Scandinavian Coconut Cookies with Sea Salt

Scandinavian Coconut Cookies

A wooden spoon and a simple recipe are all it takes to create a memory. “I want to help Mama bake cookies,” he says, coming inside and finding out I’m starting to bake. The butter is melting in the saucepan, the coconut measured. There’s really little else to do. And that’s perfect for this particular early-May evening.

I scoop up my little boy and position him on my hip, holding him up with one arm as I show him how the eggs change properties when beaten with sugar in our cobalt blue stand mixer. He’s too heavy to hold like this for long, but with the addition of a little vanilla extract, the components are soon ready to bring to the counter and mix.

Scandinavian Coconut Cookies

Scandinavian Coconut Cookies

He stands at the counter on a stool eager to help. I begin to stir the butter and coconut into the rest of the ingredients and quickly give in, handing him the wooden spoon. He is big enough to try. I am as ready as I’ll ever be to relinquish control of the process. I watch, hoping for minimal spills, as his little hand clutches the wooden handle. I hold the saucepan still as he concentrates and maneuvers the spoon throughout the coconut, the handle just the right size for an easy grip.

I do the rest of the work, dropping little mounds of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets while he watches. He is just like his mother and wants to sample the dough before it’s baked. I must be asking a lot, to make him wait until the cookies are done and we have finished our dinner. But soon enough, soon enough, we’re all back in the kitchen–mom, dad, and son–each eating a cookie before bed.

Scandinavian Coconut CookiesAs many excursions, activities, and adventures I’m tempted to fill our days with, I know that moments like these are special. While I teach and nurture healthy eating habits with my son every day, these occasional baking sessions allow us to connect, to take a little time to engage in an activity together and finally to savor the results of what we have made.

My childhood memories are full of moments like this, helping my mom cook and baking alongside my grandma as she indulged my curiosity when I’d find a recipe of interest.

A wooden spoon and an easy recipe. Yes, that’s all it takes to make a memory. May you make some of your own in the coming days too.

Scandinavian Coconut CookiesScandinavian Coconut Cookies with Sea Salt
I first wrote about these cookies–adapted from Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson–almost four years ago. But I love how quick and easy they are to make and decided to revisit them with the addition of sea salt from semiswede.com. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I do.

2 1/2 cups unsweetened, medium grated or shredded coconut
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and stir in the coconut until well-coated.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl to combine the yolks and whites. Add sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract.

Stir the coconut into the eggs until combined. Drop batter by rounded teaspoons into mounds onto the parchment paper, giving almost an inch between cookie. Flatten slightly using the bottom of a glass or the back of a spoon. Stir the batter occasionally as you work to reincorporate the melted butter. Sprinkle each cookie with just a little sea salt; you want to add just a touch of flavor, otherwise they’ll be too salty. Bake until golden, 8 to 11 minutes depending on the size of the cookie.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Scandinavian Coconut Cookies

Gluten-Free Scandinavian Almond Cake with Rhubarb Compote

Gluten Free Scandinavian Almond Cake

I sometimes wonder what it was like to be her. Two feet on Norwegian soil, then one. And with the second step onto the gangway, a release, a launch into a new life.

My grandmother was about 40 years old when she packed up her life to immigrate to the United States with her husband and son in the spring of 1956.

Standing on the ship, she would have seen the verdant seven hills of Bergen rising high above the glistening waters as clean and pure as tears. The gentle sway of the ship at dock would have been subtle but perhaps just present enough to be a scapegoat for the tightening chest and quaking belly. Soon the ship would depart, sailing inch by inch, then mile by mile, memory by memory, from a country that had, until that day, always been home.

I think about that journey each spring as the anniversary rolls around. And yet, I can only imagine what that experience would have been like, only speculate at the emotions swirling in my grandmother’s heart as the ship sailed out of the fjord, the town and the hills disappearing from view as gradually yet surely as the sun setting below the horizon.

I got the phone call announcing Grandma’s death in 2009 as I was getting dressed to visit her to celebrate her birthday. That was the day I was going to ask her if we could start talking–really talking–about her life. I know there were stories there–firsthand accounts of living in Nazi-occupied Norway, heartbreaking memories of losing an infant son, the decision between a husband and wife settled well into their adult years to leave home and start fresh in a new country. I wish there were unknown journals and letters somewhere out there that I would happen upon someday, words scrolled in a handwriting I’ve since discovered that my own eerily resembles. The chances of that happening are slim. A generation is dying; one of her closest living relatives in Norway recently passed away. Memories exist in the minds of the few she left behind and in the photos bound in old-fashioned albums stored away.

