Robyn and Joel's Blog: Chronicling our Copenhagen Adventures

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Danish Christmas Delights

Well, today is the day after Christmas. I hope everyone had a joy filled holiday! The day after Christmas is a holiday in Denmark, so I thought I would take this opportunity to educate you on a few Danish holiday traditions.

As I already mentioned, Christmas is a HUGE deal here in Denmark. However, Santa is not a big part of the celebration. Instead, you will see lots of Nisser decorating store-front windows and Christmas displays. Nisser are Scandinavian relatives of the pixie, the gnome, the elf and the imp and wear grey trousers (or grey skirt for Mrs. Nisse), wooden shoes and a long pointed red cap.

Advent is celebrated here in Denmark – you see advent wreathes everywhere. Children keep highly decorated advent calendars. They open the windows of their advent calendars to find a small gift, a piece of chocolate or perhaps an inexpensive toy.

Another important part of Danish Christmas Celebration is the Christmas brew. Danish breweries add to the spirit of Christmas by creating their own specially brewed Julebryg, or 'Christmas Brew'. Not to be outdone, Aalborg Akvavit comes out with a limited edition of 'Christmas snaps' . And, in case beer and snaps isn’t your thing, there is Gløgg, a potent variant of mulled red wine, served steaming hot and heavily spiced with raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks and cloves steeped in pure aquavit or snaps.

Drink is an important part of the Danish Christmas celebration, but food is too. It is no surprise that sweets are a big part of it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Klejner, (flour, butter, egg and lemon cut into elongated rectangles, knotted in special way it's impossible to describe, and finally deep fried), brune kager (gingerbread dough sliced thinly, flattened and sprinkled with finely chopped nuts) and pebbernødder (small round cookies made of dough spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and baked hard). Add to these, marzipan animals, fruit and nisser and the traditional accompaniment to gløgg: Æbleskiver, which are a special kind of doughnut usually served with a dusting of icing sugar and a heavy dollop of blackcurrant jam. Duck and goose are the preferred meats for Christmas Eve dinner and red cabbage is the appropriate side dish.

Here are a few recipes I found to make these wonderful Danish delights!
Ris à l'amande
4 oz (120 g) Patna rice
1 1/4 pints (3/4 l) water
½ vanilla pod
½-3/4 pint (3-4 dl) whipping cream
3-3½ oz (75-100 g) finely chopped almonds
2 tablesp. sugarcanned or bottled cherries
Cook the rice in the water until tender, together with the vanilla pod and sugar. Stir in half the cream and the chopped almonds. Whip the rest of the cream and fold into the mixture. Serve cold with slightly heated preserved cherries.
It is a Danish custom to hide a whole almond in the rice. The lucky person who finds the almond receives a small prize.

Æbleskiver - Danish Doughnuts
1/4-½ pint (2½ dl) cream
½ lb (250 g) flour
4 eggs
3-4 tablesp. stout
1 tablesp. sugar
6 oz (175 g) butter
1 teasp. lemon juice
½ teasp. cardamom
Beat the cream and flour together and beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the stout, sugar and cooled, melted butter. Flavor with lemon juice and stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Allow to stand for a while. Place a little butter in the hollows of a doughnut pan (the butter is necessary for the first batch only), and fry the doughnuts, turning on all sides until brown. Serve hot, sprinkled with icing sugar and raspberry or strawberry jam.

Brune kager - Brown Cookies
It is recommended to make the dough a couple of days before the actual baking.
1 lb (450 g) syrup
9 oz (250 g) butter
9 oz (250 g) brown sugar
1 oz bitter orange peel
1 tablesp. cinnamon
1 tablesp. ground cloves
½ teasp. cardamom
1 teasp. baking powder
2 tablesp. rosewater
2 lb (1 kg) flour
Warm the syrup in a saucepan, add the butter, orange peel, spices and sugar. Stir in the baking powder, dissolved in the rosewater. Gradually add the flour, kneading thoroughly after each addition. Turn into a bowl, cover with a cloth and keep cold.
Before baking, roll out thinly and cut into rounds. Place well apart on a greased baking-sheet, brush with water and decorate with sliced almonds. Bake for 8-10 min. at 400o F (200o C).

Pebernødder - Peppernuts
1 cup butter
1-1/3 scant cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tablesp. soda
1 tablesp. ginger
1/2 tablesp. anise extract
1/4 tablesp. nutmeg
1/2 tablesp. salt
1/2 tablesp. cinnamon
½ cup sorghum
½ tablesp. vanilla
Work all ingredients together and roll in tiny balls about the size of a nickel. Put on cookie sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes at 300o F. Quantity depends on size of the nuts.

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