Saturday, January 3, 2015

Yule love Scandinavian baking

Christmas baking time again, and it's a return to Europe with a tea party of Scandinavian Xmas treats. Rather than do a pan-Scandinavian, I decided to do one of the most essential Xmas bake from each of the three Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Beginning in Denmark, I started with pebernødder (pepper nuts, literally). There's no pepper in them, but there's a hint of a spice or two, depending on the recipe. For mine, I used a teaspoon of ground cardamom, mixing it with 350g flour and a half teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder. I then mixed 225g sugar with 80g salted butter, folding in an egg and then 100ml whipping cream. I combined this with the flour mixture to get a dough, kneading and adding a little flour until homogeneous and firm.

I pulled fist-sized blobs from this dough and rolled them out into long sausages on a floured board, using a greased knife to cut out inch-long segments to lay out on the baking tray for a 15 minute bake at 225C, until they got golden brown on top.

I got 48 pebernødder from this recipe. These were mildly sweet and subtly spiced, delicious eaten with hot tea, and kept well after as leftovers.

Moving on to Norway's sandkaker (sand cake). I mixed 200g butter into 250g flour to get a dense dough, adding in 100g almond flour, an egg, and 100g sugar to knead. The almond flour gives it a sandy texture to which the name refers. I refrigerated the kneaded combined dough for about an hour, covered.

I had bought special shell-shaped tartlet tins for this item; it is the traditional shape, although I could have used my regular flat tartlet baking tray had I not been able to find them. While preheating the oven to 175C, I pressed the cold dough into the tins (perhaps a little too thickly, in retrospect), and then baked them for about 15 minutes, until the edges of the tartlets became golden brown. After they were done baking, I let them cool for about 10 minutes before prying them out of the shell tins and letting them cool to room temperature. 24 sandkaker in all, and maybe half as many more if I had spread them thinner.

Lacking multe berries, I made do with raspberries to top, spread over with generous helpings of whipped cream to make a treat that appealed to the palate and eye alike.

The final baking destination was Sweden and its saffransbullar (saffron bun), also called lussekatt (after St Lucy's Day, which falls during Advent). In a mortar, I ground up 1.5g saffron with about a teaspoon of sugar, and cultured 25g yeast by mixing with 150ml warm milk and 100g warm melted butter, letting it sit for several minutes. I then added the ground saffron and 100g sugar, plus half an egg, half a teaspoon of salt.

Finally, I added 375g flour, kneading up a dough into which I mixed about 40g raisins. I let this springy dough rise, covered, for about 30 minutes in a warm place. I rolled lumps of twelfths of the dough out into small sausages, letting them sit covered for 10. Finally, I rolled them out twice as long, then rolling in the ends into double-spiral S-shapes around a couple of raisins, and letting them sit covered for about 90 minutes. Before baking for about 5 minutes each at 220C, until golden brown on top, I brushed the buns with a mixture of the other half of the egg and a couple tablespoons of water.

The buns were delightfully fluffy, sweet to the taste, and a gorgeous bright yellow color inside and out.

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