Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scandinavian Baking, Part III - Swedish Tea Ring

This one's for serving company, unless you have a really big family!  I made this with the intention of bringing some to work to share.


My mother and her mother made julekage, which is similar to this, except it was full of raisins and currants.  I like raisin bread, and it would be easy enough to mix a pound into this recipe, but hubby won't eat them so I omit.

This isn't my family recipe, although it tastes the same (sans fruit).  It is from our church cookbook, submitted by Margaret Wicktor.

Swedish Tea Ring

2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (I use only the real stuff)
1 tsp. salt
2 pkgs. yeast (or 4-1/5 teaspoons)
5 cups flour
1/4 cup lukewarm water

For the inside:
1/4 cup melted butter
1 to 1-1/2 cups brown sugar (or more, this recipe didn't specify, so that is about the amount I used)
cinnamon for sprinkling

Mix yeast in 1/4 c. lukewarm water.  Scald milk (heat just until it starts to boil, then remove from heat - it will be about 180 - 185 degrees F, or 82 deg. C) and pour into a large bowl.  Add sugar, butter and salt.  Add half the flour, yeast and eggs.  Beat well. 



Add remaining flour, and make a soft dough. 


Knead on floured board (or your countertop) until light (I took this to mean "not as sticky" - I kneaded the bread about 10-15 times).  Place the dough in an ungreased bowl (no need to cover) and let it rise until doubled in size (about 30-45 minutes). 


Punch down and divide into 2 parts. 


Roll out to 1/2-inch thick (mine measured about 7"x10"). 


Spread with melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll up as if you were making cinnamon rolls.



Place on an ungreased baking sheet (or two), and cut top with scissors (see picture). 


Put in a warm place to rise until doubled (there is no need to cover the bread.  For a warm place to rise, I always put a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of my oven and set the temp to 200 degrees for a few minutes, then open the door so it's not too hot).  


Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes (I baked mine for 20 minutes, then shut off the heat for the last 10, so it wouldn't get too dark). 



While still warm, frost with icing .

I didn't have an actual recipe, per se - but this is how Mom used to do it:  dump some powdered sugar (about 3/4 c. - 1 c.) into a bowl, mix in about 2 Tablespoons softened butter and 2 Tablespoons milk.  Mix well.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Makes two 12" rolls, which should serve 24-30 people, depending on how thick you slice it.


My hubby's a bit on the picky side, so I didn't ice the whole thing.  It would have looked much better with the sliced almonds or chopped walnuts on top, but it was late so I forgot to do that part!

It still tasted good, though.  Especially on a chilly 7 degrees below zero morning, with a cup of hot coffee.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Scandinavian Baking, Part II: Peppernuts and Fløtegrøt

The part of the world we call Scandinavia consists of five countries:  Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.  I've found that a lot of recipes originating in different parts of Scandinavia are similar to each other.  All in all, just about any Scandinavian Christmas cookies can be served together - they are all good!

Last weekend, I spent some time with my MIL, getting our Christmas baking done.  My Mom and Dad-in-law have six kids and are now great-grandparents several times over.  Holiday gatherings have grown to huge proportions.  So there is NO such thing as too many cookies, right?

So MIL is Danish and German.  I'm half Norwegian and then Swedish, with a few other things mixed in.  We baked some things that have been in her family for generations, and some from mine, too.  I think my lefse griddle is about shot, which means I may not make it this year, otherwise I will have to muddle through with my smaller electric frypan or the other griddle that I use for pancakes - which is also smaller.  Someday I will buy a really nice new electric lefse griddle like this one from Bethany House:

But for now I will have to make do.  I digress - sorry.  We made about 30 dozen cookies and a double batch of homemade caramels, which is about 5 lbs., I think.  Maybe a little more. 

While I mixed the Chocolate Crinkles and Andes Mint Chip Cookies, MIL cut up and baked the peppernuts she'd mixed the day before.  I will start with the peppernut recipe.  I believe this is Danish in origin.  This recipe comes from Grandma Nelson, who was my husband's great-grandmother.  We guessed that recipe is well over 100 years old, since Grandma Cohrs, who would be Grandma Nelson's daughter, is now 102 years old.  She's not baking anymore, but I know she'd love to if she could still manage it.


1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup shortening
1 cup boiling water - with 1 tsp soda mixed in
1 tsp. ginger
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
5-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. pepper

Mix everything together.  Roll out into long ropes, about 1/2" to 1" in diameter.  (These can now be refrigerated if you want before cutting and baking).

Cut into pieces about the size of a hickory nut or a hazel nut.  Bake at 350 degrees. 

I think those bake for about 10 minutes, we never set a timer when we were baking.  When these are baked, they should retain their shape, and not flatten out like a cookie.  I've seen and tried a few other recipes I've found online and in other cookbooks, but those seem to flatten and aren't very spicy.  An option I've seen is to add cardamom and lots more pepper.  Another option is to use ground white pepper; we used black in ours.

Another recipe we didn't make this weekend but we talked about is Fløtegrøt.  This is as Norwegian as it gets.  It's a pudding that's made with milk (or cream) and flour, and served warm with sugar, cinnamon and butter.  My Grandma Hilda used to add a splash of heavy cream to the top to cool it down for us girls.  After she died, my uncle found that she'd kept boxes and boxes of journals - and this recipe was written down for us there.

Grøt  (* Note - you roll the "r" when you say this.  It sounds like "grute".  Also, the milk Grandma used was directly from the cow - not skim, 1%, or even 2%). 

1 gallon of milk - bring to a slow boil, keep stirring so it won't burn in the bottom of the pan
Add a little flour to thicken like pudding
Add a little salt.

Add cinnamon, sugar, and sweet cream to taste.

