kanelkakor

I have long had an aversion to walnuts in baked goods, largely because I can’t stand walnuts in two of the most basic American baked goods there are: brownies and chocolate chip cookies. They’re very polarizing in these two cases; some people love them, some detest them. I’ve always fallen into the latter camp. I think walnuts will always ruin what is otherwise a perfectly delicious brownie or chocolate chip cookie. I never wanted them in muffins, either, no matter what kind of muffin.

I don’t dislike walnuts as a rule. Growing up, the stuffing my mother made for Thanksgiving dinner every year contained walnuts, and it was often my job to crack the walnuts open as we were prepping. I enjoyed this task immensely, and I often enjoyed snacking on the walnuts, too. To this day, whenever I eat walnuts on their own, the smell and the taste take me straight back to sitting at the kitchen table on Thanksgiving morning with the parade on the television, cracking open walnuts as my brother and I helped mom prepare for dinner.

The good news is, I’ve found a cookie with walnuts that I really, really like: Swedish Cinnamon-Walnut Cookies.

I’m in Oslo for the summer, and it’s largely been a very warm, very sunny summer. The weather’s finally cooled off, though, and some rain systems have moved in, so my friend Alex (the same one mentioned here) came over to bake with me yesterday. We decided to try these cinnamon walnut cookies – it’s a very simple recipe which doesn’t need very many ingredients, so we were mostly stocked up already. I also had some pretty divine French butter I bought at Mathallen that I thought would work quite well (when ingredients are few and simple, it always pays to use the best quality ingredients you can). As it was a Sunday (most grocery stores in Norway are closed on Sundays), I popped down to the local greengrocer/import store which was open to see if they had any vanilla extract. They didn’t, but they did have vanilla bean – and as it turns out, if you scrape out the seeds from the bean, you can use those as a substitute. It’s a much lengthier process than measuring out a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but the cookies definitely didn’t seem to suffer as a result. Alex and I simply dispersed the seeds in a small bowl with the egg (the closest thing to a liquid ingredient) before beating it into the dough.

I think using the nice French butter really paid off. The dough alone was exquisite. And as I mentioned, very few ingredients were needed: the dough was made from butter, sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon, and vanilla.

After the dough was chilled for 30 minutes, we pulled it out of the fridge. Small pieces were rolled into balls, which were then rolled in a blend of cinnamon, sugar, and chopped walnuts, and then placed on the baking sheet.

The balls of dough flatten out into the loveliest little domes in the oven. The resulting cookie was something like a snickerdoodle, but lighter, fluffier, and covered in walnuts. They were delicious. These would make a perfect Christmas cookie, and I’m already looking forward to making them again during the holiday season. I’m very pleased to have found a walnut cookie I love.

toscabakelser & mandelformer

I like almonds. Like, a whole lot. So I get really excited about recipes in The Book that work with almonds. I’m combining two recipes in one post here, because the recipes themselves are quite similar, even though they’re served up in very different ways.

Back in January when I had some friends over for dinner, I baked up some toscabakelser for dessert. Ojakangas explains that traditionally, these are almond tarts (fairly small: think cookie-sized) baked in sandbakelse tins. Scandinavian Americans are more inclined to bake them in a pan and cut them into bars, however, and so that’s how she wrote the recipe. The toscabakelser consists of a tart shell, which is baked on its own first, a gooey almond filling, which is put into the tart shell halfway through the baking process, and then a caramelized almond topping to finish it off. I didn’t snap any photos after we sliced it up into the bars, but I did manage to catch the toscabakelser before and after the caramel-almond topping went on.

They were delicious!

The second recipe was for mandelformer, another almond tart. This time around the recipe is actually written for the sandbakelse tins. The ones I found here in Hungary were a bit larger than what the recipe called for (Ojakangas designates a 2″-3″ diameter; mine were about 4″ across) but these turned out really, really amazing. Unlike the toscabakelser recipe, this one wasn’t accompanied with a recipe for the filling, too, which meant I got to choose what to fill the little tarts with. My boyfriend was visiting, and he reduced some fresh strawberries into a deliciously tart jam filling. The tarts themselves have pulverized almonds in the dough, and they came out quite sweet, so the strawberry filling was the perfect compliment. I’m thrilled with how these came out.

And they’re so pretty.

I will certainly be making both these recipes again.

krumkake

This time a week ago, I was in Norway preparing to eat a home-cooked meal at the family home of my friend Camilla. I stayed with Camilla at her flat in Oslo all weekend, but Sunday night we made the trip up to Bærum to see her family. We decided in advance that we would make krumkake – trying out the recipe in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, of course – for her family as a thank you and an opportunity to get a head start on the holiday season.

Krumkaker are absolutely a Norwegian Christmas tradition, and one that many of my Norwegian American friends grew up with. They’re made using a krumkakejern, or krumkake iron, much like a waffle iron but covered in beautiful patterns. Traditional irons are used on the stovetop and must be flipped to ensure that both sides are fully cooked, but Camilla’s family has a modern electric version.

Once each krumkake is done cooking, you remove it from the iron and roll it around a small cone (or sometimes a cylinder) and let it cool on a rack. The result, to American eyes, looks a lot like a fancy waffle cone for ice cream (and in fact, the Parfait ice cream truck in Seattle uses a krumkakejern to make their waffle cones!). I’ve always had krumkake with whipped cream and fruit, but we made multekrem for our krumkaker at Camilla’s, or cloudberry cream. Cloudberries are arctic berries that grow around marshes in mountainous regions and are quite popular in Norway. Camilla whipped up the cream with some cloudberry jam and we were ready to go!

