or goat cheese, will taste different depending on what dairy farm it is from, what type of milk is used, its freshness, the hygiene and caring for the animals, the pastures, how long the whey is cooked and the level of heat applied. The latter contributes to the intense, caramelized taste of the cheese.

There are three main types of brunost found in Norway:

Gudbrandsdalsost:  As previously explained, this cheese hails from the region of Gudbrandsdalen, known for medieval farms and good skiing. Located in eastern Norway, about 180 km from the capital of Oslo, this region owes a lot to brunost. This cheese is a mixture of  goat and cow milk, and has a rich and round taste, with elements of sweet and caramel like flavors.

gudbrandsdalsost 

Ekte geitost (‘authentic goat cheese’): Made from goat only; a mixture of goat whey, goat cream and goat milk.  Sweet with a caramel flavor, it has a distinct goat milk taste to it.

ektegeitost

Fløtemysost:   Slightly lower in fat , with a milder flavor, fløtemysost is also lighter in color than the other two listed above. This cheese is made from cow milk and cream.

fløtemysost

In the U.S, you will also see this package with brunost called “Ski Queen”:, a mix of cow and goat milk. I’ve seen this widely available in many grocery chains, Whole Foods, specialty gourmet shops and health food stores.

skiqueengjetost

igourmet.com, one of the online stores gjetost or Ski Queen can be purchased, describes it as follows;  “gjetost is packed with energy and is extremely tolerant of temperature fluctuations. Because of these benefits, Gjetost is a preferred snack for Norwegians skiers, who pack it in their backpacks and snack on it while on the trails. This is where the Ski Queen brand name comes from, and may be one of the secrets to the international success of Norwegian cross-country skiers.”

Another shot of some of the many types of brunost types out there- I don’t even know them all as many of them have been created after I moved to the U.S.:

brunosttyper

There are more formal brunost types out there too, which are hand carved and more expensive, and consequently served at special occasions only. My mother would sometimes bring these home during holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and it always made for a very festive and impressive centerpiece.

brunost og vaffler

About 12,000 tons of brunost is being produced yearly in Norway, where of this, 50% is Gudbrandsdalsost, 30% fløtemysost and 8-10% ekte geitost. The rest consist of specialty cheeses and “homemade” farm cheeses.

For many Norwegians, brunost has become an icon and is closely associated with Norwegian food; it is sold and served with baked goods at Norwegian seamen’s churches and organizations around the world,  it’s present on most people’s breakfast tables, as well as used in sauces,  served with baked goods and added to chocolate and even ice cream. In fact, 30% of all cheese being consumed in Norway is estimated to be brunost.  However, consumption has slowly declined over the past decade although stabilized the last year or two.  This might be because are  Norwegians eating less bread, and have greater selections of spreads and sandwich toppings to choose from today.

Below is a recipe I’ve had for a while for an ice cream cake utilizing brunost.   Can’t think of a fun and different dessert to make for you and your guests?  Try this one for a new culinary adventure!

ICE CREAM CAKE WITH BRUNOST FILLING

 4 eggs

4 tbsp sugar

100 grams (3.5 oz)  brown cheese, shredded

½ cup all purpose flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

Filling:

1 quart vanilla ice cream of your choice, softened

50 grams (2 oz) hazelnuts, chopped

100 g (3.5 oz) brown cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the shredded brunost, flour and baking powder. Choose a brunost with a  more powerful flavor, and don’t be afraid to use too much!  Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and pour the batter in. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Take the cake out of the oven and place onto a rack topped with paper to cool off.

To make the filling:  Stir the ice cream until it softens a bit more, add the shredded brunost and chopped nuts.  Spread the ice cream on top of the cake and roll it into a log, starting with the wider side.  Wrap the cake in plastic and place into freezer for several hours. When ready to serve, slice into pieces.
Pair it with a nice ice wine like the Inniskillin Vidal ice wine from the Niagara Peninsuala and you have a true, arctic meal!

Leaving you with an ultra Norwegian image of an open faced sandwich topped with brunost, often part of our ‘matpakke’ (lunch pack or lunch bag), a symbol of  modest, every day living.  Satisfying, simple while still luxurious – brunost will always have a special place in the heart of the Norwegian people!

brunostskive

Kjøttkaker – a rival to Swedish meatballs

Nothing is as Norwegian as kjøttkaker. Loosely translated as ‘meat cakes’, they are very similar in taste, texture and composition to Swedish meatballs, the latter probably better recognized among Americans (Ikea, anyone?). Shaped more like patties versus balls, kjøttkaker also, in my humble opinion, provide additional flavor when compared to their Swedish cousins, because more spices are added into the meat mixture. Norwegian meat cakes may look like this:

norskekjottkaker

Below is a photo of typical Swedish meatballs, shaped as the name implies, into “balls” and are slightly smaller in size:

norwegianmeatballs

Some argue that kjøttkaker aren’t Norwegian at all. Popping up during the 18th century, a grinder was required to make the meatballs, and since this was a very expensive equipment, only rich people owned one. And rich people were few and far in between in Norway at that time (how things have changed!).  The exotic spices in the meat were also ingredients not commonly seen in this part of the world. It didn’t take long however, until kjøttkaker were part of everybody’s diet, and they have since been named Norway’s National Dish. On everybody’s dinner table at one point or another during the week or month, it is natural that several versions have been created, and choices of sides may vary as well.  Some people choose to add oats in the ground meat, paying tribute to the old days when oats were used to make the meat last, creating more food for less money. In the Hjorthol household (Hjorthol is my maiden name), only added potato starch and sometimes flour is added, and we will serve mashed peas (instead of mashed potatoes, like the Swedes do) with the dish, as well as the traditional boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam.  Pickled cucumbers might also be on the plate.  Others select ‘kålstuing’ – a creamed cabbage dish – which I also enjoy. I have included this recipe for you all to try out as well.

