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!

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.

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.

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

toscakake

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.

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.

eplepai

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!