Tag Archives: norway

{3} Berlinerkranser

Every Christmas selection has a place for a good old-fashioned buttery biscuit. Stepping up to the role is today’s recipe from Norway. These twisty bakes go by the name Berlinerkranser, or “Berlin wreaths”. Completely logical for a cookies from, eh, not Berlin.


I mean, it’s not as if a Norwegian city name would do. Oslokranser? Bergenkranser? Trondheimkranser? Lillehammerkranser? Tromsøkranser? Really, would none of these have worked? Alas I have not found the origin of the name, but I wonder if the knot shape refers back to German pretzels? If you know, do enlighten me!

It can be very easy to think of butter cookies as not being very interesting. But as with many traditional recipes, it helps to think about where and when they came from. Think back to the late 1800s, and butter would have still been a luxury to some people. This would mean that at Christmas it really was a treat to have something sweet and buttery, rather than something made with lard. Times were hard back then, folks.


Berlinerkranser sometimes make an appearance as part of the Norwegian tradition of syv slags kaker (seven sort of cookies, say that quickly after seven glasses of eggnog), where bakers can get into the competitive spirit of the season. They try to dazzle their guests with their baking skills by filling every biscuit tin in the house with cookies. If you want to have a go at a few other Norwegian treats, you could also turn your hand to serinakaker and sirupsnipper.

There is also an odd feature to Berlinerkranser, or at least something that I’ve never seen in a cookie recipe. Just about every version I’ve seen uses fresh egg yolks as well as hard-boiled egg yolks in the dough. I’m normally happy to try anything, but this one struck me as just a bit too strange. It’s also more work…I’m all for a lazy approach that skips avoidable faffing about…all the more time to watch a schmaltzy festive made-for-TV afternoon movie, probably involving some scrooge-like character in New York who rediscovers the magic of Christmas from the innocence of a young child. So, in a testament to laziness, my recipe uses two fresh egg yolks, but if you want to have a go at the more traditional version, use one fresh and one yolk from a boiled egg.


In terms of flavour, I have kept these very simple and traditional. I’ve seen recipes that add vanilla or citrus zest, but these have just the richness of egg yolks and butter. The only concession I’ve made is to use salted butter, as I think it gives a better and fuller flavour than using unsalted.

One tip for making them – once you start to shape the dough, it is easier to work as it gets slightly warmer and softer. If it is too cold, it will break. Howerver, soft dough will collapse in the oven, so put the whole tray of shaped cookies in the fridge for 15 minutes before putting straight in the oven. Voila – cookies don’t break and they keep their shape.

Now…go forth and make another six types of cookie before your guests arrive. Enjoy!

To make Belinerkranser (makes 20)

For the dough:

• 2 egg yolks
• 80g caster sugar
• 185g plain flour
• 125g salted butter

To finish:

• 1 egg white, beaten
• pearl sugar

1a. If using a hard-boiled egg yolk: push the boiled yolk through a sieve to break it up as much as possible. Add to the other egg yolk and the sugar and beat well for a minute.

1b. If using only fresh yolks: put the yolks and sugar into a bowl and beat well for a minute.

2. Add the flour, mix, then tip in the butter and mix until it forms a soft dough. Add more flour if needed, but remember the dough will firm up when chilled.

3. Wrap the dough in cling film, flatten as best you can, and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

5. Divide the dough into 20 pieces. Take each piece and roll to an 18-20cm rope, and shape the cookies. Place each one on a baking sheet.

6. Chill the shaped cookies for 15 minutes in the fridge, then brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

7. Bake the cookies for around 12-14 minutes until pale golden.  turning the tray around during baking to get an even colour.

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{6} Kransekager

Each year, reaching my sixth post is something of a relief – we’ve made it to the half-way point without the kitchen catching fire or being destroyed by scalding molten sugar and burning butter. It feels like we’re on the home stretch, even if it means I’ve got to produce another six bakes to complete the series. Every time I do this challenge, I really enjoy it, but baking against a (self imposed) deadline of Christmas Eve does sap a little of the fun out of the process. And then we do it again the next year…

To celebrate getting this far, I’ve made a celebratory cake. Kransekager hail from Denmark, as well as Norway where they go by the radically different moniker of…eh…kransekake. They are made from a mixture of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites, which is mixed into a marzipan-like dough, and then baked until golden. The result is a slightly crisp exterior, with a soft, chewy centre, and they are utterly delicious. They also happen to be gluten-free if that’s your thing.

