The Happiest Breakfast in the World

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of breakfast foods. It’s just that the actual act of eating breakfast always seems to turn into a rushed affair involving some sort of processed junk, shoveling down a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats or grabbing a granola bar on my way out the door.  Breakfast in the States has just lost the respect it deserves. If people even bother to eat it, they regard it as an annoying yet necessary act; an afterthought.

In Denmark, things are different. My first breakfast here involved a variety of rolls (called boller, pronounced ball-uh) picked up from the baker down the street that morning, along with a spread of butter, jams, sliced meats, cheeses, and the infamous leverpostej (a kind of a Danish liver paté). Oh, and then plenty of fresh pastries for breakfast-dessert (no, they are not called Danishes here).

Even on a regular morning, I’ve noticed that everyone in my host family will at least sit down for five or ten minutes to eat breakfast. Some school mornings I’m even lucky enough to wake up to the smells of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen. There are few things that can get me up faster than the thought of eating a warm roll straight from the oven with melted butter dripping off the sides…

But there’s no need to feel breakfast-envy; these Danish overnight rolls are easy for anyone to make. I get fresh bread in the morning and you can too!

Photo cred: Margo Greenawald (thanks, sis)

Overnight Boller

Although these breakfast rolls take a little bit of advanced planning, they require almost no hands-on preparation time. Just make sure you start them the night before you want to eat them and leave enough time before class to actually bake them (so, you should put them in the oven before you get in your morning shower). For the full Danish experience, make sure to pick up some jam, cheese, and possibly even salami or other deli meat. And, of course, plenty of butter.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups cold water, divided
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, put ½ tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup and then add regular milk to the ½ cup line)

In a microwave safe bowl, warm ½ cup of the water in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the sugar and the yeast, and stir to dissolve. Wet a paper towel with warm water, and place over the yeast mixture. Put the bowl in a warm place and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flours, oats and salt in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine remaining cup of water and buttermilk.

After 10 minutes, check to make sure the yeast mixture is bubbling. If not, it means your yeast has not worked and you should try step 1 again with a new yeast package.

Once the yeast mixture is ready, put it in a large bowl and add about ½ cup of the flour mixture. Stir to combine and then add some of the buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating wet and dry mixtures, stirring to combine after each addition, until all ingredients are in. You should have a sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Line a pan with parchment paper and place on the counter so it’s ready for the morning.

When you wake up, preheat the oven to 375 °F. Plop large spoonfuls of batter onto the prepared pan (don’t worry about shaping the rolls). Set in a warm place to rise for 10 minutes, and then put in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Tip: To add a little variety to your boller, you could sprinkle the tops of some with sunflower, poppy, or sesame seeds before baking. Get creative!

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On the Fly Brownies

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Hello hungry readers! I’m excited to be writing to you this semester from Copenhagen, Denmark! Throughout the semester I hope to be picking up some Scandinavian cooking techniques (and sharing them with you!), but this month I am writing a thoroughly American recipe: the brownie.

After living with them for a week, my host family had already heard me talk a lot about how much I love to cook and bake. However, they had yet to actually taste anything, so I decided it was time to show them what I could do. After scrounging around their kitchen for ingredients, I found almost everything I needed to make brownies–at least enough that I could wing it. Little did I know exactly how much winging I would be doing…

Almost immediately, I realized that their butter was in a tub, not in sticks like I was used to. I pulled from my baking knowledge, guessed about a stick of butter and put it in the pot to start melting. I had to guess on the amount of chocolate, too, since I was substituting the little chocolate wafers that they eat on toast in the morning. I figured as long as it looked chocolaty enough, it would turn out okay.

While the butter and chocolate were melting, I went to measure the flour. That’s when it hit me; they don’t use cup measures in Europe! I was too embarrassed to ask my host mom if she had anything equivalent or a kitchen scale or something, so I grabbed a teacup out of the cabinet and just guessed. I added a little of this and a little of that until the batter looked about right, then popped it in the oven and prayed to the kitchen gods that brownies would emerge.

Thankfully, it worked and the brownies were a hit! I’ve since discovered sticks of butter, a kitchen scale and even a measuring cup in my host family’s kitchen, but it’s nice to know I can whip something up on the fly.

On the Fly Brownies

(Adapted from Desserts by the Yard)

If I can make these with hardly any of the necessary tools, you can ditch the boxed brownies and go homemade! I promise, you’ll never go back. This is also a great base recipe to get creative with variations: go crazy adding mix-ins, spices, or whatever your heart desires!

  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.

Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for about 2 minutes or in a pot on the stove over medium heat. Stir until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool until tepid.

