Norwegian Apple Cake

Norwegian Apple Cake

 

In this post a year ago I mentioned my Norwegian grandmother’s apple cake. It has become a Hardy family tradition to have it on Christmas Eve, but that doesn’t stop us having it at other times of the year. I have vivid memories of evening coffee time at my grandparents’ house in Oslo when cake would often be served.

I made the Norwegian apple cake this weekend for second son’s birthday. It’s not a typical birthday cake but I don’t think that matters. We managed to get his brothers to come along and gathered in London for tea and cake which we consumed while watching the England v Wales Six Nations rugby match. img_6492

I don’t think my grandmother, who is no longer with us, would mind if I gave you the recipe.  It’s extremely easy to make. You can keep it just as it is, or add cinnamon to the apples or sprinkle some flaked almonds over it, or both.

Norwegian Apple Cake

You will need a 20cm/8″ springform cake tin, greased and base-lined with greaseproof paper or bake-o-glide.

Conventional oven: pre-heat to 160º-170ºC

Ingredients

  • 4 Bramley apples
  • 125g plus 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 240g self-raising flour
  • 1 large egg

Method

  • Peel, core and slice the apples and place the slices in a bowl with the juice of a lemon to stop them going brown. Add the tablespoon of sugar
  • Place the apples in a saucepan with a little water, let’s say 3mm deep. Cook them for a minutes on the Aga simmering plate or your hob, giving them the occasional stir with a wooden spoon. When they’re all soft, remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • Make your cake batter by placing the sugar, butter, flour and egg in a bowl and beating the mixture. I use my electric mixer
  • Press two thirds of this mixture into the base of your prepared tinimg_4305
  • Then spoon the stewed apples over this but not right up to the edge. If you feel you have too much apple mixture (after all, Bramleys vary in size) save some (freeze it if necessary) to have with roast pork at a later date
  • On a floured surface very gently roll out the remaining third of the batter and then cut it into strips about 1.5cms wide
  • Arrange these strips in a lattice pattern over your cake. You don’t have to make a complicated over and under pattern. The dough is very soft and the strips might break as you pick them up. img_4306Don’t worry: you can just patch them together as you place them. As you can see from the photos, mine does not look remotely professional
  • Bake your cake until golden brown. You can’t test it because of the apples.  I find it usually takes between 35 and 45 minutes.  I start checking it at about 25.
  • You can serve it warm (but not piping hot) or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. I’m not a cream person but this cake really is best served with a dollop of lightly whipped cream.img_4319
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Waffles

 

 

When I was young we used to go to Norway for the summer holidays every other year.  My brother and I would go with our mother for about six weeks and my father would join us for two or three weeks.  We’d stay mainly with my grandparents in Oslo but would also visit my aunt and cousins in Kristiansand on the south coast and my uncle and cousins in Stavanger on the west coast.

Norway was, and still is, an idyllic place to be on holiday if you love being outdoors and don’t like hot, sweaty crowded beaches or crowds full stop.  It is relatively unspoilt with some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.  Not that I’m biased or anything.  Many Norwegians have a holiday home, or “summer house”, either in the mountains, by the sea or on one of the thousands of tiny islands dotted along the coastline, where they spend a lot of time during June and July when the days are long and it barely gets dark at night.  We would spend our days fishing, messing about in boats, or clambering over rocks looking for shrimps and crab.  Even in Oslo, the capital city, peaceful lakes and forests are but a short tram ride away.  As a child growing up in Oslo my mother used to ski to school.  During the long, cold winters it was the easiest way to get around.

So often one’s memories of childhood holidays are evoked by the food one ate and this is very true of our Norwegian stays.  There were the shrimps bought straight from the boat as it arrived back at the harbour in the early morning; the freshest ever mackerel, gutted, filleted and painstakinglingly de-boned by my grandmother or aunt and fried in butter until the skin was golden and crisp; juice made from homegrown blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants; the most divine homemade strawberry jam, more runny and less sweet than any you’d buy in a shop and all the better for it; tiny home-baked bread rolls which accompanied every picnic we went on, and there were a lot of picnics.  And then there were the waffles which would be served every time we were invited to friends or relatives for tea or coffee.  At least, that’s how I remember it!

I suspect there isn’t a Norwegian household without a waffle iron.  I remember my mother buying her electric one in Norway because you couldn’t get them here at the time, but the other day in my local shop, Kitchens, I noticed several on display so times have obviously changed.  You will see from my photos that my waffle iron, which my mother gave me years ago, is no longer pristine, but it works well.

As a Bank Holiday treat I made waffles for breakfast this week and I thought you might like the recipe.  Cardamom is the key ingredient I think but it’s a small amount and the flavour is subtle; strangely enough, I don’t remember noticing cardamom in the waffles I ate as a child.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 250ml whipping or double cream
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 400g plain flour

Method

  • Beat the eggs and sugar together.
  • Sieve the flour with the baking powder and cardamom
  • Using an electric hand whisk or mixer, add the flour mixture and milk/cream to the egg alternately to make a thick batter
  • Ladle into the waffle iron and cook
  • Serve with jam and/or butter or clotted cream, but they are also delicious plain

 

 

Candles

 

 

When I was growing up people only really used candles on birthday cakes, for a special dinner or if there was a power cut (and there were quite a few in the early seventies during the three-day week).  This was not true in my house, however, because my Norwegian mother brought over her country’s tradition of lighting candles at all times of the day or night.  She would stock up on them during our holidays in Norway because she swore that Scandinavian candles were better and did not drip.  Imagine her excitement (yes, really) when Swedish, not Norwegian, Ikea opened its first branch over here and she could buy candles almost anytime she felt like it.  It meant she could use them with abandon, finances permitting, without having to worry about when she was next going to visit her relatives or when they’d next be crossing the North Sea to visit us and could be persuaded to bring candles with them.

