Recipes in the Norwegian American Weekly

Rhubarb Cardamom Crisp

Hello there. It seems like I’ve been talking about this rhubarb cardamom crisp and sharing it all over social media for a few weeks, but it occurred to me that I had yet to mention it here. The rhubarb cardamom crisp with buckwheat streusel and whipped crème fraîche is the most recent recipe I’ve written about in the Norwegian American Weekly, and it’s become one of my favorite desserts.

I’ve been the food editor of the Norwegian American Weekly for a number of issues now, and before any more time passes, I thought I’d take a moment today to write an update about what’s going on over there at the food section. If you follow Outside Oslo on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a bit of what I’m up to, but if you just follow the blog, then things will have seemed pretty quiet since I announced my new role with a recipe for kaffefromasj

Most recently, we ran this yellow pea soup with ham and watercress from Maria Nelson, one of our newest writers. She’s a food writer and photographer who blogs at Pink Patisserie, and I’m excited to see the work she will be continuing to contribute in the months to come.

There was also Bergen Easter chicken, a recipe from one of Beatrice Ojakangas’s books, which combines chicken with the distinctly Norwegian flavor of gjetost (brown goat cheese). And this week, Sunny Gandara of the blog Arctic Grub will be exploring the role of ice cream on Syttende Mai–along with sharing several recipes. (And here’s a little secret for you: Look for an aquavit cocktail recipe from another one of our new writers in the coming weeks!)

I’ve been working behind the scenes for a couple of months to shape the food section of the Norwegian American Weekly–which is the last remaining Norwegian American newspaper (there used to be hundreds of them!)–and it’s been fun to see the first stories and recipes roll out since taking the position. We have some great new writers on board, in addition to existing ones, and I’m looking forward to watching how the Norwegian food coverage unfolds in the months to come. I’ll be sure to post Norwegian American Weekly updates here from time to time, but I hope you’ll follow the paper too.

I’ll be back soon with another recipe.

Syttende Mai: Seattle, 1980s

Syttende Mai with Grandparents 1980s

Old Ballard was about as Scandinavian as you could get. Though far from the Nordic countries, the little neighborhood north of downtown Seattle had drawn immigrants by the thousands over the years. It used to be as easy to find lefse as it was a burger. And if you needed gjetost, pølse, or any other type of Scandinavian food–not to mention housewares or souveniers with Norwegian flags or “Uffda” printed on them, you didn’t have to look far.

The neighborhood has changed a lot over the years, but I still distinctly remember what it used to be like before the massive changes of the past decade. With Syttende Mai coming up tomorrow, I’ve been digging up old photos and memorabilia and thought I’d share some here today.

Syttende Mai 1980s Mementos

Syttende Mai 1980s Mementos

From a handful of family photos taken during the celebrations in the 1980s to old Syttende Mai issues of the Ballard News-Tribune, this box is filled with nostalgia for me. The photo up at the top of the post is my favorite. On the left are Grandpa Lauritz and Grandma Agny, who had arrived in Seattle from Norway right around Syttende Mai in 1956. Next to them are Grandma Adeline–my only surviving grandparent–and Grandpa Lowell. That little girl in front is me. If you’ve spent time in Ballard throughout the years, you’ll recognize the old Bergen Place behind us, prior to its redesign a decade ago.

Syttende Mai 1980s Mementos

Syttende Mai 1980s Mementos

Syttende Mai 1980s MementosBoth sets of my grandparents lived in Ballard when I was growing up, and driving down to meet them at the parade was an annual event. I’m so glad my parents saved these old issues of the Ballard News-Tribune; at some point along the line, a photographer had captured photos of me and they were published for a couple of years (on the chair in the lower left of the May 15, 1985 cover, and holding a flag in the May 14, 1986 issue).

Today’s Ballard might be known more for its condos, restaurants, and nightlife than its Scandinavian roots, but Syttende Mai is still one of its biggest events of the year with events at the Nordic Heritage Museum and Leif Erikson Lodge during the day, leading up to a parade through the streets of Ballard in the evening (the 17th of May Committee says more than 20,000 people came out for the parade last year). I’ll be there tomorrow, hopefully adding more photos to the collection–photos that I’ll someday look back upon with the same sort of nostalgia as I do with these.

What are some of your Syttende Mai memories–in Ballard, Norway, or elsewhere? I’d love to hear about them!

