One winner will be selected at random from all correct entries. UK addresses only for delivery. No alternative prize, one entry per email. By sending us an email with the answer you also agree for us to add your name to our mailing list (if it’s not on there already). We reserve the right to substitute items if needed. We may publish the first and last name of the winner on our website. Not open to employees of ScandiKitchen, they already have access to too many sweets anyway. No cheating. Usual competition rules apply. Questions? Ask us. Yes, the deadline is 11th December at midnight. The prize will be shipped a few days after this date.
In Scandinavia, saffron plays at big role at Christmas time – especially in Sweden where saffron buns are served throughout December for Sundays in Advent and other gatherings. We usually use saffron for sweet things, not savoury. From buns to biscuits, lots of things are beautifully bright yellow and with a fragrant bite.
You can vary the fillings in this ‘rulltårta’ as you prefer – lots of berries go really well with saffron – raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries and fruit such as pears go really well. You can even omit the cream and just add jam (bilberry jam is ideal for this).
Keyword: almonds, saffron
Author: Bronte Aurell
For the cake:
0.5gground saffronyou can grind your own in pestle & mortar or buy pre-ground
Optional:one ripe pearpeeled and chopped in to small pieces.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6.
Line a baking tray and draw an approx. 30cm x 25cm rectangle with a pencil on the baking parchment, then turn it over (alternatively, line a swiss roll tray of the same size). Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Add the saffron to infuse.
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar for 6-8 minutes, until tripled in volume, thick and leaving a trail for three seconds. There is no other raising agent in this recipe so this stage is super important – and any knocking of the batter will cause the roll not to rise.
Very carefully, pour the melted saffron butter down the side of the mixing bowl, add the vanilla and fold them into the sugar and egg mixture until just combined. Sift over the flour and, using a figure-of-eight motion, carefully fold it in until fully incorporated. Take your time here; if you knock out the air, your cake base will be flat.
Pour the cake mixture onto the baking paper – it should be thick enough to hold its shape – allow it to go about 1cm outside the traced edge. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until soft and springy to touch (baking time can vary by oven)
Meanwhile, lay a damp tea towel on the counter with a sheet of baking parchment on top. Dust all over with caster sugar.
When the cake comes from the oven, cut the edges to the lines drawn on the paper then carefully turn it over onto the caster sugar and remove the backing paper. Roll the warm cake carefully using the damp tea towel – this will help the cake retain its shape. Leave wrapped until completely cool.
To make the filling
Mix the ground almonds, caster and icing sugars with a tbsp of water and extract into a paste, then add the custard. In a separate bowl, whip the cream stiff with the vanilla. Fold the two together, carefully.
Unroll the cooled cake. Spread the filling layer across the base. Scatter over the chopped ripe pear pieces, if using. Roll the cake back up carefully, wrap in the baking parchment and chill for a few hours before serving. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with flaked almonds.
…even if the Danes say he lives on Greenland, but they are probably just confused. The rest think he lives in Lapland. Or in Finland. Or both. Regardless of all of that: He’s with us.
We get to celebrate a day earlier than everybody else.
Our Christmas is 24th December in the evening. Some say this stems from Viking times when we believed a new day started as the sun went down – meaning at sun down on Christmas eve, we can celebrate. While everybody else has to wait until morning.
Santa actually visits us, for real. None of these empty ‘He’ll turn up while you’re asleep’ promises: We wait on Christmas Eve and he turns up at the house late afternoon to hand out presents.
Okay, sometimes he’s had too much glögg, sometimes he looks like your Uncle Peter. Sometimes both. But he’s there, at your house. He’s real.
We have Christmas elves.
Actually, our elves are there all year round, but we listen to them mostly at Christmas time.
Little mini elves with red Christmas hats – Lady elves, male elves, baby elves… They live in our houses and barns year round – and we put food out for them at Christmas time, because if we don’t, every idiot knows they’ll hide the remote control for the rest of the year or un-pair all your socks. Always respect the Tomte Nisser (as they are called).
Our Christmas is Nordic Noir
Grýla is the keeper of the ultimate naughty list in Iceland. She is a giantess who comes down from her mountain at Christmastime to eat misbehaving children. Her pet, the Christmas Cat, tags along and eats anyone who didn’t get new clothes for Christmas.
(image: Sorry, we can’t credit this one as there was none where we found it. Scary, though)
We have Julebryg.
Delicious, amazing Christmas beer from Denmark. The fourth best selling beer in Denmark – despite only being on the market 10 weeks of the year. It’s a thing. Try it.
No, not mulled wine. We don’t add drabs of left over stuff to our glögg, nor do we add half a litre of orange juice. Just NO. We carefully blend spices, sugar and red wine… heat it up and add secret yuletide cheer to every pot.
