We Knead To Bake #23 : Julekake or Julekaga (Norwegian Cardamom Scented Christmas Bread)
t’s the end of yet another year, and I am wondering just where this year ran off to. It really seems like not too long ago that I was at the beginning of the year trying to remember I had to end my dates with “14”! Not that I am complaining, as I would rather live through a year.
that galloped along pretty quickly than one that meandered about aimlessly. I must admit that my 2014 was quite eventful in many ways, but I’m not about to do a re-cap of the year that was. I’ll leave that to others who have a better way with words than I do.
Instead I’ll tell you about the bread I chose for the We Knead To Bake group to bake this December. This is a month when most people (and bakers for sure), are busy in the kitchen planning, shopping and cooking up a storm for the festive season so I knew that the last thing the group members wanted was a bread that they needed to spend time and effort on. So I chose a festive Christmas bread that was just what the season demanded in terms of being easy to make but great on taste.
Julekake (or Julekaka/ Julekaga) is a rich holiday bread flavoured with cardamom, and is traditionally served at Christmas in many Scandinavian countries. It is particularly popular in Norway and Denmark. Incidentally, Julekake means “Yule Bread” in Norwegian.
This bread is more cake-like in texture because it is made from enriched dough. It is left plain or sometimes is dusted with powdered sugar or glazed with a white sugar icing. If it is not glazed or left plain, then it is usually served warm at breakfast with butter or a Norwegian caramelised brown goat milk cheese called Gjeitost/ Brunost.
In Norway, Julekake traditionally only a lime green citrus peel called sukat is added along with the cardamom. Nowadays many people also add red and green cherries to reflect the colours of Christmas. Other popular additions are raisins, candied orange peel, and coloured candied peel. Some recipes for Julekake also feature almonds, but the main flavour in this bread comes from cardamom.
I know that many people dislike candied fruit/ peel, so you may leave that out, though I feel it would probably add to the flavour of this bread to substitute that with some lemon/ lime zest. Julekake however, isn’t Julekake unless it features raisins and cardamom.
I chose to leave my Julekake plain, without the glaze or the icing. If you make it this way and have leftovers (not very likely), try using them to make an interesting French toast.
(Partially adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas)
For the dough:
For the glaze:
For the icing:
- Put the water, milk and 1 tsp sugar (from the 1/4 cup) in a small bowl and add the yeast to it. Mix well and keep aside for 5 to 10 minutes till it becomes “frothy”.
- Put this yeast mixture, the egg, butter and sugar and salt in a larger bowl (or bowl of your processor/ machine). Mix well, and then add the flour and the powdered cardamom. Knead well until you have a dough that is soft, smooth and elastic. Add just as much more flour or water to achieve this consistency of dough.
- Take the dough out and flatten it into a largish round (shape is not important). Sprinkle the fruit and raisins evenly and then roll it up, swiss roll style. This is a good way to knead in fruit into bread dough. Then just knead the dough lightly by hand and roll it up into a ball.
- Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover loosely and let it rise till double in volume, for about an hour or so.
- When done, lightly knead the dough to deflate t slightly and shape it into a ball. Place it on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet (You can also bake it in a cake or loaf tin if you wish). Let it rise for about 45 minutes.
- If you’re using the egg wash, then brush it over the top of the dough. Otherwise brush it with milk and sprinkle it with crushed sugar cubes or chopped almonds. Ignore this step if you’re going to use the icing.
- Bake at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes till the bread is golden brown and done. If you find the bread browning too quickly, cover it with foil after about 15 minutes in the oven to avoid further browning.
- Cool it on a rack. Let it cool completely before you slice it or ice it. For the icing, mix together the ingredients for the icing till you have an icing of pouring consistency. Pour over the bread and sprinkle the chopped almonds over this. Let the icing set.
*If you plan to use the icing, I would suggest reducing the sugar in the bread by half to 1/4 cup so that the bread doesn’t turn out too sweet.
This recipe makes one medium to large loaf
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