I’m not going to lie.
After living in a really awesome neighborhood in close vicinity to downtown Minneapolis, our little Norwegian town is.....boring. I won’t go so far to say that I am a big city girl who can’t rough it in the sticks, but I will say that aside from boasting two large shopping centers and a Chinese restaurant, there isn’t a whole lot going for Førde. In its’ redemption, what the city lacks in urban culture and charm, it more than makes up for in incredible nature.
I was never much of a “horse person” growing up. In fact, I always had a bit of a prejudice towards the girls who would collect hundreds of those little horse figurines and write stories about owning their own pony. However, after finding myself driving past some fjord horses on my way to school every day, I finally decided to pull the car over and take a couple of shots of these beauties. Through my friend, Wikipeidia, I have found out that fjord horses (which by the way, originate in this region) have been used in Norway all the way back since The Viking Age. Today, they are one of the least-altered breeds in the world and are primarily used for heavy farm work. I think their hair dos are pretty great too.
In earlier posts, I’ve given you a glimpse or two into the local produce offerings of our region. My summer recipes were completely reliant on what was growing. First came the tiny, ruby strawberries, closely followed by out-my-back door, ripe raspberries, to Hardanger apples, to last week’s mountain lingonberries. Guess what I have in store for you today?! These:
Solbær, or black currants, are not the tastiest berry to eat on their own. They’re ridiculously tart and smell a little funny, but when you cook them down with a lot of sugar to make a preserve, or, when you extract their juices to make a juice concentrate, which Scandinavians are so crazy about, they’re really, really tasty. As with most berries in our county of Sogn og Fjordane, black currants grow like crazy in people’s gardens. Since we live in a second story garden-less apartment, our black currant fix has to come from an old man who sets up an open-air market out of the back of his truck. His name is Erik, and I’ve bought potatoes, plums, and now black currants from him. I think the only reason I keep going back is because he compliments my Norwegian and sells his berries in old ice cream containers. Here’s a photo of my pal, Erik, and his produce stand:
With those black beauties, I made my second-ever batch of berry preserves. What a wonder a few pounds of sugar can do to some otherwise difficult to eat black currants. Did you know that black currants contain more potassium than bananas and have just as much, if not more, vitamin C than oranges? Do you think the high nutritional value of black currants outweighs any negative effect that all that sugar may have on my pearly white and waistline? Let’s pretend that it does.....
Today’s recipe is for Fruit and Nut Bread. The original recipe comes from a neat book I received from my dear mom as a birthday gift. The book, The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook, is a region-by-region compilation of recipes from various Minnesotan cafes, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. The idea behind the cookbook, is to give people ideas as to how to use Minnesotan ingredients in their cooking and baking. Wild blueberry crème brulee, wild rice sausage, beer-batter walleye fingers, are just a few of the included recipes. The one that caught my eye was shared by a cafe in The Minnesota River Valley, Cranberry Multi-Grain Bread. I merely used this recipe as a springboard for the ingredients I had on hand and deemed worthy to make their way into my bread. In addition to the sugar-laden berry jam, I decided to dry some of my black currants alongside a few spare lingonberries, and incorporate them into some bread as a substitute for the cranberries that would defeat the whole idea of using a local ingredient.
Fruit and Nut Bread
Frukt og Nøttbrød
(makes 2 medium-sized loaves)
*Recipe adapted from Java River Cafe, Montevideo, MN.
1 Tablespoon dry, active yeast
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) warm water
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm milk
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup (50 g) brown sugar
2 1/2-3 cups (350 g-400 g) All-Purpose flour
1/2 cup (75 g) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (100 g) oatmeal
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) (or more) dried fruit- try a mix of apricots, raisins, cranberries, cherries, and/or red or black currants
1/2 cup (120 ml) (or more) chopped nuts- try walnuts, hazlenuts, almonds, and/or pecans
(optional: 1/4 cup (60 g) flax seed)
1. Proof the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, butter, and brown sugar.
2. In another mixing bowl, blend most of the AP flour and the rest of the ingredients. Add this to the bowl with the yeast. Stir well to incorporate. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead dough, adding more All-Purpose flour, as necessary, to create a smooth and satiny dough (about 5 minutes). The dried fruit and nuts will try to poke their way out of the dough, simply, push them back in as you go.
3. Place dough in a warm and greased bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise until doubled in size, roughly 45 minutes.
4. When fully risen, punch dough down and divide into two equal parts, forming each into a loaf of your desired shape. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined or greased, baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise another 30 minutes.
5. In the mean time, preheat oven to 350F/175 C. When ready, bake the loaves for 35 minutes, or until golden-brown and hollow-sounding when tapped. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing in.