homemade: almond cardamom scones

 

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This past fall, Beatrice Ojakangas published her new memoir, Homemade. Unsurprisingly, it falls into the combined memoir/cookbook genre – one I have enjoyed in the past, though upon reflection I haven’t actually read too many of them (when you find your favorites it can be hard to move past them, you know?). Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to this one when I first heard about it. For those who don’t know, Ojakangas has published an astoshingly diverse array of cookbooks throughout her life, including the one that led me to start this blog: The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.

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While Homemade is a slim volume, it’s chock full of recipes and stories. It’s written in Ojakangas’s trademark straightforward style, which befits her own life story of growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota. If when you hear “food memoir” you’re expecting something in line with Molly Wizenburg’s A Homemade Life, keep an open mind with this book, which is nothing like that. The book is divided into two halves, which more or less correspond with Ojakangas’s childhood and youth, up through her college years (part 1) and her life after marriage (part 2). The “chapters” are small (many are only 2-3 pages), especially in the first half of the book. While I appreciated the glimpse of a childhood and an upbringing so completely unlike my own provided by part 1, I have to admit I enjoyed part 2 the most – this is the half of the book containing Beatrice’s stories of writing for Sunset Magazine, writing her cookbooks, spending a year in Finland, and meeting and working with both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. She truly has led a fascinating life.

Peppered throughout these anecdote-like chapters are, of course, recipes. They are definitely not purely Nordic, but again, the diversity of recipes is a strength. I flagged a few as I read that I wanted to try out, and the publisher has very kindly agreed to let me share my favorite here: almond cardamom scones. These are easy-peasy drop scones, and the secret to really getting these right is using freshly ground cardamom. Grinding the cardamom seeds is the most labor intensive part, but the fragrance and the aroma just can’t be matched by the pre-ground stuff. You’ll find the recipe below.

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Almond Cardamom Scones

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, to sprinkle over the top of the scones

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Lightly grease a large cookie sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, cardamom, sugar, and almonds in a large bowl.

Grate the frozen butter onto the flour mixture.

Mix the eggs and 1/2 cup of the yogurt in a small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and blend quickly, just until a dough forms. (Add a bit more yogurt or buttermilk if needed.)

Using an ice cream scoop, place in mounds of dough on the cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Sprinkle tops with the sugar.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes until light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

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Recipe excerpted with kind permission from HomemadeFinnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food by Beatrice Ojakangas.

gifts from the kitchen

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My latest piece for the Norwegian American is out now, and this one’s special: it’s a joint piece with my friend Christy! We worked on this piece together for the annual gift guide, so our recipes are for simple gifts from the kitchen.

My contribution is a quick recipe for a staple in my kitchen, lingonberry jam, and Christy provided recipes for homemade vanilla sugar and the slightly more unusual cardamom syrup (which I’m dying to try). You can find the recipes for all three right here.

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fyriskaka

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There’s a very narrow window here in northern Norway when the grocery stores have Norwegian apples available, rather than the (pretty sad) imported ones we find throughout the rest of the year. My husband and I were delighted to find that we could find domestic Gravensteins at the store when this window opened last year, so when it came around this time, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to bake an apple cake.

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I wanted to try another recipe from Fika, so as I thumbed through the pages I decided on the fyriskaka, which they describe as a “classic apple cake.” The recipe itself is quite simple, and they key components (aside from your typical cake ingredients) are apples, of course, along with cinnamon, brown sugar, and cardamom. Oh, the cardamom! The recipe calls for freshly crushed cardamom seeds, and I think that little detail really takes this cake to the next level. I also always love to bake anything that requires mixing up your sliced apples with brown sugar and cinnamon…

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The recipe calls for a springform cake pan, but my Norwegian kitchen is actually still lacking a lot of baking equipment and a springform pan is not part of the equation. My regular cake pan did just fine, however – I greased and floured it well and the cooled cake popped right out in one piece.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the cake itself was delicious – it’s hard to go wrong with this mix of ingredients, after all. Despite the amount of brown sugar and plain sugar that went into it, it wasn’t overly sweet. It’s kind of the perfect fika cake, to be honest. I might have to make this one again before the domestic apple window closes.

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You can find the recipe for this cake in Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall.

coffee & fennel

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Hello after a long unintentional pause! As usual with this blog, I didn’t mean to go so long without posting, but life sometimes has other plans. I broke my shoulder just a few days before my last post in March, and that definitely derailed my year to a degree – but I’m beginning to get back into old routines again and have even done a bit of baking this weekend. More on that soon, but first I figured I’d mention two pieces I wrote in the past few months for the Norwegian American (previously known as the Norwegian American Weekly). The first is a recipe: A simple fennel slaw for summer. This is truly simple; a no-heat recipe accompanied by some musings on the culture of outdoor music festivals in the summertime. I also wrote a piece about Norwegian coffee culture which you can find here: Norwegian coffee culture 101. I had a lot of fun with both!

