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.

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hvetebrød

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!

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.

landbrød

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.