11 December 2009

Glögg (Swedish Mulled Wine)

Glögg! What Swedish Christmas would be complete without it? No Swedish Christmas, I say! A lot of countries have their version of mulled wine, specifically ones that get really cold in winter (like the Scandinavian countries and central European ones). In Sweden, you can generally buy glögg with a very low alcohol percentage or that is based on grape juice in any grocery store a few months prior to Christmas. The real stuff, made with red wine and vodka, can be bought ready made at Systembolaget, and the makers generally come up with a variety of flavors for every season. Making your own is easier and cheaper either way, and the added benefit is that you can get the ingredients anywhere and don't have to settle for the alcohol-free version they sell at IKEA.

Glögg is served in a small cup (glass or ceramic) with raisins and slivered almonds. You place the fruit and nuts in the cup and eat them with a teaspoon as you drink the wine. Obviously, you should serve the glögg with pepparkakor, Swedish gingerbread cookies.

Oh, and about the picture above - I made a bunch to give away for Christmas and didn't have any non-bottled glögg to take a picture of. It's supposed to look like red wine. If it looks like anything else, you're doing it wrong.


1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup sugar
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1/2 tbsp cardamom (whole)
1/2 tbsp cloves (whole)
The peel of 1 bitter orange (if you can't find these, a normal orange will suffice)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Start by grinding the whole spices coarsley. Pour the vodka into a bowl, add the spices, the cinnamon sticks (break them up first) and the peel of the bitter orange. Cover with a lid, plastic wrap, or tin foil and let stand for 24 hours.

Once the 24 hours are up, remove the orange peel and cinnamon sticks, then filter the vodka into a large pot through a coffee filter or similar (a cheese cloth would probably work well). Add the wine and sugar. Turn to very low heat. The slower you heat this, the more alcohol it will retain, and the end result will be much better. Don't boil it. Once brought to a simmer, stir until all the sugar is melted.

Serve in small cups with raisins and slivered almonds.

You can easily double, triple or quadruple this batch and store in dark bottles for about a month. Just make sure you seal them properly and heat gently when it's time to have a cup.

If you do wish to make a virgin version of this, use alcohol-free wine and steep the spices in regular filtered water overnight instead of vodka (use 1/2 cup of water for each bottle of wine).

I've also found that heating the glögg in a slow cooker/crock pot is ideal if you have a lot of people over. Turn to "high" until heated, then keep at "low" and serve straight out of the crock pot - just make sure you turn it off once it's empty! A cracked crock pot is a sad crock pot.

09 December 2009

Peppermint Bark

All right, time for a break from the Swedish candy. Let's make some American candy! Peppermint bark is pretty awesome, and making it yourself is easy and way cheaper than buying the pre-made stuff sold by various companies.

Peppermint Bark

1 lb white chocolate chips
7 oz candy canes

That's it, ingredients-wise. You can add peppermint extract if you want a stronger peppermint flavor, but there's really no need to.

First, crush the candy canes. You can put them all in a strong plastic bag, fold the bag so no cane will escape alive, then pound the bag with a hammer or meat tenderizer (flat side, there's no need to tear huge holes in the bag) or you can use a food processor like I did. I crushed the canes a little too finely, but it turned out (very) well anyway.

Next, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. You're most likely not going to go all the way to the edge, so there's no real reason to cover all the sides of the sheet.

Next, start up a double boiler: pour an inch of cold water into a medium pot. Place a metal bowl that fits over the pot (make sure the water does not touch the bowl). Bring the water to barely a simmer - I put it on 3 on a scale of 1-10 and it got a little too hot after a while, so I had to lower it to a 2. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl and stir with a spoon or spatula until completely melted.

Take the bowl off the heat, then add the crushed candy canes. Stir to combine, then pour the mixture onto the center of the parchment paper, using a plastic spatula. Spread until about 1/3 inch thick. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then put in the fridge until completely firm (about 1 hour). Break up using your best tool (that would be your hands), then store in a glass, metal or plastic container for up to two months (if this lasts two months, your self control should be in the Guinness Book of World Records).

07 December 2009

Gräddkola (Swedish Toffee)

I'm on a Swedish Christmas foods kick recently, and one of the things I distinctly remember eating way too much of as a kid is what we call gräddkola, or cream toffee. This recipe was handed down from generation to...eh, not really, but it's from my mom's recipe book and it came out really well.

I can think of healthier things to eat, but it's pretty spectacular as far as candy goes.


1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup golden syrup (or a mix of 1/3 cup molasses and 2/3 cup light corn syrup)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
chopped almonds (optional)

Mix all ingredients apart from the vanilla extract in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Turn to low heat (I used 2 on a scale of 1-10) and stir occasionally, about every 10-15 minutes. Stir with either a heavy wooden spoon or a plastic spoon - note that the residue on the spoon will be very sticky after a couple of hours. That's right, you'll be letting this simmer over low temperature for about 4 hours. Add the vanilla after 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Once 4 hours have passed, pour cold water into a drinking glass. Place about a teaspoon of the toffee in the water, then pull the toffee out and try to shape it into a ball. If you are unable to, the toffee needs to cook longer. The softer the ball is, the softer the toffee will be (which means it will be harder to handle). The longer you cook, the harder the candy, so if you do go past the 4 hours, make sure you check it every 15 minutes or so. Mine was done after almost exactly 4 hours and came out a little on the soft side.