Still, I think about that monumental move each spring. And as I do, I always reflect upon my grandmother, a woman I understood only so much during her lifetime but who fascinates, intrigues, and inspires me more and more all the time.

Rhubarb and Almond Cake Diptych

Gluten Free Scandinavian Almond Cake

One of the qualities that stands out most when I think about Grandma Agny was her hospitality, something I strive to emulate. That takes many forms for me, from hosting dinners to taking dietary restrictions into consideration when baking for an event. So many people avoid gluten that I’ve found it helpful to have a go-to cake recipe that I can bring just about anywhere.

This cake–adapted from the blackberry, almond, and cardamom cake in Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking–incorporates the distinctly Nordic flavors of almond and cardamom into its rich, moist, and pleasantly toothsome texture. I shared a version of it on the blog a while back, but have simplified it and adapted the ingredients for standard measurements rather than metric. The cake pairs wonderfully with a Scandinavian rhubarb compote loosely adapted from The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum. Plum recommends cooking the compote in the oven rather than on the stovetop, a process that helps protect the appearance of the rhubarb’s structure, even as it melts into shreds; the stirring in stovetop cooking breaks apart and mixes the rhubarb, yielding a much different result.

Almond Cake with Rhubarb Compote Diptych

Scandinavian Rhubarb Compote

Gluten-Free Scandinavian Almond Cake with Rhubarb Compote

For the compote:
5 medium stalks rhubarb
1/3 cup sugar

For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium eggs
2 1/2 cups almond meal*
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
Gluten-free powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut rhubarb stalks into 2-inch lengths and arrange in a baking dish that can roughly hold them in one layer. Sprinkle sugar over the top. Cover dish with a sheet of foil and bake for 10 minutes. Peel back the foil and carefully turn over the rhubarb pieces. Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the rhubarb is cooked through. Carefully lift the cooked rhubarb with a wide spatula or spoon and transfer to a serving dish. Cool. The compote can be made up to a couple of days in advance if you’d like.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a round 9-inch springform cake pan. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.

Whisk the almond meal, baking powder, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl, then fold into the batter.

Pour into the pan, spreading the top evenly with a spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes; you’ll know it’s done when the top has turned golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool.

Remove the cooled cake from the pan and sift powdered sugar over the top. Serve with the compote.

Makes 1 9-inch cake.

*The original recipe calls for 250 grams ground almonds. I like the precision of metric measurements but understand that not everyone uses a kitchen scale. Since the weight of the almond meal with vary depending on how much you pack it, pour it into the measuring cup and let it settle, but do not pack it in.

Gluten-Free Scandinavian Baking & Cooking (Your Feedback Needed)

blackberry and almond cake

While out walking with a friend yesterday, the topic of food came up. Specifically, gluten-free food. There was a time when I wouldn’t have given GF eating a second thought, having no known sensitivities myself. But then I started hearing more and more about it: Celiac disease and gluten intolerance seemed to be popping up more and more in people I know and on blogs I read.

I’ve come a long way in my understanding of how gluten affects people. I no longer take for granted the ability to order a pizza or sandwich or any number of items at a restaurant without having to scan the menu for special selections. Still, I have a lot to learn.

Though there are no dietary restrictions in my household right now, we eat much less bread and pasta than we used to. Dessert is a rare treat, despite how often I write about sweets here on the blog. We keep processed foods to a minimum.

I’ve been reading more about gluten-free cooking lately, especially after signing up for a food styling and photography class with Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle and Vanille and subsequently buying a copy of her “Small Plates and Sweet Treats.” Through her stories, recipes, and stunning photos, Aran showcases a lifestyle that—though avoiding gluten—looks as rich and abundant as any other. Her way of incorporating gluten-free flours into recipes sounds delicious rather than restrictive, and she and her family appear to be a picture of health.

I have been thinking about ways to make Outside Oslo accessible for those with gluten or dairy intolerance, as well as vegetarians, vegans, and people with nut allergies. But I need to hear from you. Are you interested in gluten-free Scandinavian baking? Dairy-free? Nut-free? What are the things that interest you most? Would you like to read about special adaptations of your favorite classic Scandinavian dishes? What about being able to search or browse the recipes by diet? Please leave a comment and let me know.

