A classic bread to start the new year
Buttery cardamom-scented bread provides a gentle transition out of the holiday season
Taste of Norway Editor
The Christmas tree is down, the holiday dishes stored away until next winter. Just about all the traces of Christmas are packed up, save for the red wooden candelabras that I’ll keep glowing in my windowsills. Those, I’ll keep up until I give in and accept that we’re inching toward spring. That said, January is a time of transitions, and I prefer to treat it gently.
I’m still thinking of julekake, that sweet and spiced Norwegian Christmas bread studded with dried or candied fruits. I only made one batch this past Christmas season, and I love it so much that I feel like I having catching up to do. That’s where this recipe comes in—a nod to the famed Christmas bread but toned down a little for the rest of the year.
A cross between a traditional julekake and the cardamom-scented buns I love making throughout the year, this bread is rich and buttery and intensely fragrant. It’s subtly sweet and as soft as a pillow.
As with the boller, which this recipe is based on, it’s perfect slathered with butter and topped with thin slices of geitost or brunost—the flavor of the sweet-and-savory brown goat cheese is a quintessential Norwegian pairing with the cardamom in the bread. It also invites a variety of other open-sandwich toppings. While many homemade breads like this are often best when eaten the day they’re baked, perhaps my favorite way to eat this is to slice the leftovers the next day, toast them until light golden and slightly crunchy, and let butter melt into the warm bread. However you choose to eat it, this bread is a wonderful way to transition out of the holidays and into a new year.
1 stick (8 tbsps.) butter
1 ¼ cup milk
2 tsps. freshly ground cardamom
2 tbsps. active dry yeast
2⁄3 cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
approx. 4 ½ cups flour
1 beaten egg, for brushing
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Begin by melting butter in a small saucepan. Stir in milk and cardamom and heat until it’s hot but not quite boiling, then set it aside to cool until lukewarm. (Don’t take a shortcut with ground cardamom here—the freshly ground version makes a big difference.)
To get the yeast started, place it in a large mixing bowl with a tablespoon or so of the sugar. Stir a little of the lukewarm milk in using a wooden spoon and let sit until the yeast bubbles—this should take about five minutes or so. Add the rest of the milk and sugar, and stir in the egg and salt.
Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, a bit at a time, until you get a dough that begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Divide the dough into two logs and place on the baking sheets, making sure to place the smoothest side up. Cover with a damp towel and let rise about 20 minutes.
Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with flaky salt.
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.
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 January 11, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.