As the snow has settled across the valley, it’s time again to warm the oven and fill the house with scents of holiday spices. Julekake, also called julebrød, is a classic sweet bread filled with raisins and candied citrus peels served during Christmas. It’s considered kaffemat, or a treat to serve alongside your coffee, but you could serve this at any time of the day.
Many of the spices and ingredients associated with Christmas baking began being imported to Norway during the 17th century. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom as well as lemons and oranges. The original Christmas julekake would have been a raised rye bread with dried fruits. Today’s version with white flour, spices, raisins, dried candied peels and white sugar is a continuation of this historic Christmas cake.
I recently candied lemon peels and used those, along with candied orange and lime peels, in the bread. You can use whatever you so desire, limiting or increasing the amount of fruits as preferred.
This bread is often served sliced with butter and brown or white cheese, jam, or smoked cured meats.
Julekake (Norwegian Christmas Bread)
Makes 2 loaves
- 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (500 ml) milk
- ½ ounce (14 g) active dry yeast
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cardamom
- 7 cups plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (850 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2/3 cup (150 g) cold butter, cut into pieces
- ¾ cup (150 g) raisins
- ¾ cup (100 g) finely diced candied citrus peels “sukat”
- 1 egg, for wash
Warm the milk to lukewarm in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add in the yeast and whisk until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add in the sugar, cardamom, flour and egg and kneed on low for 8 minutes. Add the butter and kneed on medium for 5 minutes or until the dough is very elastic and somewhat moist. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surfaced. Place the raisins and candied citrus peels on top and gently kneed into the dough with your hands, until well distributed. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely with plastic, and let rise in a warm spot for 45 minutes, or until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into two loaves, shaping in rounds and scoring the tops. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg. Using a soft-bristled brush, lightly brush the egg on top of the dough. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve with your choice of toppings such as butter, brown and white cheeses, jams, and/or cured meats. When the loaves start to dry out, they are wonderful toasted.
Store leftovers in a plastic bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. If you wish to freeze the loaves, place in a freezer bag as soon as they have cooled and place them in the freezer. To serve, allow them to thaw completely at room temperature and just before serving you can warm them up in the oven for a couple of minutes.