Nordic Baking Tips & other Tidbits

Baking, Cooking, Crafts, Culture Tips & Tidbits from the Nordic Chef, Lars, Sven, Drakkar, and more!

Thought we should share ideas and knowledge as best we can when we can in true Nordic hospitiality. Lars and Sven have given the ‘OK’ and tell us a little about life in the Valhalla kitchens in the video below:

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CLEANNG GLASS use vinly gloves
we have a fair amount of glass shelves, cases, etc to display our products. Unfortunately when one has to handle glass that is all glass with no where to hold that is not glass it can be difficult to do without leaving smudges or handprints. That is unless you get the inexpensive thin disposable vinyl gloves, think doctor exam ones. They work in two ways. First they keep ones oils from marking up the just cleaned glass surfaces aka finger prints/smudges. Second they, not powder coated and fit right, make it easy to get a good hold on the glass. They have a lot of other uses too but most people do not think of using them to solve this problem.

many items we buy today come in ziploc style packaging, usually with a place to tear or cut above the locking portion. For instance cold food products or bags of sugar, etc. Depending on what was inside just seal them up when empty and if a food that would have needed refrigeration than put the now empty bag in the frig (only 4 up to a week). Now when you have food left on plates or in pans/pots rather than just scrapping it into the garbage where it can attrack flies or add aroma, put it in the empty bags, zip them up, then throw them in the garbage. That way they get double use – coming and going.

SAVE THOSE BUTTER WRAPPERS – yes we usually scrape them fairly clean prior to properly disposing of them but not always. They can be used, even if cleaned off of 99% for helping with baking. Just fold them in half or more with the butter sides together and store in the frig. Then when you need to grease a pan, pot, or a surface to roll dough on take them out and use them after they warm up a few moments at room temp. The wax or foil backing keeps you and your hands free of grease but allows forcing and spreading the remaining butter on your surfaces. We use them regualry when rolling and braiding Pulla/Cardomom Braid bread. This cuts down on opening or wasting a new butter stick for the task.

CARDAMOM PODS vs GROUND – Always get pods and grind your own cardamom when you need it and for just the amount you will be using within a day or two. Cardamom pods are like coffee beans and as lovers of great coffee we know this well. Green coffee beans keep their freshness for long periods of time but once they are roasted  the protective hulls are popped off and that inner beans freshness quickly is lost. We don’t use any beans that were roasted more than 14 days ago. Likewise using only cardamom pods and the freshly ground intact seeds will make a huge difference in your baking/seasoning. A simple test is just to open a jar of ground caradamon and take a whiff. You will have to get your nose right up to it to smell that divine aroma if you can at all. Take a jar/bag of pods and start cracking them and you can smell it from several feet away. Also you have the option of including the white feathery filaments in with the seeds which adds more flavor and aroma. Once you grind the seeds put them in an airtight container until just before they are added to your mix. The closer to that you grind them the better though we often depod them, keep them in the freezer for up to 3 days, and then grind them just prior to adding to a mix. Cardamom is very high in fiber and that is part of why you wait to grind them. The tightly woven fibers that make the seeds help keep the oils in, which is why once ground like hulled coffee beans, their freshness fades rapidly.

Is Kransekake Gluten Free – Nordic House Kransekad is gluten free but not all are. Since Kransekake is made with almond flour one would think it is however not all made are made the authentic old Norse (Norwegian, Danish, etc) way. Some may actually use normal flour while making it either because almonds are very expensive or to make the dough easier to work with (it likes to stick to things and doesn’t rise perfectly even). There are however 2 other reasons gluten make be inadvertently added. As just mentioned authentic flour is sticky and gets very sticky as it bakes due to the almond oil, egg whites, and sugar in it. The kransekake ring pans are therefore lightly coated with either an oil, a light sprinking of flour, or both. It is that light sprinkling that may add gluten. Sometimes Semolina is used but it comes from wheat so it can add a gluten coating to the outside surface of the rings. The other option and one we use is what the Vikings and early members of Nordic countries would have used – Potato flour/starch. Wheat was not abundant in Nordic countries back in the early days. Potato starch adds no flavor and works as a release agent. Last we grind our own almond flour. It is not uncommon for multiple flours to be ground in the same mills and one often sees allergy warning to this effect on flours and or nuts. To elminate this, keep authentic, to provide the best taste, and to control the consistency of the almond flour we only use our own in house ground flour. Like with cardamom pods and coffee beans to us it is important. It allows us to get that just right chewy center with confidence that our Kransekake is indeed totally gluten free.

Bake like a baker use Weight not Volume – Actually one can and should do that for cooking too in our opinion. The Nordic Chef only does it this way for known recipes and will weigh any new creations to allow them to be perfect if worthy in the future. Why? It is simple actually and works on several levels (oo bad pun). Fill a measuring cup with exactly 1/2 cup of water or 250ml or whatever. Now heat or cool the water on the stove or in the frig. Yep now the volume is not the same in the same measuring device for the liquid has either expanded or contracted depending on whether it was heated or cooled. There is another advantage to using weight that applies to non liquids, actually 2. First it is faster and one doesn’t need to worry if it is packed or loose if one knows the right weight for the substance. Second for things like peppers, potatoes, carrots, meats, etc one can weigh out the full size pieces (whole) and then just chop them up to whatever size one needs (again if one already knows what a cup of diced onions weighs for instance). That instead of trying to pick out 2 mediums that are not the same size. Think you probably get the idea and can think of the other reasons why it can make work easier, faster, and recipes spot on every time.