December 20, 2010

What Makes December, December: Two Classic Swedish Recipes

It’s the holiday season. If you’ve missed that you’ve clearly made a concerted effort to not pay attention to any of your surroundings.

Yes, December is a month that brings out the worst in society. We consume, we complain, we stress about the small things. But it also happens to bring out the best: we donate to charities, we spend time with family and we take time to slow down.

I’m not going to write a ranting post about what this season should mean. I’m not even religious, so some could argue that I have no reason to rejoice, and that equating the month of December with celebratory events is hypocritical.

But for me December is still about many things: appreciating the light and dark of the day, good food, family, being open, being giving, taking time to reflect… all those things that often get pushed to the wayside to make room for to-do lists and work tasks.

So I love December. Because it makes me slow down and honor small moments. Above all, it’s time to celebrate tradition. Perform the tasks that make December, December.

And what does that amount to? Making sure that the whole month is devoted to honoring all the Swedish things that I grew up with. Red hearts, gingerbread, saffron bread, glogg, paper snowflakes, the straw goat that sits under the tree. So in honor of December, here are my two favorite seasonal recipes, that will hopefully help you celebrate no matter what traditions you’re honoring.

Saffransbröd – Saffron Bread adapted from Vår Kokbok

Almond paste

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Mix almonds and sugar in Cuisinart or blender until a chunky paste forms. Set aside.

Saffransbröd – Saffron Bread

  • 1/2 gram saffron
  • 75 grams butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups flour
  • Currants for decoration

For gluten-free version substitute flour with

  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free all purpose baking flour
  • 1 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free biscuit and baking mix
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum

Crush saffron in a small bowl with a little bit of sugar. Add a couple tablespoons of the milk and set aside.

Melt butter in a small pot and add milk. Heat until warm (you should still be able to stick your finger in).

Measure out yeast in a small bowl and mix in a little of the butter and milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, salt, egg, saffron mixture and rest of milk and butter. Add in yeast mixture.

Let rise for 30 minutes.

Knead on floured surface.

Take a small amount of dough, a few tablespoons, and divide the rest into two evenly sized balls, Work first ball into a circle, about 10″ in diameter and spread with almond paste.

Make a second circle and cover the first, pinching the edges together. With the leftover dough, roll into a long roll and decorate cake as you see fit. Note: most traditional saffran bread incorporates a lot of curlicues.

Cover with cloth and let rise for 30 minutes.

Decorate with currants and glaze with a beaten egg.

Bake at 400 F for 15-20 min.

Glögg – Swedish Mulled Wine

  • peel of 1/2 an orange
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 2 teaspoons whole cardamon
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 cup madeira
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds

Boil water and spices and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 30 minutes. Add almonds.

Add madeira and wine and let simmer. Serve warm.

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