A Nordic cookbook for every celebration

Scandinavian Gatherings brings Scandinavian inspiration to brunch, tea, birthdays, and Jul

Melissa Bahen stands by a fence

Photo: Katy Weaver
Melissa Bahen honors her family’s heritage in the newly-released cookbook Scandinavian Gatherings.

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

So much of Scandinavian food is connected to hospitality. A new cookbook, Scandinavian Gatherings by Melissa Bahen, celebrates that idea with menus and crafts to inspire readers throughout the year.

From a Nordic Brunch to a Lucia Day feast, the book is organized by occasions both traditional and Scandinavian-inspired. Whether someone is looking to celebrate something as seasonal as Midsummer or prepare something suitable for any time of year such as Afternoon Fika, the book’s gatherings feature well-rounded menus that allow readers to plan their dishes and decorations with ease.

The Book cover for "Scandinavian Gatherings" by Melissa Bahen.

“I feel like it’s such an intuitive way for people to get introduced to the recipes,” said Bahen, the blogger behind Lulu the Baker (www.luluthebaker.com).

In creating the menus, Bahen considered what she would serve if she were hosting a particular gathering. She thought of classic recipes, then rounded them out with dishes inspired by the flavors of Scandinavia.

“So for the brunch, the baked casserole with the eggs and the cheese and the ham, that was a natural fit. And I really wanted to include our Aunt Mathilde’s little silver dollar pancakes.”

Another example is the heritage dinner, which celebrates Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland with a meal of Swedish meatballs, potatoes, cucumber salad, and rice cream.

“I just thought it was a fun way to kind of incorporate all of the countries instead of just focusing on one, and a good way to showcase some of those really well-known dishes that everybody loves, that everybody eats all the time, that are really common at folk festivals or community dinners and stuff like that.”

In addition to recipes, the book features a variety of fun and easy crafts. From a rosemaling-inspired serving tray to a paint-tipped pinecone garland, the projects will help give a festive Scandinavian touch to the event.

Mom’s Maple Pecan Rings

Photo: Charity Burggraa, courtesy of Sasquatch Books These maple pecan rings have been a favorite in Bahen’s family for decades.

Photo: Charity Burggraa, courtesy of Sasquatch Books
These maple pecan rings have been a favorite in Bahen’s family for decades.

For the dough:
2 cups whole milk
1⁄2 cup sugar, plus a pinch for proofing the yeast
1 cup butter
3 tbsps. active dry yeast
2⁄3 cup warm water
1 1⁄2 tsps. table salt
2 eggs
8 1⁄2 cups flour, divided
For the filling:
2 cups chopped pecans
11⁄2 cups sugar
3 tsps. ground cinnamon
3 tsps. maple extract or maple flavoring
1⁄4 cup butter, melted

For the icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsps. whole milk
1 capful natural lemon extract (about 1⁄2 tsp.)

Special equipment:
2 (12-inch) circular pans, such as pizza pans
3-inch round biscuit cutter

In a small saucepan, combine the milk and sugar; whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter and heat over medium low, stirring gently, until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, and a pinch of sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes to make sure yeast is active and alive. You should see bubbles on the surface, and the mixture should grow in volume.

In a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the paddle attachment, add the milk mixture and the yeast mixture. Add the salt, eggs, and 7 cups of the flour. Mix until combined. The dough will still be very sticky, and that’s okay.

Transfer the dough to a very large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and maple. Stir with a fork until well mixed; set aside.

Punch down the risen dough, add the remaining 1 1⁄2 cups flour, and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes on a well-floured surface.

Divide the dough into six equal portions (each pan of pecan rings will have three layers of dough). Roll out one portion
 of dough into a 12-inch circle and place it on a lightly oiled 12-inch pizza pan. Brush the entire surface with melted butter, then top with one-sixth of the filling mixture (about a couple of spoonfuls). Roll out another portion of dough into a 12-inch circle, place it on top of the first, brush with butter, and top with more filling. Repeat with one more portion of dough, topping it with the melted butter and filling mixture. Make sure to get the butter and filling mixture all the way to the edges. Repeat this process with the remaining three portions of dough and another 12-inch pizza pan.

Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut a circle in the center of each pecan ring. Use a clean pair of kitchen shears or scissors to cut the rest of the dough into sixteen wedges, cutting all the way from the outside edge, through all three layers of filling and dough, until you reach the center portion. Stop just short of that center circle. (I cut mine in half first, then cut each half in half again, then each quarter in half again, and so on until I have sixteen equal pieces.)

Gently pick up the outside edge of each wedge and give it one and one half complete twists. You should end up with the bottom on the top at the outside edge. After twisting, firmly press the edge back onto the pan. Repeat with the other fifteen wedges, then repeat with the other pan.

Lightly cover the pecan rings and allow them to rise for 30 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the pecan rings for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

While the pecan rings bake, make the icing. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and lemon extract. When the pecan rings come out of the oven, drizzle the icing over the warm pastries. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. They are best eaten the day they are made, but leftovers taste especially good when reheated for a few seconds in the microwave.

Ham, Havarti & Chive Breakfast Casserole

Photo: Charity Burggraa, courtesy of Sasquatch Books With havarti, ham, and chives, this breakfast casserole adds a Scandinavian touch to brunch.

Photo: Charity Burggraa, courtesy of Sasquatch Books
With havarti, ham, and chives, this breakfast casserole adds a Scandinavian touch to brunch.

16 eggs
3⁄8 tsp. table salt
1 small clove garlic, finely minced, OR 1⁄8 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces ham, diced (no larger than 1⁄4-inch squares)
2 cups shredded Havarti cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1⁄3 cup snipped fresh chives, divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until uniform. Beat in the salt, garlic, and pepper, then beat in the milk. Stir in the ham, cheeses, and two-thirds of the chives with a rubber spatula. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using the rubber spatula to scrape the bowl as necessary, and then evenly distribute the ham, cheese, and chives if needed.

Bake the casserole for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out wet but clear and the top of the casserole is deeply golden.
Allow the casserole to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve topped with the remaining chives. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Tante Tilda’s Norwegian Silver-Dollar Pancakes
maple syrup, for serving
1 1⁄2 cups plus 2 tbsps. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
2 cups whole milk
2 eggs

Special equipment:
Large nonstick or cast-iron skillet

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the maple syrup. Add a pat of butter and allow it to melt into the syrup while making the pancakes. Keep the syrup over low heat until the pancakes are ready to be served.

Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth.

Place a thin pat of butter on the hot skillet, allow it to melt and bubble, and spread it around with the edge of a spatula.

Working in batches, scoop the batter by the tablespoonful onto the skillet. Cook the pancakes for 30 seconds, or until they are golden on the bottom. Flip and cook them for 30 seconds more. If the pancakes don’t turn golden after 30 seconds, increase the heat. If the pan starts to smoke or the butter begins to turn dark brown, reduce the heat slightly, wipe the pan out with a paper towel, and add a new pat of butter.

Serve hot with the buttered maple syrup. Makes 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch pancakes.

All recipes (c) 2016 By Melissa Bahen. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Scandinavian Gatherings; From Afternoon Fika to Midsummer Feast: 70 Simple Recipes and Crafts for Everyday Celebrations by permission of Sasquatch Books.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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