Celebrate Jul with a new cookbook

ScandiKitchen’s latest is filled with inviting holiday recipes both modern and traditional

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

ScandiKitchen Christmas

Book cover: ScandiKitchen Christmas

Christmas might just be my favorite time of the year to make all manner of Scandinavian meals and treats, and I’m absolutely delighted by a new cookbook dedicated to this season. ScandiKitchen Christmas: Recipes and traditions from Scandinavia by Brontë Aurell of England’s ScandiKitchen is packed with recipes that make me want to abandon my to-do list and spend hours in the kitchen.

From Advent gatherings full of appetizers and gløgg (the book features four gløgg recipes, including an alcohol-free cloudberry version), edible gifts, recipes for Christmas Eve and a Yule Smørgåsbord, and an array of cookies and desserts, the book is a great go-to guide for cooking during this festive season.

Aurell has written numerous cookbooks over the past few years, including The Scandi-Kitchen: Simple, delicious dishes for any occasion and ScandiKitchen: Fika and Hygge: Comforting cakes and bakes from Scandinavia with love. Each is filled with inviting recipes that reflect her Danish heritage and that of her Swedish husband, as well as the culinary sensibilities of running a popular café.

One of the things I love about Aurell’s books is her ability to blend traditional and modern recipes seamlessly.

In this book, you’ll find spice-laden recipes sure to fill your kitchen with the warming aromas of caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and saffron.

It contains such classics as cucumber salad, rice pudding, the creamy potato casserole Jansson’s temptation, Lucia buns, and a variety of favorite cookies. Then there are Aurell originals such as scones with Västerbotten cheese, which can be served as canapés.

While the recipes would be enough to whet the palate, Peter Cassidy’s photography is light and fresh, evoking celebrations full of tradition but laced with modern touches.

ScandiKitchen Christmas would be an ideal Christmas cookbook for anyone from the most enthusiastic Nordic home cooks to those still new to the cuisine.

Lucia Buns

Lucia Buns

Photo: Peter Cassidy
Traditional saffron buns for St. Lucia’s Day.

Every Sunday in Advent is celebrated across Sweden, Norway, and Denmark with gløgg and, quite often, freshly baked Lucia buns. These traditional buns are always served on Dec. 13, when the arrival of Saint Lucia is celebrated. The buns are baked in an S shape, with two raisins, one in each curve—another name for them is lussekatter, as they look a bit like the eyes of a cat (there’s also a lot of cat-related superstition associated with these buns).

3⁄4 cup whole milk
the tiniest pinch ground saffron
7⁄8 oz. fresh yeast
6 tbsps. caster/superfine sugar
1⁄3 cup Greek yogurt (or similar)
3 to 3½ cups strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp. salt
7 tbsps butter, softened & cubed
1 egg, beaten (reserve half for brushing)
handful of raisins
pearl sugar (optional)

Heat the milk in a saucepan until finger-warm (no more than 98°F), then add the ground saffron. In a stand mixer, add the fresh yeast and the milk-saffron mixture. Mix for 1 minute, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in the quark or yogurt until incorporated, then mix in about half the flour, as well as the salt. As you keep mixing, gradually add more flour, taking care not to add too much (saffron is very drying). Add the butter and half of the egg and keep mixing, adding flour as needed. This will take around 5 minutes.

When the dough is springy and well kneaded, leave to rest in a covered bowl in a warm place for about 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead. Cut into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a roll 8 inches long. Take each end and twist them back in on themselves in opposite directions so you end up with an S shape. Line a baking tray with paper, then place each bun on it, ensuring there is good distance between each bun (or to shape into a wreath as in the photo, simply place the buns in a circle, leaving a ½-inch gap between them as they spread during baking). Gently press a raisin into the center of each swirl. Leave to rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 340°F. Gently brush each bun with the remaining egg and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Leave under a damp towel for at least 10 minutes as soon as they come out of the oven to ensure no crust forms. If you wish, scatter some pearl sugar over them.

Saffron dough dries out quickly, so either eat the buns on the day of baking or freeze as soon as they’re cool. Makes 16 buns.

Christmas Kringle

Kringle is a Scandinavian word for pretzel. Every Scandinavian bakery has a kringle sign outside the door—while this kringle might not be in the traditional shape, I’m calling these kringle because the recipe is the same as the one used for Danish pastries. This dough makes a flaky, deliciously sweet pastry, and while it does take a little time and practice, it isn’t difficult. Tasting these treats straight from the oven more than makes up for the effort.

Christmas Kringle

Photo: Peter Cassidy
Christams Kringle.