Why is Glögg so much better than mulled wine? Cardamom, dried Seville orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, ginger are the scents of a truly Scandinavian Christmas.
Not content with just one, Iceland has 13 Santas, each one a Santa for a different reason and cause. Skyr Santa, Sausage Santa, Door slamming Santa – and many more.
We avoid the dry Turkey
Lucky us, we escape the turkey. Instead we have succulent roast pork… Or delicious sweet ham with mustard. Or dried lamb racks. Or fish preserved in lye. Eh, yeah, lye, the stuff you make bombs with. Okay, that one is an acquired taste. Still, pretty cool, huh? We have bomb-fish.
We claim the original Father Christmas
Norse god Odin had long white hair and a beard and a wide brimmed hat. He used to walk door to door at winter feast time, putting presents in the shoes of kids at night. He rode an eight-legged horse… Coincidence?
The word for Santa in Finnish is Joulupukki – literally, Christmas Goat. Let’s not go into the history of the sacrifice. Why a goat? Likely to do with Thor.
In Gävle, Sweden, they have a massive straw goat every year. Someone usually torches it before the big day. A tradition, really.
Little piggies everywhere
During the Yule season (before the Christians popped by and moved it a week and told us all about the wise men and Bethlehem) we used to sacrifice a pig. So, we have pigs around us every Christmas: Especially delicious are the little pigs made of marzipan. Without these, nobody can win the prize in the almond game.
You can win a prize
We hide an almond in the Christmas rice pudding dessert. Find the almond and get the pig and status of Marzipan Pig Winner. It’s a prestigious title.
A real tree
Real, like, from the real forest. We don’t do plastic.
Clean lines – of silver, gold and red. We don’t do flimsy tinsel. No garish plastic, either. Keep it stylish, neat and Scandi. Twigs are good; earthy and real. If you’re Danish, add LOADS of Danish flags. Loads. MORE.
Potato is a punishment
If you misbehave in Iceland, you risk waking up at Christmas to find an old potato in your shoe.
90th Birthday party
Okay, this is New Year for most (except Norwegians who watch it in 23rd Dec), but it’s as important as everything else.
It’s a 10 minute sketch from decades ago. We like to watch it again every single year. The same sketch; the same exact one. We always laugh in the appropriate spots. It’s shown the same time every year. Okay, this is a bit odd? EVERY YEAR. Same procedure as last year, James.
Donald Duck & Cinderella
We also like to watch the same old seventies Donald Duck show, every year. At 3 pm on Christmas Eve in Sweden (times vary in other countries). Everybody in Sweden, the same time, every single household, stop to watch the show. More than half the population.
In Norway, they also watch a film called ‘3 nuts for Cinderella’ (yes, really) which is a really old 1980’s Czech TV movie about Cinderella and her, eh, three magic nuts. It’d dubbed and it’s awful, but we don’t mess with tradition.
We hold hands and dance around the real Christmas tree. Together. The tree has real candles on it and someone usually singes their hair a bit. It all adds to the smell of Christmas.
13th December each year, we have the day of St Lucia, the festival of light. Boys and girls dress in white long robes and form processions in every town, bearing candles. This is the darkest night – and the darkest morning, broken by the bearing of candle light to fend off the darkness and dark spirits. We drink glögg, a young person is the town’s Lucia Bride and everybody knows it’s Christmas again. Cue fuzzy feelings. Maybe tears.
We own those. They are ours. We rule at ginger biscuits, houses and everything cinnamon. Can’t touch this.
Swedes go nuts for anything with saffron, especially saffron buns. But other products containing saffron sell out too. Chocolate with saffron, other pastries with saffron. Toffee with saffron, Cake with saffron. Everything saffron in Sweden. You can probably get saffron shampoo, too.
Little apple pancakes with no apples in them. So, like, pancake-balls. Dipped in sugar and jam. Danes go nuts for these. As made famous this year on GBBO.
Above two photos from our books – photos by Pete Cassisy.
The Swedish Christmas soft drink. Outsells coke in Sweden every year. Coca Cola hates that Swedes loves it so much. Nobody outside Sweden understands the obsession with Julmust.
See above, but replace Sweden with Norway. Norway’s Christmas soda. It’s a Norwegian thing.
We read books
In Iceland there is a tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve and going to bed with a new book. This season of new books in store is called Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” and the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.
Christmas lasts a long time after Christmas.
We don’t put up our decorations until December. We don’t overdo it in the shops. We don’t put up the tree until we need it. And we don’t take it down on the 26th, either. We keep the tree until well into January.
Every year on 13th December, the Nordic people celebrate the day of St Lucia, the festival of light. On this day, originally the longest night of the year according to the Pagans, we rise early to bring in the light and break the spell of the darkness.
