Some days, you just need to bake. Whatever the occasion, whatever the sky.
My baking day turned into days. Baked goods all around. A seamless stream of sweet things. Anytime I begin contemplating about what to bake, there is always a request for one in particular. Boller. Perhaps the most popular baked good in Norway. And perhaps one of the simplest.
Boller are Norway’s answer to a sweet bread and instead of just being a simple yeast dough that is lightly sweetened, cardamom is added. This distinctive and flavorful spice takes baked goods to a whole new level. Anyone will tell you that cardamom is a key player in Norwegian baked goods. What’s even better about boller, is that it acts as a base to so many other great variations. One variation, in particular, looks like snowfall on a sunny day. And perhaps, in one way or another, this time the sky was my inspiration to get in the kitchen and bake.
Skoleboller, translated as ‘school buns’, are just one variation of the Norwegian boller. Where you are in the country will determine the name by which these particular buns are referred to. The west refers to them as skoleboller, while in the east, they are referred to as skolebrød. Other areas will call them by other names, such as tolvøres, pai, purke, sånn med gul I midten, and lørdagsgodt.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the origin of skoleboller. To know who created them or why. What is typically told about them is that starting around the 1950s, they were placed in children’s school lunch packs as a treat. Hence the reference to ‘school buns’ (skoleboller) or ‘school bread’ (skolebrød).
Nowadays, these alluring buns with their flakes of coconut clinging to a sweet glaze and a generous portion of golden custard are a familiar favorite found everywhere. No longer confined to the school box, skoleboller are proudly displayed in bakeries, grocery stores, cafes, gas stations, and, of course, the home.
Homemade skoleboller are nothing short of amazing. Of all the skoleboller I have tried, in all the various locations, nothing comes close to the homemade version. I have perfected my own recipe for the ultimate boller – soft, airy, elastic, and with just the right amount of cardamom to let you know that it’s there without being obtrusive. Paired with my go-to vanilla custard and a simple glaze with dried coconut flakes, I found my perfect skoleboller. Sunshine, no matter what the sky.
This recipe makes 12 scrumptious skoleboller, but you can, of course, double the recipe if need be. These are fun to make, and the process is quite simple. These are guaranteed to become a baked favorite!
Skoleboller (Norwegian Buns with Custard & Coconut)
(Makes 12 skoleboller)
- 3 dl (1 ¼ cups) milk (use whole, 1% or 2%)
- 1 egg
- 500g (3 ¼ cups) flour
- 75g (1/3 cup) sugar
- 2 tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp salt
- 25g fresh yeast or 8.5g of dry yeast
- 75g butter (1/3 cup), cut into pieces
- 2 egg yolks
- 55g (1/4 cup) sugar
- 2 Tb corn starch
- 5 dl (2 cups) whole milk
- ½ vanilla pod
- 3 dl (1 cup) powdered sugar
- 3 tsp egg white
- 3 tsp water
- 4 dl (1 ½ cups) of shredded coconut
- 1 egg, lightly beaten for brushing
To make the boller, start by gently warming the milk in a saucepan. You want it to be a little more than lukewarm. In a food mixer, with a dough hook, place all of the dry ingredients inside (if using fresh yeast, just break it up with your fingers first) and make sure that the salt and the yeast do not touch.
Add the warmed milk and the egg.
Turn the mixer on low and knead for about 8 minutes without stopping.
Stop the mixer and add the butter to the dough. The reason for adding the butter now, rather than at the beginning, is because fats can slow down the gluten process as it can hinder water absorption that the proteins need to form gluten. By adding the butter after the dough is kneaded, you will get better gluten development resulting in a better quality dough which is light and airy. And because the dough will be warm from the kneading, the butter will melt into the dough. Once you have added the butter, turn the machine on to medium speed for 5 more minutes. The dough will be very elastic and somewhat ‘moist’, this is exactly what you are looking for!
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make the custard by whisking together the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl (save the egg whites for later use in the glaze). Add the cornstarch and blend until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
Place the whole milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla beans by scraping them from the pod and discarding the pod afterwards. Warm the milk just before it begins to boil, without letting it boil. Take it off the heat.
Steadily and slowly, add the milk to the bowl with the sugar mixture, whisking constantly to avoid any curdling of the eggs. When you have mixed everything together, pour it back into the saucepan and return to the stove. Over medium heat, cook the mixture until it has thickened. You want the custard to be more on the thick side since it will be placed inside the buns. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. If you wish, you can transfer the custard to a strainer and push gently through to remove any bits of curdled egg. Place plastic wrap over the top until you are ready to use it.
When the dough has finished rising, take it out and place it on a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a large ‘sausage’ and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a round bun and place half of the buns on one prepared baking sheet and the other half on another prepared baking sheet, leaving a good amount of space between each bun. Cover each sheet with a tea towel and let the buns prove for another 30 minutes.
While the buns are proving, make the glaze. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, egg white and water until a nice glaze forms. In a separate bowl, wide enough to fit the buns, place the coconut.
Preheat the oven to 225°C/450°F.
When the buns are ready, make a nice indentation in the center of each. I like to use the back of my pestle (from my pestle and mortar), but you can use a spoon or anything else that will work. Make sure to press down all the way, as the dough will spring back when baking.
Fill each indentation with about 2-3 Tablespoons of the prepared custard, making sure not to overfill them as the custard might flow over the bun while baking. Brush the sides of each bun with the lightly beaten egg.
Place one of the cooking sheets on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes (I found 12 minutes to be perfect for me). Repeat for the second batch. Allow the buns to cool completely.
When the buns have cooled, take the glaze and place it around the custard center. I find using a small spatula helps with this. And after you have glazed a bun, immediately press the glazed area into the coconut and rotate until the glaze is completely covered by coconut. It is perfectly fine if some of the coconut gets onto the custard. I think this adds to the homemade look.
Serve immediately! The buns will last up to 2 days, but they won’t be as good as when they were freshly baked.