Thursday, January 19, 2012

Skaal Smorgas!

I hosted a smorgasbord this past Saturday for church friends. Another friend cohosted, and we had a lot of fun researching and shopping and preparing the foods. I started thinking about what to serve over a month ago, and spent time writing down my mother's recipes, handed down from her mother and grandmother and, most likely, their mothers before.

And this was the unintended benefit of the smorgasbord--the connection with my family and my heritage. Both families were represented--my mother's Swedish side, my father's Finnish line--and while I could draw on memories from my own travels in Finland and Scandinavia two decades ago (!), I had never prepared these foods myself. Slow, hand-crafted foods take time, and patience.

THE MENU included:

>SOUP: Salmon chowder, chock full of red potatoes and smoked and fresh salmon

>FISH: 4 types of herring, cucumber rounds topped with salmon and wasabi cream, gravlax sliced

>CHEESE: Havarti, dill Havarti, Lappi, Jarlsberg, and blue cheese balls rolled in almonds (the surprise hit)

>BREADS:home made rye bread, rye flatbreads, Pulla

>MEATS: ham, Swedish meatballs in dill sour cream sauce and lingonberry sauce

>DESSERT: Peparkarkor (thin ginger cookies), Swedish butter cookies, apple pie, cream whipped with home-made raspberry preserves (yum!), Pulla bread served with jams

We served glogg, based on my grandfather's recipe and adapted, hot and cold cider, beers, and lingonberry and elderflower juices. With dessert, coffee served in my Mumu's Finnish teacups (Mumu=great grandmother).

Many have asked for the Pulla bread recipe, so here it is:


2 cups milk
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom*
4 eggs, beaten
9 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons white sugar

1. Warm milk in a small pan until it bubbles. Let cool until room temperature.
2. Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 4 eggs, and about 2 cups of water. Beat batter until smooth. Add another 3 cups of flour and beat until dough is glossy. Stir in melted butter and beat dough until glossy. Beat in rest of flour to a stiff dough.
3. Turn dough onto floured surface, cover with the inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15-20 minutes. Knead dough until satiny and smooth. Place in a buttered bowl (turn dough until butter covers the entire ball) and cover with saran wrap. Let rise in a warm area until doubled (~1 hour). Punch down, and let rise again.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Turn dough onto floured surface and divide into 3 parts. Divide each part into three again, and roll each piece into 12-16 inch tubes. Braid 3 tubes into a loaf (you should get 3 loaves). Lift loaves onto greased baking sheets and let rise for 20 minutes.
6. Brush each loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
7. Bake in heated oven for 25-30 minutes until browned. DO check because the bottom of the bread burns easily.

*Instead, I crushed 8 cardamom pods and steeped in warm milk for an hour, then strained.

Let cool (a little!), and enjoy with butter. Toasted the next day for breakfast with jam -- yum!



  1. This sounds amazing. It must have been so much fun, both to prepare and to enjoy with your friends. I love cooking, and cooking family recipes, especially ones that celebrate your heritage, is extra special. I am definitely going to try that pulla bread.

  2. So yummy. What a fantastic idea that is. And there's nothing better than using dear family recipes. I'm not surprised the blue cheese balls were a hit – I was at a wedding and they had a blue cheese ball and it was divine - the best cheese ball I had ever had. Can you send me just a tiny wee slice of that pulla in the mail? I'm afraid if I made it I'd eat the whole thing in one mad, drooling gulp.

  3. Great pulla. Thank you for co-hosting. I'm filled with warm feelings because of that dinner.

  4. yum-oh! i wish i was nearby - love cardamom/bread - nice touch!

  5. Linda, What a wonderful tribute dinner! Thanks so much for the recipe. I am a cardamom addict. Use it in so many recipes that don't call for it. I have a recipe for a blue cheese log that features much butter, onions and blue cheese served on mini-rye breads. Happy to share it, if you'd like.

    1. I can almost smell that cardamom in your pulla. I made a similiar one for all the teachers I work with at Christmas time. We always had pickled herring and lots of fish especially when my Swedish grandfather would stay with us.