A Festive November

As I sit writing on this quiet November afternoon, I’m amazed that so much time has already elapsed since my last monthly roundup. It’s been a good month, although it’s gone by quickly. I spent much of it cooking my way through Norwegian and Swedish recipes and giving you some early ideas for how to add a Scandinavian touch to your holiday plans.

There were the first of the syv slags kaker…




…and sandbakkels.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

There were the Scandinavian almond bars I grew up eating…


…and a graham cracker twist on pepperkakor.

Lingonberry Cake with Walnuts

Lingonberry walnut spice cake would be perfect for last-minute holiday guests or as a hostess gift…

Norwegian Pancakes

…and Norwegian pancakes would make a delicious Christmas day brunch item.

Kale Salad with Lemon, Almonds and Cheese

Kale salad with lemon, almonds, and Nordic cheese is a delicious way of enjoying fresh vegetables amidst the rich and creamy foods often served this time of year…

Rødkål Red Cabbage

…and the traditional rødkål conjures up memories of Christmases gone by for many people with Scandinavian backgrounds.

Orange and Nut Bowl

We talked about ways to add a festive touch to your home with fruit and nuts

Scandinavian Christmas Book

…and got inspiration from various books including Scandinavian Christmas, Christmas baking, and Swedish Christmas Traditions.

Apple Pie

We made an apple pie

Macy's Christmas Star

…and talked about traditions.

I’ve enjoyed hearing about your Christmas traditions and memories as well, and I’m looking forward to sharing more ideas with each other in the coming weeks!

Scandinavian Kitchen Inspiration: A Handful of Recipes


I’ve been having a great time cooking and baking my way through some Scandinavian Christmas recipes to share with you here. There’s a lot more in store in the coming weeks, so be sure to follow Outside Oslo on Facebook,TwitterPinterest, and the feed! if you don’t already.

In the meantime, as I’ve been getting my bearings back after being sick, I want to share with you some links to delicious-looking Scandinavian recipes I’ve seen recently. Enjoy!

Fyrstekake (Norwegian Cardamom-Almond Tart)
Bon Appétit

Signe Johansen’s Kringle
The Independent

Trine Hahnemann’s Honning Hjerter (Honey Hearts) and other Christmas Cookies
The Observer

Marzipan Biscuits with Walnuts and Chocolate
The Independent

Caraway and Sea Salt Crackers
The Globe and Mail

Pepperkakor? No, Homemade Graham Crackers!


On one hand, my son is a discriminate eater (he’s too young to be labeled picky, as he’s still learning about flavors and textures). But on the other, he’s showing signs of becoming quite a food-lover, just like his mama. I have to be careful in the kitchen, as he zeroes in on the cinnamon and the large plastic bottle of vanilla extract, opening the baking cupboard, finding those two containers, and carrying them around. Out of all the substances that children have spilled on their train sets, I would suspect that vanilla extract has rarely been one of them, except in our house.

The other day when I was rolling out a batch of homemade graham crackers for him, he reached forward from his high chair–which I had positioned so he could “help” me make the crackers–and swiped some of the dough. He truly is his mother’s son. And he liked it. Then he swiped more. Before I knew it, I was actually handing some of it to him–and eating some myself. It contained no egg, after after all.

I realized that since I was cutting the dough into snowflakes, these crackers would be a nice alternative to the abundance of cookies offered this time of year (they look remarkably like h). Of course, one should be able to eat cookies–don’t get me wrong, it is Christmastime after all–but I enjoy them most when I consider them a treat, something to be enjoyed on occasion. For those times when one just wants a little snack, these crackers have a delicious slightly-sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of the graham crackers I used to eat out of a box, with a crunch that’s just right. But I know exactly what’s gone into them, so I have no reservations when feeding them to my son. And with a fun shape such as a snowflake, what’s not to love?

Homemade Graham Crackers
Adapted from Weelicious

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor. Add butter and continue to pulse until you have a mixture with a consistency resembling coarse meal. Add honey and water and continue to mix until well combined.

