Norwegian Baking Through the Seasons

All for the love of baking with Nevada Berg

nevada berg

Photo: Nevada Berg / courtesy of Prestel
Author photo and book cover. © Nevada Berg

Christy Olsen Field
Edmonds, Wash.

As a cookbook enthusiast with limited shelf space, I am quite selective on the books I choose to buy. But I can tell you this: Norwegian Baking Through the Seasons: 90 Sweet and Savory Recipes from North Wild Kitchen by Nevada Berg has earned a permanent spot in my collection.

Nevada Berg is the voice of “North Wild Kitchen,” a blog where she shares recipes and stories of Norway. Born and raised in Utah, she lives on a farm in the Numedal valley in eastern Norway with her husband and son. Her debut cookbook North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway was recognized as one of The New York Times’ best cookbooks in the fall of 2018.

Berg and I recently visited by Zoom so I could learn more about Norwegian Baking Through the Seasons.

“This felt like a natural transition from my first book, North Wild Kitchen, which looked at traditions with a twist, and the history of Norwegian food culture,” said Berg. “People are interested in baking, and there are so many wonderful baked goods in Norway. Norway excels at baked goods. They are simple in terms of ingredients, rustic, homemade, and made with love.”

Norwegian Baking is divided into seasons by light: Winter Light (vinterlys), New Light (nytt lys), Midnight Sun (midnattssol), Fire & Ice (ild og is), and Dark Time (mørketid). This approach celebrates seasonal ingredients and traditions, and Berg’s evocative photographs share her love of Norway on every page.

Norwegian Baking offers a well-curated mix of recipes: well-known traditional recipes, new recipes inspired by Berg’s own experiences in Norway, and also regional specialties, such as rengakaka (barley ring breads) from Mo i Rana, and Trønderrose (Trondheim’s Wreath with Almonds and Raisins) from Trondheim, recipes that are rarely translated into English.

I asked her about her approach to collecting and developing recipes for this book.

“That’s always the hardest part to decide—the publisher only gives so many pages to fill! I love food and culture and history, so I go through old cookbooks at the national library for research. When I travel in Norway, I go to little bakeries or to peoples’ homes. It’s research, and it’s talking with people, and I try to blend it all together from there,” said Berg.

Over the years, I have appreciated Berg’s ability to translate Norwegian recipes for the North American kitchen. Baking in particular presents so many challenges: Differences in ingredients (especially those that aren’t found in typical American kitchens), measurements, and temperature can cause baking failures. But Berg strikes the right balance, and her recipes work.

“I approach ingredients that are accessible, or have a good substitute in America. Altitude, temperature, any ingredients can affect baking. I tend to use more all-purpose flour in my recipes because people in the United States will use it more often. But the nice thing about Norwegian baking is that there are really just a few ingredients in each recipe. You can mess up and add a little extra, and it will be okay!” said Berg.

The common thread that ties the whole book together: approachability. Berg has recipes for all skill levels and interests. Curious about baking your own bread, but you haven’t done it before? Try the recipe for Havrebrød (Farmhouse Oat Bread) on page 30, or the Eltefritt Brød av Emmer og Spelt (No-Knead Emmer and Spelt Bread) on page 18. Did you fall in love with rundstykker (crusty rolls) at a Norwegian breakfast spread? Try the recipe on page 26. Looking for a special cake for a celebration? I have my eye on the Blåbær- og Bjørnebærkake (Boozy “Black and Blue” Berry Layered Cake) on page 133, and the Pepperkakekake med Brunost (Layered Brown Cheese Gingerbread Cake) on page 229.

My copy of Norwegian Baking is flagged with sticky notes for all the recipes I want to make through the seasons.

I am excited to share one of my favorite recipes from the book: Grovbrød, the whole-grain bread that is central to everyday life in Norway. I have made this recipe several times, and it has a tight crumb and wholesome texture that is lovely for toast, open-faced sandwiches, or alongside a bowl of soup. It comes together with a bit of hands-on time with a mixer. If you think homemade bread takes too much effort, I encourage you to try this one. A taste of Norway is just a few hours away.

Norwegian Baking Through the Seasons: 90 Sweet and Savory Recipes from North Wild Kitchen by Nevada Berg is published by Prestel and is available in Scandinavian stores, your local bookstore, or through online retailers.

GROVBRØD
Hearty Whole Grain Bread
Makes 1 loaf

From the cookbook: There’s nothing quite like the smell of homemade bread. The warmth of the oven envelops the kitchen and you’re filled with the anticipation of taking the first bite. Bread is an absolute staple in Norwegian cuisine, with the beloved skive–– slice of bread –– acting as a springboard for the many possibilities of an open sandwich. You’ll find in Norway, more often than not, an emphasis on hearty breads that rely on a variety of flours, whole grains, and seeds. The loaf incorporates whole flours, where the whole kernel –– the bran, germ, and endosperm –– are ground into a fine flour, creating a coarser and more nutritious product. The seeds on top offer a nice bit of texture, and you can mix and match to your preference or leave them out altogether. If you like a bit of sweetness in your bread, add 2 tablespoons of honey when you add the water.

Hearty Whole Grain Bread

Photo: Nevada Berg / courtesy of Prestel
Grovbrød is a hearty whole grain bread, rich in fiber and nutrients.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour
  • 1/3 cup whole rye flour
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 tbsps. mixed seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin, flax,
    and sesame

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the whole wheat flour, strong white bread flour, whole rye flour, wheat bran, yeast, and salt. Add the warm water and knead on medium-low for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm spot for about three hours.
  2. After three hours, on a lightly floured surface, gently form the dough into a round shape and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Butter a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan. Form the rested dough into an oblong shape and place in the prepared loaf pan. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 400° F. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the loaf with water and sprinkle the seeds on top, pressing them gently into the dough to stick. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the bread it golden brown on top. Cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight bag at room temperature for up to two days.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Norwegian Baking Through the Seasons by Nevada Berg.

This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Christy Olsen Field

Christy Olsen Field was the Taste of Norway Editor from 2019 to 2022. She worked on the editorial staff of The Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012. An enthusiastic home cook and baker, she lives north of Seattle with her husband and two young sons.