Scandinavian baking ideas: Biscuits, buns, and more

Spring has passed by my world more quickly than an oncoming metro train; making a momentary appearance in those dark tunnels, it’s gone in a flash. However, since I spent my spring preparing for a European road trip, I can’t expect you to feel sorry for me, or for my lack of time spent baking.

I’m still dreaming about Paris and all the raw energy of the metro contrasted with the tranquility of the banks of the Seine. I can still feel the brisk marine wind of Normandy whipping through my hair. Likewise, the images of the countryside rolling by are still seared in my memory–the gentle, verdant hills of northern France, the tree-lined hills and valleys of Belgium, and the pastoral landscape of southern Germany.

The remaining weeks of spring won’t allow for much baking either, but if you’re looking for Scandinavian baking ideas, look no further than this list:

Touted as “one of the best-loved Norwegian pastries of all-time” by Siri of The Transplanted Baker, skolleboller are cardamom-scented buns filled with vanilla custard and dusted with coconut. Just go to Siri’s blog and take one look at those buns, and you’ll want to reach in and pull them off your computer screen, bite into one, and wash it down with a steaming cup of coffee.

On gray, damp spring mornings when you want to stay indoors in your bathrobe, a warm, freshly-baked biscuit topped with Norwegian brown goat cheese sounds about as cozy as you can get. The cheese–known as gjetost or brunost–was a favorite treat for Jenn of The Leftover Queen when she lived in Norway some years ago, and now she loves these buttermilk biscuits topped with a thin slice of brunost and a little jam.

Whether it’s paired with brown butter, white wine and vanilla bean, or the classic marriage with strawberries, rhubarb is one of spring’s most generous gifts. Taking advantage of rhubarb’s delicious tang and combining it with almond paste, Dagmar of A cat in the kitchen got creative and gave a twist to the traditional almond-filled pastries known as mazarins. These toasted oat flour mazarins with rhubarb are the result.

Inspired by a Norwegian candy bar, the bloggers at My Little Norway have created what they call Troika cake, a chocolate cake layered with raspberry jelly and cream, then topped with a layer of marzipan. Growing up in a Scandinavian family, marzipan cakes have always been one of my favorites. I love the combination of textures–the slightly chewy marzipan with the soft, pillowy cake and a blanket of cream–plus the flavors of almond, sugar, and fruit.

I’ve been wanting to make a Scandinavian apple cake for quite a while, but haven’t known which recipe to try. Until now. Anne of Anne’s Food uses words like “dense,” “rustic,” “delicate,” and “cinnamon-scented” in her description of this apple cake with almonds. With almond paste as a primary ingredient, along with crème fraîche and fresh apples, how could it not be delicious?

What are your favorite Scandinavian recipes? Leave a comment and let me know!

Marzipan candy and other delightful things

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to fully appreciate some of the finer parts of my Norwegian heritage, such as the beauty of the language and elegance and simplicity in Scandinavian design. As a child, my primary connections with Norwegian culture were through my grandparents and by living near Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood that used to be full of Scandinavians. Therefore, I liked my Norwegian heritage, but it seemed quaint and old-fashioned, and sometimes just plain goofy thanks to Norwegian jokes and Stan Boreson songs. That said, one of the Scandinavian treasures I’ve always loved, as far back as I can remember, is marzipan candy.

Commonly shaped into pigs or various fruits, marzipan candy is a popular Scandinavian treat. Imagine taking a bite of almond extract, if that were possible, sweetened and given a delightful pasty consistency. I know, it doesn’t sound that appetizing, but it’s so good!

These days I love the sound of the Norwegian language, and how it feels to speak it (I’m contemplating taking another class soon). I’m intrigued by Norwegians’ sense of beauty and wealth; despite being one of the richest countries in the world, Norway isn’t packed with high-rises and ostentatious design, instead the Norwegians I’ve met seem to truly value quality and have a sense of contentment about them. And I’m enjoying discovering more about Norwegian and Scandinavian cuisine, in addition to the traditional dishes my grandparents served for holidays each year.

In celebration of the delightful things about Norway, I’m going to go eat another one of those candies…