While I think the krumkaker could have been better – I may have whipped too much air into the batter before they went onto the iron – it’s hard to really mess them up too much and the finished cookies were a hit with everyone. Camilla’s father asked me, as we filled our krumkaker with multekrem and sipped on black coffee, “When are you coming back to make more cakes?”

So, well done, Great Scandinavian Baking Book. Your recipe passed the test with true Norwegians and I’ve got an open invite to come back to Oslo and do some more baking.

Camilla and I take our krumkake-making very seriously

store egg = large eggs

creaming the butter and sugar

krumkaker cooling

krumkaker, multekrem, og kaffe

mazarinkakor

These are billed as “Swedish chocolate-frosted almond bars,” and they live up to their name! I never tire of recipes with almond in them, and this one was a fairly simple one involving a base/crust, an almond filling, and a chocolate drizzle on top. Ojakangas recommends using a 13 x 9 inch rectangular pan, but my Hungarian kitchen is still somewhat lacking, so I used what I had on hand – a round baking dish, probably closer to 10 or 11 inches in diameter. Whether or not this had an effect on the end result, it’s hard to say, but I would like to try this recipe again in a pan more like the one Ojakangas uses. The bars were definitely delicious, but the base came out more crumbly and the filling more gooey than I expected. I’ll probably try it out for my family at Christmas – my parents’ kitchen is sure to have the size pan the recipe calls for!

mandelflarn (igjen)

Back in March I baked a Finnish strawberry tart out of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book for my friend Phil’s birthday and managed to lose my photos of it. Between the frustration of losing photos and getting caught up in my last quarter of grad school, I didn’t bake for awhile. But now school is finished and the summertime has brought on picnics and dinners with friends galore, and I actually have time and incentive to bake again! I opted to get myself back into it by repeating one of my favorite recipes, the mandelflarn, or Norwegian almond cookies first featured here. You can rest assured I’ll give the strawberry tart another go, because it was quite delicious and it’s a great recipe for summer.

I baked the mandelflarn along with some good old chocolate chip cookies, which we served with vanilla ice cream. It made for a nice light dessert for a backyard dinner with friends.

Rest assured: you’ll be seeing more from me this summer! I’ve got lots of recipes bookmarked to try out. And since this is a repeat recipe, I thought I might share something else with you. While this video doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Scandinavian baking, it does have to do with baking, and it’s quite beautiful to boot. Check it out below:

beet cake from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.

kringler

Kringler! A Scandinavian classic. Kringler have a long history in Scandinavia, and I always associate them with Denmark. There are many varieties out there, but the common element is the twisted pretzel shape. I’m most accustomed to the type that’s like a flaky pastry and on the large side – Seattle has a few Danish bakeries that make this kind (Larsen’s Bakery, which features a kringle in their logo, and Nielsen’s Pastries are proprietors of the large pastry kringle, as seen here).

Ojakangas features a kringle recipe that is much more of a cookie – small, crumbly, and not at all in the flaky-pastry family. She calls them Danish sugar pretzels, and I have to admit this is the first recipe I’ve tried in this book that’s only so-so. The flavor of the cookies is a little bland and I think they would do better supplemented with some sort of flavor or seasoning, or even just by putting sugar in the dough (of which there is none, it’s only stuck to the top of the cookies prior to baking them). Another thing that may have contributed to them was the fact that I used whole wheat flour rather than the standard all-purpose white flour. I’ve actually used the whole wheat for the last few recipes and they’ve been fine, but this one seems to be one where it makes a difference.

Still, the cookies weren’t bad by any means, just a little below my expectations. They make a nice sweet treat and they sure are pretty to look at…

berlinerkranser

This recipe makes a lot of cookies. A lot! I used half my dough yesterday, and I got 30 cookies out of that. The recipe says it makes 48, so perhaps mine are on the small side, but either way, that’s quite a few cookies! The other half is in the fridge, waiting to be baked this weekend. My friend Eric‘s birthday was yesterday, so I baked the first half for him and handed them off last night!

Berlinerkranser are named after Berlin, for whatever reason, and they’re basically little round cookie rings made from flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. Simple and delicious, this is definitely a recipe you can add to at will to spice it up if you’d like, but I made the recipe as written and these cookies stand on their own just fine. They’re not something to make in a hurry – once you make your dough you refrigerate it from 4-8 hours (I let mine refrigerate overnight). Being a rather inexperienced baker I had a moment of mild panic when I pulled my dough out of the fridge in the morning and it was rock hard, but I let it warm up for about twenty minutes and I was able to slice pieces off and added a little bit of water to make it more workable to form the rings. They looked a bit like oversized Cheerios before being baked, or tiny donuts, which was kind of cute.

After you form your rings you dip them in egg whites and then in sugar. I got a little overzealous on my first batch and sprinkled sugar on top of them after place them on the baking sheet, which just meant that the centers filled with sugar candy crystals as they baked, but the second batch went without the extra sprinkles and thus maintained their center holes.

All in all the recipe was simple to follow, the cookies are delicious, and I’m pretty happy I’ve still got dough in the fridge to bake!