kanelkakor

I have long had an aversion to walnuts in baked goods, largely because I can’t stand walnuts in two of the most basic American baked goods there are: brownies and chocolate chip cookies. They’re very polarizing in these two cases; some people love them, some detest them. I’ve always fallen into the latter camp. I think walnuts will always ruin what is otherwise a perfectly delicious brownie or chocolate chip cookie. I never wanted them in muffins, either, no matter what kind of muffin.

I don’t dislike walnuts as a rule. Growing up, the stuffing my mother made for Thanksgiving dinner every year contained walnuts, and it was often my job to crack the walnuts open as we were prepping. I enjoyed this task immensely, and I often enjoyed snacking on the walnuts, too. To this day, whenever I eat walnuts on their own, the smell and the taste take me straight back to sitting at the kitchen table on Thanksgiving morning with the parade on the television, cracking open walnuts as my brother and I helped mom prepare for dinner.

The good news is, I’ve found a cookie with walnuts that I really, really like: Swedish Cinnamon-Walnut Cookies.

I’m in Oslo for the summer, and it’s largely been a very warm, very sunny summer. The weather’s finally cooled off, though, and some rain systems have moved in, so my friend Alex (the same one mentioned here) came over to bake with me yesterday. We decided to try these cinnamon walnut cookies – it’s a very simple recipe which doesn’t need very many ingredients, so we were mostly stocked up already. I also had some pretty divine French butter I bought at Mathallen that I thought would work quite well (when ingredients are few and simple, it always pays to use the best quality ingredients you can). As it was a Sunday (most grocery stores in Norway are closed on Sundays), I popped down to the local greengrocer/import store which was open to see if they had any vanilla extract. They didn’t, but they did have vanilla bean – and as it turns out, if you scrape out the seeds from the bean, you can use those as a substitute. It’s a much lengthier process than measuring out a teaspoon of vanilla extract, but the cookies definitely didn’t seem to suffer as a result. Alex and I simply dispersed the seeds in a small bowl with the egg (the closest thing to a liquid ingredient) before beating it into the dough.

I think using the nice French butter really paid off. The dough alone was exquisite. And as I mentioned, very few ingredients were needed: the dough was made from butter, sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon, and vanilla.

After the dough was chilled for 30 minutes, we pulled it out of the fridge. Small pieces were rolled into balls, which were then rolled in a blend of cinnamon, sugar, and chopped walnuts, and then placed on the baking sheet.

The balls of dough flatten out into the loveliest little domes in the oven. The resulting cookie was something like a snickerdoodle, but lighter, fluffier, and covered in walnuts. They were delicious. These would make a perfect Christmas cookie, and I’m already looking forward to making them again during the holiday season. I’m very pleased to have found a walnut cookie I love.

chocolate bergamot cookies in pom pom quarterly

I posted about this elsewhere already, but it also seemed appropriate for the baking blog: I’ve got a cookie recipe in the spring issue of Pom Pom Quarterly! Pom Pom is a lovely UK-based publication focused on knit, crochet, and craft, but they often include a recipe, and I’m incredibly happy they chose to include mine in their spring issue. It’s the first time I’ve had a recipe in print, which is, admittedly, pretty exciting.

chocolate and bergamot

The recipe is for chocolate bergamot cookies (bergamot is the citrus oil that flavors Earl Grey tea). When I wanted to make some chocolate cookies with bergamot several months ago, I could find plenty of recipes out on the internet that involved chocolate and bergamot, but they were all a little bit more decadent than what I had in mind (think bergamot flavored cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, or macarons, or… you get the idea), so I got to work on a recipe of my own. These are simple chocolate cookies with a drop or two of bergamot oil for flavor – if you do want some extra decadence, I suggest adding dark chocolate chips. But they’re plenty good without, and simple to boot! They’ve become my go-to cookie recipe and they’re always a crowd pleaser.

Pom Pom is available in a print edition or a digital PDF version, and both are available from the Pom Pom webstore here. Spring 2014 is the issue for my recipe, but they’re all divine, so I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to grab a few more!

lingonberry compote

It’s been an insanely busy fall (I put out a collection of knitwear patterns) and an insanely busy holiday season (we had friends staying with us all week last week) so my Scandinavian baking skills have been lying somewhat dormant. I baked a couple of apple pies around Thanksgiving, as I’ve been getting really into heirloom apple varieties and my local farmer’s market sells some wonderful ones, but otherwise there hasn’t been a ton of time for baking.

In need of some last minute gifts and some alone time in the kitchen, I pulled Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann down off the shelf. The book was a Christmas gift from my folks last year, but once Christmas is over, you feel a bit silly doing anything remotely Christmas-themed, so I hadn’t had a chance to try out any of the recipes. One of the sections in the book focuses on gifts from the kitchen, and I’d been itching to make some of the lingonberry compote. And so I did!

It’s hard to think of anything simpler. Assuming you can get a hold of lingonberries (you can find frozen berries in Seattle, fortunately), it’s a recipe for instant gratification. The process is basically just creating a reduction out of berries, water, and sugar, and it takes less than half an hour. Sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying.

I made several jars this Christmas which I doled out to family and friends with glee. We’ve got one tucked in our own fridge for when we get back from traveling (it’s New Year’s in Norway once again). Back to our regularly (if sparsely) scheduled program when I get back. I’m determined to do some good baking this winter, and I’ve got rye flour in the freezer just waiting to become buns…

A very happy new year to you all. x

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.

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!

hasselnotskaka

If you like hazelnuts, this one’s a good way to go. This Swedish filbert cake was simple and delicious, and not too sweet. I baked it for my partner’s birthday in November and we liked it so much that I baked it for Thanksgiving, too. It works nicely as an after-dinner dessert but I think it works well as a coffee cake, too. I recommend pairing it with a cup of good black coffee and a healthy dose of Scandinavian travel planning.

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:

strawberryrhubarb

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.

chokladkaka

This post is a bit belated! But as I’m baking a new cake this weekend, it seemed the perfect opportunity to finally write this post and turn it into A Weekend of Cake.

I’ve made this recipe twice, both times in the spring. Chokladkaka is a Swedish chocolate pound cake – a really fantastic chocolate cake when you want something that’s light and not too rich. I made my first with my friend Alex when she was visiting – we lined the pan with butter but forgot to line it with crumbs, so the outside ended up a bit burnt (though the inside was still delicious). The second time, I made it for a dinner with some friends, and remembered not to skip this step! Vanilla wafers aren’t terribly easy to find in Hungary, though, so I wound up lining it with flour (which worked passably well).

I served it up with whipped cream and strawberries the first time, and the second time went for vanilla ice cream and strawberries – both worked very well. I love chocolate cake, and I love that this is a chocolate cake I can eat without feeling like I’ll get a stomachache.

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.

stockholm

The beginning of a new semester in Hungary has brought my baking to a standstill for the time being, but I have a holiday weekend coming up and there are certainly more baking posts on the way! In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few photos from my quick trip up to Stockholm a few weekends ago. Sweden was lovely and I can’t wait to visit it again!

I grabbed a tin of pepparkakor at the airport on the way home, but they didn’t last too long (before I ate them all). Even though I think of pepparkakor as more of a Christmas thing, it’s inspired me to hopefully try my hand at my own sometime soon…