Christmas Bread (Julekage)

Candied Mixed Fruit

Candied Mixed Fruit

By Cat, Sept 2007 (Photo, right, from Gourmet Sleuth (4))

Includes: 1. Original Julekage recipe; 2. Breakfast Julekage, Sponge Method (2-Versions)

See also: 1. Hot Cross Buns (Fastelavnsboller)2. Wheat (about)3. Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads)4. Basic Yeast Bread; 5. Rich Yeast Bread6Bread & Rolls

My family’s Scandinavian Tradition for holidays includes two wonderful breads: Hot Cross Buns (Fastelavnsboller) for the Easter season, and Yule Cake (Julekage) for Christmas. Both are rich and slightly sweet, with candied fruit (an ancient way of preserving the fruit from summer, to last through the cold months of winter and early spring) and spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

Julekage (pronounced yoo-leh-ka-ya) is a festive, fruit-studded bread, traditionally served during the December holidays.  It is similar to German Stollen, but is entirely a yeast bread.

I offer here two versions of Julekage:

  • Original Julekage recipe from my parents’ collection (which they adapted from the basic bread recipe in Home Baking Made Easy, from Occident Family Flour (3).  This dough is not very sweet, and is suitable as a bread with dinner.  It uses only unbleached white flour (no whole wheat flour).
  • Breakfast Julekage: This is my own original recipe, made with a sweeter, richer dough, and is more suitable for tea or a special breakfast.  I recently modified it for the pre-soak sponge method, to maximize the digestibility and availability of nutrients, especially the minerals in the whole wheat flour.

Serve either version with plenty of fresh dairy butter (salted or unsalted).  Also good toasted and served with butter, and plenty of hot coffee.

For the candied fruits (see photo, above), I use mostly the mixed variety (cherries, lemon and lime), but also add a bit of candied citron, lemon or orange peel, and some dried currants. I’ve tried using dried fruits (apricots, cherries) instead of candied fruits, but it just isn’t the same.

Cardamom: seed pods, and ground seeds

Cardamom: seed pods, and ground seeds

The East-Indian spice called cardamom is essential for this recipe, and there is no substitute.  (Photo, left, from Vedic healing (1)). If you can’t find it, don’t bother to make the bread.  Cardamom seeds are fairly tiny, about the size of poppy seeds, and are encased in a dry pod.  To use the seeds, you have to break open the pod and remove the seeds.  Then grind seeds in a spice grinder. Or you can probably find ground cardamom in the bulk spice section of your natural foods store.  Don’t buy much, because it easily goes stale.

Original Julekage

Makes 2 loaves.

My Dad’s original recipe calls for all white (or unbleached) flour, but you can use part whole wheat flour instead.  I’ve had good results with 1 ½ cups whole wheat and 2 ¼ – 2 ½ cups unbleached flour–it’s hard to detect the whole wheat in this proportion.  Use unbleached flour for kneading.

This recipe does not include a sponge (pre-ferment), but it could easily be adjusted to do that. For the sponge, do steps 1 – 5 as indicated, but omitting the butter and salt at step 3 (these will be added later).   After the 4-hour rise, beat in melted butter and the salt and then proceed with remainder of the recipe. These steps are in blue text, in the method section.

Ingredients & Equipment (2 loaves):

  • ½ cup Rapadura or Sucanat sugar
  • ¼ c unsalted butter (half stick)
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 1 Tbsp dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp warm milk or water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ¾ – 4 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 ¼ cup candied fruits
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • melted butter
  • large and medium bowls
  • cotton dish cloth
  • 2 loaf pans

Method:

  1. Dredge fruits in ¼ cup of the unbleached white flour, in a medium bowl.
  2. Scald milk in a heavy saucepan (heat until begins to steam, but do not bring to a boil).
  3. Mix sugar, scalded milk, butter and salt in a large bowl.  Stir until the butter melts and the mixture cools a bit (about 110°F).  [Omit butter and salt if using sponge method]
  4. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over the top of the warm milk in a cup; let it rest until it foams.  Add to the sugar mixture.  Beat in the egg.
  5. Beat in 2 cups of the flour for 100 strokes.  [stop here if using sponge method; cover with damp cloth and let rest 4 hours.]
  6. [Stir in melted butter and salt if using sponge method.]  Add the dredged fruits with their flour, and the cardamom. Mix well.
  7. Continue adding flour, about ¼ cup at a time, folding it in with your hand until you can no longer mix it in the bowl.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead in the enough flour so that the dough is still soft but quite elastic, and no longer sticks to the board.  Shape into a round.
  8. Wipe out and oil the large bowl.  Place the round of dough in the bowl, then turn it over so that the top is lightly oiled.  Cover bowl with cotton dish towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (use 2-finger test; see Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads).
  9. Punch down dough several times with your floured fist.  Divide into two, knead each portion lightly, & shape into an oblong (flatten a bit with your hand and then roll it up; seal the seam).
  10. Place into buttered bread pans, seam side up.  Flatten with back of hand to fill the pan, then turn over so top is buttered. Cover with towel; rise again until doubled in bulk.
  11. Bake in preheated hot oven (450°F) for 10 minutes, then lower to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes more, until tests done by tapping.
  12. Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.  Let cool before cutting.

Breakfast Julekage

This version is sweeter and richer than the traditional version above, and makes 2 loaves.  I provide 2 versions:

  • Traditional sponge or pre-ferment method, which includes the yeast, all of the liquid, and about half of the total flour (including all of the whole wheat flour), and then allowed to rest about 2 hours in a warm place, or 8 hours (overnight) in a cool place.
  • Presoak sponge, which includes an acidic environment to make the whole grain flour more digestible and bio-available. The acid can be neutralized with baking soda in part 2, should the dough be too tart.

Version I (Traditional Sponge)

As described above, this does not include yogurt; thus this sponge does not fully break down the phytates in the flour to release the minerals, but it makes it easier to fold in the remaining flour, and produce a better texture in the bread.

I have not tested this method.

Ingredients for 2 loaves:

Part 1 (sponge):

  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (or sugar)
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Part 2

  • 1 ¼ cup candied fruits
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup Rapadura or other sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup melted butter (½ stick)
  • 2 – 3 cups unbleached white flour

Method:

Part 1 (sponge):

  1. Proof yeast in warm water plus sweetener.
  2. Scald milk (to about 185°F – when steam begins to gather at the surface, but does not yet boil); cool a bit (about 110°F), then add proofed yeast and stir to blend.
  3. Beat in whole wheat flour now, with gluten, for 100 strokes (important, to activate the gluten).  Cover with dampened cloth, and rest 4 hours in warm place. Dough will rise for about 2 hours, and then may sink slightly; don’t be alarmed, this is normal.

Part 2

  1. Dredge fruits in ¼ cup of the unbleached white flour while sponge is rising; set aside.
  2. Beat salt, eggs, sugar, cardamom & melted butter into sponge. Add dredged fruit & mix well.
  3. Fold/knead in white flour in batches; remember that ¼ cup of the flour has already been used to dredge the fruit.  Rise in oiled bowl, covered, 2 ½ hours.
  4. Punch down, turn, cover & rise again, 1 hour.
  5. Divide dough into two parts, kneading each lightly to seal cut edge.  Rest dough 10 minutes; shape into loaves. Place in buttered pans, seam up; press down lightly to fill corners of pan; turn each loaf over, seam down, so that top is lightly buttered, and press down again.  Cover with damp cloth & rise 45 min.  
  6. Bake 45-50 minutes at 375°F; test for doneness by listening for hollow sound when lightly tapping on the top. Cool on rack; brush with melted butter while still warm.

Breakfast Julekage, Version II (Presoak sponge)

This version is similar to Version I, but includes deactivated yogurt to acidify the sponge. This acidic environment activates enzymes in the grain – similar to what happens at germination – which then break down anti-nutrients like the mineral-binding phytates. The enzymes also break down some of the gluten, so extra gluten is added.

This recipe takes all day as written. An allternate method starts the sponge the night before, to reduce the time on baking day. For this sponge, use 1 cup scalded milk instead of ¾ cup, and omit the proofed yeast mixture.  Then proof the yeast in the morning, using only ¼ cup warm water, 1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast, and 1 tsp sweetener; stir into the dough.  Then proceed as written.