The impressive way to make them is by shaping the dough into ever-smaller rings (krans means wreath), then drizzling each layer with white icing to build a tall conical tower that can hide a bottle of champagne. These cakes are popular at Danish weddings, and in Norway on national day on 17 May. I’ve seen some suggestions from Danes that kransekager should be eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve with champagne. I’m not a massive fan of champagne with very sweet things, so I’ll leave that one to you. To each their own!

kransekager2
There is also a variation on the kransekage tower. Rather than a cone which rises into the air, the rings can be arranged into an overflødighedshorn (say that after a few glasses of champagne!) which means “horn of plenty” or “cornucopia”. This can then be filled with sweets and chocolates, for a truly dazzling showstopper. If you’re looking for a way to serve all your Christmas baking in a memorable way, then this might be the way to do it. Perhaps I’ll have a go at that next year.

All these fancy cakes are great when you’ve got the time, but as you can see, I’ve avoided the elaborate cake tower and a fantastical horn of plenty, and instead made a simple bar form, with either end dipped in dark chocolate.

kransekager1
I have found a few Danish versions online which all suggest using marzipan, sugar and egg white. However I’ve learned the hard way that what we call marzipan in Britain has quite a high proportion of sugar to nuts (usually a 3:1 ratio, rather than the 1:1 in Danish “raw” marzipan). The result in the past has been that I’ve ended up making things that were so sweet they were inedible! No worries about that here – I’ve made this using equal parts of ground almonds and icing sugar to get the perfect balance. I’ve also added a little bit of almond extract for that distinctive flavour. I love it, and a little really enhances the kransekager, but if you want to leave it out you can.

kransekager3
These were really easy to make – the dough comes together easily, and it straightforward to shape. I opted for some long batons – you just measure out the dough, roll it into a ball, then roll into a long sausage. I’ve finished them with traditional white royal icing, but I dipped the ends into dark chocolate  – this provides a flavour contrast to the sweetness, but it also tidied up the messy ends after I’d baked them. I was originally going to leave them with just the icing, but I picked up the chocolate tip from Gitte at My Danish Kitchen. If you’re interested in finding more Danish recipes, her blog is great and there are so many recipes on there – it it’s Danish, I think Gitte has made it at some point!

To make Kransekager (makes 10)

For the marzipan dough

• 1 large egg white
• 150g ground almonds
• 150g icing sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the icing

• 75g icing sugar
• 1 tablespoon egg white
• few drops of lemon juice

To finish

• 100g dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and rub the paper with a dot of butter to prevent sticking.

2. Lightly beat the egg, then add the ground almonds, icing sugar and almond extract. Mix to form a soft dough (start with a fork, then finish with your hands).

3. Divide the mixture into 10 pieces. Dust a worktop with icing sugar. Form each piece into a ball, then roll each one into a sausage, around 9cm long. Press the sides so that you have a long triangle. Transfer to the baking sheet, leaving space between each for the kransekager to expand slightly.

4. Bake the kransekager for around 13-15 minutes until just golden, turning half way for an even bake. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

5. If dipping in chocolate: temper the chocolate, then dip either end of the batons in the chocolate. Transfer to a sheet of greaseproof paper and leave to set.

6. Make the icing – briefly whisk the egg white, then add the icing sugar and lemon juice. Beat until smooth but stiff – add more icing sugar is needed. Transfer to a piping bag and drizzle a zigzag shape on top of the kransekager. Leave to set.

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{2} Sandkaker

Sandkaker are a Norwegian Christmas cookie. Their name means literally “sand cookies” and reflects their golden colour and crisp-yet-crumbly texture. They often form part of the Norwegian tradition of syv slags kaker (seven sorts of cookie) whereby home bakers get themselves in a frenzy of flour, butter, sugar and festive flavours to produce an impressive selection of sweet treats. There isn’t a fixed list of what comprises the magic seven, so I like to imagine Norwegians quietly judging each other’s efforts after a few glasses of warm, boozy gløgg. If you’re keen to make some other Norwegian treats, I’ve made serinakaker and sirupsnipper and mor monsens kake in the past (so that’s four down, three to go to…).

