Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Baking

Hi everybody,

I've finally gotten around to creating a blog so that you can see how Edvard and Anna are growing up! We celebrated Christmas with Edvard last year, but that was in the middle of moving to our new condo. This will be our fist Christmas as a full family in a settled home, so I decided to go all out. Being Norwegian, that meant baking julekaker (Christmas cookies). My five favorite cakes are (in no particular order)
  • Peppernøtter
  • Fattigman
  • Goro
  • Kong Oscars kake
  • Kransekake
The last two are not traditional Christmas cakes, but I am happy to use any excuse to make them.

My Mother used to make peppernøtter (pepper nuts). Her recipe is from Schønberg Erken, and is a bit different from other recipes by the same name, but absolutely fantastic!

My Grandmother, who Anna is named after, used to make fattigman. The literal meaning is "poor man". They are known as klejner in Danish. Grandmother created an aura of mystique around them, so I thought they would be very hard to make and I had never dared to do it earlier.

However, I am quite adventurous and ambitious when it comes to baking, so I went out and bought a deep fryer, and it turned out that it was not that hard to make them. As soon as the dough hit the fat in the fryer, my kitchen started smelling like Christmas at Grandma's! I almost started crying!

I still need to perfection them. They got too oily. In fact, they went bad after only two weeks. I guess it is harder to store Christmas cookies in Singapore than in Norway! The recipe call for Cognac, but I replaced it by grape juice. However, I just read somewhere that the purpose of the alcohol is to keep them from absorbing too much fat. I also need to make them even thinner. Mine became more like smulteringer (Norwegian donuts), and not like the crisp cookies that Grandma made. Oh, well, better luck next year!

Grandma also used to make goro. However, you need a goro iron. Thanks to my cousin Eva, it is in the mail. Will try it out once I get it.

Grandam's masterpiece cake was Kong Oscars kake (King Oscar II's cake). When I left for the US in 1982, I asked her for the recipe. At first she didn't want to give it to me, saying that if we started making it, we wouldn't want to come and visit her, but eventually she gave it to me. I had tried it out a couple of times in the past. I recently made it for a friend's birthday party. I was a big hit. People were queuing up for seconds while I was cutting it, and in the end people were licking the baking paper!

Kransekake (wreath cake) is a Danish/Norwegian specialty. I had never made it before, but last month I ordered a set of kransekake molds. None of the Norwegian stores that sell it on-line would ship to Singapore, but I found it at the Vesterheim Museum Shop in the US, so I didn't have to bother cousin Eva with this. I've made the dough, and I'm going to bake it later today. I will freeze it and assemble it for Christmas Day. Stay tuned!

It is also fun to make pepperkakehus (ginger bread house), and I'm trying to get the kids interested in the Moomin, so I just ordered shapes for making a ginger bread Moomin House. I'm going to do it together with a Finnish friend, Jukka, this weekend. Stay tuned!

By the way, he has a Finnish cook book that contains both fattigmann and Kong Oscar.

Since this post is mostly about baking, I can't resist talking about my last big baking adventure. Here in Singapore it is common to give away cakes when the kids turn one month. So I decided to make cupcakes for both our colleagues. Here I am at Karen's school with half the cupcakes.

I'm also enjoying my bread machine. I've found a great recipe for a loaf with a mixture of wheat, whole wheat, oats and sunflower seeds.


Unknown said...

My Granma was gamous for her Fattigmann. It is very important to follow the Schoenberg Erken recipe to the T. But I think you found your basic mistakes. Try thinner dough, add the best cognac you have and don't use more flour than absolutely necessary!
I hope you can find the 'smult' that you need, as the quality and temperature of the fat is important.
Good luck!

Helmer Aslaksen said...

Thanks for your kind words. My grandmother always had somebody to help her when baking Fattigman. One person would roll and cut, and one person would fry. When doing it alone, they ended up being left around for a long time before frying, and I think that was the main problem.