The Art of Swedish Holiday Baking (Recipe for Ginger Spice Cake)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
diagrams,sweet — by Johanna

kindvall-spicecake-coffee-02

Despite different time zones, my book collaborator Anna Brones and I always find time to bake “together”. And for our regular skype meetings we always treat ourselves with strong coffee and something sweet to nibble.  This week we are celebrating a little extra; Fika just got listed in Saveur Magazine‘s 100 cooks’ edition list! (issue 171, January & February 2015). We wish you all a wonderful and sweet Holiday and a Happy New Year.

Julbak: The Art of Swedish Holiday Baking (With a Recipe for Ginger Spice Cake)
Text by Anna Brones

If there’s one thing that’s essential to a good December in Sweden, it’s julbak. It might come as no surprise that “Christmas baking” is of the utmost importance in a country where December is cold and very dark month; what’s better on a chilly winter day than a warm kitchen wafting of freshly baked gingersnaps? Not a whole lot. Well, except for a kitchen wafting of freshly baked gingersnaps AND a pot of glögg.

Holidays, no matter what they are and what culture they are celebrated in, are often linked to certain foods. The act of preparing a particular dish ties us to the tradition and the celebration. While we may find ourselves far from family, friends and the place that the tradition comes from, if we prepare a certain food, we are immediately transported back.

Julbak is this kind of tradition, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Swede, whether they’re living in Sweden or elsewhere, that isn’t craving pepparkakor come the month of December.

While julbak can consist of a whole variety of baked goods, there are a few Swedish classics that are indicative of this time of year:

Pepparkakor – Swedish gingersnaps, rolled out thinly and cut into traditional shapes like hearts, pigs and adorable gingermen and gingerwomen. Ready to try pepparkakorHere’s a recipe.

© Johanna Kindvall

Lussekatter – Also known as lussebullar or saffransbullar, these are the beautiful sweet buns baked into a golden yellow. The color comes from the addition of saffron, and the buns are decorated with currants. They are commonly baked for St. Lucia day. Here’s a recipe if you’re feeling up for it.

kindvall-lussekatter

Glögg – While the Swedish mulled wine isn’t a baked good, you can’t eat all of the julbak treats without a nice mug of glögg to go with them. Here’s a recipe to try.

Of course, the problem with both pepparkakor and lussekatter is that you need time to bake them, and not everyone always has it. But because the flavors are so iconic, in the modern Swedish baking world, you’ll see saffron and the spices used pepparkakor incorporated in a variety of creative ways in other recipes, all helping you get the traditional flavors of December with a little less kitchen work.

Last December, Johanna and I were caught up testing all of our classic Christmas recipes for our book Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break – which is coming out in just a few months – so this year we thought it might be fun to do something a little different. In Sweden, the pepparkaka can take many forms. In our book for example we have the classic version as well as the softer ginger cookie, which the Swedes smartly call a lunchpepparkaka, because it’s so dense you can in fact eat it for lunch. This recipe takes the form of a soft ginger cake, but still includes all the spices normally used in a traditional pepparkaka. The end result is a tasty gingersnap spice cake of sorts. Perfect with glögg or just a strong cup of coffee.

Anna & Johanna’s Ginger Spice Cake
makes one 6-cup Bundt cake

10½ tablespoons (5¼ ounces, 148 grams) unsalted butter
3 egg yolks, room temperature
¼ cup (2½ ounces, 70 grams) honey
2 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoon milk
¾ cup (3¾ ounces, 106 grams) all-purpose flour
3 egg whites, room temperature
¾  cup (5¼ ounces, 148 grams) natural cane sugar 

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour the Bundt pan. 

In a bowl, cream together the butter with the honey until well blended. Add the egg yolks one by one followed by the milk and the spices. Mix the batter together.

Sift the flour, then stir it carefully into the batter, stirring as little as possible until you get an even and sticky batter. The batter is quite stiff but will get lighter in the next step. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites, ideally with an electric mixer. When soft peaks form, add the cane sugar little by little. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the sugar and egg white mixture into the batter and keep folding until the batter is evenly blended. Be careful not to overstir. Pour directly into the Bundt pan. 