Shape the dough into a disk and roll between two pieces of parchment paper until it’s 1/4-inch thick. Cut into simple rectangles or get creative with fun cookie cutters. Place the crackers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and place the crackers on a wire rack to cool; they will continue to firm up while they cool.

Store in a covered container at room temperature.

Lingonberry Walnut Spice Cake

Lingonberry Cake with Walnuts

First of all, I want to explain the silence here this past week. Remember when I said I would be posting some inspiration and ideas every weekday leading up to Christmas? Well, I didn’t factor in how disruptive illness can be. I got sick suddenly last Tuesday while Mom and Grandma were over to bake spritz as part of our weekly baking sessions. We were having a great time, and then I started feeling cold so turned up the heat. My back started aching. I got that nagging yet indescribable feeling in my throat and upper chest that I might be getting sick. By the end of the night I was curled up in a blanket on the sofa, shivering with my laptop on my lap, trying to meet a deadline for an article while waiting for my husband to get home. I thought about my goal for writing here, but I just couldn’t do it. With the recipe I have to offer you today, I hope that the wait was worth it.

Lingonberry Spice Cake with Walnuts

Today I want to tell you about lingonberry-walnut spice cake. It’s a twist on a recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas, the queen of Scandinavian-American cookbook authors. Her book Scandinavian Feasts ends with a section on recipes for the Christmas coffee table, concluding with a recipe for lingonberry jam cake. After I made it recently, I got to thinking that it might lend itself well to some adaptations. Wanting a more pronounced lingonberry flavor but not necessarily feeling the need to mess with the quantity of preserves in the recipe, I picked up some frozen lingonberries at the local Scandinavian store and added a healthy portion of those along with some chopped walnuts. The result, I must say is perfect.

Lingonberry Walnut Spice Cake

This is the sort of cake that you whip up with ease and then slide in the oven before going about your business trimming the tree or wrapping presents. It bakes for about an hour, leaving you plenty of time to get things done around the house or perhaps to take a shower before heading out to a Christmas party (for which this bread might be your hostess gift). And then when it’s done, it keeps incredibly well, staying moist for days if properly wrapped. And while I haven’t tried freezing it, Ojankagas says it lends itself well to storage that way too.

The only thing that might make this recipe any better would be a cream cheese frosting, adding a sweet, creamy touch to the top of each slice. But then again that might just be excessive. Some things, when made just right, should be left alone and allowed to shine.

Walnut and Lingonberry Spice Cake

Lingonberry Walnut Spice Cake
Adpated from Beatrice Ojakangas’ Lingonberry Jam Cake in Scandinavian Feasts

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup lingonberry jam
3/4 cup frozen lingonberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prep an 8.5-by-4.5-inch loaf pan by greasing and flouring it.

Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then stir the sour cream and lingonberry jam together in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture and the lingonberry-sour cream mixture to the batter and mix just until incorporated and smooth. Add lingonberries and walnuts and stir gently to combine.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake in the center of the oven for about one hour. You’ll know when it’s done when you insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean. This probably goes without saying, but err on the side of early when checking the cake, as you don’t want to overbake it. The result should be perfectly done and deliciously moist.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about five minutes before removing it from the pan and allowing it to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Makes 1 loaf.

From My Childhood: Scandinavian Almond Bars

Scandinavian Almond Bars

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions over the past few months. It started with the onset of autumn, which seems to be the most sensual of the seasons, with its crisp, quiet mornings and spice-laden drinks. A wealth of pears resulted in a few being sliced and used to line the base of a Swedish chocolate cake while rest of them simmered on the stove, breaking down into a luscious, sweet sauce with the right amount of sweetness and a pale pink hue.

Thanksgiving is still a week away, yet my focus has already transitioned from autumn to Christmas as I come up with ideas for holiday baking, block out periods of time to pick out a Christmas tree and celebrate holiday-season birthdays, and make a list of traditions I want to be sure to nurture.