I wonder why she had the "boil real good" part in caps and underlined.  Perhaps a bad batch at some point?  I haven't had this one since I was little, and I don't know if the boys would like it.  I used to love it.  I think I will make it on Christmas morning.  If no one likes it, I could always mix in a little oatmeal, I think.

Scandinavian Holiday Baking, Part I: A Primer

As I promised, I have dug into my stash of Scandinavian recipes, especially for the Christmas holiday.  These have been gathered over the past 20-odd years or so, from various sources.  Some have come from family, some from the huge collection of inherited printed cookbooks, and some from the internet.  I am lucky enough to attend a church that is comprised mainly of Norwegian-Americans, and a bunch of my recipes have come from our own church cookbook and also during our fellowship hour via some quickly scrawled notes written in ballpoint pen on the Thrivent Financial For Lutherans-embossed napkins provided by the insurance company.

Some of these recipes are for basic foods that were eaten on a non-holiday basis in the past but are now reserved for the holidays because of either the fat content or the lengthy process that goes into making them.
Others are traditional holiday treats that have traveled the world with immigrants and kept in families for generations. 

Then, there's lutefisk.  How shall I explain lutefisk to a non-Scandinavian?  Well, let's just say you don't really want to know.  But, since you insist, it's really just dried fish, reconstituted.  In lye.

"What?  In lye?!?" you cry.

Well, yes.  But after it's been soaking in the lye, it goes into a water bath for about 5 days.  All the lye is gone by then, really.  Trust me.


"But the smell!"  you exclaim, as the noxious aroma  fills the room when the bag of white fish from Morey's Fish Market is cut open.  By now the tears are rolling down your cheeks, partially from the fear of eating something that was soaked in lye, partially from the fumes.

Mmmm.  That's the smell of my Auntie Yvonne's kitchen at Christmas time.  Brings me back to my childhood, with the smell of roasting turkey mingled with lutefisk in cream sauce.  Yvonne's a Swede.  So is my mother.  They both married Norwegians, my dad and my uncle Trueman are 100% Norsk.  Norwegians usually eat their lutefisk drenched in melted butter.  That's how I prefer it, but Aunt Yvonne still makes the best lutefisk, even if it is in cream. 

For more info on lutefisk, look to Wikipedia.  I can't say the article is perfect, but there's some good info there.

Before I really dive into the recipes, there are a few things that you may want to know.  If you are in the U.S. or would just generally be interested in a good metric conversion chart for cooking, I found one here:  Metric Conversion Chart.

Another thing that is good to know is what your options are for hard-to-find Scandinavian ingredients.  While it seems that finding eggroll wrappers or agave nectar is as simple as taking a trip to your local Cub foods or Walmart, finding things like pearl sugar or hornsalt can be difficult if you don't know where to shop.

Luckily for me, Minnesota has a large enough population of people with Scandinavian blood that it's a bit simpler here.  Ingebretsen's , located at 1601 E. Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota has been selling Scandinavian foods and gifts for over 85 years.  You can even take classes there, from knitting and making Hardanger lace to cooking and wood carving.  Or just go to a story telling event to hear some stories from Norse mythology.  If you are unable to get to Minneapolis, they have other locations as well, and online shopping is also available.

Ingebretsen's Mural - corner of 16th and E Lake Street

Even if you aren't as lucky as I, to be living smack dab in the middle of little Norway (a.k.a. Minnesota), at least most of the ingredients are pretty basic:  eggs, flour, milk, cream and sugar.  Which of course means that most of these cookies and other treats turn out white - or just a shade darker than that.  My German-Danish husband kids me all the time that all of my cooking turns out either white... or black.  Brown is cooking, black is done, as my dad always used to say. 

Well, I am going to break this into a few shorter sections, as not to bore you too badly.  So consider this an introduction, more pics and recipes will follow - stay tuned :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time For a Re-post!

I posted this recipe back in April, but since Christmas is approaching with break-neck speed I figured it was time to post it again! 
I even posted a picture this time, looks like I left it out last April.

I was lucky to get this photo.  This batch went awfully fast!
Toffee Almond Sandies...mmm...

I often find myself swapping recipes with relatives or friends at work, church or elsewhere. We are all working moms, and who would know better than a working mom how important it is to share good things that work?

My hubby's aunt, Punky, gave this recipe to my mother-in-law, Dawn, who is the source of some of the best and easiest recipes I have. Absolutely maaavelous! These melt in your mouth...

Auntie Punk’s Toffee Almond Sandies

My new favorite cookie!

1 cup butter (Auntie Punk uses ½ margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
4 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
2 cups chopped almonds (sliced almonds work well, too - Punky uses walnuts)
1 package English toffee bits (I use the Heath candybar brand bits without the chocolate).

Mix together butter, powdered & granulated sugars, oil, eggs and almond extract with an electric mixer.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix by hand. Roll dough into 1 ½” balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and flatten a little with a glass, fork or fingers (if you use a glass, dip the bottom of the glass in sugar to keep the cookie dough from sticking). 

**NOTE  -  This cookie dough may seem a little sticky.  It's ok to chill the dough in the refrigerator before rolling into balls.  I make mine one day, then bake it the next to break up the work if I'm really busy.**

These cookies will spread a little, flattened cookies should be spaced about 1 ½” – 2” apart.

Bake at 350° F. for 12-14 minutes (only until set firm, not brown).  Allow cookies to cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before moving to a towel or cooling rack.

Yield 8-10 dozen.

I am going to try something different next time: substituting rum extract for the almond extract, and pecans in place of the almonds. I will let you know how it turns out!
12/10/09 - P.S. - I did try out the recipe with the pecan and rum extract substitutions.  They tasted alright, but the original is far better!  Something about the almond flavor and scent of the cookie and the almond chips with the toffee just seemed to mix better to me.