The key to the complex, rich flavor of the sauce, is adding a couple of slices of the Norwegian “gjetost”. With its caramelized, tangy flavor it does miracles for any gravy, but is especially mouthwatering with this dish.  I’ve experimented with kjøttkaker for a while, and as a result, have chosen to add in a select mix of spices I think work wonderfully well.  Note the traditional kjøttkaker should always include nutmeg and ginger. Otherwise it’s not Norwegian! 🙂

Below is a lovely recipe for kjøttkaker, easy to put together but complex in flavor. Enjoy!

MORS KJØTTKAKER

1 lb mix of ground pork, beef and veal

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup panko or ¼ baguette without crust, cubed

1 egg

3/4 cup cold milk

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp clove

1/8 tsp allspice

½ of a small Vidalia onion, finely chopped

Sauce:

2/3 cup cold milk

1/2 onion, diced finely

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups meat stock, either from frying the meatballs or beef stock, heated

salt, pepper

2 tbsp red currant jelly

3 slices of “brunost” (Norwegian goat cheese)

1 tbsp fresh herbs (I like a mix of thyme and rosemary)

½ cup heavy cream

To make sauce: Saute the onion in butter in sauté pan. Add in the flour and the warm stock gradually while constantly whisking. Season with salt and pepper. Add ‘brunost , herbs and red currant jelly and whisk in, then heavy cream at the very end. Let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes, and season again w/salt and pepper if needed.

To make the meat cakes:

Mix the meats together in a big bowl, using your hands, and season with salt and pepper. Add the panko or bread cubes, egg, remaining spices, and finely chopped onion.

Knead well. Add the milk gradually and knead well each time. The milk should have the same temperature as the ground meat, preferably cold. The mixture should be smooth and even.  Shape into patties using a large spoon and a moist hand.  Add a tbsp of butter to a large sauté pan and fry the patties on medium heat, flatten them a bit with your hand, turn after 5 minutes and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Transfer them over to the already made sauce and let them steep for a few more minutes before serving.

ERTESTUING  (Mashed Peas)

This popular, ultra Norwegian side dish is versatile and can be used as a companion to many meals.  Most commonly known as the side kick to the famous (dreaded?) “lutefisk”, I certainly prefer it with my kjøttkaker. Simple, but satisfying – just remember to season well – nobody wants bland peas!!

Recipe:

2 cups green peas (frozen is ok)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp sugar

salt, pepper

about 2 tbsp of milk

If using fresh peas, soak them overnight. Cook them according to the package in lots of salted water, about 1 – 1 ½ hour.  Drain. (otherwise if using frozen peas, all you need to do is thaw them ).  Melt the butter in a sauce pan, whisk in the flour. Add in a splash of milk and whisk until smooth. Fold in the peas and let them simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.

KÅLSTUING  (Creamed Cabbage)

Kålstuing is a very simple dish, but this rich, creamy side is another classic staple in Norwegian cuisine, much like creamed spinach is here in the United States.  Wonderful with all types of sausage dinners, charcuterie and our popular fish cakes (to be covered later), I felt it necessary to incorporate kålstuing here!

kålstuing

1 1/2 lb head of cabbage, shredded

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

2 cups cabbage stock (leftover from cooking the cabbage)

1 cup milk

salt, pepper

nutmeg

Bring the shredded cabbage to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Drain, saving the water and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large sauce pot with a heavy bottom, and whisk in the flour until smooth and no lumps are left. Add the cabbage stock and milk until desired thickness.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the cabbage and let it cook for about 5 minutes or so.  Season again if needed.

kjottkakerogertestuing

The wonderful thing about the meat patties we make in Norway, is that we constantly experiment with these little suckers, and one version that has become extremely popular over the last couple of decades are kjøttkaker made from venison (or reindeer in Norway, but I know that is somewhat difficult to get a hold of here!!). Not only does the venison give the meat patties a wonderful gamy flavor, but it is also a healthier version providing lower fat.  Although relatively easy to get, reindeer is still considered a special treat in Norway, so people will offer these on special occasions mostly.  Because I am generous (sometimes),  I have added a bonus recipe using venison as well.  Here I use fewer spices to make the venison shine.  This sauce has mushrooms added into it, which is a terrific partner to any game dish.

REINSDYRKJØTTKAKER   (Reindeer Meat Cakes)

 1 ½ lbs reindeer meat (or venison), ground

2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp butter or oil for frying

Make the sauce (recipe to follow).  Place the ground venison meat in a large bowl, and add in spices, salt, pepper and potato starch, and mix into meat. Add the eggs and heavy cream and combine well. Shape into round patties, and fry them in a sauté pan about 5 minutes on each side. Add them into the sauce and let them steep under low heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve with boiled or oven fried potatoes and lingonberries, and if you like, brussels sprouts or other greens.

VILTSAUS  (Game Sauce)

200 grams mushrooms (whatever kind you like), sliced

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 cups beef or venison stock

5 juniper berries, crushed

2 cups heavy cream or sour cream

4 oz “brunost” (Norwegian brown cheese)

3 tbsp currant jelly

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, add the onion and sauté  on medium heat until clear, about 5-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté further, another 10 minutes. Add the stock and let it simmer and reduce by half. Add the juniper berries, heavy cream and brown cheese and simmer another 10-15 minutes. Finally, add the currant jelly and season with salt and pepper.

reinsdyr