Celebrating with Norwegian Bløtkake

Bløtkake

When I was growing up, my birthdays always involved a special meal (or two or three, to be honest–I love birthdays) and the cake of my choice. There were the assorted decorated cakes–Barbie one year, a pink frosted sheet cake with an illustrated orange cat another year. But most often I remember marzipan cakes. A simple white cake layered with cream and raspberry or apricot jam, it was draped with a thin layer of rich marzipan which was then decorated with frosting flowers. As a little Norwegian-American girl with a taste for almond, the marzipan was invariably my favorite part of the cake and the reason I enjoyed this variety over and over again.

I made a similar cake this week for a celebration with friends. Bløtkake, which roughly translates to soft or wet cake, is typically served at all sorts of celebrations in Norway, from birthdays and weddings to Syttende Mai. Consisting of sponge cake, rich vanilla-scented custard, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream, bløtkake is surprisingly light and airy given how decadent it sounds.

Strawberries in Sink

Though bløtkake is served at celebrations year-round and can feature various types of fruit, strawberries are commonly used, making summer a perfect time to showcase this cake here on Outside Oslo. Berries are one of the hallmarks of Nordic cuisine, and in the summer, sun-ripened strawberries are enjoyed in abundance. If you’re going to make this cake any other time of the year, chef Andreas Viestad, in his book Kitchen of Light, advises using a combination of fresh or frozen berries and canned fruit.

Bløtkake Step One

Bløtkake Step Two

Bløtkake Step Three

Bløtkake Step Four

Bløtkake can be made in stages in the days leading up to an event, making it manageable and easy. Prepare the sponge cake a day or two in advance, then layer the cream and berries the morning of the event or the night before (Astrid Karlsen Scott, author of Authentic Norwegian Cooking, says all the cream cakes reach their peak if prepared up to 24 hours in advance). Shortly before serving, whip the cream and spread it over the cake.

Baking the cake for a group of people largely unfamiliar with Scandinavian cuisine, I had the privilege of sharing a little taste of my heritage with my friends. Someone surprised me by commenting on how it tasted like a wedding cake. For as unassuming and simple as a lot of Scandinavian food is, I’m continually amazed by how this type of simplicity results in something both special and elegant.

Bløtkake

Norwegian Bløtkake
Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

For the cake:

6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam, warmed and strained
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, plus more for garnish

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Up to a couple of days in advance, prepare the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round springform cake pans. Beat egg whites until fluffy, then gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat until stiff and with the consistency of meringue. Beat egg yolks in one separate bowl, and stir flour and baking powder together in a separate. Fold the egg yolks and the flour into the egg whites. Pour the batter into the two pans, then bake until the centers spring back when you touch them with a finger, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans.

For the filling, cook egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, half-and-half, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the custard thickens. Allow to cool, covered, and then stir in the vanilla extract.

When ready to assemble the cake, slice each cake in half horizontally. Place one layer on a serving plate and spread half of the custard over the top. Place another layer of cake over the custard, and top with the strawberry jam. Cover this layer entirely with the sliced strawberries. Place another layer of cake over the strawberries, spread the remaining custard over it, then top with the final layer of cake.

At this point, you can refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. To finish the cake, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff, then spread over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with additional strawberries and serve.

Serves 16.

A Cake for Syttende Mai: Verdens Beste Kake

Verdens Beste Kake

Gratulerer med dagen!

Wherever you are celebrating Syttende Mai, I wish you a great day. To mark the occasion, I baked you a cake. It’s called Verdens Beste, or World’s Best, which may seem like quite a claim unless you’ve tasted it. With a foundation of cake and a topping of meringue, and filled with creamy custard, it’s like a cross between a sheet cake, layer cake, and meringue all in one. Originating from the northern Norwegian town of Kvæfjord, it’s also known as Kvæfjordkake. Despite its plain appearance (nothing that a few vibrant strawberries can’t liven up), it’s a cake worthy of a celebration. Enjoy!

Verdens Beste Kake (World’s Best Cake)
Adapted from Ekte Norsk Mat, Authentic Norwegian Cooking, by Astrid Karlsen Scott

For the custard:

3 1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
8 egg yolks
2 tablespoons potato starch flour

For the cake bottom:

5/8 cup butter (150 grams), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (150 grams)
5 egg yolks
1 1/8 (150 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons milk

For the meringue topping:

5 egg whites
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
50 grams sliced almonds

For the filling:

1 1/4 cup whipping cream

Start by making the custard, as it will need to cool while you work on the other steps. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan, then remove from heat. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla sugar in a bowl until they become light and fluffy and start to thicken. Gradually add the milk, pouring in just a little at a time to temper the eggs, and mix well before adding a little more. Do this until all the milk is added (take care to not use too fast of a speed so that the mixture becomes frothy; if it does, you’ll just want to use a larger saucepan for the next step and patiently stir until the custard forms). Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. In a small bowl, mix the potato starch flour with a little bit of water until it dissolves. Heat the egg mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, and slowly pour the potato starch flour in. Stir until the custard thickens, taking care to not let it come to a boil. Transfer the custard to another container and chill.