One of those traditions is baking with my mom and grandmother. We’ve always baked together, ever since I was a child, but as time has gone on, the focus has shifted from Grandma being the primary baker with everyone else providing support to Grandma teaching us the tricks of the trade as she strives to pass on a lifetime of baking knowledge and expertise to the later generations who want to learn.

Scandinavian Almond Bar

While we bake together throughout the year, the holiday season is a particularly important time, as we list the traditional treats our family has enjoyed throughout the years. My goal this year is to get through as many of them as possible–both to give Grandma the opportunity to bake them again, and to give my mom and me the experience and memories of baking these alongside such an amazing woman as my grandmother.

During one recent baking session, we tried out some old family recipes we hadn’t made in a long time. One of them was for Scandinavian almond bars. I remember baking these  when I was a child, joining my mom in the kitchen while we mixed the batter and rolled the cookies into logs before baking, then cut them into slices and drizzled them with icing. They were flavored with almond extract, and just the thing to satisfy a young Norwegian’s tastebuds.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

I’m not absolutely positive where the original recipe came from, aside from remembering a large, full-page photo of the cookies in a spiral-bound cookbook. My mom also has a copy of the recipe that came from a friend once upon a time. They’re all over the internet too, and seem to have an origin with Taste of Home. When we made them recently, we compared notes between two slightly different versions. Now we have a master list of ingredients. That’s one of the things I love about our baking tradition–as we work through recipes, we’re taking notes and compiling the recipes all in one place with plans to create a family recipe book. It’ll be fun to see what ends up in the collection–family classics such as these almond-flavored cookies, to be sure, but perhaps some new ones as well.

What cookies or bars do you do you still make from your childhood?

Scandinavian Almond Bars
Adapted slightly from a variety of sources; if you know where the original comes from, let me know!

For the cookies:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
Milk, enough for brushing on the dough
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the icing:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare the cookies by creaming the butter sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and extract and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and add to the batter, mixing until incorporated.

Turn out dough onto your work surface and shape into a ball. Divide it into fourths, then roll each section into a log about a foot long. Divide the logs between two cookie sheets. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough out until the log is an even 3 inches wide. Brush each log with milk and sprinkle on the almonds.

Bake until the edge start to tun golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, until still warm but cool enough to work with. Cut the cookies diagonally into slices 1 inch thick, and then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing by combining the confectioner’s sugar, almond extract, and milk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzled over the cooled cookies.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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Book Inspiration: Christmas Baking

Since we’ve been on the topic of Scandinavian Christmas books lately (here and here), I’d like to share with you another one that’s inspiring me as I plan my holiday baking: Christmas Baking: Fun and Delicious Holiday Treats. This newly-published book from Swedish pastry chef and food writer Mia Öhrn features a variety of candies, cookies, and other baked goods.

Though the book is on the thin side with only 38 recipes, it’s full of so many photos (which provide inspiration in and of themselves) that this will be a book I’ll return to time and time again for ideas. Some of the recipes I’m considering making this holiday season include lingonberry toffee, “Mozart Almond Chocolates” made with homemade nougat and almond paste and covered in dark chocolate, sugar-coated gingerbread sticks (made with leftover pepparkakor dough), and rice pudding pie. Enjoy!

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Full disclosure: A review copy of Christmas Baking was sent by the publisher.

Book Inspiration: Swedish Christmas Traditions

As I plan my Scandinavian Christmas, I’m digging not only into old family traditions and recipes, but also perusing newer books dedicated to the topic. One of those is Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Smorgasbord of Scandinavian Recipes, Crafts, and Other Holiday Delights by Ernst Kirchsteiger.

This book–published by Skyhorse two years ago–features a variety of recipes, from savory dishes such as Ernst’s apple herring (and a pickled vegetable recipe for those not keen on pickled herring) to sweet treats such as white chocolate-coated marzipan medallions and traditional cinnamon hearts. Though the focus is on food, the book also includes crafts for decorating your home Swedish-style and some festive floral arrangements.

