Scandinavian baking

Whatever you might say about the rest of their food, the Scandinavians can definitely bake! Just think, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word “danish”? Here are two baked goods that I’ve tried recently, Kanelkakor (cinnamon walnut cookies) and Birkes (Danish rye buns).

First, this cookie is very much like a snickerdoodle, except with the addition of walnuts. A simple sugar cookie is rolled in cinnamon, sugar and walnuts and baked. Called Kanelkakor in Swedish, I got the recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas.

Rye bread, rolls and flatbread made with rye flour are also popular in this part of the world. I normally think of rye breads as very crusty or heavy breads, but this recipe for rye rolls also involves a lot of butter to keep the rolls light and flaky. Guess that makes sense, as the recipe is attributed to the Danish, who just love to roll butter into anything!

Danish Rye Rolls (Birkes)
1 package yeast (active dry yeast)
1/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 Tbsp.), melted
1 cup rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks butter, cold

Whisk together the yeast, warm water and sugar, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add warm milk, salt, egg, melted butter and 1 cup rye flour and stir well. Cut the cold butter into the all-purpose flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Stir this flour mixture into the yeast mixture until flour is just moistened. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, take out the dough and divide it in two equal portions. Roll one portion out into a 15-inch round circle and spread it with 1 Tbsp. softened butter. Fold two edges over 1/3 of the way, so that it makes a rectangular strip in the middle (like folding a piece of paper to fit in an envelope). Roll this lengthwise to extend the strip to about 24 inches long.  Then fold that strip in thirds to make it shorter. Roll that rectangle into a 15-inch square, and spread with another 1 Tbsp. softened butter.  Roll up the square like a jelly roll and cut into 8 equal portions.  Place onto a greased cookie sheet, seam side down, and press down to flatten slightly.

Repeat with the second portion of dough.  Cover all rolls with a clean dish towel, and let them rest for about 1.5-2 hours in a warm place until about doubled in size.  Brush with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with caraway, poppy seeds and/or sea salt.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned and puffed.

Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts, by Beatrice Ojakangas

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