It was 20 years ago this exact date, May 16th, that I learned to make Norwegian boller (rolls or buns). I remember the occasion clearly because it was the day prior to Norway’s Constitution Day.
I had been invited to a Syttende Mai frokost (17th of May breakfast) by several classmates—I was studying in Bergen, Norway, at the time. This part gets somewhat fuzzy, but I imagine being a 20-something lassie, I was interested in impressing these strapping young Norwegian lads, no?
In a panic, I rang my friend Charlotte, affectionately called Chotti, an accomplished baker. How was I going to turn out a basket of buns that would sufficiently awe? Within hours, my devoted chum Chotti arrived at the door with yeast and flour in hand. After much kneading, waiting, forming, and baking, we had an impressive pile of 30-plus large, perfectly round, golden rolls for me to take to the party. Even better than those buns though, was the gift I received from Chotti that day, something I’ve carried with me since: the Norwegian know-how of boller making. Standing by Chotti’s side, I learned the lengthy process first hand.
While I still appreciate classic yeast buns like those we made, skoleboller, or school buns, are truly my favorite. Some will argue that skillingsboller (cinnamon buns) are better, but of course there are also sommerboller (summer buns), prinsesseboller (princess buns—don’t even go there!), and rosinboller (raisin buns) to name but a few more.
In my opinion though, skoleboller, large, sweet yeast buns with crunchy coconut-covered edges surrounding big bright-yellow circles of luscious custard, are the ultimate Norwegian baked good.
So while Norwegians are parading the streets tomorrow in their bunader (national costumes), waving flags, and donning ribbons, why not bake up some buns in honor of this festive Norsk day?
Makes sixteen 4-inch buns
1/4 cup warm water
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast (2-
-1/4 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup confectioners’
2 tablespoons whole milk
¾ cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1. If using a bread maker, place all the doughingredients in a 1-
1/2- to 2- pound bread maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions with the following two changes: Melt the butter and add with the liquid ingredients and replace the ¼ cup water with milk. Run the bread maker on the dough setting and when it has finished its cycle, turn the doughout on
2. If you don’t have a bread maker: Butter a large glass or ceramic bowl.
Pour the water in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over , stir again to dissolve, and let stand five minutes or until frothy.
4. Place the milk in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it begins to steam and bubble slightly on the edges. Lower the heat and add the butter, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cardamom, and salt. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.
5. When the milk mixture has cooled, add the proofed yeast and stir. A
dd the flour and continue to stir until smooth.
6. Turn the dough out on
to a floured surface and knead several times to form a soft dough. Sprinkle flour over the dough if it’s sticky and knead a few more times. Place the dough in the prepared bowl and cover with a dish towel. Set in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
7. Line two 11 x 17-inch
baking sheets with parchment paper. 8. After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions: Begin by dividing the entire dough ball in two halves. Then divide one of the portions in half again, and continue to divide each portion into four more equal portions. Repeat with the second half of the dough. 9. Form each of the 16 dough portions into round, flat buns (about 4 inches in diameter) and place 1- 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. 10. Cover the buns with a dishtowel, and let rise a second time, about 30 minutes.
11. Meanwhile make the custard: In a heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
12. Put the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the milk starts steaming and bubbling. Remove from heat and slowly pour 1 cup of the heated milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture while constantly whisking. When that is smooth, gradually add the rest of the milk.
13. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes, stirring
constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool.
14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
15. After the rolls have risen, use the bottom of a glass (about 2 inches in diameter) dipped in flour to make a depression in the center of each bun. Fill each indentation with 1/8 cup of the cooked custard.
16. Bake 17. While the buns are cooling, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and milk, whisking until smooth. Using a pastry brush, cover the sides of buns with the glaze and then sprinkle generously with coconut to cover the edges surrounding the custard. Continue glazing and sprinkling the buns with coconut one at a time to ensure the coconut adheres.