So what are sandkaker? Well, they’re certainly, ahm, unusual. They are made with a buttery almond dough that is pressed into intricate tartlet moulds, and they look like…well…empty upside-down tartlets! I’ve come across all sorts of weird and wonderful Christmas baking in previous years, but this one might just take the biscuit (ha – bad pun!). For I have made cookies that have to be cut out with special cutters, or pressed into shape, or shaped in intricate ways, or decorated in a particular (i.e. time-consuming) way. But cookies that look like unfilled tarts? Well, you have to admit that this really is just a little bit odd!

sandkaker1
I could wax lyrically about the beautiful shapes and delicate flavours, but it is just plain strange that you would serve guests what looks like a tray of pastries without a nice filling. I mean…surely the filling is the whole point of a tart? And I’m not even that fussy when it comes to sweet treats – I’ll go for fruit, cream or chocolate, they will all do me just fine!

sandkaker2
But…having said all that…sandkaker are really rather nice. What you need to get your head around is that these are not pastry shells waiting to be filled, but cookies in their own right. The dough is rich – buttery and sweet – and I’ve flavoured it with vanilla and almond extract (or you can use ground cardamom, which is also a popular flavour).

The dough would make great cookies just rolled out and cut into shape, so shaping the dough by pressing it into intricate moulds is really just a way of making them look fancier than roll-and-cut cookies. And as you can see, they do look very pretty indeed on the plate!

sandkaker3
After making these, I don’t have too many insights to share as they are fairly easy to make. I did think that it might be easier to roll out the dough and lay it into the tartlet shells like pastry, but this is dough, not pastry, and it was too fragile to roll out successfully. As long as you keep the dough chilled, it is very easy to push into the moulds (which in fairness is what every other recipe suggests doing, so lesson learned there!). Try to keep the cookies thin, and prick the base with a cocktail stick – I found that the bottoms puffed up a little and stayed pale, but pricking a few holes let any steam escape, ensuring the base (or top!) would become golden. If you don’t have fluted tartlet moulds, you can still make them with a non-stick muffin tray (except you won’t have the fancy fluted finish).

The real fun comes with getting the sandkaker out of their moulds. They did seem to stick a little, and I did panic at first. I tried prising them out with a knife, but it turned out for me that the easiest way to get them out was to let them cool for a few minutes after baking, then to drop them onto a wooden worktop. After a couple of drops, they would just pop out of the tin. Simple!

If you do make them, just be ready for your guests to ask where the filling is, and snap back (tartly – ha!) that they’re supposed to be like that. Or if you are feeling generous, use them like tartlet cases, fill with some whipped cream and add a little jam with a Scandinavian flavour like cloudberry or blueberry.

To make Sandkaker (makes around 40)

• 170g unsalted butter
• 150g caster sugar
• 120g ground almonds
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• 250g plain flour

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, almond extract, vanilla and the egg and mix well.

2. Add the flour and mix to a smooth dough – it should come together but will be fairly soft. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

4. Very lightly butter some small fluted tartlet cases. Pinch off pieces of the chilled dough, and use your fingers to press into the tins until you have an even, thin layer. Trim off any excess dough from the edges, and use a cocktail stick to prick a few small holes in the bottom.

5. Bake in batches – put 10-15 filled tartlet cases on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden, turning half-way to ensure an even bake. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then remove the sandkaker from the moulds. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Hey Hey, it’s 17 May!

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus recently, which has been due to a perfect storm of holidays (yay!) sandwiched in between busy days at work (boo!), and an increasing busy social life as finally summer appears to be creaking into action. We’ve been tantalised by soft, warm days only to have the frost reappear and slap us on the face as a reminder not to take the good times for granted. Anyway, I’m back and, confirming the old saying that travel broadens the mind, I also have a few new sources of inspiration that should be popping up over the next month or so.