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I’ll be back soon with more baking posts!

 

havrekjeks

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Oats are easy to find in Norway. Havregryn (or rolled oats) comes in small and large varieties, havregrøt (oatmeal) is a common breakfast – the kind I like has cardamom to boot! Havremelk (oat milk) is a common non-dairy substitute, and my grocery store even carries an oat-based non-dairy creme fraiche. And then there’s havreflarn and havrekjeks, different types of cookies made from oats. Since making the havreflarn med choklad from Fika, I’ve been experimenting with oat cookie recipes, and now I’ve had one published in the Norwegian American Weekly.

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My havrekjeks are thin and chewy, with chocolate chips. I never was a fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, but oats and chocolate is a combo I can get behind. You can find the full recipe for these over at na-weekly.com.

snow day waffles

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I finally bought myself a proper Norwegian waffle iron a week or two ago. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve actually owned one, though I’ve enjoyed Norwegian vaffelhjerter (waffle hearts) many times. It seems a bit frivolous to say it, but this is a Big Deal for me. It’s hard to overstate the significance of these thin heart-shaped waffles here in Norway – in my head, vaffelhjerter are to Norway as Swedish pancakes are to Sweden and æbleskiver are to Denmark (perhaps it’s because they go so well with Norway’s brown cheese, gjetost). Where events or info booths in the U.S. or would entice students to stop by with promises of free pizza, Norwegians promise free waffles. In the summer, my favorite way to eat them is with a slice of gjetost and strawberry jam, made from Norwegian strawberries (which are the best strawberries I’ve ever had).

My new waffle iron has already gotten a lot of use, and as we’ve had a winter storm blowing through today, I decided to make snow day waffles! I don’t have many photos, since I made them in the late afternoon and it was already getting dark, but I enjoyed them with some hot cocoa and they were delicious.

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The recipe I used was one from my friend Daytona, of the fantastic Scandinavian food blog Outside Oslo. You can find a link to the recipe right here, and I recommend you go over and read the accompanying story, even if you don’t plan to make the waffles. The recipe was her great grandma Josephine’s, so it’s one with a strong family history and connection, which is my favorite kind. Daytona’s touch is a little bit of added cardamom, and you absolutely can’t go wrong with that.

As written, the recipe is capable of whipping up a waffle breakfast for quite a crowd – I halved the recipe and still got seven or eight waffles out of it. I’m sure whether or not you use an electric beater for the eggs makes a difference in that regard.

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You can find the recipe for these delicious waffles over at Outside Oslo.

plómukaka

Yesterday I baked a plum tart.

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Sundays in Norway are perfect for baking. Most places with the exception of a few coffee shops or corner stores are closed, so you can take advantage of a little time off. This might mean a day out and about hiking (or at this time of year, skiing), or it might mean a slow home-y day, which for me usually involves some quality time in the kitchen. I went out walking for a few hours on Saturday, so I decided to take it easy yesterday and mostly hang out at home.

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I had picked up some beautiful red plums at the grocery store earlier this week, which I’ve been enjoying, but it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t going to finish them all before they started to go soft and overripe. Not wanting them to go to waste, I sat down with my baking books a few days ago. I found a recipe for an Icelandic purple plum tart in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book that looked simple and delicious, and so yesterday I whipped one up, very successfully putting the pound of plums to good use.

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As I often do with Beatrice’s recipes, I made a few little changes. She instructs you to quarter the plums, though I went ahead and sliced them into eighths, since the base of the tart is rolled out pretty thin and I find them easier to arrange when smaller. I’ve made a few notes for myself for next time, too: I could do with less flour all around (flour is always such a good argument for measuring by weight instead of volume) and the quantity of crumbly topping to go over the plums was too much as well (I didn’t use it all).

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The tart turned out delicious nonetheless, and I was able to make it with ingredients I had on hand which is always a plus – aside from the plums, all that was needed was flour, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. The end result was something like a thin-tart version of a German pflaumenkuchen (and indeed if you Google “plómukaka” you get a string of results for “Þysk plómukaka”, or German plum cake). And while the recipe called for purple plums, the red plums were just fine as a substitute (and just as beautiful, too, as the color of the skins starts bleeding out into the fruit and the tart itself).

You can find the recipe for this tart in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.