This blog is as much for you as it is for me; it’s a place where we can share our love of great food and connection to or appreciation of Scandinavian culture and heritage. I would love to hear what you think about these ideas.

Cheers!

Daytona

My Original Summer Recipes in Pregnancy & Newborn

Ice Cream Article

If you would have told me back when I was a journalism student that I would eventually be a food writer and professional recipe developer, I’m not quite sure what I would have thought. Back then I was interviewing bands and trying my hand at concert reviews while simultaneously trying to establish a credible name for myself as a news journalist. Sure, I baked regularly, but it was for fun. I didn’t give much thought to the fact that I could transfer my love of baking and cooking into a job, let alone a significant part of a freelance writing career. I’m so glad I came to my senses, though; with my food- and nutrition-related articles in a number of publications, I’m lucky enough to be able to stretch myself and hone my craft, all while eating well and playing with my food.

Today I want to share with you my latest article, “Chill out: Beat the heat with homemade ice cream, frozen yogurt and the best smoothies on the block” (page 40), in the June 2013 issue of Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. The article features five original summer recipes, including Chocolate-Earl Grey and Blueberry Ice CreamBanana Bread Frozen Yogurt, and Carrot-Beet-Apple Sorbet. If you’re looking to give a healthy edge to your treats, I encourage you to try out the Chocolate-Cinnamon Smoothie, which features a base of avocado (you can’t even taste it!) and is sweetened with banana and honey.

Whether you’re pregnant or not, I think you’ll enjoy these creative ways to cool off in the summer months. I hope you’ll check out the story!

Norwegian Mackerel with Roasted Rhubarb

Two Mackerel

When I think of summer, my mind immediately goes to the meals we’re going to eat: strawberry tarts, chicken with homemade mayonnaise, melon and prosciutto washed down with chilled rosé. There are tomatoes to dress with little more than some fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, zucchini blossoms to pair with anchovies and mozzarella, figs to layer with goat cheese and honey on rounds of baguette. And don’t forget the mackerel.

Mackerel is an underrated fish, and it just so happens to be one of my favorites. With an oily, salty flavor and texture, it’s hearty and nourishing and stands up to bold flavors. In the summer, we salt the mackerel to draw out some of the oil, then dress it with lemon juice before grilling it. The bright pucker of the lemon complements the rich fish, leaving tender, flavorful flakes that pair well with rosé.

Recently, though, we’ve also been preparing it alongside rhubarb. Rhubarb and mackerel, you may ask? Why, yes. Trust me.

Rhubarb and Mackerel Collage

Though rhubarb is most commonly prepared as a dessert, its technical status as a vegetable warrants thinking of it as such. Chefs Trina Hahnemann of Denmark and English food writer Nigel Stater have both created intriguing recipes pairing mackerel with rhubarb, and it turns out that the tart flavor of the rhubarb balances out the oily fish just as well as the lemon we’ve used in years past.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on Slater’s version. To start, you’ll roast the rhubarb with only the tiniest touch of sugar, just enough to take the sharpness away. While it’s cooling, you’ll fillet two mackerel, such as the Norwegian ones pictured here, leaving the skin on, then dredge the skin sides in flour and cook in a pan for a few minutes with capers, rosemary, sherry vinegar, and the rhubarb nestled beside the fish. That’s it. You could serve some boiled new potatoes on the side and and drink it with a a dry rosé or pilsner. We happened to have one last can of Ringnes Pilsner in the fridge, which was the perfect pairing.

Mackerel and Rhubarb on Platter

Norwegian Mackerel with Roasted Rhubarb
Adapted from Nigel Slater

5 stalks rhubarb
1-2 tablespoons Demerara sugar or other brown sugar
2 Norwegian mackerel, filleted
1/4 cup flour
Salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
A few glugs of olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped, plus 2-3 sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Splash of sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut rhubarb into 6-inch lengths and place in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with sugar. Roast about 10 to 15 minutes, until the stalks are just tender enough to be pierced with a knife. Cool in the dish.