Processions of people singing walk, wearing long white robes tied with red sashes, through towns, holding candles and singing in the light. At the front, a Lucia bride – traditionally usually a girl but nowadays it can be both boys and girls – lead the way wearing a crown with real candles.
In Sweden and Norway, saffron flavoured wheat buns are often eaten on this day (in some places in Denmark, too). These buns have many names, the mopst common being Lussebullar (Lucia buns) or saffransbullar (saffron buns) or Lussekatter (Lucia cats – referring to the curled up shape of the buns, like a sleeping cat). We also enjoy these buns at our famous Glögg parties throughout the days of Advent. If you like saffron, you will really enjoy these – they are delicious alongside a hot cup of mulled wine.
3-4largebaking sheetsgreased and lined with baking parchment
If using fresh yeast, add the yeast and milk to a mixer with a dough hook attached. Mix until the yeast has dissolved, then add the saffron powder. If using active dried yeast pour milk into a bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and whisk together with a spoonful of the sugar. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes to activate and become frothy and bubbly. Add the saffron powder.
Pour into a stand mixer with a dough hook attached. Add the sugar and mix together for a minute or so, then add skyr, quark or Greek yogurt, salt and egg, and mix well.
Gradually add the softened butter in pieces and begin to add the flour gradually while mixing, making sure to incorporate the lumps of butter. You’ll need around 800 g or so of flour, but the exact amount depends on how the dough feels. Keep mixing until you have a dough that is still sticky, but doesn’t stick to your finger too much when you poke it. Too much flour makes the buns dry – and saffron is extremely drying, so do watch it.
If you’re using an electric mixer, knead for about 5 minutes or knead by hand for 10 minutes. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 30–40 minutes in a bowl covered with clingfilm).
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cut the dough into 30 equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece in your hand into a long cylinder strip, then transfer to the baking sheets and mould into an ‘S’ shape (see picture). Add a single raisin to the centre of the point where the ‘S’ shape curves (two raisins for each bun). Leave to rise again for 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Brush gently with egg and bake them in the preheated oven for 10–12 minutes. The buns should have a slight tinge of brown on top but not be dark. Leave to cool under a damp tea towel (this prevents them from becoming dry).
If you don’t eat them all in one go, freeze immediately as they go stale quickly.
This recipe is taken from Bronte Aurell’s new book ScandiKitchen Christmas (RPS, £16.99). Photo by Peter Cassidy.
Across Sweden and Norway – and sometimes in Denmark – saffron is used as a Christmas spice. For most, saffron is a spice for savoury, but we always tend to use it for sweet. To us, the scent of saffron often reminds us that Christmas is coming.
To make Scandinavian waffles, you need a waffle iron. We use the heart shaped one – but you can, of course, use any that you like, although the yield will change.
If you can’t be bothered making the clementine syrup of almond cream, you can just use normal whipped cream instead.
2smallclementinesfinely peeled, or similar and slice.
Turn on the waffle iron to heat up.
Mix all the ingredients together to a smooth batter.
Brush the waffle iron with a little bit of butter then add a ladle full of batter. Leave to cook until golden brown and crispy, remove and serve immediately.
For the almond cream
It’s a bit of a faff to make but it tastes really nice.
Using a whisk, whisk almonds and sugars with the custard. Add extract if you feel it needs a punchier taste. Whisk until smooth then add cream and whisk until spoonable. Add vanilla to taste.
For the sugar clementines
Finely peel 2 small clementines (or similar) and slice.
In a saucepan, add 100ml water and 100ml (not grams) sugar and bring to fast boil. When the sugar has melted completely and has started to form a syrup, take of the heat and add the clementines (it can take quite a while on full heat to get to syrup stage)
Serve waffles immediately out of waffle iron with a dollop of cream and the clementine.
We Nordics know a thing or two about living in darkness, you know. Here’s a handy guide to how to get through it.
The Scandinavian winter is harsh on outsiders. Think snow, ice, more snow, storms, then utter darkness… From around October until March, things are pretty bleak, even in the southern Denmark. Some may think it is tough to be all the way up in the icy north, but actually, at times, the sleet and constant grey of Copenhagen aren’t much fun either. With everything smothered in some sort of permanent dark hue, Scandinavians have had to find ways to cope. Winter is long when it lasts five months, no matter what angle you look at it.
Step one is accepting there will be no daylight to speak of. Because even when it is not actually dark, it’s just grey and sleety. Is sleety even a word? It should be. In some place, it sleets and rains horizontally (looking at you, Gothenburg) which can be depressing. But snow itself is not so bad, because snow reflects – and it lights up the sky a bit. The real downer is the sleet and rain.
Knowing in advance it will be dark means you can prevent the winter sadness setting in. The symptoms are fatigue, lethargy, depression and not wanting to do anything, least of all to be with other people. Accept it – and make a plan to surf those winter waves instead of trying to stop them.
