fastelavnsboller

fastelavnsboller1

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.

fastelavnsboller2

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!

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from boller to bread pudding

Boller are a coffee bread staple in Scandinavia. They are ubiquitous, and I must admit that I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the ones they sell at 7-11 and gas stations. Norwegian gas station boller are better than most things one can buy in an American gas station. I’m honestly not sure mine lived up to the standard.

waiting to go in the oven

At any rate, I baked the basic hveteboller recipe in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, and I enjoyed it very much. These coffee buns are a nice light yeast roll, flavored with a hint of cardamom. My kitchen smelled amazing all day, which is one of my favorite things about baking breads. (This was also one of the first things I baked in the new kitchen, and it’s as wonderful as I hoped it would be!)

The recipe yields two dozen rolls, which is all fine and well if you’ve got a big party or a feast to throw, but it was quite a lot for just me and my husband. As a result, several days after the initial baking, the remaining rolls were turned into bread pudding. I love a good bread pudding, and the Scandinavian cardamom coffee breads make an excellent bread pudding (I’ve turned pulla into bread pudding before as well). The one pictured below was made using this recipe – I prefer to leave out the raisins.

pulla

Oslo, January 2012

A belated happy new year to all of you! I am back in Hungary now, but I welcomed the new year with friends in Copenhagen, which I followed up with a trip to Oslo. Winter has always been my favorite season; I love the cold fresh air and and the quiet calm outside and especially the snow. So when Oslo got its first good snow of the winter while I was there, I was thrilled to death. And then I did what I always do: I baked.

I was fortunate enough to make it to another Sunday evening meal with my friend Camilla and her family up in Bærum while I was in Norway, and her family had been so good to me on my last visit that I wanted to bake them something. I thumbed through The Book and settled on a recipe for cardamom coffeebread, dubbed pulla. Beatrice tells a tale about the name of this particular bread:

“Although this bread is the basic yeast coffeebread of all Scandinavia, the name I give it is Finnish because of my own bias. The Swedes call it vetebröd, Norwegians call it hvetebrød, the Danes call it hvedebrød, and the Icelandics call it hveitibrauð. All of these names mean ‘wheat bread.’
The Finns who settled in the early 1900s in our country brought this recipe with them. At that time the Finnish word for wheat was nisu rather than vehnä, the modern name. (The Finnish language has been ‘Finnicized’ since the early part of this century, and all words that were too ‘Swedish’ such as nisu have been changed to more correct Finnish.) But many American Finns still call this bread ‘nisu,’ and the debates become heated! Where I grew up, however, we called this bread ‘biscuit.’ . . . The name pulla, however, arises from the Swedish bollar, which is translated as ‘bun.’ But pulla is most often shaped into a braided loaf. All very confusing!”

This is a bread with many names.

We added one more name once we got up to Camilla’s family home – her father Fred misheard me when I tried to tell him it was hvetebrød, and he thought I said flettet brød, or “braided bread.” It is perhaps the most apt description of any of the names! It is indeed braided bread.

This is one of my favorite recipes out of the book thus far. It really bats it out of the park, in my opinion. I’ve become really comfortable with yeast doughs in the last few months, and this recipe bakes up into three really lovely soft loaves that you can pull apart with ease (but that hold together quite nicely if you’re trekking around on Oslo’s public transportation system with freshly baked bread in tow, as I was). And the cardamom is the perfect amount. I was happy to have friends to give loaves away to, or else I’d easily have scarfed them all down myself!

I’ll leave you with just a few photos of the trips to Copenhagen and Oslo. I can’t wait to go back.

möndlusnúdar

Every year at Christmas I come back to North Carolina, where I grew up, to spend the holiday with my family. Last year I spent the entire time frantically knitting some last-minute commissions. This year I promised my family I would spend the whole time baking instead. I got started on that promise yesterday!

