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.

saturday afternoon æbleskiver

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I first encountered æbleskiver*, Danish pancake balls, at the annual Yulefest celebration at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum. As you wait in line (there’s always a line – they’re a popular item) you can watch a line of volunteers, each with their own portable burner and æbleskiver pan, as they tend to their batter with long, thin wooden sticks, rotating the balls to form perfect spheres composed of the lightest, fluffiest dough I’ve ever had. Only slightly sweetened, these pancake balls are served topped off with powdered sugar and either applesauce or lingonberries (at the museum, that is – elsewhere you might find them filled with applesauce or jam instead). The word æbleskiver is actually composed of two Danish words: æble, meaning “apple,” and skiver, meaning “slices.” Given the name I can only assume that applesauce is the more traditional of the two toppings, but I’ve always gone for lingonberries. I’ve also had these delicious pancake balls at Broder in Portland, a wonderful Swedish restaurant that’s been a favorite of mine since my first trip to Portland.

My husband and I have been going through our house in preparation for a move to Norway (you can read about that here) – lots to pack, lots to find new homes for, lots to figure out what to do with – but in going through our kitchen I discovered a cast iron æbleskiver pan in the back of a cupboard. I think we must have bought it during the holidays sometime in the past few years, but forgotten about it after it went in the cupboard in the madness of holiday travel and all of that. In any case, I doubt the pan will be coming with us to Norway, so I decided it was high time for me to try making some æbleskiver of my own, before we find a new home for it!

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The dough itself is quite simple with relatively few ingredients – simpler than any of the other Nordic pancakes I’ve made, at least. Some of the ingredients need prepping – the milk needs to be heated to lukewarm, the butter needs to be melted, and the egg whites need to be whipped until stiff – but once you’ve done that you’re almost ready to hit the pan, really. I think my technique could probably use some work, though, because most of my pancakes came out shaped much more like macarons than like balls. Still, they were delicious all the same!

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Æbleskiver are made with a special pan, with half-sphere indentations in which the pancakes are cooked. When the surface of the first half has cooked, you use a long, thin stick (made of metal or wood) to turn the spheres so that the rest of the dough forms the other half of the ball. I have a feeling it takes some practice to get pancakes that are perfectly round.

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I served mine up the way I like them – topped with powdered sugar and some lingonberry compote (homemade, in this case). They were a lovely Saturday afternoon treat!

*Beatrice spells this recipe “aebelskiver,” but I’m more familiar with the common spelling æbleskiver, so that’s what I’ve used here. The second half of the word sometimes gets spelled “shiver” in English, because of how the “sk” sound is pronounced.

context

I think it’s possible to take for granted the effects of our surroundings. Sometimes it takes us a little while to put together why it is we’re feeling off. I haven’t been baking very much since I came home from Hungary – I baked a hazelnut cake from The Book in November, which I neglected to blog about, and I’ve made a few attempts at whole grain bread, but by and large, I haven’t been motivated to bake. I haven’t been motivated to spend any time in the kitchen at all. There are many reasons why my attention has been elsewhere, and a few of them were huge life changes, but I’ve realized lately that the kitchen in my apartment is one of the least inspiring kitchens I’ve ever come across; dark and cavelike, almost entirely devoid of charm. Still, the rhubarb in the grocery store this week was too good to pass up, and I baked this strawberry tart again:

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I miss baking, and fortunately, I’ll be moving soon. The new house has a kitchen I’ll absolutely want to hang out in, and I can’t wait. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things and to give this space a little bit more love.

pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma

Iceland is a tiny country with a lot of mystique that happens to be really, really good at marketing itself. They have totally embraced the Internet and social media as a marketing tool and I’m incredibly fond of the results: through a series of accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, and so on, Iceland makes you want to be its friend. Take the flagship site:

www.icelandwantstobeyourfriend.com

Iceland wants to be your friend. Personifying a tiny island in the north Atlantic with an epic history and an equally epic and beautiful topography? It’s total genius. I encourage you to check out that site as well as many of the spin-offs, such as isanicelandicvolcanoerupting.comeverysinglewordinicelandic.com, or perhaps my favorite, visiticelandinaflyingmachine.com.

Through this family of websites, I discovered a how-to video for Icelandic pancakes, or pönnukökur. Aside from being totally adorable (I wish Margrét was my grandmother), it’s useful, too: the pancakes are delicious. If you watch the video (below), you’ll hear Margrét tell you that pönnukökur are frequently made on Christmas. While flipping through The Great Scandinavian Baking Book this week, I discovered that the book has its own recipe for pönnukökur! I decided to make them for brunch today to test out this new-to-me recipe, and my family was fully in support of this plan.

The recipes are slightly different, and so the results were slightly different as well: the recipe found in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book isn’t as sweet as the one in the video, and so they’re less dessert-like, but this worked out well for a brunch. We still served them with whipped cream (með þeyttum rjóma) and powdered sugar, though. They were delicious, and I think I’ll definitely make them again. If you’d like to try your hand at pönnukökur, here’s that video I talked about:

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Gleðileg jól to all of you who celebrate Christmas! I hope it’s a warm and happy one.

kermaviili-musikkapiiras

My brother requested a recipe with blueberries, and so I flipped through the book and picked out this pie. The English name for kermaviili-musikkapiiras is “blueberry sour cream pie.” In Finland, it’s made with a special product called kermaviili. Ojakangas describes viili as “a yogurtlike clabbered milk that is much more delicious (to a Finn) than yogurt.” From what I can gather, it’s a bit like sour cream or crème fraîche. As a substitute, she suggests adding lemon juice to heavy cream, which is what I did, but I can’t help but wonder what this pie tastes like when made with actual viili.

The recipe is a rather simple one, with a pleasant (if not amazing) outcome. The pie is tasty, but it’s probably my least favorite of the pies I’ve baked from this book so far. I made a few modifications to the recipe as I went along, as I often do. This time, as I was preparing the cream filling, I spent some extra time whipping it up so that it would thicken a little bit. Ojakangas doesn’t specify how long the filling should be mixed for, and she definitely doesn’t instruct you to whip the filling, but f I hadn’t done this, the blueberries would have sunk right to the bottom and I expect it wouldn’t have set as it baked, either.

The pie looked quite pretty before it went into the oven – much prettier than it looked coming out. But the berries were soft and warm and gooey and the cream filling was tasty and the crust was buttery. It may not be my favorite pie, but it’s hard to go wrong with that, right?

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After I lost the photos of that strawberry tart I baked (mentioned here), I decided to bake the whole thing again. Since it was a fairly simple tart/pie recipe, I thought I’d try making it with rhubarb as well after Tyler put in a request for strawberry rhubarb pie. The original pie, made to the recipe’s instructions, was quite delicious. The rhubarb took it to a new level, in my opinion! The original recipe was a little sweet (which is great) but the rhubarb brought in a nice balance in the flavor.


Strawberries and rhubarb, waiting to be made into pie filling.

The recipe for the pie crust is super simple, but I found that both times I made the pie I wished I’d had just a little bit more dough. It seemed on the short side to me.

One other change I made from the written recipe was to bake it for a little bit longer than the 25-30 minutes given in the recipe. The first time I made the pie the crust was still a little bit doughy, but this time around it came out much, much better. It was probably in the oven closer to 35 or 40 minutes.

The great thing about making a recipe more than once is being able to make little changes to your method, so that next time, you always know it’s going to come out even better. I’d call this one a success.