NOTE: the added gluten is needed because the acidic sponge breaks down much of the flour’s gluten. This version takes all day, about 8 hours or so.

 

Ingredients for 2 loaves:

Part 1 (sponge):

  • 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (or sugar)
  • ¾ cup milk, scalded
  • ½ cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • ⅓ cup Rapadura or other sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp gluten

Part 2

  • 1 ¼ cup candied fruits
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup melted butter (½ stick)
  • 2 – 3 cups unbleached white flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda (if needed, to neutralize sourness)

Equipment: 

  • heavy saucepan
  • large and medium bowls
  • glass measuring cup
  • wooden spoon
  • cotton dish cloth
  • 2 loaf pans
  • cooling rack

Method:

Part 1 (sponge):

  1. Proof yeast in warm water plus sweetener.
  2. Scald milk (to about 185°F – when steam begins to gather at the surface, but does not yet boil) and mix with yogurt and sweetener in large bread bowl; cool a bit (about 110°F), then add proofed yeast and stir to blend.
  3. Beat in whole wheat flour now, with gluten, for 100 strokes (important, to activate the gluten).  Cover with dampened cloth, and rest 4 hours in warm place. Dough will rise for about 2 hours, and then may sink slightly; don’t be alarmed, this is normal.

Part 2

  1. Dredge fruits in 1 Tbsp of the unbleached white flour sifted with baking soda while sponge is rising; set aside.
  2. Beat salt, eggs, cardamom & melted butter into sponge. Add dredged fruits & mix well.  Fold/knead in white flour in batches.  Rise in oiled bowl, covered, 2 ½ hours.
  3. Punch down, turn, cover & rise again, 1 hour.
  4. Divide dough into two parts, kneading each lightly to seal cut edge.  Rest dough 10 minutes; shape into loaves. Place in buttered pans, seam up; press down lightly to fill corners of pan; turn each loaf over, seam down, so that top is lightly buttered, and press down again.  Cover with damp cloth & rise 45 min.  
  5. Bake 45-50 minutes at 375°F; test for doneness by listening for hollow sound when lightly tapping on the top. Cool on rack; brush with melted butter while still warm.

Testing Acidic Sponge version:

12/17/07:  made test loaf (half recipe) using 1 Tbsp dry yeast proofed in ¼ cup water and 1 tsp maple syrup, ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp milk and ¼ cup yogurt, ½ Tbsp gluten, and 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour in the sponge.  In part 2, I used total of ¾ cup candied/dried fruit, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp melted butter, ¼ tsp cardamom, and 1 ½ cups white flour.  Analysis:  Sponge rose, then started to bubble after 2 hours, but did not rise for remainder of the 4 hours (this is normal).  Dough had good elasticity in part 2, rising wonderfully both times (2 ½ hours for first and 1 hour for second). Result: Good taste and texture; not beery.  Light color–whole wheat flour is not obvious.

12/14/08:  made full recipe (2 loaves) as written, except I used more fruit (2 cups instead of 1 ½ cup, to empty a container).  My kitchen was cool (frigid weather outside) so the scalded milk cooled too quickly to kill all the probiotics in the yogurt (which would compete with the yeast).   In part 2, I added ¼ tsp baking soda with flour because dough smelled slightly sour (too acidic).  Used only about 1 ⅔ cup flour at first kneading – dough was not as elastic as I’d have liked, and stuck to the board, but was getting too stiff to add more flour.  I think this was because of the extra fruit.  Result:  Rose nicely each time, but didn’t develop that wonderful elasticity as before.  Good taste and texture, but too much fruit.  The baking powder was a good addition this time.

References

  1. Vedic Healing on Cardamom (vedichealing.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/cardamom-11.jpg)
  2. Wheat Montana flour (wheatmontana.com/retail/wheat-grain-kernels/prairie-gold®)
  3. Home Baking Made Easy, by Virginia Roberts, Director Occident Home Baking Institute. Copyright 1944

About Cat

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