Preheat oven to 355 degrees and prepare an 8-by-12-inch pan by lining it with parchment and greasing it.

To make the bottom cake layer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then start adding the egg yolks, one at a time, until well mixed. Sift together flour and baking powder, and begin to add it to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Spread this batter in the bottom of the pan, using a spatula to evenly cover the bottom of the pan and create a smooth surface.

Prepare the meringue topping by beating the egg whites until stiff then gradually adding the sugar and beating until stiff and glossy. Turn the meringue out onto the first layer and spread it around evenly, using a spatula to create a smooth surface. Sprinkle the almonds over the top, and then bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Check the cake beforehand and rotate if needed to create a consistent topping. Remove from oven and let cool.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the filling. Whip the cream until firm, and then fold into the chilled custard until incorporated.

Remove the cake from the pan and slice in half horizontally so that you have two layers. Carefully remove the top layer and set aside; the meringue will crack easily, so slide your hands under it and transfer it as carefully as possible. A little cracking is okay, but do take care. Transfer the bottom layer to your cake tray and then spread the filling over it. Replace the top layer, giving it the same care as when you removed it. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the cake. Serve with any assortment of fresh berries.

Serves a lot! You could probably serve as many as 12 people with this cake.

My Syttende Mai Recipes in the Norwegian American Weekly

Cardamom Ice Cream with Norwegian Chocolate Chunks

One of the best parts of being a recipe developer is coming up with ideas for foods that I would enjoy eating–and then having an excuse to try making them. Thanks to the Norwegian American Weekly, for which I am a contributing editor, I have a batch of lusciously smooth cardamom ice cream with Norwegian chocolate chunks in my freezer right now. Scented with the warm, woodsy notes of cardamom and a hint of vanilla, the custard is deceptively rich despite its low milk-to-cream ratio. The recipe is for the paper’s Syttende Mai issue, which is out today. Ice cream and hot dogs are common fare for Norwegian Constitution Day, so my latest story in the paper features recipes for both. I hope you’ll check it out and give the Syttende Mai recipes a try! Click here to read “Feast for a fest: 17. mai treats: A gourmet twist on the traditional 17. mai fare from Outside Oslo.”

Pølse med lefse

Family Classics: Norwegian Waffles

Norwegian Vaffler

I believe that food is a connector. Both to the people we love and to our heritage. I began writing about Scandinavian food in 2009 a couple of months after Grandma Agny passed away; the grief had struck me in ways deeper than I could have expected, and I found myself seeking out elements of our shared Norwegian heritage as a way to feel closer to her memory. Food was the winner.

As I read Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit–the two titles that began my collection of Scandinavian cookbooks–I began to understand my grandmother and our Norwegian heritage in new, illuminating ways. Outside Oslo became a place where I could share what was on my mind and what I was discovering as I cooked and baked my way through Scandinavian recipes.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of speaking at a Daughters of Norway meeting in Seattle about how we can use food to share our heritage with people we care about–both in the present and as we think about ways to preserve it for the future. Whey they invited me to come and speak at their May meeting, I was both honored and nervous. I would be speaking to women who knew just as much–perhaps more–about the cuisine than I do, and I wanted to both inform and inspire them. What it came down to was speaking from the heart.

Daytona Strong Speaker

On that special evening, I shared how I became interested in Norwegian cuisine, and the important roles it has played in my life from childhood and into the present. I discussed the value of creating memories with loved ones, sharing stories and family history, and handing down recipes and the associations that go along with them. Speaking from my own experience, I shared ways to preserve family history and recipes through tools such as blogging and making a family cookbook.

Norwegian Heart Waffles HorizontalAs I bake regularly with Grandma Adeline and my mom, we create memories as we spend time together in the kitchen, sampling bites of whatever we’re making and often enjoying a meal. In these baking sessions, something often triggers memories for Grandma, and she’ll share stories from her youth in North Dakota, her experiences cooking for and managing restaurants, and bits of family history. These baking days bring forth parts of my family history and my heritage that I might otherwise never have learned.

As I did with the women of Daughters of Norway, I would like to encourage you to find ways to share such experiences with your relatives, whether they’re older generations or younger. Food has an amazing way of connecting people, and so much of a time and place can be wrapped up in one single recipe.

Norwegian Waffles Vertical

If you do decide to write a family cookbook, let me share with you one of the recommendations a source gave me when I interviewed her for an article on the topic for Costco Connection magazine: Don’t worry about including the most impressive recipes. The goal, rather, should be including the ones with meaning, the ones that have fond memories and stories written between the lines.

