In Norway, Christmas presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve. While some presents are brought by Santa, some are brought by “Nisse”, small gnomes, mythological creatures typically associated with the winter solstice. Many different festive breads and cookies are eaten over the holidays in Norway, the most popular and well-known is “julekake”, a yeast leavened bread studded with raisins, candied fruit and citron. Cardamom is the essential spice in the julekake, but often cinnamon and nutmeg are used to flavor the bread.
It is this lovely holiday bread that Aparna-My Diverse Kitchen chose for the December edition of We Knead to Bake. Julekake is an enriched dough that is cake-like in texture. Left unadorned, it’s a good breakfast bread, but with a sugar icing or studded with sliced almonds, the julekake is a perfect tea time bread.
Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
For the dough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 pods cardamom, powdered, about 3/4 teaspoon
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit or peel
1/4 cup golden or dark raisins
For the Glaze
Pearled sugar or crushed sugar cubes and/or chopped almonds
For the Icing
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons cream or milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon chopped almonds (optional)
In a bowl, proof the yeast by sprinkling it over the lukewarm water, milk and 1 teaspoon sugar( from the 1/4 cup).Set aside for 5-10 minutes until frothy. From this point on, I use the dough cycle of the bread machine to mix and knead the dough. If you want to follow Aparna’s instructions, refer to the instructions there.
Place all ingredients, except the mixed candied fruit or peel and raisins, in the pan of a bread machine according the the manufacturer’s instructions. Process on the dough cycle. When complete, remove the dough from the machine to a lightly floured surface and deflate slightly. Flatten it into a largish round, sprinkle the fruit and raisins over the top, the roll up jelly roll style. Knead lightly to incorporate the fruit.
Shape into a ball and place on a parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Let rise for about 45 minutes. If using the egg glaze, brush it over the top of the dough. Otherwise, brush with milk and sprinkle the bread with crushed sugar cubes, pearled sugar or chopped almonds. If using the icing, ignore this step.
Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes until bread is golden brown and done. If the bread begins to brown too quickly, cover with some foil after 15 minutes of browning. Remove from the oven, cool completely before you slice it or ice it. For the icing, combine ingredients and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with almonds or decorate with candied fruit and peel. Let icing set. Makes 1 medium to large loaf.
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