That said, I’m going to go back to my occasional series on Norwegian goodies. I’ve got some good Norwegian friends, and usually make something in honour of their national day. For today is 17 May, and that means today is the day that the good folk of Norway like to make sure that you know, just in case there is the slightest smidgen of doubt, that they are extremely, utterly, passionately exited and proud about being Norwegian, rather than Swedish or Danish. That also means they go big in terms of food, drink, partying and flags. I’ve joined in one of those celebrations in Oslo a few years ago, and its tremendous fun. Thousands of people are wearing traditional costume, and it’s very strange to ride the metro in a modern city surrounded by people dressed as simple country folk from a rural idyll. Yes, a bottle of wine is eye-wateringly expensive, but the city is lovely, the people are outgoing and welcoming and the food is fantastic, in particular the traditional baking.

In previous years, I have made lefse (potato flatbreads) and marvposteier (almond tartlets). This year, it’s really a repurposed Christmas recipe called kingler (Norwegians – is this the correct plural spelling?). These are rich, buttery pastries that are shaped into loops, and then formed into a figure of eight shape (or the infinity symbol if you prefer).

kringlas1

The traditional flavouring is vanilla, which goes well with the butter and cream that make these a real treat. You could go traditional, but I’ve tweaked them by keeping the vanilla, but I’ve also added a dash of freshly-ground cardamom. This is rapidly becoming one of my favourite spices, very popular in Nordic baking, and absolutely delicious in baked goods. It adds freshness and a delicate aroma, and takes these from being delicious to being something quite special indeed.

kringlas2

kringlas3

While they look a little complex to make, there is an easy trick. You form the dough into balls, roll it into long strips, then join the ends to make a loop. Then twist two sides in opposite directions, and there you have it – the figure of eight shape, and if you’re been cunning, the seam is hidden where the pieces of dough overlap. One little trick to think about is how big you make them – you actually want a thin strip of dough, and as large a loop as possible – the closer things are, the greater the chance that the loops will close during baking. This isn’t a problem, as they still have a charming S-shape, but if you’re making loops, you want loops.

The texture of kringler is interesting – it’s not quite a biscuit, it’s softer and lighter, and more like a scone. You could certainly serve them with butter and jam if that’s your thing, but I think the best way to eat them is to enjoy their pared-back Norwegian elegance by munching on a couple alongside a cup of coffee. They are wonderful while still slightly warm, when you can enjoy them in all their buttery, cardamom-perfumed glory.

To so all the Norwegians out there – gratulerer med nasjonaldagen!

kringlas4

To make kringler:

(makes around 30)

• 125g butter
• 175g caster sugar
• 1 egg
• 125ml milk
• 125ml double cream
• 450g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 3 teaspoons baking powder

1. Cream the butter until soft, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and cardamom and whip until thoroughly combined.

2. Combine the milk and cream in a bowl and mix well.

3. Put the baking powder into the main bowl, and add the flour and the milk mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, a little at a time, and mix until you have a smooth dough. It will be firm but sticky, so don’t be tempted to add more flour unless essential. Cover the bowl in cling film and chill for at least 4 hours (or cheat – 30 minutes in the freezer, the two in the fridge) or overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line some baking trays with greaseproof paper.

5. Take lumps of the dough and form into rough balls (about the size of a walnut – a tablespoon worked for me as a guide measure). As the dough is sticky, don’t worry about getting them smooth at this stage.

6. Once all the dough is in balls, lightly sprinkle the worktop with a little plain flour (as little as you can get away with). Start to roll the balls into long strips, adding a dash flour as needed,  until they are around 20cm long (the strands might seem very thin, but they will expand in the oven – and the bigger the loops, the more defined the shape will be). Join the ends to make a loop, and then twist in opposite directions so you have a figure of eight shape. Try to have the pieces cross on top of the join for a neat finish. Put on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

7. Bake the kringler for 10-15 minutes until an even golden brown colour (turning half-way if needed). Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little caster sugar, if desired, and enjoy either warm or cooled with coffee.

