It's officially Christmas at our house when the Julekake is baked!
The way it makes the house smell is so heavenly, and it makes a cozy winter breakfast (or late night snack) when it's toasted with butter. It brings back lots of memories since my grandpa always bought a few loaves from "the Scandia shop" at Christmas, and I remember him slicing it and topping it with brown Norwegian goat cheese. Sadly, the shop where he always bought the bread closed several years ago, which is one reason I decided to learn to make it myself.
The original recipe is from a little Norwegian Christmas cookbook my mom gave me, Ekte Norsk Jul by Astrid Karlsen Scott. Over the last eight years or so, I have made little adjustments to the recipe so that it's more simple and easy to follow.
(I usually double the recipe so I have extra loaves to give away. Just rotate the two pans in the oven halfway through baking.)
Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake)
from the kitchen of Heather Tycksen
Yield: Makes 2 loaves
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten
5 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons cardamom, freshly ground
1-1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup citron (I find it near the produce section during the holidays with the fruit cake ingredients. You can also use the diced lemon peel if the citron is gone, or you can leave it out completely.)
In a medium sized microwave safe bowl heat milk, sugar, butter, salt until butter is melted; cool to lukewarm in the fridge.
Sprinkle yeast over water in a large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer for this). Stir until dissolved. Stir in milk mixture when is no longer hot to the touch (warm is fine). Add eggs, 2 cups of the flour, and cardamom. Beat with dough hook in mixer until smooth. Add raisins and citron. Stir in enough of remaining flour (2-1/2 to 3 cups) to make a soft dough, mixing with the dough hook until all the flour is incorporated. Add the flour one cup at a time to make sure you don't add too much. I don't usually need the full 5 cups. The dough should be soft, but not too sticky.
Remove the dough and lightly spray the mixing bowl with non-stick spray. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and spray the top of the dough as well. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (85 degrees or so--I usually heat my oven to 350 for 30 seconds then turn it off. I let the dough rise in the slightly warm oven), until double in bulk, about 30-45 minutes. Punch down; divide in half.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees so the oven is ready after the next rise.
Shape each half into a ball and place on greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise until double in bulk – about 45 minutes.
Brush tops of loaves with a mixture of egg white and one tablespoon water. Bake loaves 30-35 min. The bottom of the bread will be dark brown, but will not taste burned. The tops should be golden. Cool on racks.
(Based on the recipe from Astrid Karlsen Scott – Ekte Norsk Jul: Traditional Norwegian Christmas Foods, modified by Heather Tycksen)