Working in two batches or using two large frying pans, heat the oil. Season flour with some salt and pepper and place in a shallow dish. Lightly dredge the skin side of the mackerel fillets in the flour and place in the frying pan, skin-side down. Sprinkle the rosemary over the fillets, nestle in the rhubarb, and scatter the capers over the top. Give the mackerel a minute or two to cook halfway through, then flip. Pour in some vinegar and cook until the mackerel is done. Serve the mackerel with the rhubarb on the side, pouring the juices from the pan on top of the fish.

Serves 4.

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe)

Bergen Fish Soup

Everyone has their own idea of a place, a snapshot memory encapsulating the scenes, smells, and moods they experienced there. One person’s Paris is different than another’s. A visit to Seattle might be dreary for one and vibrant for another. With that in mind, let me take you to my Bergen–not the rain-soaked city you may picture, rightfully so given it rains there more than 260 days a year, but the place that exists in my personal catalogue of memories.

Golden skies bathed in sun-drenched heat. Chilled rosé in the cool, dim cave of our hotel restaurant. Seagulls perched on the roofs around the famous open-air seafood market. Bergen was alive when I visited in the summer of 2008. Ski boats ferried joyful passengers in the harbor housing Bryggen, the Hanseatic wharf. A biker could comfortably break out his ride with no concern of rain. Any restaurant with patio seating was the place to be.

Seafood for Bergen Fish Soup

I’ve been reliving that trip this past week since cooking a batch of Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe). The soup is one of the best fish soups in the world, right up there with bouillabaisse, according to chef Andreas Viestad. Some say the absolute proper way to make it, Viestad writes Kitchen of Light, is to purchase live pollock at the fish market–which is one of the biggest and best-known outdoor fish markets in northern Europe–and make the stock the same day. It’s possible to bring the taste of Bergen home, however, with quality fish stock, such as the halibut variety from our neighborhood fishmonger.

As with most classic dishes, the recipes and styles vary. One cook might choose to use only white fish while another might add salmon or perhaps scallops and prawns. Some add dumplings while others omit them. One person might ladle thick, chowder-like portions into bowls while a neighbor makes it on the lighter side with the seafood surrounded by a creamy broth.

No matter the style, the soup allows the flavor of the seafood to shine, proving that a handful of quality ingredients simply prepared can go a long way.

Prawns for Bergen Fish Soup

Bergen Fish Soup and Crispbread

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe)
This version is on the light side, which makes it perfect for dinner on a late spring evening when you need a little warming. Adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking by Signe Johansen, this recipe veers slightly from the traditional by adding a small amount of spices and giving sweetness with white wine and brandy rather than an abundance of root vegetales and a touch of sugar. Johansen grew up in Bergen, however, so she knows the essence of the soup and has created an elegant recipe that comes together so quickly it can easily be a weeknight meal. The mix of seafood is flexible; use whatever is fresh and available. 

6 1/3 cups quality fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 handful flat-leaf parsley stems, plus additional leaves for garnish
12 whole peppercorns
2 carrots, roughly diced
2 celery stalks, roughly diced
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces salmon fillet, cubed into 3/4-inch pieces
3 1/2 ounces prawns, shells removed
5 ounce cod fillet, cubed into 3/4-inch pieces
8 ounces clams, with shells
Finely-chopped chives, for garnish

Heat fish stock, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns, carrots, celery, and leek in a large pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the wine and brandy and simmer for five more minutes, then add the cream. Once the soup has returned to a simmer, add the salmon, cod, and clams and cook for a minute or two before adding the prawns, which should only take an additional minute or two to cook.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with additional parsley leaves and chives. Serve with crispbread.

Serves 4.

Bergen Fish Soup

A Salad for a Scandinavian Picnic

Scandinavian Potato and Egg Salad

Today the birds sang brightly, their whistling chirps piercing through the still spring air. The afternoon sun cast a diffused light through the clouds and the temperature called for sweaters over tank tops and t-shirts. Yet the day still held the promise of warmer months to come. These are the signals that point to picnic dates and barbecues, long evening walks and cocktails sipped on the porch at sunset.

To complement the season, substantial salads have comprised the theme of dinners at my house in recent weeks. From a pasta salad with asparagus, radishes, and a creamy avocado dressing to a chickpea and feta salad that’s been a staple in my house for several years, such dishes have formed the base of most meals in my house recently, with the fish or meat being almost an afterthought. Most recently we enjoyed a Scandinavian potato, egg, and dill salad.