For me, one of those recipes is for Norwegian waffles. I suspect every Norwegian family has its own version of this traditional dish; some use sour cream, others use buttermilk. Some people eat them with lingonberry preserves, others with geitost (brown goat cheese) or some sort of nut spread. But they’re typically made with a waffle iron that creates little heart-shaped waffles that look pretty on a platter and speak to the love that invariably goes into making them. This particular recipe goes back generations, at least to my great-grandmother Josephine. Making them with Grandma Adeline a week and a half ago, we carried on a family tradition, imbuing generations of past memories with our own and connecting the past with the present. And that, my friends, is a very special gift.

Norwegian Heart Waffles VerticalGreat-Grandma Josephine’s Norwegian Waffles (Vaffler)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the butter and beat until smooth. Mix in buttermilk and milk. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda and mix into the batter to combine.

Baking using a heart-shaped waffle maker.

The Norwegian Dessert Known as Troll Cream (Trollkrem)

Krumkaker and Troll Cream

If you follow Outside Oslo on Facebook or Instagram, then you probably know I’ve been planning to tell you about trollkrem, a traditional Norwegian dessert that translates to troll cream. Perhaps the best explanation that I can come up with about the name is the dessert’s almost-mythical properties.

Consisting of a mere two ingredients that barely form a pool in the bottom of a mixing bowl, the dessert transforms in a matter of minutes to a silky, creamy cloud. Egg whites mingle with lingonberry preserves as the mixer rapidly whisks them together, fluffing up the egg whites with air. The result is a featherweight pale pink puff.

Troll Cream Ingredients

Troll Cream in Progress

One of the things I love about having a Facebook page for Outside Oslo is the additional communication it fosters about Scandinavian food. When I made my first batch of troll cream, I was unsure that I was getting the whole picture as I opened book after book and searched the internet to try to find out the proper uses for it. With a texture and consistency far too ethereal for the dessert to stand on its own, it seemed to need a base, something to act as a foundation. I turned to you on Facebook and discovered not only a range of uses for trollkrem, but also how enthusiastic many of you are about Norwegian food. And that made me very, very happy.

From you I learned to put trollkrem in krumkaker (pictured here)–perhaps in the shape of cups rather than cones–and garnish it with mint. You also suggested filling sandbakkelse with trollkrem or using it to top pancakes. Growing up in a Norwegian-American family, krumkaker were always part of the holiday cookie trays, but we always ate them plain. Filled with trollkrem, the delicate cookies require just as much care in eating so that they don’t crumble all over, but the experience is much different, more akin to eating an ice cream cone. I’m still trying to find the perfect krumkaker recipe to share with you here, and when I do I’ll also try making them in the shape of cups, which cookbook author Astrid Karlsen Scott recommends.

If you don’t already follow Outside Oslo, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so today and join the conversation about Scandinavian food. You can subscribe via email or RSS, plus follow the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for trollkrem.

Trollkrem med KrumkakerTroll Cream (Trollkrem)

This particular technique is adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking by Astrid Karlsen Scott. If you have access to fresh lingonberries, you can use those instead of the preserves, adding some sugar to the recipe. If you’re concerned about raw egg whites, apparently it can be made with meringue powder as well, according to The Everything Nordic Cookbook, which has such a recipe. Scott suggests serving this in a crystal dessert bowl garnished with fresh lingonberries and mint leaves or in krumkakeskåler–krumkaker in the shape of cups.

2 egg whites
1/4 cup lingonberry preserves

Place the egg whites and lingonberry preserves in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at high speed until the ingredients expand, quadrupling their volume. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Serves 4.

Composed Salad of Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Mâche, Egg, and Asparagus

Composed Salad with Smoked Salmon

I think it’s part of the collective food-lovers’ experience to crave salads as soon as spring rolls around. In contrast to the hearty dishes that have dominated our kitchens for months, salads seem to represent the fresh air, lightened moods, and sense of new beginnings that come with spring. So it seems appropriate, then, that my latest article for the Norwegian American Weekly features an original recipe for Composed Salad of Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Mâche, Egg, and Asparagus.

This salad makes me think of a Norwegian variation on the salade Niçoise, which I love so much. Just as with that French favorite, this salad is fresh and light yet contains enough protein to make it a meal. Just butter a slice of bread and pour a sparkling beverage, and you’ll be set. Or, better, yet, pack it up and make it part of a Syttende Mai picnic if you live in a city that has a parade. Click here for the recipe, and enjoy!

Composed Salad with Smoked Salmon and Cucumber

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