Meanwhile…Skolebrød (Norwegian School Bread)

If you know me at all, you know I have a family of Disney Geeks. My boychild has been to The World something like 25 times in his 13 years, and still loves it. Disney World is the place we go as a family to regroup, to celebrate, to relax…it’s just kind of our thing.

There is a dedicated class of Disney-haters who point to the saccharinely-sweet, super-fake, over-packaged, control-freakiness of the place as reasons to avoid it. I get that. But IMHO those are some of the best reasons to go, especially when life has sucker-punched you in the throat one time too many and a little break from reality is exactly what’s needed to get you back on your unicycle and plowing forward. We’re Disney Geeks and proud of it.

The World Showcase at EPCOT is one of my favorite places in the World. It’s like a sanitized world tour with easily accessible restrooms (loos, toilettes, baños) that don’t require ,50€ to access. (We should chat some time about the irrefutable necessity of having a pocket full of ,50€ coins when traveling in Europe, especially if like me, you’re a middle-aged woman.) My favorite bits are in the details, like the green boxes along the World Showcase Lagoon that mimic the artists’ stalls along the Seine in Paris, and the food. Where the heck else can you find a perfectly flaky palmier less than a mile from Italian tiramisu, Japanese mochi, and our all-around favorite, skolebrød?

Remember the other day when I made the saddest cheese soup? I also made skolebrød that day, and luckily it was much more successful. Probably because it doesn’t require extra-sharp cheddar.

Instead, skolebrød is a delicious, not overly-sweet, cardamom-infused, custard-filled bread topped with a simple glaze and toasted coconut. To be honest, it had never occurred to me to make them at home until Christine baked them on a recent episode of The Great British Baking Show. I’m glad I did, because they turned out beautifully if a bit larger than I expected–something to correct in the next batch.

What I learned is that skolebrød is time-consuming, so plan accordingly. Like all enriched doughs, be patient and give it plenty of time for proofing, both before and after you’ve shaped the buns.

Skolebrød

Makes 16

Ingredients

for the dough

1 1/2 cup water, divided

1 Tbs yeast

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) sugar + 1 tsp

6 Tbs butter

1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

2-2 1/2# (7-8 cups) all-purpose flour

1 egg

for the custard (pastry cream or crème pat if you’re into GBBS)

4 egg yolks

1 2/3 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbs cornstarch, dissolved in a bit of water

for the topping

3/4 cup toasted coconut

1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

~1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Start by proofing your yeast: dissolve a teaspoon of the sugar into a 1/4 cup of warm water* and let sit until it becomes frothy
  • Place butter and remaining 1 1/4 cup water in a small pan and heat to between 95-105º. Remove from heat and set aside (be sure to check the temp before adding it to your dough, as residual heat from the pan may increase the temperature. Anything above 120º will kill the yeast).
  • In a large bowl, stir together salt, cardamom, sugar, and 7 cups of the flour
  • Stir in the water/butter mixture, yeast, and egg. This will result in a shaggy, fairly dry mess. If the dough feels wet, add a bit more flour.

    IMG_9473

    Hard to believe this mess comes together as beautifully as it does.

  • Turn the shaggy mess onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough will be quite dense–kneading it is a great upper-body workout.§

    See?

    See?

  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning once so that all sides are coated in the oil. Cover and let rest in a warm, non-drafty place* for at least an hour (mine took two), until doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size and no longer springs back when lightly tapped, its ready
  • Gently deflate the dough by turning it out onto your work surface, then cut it into 16 equal pieces
  • Let the pieces rest for 10 minutes–this allows the gluten strands to relax a bit before you start shaping it
  • Shape each piece into a tight ball and place on a parchment (silpat, oil, something non-stick)-lined sheet pan
  • Place sheet pan(s) in a warm, draft-free place and let proof until doubled in size (30 minutes to an hour)
  • Preheat oven to 375º
  • When your buns are ready (again, doubled in size and don’t spring back when lightly touched), bake for 15-20 minutes. The tops should be lightly browned, and the buns sound hollow when tapped.IMG_9488
  • Using your thumbs or a wooden spoon handle, poke a hole in the middle of each–this is where you’ll fill them with the custard
  • Let cool completely

for the custard (pastry cream, crème pat, etc)

