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, multekrem, og kaffe
Norwegian caramel-almond Tosca cake. Sound good? It should, because it was delicious.
First, a note of clarification: Ojakangas spells this recipe Toscakage in her book, but as this would actually be the Danish spelling and she calls it a Norwegian cake, I’ll use the more Norwegian Toscakake instead. I am sure this recipe exists in Denmark and Sweden as well, but each country spells it differently (the Swedes would use Toscakaka). Minor differences, but they do exist. With that aside, on to the cake!
I was invited to a friend’s for dinner yesterday and I found myself searching The Great Scandinavian Baking Book for something relatively quick and easy to prepare for a dessert. I normally wouldn’t go to the cake section for this, but I was flipping through and happened to spot the Toscakake. Relatively short list of ingredients, not a lot of prep time, simple to make. It was a winner.
There are essentially two parts to making this cake: baking the cake and putting together the topping. The cake part itself came out fairly light and spongy, a little bit like angel food cake. The second part was pretty straightforward, too: browing some sliced almonds and then adding sugar and cream to make an almondy, caramel-ly topping to slather over the cake. I popped the whole thing in the oven for a few more minutes so that the topping could harden a little bit and turn a nice golden-brown color.
The end result is perhaps not the prettiest cake in the world, but a fairly simple and quick cake to make from scratch. I’d say it’s appropriate for special occasions just as much as it makes a nice coffee cake. And on Sunday mornings, like this morning was, it makes a pretty delicious breakfast.
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.
A few weeks ago my Norwegian class had a potluck and watched two episodes of the popular and hilarious Norwegian reality show Alt for Norge. There was both non-Norwegian and Norwegian fare to eat (I had my first fiskeboller) but everything was delicious. It seemed like a great excuse to try out another Norwegian recipe, and since we’ve entered apple season I picked the Norwegian eplepai. It means apple pie, but it’s more of a cake, really. Whatever you call it, I was really happy with how it turned out!
Since I was bringing one to class, I decided to bake two (so that my roommates and I had some at home as well!). This was a ridiculously simply recipe – the instructions after the ingredients list fit in a five-line paragraph. You dice up your apples, chop some almonds, mix everything up in a bowl and then bake. There are also instructions to make a whipped topping/side, but as I was short on time I opted to serve it with vanilla ice cream instead. My friend Melodie helped crush the almonds while I chopped up the apples.
(photo by Sarah Jurado)
Next I mixed all the ingredients, spooned them out into the greased pie pans, and then they baked! Like I said, it was a really simple recipe and it made a great last-minute dessert.
The pie was a hit at the potluck and at home, where we ate it still warm from the oven with ice cream!
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!
After the enormous klippekrans and the pastry-like herttaisetrinkilät, I decided I wanted to go for a cookie this time for something a little quicker and easier. Cookies don’t need yeast, they don’t require waiting around for dough to rise, and they’re small and manageable (not to mention tasty). I picked out the mandelflarn, which are Norwegian almond cookies, because they sounded delicious and looked simple.
I was happy to discover that they are quite simple indeed – the book describes them as spreading out “thin and crisp as they bake, with pale centers and crisp, golden edges.” The only thing that caught me off guard was that I had no idea just how much these cookies flattened out in the oven. I’d say the diameters of mine increased by about 2-3 inches, and they only started around 3 inches across. Alarmed at first, I worried I’d made some huge mistake in the rather short list of instructions, and had to do a Google image search. Thankfully, the internet soothed my fears by providing pages of photos of flat, crisp looking cookies, just like the ones I had baking in the oven. I waited until the edges began to brown before removing them.
After the cookies have baked, you have the option of cooling them flat or over a foil-covered dowel or other cylinder to give them a U-shape. I opted to try a few of the rounded ones and let the rest cool flat. I think I prefer the look of the cookies flat – but they taste great either way!
(Klippekrans backstage at Mississippi Studios; photo by James Bailey)
The klippekrans is a Norwegian cinnamon wreath, and as I found out after I baked it, it is absolutely massive. That’s one thing I noticed just leafing through the book – the portions are all pretty huge, at least by my standards. I did what any sensible person would do; I shared it. My boyfriend and I were heading down to Portland to catch Damien Jurado’s last show of his US tour at the beginning of July, so we decided to take it with us.
The end product was seriously delicious. It was a little bit like a cinnamon roll with less icing. A giant cinnamon roll. For whatever reason, my dough didn’t rise as much as I thought it would before it went in the oven, and then it grew a lot once it was in there, so the outer layer of dough split apart a little bit. The end product was pretty dense for this reason, too, but it still tasted good! And sharing the klippekrans with friends and the bands was awesome and rewarding. I think that’s going to be my way around the huge portions.