If this is sounding somewhat obsessive I have to admit I’ve inherited the candle dependency.  They add ambience, and let’s be honest, make everything look better and hide a multitude of blemishes, whether it be the lines on your face or the chips on your paintwork.  What with Scandi Noir TV dramas and a growing interest in Scandinavian cuisine over here, we feel that we know a lot more about those countries.  Magazines talk about hygge and give us tips on how to achieve it in our homes.  Well, candles are part of that, and you don’t only have to light them when it’s dark.  In my family a candle would always be lit at breakfast on someone’s birthday, for example.

I didn’t pay my usual pre-Christmas visit to Ikea to stock up on candles because I felt we had enough to see us through.  I was right but I’ve been using them sparingly ever since for fear of running out completely, which would be a disaster.  Seriously.  Anyway, when I was there the other day I picked up my favourites: Jubla (tall, slim and white; see above), Fenomen (fat and white) and a couple of packs of tealights.  I only ever have white candles.  Red is lovely at Christmas but doesn’t go that well with the decor in our living and dining rooms so I find it easier to stick to white.

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No recipes for you in this post but there IS food.  It’s hard to drop into Ikea without picking up something to eat.  This time I bought spicy ginger biscuits or “pepparkaka”: delicious with a cup of tea or, should you feel the urge, a glass of mulled wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Cardamom and Lemon Cookies

I know it’s not very modern but I had a quiet couple of days this week.  Yes, that’s right, I wasn’t rushing around like a mad thing; I pottered about, mainly at home, and it was lovely.  Such days are rare, although admittedly a little less rare now only one of my sons lives here permanently.

That’s not to say I was idle.  My activities included the following; cleaning bathrooms; laundry; ironing shirts; meeting a friend for coffee (one of my favourite pursuits); having a friend over for coffee (different friend, different day); tweeting (Twitter was rather compelling on Wednesday, following Mr Cameron’s “bunch of migrants” remark); walking the dog; vacuuming my mother-in-law’s flat (despite being nearly 91 she insists on doing housework but I help out occasionally); cooking (Middle Eastern lentils and rice was delicious); watching the celebrity Great British Bake-Off (I thought Samantha Cameron was lovely and – spoiler alert – a deserving winner); baking cookies.  I fear it all sounds terribly dull to you, but I enjoy days like that: they are a chance to catch one’s breath.

The cookies I baked were these:

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Cardamom and Lemon Cookies

The recipe is on the BBC website * and is by the Hairy Bikers, but it was my mother who drew it to my attention.  She is Norwegian and always makes Norwegian biscuits in the run-up to Christmas, which she then brings to us when she comes on Christmas Eve.  Some recipes she inherited from my grandmother (or “Mommo” as I called her) and have been around for many years, so the Hairy Bikers should be flattered that their recipe met with my mother’s approval.  She enjoyed watching the programmes they made in Northern Europe (I must admit I only caught one or two of them).  There is something special about baking things from recipes that have been passed down the generations.  My eldest son adores his great grandmother’s Lebkuchen (a Christmas treat originally from Germany) recipe and he and his girlfriend make them together.  In fact, they made a batch while they were with us over Christmas but I’m not ready to write about them yet because it was difficult to work out which Aga oven(s) to use and how long to bake them for.

You might be surprised to learn that cardamom is not just a spice for curries but is widely used in Scandinavian baking.  On the other hand, with the huge interest nowadays in all things Nordic, whether it be food or Noir TV series, you might not be in the least surprised!

As you can see from my Instagram photo above, I did not use a cookie stamp as described in the recipe; I simply pressed a fork onto the balls of dough to flatten them slightly before they went in the oven.

Hairy Bikers’ Cardamom and Lemon Cookies

Ingredients

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 tsp ground cardamom or 1 heaped tsp cardamom seeds, ground in a pestle and mortar

Method

  • Preheat conventional oven to 190ºC
  • Line 2 baking trays with bake-o-glide** or baking parchment
  • Using an electric hand-whisk or food mixer (I used my KitchenAid), beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and fluffy
  • Beat in the flour, almonds and cardamom until the mixture is well combined and comes together to form a stiff dough
  • Roll the dough into 24 balls and place 12 on each baking tray, making sure you leave space between each one
  • Press a fork onto the balls of dough to flatten them slightly
  • Bake, one tray at a time, in the middle of the Aga baking oven, for 14 minutes until the cookies are pale and golden.
  • Leave them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack

* I updated this post today, 17 May 2016, following the news that the BBC was going to close its food website.  It’s therefore likely that the above link will soon no longer work.

**I always use bake-o-glide on my baking trays.  It’s brilliant stuff: non-stick and can go in the dishwasher.  I buy it via the Aga Cookshop website.

When my youngest son returned from his run yesterday afternoon he was very pleased to find something home-baked and sweet to aid his recovery.