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The cake is done when a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted at the thickest part of the cake. If the cake starts to get a golden brown color earlier (which can happen after 20 minutes), remove it from the oven, cover it with aluminum foil, and put back in the oven. This will prevent the top of the cake from burning. 

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for a bit before inverting it onto a plate.

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more by Anna Brones and me

ToscaKaka with Orange (recipe)
Kanelbullar (recipe)
Mazariner (recipe)
Semlor (recipe)
Amuse Bouche (illustrated food caption series, Foodie Underground 2012-2013)
Fika – The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break (about the book and where to pre-order)

 

Madame Fromage’s Semolina Crackers (book review)

Saturday, December 6th, 2014
books,bread,diagrams — by Johanna

© Johanna Kindvall

Another cookbook that’s become one of my favorites is Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings by Tenaya Darlington, aka Madame Fromage (Running Press, 2013). I have mentioned the book here several times but I think the book is worth it’s own post. First of all the book is not just a cookbook it’s an introductions to 170 different cheeses. The book is a collaboration with Di Bruno Bros., a well known cheese shop in Philadelphia.

In the book Tenaya simply tells stories around the selected cheeses, includes several ideas and tips on how to serve, what to drink and pair them with. Tenaya also teaches you how to buy a cheese and how to talk to a cheesemonger. The main purpose of the book is to help the reader find the cheese of their dreams. Unfortunately I want them all!

The book has several recipes for treats that works well with cheese, such as Lavender Mustard, Balsamic Poached Figs and Semolina Crackers (see below). There are also many cheesy recipes, for e.g. Manchego & Marcona Almond Pesto and mouth watering Grilled Peaches with Quadrello di Bufala

I’m so looking forward to her next book, which is a cocktail collaboration with her brother André Darlington. When ever I read something by Tenaya, the book or something on her website I end up hungry with a big smile on my face. Tenaya has loads of humor. Chapters as Baby Faces, Stinkers and Pierced Punks is just a few examples of her excellent wittiness!

I’m dreaming that one day Tenaya will have me over for dinner…
© Johanna Kindvall

Madame Fromage’s Semolina Crackers

(I didn’t counted them but there were plenty to serve with a cheese plate for 4 people)

As you know, I like to bake, so after receiving the book last Spring I almost immediately baked Tenaya’s Semolina Crackers (that are adapted from Heidi Swanson‘s recipe).  I like the way Tenaya bakes them, just simply rolled out on a baking sheet, baked, cooled and then “cracked” with your hands before serving.  You can also roll them out with a pasta machine, like I suggest here below. I have halved the recipe and changed the method slightly, otherwise it’s pretty much the same as in the book.

dough
¾ cup (123 grams) semolina flour cup
¾ cups (106 grams) all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
one teaspoon flaky sea salt (more if you like saltier crackers)
½ cup (about 120 ml) warm water
about 2½ tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing

flavour
fresh rosemary

Mix together the water and the olive oil in a large bowl before adding the flours, sea salt and chopped rosemary. Work together well with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Transfer the dough to a floured flat surface and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball. Place in an olive oil greased bowl. Let the dough rest in the fridge for one hour.

Cut out small pieces (size depends on how long crackers you want) and flatten them out slightly with your hands. Roll them out about 2″ wide with a rolling pin or pasta machine. Roll them out as thin as you can and desire. (I roll them out to level 5 in the pasta machine which is less than 1/8 inch thickness). Dust with more flour if the dough feels sticky.

Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the long crackers on the sheet and bake at 350°F  (175°C) for about 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown. Let the crackers cool completely (not stacked) on a flat surface. Store in airtight containers. My crackers never lasted that long, but according to Tenaya they store well up to a week.

© Johanna Kindvall

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Tenaya will have some book signings (around Philadelphia) in December (2014).

More with Tenaya Darlington on Kokblog

Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)  collaboration between Tenaya & me
Late Summer Cheese Picnic
(part 2) collaboration between Tenaya & me
Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3) collaboration between Tenaya & me
How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board – guest post by Tenaya

Fika – The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break (my first book)

Friday, November 14th, 2014
books,bread,sweet — by Johanna

kindvall-fika-cover-3

Breaking news: Fika – The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and me will be in the bookstores April 2015. It’s a celebration of Fika, the coffee break that Swedes do daily: either at work, at home, in a cafes, on the train or during a walk in the woods. The book is loaded with cookie, cake and bread recipes developed from both our Swedish heritage. They are new, adaptations or renditions of old classics, such as cardamom buns, pepparkakor, chokladbiskvier and skållat rågbröd.