Worth making? This is an incredibly easy recipe, and ideal if you need something to serve fresh from the oven – the dough can be made the night before, and the kringler shaped and left (covered in cling film) until baking. The inclusion of the cardamom makes them extra-special and a little usual with your morning coffee.

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{5} Serinakaker

In the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, the fifth day was greeted with five gold rings. As a nod to that, today’s recipe is for golden biscuits called serinakaker from Norway. Yes, it turns out that Norway is a bit of a goldmine when it comes to unusual festive ideas in the kitchen department, and these are also one of the classics in their “seven sorts” baking tradition.

serinakaker_1

From rather simple ingredients, the end result is a plate of rich, buttery shortbread. If you can also get hold of baker’s ammonia, they also have a super-light texture and crisp finish (but baking powder will also do just fine). They are finished off with an egg wash to give them a golden colour, and sprinked with chopped almonds and pearl sugar. I think they look nicer if you chop whole almonds, so you have a bit of contrast on the cookies. A quick search on the web also shows that Norwegians love these things, so you can’t really go wrong!

serinakaker_2

To make Serinakaker (makes 40):

• 150g butter, softened
• 100g icing sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 egg, beaten
• 250g plain flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baker’s ammonia or baking powder
• 1 beaten egg, chopped almonds and pearl sugar, to finish

1. In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and pale . Add the egg and beat until the mixture is very fluffy.

2. Put the flour and baker’s ammonia (or baking powder) in a bowl and mix well. Add one-third to the butter mixture, and mix until combined. Add another third of the flour, mix well, then add the final third and mix. Cover the dough and leave in the fridge overnight to chill.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Shape into a long roll, and cut into 40 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and place on the baking sheet (you might have to bake in 2-3 batches). Flatten each with a fork, brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with pearl sugar and chopped almonds.

5. Bake for around 12 minutes until golden, turning half-way (and watch out for the fumes!).

Worth making? Very easy to make, and the results are far better than the level of effort should indicate.

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{3} Sirupsnipper

Today I’m going to go back to more “traditional” festive baking, and that involves looking north, to our neighbours in Norway.

As it turns out, Norway is home to some very unique and interesting recipes for Christmas. I’d always assumed they were very much like those of Sweden and Denmark, but they have their own personality. In addition, there is a festive tradition called Syv Sorter (“seven sorts”) whereby you bake – you guess it – seven different things in order to have a properly generous Christmas spread. Some suggest there is a fixed list of items to choose from, but there seem to be about twenty different traditional bakes. While the list of what people include varies rather a lot, today’s recipe – sirupsnipper – seems to feature in most people’s lists. If you want to see some of the other recipes in the list, see here.

How I have missed these biscuits is, frankly, beyond me. They include lots of spices (which I love), and the dough should be cut into a diamond shape using a fluted pastry cutter (which I did not own, and thus had to make a fruitful trip to the wonderful Divertimenti kitchenware store). In order to be authentic, they also require one of my favourite (and rather odd) baking ingredients, good old baker’s ammonia. It makes sure that the biscuits are properly light and crisp, even if it does cause your kitchen to smell of ammonia while baking (the resulting biscuits are perfectly safe to eat though). You can use baking powder if you don’t have baker’s ammonia, and the biscuits will still taste good.

sirupsnipper

The flavours in sirupsnipper are cinnamon, ginger, aniseed and white pepper, but the resulting taste is surprisingly subtle. None of the spices is too strong, and the overall flavour is a mild gingerbread with the rich flavour of syrup. I thought they tasted a little like Belgian speculoos biscuits – very crisp and lightly spicy, which are great with coffee.

The dough is made one day, and the baking happens the next day, so that the flavours can develop a little before baking. Rolling out the dough and cutting into shape was all very easy, and I ended up with some smart-looking biscuits before baking. While in the oven, however, the sharp edges got a little less sharp, and I wondered what I could do.

Finally, and out of curiosity, once I had a table groaning with cookies, I left the last batch of six to dry overnight. I reasoned that letting the cut biscuits sit, uncovered, might mean that they would hold their shape better when baked. Well, as it turned out, this had two effects. The shape did indeed stay sharper, but the crisp “snap” was gone in the baked biscuits. I have no idea why this happened, but the biscuits were far better when not left to sit overnight. So there you have it – a little test by me so that you’re not left wondering what if…

And with that, we’re one-quarter of the way through out Twelve Bakes of Christmas. However, if I were a Norwegian having a go at the Seven Sorts challenge, I’d be almost half-way there. Maybe next year!