Check back soon for more recipes and Scandinavian Christmas books!

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Full disclosure: A review copy of Swedish Christmas Traditions was sent by the publisher.

Sandbakkels–a Norwegian Christmas Cookie–Step by Step


When it comes to Christmas cookies, the Scandinavians do it best. I continually find myself amazed by how a seemingly simple recipe can turn out so delicious, whether it yields the perfect balance of buttery and sugary flavors or a delicate crunch. Sandbakkels fit into both categories, with a flavorful, subtly-sweet dough and a finished product that needs to be handled carefully yet is sturdy enough to be packed into tins until Christmas.

Sandbakkels are the second cookie (the first was serinakaker) in my list of syv slagseven sorts of Norwegian Christmas cookies–that I’m baking this year. These aren’t the sort of cookie you whip together and slice off chilled dough whenever you need a small portion of cookies to serve to last-minute guests. Rather, these must be made with patience and love, ideally in the company of someone special (in my case, my mom and grandma Adeline).


Each cookie must be carefully formed into a little tart-like shell (the molds are available at Scandinavian stores). While the process is time consuming, it’s simple once you get the hang of it.

The dough comes together like a typical cookie dough: Cream softened butter with a cup of sugar, then mix in an egg and flavoring. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together and separates from the sides of the bowl, and then chill for a while.

The fun starts when it’s time to shape the cookies.

Sandbakkels Step by Step

Here’s how to make them:

  1. To start, pinch off a little dough and roll into a ball about 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
  2. Place into the center of the mold, using your thumbs to flatten the dough into the mold.
  3. Rotating the mold as you go, work the dough out from the center of the mold and up the sides. You’ll want the dough on the bottom to be as thin as it can be while still holding up when baked.
  4. As you work, take special care at the ridge where the bottom connects to the side. Dough tends to collect here, and it’s easy to let this part be too thick. Delicately continue to work the dough from this ring up the sides.
  5. Using your hand, scrape off the excess dough from the top of the mold, and set aside while you form the rest of the cookies.
  6. When it’s time to bake, arrange the sandbakkels on a cookie sheet (if you’re using different shapes of tins, try to keep the like tins together in a batch so they cook evenly) and place in a preheated oven.
  7. Watch closely as the cookies bake, as they quickly go from done to overdone. When they’re just starting to take on a slightly golden hue, remove from the oven and take the molds off the cookie sheet to cool.
  8. Allow the cookies to cool for a while, and then carefully remove from the tins. This is done by inverting the molds onto your work surface and giving a little tap. The cookies should pop right out.

Sandbakkels Step by Step

Some people serve sandbakkels as tarts, with fillings such as sweetened whipped cream and fruit preserves, while others serve them plain, arranging them upside down to showcase their shape.

My family has always preferred to serve them plain, as a cookie rather than a tart. How do you enjoy yours?


Adeline Halvarson’s Sandbakkels

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and almond extracts and stir until combined. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated and the dough comes together. Gather the dough together, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 15 minutes.

Shape cookies according to the details above, preheating oven to 375 degrees partway through the process.

Bake until cookies just start to take on a slight golden hue, then remove the tins from the cookie sheet and allow to cool. To remove cookies from tins, invert the molds and tap them on your work surface. The cookies should pop out easily

Yield: About 5 dozen cookies, depending on size of tins

Apple Pie of Generations

Apple Pie

Let me tell you a little about my grandma Adeline. That’s her on the right in the photo down below. She’s one of my biggest culinary inspirations, and the one who’s been teaching me to make lefse, krumkake, sandbakkels, and all sorts of other Scandinavian and family specialties. We’re spending the time leading up to Christmas baking through many of her favorite desserts and dishes. One of her specialties is apple pie.


Now, the world doesn’t need another recipe for apple pie. But my world does. It needs to know exactly what went into the pie Grandma and I made last month, standing side by side in the kitchen, creating something delicious together. Because each ingredient that went into that pie serves as a part of the memory of that evening.

