plómukaka

Yesterday I baked a plum tart.

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Sundays in Norway are perfect for baking. Most places with the exception of a few coffee shops or corner stores are closed, so you can take advantage of a little time off. This might mean a day out and about hiking (or at this time of year, skiing), or it might mean a slow home-y day, which for me usually involves some quality time in the kitchen. I went out walking for a few hours on Saturday, so I decided to take it easy yesterday and mostly hang out at home.

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I had picked up some beautiful red plums at the grocery store earlier this week, which I’ve been enjoying, but it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t going to finish them all before they started to go soft and overripe. Not wanting them to go to waste, I sat down with my baking books a few days ago. I found a recipe for an Icelandic purple plum tart in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book that looked simple and delicious, and so yesterday I whipped one up, very successfully putting the pound of plums to good use.

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As I often do with Beatrice’s recipes, I made a few little changes. She instructs you to quarter the plums, though I went ahead and sliced them into eighths, since the base of the tart is rolled out pretty thin and I find them easier to arrange when smaller. I’ve made a few notes for myself for next time, too: I could do with less flour all around (flour is always such a good argument for measuring by weight instead of volume) and the quantity of crumbly topping to go over the plums was too much as well (I didn’t use it all).

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The tart turned out delicious nonetheless, and I was able to make it with ingredients I had on hand which is always a plus – aside from the plums, all that was needed was flour, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. The end result was something like a thin-tart version of a German pflaumenkuchen (and indeed if you Google “plómukaka” you get a string of results for “Þysk plómukaka”, or German plum cake). And while the recipe called for purple plums, the red plums were just fine as a substitute (and just as beautiful, too, as the color of the skins starts bleeding out into the fruit and the tart itself).

You can find the recipe for this tart in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.

na weekly: sweet & savory

I got a bit behind with things last fall; I had two recipes published in the Norwegian American Weekly’s Taste of Norway and I never made time to mention them here. Better late than never!

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In September we were right in the middle of autumn in Tromsø, and it felt like a great time to do a Nordic take on the classic grilled cheese & tomato soup combo. Norway isn’t known for its amazing tomatoes, however, so I did my grilled cheese on rye bread and paired it with potato leek soup. This has been one of my favorite meals all through winter. You can find the recipe here.

Walla crafty cookies 2

In November I did a cookie recipe on the heels of the paper’s craft month, which was October. They’re simple spritz cookies but the decoration packs a punch: sprinkles are used to recall traditional patterns from embroidery and knitting. I had a lot of fun making these. Find the recipe here.

havreflarn med choklad

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I’m back in Tromsø after spending Christmas break in Seattle, but it was such a busy month with so much work and (literal) housekeeping to do that I didn’t have time to do any Christmas baking (boo). It’s been quite cold in Tromsø since I got back, however, which is the perfect excuse to be baking – nothing warms up the house like a hot oven, you know?

Since moving to Norway I’ve become rather obsessed with a certain local company’s havrekjeks – that is, oat cookies. They’re the perfect crisp and crunchy consistency with chocolate chips and I love them. I thought it’d be fun to find an oat cookie recipe to try from my Nordic cookbook library (so that I don’t spend all my money on Bakehuset’s cookies).

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I picked out the havreflarn med choklad from Fika, the book I introduced in my previous post. Unlike Bakehuset’s havrekjeks, these cookies don’t have chocolate chips, but they do form a cookie sandwich with a chocolate filling.

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This was a very straightforward recipe, with a few prep steps (my rolled oats needed to go through the blender for a minute to bring the size down, and the chocolate for the filling has to be melted once the cookies have cooled) but mostly instructions along the lines of mixing everything together and dropping dough on the cookie sheets. I made my cookies too big at first, which took me a little while to realize. I also stacked up my baking sheets in the oven, which meant that the cookies on top achieved the idea crunchy crisp consistency I was going for while the cookies on the baking sheet below stayed a little softer (still crisp, but with a softer texture, if that makes any sense). In the photos, the cookies that were on the bottom rack have a smoother texture with larger bubbles.

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The wild card in this recipe was that the chocolate filling contains ground ginger. I love ginger, but after making these cookies, I don’t know if I love ginger with chocolate. I feel like I might swap the ginger for cardamom next time I make these. Or perhaps I’ll skip the chocolate filling altogether and throw chocolate chips into the dough instead! Ginger aside, this was a really great basic recipe for oat cookies that I’ll happily make again in different iterations in the future.

You can find the recipe for these cookies in Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall.

fika: kardemummakaka

Here’s a book I’m excited about:

Fika, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. My friend Daytona told me about this book earlier this year and I ordered a copy shortly before we packed up our container in May for the Norway move. I was so excited to get it, but I opted to put it in one of the moving boxes so that it’d be here in Norway once we flew over in August. So I had a few months to wait before I really got to sit down with it! Fortunately, it was worth the wait.

As you might assume, this recipe book is all about fika, the beloved Swedish custom of the daily coffee break (with treats). I love the size of this book and I love the aesthetic, too – instead of photos, the book features adorable illustrations. It also features a lot of great background info, like exactly what fika’s all about, a history of Swedish coffee, pantry staples you’ll want to have on hand for the recipes, and so on. It’s straight up my alley.

I had a hard time trying to decide what I wanted to make first, but in the end I settled on a cardamom cake. I love cardamom (don’t we all?) and I guess I was craving a cake. This one ended up being a lovely breakfast treat for a few days (it goes well with coffee, after all). It’s simple to make, and the end result isn’t too fancy, but it’s delicious and elegant enough to make for a special occasion, as well.

