With Fat Tuesday and “fastelavn” just behind us, I am still thinking about how easy and tasty Norwegian “hveteboller” are. There is something special about Norwegian and Scandinavian baked goods. It’s never over the top, the pastries are rather rustic, and done just right, enough to make my mouth salivate by just looking at the many selections. While the French might take the crown for their baguettes, pain poulaine, croissants, eclairs, macaroons and other fabulous pastries, Scandinavians are not far behind when it comes to mastering this craft.
Growing up in Norway, I delighted in buying one of these sweet and fluffy wheat buns at my local bakery after school or on a Saturday afternoon when out shopping with my mom, it was always such a treat. I would eat them plain, just as they were on the shelf, no need for any topping or spread, as they are naturally incredibly tasty, with just a hint of cardamom and a sweetness from the sugar (and sometimes vanilla sugar) in the batter. Why the cardamom in Norwegian baked goods, many ask? One theory is that the Vikings brought home this spice from Istanbul, Turkey, after being hired soldiers there. While most countries use cardamom in savory dishes, we like to use it in our sweet and baked goods. Cardamom is supposed to be good for digestion, metabolism and balance out your hormonal system. But I digress… (no excuses needed to chow down on these awesome wheat buns!)
While some of the recipes call for regular butter, milk and eggs, you will be astounded to learn none of these ingredients are necessary. On this snow Sunday afternoon, I decided to make a dairy free and eggless recipe of “hveteboller” for my husband and myself as we are watching “The Shining” .. because, that is just what we felt like doing on this lazy day. And I have to say, the buns came out amazing. Light, fluffy and so flavorful they almost melt on your tongue, it brought me back to the times as a child when I ran to the bakery with my 5 kroner and bought myself a hvetebolle. A true treat does not have to be expensive or decadent. Try these out and let me know what you think… If you want, you can always cut these in half and fill them with whipped coconut cream and a dollop of jam to make them an extra special affair… at your own risk, because one is never enough!!
Makes about 16 buns
1 stick/8 tbsp vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
1 1/2 cups almond milk or other plant based milk
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 packet dry yeast (about 2 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
about 4 cups of all purpose flour
almond milk/other plant based milk for brushing buns
Optional: You can add some raisins to the dough if you’d like (called ‘rosinboller’ in Norwegian)
Preheat oven to 450F. Butter/oil two sheet pans.
Melt the butter in a small sauce pot, then add the milk. Whisk in the confectioners sugar until smooth and heat until the mixture reaches around 125F. Be careful not to let the liquid get too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast.
Add the yeast, salt and cardamom into the bowl of a standmixer, fit it with a dough hook and gradually add the flour and beat for about 10 minutes on low-medium speed until a firm dough forms. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot for about 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface, divide in half and knead each half into two long “sausages”. Using a dough cutter, divide each sausage into 8 equal parts, and roll into a bun. Place the buns onto the greased sheet pans and cover with a towel. Let rise again for about 20 minutes or so. Brush with almond /plant based milk and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Best when fresh out of the oven!