  • Heat the milk until simmering but do not boil
  • In a double boiler off the heat (or in a metal bowl that you can place over a pot of simmering water) whisk the egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar together until fluffy and doubled in size
  • Bring the water in your double boiler or pan to a low simmer
  • Mix the cornstarch with water to create a thin starchy liquid
  • Temper the egg mixture by slowly adding in the hot milk, whisking all the while. Tempering the eggs slowly keeps them from being scrambled by the sudden addition of hot milk. When the egg mixture is heated through and smooth, whisk in the remaining hot milk and place over simmering water
  • Whisking constantly, add the cornstarch mixture and continue cooking without boiling until the custard has become thick enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon without running off
  • Remove from heat and cool it quickly (in the pan) in an ice bath

for the topping

  • Toast the coconut in a shallow pan in the 375º oven for 10-15 minutes. It should be just lightly browned.
  • Make the glaze by whisking the vanilla and milk into the powdered sugar. It should be fairly thick, so adjust the milk and sugar levels as needed.

to assemble

  • Dip the top of the buns into the glaze mixture, turning it so that all of the top is covered
  • Liberally sprinkle the glazed tops with coconut
  • Using a pastry bag*, fill the buns with custard. If you’re fancy, you can finish them off with a bit of a decorative star or swirl.*

Notes

  • I’ve lost too many batches of dough to dead yeast (I buy it in bulk) so I always proof it first. It’s not technically required for this recipe.
  • I use my microwave as a proof-box. It helps that it’s located above the stove, and the light underneath generates just enough heat to help my dough along. Alternately, preheat your oven to 150º before you start kneading, then turn it off as soon as it reaches temp.
  • I can never find a pastry bag. I just use a ziploc with the corner cut out.
  • I’m not fancy. Not even a little. They still taste really really good.

IMG_9475§ I’m sure my trusty stand mixer would’ve done a beautiful job with this dough. Lately, though, I’ve been into hand-crafting my breads.  There’s something wonderfully zen about the feel of the ingredients coming together into a cohesive dough that I’m finally starting to appreciate.

 

 

It’s true, these buns are a lot of work. Are they worth it? Absolutely–it’s kind of like sneaking off to Disney World, if Disney World just happened to be in a small town in Western New York.

 

 

 

 

The Saddest Cheese Soup I Ever Made

I promised at the beginning of this project that I would write about both my successes and my failures so I’ll start this post by taking complete ownership of my cheese soup experience. The recipe itself is well-written, easy to follow, only slightly tricky, and I suspect that given a different set of ingredients it would be truly amazing.

It always comes down to ingredients, doesn’t it?

The two main flavor components of the soup are the cheese, and the beer. Here’s what you need to know: if the cheese and the beer don’t play nicely together, the soup will be crap. Also, if you don’t like the cheese or the beer, you probably shouldn’t use them in your soup.

Here’s what I know about beer:   .

That’s not entirely true; I know what I like: porters, stouts, and some lagers. Anything malty, really–I feel the same way about Scotch, in case you were wondering; I’ll take malty over peaty every time. I also know what I don’t like: Pale Ale of any kind. Anything hoppy, really. For this recipe, I used a can of Brooklyn Lager, which is at the top of my personal range for hoppiness. I like it with barbecue because it cuts through the smokiness of the meat–especially with pork. I used it in the soup because, well, its what I had.

But what about the cheese?

I like cheese, a lot. Like most people my age, I grew up on the processed Kraft American slices, and it’s taken me a lot of years to move beyond that particular gold standard. My favorite “nobody else is home but me and it’s dinner time and I’m hungry” meal is cheese with crackers or toasts, and I’ve been known to pay way too much for a good wedge of Tallegio or Manchego. But you know what I still don’t like? Extra-sharp cheddar. Like hoppy beers, the bitterness of the extra-sharp makes me shudder while it lingers on the back of my palate blowing out my ability to taste any other flavor.

Which begs the question, “What were you thinking, Brooke, to combine hoppy lager with extra-sharp cheddar?”

My only answer is: I clearly wasn’t. If I make this recipe again, and I really should, it will be with milder cheddar and a much-less-assertive beer. Like Yuengling,  maybe. (Which I actually do like because it’s easy to drink, especially if I’m having more than one.)

So here’s my advice: don’t use hoppy beer and sharp cheddar together. It’s not yummy. Although I will say that the couple of spoonfuls with bacon weren’t so bad because the salty, smoky, fattiness (because cheese doesn’t add nearly enough fat) helped cut the bitterness. But then it’s not cheese soup anymore. It’s cheese-bacon, and that’s a totally different thing.

IMG_9492

Should come with a warning label: Does not go with cheese

IMG_9483

See the one in the middle? Yeah, it doesn’t belong here.

IMG_9502

It looks good, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and if you want to try the recipe at home, it comes from the book Dishing Up Vermont by Tracey Medeiros. I still recommend the book, just not my variation on the recipe.