Apple Pie CollageIt started with a straightforward pie crust from the The Silver Palate Cookbook. I mixed the dough together and put it in the fridge to chill while we worked on baking an old-fashioned recipe for Date Balls, which came from her days in North Dakota over a half century ago. The dough chilled, we got to work forming the crust and making the filling. Pies are one of those those things that come naturally to Grandma. Back in the old days in North Dakota, she baked countless pies morning after morning for a restaurant, and I don’t think she would even consider sticking to a recipe, choosing rather to go by sight and intuition.

Apple Pie

But this time as we worked together, collaborating on how much of each ingredient to use, I measured everything and kept notes, wanting to remember just how Grandma would put it together.

As I said, the world doesn’t need another recipe for apple pie. And now that I have a recipe created step by step with Grandma, I don’t need another one either.

Apple PieApple Pie of Generations

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, chilled
5-6 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

7 1/2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks (we used Gala)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2-2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2-3 tablespoons tapioca
Up to 1/4 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt

To make the crust, sift the flour, sugar, and salt together into a large mixing bowl, then add the 8 tablespoons of butter and the shortening. Cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, your fingertips, or perhaps even a food processor, until you have a mixture that looks like coarse meal. Mix in the ice water, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, as needed to finish the dough, then turn it onto a clean counter or cutting board. Now you’re going to smear the dough away from you using the heel of your hand, working with about 1/4 cup at a time, before collecting all the dough into a ball and covering and refrigerating it for two hours.

When the dough is chilled, roll it into 2 disks, each 1/4-inch thick. Pile the apples in one crust and top with the remaining ingredients. Place the remaining dough on top, crimping the edges. Pierce multiple times with a fork. Bake about 2 hours, masking the edges as necessary, until crust is golden and pie is baked through.

Pancakes for Christmas Morning

Norwegian Pancakes

Having a baby really got me thinking about what Christmas traditions I want to keep in my family. Last year we started a new one: having a Christmas brunch at our home with a simple meal of pannekakor, or Scandinavian pancakes.

Norwegian PancakesI grew up eating Swedish pancakes, but it was always at restaurants or at the Norse Home, where my Grandma Agny lived for a while, so didn’t grow up with a family recipe. Last year my husband and I made a batch based on a New York Times recipe, and while they were tasty, they weren’t what I had in mind. So when I found a recipe for Norwegian pancakes (I’m not sure what makes them Norwegian or Swedish–if you do, please let me kknow) in Andreas Viestad’s Kitchen of Light, I was excited to try it out.

We enjoyed the recipe this past weekend, and I’m happy to announce that I think we have a winner. These pancakes are exactly what I would expect them to be: perfectly dense yet light, hearty yet delicate. Served with sweet-tart lingonberry preserves to balance out the richness of the buttery pancakes, this is just the recipe for a relaxed holiday morning.

What are your Christmas morning traditions?

Norwegian Pancakes

Norwegian Pancakes
Adapted from Kitchen of Light

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus more for cooking and serving)
Lingonberry preserves for serving

Stir flour and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and sugar to break up the eggs a bit and combine the ingredients. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork or whisk until the batter is light and smooth with no lumps. Add the butter, stirring to incorporate, and then let the batter rest for 30 minutes while you prepare the pan and set the table.

Preheat a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Swirl a little butter in the pan to help avoid sticking, and then when you’re ready to start cooking, pour 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan, lifting it and swirling it around so the batter evenly covers the bottom. As the pancake cooks, you’ll notice the top begin to set, starting with the center and working out. When the whole thing is set and it becomes easy to lift up the sides, flip the pancake–it should have a nice, spotted brown color–and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining batter, stacking the pancakes on the plate as you go.

When ready to serve, roll the pancakes and top with lingonberry preserves. Serve with additional lingonberry preserves in a small bowl and softened butter so guests can customize their pancakes to their tastes.

Serves 2-4.

Update: Thanks to those of you who given your insight into the differences between the types of pancakes. The Transplanted Baker also offers great information if anyone is interested!

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