Potato Salad Dressing Ingredients

When it comes to potato salads, it seems that there are as many versions as there are families to make them. Whether they’re made with a Scandinavian, American, French, or German touch, they’re each unique and personalized for a particular palate. For some reason or another, I’ve never developed a signature potato salad. Both my mom and my mother-in-law make spectacular ones with an indulgent combination of flavor and texture, but I haven’t learned their tricks. This week, however, I think I came up with a potato salad to call my own.

Inspired by the Tangy Egg and Potato Salad in Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking, I got to work mixing up a dressing of sour cream, mayonnaise, grainy mustard, dill, shallots, cornichons, green onions, and lemon juice. The dressing generously coated boiled new potatoes, which I sprinkled with fresh chives before arranging hard-boiled eggs on top. Author Signe Johansen calls her version a pepped-up version of a traditional Scandinavian salad, and if that’s the case, then mine takes takes even more creative license, swapping out her salad cream for mayonnaise and her pickle recommendation for cornichons, giving the salad some American and French touches.

The result, to me, is perfect. With a sprig of dill and a few chive blossoms as garnishes, the vibrant colors of the salad reflect the beauty of spring. Pack it up in a basket with some smoked salmon, a thermos of coffee, and a few slices of bløtkake (Norwegian cream cake) with fresh strawberries, and you’ll have the makings of a delicious Scandinavian picnic.

Potato and Egg Salad

Scandinavian Potato, Egg, and Dill Salad
Adapted from Scandilicious: Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking by Signe Johansen

14 ounces new potatoes
4 eggs
6 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons finely-chopped shallot
12 cornichons, finely chopped
¾ cup sour cream
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
4 sprigs dill, finely chopped, plus one more for garnish
Juice of one medium-sized lemon
Pinch of ground allspice
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped

Bring two medium pots of water to a boil. Gently lower the eggs into one and allow to simmer for 11 minutes, then remove the eggs and submerge into a bowl of ice water to cool. Meanwhile, lightly salt the water in the other pot and cook the potatoes in simmering water until fork tender but not too soft, about 20 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked through, drain and set aside in a cool place until they reach room temperature.

While the eggs and potatoes are cooling, prepare the dressing by placing the green onions, shallot, cornichons, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, chopped dill, lemon juice, and allspice in a large bowl and stirring to combine. Taste and adjust ingredients to suite your tastes.

Add potatoes to the dressing and stir gently to coat, then transfer to a serving dish. Scatter the chives over the top. Peel and quarter the eggs and place them on top and garnish with dill.

Serves 6.

Spring Potato and Egg Salad in Dish

The Essence of Spring in Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb Soup for Spring

When I cook with rhubarb I’m struck by the color–that ballerina-pink to magenta ombré effect married with salmon and the faintest hint of green. Then there’s the scent, the almost citrus, grassy notes smelling like the essence of a spring garden in the moments after the rain.

Rhubarb Soup with Yogurt Ice Cream Horizontal

I wonder if there are many foods more associative of spring in our childhood memories than this unusual plant. The thought of it conjures up sunny days in my grandparents’ backyard garden, where the rhubarb–at least as I remember it–seemed as large as a prehistoric turtle. Guarding the steps down to the raspberry patch, the plant silently waited as we passed by to comb through rows of bushes for berries at the peak of perfection.

These days I take every opportunity like to cook with rhubarb. Roasted with vanilla bean and wine. Cooked and strained for a syrup to add to tequila. Simmered until its fibrous stalks soften and become a delicately-textured base for rabarbrafromasj, rhubarb fromage.

The desserts made with rhubarb are some of the best that come out of my kitchen. The latest one–rabarbrasuppe, rhubarb soup–is no exception. Simmered with vanilla bean, the rhubarb releases all of its flavor and vivid color into the water, which, when strained, becomes a clear pink soup. Scattered pieces of baked rhubarb and a scoop of homemade yogurt ice cream complete the simple yet elegant dessert.

Spring Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb Soup (Rabarbrasuppe) with Yogurt Ice Cream
Despite the various steps, this recipe–adapted from The Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnemann–is rather simple. Since it is to be served cold, each step can be prepared in advanced, leaving only assembly for serving time.