Add the eggs and sugar to the cooled butter mixture and whisk (it is important that the butter has cooled so that the eggs don’t cook!). Then add the flour and salt and mix until combined. (Alternatively, you can blend the eggs and sugar using an electric mixture until they are light and fluffy before combining them with the butter mixture. Doing this will make the brownies a little better, but may not always be worth the extra effort or cleanup.)

Scrape the batter into the pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are slightly firm when touched and a crust has formed on top.

Allow to cool in the pan (or don’t) and enjoy!

Photo credit: Cristiano Betta

Flødeboller Revolution

Okay, imagine this: a treat kind of like a bite-sized smore but a little cleaner. kind of like a marshmallow dipped in chocolate but a little less dense, kind of like eating meringue before it hardens up but more complex. Sound good?

Well the good news is, you don’t have to imagine anymore because this thing exists. The bad news–it currently only exists in Denmark (at least, that’s the only place I’ve ever seen it).

I’m talking about flødeboller, my favorite Danish treat. Pronounced fluh-bolluh, this incredibly sweet dessert is composed of a mound meringue placed on top of a marzipan or cookie wafer and then dipped in chocolate. That’s the basic recipe, but there’s a world of variation out there. It’s common to see coconut sprinkled on top. Sometimes they are dipped in white or different colored chocolate. My host mom says she’s had some really fancy flavored ones before. The standard size is about two-bites big, but I’ve seen jumbo flødeboller floating around.

There's a flødeboller on my ice cream!

Normally I’m not into super-sweet marshmallow-like desserts, but this stuff is seriously good. The thin, crunchy chocolate outside gives way to a gooey inside and the wafer adds a nice foundation. You can eat these on their own or, my favorite, put them on top of ice cream!

I see a world of possibility for flødeboller, and I’m thinking it’s about time I bring them to the States. Maybe flødeboller will be the next cupcake…

 

Virtual Worlds: Tour de Grocery Store

As many of you likely know, I really love food. One of the stranger manifestations of this is my ability to keep myself entertained for hours just walking around a grocery store. Seriously, sometimes during a stressful week I will just go walk around Whole Foods for a little while to see what new foodstuffs I can discover.

So, coming to Copenhagen I was actually really excited for my first grocery run. I new grocery store in a new country for me to explore? Could life get better?!

Boy was I in for a disappointment.

The first grocery I visited was a chain called Netto. I walked in and was immediately put off by the utter disorganization of the place. Shelves were towering, making it difficult for short people like me to reach things. In the front of the store, things were sort of organized into isles, but the back half was just baskets full of anything you  could imagine in no particular order. Crates of more food to stock the shelf with were just stacked up next to the walls. Moreover, there really wasn’t that much variety in the products they were offering. I knew things would be different coming to Copenhagen, but little foodie self was freaking out a bit!

I walked out of my first Netto experience without purchasing anything, dazed and wondering what my culinary experience would be like here in Copenhagen.

Thankfully, I soon discovered that Netto is the super-cheap grocery store in Copenhagen. Apparently, what you save in money you pay for in lack of service and organization. I have since explored a range of other grocery stores in the area and found plenty to whet my appetite. And I’ve even learned how to navigate Netto when I need to save some Kroner.

Biking to Carlsburg City

Although we had some rather rainy, very cold days earlier this week, the past couple days have been some of the most beautiful days ever, so I’ve been trying to use every opportunity that I’m not in class to be outside. Usually, this just means grabbing lunch by the fountain in the square right down the street from school.

But today I had the whole day, so I made plans to meet up with my friend and her boyfriend to go find this outdoor flea market (aka cheap things in Copenhagen!) and explore other places. Initially, I was just going to take the train in and meet them as per usual, but then she told me that they were going to be biking. I figured the only way to keep up with them would be to bike myself.

Let me give a little backstory. Any of my friends who were around me when I first decided to go to Copenhagen will know how excited I was to bike around the city. I really love biking, but I find DC too hilly to bike (and Roanoke is basically mountain biking). Plus, after my bike got stolen last summer, I really lost motivation (and ability) to bike around. Once I actually arrived here, I realized that I am living too far out of the city to bike in. Since I have to take the train everyday anyway (and I am only 8 minutes from the train station walking), it didn’t seem worth it to invest in a bike. Plus, I’ve been terrified to get on a bike here. Yes, it is a bike friendly city. Yes, there are a ton of bikers. But that means everybody knows what they’re doing. I don’t want to be the American spaz who gets in their way and causes near accidents. Nobody likes that person.

But I knew I would have to get over that eventually since I don’t think you are allowed to come to Copenhagen and live for four months without at least biking once. I figured a nice day like today would be better than when the weather really starts to go downhill. So, I borrowed my host-mom’s bike, grabbed a helmet (which I didn’t end up wearing–sorry parents, but nobody here does), and biked to the train.

