Mørketidsboller – A Norwegian Sweet Bun to Celebrate the Start of the Dark Season!

morketidsboller-4 I have been threatening to do this for years!  It's about time that a boller is invented to embrace the dark season.  Today was the first time this season that the sun couldn't make it over the horizon at midday.  The dark season has officially started! morketidsboller-3 We have boller everywhere: for the return for the sun, solboller; and the solskinnsboller, the sunshine bun; the midnight sun boller, midnattsolboller; boller for skole, skolebrød; the Bergensboller named after the city Bergen; skillingsboller, or 'penny bun', better known as the Cinnamon bun in English; everyday boller - plain, raisins or chocolate; gas station boller normally featuring one of the commercial chocolate bars such as smørbukk (caramel covered in chocolate); Lussekatter, borrowed from the Swedes to celebrate Lucia Day; kanelknuter, or cinnamon nuts, which is a cinnamon dough rolled long and twisted into a round weave; fastelavensboller with cream and powdered sugar for Lent; and then the local's have invented their own family versions, like Victoria's, Birgit's, Emma's and Jørgen's. There is already a 'dark season boller' called mørketidsboller, however, it is actually not a bolle, it is a custard filled donut with chocolate icing on top that the shops have made to push sales.  Ours is home-made with real boller dough! So today, to celebrate the first day of the dark season in Alta, we have made our own 'mørketidsboller'.  We used a regular skillingsboller recipe and then added raisins, Nugatti (the Norwegian version of Nutella), topped with white icing.  It is very sweet so if you'd like something with a little less buzz then I suggest a scattering of 86% chocolate shavings instead.  In Norway there is also a pre-mix you can buy of sugar, butter and cinnamon, or a chocolate combination. morketidsboller-5 Mørketidsboller Recipe (boller recipe from the skillingsboller) 125 g butter 5oo mls milk 50 g dry yeast 125 g caster sugar 800-900 g sifted white flour
Filling: Nugatti (or Nutella) or shaved 86% chocolate Raisins Topping: 1/2 cup icing sugar Water Vanilla essence Method: Melt the butter and cool a little.  Put in the milk to warm.  Mix together sugar and flour.  Add in yeast and pour in milk-butter liquid.  Mix with an electric bread beater for 5 minutes.  Put plastic over the bowl and let the dough rise for 40 minutes. On a lightly floured bench, knead the dough a little.  Roll the dough out to 40cmx40cm.  Scrape a very thin layer of Nugatti all the way to the edges.  Or sprinkle the chocolate shavings.  Sprinkle on the raisins.  Roll the dough up into a log (the Nugatti on the inside).  Slice int0 20 even scrolls.  Lay flat on a baking tray with paper.  (You will likely need two trays.)  Let rise for another 45 minutes. morketidsboller-6 Pre-heat oven to 220°C.  Put buns in the lower middle for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool.  Mix icing sugar in a small bowl with a few drops of water and a few drops of vanilla essence.  Add a little bit of water at a time if needed to get a 'drizzle' texture in the sugar.  Drizzle the icing mixture with a spoon around the spiral. morketidsboller-2 This is a very sweet bun and the bread should be fluffy.  Usually the skillingsboller bread turns out a little dryer, hence the icing is a common feature, and the outside forms a light crust, but we've found with the Nugatti, the crust stays moist as the chocolate spills out on top and underneath adding moisture and a caramelizing effect from the sugar.  They are really yummy, very strong with the Nugatti - not so much with the 86% shaved chocolate. morketidsboller-1 Because this bolle is made with a skillingsbolle dough it is designed to dry out.  Each day it will get a little dryer so you'd want to eat them within three days.  Why did you use a dry bolle dough?  Well, after the first day the boller become perfect to reheat with custard and be used as a quick chocolate Bread and Butter pudding!  Made on Friday for a weekend snack and perfect for Sunday dessert.

