Monday, January 2, 2012

The Crowning Achievement- Kransekake

Ok, since it's actually a national holiday associated with New Years, I'm going to count this as squeezing in the last post of 2011 since it was pretty much one of the crowning baking achievements of the year.

What we have here is a Norwegian Kransekake, a special ring cake made with almond flour. Now, we have been trying for YEARS to get this thing right. This has involved interrogating many older Scandinavian relatives to try to deduce their secrets, as well as lot of swearing and cursing at collapsed falling apart leaning-towers-of-kransekake. Everyone has their secret- blanch the almonds, don't blanch the almonds, dry the almonds, use a nut grinder, use a coffee grinder, buy almond flour, use a food processor, and on and on. We've been getting closer, but it's still kind of like the Russian roulette of holiday treats.

But, this year, I decided just to google it, and low and behold, I found a recipe that seemed really different from everything we had done before.

Now, my first note is the hilarity of the idea that this takes 1 hour and fifteen minutes of total cooking time. HA! This is definitely a much longer project than that, at least to a novice kransekake-er like myself.

This is my edited version:

Ingredients For Cake:
.5 lb raw almonds (from Trader Joe's)
.5 lb blanched almond slivers (also from Trader Joe's)
1 lb. confectioner's/powdered sugar
3 egg whites
2 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. mixture corn starch and regular flour (you're supposed to use potato starch flour but I couldn't find it)

Ingredients For Frosting:
3-4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. lemon juice (or as needed)

The first thing to do is grind your almonds- do NOT use a food processor, use a coffee grinder (I ground up some oatmeal in mine first to get rid of residual coffee). This took me about 15 minutes, there is no way around doing small batches. Mix together all the almonds along with the powdered sugar, and then put it through the grinder again (which also takes a while!). Put it in a saucepan and stir in the almond extract and the egg whites, it should be very firm. Then "use a wooden spoon to knead the dough over the heat until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and shapes itself into a smooth, shiny mass (this step is exactly like making homemade play dough; the resulting almond paste is also the consistency of play dough)." Then refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, have a giant cup of coffee and then proceed.

Preheat the oven to 400, and then butter your special kransekake pans (I have no idea where my Mom got these) and dust with the flour mixture.

Now the fun starts- take chunks of dough and roll them into 1/2inch wide snakes (long snakes!) and fit them into the ring molds. I recommend doing a couple of single test rings first to see how wide they should be- if they are too skinny, the middle won't be chewy but if they're too fat, they'll spill over and they'll all get stuck together.

Bake about 15 minutes, they should be very light brown. Watch carefully though, this depends a lot on how fat they are, and you don't want to overcook them.

Once they cool a bit and you remove them from the pans, set aside some time to leap around the kitchen in joy, then proceed onwards. Now, it's time to focus because you have to stack all the rings up. We'd never actually had this many rings turn out so it was harder than we thought, plus we had some extra dough so there were duplicates in there (that's when it's good to have an engineer in the family, so we called in my brother).

Once you've figured out the order, time to glue! Make the frosting mixture (mine was a very unscientific process of combining powdered sugar and lemon juice until it seems like a good consistency. Then scoop it into a plastic baggy and cut a TINY hole in the corner (TINY! TINY! must be tiny!). Glue the first ring to the plate with frosting, and then create a zigzag pattern all around the ring, and place the next one on top. This is why you want to know the order before doing this, if you have to stack and unstack with frosting on it it'll be a colossal mess.

Then, just keep going!

Once you're done, it's traditional to decorate with little flags (we used Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian just to represent the whole family), or use whatever you want! enjoy!

1 comment:

Stephanie {Clockwork Lemon} said...

Omg! This looks amazing, I can't believe how committed you were to making it right. Love reading about desserts that I've never heard of before.


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