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Julekake - Norwegian Christmas Bread

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Julekake

Now this is what I call Christmas Day breakfast - and even better on Boxing Day, toasted and thickly buttered. Better than a brioche - firmer and more substantial, and not so rich. More a bread than a cake, unlike panettone. Not messy with marzipan like Stollen. And more of a crowd pleaser - lacking the Marmite factor of joululimppu.

The best things about it are a/ it’s silly easy to make, b/ it rises and doubles in volume obediently and c/ the cardamom fragrance. It’s a diversion from the ubiquitous clove/nutmeg/cinnamon aroma permeating Christmas kitchens, fresh and heady and if it wasn’t for those tiny turd-like seeds being awfully awkward to grind, I’d make everything cardamom-flavoured every day.

I gather there is some discussion on whether it’s spelt -kake or -kage but seeing as I’m no Norwegian I’ll leave it to natives. What it reminds me most of is a glorious giant hot cross bun without the cross, or one of those English teacakes, only less stodgy. Vær så god og god jul!

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 160g raisins or sultanas
  • 30g sherry, port or vin santo
  • 125g butter
  • 300ml milk
  • 18g fresh yeast or 2 tsp instant
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • 50g orange peel
  • 1 beaten egg, for glazing
  • pearl sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Orange peel and cardamom

METHOD
Soak the raisins in the liquor heated up almost to the boiling point.

Melt the butter and add it to the milk. Crumble in the yeast and leave for about 15 minutes for the mixture to foam up slightly. Add the flour, sugar, salt and the cardamom and knead by hand or in a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment. Continue kneading until it’s smooth, stretchy and bounces off the sides of the bowl or stops sticking to your hands.

Drain the raisins - there should be hardly any liquid left - and add them to the dough with the citrus peel. Mix them gently in – even if you’re using the mixer it’s still best to turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold the fruit in by hand to make sure it is evenly distributed.

Place the dough in a bowl covered with cling film and leave it somewhere warm to double in volume - it will take about an hour. Turn it out onto a floured surface and shape into a round loaf - like an enormous bun. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment, place the sheet in a large inflated plastic bag (just blow into it and tie the ends!) and leave to prove for 40 minutes.

Proving julekake bun

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg, sprinkle with the pearl sugar, if using, and bake in the lower half of the oven for about 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown.

Julekake - Norwegian Christmas bread

Cool on a wire rack, serve warm or toasted and buttered.
 


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