Butter a 9x13 inch glass baking pan. Once the toffee is ready, pour it into the pan and leave until completely cooled. Next cut the toffee into bite-sized pieces, using a knife or scissors (I used scissors and it worked perfectly). Wrap the toffee in wax paper. Try not to eat all of them before you've let at least someone else try one!

The toffee will last for about a month if kept in a cool and dark place (but not in the fridge).

06 December 2009

Hot Chocolate with a Kick

It's cold out there, and what better remedy is there than hot chocolate? I decided to make some the other night, with a slight kick added: whiskey cream liqueur (or Bailey's, as most people would call it, no matter the brand).

Hot Chocolate with a Kick

1 serving of hot chocolate (I use Swiss Miss milk chocolate)
3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
2 oz Bailey's cream liqueur (or similar)
cocoa for sprinkling

Mix the hot chocolate according to the instructions on the package. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Pour the hot chocolate into a cup, add the Bailey's and stir. Top with the whipped cream and sprinkle cocoa on top.

Super simple, extremely healthy (not!), and so very, very good.

01 December 2009

Gingerbread Cookies

It's finally getting close to Christmas, and I decided to celebrate this fact by baking gingerbread cookies - Swedish style. The ones you can find in the U.S. seem to be a bit darker and heavier than what I'm used to, the main reason being that a lot of color comes from molasses. This traditional recipe uses golden syrup instead, but if you are unable to find this, mix 1/3 molasses and 2/3 light corn syrup for the same effect (I did find some, in the third store I checked).

I remember being (much) younger, helping my mom bake these cookies. As a child, you end up eating about as much of it as you finally end up baking, but I managed to exercise some restraint and had just a small taste of the dough while I was making it to make sure the spices came out the way they're supposed to. The dough won't take long to make, but plan on spending at least a couple of hours shaping the cookies with various cookie cutters if you end up making the full batch at once (I decided to make half the batch today and the rest in a few days; it will last in the fridge for about a week). The cookies themselves will last over a month if kept in a cookie jar or tin and up to six months if you freeze them. Depending on thickness, this recipe will make over 200 cookies.

Those are my fiancée's hands in the picture, not mine. Just saying.

Swedish Gingerbread Cookies

10.5 oz/300g/2.65 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cups water
6 1/3 cups all purpose flour

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using an electric mixer), combine the butter (at room temperature), sugar and golden syrup. Mix well, until completely blended into a smooth batter.

Add spices and baking powder and mix well. Add the water and mix well. Next, add the flour, one cup at the time, and make sure the flour is completely incorporated before you add the next cup. However, if you're not using a stand mixer, add all the flour at once and turn onto a baking board and knead by hand.

Once the dough comes together, divide into two halves and wrap each with tin foil. Refrigerate at least overnight or up to a week.

Once it's time to bake, turn the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange parchment paper (not wax paper!) on a baking sheet or lightly coat the sheet with vegetable oil (I strongly prefer the parchment paper). If you have multiple baking sheets, I suggest using all of them, one at a time. Next, cut off a chunk of dough - I cut mine into about a tenth of the total amount of the dough in one of the two foil packages, but it's down to how big of a work area you have to work with. I wouldn't recommend working with huge pieces of dough, though. Next, sprinkle some flour on the work area/baking board, add the dough and sprinkle some flour on top of it. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough thinly, to about 1/4 inch thickness (about half a centimeter).

Now comes the fun part: punch out shapes with cookie cutters. I used Christmas trees, Father Christmas heads, stars, hearts, etc. Once you're unable to fit any more cookies, remove whatever dough is left outside the shaped cookies. Next, using a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the cookie sheet. These cookies will barely grow, so you can place them relatively close to each other.

Bake for 6-7 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack and bake the next batch. I prepared the second batch while the first was in the oven and basically didn't have an empty oven for an hour or so. Once the cookies are cooled, transfer to a storing vessel and store at room temperature.

If you wish, you can add colored sugar crystals to the cookies before you put them in the oven. You can also add a glaze and draw patterns on the cookies. Simply mix 1 tablespoon hot water, 1 egg white and 2 - 2.5 cups sifted confectioner's sugar. Place the glaze in a plastic bag, cut a very small hole in a corner and you're good to go. Just make sure you let the glaze dry before storing the cookies.

Serve the cookies with a hot beverage. While some may enjoy them with coffee, tea or hot chocolate, nothing beats Glögg, traditional Swedish mulled wine. I will be posting my recipe for Glögg in the coming days. Stay tuned.