For the soup:

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sugar

For the baked rhubarb:

2 rhubarb stalks
1/4 cup sugar

For the ice cream:

1 3/4 cups low-fat yogurt
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Several hours before serving, prepare the soup by placing the 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb pieces in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean down the middle with the tip of a knife and scrape out the seeds, adding both the seeds and the pod to the saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, resisting the urge to stir (you don’t want to break up the rhubarb, which you’ll soon strain out and discard).

Pour the soup through a sieve and return to a clean saucepan, adding sugar and bringing back to a boil just to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

While the soup is chilling, prepare the baked rhubarb and the ice cream. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and toss the rhubarb with sugar in an baking dish and placing it in the oven until it’s tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the ice cream while the rest of the dessert cools. Beat the yogurt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then gently fold it into the yogurt. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer instructions; depending on the machine, this should take about 20 minutes. If needed, transfer to the freezer for a little while to firm it up further.

To serve, divide the chilled soup between four wide, shallow bowls. Scatter the roasted rhubarb pieces around and place a scoop of ice cream in the center.

Serves 4.

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.

Savoring the Seasons: Chicken with Baked Rhubarb

Dining Outside on Spring Day

Visiting Bergen back in the summer of 2008 I noticed something special about the Norwegians, the way they embraced the long hours of sunlight and milked the sunshine for every last drop. Out on ski boats in bikinis and swim trunks as the evening sun hovered lazily above the horizon, never seeming quite like it would ever fully set, the smiles never left their faces as their boats skimmed the surface of the golden water, bouncing along as it went. That image of pure bliss, of people relishing the moment, has stayed with me through the years, and it demonstrates a part of the Norwegian character that is not so unlike that of people in the Pacific Northwest.

Chicken with Rhubarb, Cucumber Salad, and Potatoes

Here, as in Norway, spring and summer are short, and hot, sunny days are rare. At least on this side of the Cascades. When such conditions happen, restaurants with outdoor seating fill up and the roads leading to any body of water become clogged with traffic. It seems ingrained in us to seek out the sun and to bask in its rays amongst strangers who are celebrating it as well.

Chicken with Rhubarb

Cucumber and Radish Salad

Each year I make a summer list, a collection of ideas and ideals, things that seem to capture the essence of the season. This year one of the first to surface is dining outside whenever possible. Though squinting our eyes in the bright sun and enduring the goosebumps that come from the breeze that even the warmest days can bring, we can hardly imagine anything better, while in the moment, than sitting amongst friends in the little bits of nature we try to create in our urban dwellings.

Please promise me, no matter where you live, that you will embrace the sunshine this spring and summer too, that you’ll get out there and enjoy meals on your patio or deck or front porch or the nearest park. Listen to the birds chirping and dogs barking and notice the warmth of the sun mingling with the gentle breeze on your skin. Breathe in the fresh air and smell the scent of flowers and grass being carried on the wind. The winters can seem so long and so dark, and moments like these are ones to savor.

Chicken with Rhubarb Served with Salad and Potatoes

Chicken with Baked Rhubarb and Cucumber-Radish Salad
When it comes to using foods in respect to their sources and peak seasons, Danish chef Trina Hahnemann is a star. Her book The Nordic Diet–from which this recipe is adapted–celebrates locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients with a collection of innovative recipes that are always fresh, always healthy, and totally satisfying. Hahnemann would have you using a whole organic or free-range chicken cut into eight pieces, along with organic raw sugar and goat-milk yogurt. If you choose to follow her lead, please do. I have modified it below for ease and convenience. This dish only needs potatoes to round it out (I recommend six medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes).

For the chicken:

8 chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
11 ounces rhubarb
1/4 cup raw sugar

For the salad:

1 medium cucumber (about 11 ounces)
1-2 bunches radishes (about 7 ounces)
Generous 1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet or shallow ovenproof dish and season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes. While the chicken is roasting, cut the rhubarb into 1-inch slices on a long diagonal and toss in a medium-sized bowl to coat. After 30 minutes of roasting, remove the chicken from the oven and tuck the rhubarb pieces underneath the chicken and return to the oven to roast for 15 minutes longer.

To make the salad, peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into 1/4-inch slices and toss in a medium-sized bowl. Thinly slice the radishes and add them to the cucumber. Stir together the yogurt, garlic, mint, salt, and pepper, and add to the cucumbers and radishes, stirring until well combined.

Serves 4.

Cucumber and Radish Salad

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