During the pandemic a couple of months back, I took a break from my usual job as an essential worker in the social services sector, and dove into my Swedish heritage. Of course, that really means Swedish baking. I got a few books off of Amazon, and was utterly amazed at the interesting, intriguing recipes I found. Some would have to be made, no two ways about it. One was a cucumber salad, a Scandinavian classic, but the baking books or recipes about baking were the ones that really thrilled me. First of all, rye flour is a staple in Scandinavia, one we do not use a lot in North America, except for rye bread mostly (one of my favorites, incidentally). They use rye flour much as we use white flour, with some very delicious but different results.
These books were usually foreign language cookbooks that had been translated into English. One actually was from England, so no trouble with translation there. One though, had particularly beautiful photography, and the recipes were pretty straight forward, or so I thought. It was Swedish originally, and as I got into it, some things didn’t translate well. So, I fixed all that, and this recipe, Ernst’s Delicious Christmas Bread, is absolutely the best quick, fruit and nut bread I have ever made!
If you bake nothing else this year, do this one. It is chock full of nuts: hazelnuts (whole no less), fruits like raisins and thinly sliced apricots, with a variety of three different flours. Now one flour it called for was graham flour, which I have bought before, but now could not get any. Emergency substitution time: Use graham cracker crumbs. Worked like a charm. The other flours were white flour and rye flour, a medium one. One other thing: You will need plain yogurt, and lots of it.
This makes two large loaves, 9-by-3 inches, and yes, you can freeze them. The breads have a nice, evenly firm texture, a medium brown color, not too sweet, almost reminiscent of Boston Brown Bread (due to the graham flour), but not quite. It slices beautifully (also looks beautiful) and is excellent with just butter, but the creator, Ernst, suggests it goes nicely with ham or cheese. I did the ham option after the New Year’s ham, and he is right.
Ernst’s Delicious Christmas Bread
- 3 cups Wheat flour (I used white, all purpose)
- 1 1/4 cups Graham flour (I used graham cracker crumbs)
- 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 Tbl. Rye flour, medium
- 2 tsp. Salt
- 2 tsp. Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking soda)
- 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 Tbl. Treacle (molasses)
- 4 1/4 cups Plain Yogurt
- 3/4 cup Raisins
- 3/4 cup Whole Hazelnuts
- 1 1/4 cups Shredded Apricots ( I just thinly sliced them)
- Butter for the pans (more on that later)
- 3/4 cup Sunflower or Pumpkinseeds (Unable to find my sunflower seeds, I used walnuts and some honeyed sunflower seeds.)
1. Mix all of the flour, salt, and bicarbonate of soda in a stainless steel bowl (or bowl of stand mixer). Add treacle (molasses), yogurt, raisins, nuts, and apricots. If using a stand mixer, add the whole hazelnuts last, and stir in by hand.
2. Grease 2 rectangular bread pans and cover them with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Now, I had an inkling that, these breads needed extra help getting out of the pan. So here was the solution: Tear off large sheets of parchment and line your pans with it, spray the parchment with baking spray, then sprinkle in your nuts and seeds. Worked beautifully.
3. Pour the dough/batter into the pans, making sure you have 1” of head space.
4. Even out the surface and sprinkle with more sunflower and /or pumpkin seeds, (in my case walnuts and honeyed sunflower seeds).
5. Bake (convection oven) at 392 F for 60 minutes, then lower the temperature to 347 degrees Fahrenheit for another 30 minutes. Right there, I knew we had a problem. I have a convection oven that automatically converts the standard temperature for a recipe to convection oven temperatures (-25 degrees F from the recipe), and I let it do so. It came up with 367 F for the first one, and 322 F for the second. Now, If your oven doesn’t do that, or is a regular oven just go with 375 F and 325 degrees F. Beware it may bake a bit faster, so check close to the 50 minute mark, and keep an eye on things if they are getting too dark.You might want to turn it down to the 325 mark sooner. Test with a tooth pick or skewer to see how things are going, but…it might not be completely clean. That’s OK.You don’t want to over bake.
6. Turn out your loaves onto a wire rack to cool. Ernst suggests you wrap the breads in a new, clean kitchen towel, and give as Christmas presents. Great idea!
References: Kirchsteiger, Ernst. Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Smorgasbord of Scandinavian Recipes, Crafts, and other Holiday Delights. New York, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009.
Sue Van Slooten teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake in Ontario, Canada. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Follow her homesteading adventures and check out her class offerings at www.SVanSlooten.com. Email Sue questions at suevanslooten [at] icloud [dot] com, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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