First up were möndlusnúdar, or Icelandic almond rolls. This is one of the recipes in the book that’s a little bit of a head-scratcher. In Ojakangas’s opening description, she tells us “these sweet yeast rolls are filled with almond paste and cinnamon.” Almond paste and cinnamon? Yum! Totally on board. But, wait – there’s no cinnamon in the recipe. None at all! Which is also totally fine, but why on earth does she claim there’s cinnamon in the filling?

Each recipe in the book gives you an idea of how much the recipe should yield – 3 dozen cookies, 2 loaves, and so on and so forth. Usually, especially in the case of the cookie recipes, my quantities are nowhere near these estimates. For once, with the möndlusnúdar, my quantity was pretty close: the recipe is supposed to yield 30 rolls, and I got 32 out of it.

The hardest thing about this recipe was maneuvering the unbaked rolls into the muffin liners they would be baked in. The recipe requires making the dough, and then making the filling while the dough rises. I used a food processor for the filling, so it was wonderfully smooth and spreadable. You roll out the dough, brush on the filling, and then roll up the dough, as for a jelly roll. Ojakangas instructs you to roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 14″ x 24″, but I found that the “jelly roll” this gave me was far, far too large in diameter to fit into muffin cups. Hence the difficulty in maneuvering the unbaked rolls (I ended up cutting most of them in half). Many of the rolls came out quite large and not a little bit misshapen, but they tasted fine just the same.

While the rolls bake, you make a glaze with powdered sugar, cream, and almond extract, which you brush over the hot rolls once they’re out of the oven (this gets a little bit messy and gooey, but in a good way). Then you top with chopped almonds. The resulting rolls are warm, sweet, gooey, and delicious. They’re a bit like little cinnamon rolls, but with the cinnamon swapped out for almond. I’m definitely a fan, and my family seemed to enjoy them too. It was a great way to kick off the holiday baking!

And for some more Icelandic Christmas fun, why don’t you check out the wikipedia page for the jólasveinarnir, or Yule Lads, Iceland’s thirteen Santas? I think my favorite might be Skyrgámur, the one with an affinity for skyr, Iceland’s thick, tart yogurt.

herttaisetrinkilät

According to the recipe, these Finnish cardamom rings are baked for special occasions, such as a baby’s baptism. I had a craft night coming up, so I decided to bake them for that. Monthly craft night’s a special occasion, right? It happens once a month at the lovely Ghost Gallery on Capitol Hill, and this month, there was a lot of knitting (on my part) and lantern-decorating (on most others’) going on. And eating. Which brings me back to the point…

The cardamom rings were fairly easy to make, if a little time consuming. After your dough has risen for the first time you divide it evenly into sections which are rolled out into long wand-like pieces and then twisted together before joining them to make rings. My dough wasn’t quite as stiff as I was anticipating so the pre-baked rings felt a little delicate, but they turned out just fine. They’re subtly sweet – there’s not a lot of sugar in this recipe – which gives them a nice flavor. The small size makes them a little bit more manageable than the klippekrans was at a social gathering, too, which is always a plus. I’ll definitely be making these again.

klippekrans


(Klippekrans backstage at Mississippi Studios; photo by James Bailey)

The klippekrans is a Norwegian cinnamon wreath, and as I found out after I baked it, it is absolutely massive. That’s one thing I noticed just leafing through the book – the portions are all pretty huge, at least by my standards. I did what any sensible person would do; I shared it. My boyfriend and I were heading down to Portland to catch Damien Jurado’s last show of his US tour at the beginning of July, so we decided to take it with us.

The end product was seriously delicious. It was a little bit like a cinnamon roll with less icing. A giant cinnamon roll. For whatever reason, my dough didn’t rise as much as I thought it would before it went in the oven, and then it grew a lot once it was in there, so the outer layer of dough split apart a little bit. The end product was pretty dense for this reason, too, but it still tasted good! And sharing the klippekrans with friends and the bands was awesome and rewarding. I think that’s going to be my way around the huge portions.