I got a bit behind with things last fall; I had two recipes published in the Norwegian American Weekly’s Taste of Norway and I never made time to mention them here. Better late than never!
In September we were right in the middle of autumn in Tromsø, and it felt like a great time to do a Nordic take on the classic grilled cheese & tomato soup combo. Norway isn’t known for its amazing tomatoes, however, so I did my grilled cheese on rye bread and paired it with potato leek soup. This has been one of my favorite meals all through winter. You can find the recipe here.
In November I did a cookie recipe on the heels of the paper’s craft month, which was October. They’re simple spritz cookies but the decoration packs a punch: sprinkles are used to recall traditional patterns from embroidery and knitting. I had a lot of fun making these. Find the recipe here.
I’ve been baking bread recently.
It kind of started with The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book – I spotted it on the shelf at the PCC (my local grocery market) and picked it up, because my husband and I had been given The New Laurel’s Kitchen as a wedding gift and we kind of fell in love with the cookbook. As I’m usually more inclined to bake than to cook, I thought I’d give the bread book a try. And it’s a wealth of knowledge – there’s a section in the front called “A Loaf for Learning,” which is a little bit like a self-contained introduction to bread baking. While I’ve had success with shaped loafs of white bread (see here and here), whole wheat was a new grain for me, so I found the Loaf for Learning to be, fittingly, very educational. After a few tries at that, I thought I’d try a whole wheat recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. It worked out nicely, even if it did turn out a little wonky (I still need some practice shaping my loaves).
This recipe was a Norwegian one. Hvetebrød means “wheat bread,” and this is a pretty simple whole wheat loaf (not entirely whole wheat – the recipe called for both whole wheat flour and either bread flour or all purpose flour). It’s a slightly heavier loaf; not dense, necessarily, but not light and fluffy, either. As I was making it, I could tell this is a recipe I’ll enjoy pulling out in the autumn, once the weather turns cooler. There’s molasses in it, which lends to the weight of the crumb and gives a nice flavor, but it’s more appropriate for the cooler months, to me. I can see enjoying a slice of this loaf toasted with some brunost or gjetost on top (gjetost on toast is a winter favorite of mine). For now, in the middle of Seattle’s warm summer months, I had it with some lingonberry preserves instead.
Moving day is Monday, and I’m quite looking forward to the new kitchen! Full of light and definitely not cave-like. I think I’ll be very happy to bake in there. More soon!
So far, I’ve stuck to the sweeter recipes contained within The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. For some reason, I am intimidated by bread. It might be the yeast, because even though yeast isn’t that difficult, it’s usually the culprit if something’s gone wrong with bread baking. Determined to branch out into the rather large section of bread recipes, however, I decided to pick a simple bread to try out in my new Hungarian kitchen.
Enter landbrød, or Danish country egg bread. This is a fairly easy, if time intensive recipe, requiring few ingredients (flour, yeast, sugar, salt, eggs, and vegetable oil). It involves dissolving the yeast and then combining the ingredients to make the dough, followed by a 15 minute rest, then the kneading of the dough, and another hour’s rest while the dough rises. Then it is broken into pieces to form the beautiful braided loaf, and left to rise another 45 minutes before it goes into the oven for about a half hour. If you add up all the time you sit around waiting for the dough to rise, you’ll come out with two hours. This is perfect for Sunday baking, though, when I am home and have plenty of time and plenty of things to do while the dough is rising.
I’m still getting used to my oven, which uses gas mark numbers on the dial instead of temperatures, and so it was hotter than I expected. The bread wasn’t in for quite as long as it should have been, but I didn’t want the outside to be too crispy. Still, the inside baked nicely and the result was both delicious and quite pretty to look at. The recipe yielded two healthy-sized loaves, but they didn’t stick around long enough for me to get both in one shot. I can definitely see baking this recipe again, perhaps when I’m headed back stateside for Christmas.
Back in November my friend Bradley helped me move into a new house, and to repay the favor I offered baked goods (Brad is an avid baker himself). I pulled out The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and handed it over, instructing him to pick anything he wanted and I’d bake it. It didn’t take him long to choose, and he handed the open book back to me and said, “I want that!” He’d chosen lefse, a crepe-like Norwegian potato flatbread.
Baking lefse was kind of a big deal for me – among the Scandinavian-American community lefse has an almost iconic status, often made for Thanksgiving and Christmas and other family-focused holidays. I grew up in North Carolina which is pretty far removed from Scandinavian-American culture, and my family isn’t Scandinavian at all (rather we’re German-American, so I grew up with eierkuchen instead). When I finally took an interest in Scandinavian culture, lefse was one of the first foods I became familiar with, and it was the first traditional Scandinavian baked good I tried. I probably wouldn’t have picked this recipe on my own for quite some time, but I’m really glad that Brad picked it. It turned out to be simpler than I was expecting, and the end result was delicious!
Baking lefse involves blending your dough ingredients – potatoes, cream, butter, and sugar – and refrigerating them overnight before adding the flour, rolling out the dough and cooking the lefse on a griddle. It calls for a special rolling pin with ridges which helps you roll the dough very thin and adds a pattern to your lefse. I picked one up at Scandinavian Specialties in Ballard. Normally it’s cooked on a special griddle, as well, but I just cooked mine in a pan on the stovetop.
Bradley helped me flip the lefse as I rolled out the dough. Once we had a nice hefty stack of lefse, we finished it off with some butter and cinnamon sugar and rolled them up. This was the first way I was ever served lefse and it’s my favorite way to have it. We brewed some tea and tried not to eat it all at once!
(photo courtesy Brad & his iPhone)