I took the train a few stops in (it’s too far for me to bike the whole way), and then met my friend at her host family’s house. Her host-sister made us fresh rolls for breakfast. Even though they make these all the time here and I eat way too many (actually, I just eat way too much bread here), I enjoy them every time. Who doesn’t love fresh, warm bread in the morning?

My friend Emilie and I contemplate buying traditional dresses at the flea market.

Then we biked to the flea market. It was basically a giant outdoor garage sale that they have every weekend. It was kind of reassuring to see that the Danes seem to accumulate just about as much junk as us Americans do. Their junk, however, is a lot classier. After sifting through a lot of grandma’s china, outdated Euro fashions, and a pair of Octoberfest dresses, I managed to score a deal on a silk blazer and we headed out.

Our next stop was the old Carlsburg Brewry, where they were having a huge festival to celebrate the bicentennial of the company. We wandered around lost for awhile, because the place was massive and everything was in Danish, but eventually we found the museum where we got to learn about the history Danish beer and the company. A couple cool things I saw/learned there:

  1. Carlsburg actually considers the area a city because it is so large, and they have projections for expansion in the future.
  2. When we were walking around I kept seeing swastikas in the architecture and even on some of the old bottles. I was really confused, and starting to wonder if I should continue to support Carlsburg. Luckily, the museum explained. Turns out, swastikas are an old Indian symbol meaning something along the lines of “that which is good.” Carlsburg adopted it as one of the symbols of their beer in the late 1800s, but dropped it after World War II when it gained all of it’s negative connotations.

    That's a lot of beer. Really old, dusty, disgusting beer, but a lot of it.

  3. The old Carlsburg brewery holds the largest collection of unopened bottles of beer in the world, certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. The current count is 20,431 bottles of beer on the wall,  but I think there were only some 16,000 on display (yeah, only). They come from throughout the years and all over the world. It was pretty cool to see all the different labels and such. Too bad I can’t taste any of them…
  4. No, that calls for five Carlsburgs.

    I encountered some brilliant Danish beer design. Because who doesn’t need a way to carry around five beers at once (ten if you’re double-fisting)? And I love the motto.

  5. Enjoying the metamorphosis of beer: green juice on the left and final product on the right.

    At the end of the brewery museum you got to taste two things. First, we got a small cup of the “green juice,” which is the result of mashing the grains and steeping them in hot water. It is basically the beer before hops are added and it is fermented. It sounds really unappetizing, but it was actually pretty good–tasted kind of like a sweet, very flavorful herbal tea. If you’re interested in more details about beer production (I was), this is a pretty basic explanation! After tasting the green juice, we got to taste the beer that it would become. It was interesting comparing the two flavors–it’s amazing how much it changes during the process.

I’d say it was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday in Copenhagen. And although I still don’t feel like I am the ideal Copenhagen biker, I survived and didn’t cause (much) chaos, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I do think I’ve caught a case of the Copenhagen bike love and I will definitely be doing it many more times before I leave. I’ll probably enjoy a few more glasses of Carlsburg before then too.

AU Gourmet: Baked & Sprinkled – Baked & Wired

This article was originally written for The Incubator. Feel free to read the article there and check out my cohort’s opinion on the cupcakes we devoured!

Stoop of Baked and Wired

I have a strange obsession with cupcakes. Ever since I first discovered the idea of cupcake shops about three years ago, I’vebecome somewhat of a self-proclaimed cupcake expert. I worked at a cupcake shop for a summer back home. I wrote an essay about the cupcake phenomenon. And of course, I’ve eaten an absurd amount of cupcakes.

I’m also pretty fanatic about Baked & Wired, a coffee shop in Georgetown that also serves an array of delicious baked treats —including cupcakes, lots of cupcakes.

You would think two and two would go together, and I would have long ago engorged myself on some Baked & Wired cupcakes. But somehow, I never got around to it. I was always waiting for “the right time.”  That time finally came a few Saturdays ago, when fellow AU Gourmet blogger Abby Fennewald and I decided to start a series about cupcakes in D.C. Look out for her post to come.

Together, we ventured to the slightly tucked away shop. Although it’s a bit of a hike (and by that I mean it’s off M Street) it’s well worth the walk. As soon as you cross the threshold, you enter a friendly and relaxed shop. Head to the right to get coffee, the left for baked goods. That’s where we wanted to go.

CupcakesLooking at the row of cupcakes, each on their own little pedestal, I thought I would never be able to choose. All the workers were more than willing to help by chiming in with their favorite flavors. Finally, we each picked — Abby got strawberry and I got chocolate mocha — with a promise to share.

