I didn’t fall in love with Norway upon first sight.
Granted, Oslo has its fair share of museums, cafes, history, and charm. But it wasn’t Oslo that made be fall in love with Norway. It was Bergen.
Bergen made me sigh a little and say to myself, "now this is somewhere I could live..."
After my first visit to Bergen, Oslo started to feel like a snotty older sister. The snotty older sister who keeps a chip on her shoulder. The older sister who secretly knows that she’s neither as pretty nor well-loved as her little sister. (*this is no reference to us, Ingie!)
Bergen is quaint, yet metropolitan. It’s world famous fish market and gorgeous wooden buildings. It’s rain and mountains, and harbor, and Edvard Greig, and a sense of local pride. Oh, and it’s full of good bakeries. Really, really, good bakeries.
Today we’re talking Bergen. But we’re also talking buns. Skillingsboller, to be exact. Which, although easily attainable at just about any bakery across Norway, has it’s origins in Bergen and were once priced at one schilling, which is how the name came about (skilling = schilling).
Of course, I’ve done buns in the past. Lots of them, really. I’ve done them with raisins, and caramel, and custard, and berries, and often times cardamom. I’ve even done them all tied up like a cinnamon-coated twisty knot. Those were good. But never before have I done the famous Bergen bun. And it was high time.
Skillingsboller are, to me, the essence of Norwegian baked goods. Cardamom and cinnamon are vital. As are raisins and almonds, and yes, butter and sugar. I don’t know if it’s necessary to say much more. Moist, fun to tare apart, and pretty easy to eat two or three of, these buns are what I want with my mid-morning coffee until the end of my days. I think you’ll agree.
There are countless recipes out there for skillingsboller. Mine comes from my favorite bread baking book, Morton Schakenda’s Om Boller Brød og Tilfeldigheter Fra Bakeriet i Lom. It’s a book that always produces over-the-top fantastic results, yet, sadly has not been translated into English. Lucky for you, that’s just what I’ve done below.
Recipe being sent into the yeastspotting weekly showcase!
Norwegian 'Schilling' Buns
(Recipe from Morton Schakenda’s Bakeriet i Lom book)
*makes 24- large buns
For the dough:
About 7 cups (1 kg) all-purpose flour (start with 6 cups and add more, as needed)
2 cups (5 dl) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cardamom (I prefer to use cardamom pods and grind my own, in which case, it’s best to reduce the amount to 2 teaspoons)
1 large egg
1 3/4 oz (50 g) fresh yeast OR 2 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
5 oz (10 Tbsp/150 g) butter, cut into small pieces (*grating chilled butter with a box grater works well)
For the filling and topping:
4 1/2 oz (9 Tbsp/125 g) softened butter
2/3 cup (125 g) sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups (200 g) raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained)
2 cups (200 g) slivered or chopped almonds
+one egg for brushing before baking and a little extra sugar for sprinkling (use pearl sugar, if you can get a hold of it)
1. Using a standing kitchen mixer (or a large mixing bowl, a good wooden spoon, and a lot of muscle), dump in all of the dough ingredients EXCEPT FOR the butter and mix well until everything comes together. ***If using active dry yeast instead of fresh yeast, consider proofing your yeast in 1 cup of lukewarm milk (250 ml) first, then continue with the recipe as normal, remembering to add the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) of milk later on. 7 cups of flour should be about the right amount, but depending on the type of flour you are using, you may need to add a another 1/4-1/2 cup or so to keep the dough workable (ie: not too sticky). If using a kitchen machine, allow the machine to knead the dough for about 10 minutes- if making dough by hand flour a clean working surface, dump the dough out and knead for about 10 minutes.
2. Add the chilled butter pieces, little by little, and knead them into the dough for 10-15 minutes. Make sure all of the butter is worked completely into the dough. Place the dough in a greased, large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until roughly doubled, about 1 1/2 hours (I set my dough in the refrigerator and allowed it to rise overnight, about 10 hours).
3. Once the dough is fully risen, flour a large work surface and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a large 12” x 25” (30 cm x 70 cm) rectangle. Using a spatula or pastry brush (or even your hands!), smear the softened butter over the entire surface of dough. Over this, sprinkle the sugar then cinnamon evenly and gently press into the dough with your fingertips. Then, evenly spread the drained raisins and almonds over the dough.
4. Like a jelly roll, roll your dough rectangle up into a spiral, the long ways. Slice the rolled dough into 24 even slices (this works best if you first slice the dough in half, then each half again, so that you have 6 even pieces, making it easier to gauge your slices). Place your buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment, pressing lightly over the center of each piece so that they are slightly flatter in the middle. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about one hour.
5. Preheat your oven to 350F/175C and brush each bun with the whisked egg, then sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they become a deep golden brown. Best while still warm, although they’ll keep for a day or two at room temp, freeze any that you plan to keep long than that.
*This recipe is very similar to Morton Schakenda’s Kanel (cinnamon) snurr, which I have previously posted on this site. The dough and filling are almost identical, but the formation of the buns and the addition of raisins and almonds differentiate these.