It has been such a sweet journey with Anna; developing the recipes, test baking (again and again), writing, editing and drawing it all. It has also been such a pleasure to work with our publisher and editor Kaitlin Ketchum at Ten Speed Press and with Elizabeth Stromberg, who did such a wonderful work creating the beautiful design of the book.

If you like, you can already pre-order the book in several online bookstores: Random House, Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

I’m so excited that I can’t walk straight! And I think I need to sit down and have some fika!

© Johanna Kindvall

related links
Fika in Saveur Magazine, January & February 2015
I’m Working on a Book (post)

 

Sourdough Bread with Rye

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
bread,diagrams — by Johanna

One of my fun jobs this summer was to design chocolate packaging for Francoise Villeneuve at Wiggley Leroux Confections. My job was to create a label and a chocolate bean pattern for the chocolate bar wrapping paper. It was such a pleasure to work with Francoise on this project and her delicious confections are now available at BaconN’Ed’s food truck, Reston Station, Washington, DC.

Last week I was in Laramie, Wyoming to draw animals for the public art installation AnimalEyes by Walczak & Heiss at the Berry Biodiversity Center. It was great fun and I learned loads of cool stuff about local animals such as horned lizards, prairie dogs and bumble bees etc. Did you know that an ant queen can reach an age of 30 years? And that there used to be camels here?

On this trip I brought bread, which our hosts welcomed enormously. They served it with their in-house Roman dried tomatoes and pheasant gizzard confit. Wonderful!

This bread is also excellent, sliced thin, topped with aged cheddar and slices of fresh red pepper. This Autumn, I will have it as much as I can with a cup of strong black tea in front of the fireplace (or with my feet up on the radiator).

Sourdough Bread with Rye
one small boule

starter dough
50 gram well fed and lively sourdough starter
150 gram water (about 2/3 cup)
150 gram (1¼ cup) rye flour

2nd dough
330 gram (about 1 1/3 cups) water
600 gram (about 4¼ cups) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

starter dough: For the 1st dough, mix together the starter together with water and rye flour. Cover and let sit for 12-24 hours in room temperature.

the dough: Add water to the starter dough and stir before adding the flour. Mix everything well together. Let rest for 15-30 minutes before adding the salt. Work the dough some more to distribute the salt evenly and form a ball (I find it easier to do this directly on the countertop). Place in a slightly greased bowl. Cover with a plastic bag.

Stretch and fold 3 times with 45 min intervals. After last stretch and fold let the dough rise for about one hour.

Shape the dough into one round boule. Set aside for about 10 minutes and shape again. Place it with the seam side up in a round floured banneton. You can also use a normal bowl with a well floured tea towel.

Cover with the plastic bag and let prove for 2-4 hours.

About 30 – 60 minutes before baking your bread, set the oven to 500°F (260°C). Place a baking sheet or baking stone into the oven. A stone will need more time to heat up than a baking sheet. If you want steam during baking, place a tray under the baking sheet. I fill it with boiling hot water just before I bake the bread.

When it’s time, take out the warm baking sheet (or stone) from the oven. Carefully transfer the shaped boule onto the hot baking surface. Score the dough (see scoring links below) before transfer it to the oven. Lower the heat to about 450°F (230°C). Bake for 15 minutes, open the oven door to let out some steam. The bread should have risen up nicely and started to get some nice golden color. Bake for another 30 – 45 minutes.

The bread is done when it sounds hollow when knocking on the bottom. You can also check the breads inner temperature, which should be around 208°F (98°C).

Let the bread cool completely uncovered on a cooling rack before slicing.

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More sourdough breads on kokblog

Plain Sourdough Bread
Sourdough Knäckebröd

Other useful links

Slashing or Scoring your Dough by Azelia’s Kitchen
Scoring Bread – post at Fresh Loaf

 

Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part 3)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
cheese — by Johanna

Fall is just around the corner (or at least here in Brooklyn) and it’s time for part 3 of the seasonal collaboration with Tenaya Darlington, alias Madame Fromage. This time of the year I just want to put my wellingtons on and pick loads and loads of mushrooms. And a proper mushroom hunt needs a picnic and together with Tenaya there will of course be cheese.