7/8 oz. fresh yeast
2/3 cup whole milk, warm (not hot)
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 tbsps. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups white strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 egg & 1 egg yolk

butter layer:
3 sticks unsalted butter
3 tbsps. all-purpose flour

almond paste:
1/3 cup marzipan (minimum 50% almonds)
7 tbsps. butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

3/4 cup raisins, soaked overnight in Amaretto
5/8 cup slivered almonds
pearl sugar or light icing, to decorate (optional)

In a stand mixer bowl, dissolve the fresh yeast in the milk. Add the sugar and softened butter, then stir again. Add the salt to the flour and start to add, bit by bit. About halfway through adding the flour, add the whole egg, then continue to add the flour. Keep mixing for at least 5 minutes until the dough is a bit sticky. You may need more or less flour—just make sure the dough isn’t dry.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed to make it stretchy and workable. Roll the dough out into a big square approx. 14 x 14 inches, as evenly as you can.

To make the butter layer, using your hands, form the butter with the flour into a ball that’s moldable with a rolling pin. It’s important that the butter ends up being of a similar consistency to the dough. If your hands are too warm, use a rolling pin to beat the butter flat. Flatten out to a square of approx. 10 x 10 inches. Place the butter square on top of your dough, but shifted at a 45-degree angle, so the dough corners can fold back in to cover the butter like an envelope.

Carefully fold the dough corners over the butter until you have completely enclosed the butter. Dust with some flour, then carefully roll out the package to a rectangle of around 12 x 20 inches. Fold in the layers the short way twice, so you end up with a rectangle of approximately 12 x 6 inches (three layers with butter).

Roll carefully over the dough so the butter stays inside the package. Rest the dough for 15 minutes on a baking sheet in the fridge so it doesn’t rise and the butter is kept cold. Remove from the fridge to repeat the process: roll to a rectangle and fold back on itself so you now have nine layers of butter. Rest in the fridge again. Repeat for a final time so you end up with yet another rectangle in three folds—and now 27 layers of butter. After a further fridge rest, your pastry is ready to shape into whatever you want to bake. If your hands or the dough get too warm, cool your hands in cold water, as the heat can spoil the end result.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Carefully roll out the dough until you have a piece approx. 14 inches wide and 16 to 18 inches long (it will be quite thin). Cut down the middle lengthways so you are left with two rectangular pieces.

To make the almond paste, grate the marzipan into a bowl. Add the softened butter and sugar. Mix everything together until smooth. Add the almond paste down the middle of each piece of dough (leaving the sides clear), then add the raisins. Carefully fold each side of the dough into the middle, covering the filling but not overlapping the dough, and press down to make it stick. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Leave to prove for at least another 30 minutes, then brush with the egg yolk and scatter the almonds and pearl sugar over, if using.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until done. You will get some leaking out of butter—place another baking sheet in the bottom of the oven to catch the melted butter. Keep an eye on the kringler and if the tops of the pastry go too dark, cover with foil.

If you don’t want to make two kringler, you can bake one and freeze the other half of the dough. Alternatively, use the second half of the dough to make Danish pastries. These will bake in about 10 minutes. Makes 2 kringler.

Norwegian Mashed Swede

Swede—rutabaga—is an immensely popular root vegetable in Scandinavia. At Christmas, Norwegians serve it mashed with traditional dried and salted lamb ribs, but it also works very well for other dishes. In Sweden, a variation of this dish is called rotmos, adding a few potatoes to the swede to bring a more starchy result.

Norwegian Mashed Swede

Photo: Peter Cassidy
Norwegian Mashed Swede is a perfect dish for Christmas.

1 swede/rutabaga, about 2 ¼ lb.
2 carrots
3 ½ tbsps. butter
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄3 cup meat stock (optional)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, to garnish

Peel and cut the swede/rutabaga and carrots into equal-sized pieces, place in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until they’re soft. Remove the vegetables from the pan, making sure you reserve the cooking water. Keep the vegetables warm by covering them with foil if you can’t mash them immediately.

Using a masher, add the butter, cream and nutmeg to the vegetables and mash until smooth. Taste, and add the cooking water (and the stock, if using) to taste. If you prefer a smoother mash, you can blitz it in a food processor or with a stick blender. Season to taste, sprinkle with thyme leaves, and serve. Serves 4.

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).

Recipes, headnotes, and photographs in this spread reprinted with permission. Text by Brontë Aurell. Published by Ryland Peters & Small, October 2018.

This article originally appeared in the November 30, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Daytona Strong

Daytona Strong was formerly the editor of the Taste of Norway for The Norwegian American. 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/DaytonaStrongAuthor), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).