In the Northwest, which has a large Scandinavian population, May is a very festive time. Why? Syttende Mai is Norwegian Constitution Day. I’m not quite sure what this means historically or whatever, but I know for my community it means we have a huge parade and eat and drink a lot. While I myself am not particularly Nordic, I am happy to join my friends and neighbors in gravlax eating and akvavit swilling.
Although I am not the most confident baker, this year I decided to bake my own cardamom buns, skolleboller. These fragrant, light buns are very delicious and a Norwegian staple, especially around the holidays. I love to eat them with gjetost, brown cheese. (Gjetost is a polarizing cheese: it has a very strong, nutty, caramelly flavor. I think it’s almost reminiscent of peanut butter. To me it is uniquely delicious. Many people hate it though.)
I imagined I would frolic around town with my rolls in a lovely woven basket, handing out celebratory breads to all who crossed my path. Probably some baby deer would be galloping alongside me while little birds chirped along to the traditional Norwegian tune I hummed. It was all quite idealistic. (I don’t even know any Norwegian tunes unless we’re counting this.)
Anyway, with a song in my heart, I started out on my buns using this recipe from the Transplanted Baker, which seems to be very trustworthy. I like her blog and I do not blame her recipe whatsoever. But… something happened. My dough did not rise.
My first batch of buns turned out rock hard and mad dense. They were like eating a bad shortbread biscuit. WTF! I prayed to Thor for guidance, and attempted to let the rest of my trays rise longer. Alas, they did not rise and turned out just as tough as the last. And of course I had ambitiously made enough dough for 8 dozen!!??!
I baked them all anyway. Then I rolled my eyes and took them into work as a “gift” to my coworkers (in a Ziploc bag, not a charming picnic basket.) One of my friends generously tried a bite, but when I asked her if she thought everyone would else eat some, she just laughed a little bit.
So I’ve talked big game around the office about my cheftastic capabilities, but all my coworkers get to experience is cardamom hockey pucks. Then everyone felt like they had to offer me advice:
“Did you use old yeast?”
“Was your oven the right temperature?”
“Did you measure everything correctly?”
THANKS GUYS. Just rub it in. I guess I am not a real Norwegian OR a real baker. At least I was able to provide you all with a concise lesson on Norwegian food and culture… and at least my gjetost was store-bought and therefore guaranteed to not be fucked up by yours truly.