The recipe called for a bundt pan, which I didn’t have, so I just used a normal cake pan. I quite like the result. Inside, the cake was spongy and fragrant, sweet but not too sweet. Just right. To keep it unfussy I topped it off with a dusting of powdered sugar. A bundt pan would definitely dress this simple cake up, but it’s nice to know it works well as a simple shape, particularly as a fika treat.

I’m very much looking forward to baking more things from Fika and with the weather cooling off in Tromsø, I’m sure there will be lots more baking in the near future.

Here’s to kitchen number seven!

the norwegian american weekly & moving to norway

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Hi, hello! I have a couple of pieces of news today!

I’m very pleased to share that I’m one of several new contributors to the Norwegian American Weekly‘s food section, Taste of Norway. I’m incredibly grateful to the food editor Daytona (of Outside Oslo) for giving me a chance to be included, for I do love writing about food. Unlike this blog, I’ll be contributing actual recipes; much like this blog, I’ll be writing rather conversationally in my own voice and taking my own photos. My first recipe for the paper is in this week’s issue (the June 5th issue) and can be found online here. I’ve come up with an almond cookie recipe with celebratory occasions in mind: the kransekake provided some inspiration, and the recipe itself is based on one of Ojakangas’s that I’ve made several times, unsurprisingly (though I’ve made several changes to suit my taste).

At this point I’ll most likely only be contributing every couple of months or so, so I’ll post here whenever I have a new story/recipe up.

This piece of news is one of two things I’m hoping will help revitalize this blog, as well. The other piece of news is something I made passing reference to in my last post – I’m moving to Tromsø, Norway this summer to begin a master’s program at the University of Tromsø in the fall. I wrote about that decision on my other blog, but needless to say, I’m incredibly excited. One of the things I’m hoping to bring into my pieces for the Weekly when I can is my experience with exploring food culture in Tromsø. I am really only a fledgling cook, but eating out in Norway is very expensive, and I’m hoping this will be a motivator to do a lot more cooking in the kitchen (particularly when there are so many wonderful Nordic cookbooks coming out at the moment).

I’ve also been thinking about ways to keep this blog going a little bit more… regularly. It wasn’t started with the intention of being a regularly active blog, necessarily, more just a place to document what I baked out of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, but in the nearly five years (what?!) since I started this blog, my Nordic horizons have expanded quite a lot. I’ve actively worked on my Norwegian, I visited Denmark and Sweden for the first time, I visited Norway and Iceland for the first time (and then went back, and then went back again, and again, and…). I fell in love with the Norwegian coffee scene. I started actually reading quite a few more food blogs. And then there are the new Nordic cookbooks, coffee books, and baking books that are coming out… I’ve picked up a few and found myself itching to write about them – and really, what better place is there than this? There was a time where I was unlikely to bake anything Nordic that wasn’t from Beatrice’s book, but that time has definitely passed (and in fact I think it passed a few years ago, which is why this blog has seen so few posts in the last year or two). It seems to follow that starting to include other sources in this blog makes perfect sense, and so I plan to do that bit by bit.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the Taste of Norway section in the Norwegian American Weekly – I think the quality of the stuff Daytona has brought in is really excellent and it’s so exciting to see the whole section revitalized.

saturday afternoon æbleskiver

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I first encountered æbleskiver*, Danish pancake balls, at the annual Yulefest celebration at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum. As you wait in line (there’s always a line – they’re a popular item) you can watch a line of volunteers, each with their own portable burner and æbleskiver pan, as they tend to their batter with long, thin wooden sticks, rotating the balls to form perfect spheres composed of the lightest, fluffiest dough I’ve ever had. Only slightly sweetened, these pancake balls are served topped off with powdered sugar and either applesauce or lingonberries (at the museum, that is – elsewhere you might find them filled with applesauce or jam instead). The word æbleskiver is actually composed of two Danish words: æble, meaning “apple,” and skiver, meaning “slices.” Given the name I can only assume that applesauce is the more traditional of the two toppings, but I’ve always gone for lingonberries. I’ve also had these delicious pancake balls at Broder in Portland, a wonderful Swedish restaurant that’s been a favorite of mine since my first trip to Portland.

My husband and I have been going through our house in preparation for a move to Norway (you can read about that here) – lots to pack, lots to find new homes for, lots to figure out what to do with – but in going through our kitchen I discovered a cast iron æbleskiver pan in the back of a cupboard. I think we must have bought it during the holidays sometime in the past few years, but forgotten about it after it went in the cupboard in the madness of holiday travel and all of that. In any case, I doubt the pan will be coming with us to Norway, so I decided it was high time for me to try making some æbleskiver of my own, before we find a new home for it!

æbleskiver 1

The dough itself is quite simple with relatively few ingredients – simpler than any of the other Nordic pancakes I’ve made, at least. Some of the ingredients need prepping – the milk needs to be heated to lukewarm, the butter needs to be melted, and the egg whites need to be whipped until stiff – but once you’ve done that you’re almost ready to hit the pan, really. I think my technique could probably use some work, though, because most of my pancakes came out shaped much more like macarons than like balls. Still, they were delicious all the same!

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Æbleskiver are made with a special pan, with half-sphere indentations in which the pancakes are cooked. When the surface of the first half has cooked, you use a long, thin stick (made of metal or wood) to turn the spheres so that the rest of the dough forms the other half of the ball. I have a feeling it takes some practice to get pancakes that are perfectly round.

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I served mine up the way I like them – topped with powdered sugar and some lingonberry compote (homemade, in this case). They were a lovely Saturday afternoon treat!

*Beatrice spells this recipe “aebelskiver,” but I’m more familiar with the common spelling æbleskiver, so that’s what I’ve used here. The second half of the word sometimes gets spelled “shiver” in English, because of how the “sk” sound is pronounced.

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.