To make Sirupsnipper (adapted from tine.no):

A word of caution – this recipe makes about 100 biscuits! It is easiest to make batches of these cookies, rather than trying to bake them all in one go.

• 150ml double cream
• 150g golden syrup
• 150g white sugar
• 100g butter
• 450g plain flour
• 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed or star anise
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3/4 teaspoon baker’s ammonia or baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• flaked almonds, to decorate

1. Put the cream, syrup and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Add the butter, stir until melted, then leave to cool until lukewarm.

2. In the meantime, mix the flour, spices, baker’s ammonia and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl until fully combined. Add to the syrup mixture and mix to smooth dough. Cover well and leave to sit overnight.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

4. Roll out portions of the dough (thickness of 3mm) and use a fluted pastry cutter to shape into diamonds (or just use a knife). Transfer to the baking sheet, then dab a little water in the middle of each biscuit and lay a piece of flaked almond in the middle.

5. Bake the cookies for around 5-6 minutes until golden (turn half way). Remove from the oven, cool for a moment, then transfer to a wire tray to cool.

Worth making?This is a great recipe, and I’m just confused I’ve never seen it before. Simple crisp, spicy cookies, and perfect if you need to bring a large box to feed colleagues.

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{11} Mor Monsens Kake

I was looking over my recent festive posts and I noticed that the “Twelve Cookies of Christmas” posts have been a bit of a gastronomic tour around Europe – we’ve covered Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Britain. So where next?

Well, I feel we need to show some solidarity with the good people of Norway, who are in the middle of a butter crisis. Some blame a recent craze for low-carb (and thus high butter) diets. Some blame a poor summer, which resulted in lower dairy yields. But whatever the reason, this is having a major, major impact on Christmas baking. People are bringing butter back from trips aboard. People are getting into frenzied online bidding wars. I mean – people are getting arrested for butter smuggling. Arrested! All for butter! 

So, let’s show the burghers of Oslo, Bergen, Lillehammer and Tromsø that we’re thinking about them. Today’s post completes the Scandinavian family (we’ve done Sweden and Denmark) with Norway’s  (apparently) famous Mor Monsens Kake (Mother Monsen’s Cake). And yes – this majors on the butter!

Now, the obvious question – who is Mother Monsen? If I’m going to make her cake, it seems only polite to make at least an attempt to find out.

Well, it seems the answer is…eh…no-one really knows. The Norwegians love her cake, but it’s not clear who she was. I’ve found out that the recipe is over 160 years old, and it seems to be famous after being name-checked in a famous cookbook written by Norway’s first female novelist, Hanna Winsnes, back in 1845. If anyone knows more, do leave a comment!

To the relief of many, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that this recipe does not involve any weird or wonderful ingredients (potassium carbonate and salt of hartshorn – I mean you!). No leaving dough to sit for hours, days or weeks (as is the case with Aachener Printen!). No elaborate preparations involved (Honninghjerter spring to mind…). Nope, this is a simple if somewhat buttery cake with currants, almonds and pearl sugar. It’s actually quite a nice contrast to all those rich, sweet, spicy biscuits  and mince pies at this time of year, so great in the morning with a cup of coffee before or after a bracing walk.

One thing about this cake that was a little unclear was what I should add to flavour the batter. Leave it plain? Add vanilla? lemon zest? Cardamom even? Different recipes do things differently. After a not-very-representative poll via Twitter, I got some views and settled on both lemon zest and a hint of vanilla extract. I actually really like lemon and vanilla, so that pairing suits me down to the ground, but go with what you prefer.

There are a lot of versions out there, but I’ve worked out one that has a texture akin to that of the Dutch boterkoek – dense but crumbly, and very, very buttery. Light and fluffy this ain’t! You spread the cake mixture in a large tray, then sprinkle over the currants, almonds and pearl sugar. During baking, it will puff up a little, and some of the fruit and nuts will sink down into the batter (like magic – no mixing involved!). Once golden, remove from the oven and cut into pieces – diamonds or triangles are the traditional shapes.