Smoke and Funk: A Fall Cheese Board (part3)
by Madame Fromage

In fall, I love when the air smells of damp leaves and wood fire. It’s a good time for a hike with wool hats and a hamper of cheese. Find a smooth tree stump or an overturned log without too many mushrooms, and you can create a woodland snack scape fit for a band of hobbits.

Such an adventure calls for cheeses that bring earth and forest to mind.

Clothbound cheeses. Leaf-wrapped cheeses. Bark-bound cheeses. Cheeses smoked over wood. And my favorite: booze-washed cheeses that are supple and mushroomy with a kick of rank funk.

Here are a few fall favorites with unusual coverlets and trappings…

Clothbound Cheese

Long before block American Cheddar appeared, traditional British Cheddars were wrapped in muslin and smeared with lard to keep them moist inside cellars. Aging a cheese in a cellar or a cave kept cheeses cool and allowed them to develop unique tastes – let’s call that taste “earthy.” Today, several traditional Cheddar makers still produce clothbound Cheddar – ask for samples of Montgomery’s, Keen’s, or Quicke’s next time you visit a good cheese shop. A handful of American makers have been inspired to wrap their Cheddars in cloth, too, including Cabot Clothbound and Beecher’s Reserve.

If you haven’t tried a clothbound Cheddar before, now is the time! As the days grow shorter, don’t you long for the taste of mushrooms and butter? Clothbound cheddars are ‘shroomy and supple, perfect to serve on Halloween – invite your friends in to taste mummified cheese from a cave. They’ll find it more compelling than candy.

Bark-bound Cheese

In fall, seasonal cheeses that are wrapped in bark begin to appear in markets. In France, the best-known varieties are Vacherin Mont d’Or and Epoisses. These small moons turn so soft and gooey that cheesemakers use “belts” made of bark (Birch or Spruce) to hold the wheel in tact. Think of them as cheeses that need girdles. This European tradition has, once again, inspired several American artisans to follow suit with special cheeses, like Harbison and Winnimere, from Jasper Hill in Vermont.

You can warm these cheeses very gently on a lipped plate or a crock – try 200 degrees in your toaster oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, plunge steaming new potatoes into them. This is how the Swiss make it through fall and winter. Be sure to serve a round of Doppelbocks.

Smoked Cheese

One of the best smoked cheeses, Idiazábal, comes from the Basque region of Spain — a nutty, buttery sheep’s milk cheese that is lightly smoked over a fire to impart a fragrant taste. This smoky accent is part of a mountain tradition; the same cheese from the valley around Navarre is not smoked. Idiazábal is often compared to Manchego, from the same region. Both cheeses are traditionally paired with quince paste or quince jam. The bright, acidic taste of the fruit offsets the dense, woodsy flavor of this cheese.

Sit by the fire with some mulled cider or a Spanish red. On a cheese board, this darling is wildly versatile. Try pairing it with toasted almonds, meaty green olives, cured meats, dried apricots, and pine honey. If you want to add another rare smoked beauty, make it Rogue River Smoky — a stunner from Oregon with midnight veins.

Booze-washed Cheese

Long ago, monks hatched the idea to wash wheels of cheese with beer and spirits — dampening the rinds adds moisture to the paste but also turns the exterior a wee bit sticky and funky. Stinking Bishop, from England, is washed in a spirit made from pears, called perry. Epoisses, mentioned above, is washed in Marc de Bourgogne – a dazzling brandy. Chimay is washed in Belgian Chimay. If you’re a fan of beefy cheeses, this is the season to break out these fudgy wedges and let the breeze carry the scent away from the rest of your family.

I love to serve these stinky monsters with a side of beef stew – they adore braised meat and onions. And, of course, you’ll want to wash it all down with a pint of Belgian ale or a snifter of Brandy. Maybe both, depending which way the wind blows.

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Please also read the other parts in this seasonal cheese calendar:

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer (part 1)

* If you want to dig into more cheeses, I recommend you to check out Tenaya’s cheese book. It’s wonderful!
* And I can also let you know that she is working on her 1st cocktail book together with her brother, André Darlington. Cheers.