24 dicembre 2014

Julekake, Norwegian Cardamom Scented Christmas Bread

A traditional Christmas recipe for this month's challenge of Aparna's group We Knead to Bake.
And she kindly tells us the origin of this sweet bread:

Julekake (or Julekaka/ Julekaga) is a rich holiday bread flavoured with cardamom which 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 and sometimes it 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 goat milk cheese called geitost/ 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.

Candied fruit at your pleasure but Julekake must however feature raisins and cardamom. Vegan people can omit egg.
For this bread I used dates, jumbo raisins and cranberries and cardamom, of course.

It's a very nice and fragrant bread and mine made its long way from Italy to London, as we are celebrating the festive holidays here, our fourth son Matteo is studying and working in the city. 
This bread will be our special guest at Christmas' breakfast.

As it's a festive bread, I shaped the dough into a ball and put in a high round tin mold, so to be like a panettone shape once leavened.

Recipe partially adapted from the Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas


2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 egg
50gm butter, soft at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar*
1/4 tsp salt
4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit or peel
1/4 cup golden or dark raisins


1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp milk

Pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes and/ or chopped almonds


1/2 cup icing sugar
1 to 2 tbsp cream or milk
¼ tsp almond extract

* if you plan to use the icing, reduce the sugar in the bread by half to 1/4 cup
 so that the bread doesn’t turn out too sweet.

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 let it set.

This recipe also goes to Susan's weekly YeastSpotting.

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