The Design of Norway – Marius

Marius-design-1 The Marius design is a unique Norwegian pattern that has been adopted as the design of Norway.  In Norway's knitting tradition, Norwegian patterns are highly regarded, and the Marius has become the most famous. Marius-design-9 The beginnings of the pattern are somewhat controversial.  There have been several claims to its ownership.  One claim is that the pattern of the Marius sweater was inspired by the Setesdal pattern, which features four diamonds instead of one big one, and as such it is supposed that the sweater was originally designed by Unn Søiland in 1953. Setedal's pattern: seledals However, Bitten Eriksen, the mother of Stein and Marius Eriksen, has also claimed that she was the creator of the first knitted Marius sweater, but it was first called Cortina II.  Eriksen's family maintains that the sweater was first knitted by Bitten for her husband Marius.  The pattern was then developed before it was given as a sweater to her son Marius when he came home from World War II.  In 1960, Bitten began selling the sweater at her store in Oslo, calling it the Marius sweater after her husband. Cortina II pattern: Cortina The Marius sweater (and most other Norwegian designed sweaters) are copyrighted.  Private persons are allowed to make the sweaters for their own use but no products with the Marius design are allowed to be sold without explicite agreement by the now owner of the design, Lillum AS. In 2002, Unn Søiland Dale was awarded the King's Medal of Merit for being a lifelong pioneer of knitwork and for her efforts in making Norwegian woolen and textile design international. The way that you know you are getting a true Maruis design is by the classic symbol on the label. Marius-design-6 Marius-design-7 Nowadays the Marius pattern is not only for sweaters but everything else.  (The Marius Inspiration book even thinks woolen Marius G-strings are a good idea.)  Since the 50s, the design's popularity has been a roller coaster.  A couple of years ago the Marius pattern was not as trendy, but in 2014, Marius is everywhere!  Even in my little northern city, Alta: Marius cupcake molds - too sweet: Marius-design-12 Marius lunch box: Marius-design-11 The traditional Marius colour theme is red, white and blue, same as the Norwegian flag.  However, a solid blue or white background is the custom. Tea towels, mittens and even synthetic wash cloths: Marius-design-10 Sheets, cushions and candles: Marius-design-8 Black is a popular background, though not traditional. Marius-design-13 Crockery: Marius-design-5 Flasks: Marius-design-4 Glasses case: Marius-design-3 Cake spatulas: Marius-design-2 There is one other famous design especially for mittens... for another post ;).

Norway is a pain in the neck – literally!

neck-scarves It was exciting coming to a place where I could finally wear big overcoats, snuggly scarves and arty beanies.  I never had a need for them back in Australia.  The Norwegian winter style was classic, romantic and down right fun to wear.  I learned several new ways to wear scarves - it's all in the tying - and tried out many beanie designs.  You'd be amazed at the beanie range - slouched, pom pomed, folded or unfolded edged, twisted inside out, tubed, bowl cut, knitted, cotton, wool... I was in beanie heaven.  And the jackets!  My favourite is tight, to the hip, with a faux fur lined hoodie to keep the snow off my face (a Russia influenced style).  But alas, fashion is pain. After a couple of years of wearing the heavy, bulky and restricting cold weather dressings I started to get 'winter neck pain'.  Having all the extra wool and thick material tied around my neck prevented me from turning my head or moving my shoulders.  I suddenly knew how the Harold Finch character felt from Person of Interest,(well, the actor), with having to look both ways to across the road, turning my whole body, like I had a neck brace.  After taking the outside clothes off, my neck and shoulder muscles felt strained, stiff and creaky.  I just thought it was me, that my Australian body wasn't used to having so many clothes piled around my neck like Norwegians. It was only this season (after ten of them) that I casually mentioned my 'Christmas Crick' problem to Moose when I found out he gets it too.  And then I asked around, and every Norwegian I've spoken to has the same problem.  Well...  so it was not just little old me then. Neck pain seems to be a regular winter issue for Norwegians and I'm wondering why there isn't a national health campaign to educate people of keeping their neck safe and healthy.  Neck pain also seems to be exasperated by sleep problems.  The Norwegian Hunt Study concluded that:
"Sleep problems are associated with an increased risk of chronic pain in the low back and neck/shoulders."
In the Arctic we live in insomnia central.  Even Norwegians can't escape their bio-clocks being tampered with by the darkness.  With insomnia and neck problems to boot, no wonder Norwegians can seem a little icy in the cold public street - an international reputation that should be debunked now considering. I haven't heard of any local remedies for neck pain, (yet!  I'm expecting a blue berry tea paste or something to spread on the skin - blue berries are good for everything here), but the Hunt study clearly stated that:
"Regular exercise and maintenance of normal body weight may reduce the adverse effect of mild sleep problems on risk of chronic pain".
Solve the sleep problems and you can help solve the neck problems.  But Norwegians do know that regular outdoor exercise, even on the coldest days, especially during the blue light (midday twilight - Alta has no sun over Christmas), helps the body dramatically cope over winter. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has a fact sheet giving stats on neck pain in Norway.  Women apparently report more neck pain, and have to take more sick days off from work because of it - no wonder, with all the scarf material hanging around their necks for six months of the year.  However, this point is not considered as one of the causes, which are: heredity, workload, pain sensitivity, psychological factors and side effects of surgery.  Maybe the researches need to consider cultural issues of wearing clothes as well as the regular medical and environment issues.  But they too mention that physical activity is the best prevention against chronic neck pain. So, this Christmas I will be taking measures into my own hands, now that I am aware of the problem, with regular neck and shoulder stretches and exercises (and massages from Moose if I'm lucky) to make the dark season a little easier on the body, at least. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24293504 http://www.fhi.no/eway/default.aspx?pid=240&trg=MainContent_6894&Main_6664=6894:0:25,7583:1:0:0:::0:0&MainContent_6894=6706:0:25,7590:1:0:0:::0:0

