There are three things that are essential to a Swedish Christmas:
The cornerstone of all good Swedish celebrations during the month of December is glögg, the traditional Swedish mulled wine that's heavy in spices like cloves and cardamom.
The easiest way to make glögg is to combine about 2 teaspoons each of whole cloves, cardamom and ginger with the peel of an orange and two cinnamon sticks. Put in a pot with about 1/4 cup whiskey, rum or vodka. Let that heat up then add in 2 cups water and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add in 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup of madeira and a bottle of red wine. Let it brew on the lowest heat and serve when warm.
There are also fancier versions with figs and such, which if you have the time are very worth your while. Check out that recipe here.
Hearts, pigs and horses... nothing is more traditional during the Swedish holiday season than cut out pepparkakor (gingersnaps). Not only are they a staple of the Christmas cookie stash, but in Sweden you find them at every social gathering throughout the month of December. More importantly, they're the best complement to a warm mug of glögg, the flavors in both the cookies and the drink indicative of the season. The cookies are spicy, buttery and crispy, and you can't have a December without them.
You can make the traditional pepparkaka which is rolled out and cut into shapes, but I like this version a little better. Since it's a sliced version it takes much less time and you get the same spicy pepparkaka taste with a lot less effort. (If you want to make the standard recipe you can find it here.)
Franska Pepparkakor (French Gingerbread Cookies)
- 1 cup (almost 250 ml) almonds, chopped
- 7 oz (200 g) butter
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) molasses
- 4 teaspoons ginger
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 4 teaspoons cardamom
- 2 teaspoons cloves
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups (700 ml) flour
Cream butter, sugar and molasses.
Mix dry ingredients with almonds, then combine with butter, sugar and molasses. Knead together with your hands.
Roll dough into cylinders, about 12 inches long and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices. Bake at 380 for 10-12 minutes.
Also called lussebullar or lussekatter these yellow sweet buns are stereotypical of Swedish Christmas. You'll find them at adventskaffe (social gatherings to celebrate each Sunday of Advent), and of course, especially in honor of Lucia Day.
Saffransbullar - Saffron Buns
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 7 cups flour
- 1/4 cup currants
- One egg + Currants for decoration
Crush saffron in a small bowl with a little bit of sugar.
Melt butter in a small pot and add milk. Heat until warm (you should still be able to stick your finger in).
Measure out yeast in a large bowl and mix in a couple tablespoons of the butter and milk mixture until the yeast dissolves. Mix in the rest of the milk and butter. Add in sugar and salt.
Add in almost all of the flour (you want to reserve some for rolling later) and mix and knead it together for about 10 minutes. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
Dust a little flour on top of the dough, cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes.
Knead dough on floured surface.
Roll into classic saffransbullar shapes. The most common is the "S" shape, but get creative.
Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Cover with and let rise for 30 minutes.
Decorate with currants (they traditionally go in the center of where the bun is rolled) and glaze with a beaten egg.
Bake at 400 F for 8-10 minutes.