a plea: the norwegian american needs your help

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you may know that I occasionally contribute recipes to the Taste of Norway section of the Norwegian American, a bi-weekly paper based out of Seattle that is America’s only remaining Norwegian-American newspaper. This paper has been published continuously (under a few different names over time) since 1889, and now they need our help. If you, like me, are interested in cultural heritage and Scandinavian-American culture, I hope you’ll read on. If you’re unfamiliar with the paper, you can read a little bit about it on their about page, or if you’re interested in a more detailed historical overview (I’m a nerd, you guys – I love this stuff) you can check out the Wikipedia page for the Norwegian American.

I am proud to contribute to this paper and lucky to call two of the recent past editors friends, but keeping any newspaper going is a challenge these days and the Norwegian American is no exception. In the past few years, the paper has begun to modernize, with a larger online presence in general as well as dipping their toes into social media. This has been a good move for them – in fact, my piece on Norwegian coffee culture was shared so widely that it actually attracted the attention of my local government here in Norway, eventually leading to my being named a digital entrepreneur by the county of Troms, where I currently reside. (The photo below is from the ceremony, and you can read the description here – in Norwegian, of course. I’m on the far left, and that’s our Executive Councillor for Health, Culture and Business Development kneeling in front.)

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What the paper is doing these days is relevant and interesting, and if you think so too, I hope you’ll consider contributing to their Indiegogo campaign, which runs for two more weeks. This fundraiser is intended to help cover operating costs not being met by subscriptions and advertising revenue alone. You can contribute as much or as little as you like, and there are a diverse array of perks to choose from based on your donation level. And finally – this is where I come in!

a taste of norway

One of the perks is a cookbook called A Taste of Norway: Flavors from the Norwegian American, which collects a selection of recipes that have been printed in the newspaper in the past into a single volume. Here’s what they have to say about it:

“By popular demand, we’re bringing you a collection of recipes that have been featured on the pages of The Norwegian American. From such acclaimed Nordic food writers as Daytona Strong, Sunny Gandara, Maria Stordahl Nelson, and this paper’s own former editor, Christy Olsen Field, the spiral-bound cookbook will cover main courses, soups and sides, and of course sweets. It even has a few drink recipes!”

There are, of course, many other kinds of perks (I’ve got one of those waffle bandanas and a set of vintage reproduction postcards lined up for myself) which you can peruse at your leisure. As the fundraising campaign runs for 14 more days, perhaps you might make a donation in honor of syttende mai, Norway’s national holiday happening next week? There’s a long way to go yet (we’re sitting at 44% of our goal) so we’d love your help. If you’re unable to financially contribute at this time, you can still help us out by spreading the news, or by following the Norwegian American on Facebook or Twitter.

And just to get you in the spirit, I’ll close with this photo from May 17 two years ago, when I watched the parade in Ballard (in Seattle, Washington) with my friends Christy and Kelsey, two of the past editors of the Norwegian American. We hope you’ll support the fundraiser!

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I turn in my thesis next week (before syttende mai, fortunately), so we’ll soon be back to regularly scheduled sporadic posts about Nordic baking. Thanks for indulging a little plea for help for a paper I love in the meantime!

fastelavnsboller

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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.

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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!

gifts from the kitchen

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My latest piece for the Norwegian American is out now, and this one’s special: it’s a joint piece with my friend Christy! We worked on this piece together for the annual gift guide, so our recipes are for simple gifts from the kitchen.

My contribution is a quick recipe for a staple in my kitchen, lingonberry jam, and Christy provided recipes for homemade vanilla sugar and the slightly more unusual cardamom syrup (which I’m dying to try). You can find the recipes for all three right here.

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havrekjeks

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Oats are easy to find in Norway. Havregryn (or rolled oats) comes in small and large varieties, havregrøt (oatmeal) is a common breakfast – the kind I like has cardamom to boot! Havremelk (oat milk) is a common non-dairy substitute, and my grocery store even carries an oat-based non-dairy creme fraiche. And then there’s havreflarn and havrekjeks, different types of cookies made from oats. Since making the havreflarn med choklad from Fika, I’ve been experimenting with oat cookie recipes, and now I’ve had one published in the Norwegian American Weekly.

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My havrekjeks are thin and chewy, with chocolate chips. I never was a fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, but oats and chocolate is a combo I can get behind. You can find the full recipe for these over at na-weekly.com.

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.

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.

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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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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!