5 & Spice is two years old (two years young?) today! Admittedly, in the scheme of blogs, that’s not very old yet. But, to be perfectly honest, when I first started writing, I’m pretty sure I expected that by the end of two years, I wouldn’t have anything left to say. Instead, I feel like I keep having more to say, more that I’m excited about, more I want to share with you.
It’s like one of those conversations where, each time it starts trickling off and you think maybe it will end, instead a new and even more exciting topic comes up, and you keep talking, until finally you look up and notice that the sun is rising, you’ve been talking all night, and you can’t think of any other way you would rather have spent your time.
I’m not one of those people lucky enough to have discovered early on that they have a calling (to those of you who do, I am way jealous!), however, having stumbled into this little world of developing, photographing, and writing about recipes (okay, okay, and writing about my random thoughts and stories), it feels suspiciously close to one. It’s more of a persistent beckoning, perhaps, than a “haloo-there” call.
I’m listening to it, at any rate. I can’t not.
And in this process, something a bit funny has happened. I started the PhD program I’m in partly as a challenge to myself to go deep, to move beyond dabbling and really dig my teeth into something. I started this blog partially on the premise that I’m a lazy cook, but that I still like to cook and eat fairly well. And I started it to write for fun, for myself, certainly not thinking about the quality of the writing overall.
But, things went topsy turvy. The PhD process, though everyone involved is wonderful and trying their best and being supportive, has had the effect of driving me to the surface, bullying and jerking me about so that I just want to get it done. Okay, so maybe I’m a little hyper-sensitive and not suited for academia; it’s something I’m working on. It’s just that, most interactions, and most days of working on my dissertation have the effect of making me feel small and helpless, like I think about things in a way that is different enough to be ‘the wrong way.’ And so I scrunch up my neck and pull my head back into my shell, and stop digging or pushing.
Each time I come here, to this funny little piece of cyberspace, I feel myself expand, and my heart opens up, unafraid to spill over. Creating the images and the words, sharing them with all of you out there who are so kind as to listen brings me such joy I can just feel it streaming out of me! It has given me courage and spurred me to push myself in ways I would not have anticipated.
I have dug deeper with technique, explored further with ingredients, and expanded my cooking. I’ve pushed myself to learn about lighting, and f-stops, and food styling, in spite of disastrously hideous and frustrating early attempts. I’ve started to think intentionally about the craft of storytelling and the art of turning a beautiful, or giggle-inspiring, phrase. And I’ve loved it in a way that makes me want to keep stretching, keep striving, and keep going.
It’s for myself still, but it’s also for you, and thanks to you. You all make me feel like a million bucks, and I can’t thank you enough! I wish I could give you all big hugs!!! Instead I’ll have to share this recipe with you.
These are skolebrød. Kind of like boller, they are an extremely classic Norwegian treat, mostly eaten by children, but there’s no shame in loving them in your adult years. I’m not ashamed. They’re fabulous, in that I’m going to eat this and smile to myself because I feel like a kid at a birthday party but it also legitimately tastes good, sort of way. Plus, they’re the very best served with coffee, and that’s not something you’re going to get at a kid’s birthday party!
Skolebrød means “school bread”, because they would supposedly be packed into school lunches back in the day, or maybe kids gave them to their teachers as gifts. The tales of how they originated conflict, and personally, I’ve never received on in my lunchbox nor given one to my teacher. But, I have a hard time resisting them any time I go into a bakery in Norway. For my birthday this year (back in July!), I finally decided to try to make them myself.
They’re futsy to make, but to me it was totally worth the effort to get those familiar flavors and textures – pillowy cardamom bread, creamy vanilla custard, flaky sweet coconut frosting. They’re seriously celebratory, and I feel I have every reason in the world to celebrate!
Skolebrød (makes around 20 buns)
- 1 stick (8 Tbs.) melted butter
- 3 cups warm whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs. yeast
- 2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 tsp. salt
- 6 cups flour, plus more for kneading
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- powdered sugar glaze (1 Tbs. milk + 1 tsp. vanilla extract blended with powdered sugar until it reaches icing consistency – probably close to a cup)
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- Roll up those sleeves, put on your apron and get ready for “a project!” In a large bowl, mix together the 3 cups warm milk, the melted butter, and the 1 cup sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over it and allow to stand until the yeast is foamy (5-10 minutes). Then, stir in the cardamom and salt.
- Stir in the flour bit by bit until you have a stiff, but still pretty sticky dough. Then turn it out and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. The dough should be as sticky as possible while also still being somewhat workable. You don’t want it to be dry, or the buns won’t have a good texture. (It’s easier to do this in a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook, if you have one because then your hands don’t get totally dough-encased). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- In the meantime, make the custard filling. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar. Combine the 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan, and bring just to a simmer. Add about 1/4 cup of the hot liquid to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture, whisking well as you pour to keep the egg from curdling. Repeat, adding another 1/4 cup. Then, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk and cream, and cook over a medium-low temperature, stirring constantly, until it thickens to almost a pudding texture. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set aside to cool.
- Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough has risen, punch it down, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 20 equal pieces. Gently form each piece into a ball, then pull each out and flatten it slightly into a thick disk. Use your fingers to make a big dimple in the center of each, then place them on the baking sheets. Cover with towels and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Put a spoonful of the custard into the center of each of the buns. Then, brush around the edges of each bun with the egg glaze. Bake them one sheet at a time until golden brown, mine took around 15 minutes per batch. Remove to cooling racks and allow them to cool completely.
- When the buns are cool, put the dried coconut in a shallow bowl. Make the icing, and rub a little icing onto a bun, avoiding the custard center. Then, gently dip the bun in the coconut, and set on a plate to dry. Repeat with the remaining buns, making more glaze or adding more coconut as needed.
- Serve alongside your afternoon coffee for a very special treat!