Traditional Norwegian Grøt

grott-4 Traditional Norwegian grøt is made from barley.  Researchers haven't determined how early barley has been used as a porridge but grøt is considered the first warm meal.  Barley was the most common cereal crop grown, and still is in Norway today.  Wheat, oats and rye are also used for grøt but are grown in limited quantities only in the south. The Vikings farmed barley and even took it with them to their settlements.  Archeologists have found remnants of barley in Viking ruins in Greenland.  The word 'grøt' comes from the Old Norse 'grautr', meaning 'rough ground or coarse'.  Whole grain grøt was the original until better grinding tools and techniques allowed for flour grøts.  During the Viking Age, grøt was considered 'unusually healthy' and nutritious, and became a central part of the diet. During the Christian era, from the mid 1100s, grøt was considered a sacred meal and 'no man should pay tithes on it'.  Grøt was allowed to be made on Sundays and holy days.  Bread, however, was restricted, and it was forbidden to make more than one could eat. The most luxurious grøt was made from fresh milk.  Sour milk grøt was very common as souring milk was the best way to store milk for long periods.  However, water grøt was the most common for the regular folk.  Rømmegrøt is a variant, made from semolina flour and sour cream.  This grøt was normally a festive dish as it was both expensive, with accompaniments such as cured leg of lamb (fenalår), and fattening. Moonshine or beer was a usual accompaniment.  People ate salty meats and salty fish with their grøt.  To keep the grøt for longer, a crust was allowed to form after cooling to create a lid.  The crust could be peeled back and reused, preserving the grøt for several days. Grøt was not only used for eating but for medicinal purposes too.  A famous grøt from Trondelag added gammelost, Norwegian moldy cheese, to the mixure, giving it a good dose of penicillin.  Vikings and Norsemen used the natural crusting of grøt to cover over sores and wounds.  The warmth of the grøt eased sore muscles and arthritis. Grøt was an important part of social customs.  It was a feature at socials, christenings, celebrations and weddings.  Suitors visiting the house could tell what answer they would get by what was served - water grøt meant a definite 'no', and waffles was a definite 'yes'. Grøt wasn't seen as a sweet dish, they prefered to put their syrup in their beers.  It wasn't until the late 1800's when sugar and cinnamon was introduced to Norway that grøt started making its way into the dessert arena.  Nowadays the most common grøt is the sweet risgrøt, rice porridge, a modern day variation to an Old Norse favourite.  It has been around since the 1800s, when rice began to be imported to Norway, and the iconic Hanna Winsnes gives a recipe in the first ever Norwegian cookbook published in 1845. It was well known that when you had your fill of grøt, it would not take long before you'd fall asleep.  This is true today!  

Our Barley Grøt Recipe

We make our barley grøt the regular traditional way but add some extra mix-ins to take it out of this world. 500 grams of whole grain barley 2 litres of whole milk + extra for thinning. Serving - raisins, cinamon, sugar, clementines, almonds. Soak the barley over night in cold water on the bench.  This pre-softens the grains. grott-13 Drain the barley. grott-12 In a good, big pot, heat the 2 litres of milk. Add in the barley and stir.  Stir.  Stir.  Stir.  You don't want the milk to burn on the bottom.  A lot of recipes say you can leave the grøt to simmer without stirring but that will never work.  We have tried it all, and stirring is the only way to ensure your grøt turns out evenly creamy.  You have to give your grøt a lot of lovin', just like risotto.  Constant stirring will make sure the milk won't burn on the bottom and that the grain will get an even soaking. How long do you cook?  Well, it depends on how soft you want the grain.  For a quick cook and al dente grain, the grain needs to simmer in milk for an hour with stirring.  For a slow cook and soft melt in your mouth grain, three hours.  (Tip: the three hours doesn't have to happen all at once, and you'd only do it if you want it super traditional!)  Add more milk in if needed.  We cooked ours for about 40 minutes. Just in: grott-11 After 10 minutes: grott-10 After 30 minutes: grott-9 After 40 minutes - al dente: grott-6 As the grøt cools it will thicken.  This is when we usually add in more milk.  Also, I like my grøt thin, so after serving the family their portions, I usually add in a little more milk and stir it in to warm it up before dishing my plate.  I find that it creates a thinner cream that blends well with the clementines. Serve warm.  Traditionally grøt is eaten with salty foods but we like a modern twist of freshness. Mix in raisins.  They will go soft from the heat of the grøt and melt in your mouth. grott-7 Cinnamon and sugar.  Stirring them in means the sugar and cinnamon will melt, flavoring the whole grøt. Peel and slice the clementines.  Gently mix in.  The fruit will warm and the juice will mix with the creamy milk.  The citrus flavour adds freshness and tang to the grøt. grott-8 Chopped raw almonds.  Scatter on top.  Just a little something extra to add crunch.  If you like your grøt soft, leave the almonds out. grott-5 Without extra milk: grott-2 With extra milk: grott-1 This grøt is also great with fruit jams, fresh pomegranate, and even a mix-in of 86% cocoa chocolate, which melts splendidly! This is our favourite grøt at the moment!  Perfect for the winter season. http://www.dokpro.uio.no/litteratur/winsnes/frames.htm http://sciencenordic.com/vikings-grew-barley-greenland http://www.middelalder.no/oslo-i-middelalderen/dagligliv/59-grot

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