Fastelavens boller (aka Norwegian semlor)
February 12, 2013 § 26 Comments
aka Fat Tuesday buns, if you don’t know what any of those other things mean.
Yes, it’s Fat Tuesday, and while in some parts of the world this means shiny beads, and raucous parades with floats, and beignets, across Scandinavia, it means buns. I don’t know the history of how this particular regionally specific way of preparing for Lent came to be (I mean seriously, why buns? Why not, I guess.), but since I grew up with it, I’m awfully fond of it.
Basically, I wait for this day all year, just so I can eat these buns.
The best known of the Fat Tuesday buns are the Swedish semlor (the plural of semla). Theirs are sweet cardamom buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream. If you’d like you can drown them in warm milk before serving. Danish and Icelandic Fat Tuesday buns are more like pate a choux, stuffed with whipped cream and jam and topped with chocolate (and here I must also admit that the Icelanders actually eat theirs on the Monday before, which they call bun day. Those Icelanders, always trying to be different…). « Read the rest of this entry »
A perfect cup of hot chocolate
December 22, 2010 § 15 Comments
As we drove from the airport up to my parents’ house, sparkling fat snowflakes swirled through the headlight beams and across the road. Sure, it wasn’t ideal driving conditions, but it didn’t matter because everything else about it was perfect. Home for Christmas, a white Christmas, what more could you want? We woke up to a soft, luminous world freshly blanketed in snow. Perfect for snow angels, and skiing, and plain old flopping into snowdrifts. Which was pretty much the entire agenda for the day. And will be the agenda for tomorrow as well. That, and drinking hot chocolate. Oh boy is it ever hot chocolate time!
Being a devoted daughter of Mother Winter and Father Snow, hot chocolate and I go waaaaaaay back. We have an incredibly close and special relationship. A little too close, potentially. I can’t even keep milk around because if I did I would drink far more hot chocolate than my system could possibly handle. I have memories of one of the first times I ever had a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. I couldn’t have been more than about four, but I remember taking a sip and entering into a reverie as I tasted the warm darkness of the chocolate contrasted by the sweet cool cream, and that amazing, unctuous foam of the whipped cream as it melted. Good hot chocolate is downright other worldly. And in my opinion, it really needs the counterpoint provided by the whipped cream – no one can sell me on marshmallows, I’m afraid – in fact, I keep adding new layers of whipped cream as I make my way down through the mug. That borderland where the flavors and textures mingle is the best part! « Read the rest of this entry »
Strawberry shortcakes with creme fraiche whipped cream
June 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
Hurrah! We finally went strawberry picking (after being thwarted last weekend)! And it was, of course, everything I was hoping for. If there is anything in this world that tastes more marvelous – or looks more beautiful – than a rotund, juicy, crimson strawberry, warm from the sun, plucked and eaten right there in the field, well then I’m feeling hard pressed to figure out what it might be. The darling little flavor-packed, mixed variety of strawberries available at peak season on farms and in farmer’s markets should make us feel ashamed that we even call those ginormous, watery things that are shipped around the country most of the year, “strawberries”. They’re just not the same thing at all (though, in the spirit of full disclosure I’ll admit they can be kind of good on occasion, and if someone gives me one dipped in chocolate, I’m afraid I’m not saying “no”).
For me, scrambling around on hands and knees in the dirt, searching for the jewel red berries, as if collecting treasure, sends my gatherer instinct into hyperactive mode. And eating the berries themselves. Well, now that is the really good part. A ripe strawberry needs nothing else. It defies my standard food writing vocabulary, even the most flowery stuff I can muster, and sends me searching for some deep extended metaphor, or something, to convey my feelings. Maybe a spiritual metaphor, or a relationship metaphor. I picture myself telling them “Strawberries, you are absolutely perfect just exactly as you are.” And isn’t that all any of us really want to hear in a relationship, and believe about ourselves? « Read the rest of this entry »
Rhubarb compote and whipped cream (rabarbrasuppe med pisket krem)
April 20, 2010 § 8 Comments
At this point in my life, pie and crisp may be the first things that come to mind when I think of rhubarb. And sure, it’s what I just wrote about. But, this wasn’t always the case. I think that I didn’t actually try rhubarb crisp for the first time until I was in late childhood when I had it at a neighbor’s house. Rhubarb pie came even later! My first experience with eating rhubarb was one of the simplest possible, and one I still love. You just take a freshly picked and cleaned stalk of rhubarb (leaf removed!) and a small cup of sugar. Dip the end of the rhubarb in the sugar, then take a bite. The sugar hits you first and softens the blow of what you’re about to experience. But, the sweetness of the sugar can’t shackle the true nature of rhubarb. The amazing, almost biting, sour flavor bursts through the thin veneer of sugar to fill your mouth, making you pucker your lips and squinch up your eyes. Then you dip again and go back for more! It’s the kind of eating experience that gives you an adrenaline rush.
But, if you’re not quite up for that, the other way I remember having it was as different from this as could be, wonderfully sweet rhubarb soup – topped with whipped cream of course. This is a pretty standard dessert soup in Norway, as is rosehip soup actually. Andreas Viestad, the wonderful (and cute – I got to help him make some desserts for a talk once and totally developed a crush, hehe!) Norwegian food writer and cookbook author says he hated rhubarb soup when he was little because his family made a really sour version. This one does not run up against that problem.
Creamy Chocolate “Mousse”
January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
When I was little, chocolate mousse was by far and away my favorite dessert. This is because I’ve been pretty much obsessed with whipped cream my entire life (I actually have to work really hard to control this love affair by not buying cream too often! In college my roommate and I would make vanilla whipped cream and eat it straight almost every night, yikes.) Chocolate mousse, seemed to me basically rich chocolate whipped cream that you could then top with vanilla whipped cream, just for good measure. « Read the rest of this entry »
Spicy gingerbread cake for rainy day baking
October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment
Like most (though not all) of the known universe, I am a sucker for baked goods, and I have a definite sweet tooth. This is the main reason I don’t bake very much at all – if I don’t bake it, I won’t have it around to eat. If I do bake it, I try to wrap up at least half of it in tinfoil and a ziplock and put it in the freezer immediately, so it’s not readily available. (But it defrosts quite nicely if I need it) Doing this, like getting half of your restaurant meal wrapped up before you even start eating, is one of those obnoxious health-fanatic pieces of advice that we hear over and over again and that can turn out to be surprisingly difficult to put into practice (not to mention kind of annoying, I mean, who wants to be that person). But, study after study shows that if a food is right there you’re far more likely to eat it, even if you’re not hungry. And, the more food you have around you the more you’ll eat. Interestingly, willpower has almost nothing to do with it! This is because willpower comes from the conscious control part of our brain, while our response to the sight and smell of food in front of us happens in the part of our brain we have no control over. Our biology is set up so that if there is more food and a greater variety around, we actually physically have to eat more in order to feel satisfied! This means that the claim food companies make that eating should be only about personal responsibility, so they shouldn’t be regulated, is a bunch of hooey. But, in places where we do have control, for example what foods we keep around in our house, it makes it all the more important to focus on good, real foods. « Read the rest of this entry »