This can be stored for a few days in an airtight container, but also freezes very well for those times you fancy a bit of cake at short notice.

So as they say in Norway – Gledelig Jul! And let’s hope the butter crisis comes to an end soon. Norway – we’re thinking of you!

To make Mor Monsens Kake:

• 225g butter (yes…precious butter!)
• 225g caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• zest of 1/2 lemon
• 130g plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 25g blanched almonds, cut into slivers
• 40g currants
• 20g pearl or granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a deep baking pan (30 x 20 cm / 12 x 8 inches).

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder and set aside.

Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. At this stage, and electric mixer or hand blender will be your friend – you want fluffy, fluffy, fluffy!

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extra and lemon zest, then fold in the flour.

Spoon the batter into the baking tray and spread level. Sprinkle over the currants, almonds and pearl/granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Cut the cooled cake into diamonds or triangles to serve.

Worth making? This is a quick and easy recipe to make, using mostly store cupboard and fridge ingredients. While it’s a traditional Christmas bake, it’s also a lovely rich cake  that goes fantastically well with a cup of coffee.

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Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things

Marvposteier (Norwegian Almond Tarts)

Hey hey, it’s almost the 17th May – and that’s Norwegian National Day. It’s on this day that the people of Norway like to let you know that they are very, very proud of being Norwegian, rather than Swedish or Danish. So that means lots of flags, parades, drinking and food.

So if you’re in the mood to celebrate, here are two options. If you’re inclined to the savoury, try making lefse (potato flatbreads), but if you prefer sweet, then try marvposteier. These are little almond cakes in a pastry case and topped off with a cross. Something like this:

This was my first time making them, so I am not sure that I can hold myself out as any sort of authority (given…I’m not remotely Norwegian), but they were pretty straightforward. They remind me a little of macaroon tarts, which have a similar almond filling, but with a bit of jam in the bottom. I wonder if they might be related?…

The process is easy, so you actually end up with a pretty impressive result for minimal effort. It’s just a basic butter pastry, filled with an almond paste, and then if you’ve got the nerve and patience, finished with pastry crosses. In my opinion, it’s worth adding the crosses.

I was happy with how these looked and tasted. The filling is just sugar, egg white and almonds (which I enhanced with a couple of drops of almond extract), so after baking they  are pleasantly soft and marzipan-like. All in all – kjempegod (as they might say in Oslo).

So to the Norwegians out there – hope you’re having a great day!

To make Marvposteier (around 25):

For the pastry:

• 250g plain flour
• 200g butter
• 50g (3 tablespoons) caster sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 3 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

• 200g ground almonds
• 250g icing sugar
• 4 egg whites, lightly beaten (about 130g)
• 1/4 teaspoon almond essence (optional)

Start with the pastry: put the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl. Rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and a spoonful of water. Use your hands to mix, adding more water if needed until you have a soft, smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a couple of muffin pans with some butter.

Roll the pastry out very thinly. Cut out circles with a cutter, and use to line the muffin pans(*). Keep any scraps of pastry.

Next, make the filling. Put the almonds, icing sugar, egg whites and almond essence (if using) in a bowl and mix will into a smooth paste. Fill each tart with a teaspoon of the filling, then shake the muffin pans lightly so the filling evens out.

Roll out the scraps of pastry and cut into thin strips. Use the strips to form an X on top of each tart, and make sure you press the ends into the pastry cases. Brush the X with a little egg white (use your fingers for this) (**)

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

(*) You want these pastry “shells” to be about 1.5cm (2/3 inch) deep.

(**) Handy hint – rather than use another egg here, just check the bowl you used to beat the egg whites – there should be just enough left in the bottom to glaze the X on each tart.

Wroth making? These tarts were really rather easy to make and still very tasty. The can also easily be made in a gluten-free version by replacing the plain flour with a gluten-free alternative. You can also customise them by using other ground nuts (such as hazelnuts) or adding a little jam to the bottom of each tart before covering with the filling.

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Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things