a plea: the norwegian american needs your help

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you may know that I occasionally contribute recipes to the Taste of Norway section of the Norwegian American, a bi-weekly paper based out of Seattle that is America’s only remaining Norwegian-American newspaper. This paper has been published continuously (under a few different names over time) since 1889, and now they need our help. If you, like me, are interested in cultural heritage and Scandinavian-American culture, I hope you’ll read on. If you’re unfamiliar with the paper, you can read a little bit about it on their about page, or if you’re interested in a more detailed historical overview (I’m a nerd, you guys – I love this stuff) you can check out the Wikipedia page for the Norwegian American.

I am proud to contribute to this paper and lucky to call two of the recent past editors friends, but keeping any newspaper going is a challenge these days and the Norwegian American is no exception. In the past few years, the paper has begun to modernize, with a larger online presence in general as well as dipping their toes into social media. This has been a good move for them – in fact, my piece on Norwegian coffee culture was shared so widely that it actually attracted the attention of my local government here in Norway, eventually leading to my being named a digital entrepreneur by the county of Troms, where I currently reside. (The photo below is from the ceremony, and you can read the description here – in Norwegian, of course. I’m on the far left, and that’s our Executive Councillor for Health, Culture and Business Development kneeling in front.)

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What the paper is doing these days is relevant and interesting, and if you think so too, I hope you’ll consider contributing to their Indiegogo campaign, which runs for two more weeks. This fundraiser is intended to help cover operating costs not being met by subscriptions and advertising revenue alone. You can contribute as much or as little as you like, and there are a diverse array of perks to choose from based on your donation level. And finally – this is where I come in!

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One of the perks is a cookbook called A Taste of Norway: Flavors from the Norwegian American, which collects a selection of recipes that have been printed in the newspaper in the past into a single volume. Here’s what they have to say about it:

“By popular demand, we’re bringing you a collection of recipes that have been featured on the pages of The Norwegian American. From such acclaimed Nordic food writers as Daytona Strong, Sunny Gandara, Maria Stordahl Nelson, and this paper’s own former editor, Christy Olsen Field, the spiral-bound cookbook will cover main courses, soups and sides, and of course sweets. It even has a few drink recipes!”

There are, of course, many other kinds of perks (I’ve got one of those waffle bandanas and a set of vintage reproduction postcards lined up for myself) which you can peruse at your leisure. As the fundraising campaign runs for 14 more days, perhaps you might make a donation in honor of syttende mai, Norway’s national holiday happening next week? There’s a long way to go yet (we’re sitting at 44% of our goal) so we’d love your help. If you’re unable to financially contribute at this time, you can still help us out by spreading the news, or by following the Norwegian American on Facebook or Twitter.

And just to get you in the spirit, I’ll close with this photo from May 17 two years ago, when I watched the parade in Ballard (in Seattle, Washington) with my friends Christy and Kelsey, two of the past editors of the Norwegian American. We hope you’ll support the fundraiser!

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I turn in my thesis next week (before syttende mai, fortunately), so we’ll soon be back to regularly scheduled sporadic posts about Nordic baking. Thanks for indulging a little plea for help for a paper I love in the meantime!

fastelavnsboller

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Now that Easter is approaching, what better time to write about a treat traditionally consumed on Shrove Tuesday? (I’m poking fun at my own tardiness here, *wink, nudge*.) I first learned about fastelavnsboller, or semlor as they’re known in Swedish, from a Sweden-loving friend who was visiting Seattle and wanted to know if I knew where to find any. I hadn’t heard of semlor, so I sadly didn’t have any advice, and I also had no idea at the time that they were associated with the period before Lent – although today, in largely secular Scandinavia, they are often consumed throughout the first few months of the year by many without regard to the Christian calendar. Nonetheless when the weekend before Shrove Tuesday rolled around, I decided that I wanted to make myself fastelavnsboller for the first time!

These treats are essentially cardamom boller that have been cut open and filled with something delicious. Some versions have you scoop out a little bowl from the bottom piece, and you combine the bready filling with almond paste and add it all back to the bun, topping it off with whipped cream before the little top goes back on. Other versions skip the almond paste step and just add whipped cream (I opted for the latter). Both versions are super delicious. My friend Daytona’s recipe for the Norwegian American will tell you how to make both versions, and this is the recipe I used.

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My fastelavnsboller are yet another illustration of how I am sometimes a makeshift baker. I halved the recipe, and assumed I had enough all-purpose flour for a smaller batch – but it turned out I didn’t. So I added in a little bit of rye flour at the last minute, which obviously made for a slightly heartier bun than normal (but to be honest, I actually kind of enjoyed it). I still had fun making these and I absolutely loved whipping up the cream and dusting it all with powdered sugar at the end. Whether during Shrovetide or not, I think everyone should try these at least once.

You can find the recipe for these buns (for free!) over at the Norwegian American’s “Taste of Norway” section. Thank you to Daytona (of Outside Oslo) for such a wonderful recipe!

syltgrottor

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It’s been a little quiet on this blog but this time, it’s not because I haven’t been baking! It just turns out that a lot of things fall by the wayside when you’re also writing a master’s thesis. So I’m working to catch up on a few things!

One Saturday in February, my friend Anna came over for some tea and knitting in the afternoon. We’d both been feeling the winter blues a little bit, but these thumbprint cookies from Fika, called syltgrottor in Swedish (or “jam caves”), definitely helped raise our spirits.

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Fruit and jam types of cookies were never my favorite growing up – I wanted rich chocolate in my cookies basically all the time – but as an adult I’ve really come around to them. This recipe calls for Queen’s jam, which there’s a recipe for in Fika – it’s a jam with equal parts raspberry and blueberry. I didn’t have any of that, however, so I just used plain old raspberry jam. It was still absolutely delicious, but with the subtle anise flavor of these cookies, I can see how the flavors of the Queen’s jam would be a winning match!

These cookies are meant to be baked in small paper liners, but I spaced out and forgot to pick up any at the store when I bought ingredients, so we just baked them right on a baking sheet with parchment paper, which worked absolutely fine. I’d love to give them another go with paper liners, however.

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Fika continues to be one of my favorite baking books, one that I reach for most often now. And I can definitely see myself making these again. Do you have a favorite type of thumbprint cookie?

You can find the recipe for these cookies in Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall.

And a quick P.S. for anyone who enjoys Scandinavian design as much as I do! The authors of Fika are both talented artists, and Anna has just started the 100 day project on her Instagram with the goal to make one papercut piece every day for 100 days inspired by classic Scandinavian design (be still my heart!). You can check out the first post here (she kicks off with Stig Lindberg’s Berså), and be sure to follow Anna if you want to watch the project unfold.

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!