At first glance Nordic baking seems like pretty much any other baking you might find in the world. That is until you get started on the nuts and bolts of the recipes! Many of the most popular and most beautiful cookies and cakes that are made in the Nordic region and Norway specifically require at least one piece of equipment that you might not already have to hand.
Speaking from my own experience there have been so many times when I have had to abandon the idea of a recipe simply because I didn't have what was needed to make it. And as we head towards Christmas and the time for baking those special treats arrives I wanted to prepare you for your Nordic baking season with the essential items that you'll need.
Lefse rolling pin
Christmas lefse baking has a strong tradition in the USA but not so much here in Norway. Lefse are very much an everyday item and are easy and cheap to buy. But if you want to make them yourself you need a lefse rolling pin. Lefse rolling pins are either ridged like the one above or have small squares that leave an imprint when you roll with them. A word of warning though, they are VERY heavy so take care not to drop it!
There's no alternative to a proper Norwegian waffle iron if you want to create Norwegian waffles. You can go old skool and use a heavy iron one on you stove top, or be more modern and go for N electric version. I love both!
A griddle is essential if you are going to cook large lefse or a good quantity of Norwegian svele (fluffy pancakes). Back in the day, griddles were only available as a really heavy iron plate that was heated over a fire. Now you can get an electric griddle which works just as well. One thing to remember is to never wash your griddle with soap and water. To clean it simply give it a wipe.
Krumkake Iron and roll (krumkakepinne)
These two strange pieces of kit may only get dragged out of the kitchen cupboard once a year at Christmas. But if you are making Norwegian Christmas cookies I can't think of any other way to make them. The iron is what the wafer thin cookie is cooked on and the little wooden roll is used to roll the warm cookie around to achieve that classic krumkaker cone shape. The fact that you only use them towards Christmas is a great excuse to make a big batch of krumkaker.
Designed by a Norwegian carpenter in 1925, this crazy looking piece of kit will become your new best friend in the kitchen when you want a thinly sliced piece of cheese. If you plan on using brown cheese in slices you'll really need a cheese slicer. I can't imagine how my family managed without one when we lived in England.
Munker or æbleskiver as they are called in Denmark are fluffy little yeast pancakes cooked in a pan with dips about the size of an egg. If you plan to make these I am not sure what you could use instead of a munke pan. And if you can find yourself a nice vintage copper one it'll add a certain amount of Scandi rusticity to your kitchen.
In Europe we nearly always use the metric system of measurement (grams, kilos, millilitres and litres). It's far more accurate than the imperial system of ounces and pounds. Scales are always needed for measuring in grams and especially for baked goods where accuracy is vital. A good digital set of scales is a great investment in any kitchen and will allow you to make the most of cookery books that are designed for cooks in Scandinavia and Europe.
If you find yourself browsing through recipes online or have the luck to find a cookery book in a Nordic language, at some point you'll need to be able to read it. Every time I learn a new language the first things I learn are food and cookery terms (food is my life!), but until I get to that point I'll need to translate the method and ingredients. Google translate is my go-to helper.
A few ingredients that are always great to have on hand, especially for the more traditional recipes:
Hornsalt (Bakers Ammonia)
This is not an ingredient I have seen used anywhere else (correct me if I am wrong), but many traditional Nordic baked recipes call for hornsalt, otherwise known as bakers ammonia.. It's possible to omit it (or use bicarbonate of soda), but if you are going for authenticity it's an ingredient worth having in the store cupboard.
Cardamom is used widely in Nordic cooking. Coming from England where we use cardamom mostly in curries it was astonishing to me to see it used so much. Cardamom is used in both sweet and savoury dishes and you'll find it particularly in baked goods. A little tip for storage: if you feel like you might not use it very often keep your cardamom in the freezer and take out only what you need. This works for all spices and even ground coffee.
Another "sweet" spice that is used widely in Nordic cooking and not just in baked goods. Ground cinnamon is something I couldn't do without at all times of year, but especially autumn and Christmas.
One of the things I love about living in Norway is the availability of fresh yeast. Even the tiniest of shops sells it and although dried yeast is a convenient substitute there is something about fresh yeast that really makes the best of baking. I tend to buy more than I need and put the excess into the freezer for use later.
Potato Flour (Potato Starch)
I find myself reaching for the potato flour nearly daily in both cakes and savoury dishes such as medisterkaker. On it's own it has a strange texture and is a very fine powder, but when added to cakes and meatballs it gives an incredible lightness that you simply can't achieve with anything else. There is an old remedy for an upset tummy using potato flour. A spoonful of potato flour mixed with a glass of orange juice will calm even most upset of stomachs.
So now you are armed with enough knowledge of the Nordic kitchen to really get you started on some fabulous Nordic baking.