A sweet Lenten tradition
Celebrate heritage and tradition by baking delicious fastelavnsboller
By Judith H. Dern
Special to the Norwegian American Weekly
Craving something deliciously sweet before Lent begins? How about a warm-from-the-oven, cream-filled fastelavn bun? Although Lent is observed by few modern Norwegians, some culinary traditions survive to make the days leading up to Lent’s advent festive and delicious. On Shrovetide or Fastelavn, the Monday before Lent officially starts, tradition practically requires indulging in sweet treats and edible pleasures one last time until Easter. Favorite holiday treats include plump, yeasty buns, or boller, made with a vanilla custard filling and a chocolate topping. While baked in the recipe here, some cooks in northern Norway make a deep-fried version of fastelavnboller.
This recipe for fastelavnsboller, plus more than 150 others for traditional Scandinavian dishes for both everyday dining and holidays, can be found in “The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia,” a gorgeous new cookbook from Lorenz Books (2011, ISBN 978-0-7548-2063-5, $35) Illustrated with more than 800 photos to demonstrate preparation steps, every recipe features an inspiring photo of the finished dish, making this cookbook an excellent resource for authentic recipes from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
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Fastelavnsboller: Lenten buns with vanilla cream
Adapted from The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia (2011)
For the buns
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 ounces fresh yeast
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
For the filling
3 egg yolks
3 Tbsp superfine sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 Tbsp potato flour or cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk
For the icing
1 egg white
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 tsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp pearl sugar, for decoration
Pour the warm water into a bowl and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in one whole egg and the extra yolk.
Briefly warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat, add the yeast mixture, and stir into the butter mixture. Add the salt and cardamom. Stir in the flour, a little at a time, and mix to a soft, smooth dough, adding more flour if necessary.
Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 – 7 minutes, until smooth. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
To make the filling, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a saucepan until well blended. Whisk in the vanilla sugar, potato flour or cornstarch, and milk. Stir in the salt. Cook over low heat, stirring for 6 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Grease two baking sheets. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into four equal parts. Cut each part into six equal pieces and shape into balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Make a 3/4-inch diameter well in the center of each roll, and fill with a spoonful of the cream filling. Cover the buns with clear film (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Beat the remaining egg. Brush it over the tops of the buns. Bake the buns for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the icing, beat the egg white until stiff. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and salt, and beat until the mixture is soft. Stir in the cream and beat for 1 minute. Spread the icing over the tops of the cooled buns and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Makes 24 buns.
To make a white icing, replace the cocoa with an extra 1/4-cup confectioners’ sugar. Raspberry jam may also be used as a filling.
A published author with three cookbooks to her credit, Judith H. Dern’s most recent book is “The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia: Sweden, Norway & Denmark” (2011, Lorenz Publishing). She is also senior communications manager and senior manager, digital books with Allrecipes.com, the world’s #1 food site based in Seattle, and has contributed to other cookbooks as an independent writer, plus written numerous national and regional articles about food, Scandinavia and textiles.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 10, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.