Finally the moment was upon me: my first bite of a Baked & Wired cupcake. I unwrapped the parchment paper, opened my mouth wide, and relished every second. The cupcake was good: a dense, deep chocolate cake with mocha-flavored frosting. The frosting on top was not a toppling mound like at most cupcake shops, which created my perfect frosting-to-cake ratio. There wasn’t as much coffee flavor as I would have liked, but I guess that’s what you buy coffee for.

Abby’s strawberry cupcake, however, was to die for. It is the only strawberry cupcake I have ever liked, which is probably due to the real pieces of berry baked into the batter. I liked it so much, that I ended up buying another at Taste of Georgetown later in the day.

Baked & Wired cupcakes were certainly delicious (especially the strawberry). Keep an eye out for future installments of Baked and Sprinkled to see how they stack up against other D.C. cupcakes. Have a store you want us to review? Comment and let us know and we’ll be sure to check it out!

AU Gourmet: Georgetown Gets Spicy

This article was originally written for The Incubator. Feel free to read the article there and check out other great articles too!

Spices-Herbs Wall

This Saturday I was lucky enough to stumble upon Georgetown’s newest flavor-filled establishment. No, not a new restaurant–The Spice & Tea Exchange.

As soon as you walk into The Spice and Tea exchange you feel like you could be walking into a rustic family kitchen in southern Italy. Untreated wood shelves line the beautiful exposed brick walls, housing the most important thing in the store: dozens of clear glass jars, filled with all the spices, herbs, peppers, salts, sugars, and teas you could (and could never even) imagine. Your taste buds (and nose-buds) are in for a treat, as you are invited to open any of the jars you would like to smell what’s inside. You are allowed to taste the salts and sugars, which are harder to judge by smell alone.

Walking around the store, I wanted to smell everything. I started with the Spices and Herbs section, where they had

Entering the store

everything from bay leaf to nutmeg, rosemary to juniper berry. There were at least three different forms of garlic, ginger, onion, and cocoa. One of the staff members explained the three different types of ground cinnamon they stocked (not to worry, there were whole cinnamon sticks too).

Next I passed the pepper section, which included a gradient of paprikas on the top shelf, a variety of peppercorns in the middle and a whole shelf of ground hot peppers on the bottom (the only jars in the store you aren’t allowed to open – those would burn your eyes).

Beyond the pepper you’ll find their custom blends, which are all hand mixed on site. There are blends for meat rubs,

Peppers

seafood, chili, curry and even some blends for things like popcorn and pumpkin pie. One of their most popular blends, the Tuscanny blend, includes classic Italian seasonings and is supposedly delicious on bread when mixed with olive oil.

I was thrilled when I turned around to see their selection of loose leaf teas. They had greens, blacks, herbal and even a few oolongs and white varieties. My roommate and I were also excited to discover they sold lavender, a hard to find ingredient that we had been looking for.

Walking back through the store, I found the salt and sugar sections, which I had somehow overlooked before. The salt section features two dozen different salts. Some were flavored

Salts

with different types of wine. Others were rare sea salts, including one from France that is only harvested by French women at night. I tasted three different kinds of salt: Bolivian Rose salt, Black Lava Sea Salt and Cyprus Flake Salt. It was amazing how different they all tasted. I can’t say I’m enough of a connoisseur to describe the intricacies myself; you’ll just have to go and try them.

Now the flavored sugars, that’s what I know about. There were fruit flavors, classic flavors like coffee and vanilla, and even habanero flavored sugar. I tasted the strawberry, which tasted exactly like strawberries. I could imagine it being delicious cooked into shortbread to heighten the flavor in strawberry shortcake.

After exploring a bit, I discovered that it was in fact their opening day. The DC branch of The Spice and Tea Exchange is the fifteenth store in a small chain that is largely based in Florida. It may be a chain, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The staff is all incredibly friendly, and you can tell it’s a family affair (the owner’s daughter was running around in an apron offering up samples and information about the spices). I think it’s rare that you find a store with great products and a great staff, but this is definitely one of them.

decided to buy some loose tea and hot cocoa mix to take home with me. The tea, a blend of black and green tea,

Smelling Spices

sunflower, cactus flower and rhubarb called California Fields, brewed dark and strong with just a whisper of floral flavor. The Spiced Cocoa Mix includes chili powder and pepper, so it warmed me from the inside out. Both of these would be perfect on a chilly fall morning (or when you’re stuck inside during this year’s snowstorm).

This is a great store for spice novices and experts alike. Down Wisconsin just beyond M Street, this store isn’t far off the beaten Georgetown path. Head down there to explore for yourself.

Mention the Incubator article at the register and get 10% off your entire purchase. Enjoy a little spice in your life!

Peppercorns