The snow keeps falling, somehow the coffee pot is always at least half full, and one crooner or another sings Christmas songs on the stereo. Needless to say, the 10 pound bun and I decided to stay indoors today. It became the perfect day to make Julekake. Christmas bread.
This was always a favorite growing up. Perhaps the instigator for my love affair with cardamom. A rich and moist cardamom-flavored bread dotted with raisins and candied fruits. Served fresh with a smear of butter or toasted with Norwegian brown cheese, this was pretty much the most perfect December breakfast for a 10 year old. Never mind the fact that it’s a rather old-fashioned bread and perhaps more popular with the senior crowd than most grade schoolers. Of course, my affinity with liverswurst sandwiches didn’t exactly help me classify as a typical kid at the Saint Anthony Park Elementary lunch table.
It’s not a difficult bread to make. And of course, it’s not necessary to add the candied fruit (Norwegians traditionally just use that lime green citrus peel called sukat). Apparently candied citrus peel gained popularity during the war years when rationing other ingredients became the norm and folk grew used to the phrase, “waste not, want not”. So if you’re not feeling adventurous (or if it’s hard for you to come across candied fruits where you live), drop it all together. What is necessary, however, is the cardamom. And the raisins. And a healthy amount of good, pure, butter.
If there is one special bread to grace your Christmas breakfast table, this should be it.
Recipe sent to yeastspotting.com.
Norwegian Christmas Bread
Recipe adapted from the www.Tine.no, the Norwegian National Dairy Cooperative
*makes 3 loaves
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cup/280 g) butter
2 1/2 cups (6 dl) milk
1.75 oz (50 g) fresh yeast or 7 teaspoons active dry yeast
about 7 cups (1 kilo) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (125 g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt (leave out if using salted butter)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom (I like to buy pods and grind myself for a better flavor)
1 1/2 cups (5 oz/ 150 g) raisins
1 cup (3-4 oz/ 100 g) candied citrus peel or other candied fruits, finely diced
+ one whisked egg for brushing tops of loaves before baking
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Removed from heat and add the milk to the butter. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast, flour, sugar, salt (if using unsalted butter), and cardamom. Dump in the butter and milk and stir well. You want a slightly wet dough, but not one that is terribly sticky. Add more flour if dough is very sticky and difficult to work with, but not as much as you would when making a standard loaf of bread. Fold in the raisins and candied peel/fruit. Knead lightly, 3-5 min., adding just enough flour necessary to keep the bread from sticking to your countertop. The raisins and candied peel/fruits will have a tendancy to fall out, just push them back in and carry on.
- Grease a large bowl, place the dough in it, and cover loosely with plastic. Allow your dough to rise until double in size, about 45 minutes.
- Divide the dough in three and form large, tight round loaves. Place on either a greased baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean dish cloth and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- 15 minutes before you plan to bake your loaves, preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Once ready to bake, brush the loaves with the whisked egg. Bake on the bottom rack of your oven until the loaves become a deep golden brown, 35- 40 minutes.
- 6. Allow to cool a while on a wire rack before cutting off a slice. It’s hard to wait since this bread is so good warm but allowing the loaves to cool most of the way will prevent them from getting gummy on the insides. Eat with butter and Norwegian brown cheese or jam. Will keep in a plastic bag on the counter for 3-4 days.