There is always safety in numbers – so huddle up like penguins. Make plans to occupy the dark evenings with your other penguins and don’t be all alone. Make plans to do stuff – even if it’s just for an hour after work. Do Yoga, join a brass band or paint still life. Anything. We’re all in this together and it’s fine to discuss the weather for about an hour a da: it really helps.
Plan your weekends around long walks, hikes and – if there’s no ice – maybe some good bike rides. Go for snow runs or just runs in the forest or around the lakes. Play sports. Move your body. Walk to work, even if it’s dark. Take a walk in your lunch break. Make sure you don’t stop going to the gym or your brass band practice – all of these things help release good feelings in your body and brain and will carry you through the dark times. A good, brisk walk will energise you beyond belief if you are feeling down – and it will kick winter-sadness right in the nuts. Scandinavians spend a lot of time outdoors all year round, especially in the winter. Why do you think we’re so good at skiing? *
*note: This does not apply to Danes. They are (generally) rubbish at skiing. Possibly due to a lack of 1) mountains and 2) proper snow.
Follow the sun
Make sure you get enough exposure to sunlight. Use your weekend daylight hours – don’t waste them – and make sure you take a lunch break during the week and get outside, eve for 15 minutes while its light. Don’t neglect this.
Hygge and cosy up
At home, add candles. And lots of small lamps everywhere to create that all-important atmosphere of hygge. Create your space with stuff that makes you happy. You can practise your tuba here, if you want to. Or watch re-runs of The Bridge, spend time with the family, eat hearty food and be nice to your self by going to bed early once in a while.
Eat good stuff
When feeling low it’s natural to reach for the crisps. If you are Scandinavian, you will know that crisps are only allowed on Friday evenings and sweets are for Saturdays, so try to eat well the other days of the week. As there is not much in terms of fresh local produce around, stick to the good staples and lots of smoked and pickled fish and veg. The mantra: “Carrots will help me see in the dark” might work for you on a whole different level.
If the clocks changing marks the start of the winter, let Christmas be the first milestone you look towards. It’s impossible not to be drawn into the excitement of it all – the candles, the hygge, the niceness of everything. After Christmas, look towards the Lent season, full of cream cakes. Then it’s Easter and you can look forward to the last skiing of the year. And so we’re all done and it’s almost Midsummer. See? It wasn’t that bad, was it?
You only need a little light to break the darkness
The darkness becomes almost magical when the streetlights are on all the time and all the houses have lights outside and in the windows 24/7. Towns flicker in lights all day and all night. Don’t be scared of the dark, because after dark comes light. And in darkness, all light burns that much brighter and stronger. Scandinavian winter is a gentle giant that will carry you through, if you let it – and allow you to reconnect with the other penguins in your life. Embrace it – accept it – and make the best of it.
Who are we kidding? If you truly hate it, nothing is going to help on this front. You will forever be someone who looks like this when offers a delicious salmiakki treat.
Why do Scandinavians love salty liquorice so much?
It’s not actual salt, you know. It’s liquorice and salty notes – together. None of that sweet liquorice stuff.
Back in the really olden days, a strong salty flavour was added to medicine in Finland. Some people developed a liking to it so they started making it into sweets. On top of this, we Viking stock have a natural love of salt – a lot of our foods for centuries have been preserved in salt through the long winters.
Is it really actual salt in the liquorice, then?
Nope, it’s called Ammonium Chloride. The Finns call is Salmiakki, which sounds entirely more palatable (and marketable) than Ammonium Chloride.
Is it bad for me?
Well, depends who you ask. In the EU and many other countries, the concentration of Ammonium Chloride we put in our sweets is simply not allowed in foods. The Nordic countries have a special permission to add what we like. Maybe the EU were scared of some sorted of Salmiexitif they didn’t allow us our Salmiakki and our Snus. Never try to separate a Scandinavian from his liquorice.
Who should not eat Salmiakki?
It can make your blood pressure spike, so people with high blood pressure should definitely stay off it. Also not advised for pregnant ladies or small kids (although, try telling that to Nordic kids…)
Does it have any health benefits?
Liquorice root is said to reduce gastric inflammation and even help reduce stress. In terms of other benefits, if you eat a lot of super salty liquorice, Scandinavian people think you are really cool (Maybe).
Is it strong like Chilli? Spicy?
No, not at all. Liquorice is sort of the 6th flavour sense: it’s unlike anything else.
How do you learn to eat it?
Nordic kids start young. Most, by the time they are teenagers, can handle the super strong stuff.
If you’re an adult and absolutely want to like it, start with mild ones and keep eating a few pieces a day. Eventually (months?), you’ll find your taste for it. Then there will be no going back.