I wanted to rush to the computer straight after I baked my veganized version of “julebrød” yesterday (also called “Julekake” meaning Christmas cake) because I simply couldn’t wait to tell you all how fluffy, juicy and flavorful this bread turned out!! This is, if I can be so bold, the best version of julebrød I have made and tasted to date, and I don’t say this lightly!
Delicate, slightly sweet with a subtle, welcoming flavor of the traditional cardamom spice used in Scandinavian baked goods, I am sure this will be your new favorite bread if you haven’t already tried it. No eggs needed here, they turned out absolutely perfect:
The history of baking this Christmas bread can be traced back to pre-Christian, norse times and was one of the traditions Norwegians carried with them. The bread was made from one of the last corn husks in the fall, and the bread was placed in the homes as decoration through the entire Christmas period. The bread was not to be eaten, and was packed away and put in a special chest where people would store corn over the winter. The bread was brought out and unpacked when the spring harvest started. When the plowing started, it was divided between the workers and the horse. Some of the bread was also mixed into the seeds that were to be planted, as a form of fertility magic. Another interesting fact, is that the corn husk seems to stem from old rituals surrounding fertility, and several priests in Norway and Sweden tried to ban this “Un-Christian” tradition.
A sister and brother pictured in Oslo in 1905 with a Christmas tree and “Julenek” (resembling corn) or wheat husk in preparation for Christmas:
Photo by Anders Beer Wilse/ Oslo Museum
In old Denmark, Christmas bread was believed to cure headaches and snake bites, so if you find yourself with a migraine, perhaps try this recipe out … If your headache still doesn’t go away, your taste buds will at least thank you!!
Image from stiften.dk
This bread is wonderful as a special treat for breakfast during Christmas, but equally appropriate to serve up in the afternoon or evenings for friends and family. You can top it with cheese or jam, as is customary in Norway. The traditional recipe includes “sukat”, or candied citrus peel, in addition to raisins – but I clearly remember meticulously picking those small green pieces out of my bread each and every time I had a slice growing up, so I decided not to include them (as most people do) in my recipe. If you would like to add sukat, just add equal amounts to raisins.
I hope you will try out my eggless recipe, you will not be disappointed, I promise!!
1 stick butter (about 125 grams) plus extra for brushing dough
2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk
1 packet dry yeast
2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3-4 cups all purpose flour (start with 3, then add more as needed)
2/3 cups raisins
Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add in the milk and stir. The mixture should be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and drizzle the yeast in, let sit for a couple of minutes until the yeast starts to bubble (This way you know it’s active and working).
Attach the dough hook, and add in the sugar, ground cardamom and flour. Knead the dough for several minutes until the dough releases from the bowl and you have a smooth, firm dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
On a clean work surface sprinkled with a little flour, divide the dough in two equal pieces, and knead in the raisins equally into both doughs. Roll out to a big “bun”, flatten them a little into oval shapes, and place on a prepared /greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the top of the breads with melted butter and place in the oven on the bottom rack. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top. Cool the breads on a cooling rack, slice and spread with butter and enjoy with a cup of hot coffee, Norwegian style! 🙂