The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Sourdough bread and fyrstekake

hansjoakim's picture

Sourdough bread and fyrstekake

The Easter holiday is drawing to a close, but I felt not quite done with baking before holiday was up... I was also running short on bread, so yesterday evening I mixed dough for my regular sourdough bread. Basically the kind that keeps me going throughout the week. Below is a copy of the formula.

It's one that I keep returning to because of its simplicity and because it's easy to fit into an otherwise hectic schedule. After bulk fermentation and shaping last night, the bread was proofed in the fridge overnight and baked this afternoon. Here's my most recent specimen, just pulled from the oven:

Below is another shot, of the bread and... it's offspring?? No, some jødekaker (directly translated as "Jewish cakes") that I baked this afternoon. These are common in some parts of Norway (i.e. you'll find them packed in bags of four in virtually every grocery store), and especially where I live in the south west. According to Wikipedia, these were brought to Scandinavia by Sephardic jews sometime in the 1600s. They were originally made with egg, flour, sugar and some sort of vegetable oil and the dough was kept rather dry so the cookies would keep well. Once in northern Europe, the oil was gradually replaced by butter, hence e.g. the Dutch joodse boterkoeken ("Jewish butter cookies" - please correct me if I'm wrong, any Dutch TFL'ers!). The Norwegian variety is very basic, typically made with flour, sugar, melted butter and first milk of cows. The latter, although not impossible to obtain, is usually replaced by soured milk these days. I used kefir in mine, and, although not spectacular by any means, they turned out quite alright.

Here's the mandatory crumbshot of the loaf:


I'm becoming more and more fascinated about our traditional (or "national/typically Norwegian") recipes in baking and cooking. Much of our "national cuisine" is characterised by simple, hearty and humble dishes, fit for farmers that toiled long days with intense physical labour. Food had to be preserved for a long, cold winter (which resulted in some delicious cured fish and meats), and it had to be stretched as much as possible (i.e. leftovers found good use in new dishes). In turn, many inventive and characteristic dishes were made, and each part of the country has its own take or variation on the same basic dish. I feel that learning the traditional dishes somehow offers a link back to past generations, and I find it very rewarding to enjoy this food with friends and family.

Another thing I wanted to try this Easter, was the traditional Norwegian fyrstekake, or "royal cake". According to my Google search, the recipe was introduced in Norway in the 1860s by a young apprentice at a pastry shop in Trondheim, and has since become a staple in the baking repertoire of grandmothers around the country. Sadly, most of the fyrstekake consumed these days is of the store bought variety, which tends to be rather dry and bland. I'm not sure when I last had a decent slice of fyrstekake, but it must've been years ago, and most likely at a family get-together. In other words, time is definitely ripe to get to grips with this cake and have a go at it myself.

I didn't have a recipe for the cake (though I knew it ought to be made with a buttery shortcrust and have a dense almond macaroon filling), so Google to the rescue once again. Funnily enough, one of the first hits I got, was Breadsong's blog! Apparently, Solveig Tofte, a Norwegian baker based in Minneapolis, brought two very fine specimens to a BBGA conference in Chicago in 2012. Breadsong's full write-up, including photo, linked to right here. Some further Google hunting also produced the recipe (courtesy of BBGA and Tofte): Link to recipe at BBGA.

Although it looks splendid, I must admit that I didn't follow the Tofte/BBGA recipe precisely. I already had a pâte sablée crust in the freezer, so I used that instead for my version. The sablée crust is probably a bit denser and slightly more buttery than the one in the BBGA recipe. Also, for a 22 cm diameter cake, I increased the amount of ground almonds to 230 gr., while keeping the weight of powdered sugar unchanged (i.e. 170 gr.). I used 3 egg whites to get a relatively smooth consistency of the macaroon filling. Since almond is such a key component in this cake, I would recommend grinding them yourself if you've got a suitable almond mill for the job.

Below is a photo of me getting ready to put things together: One lined tart form, strips for the top (re-rolled scraps) and the macaroon filling.

And here, the almondy, buttery goodness is ready for the oven:

Here is the finished cake, which I was quite pleased with. I think I would've liked a slightly lighter crust (some baking powder and a bit less butter would do the trick, I think), but apart from that I was very happy. A rustic sort of cake that keeps very well in the fridge.


dabrownman's picture

Holiday baking seems to bring out the best in Fresh Lofians world wide.  Your everyday bread looks way better than that :-) and the almond macaroon pie is something I've never even heard of!

Nice baking

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

That bread is suitable for framing.  Between you and Vancouver John/Song of the Baker, some bonafide perfectionist loaves are gracing our screens this windchilly April Fools day.  And that pie -- what a concept.  Almond macaroon?  That's gotta be good.  Thanks for posting such delectables.


hansjoakim's picture

Thanks a lot you guys!

Holiday's over now, so I guess many of us are off for our BA (bakers anonymoys) meetings tomorrow?

SylviaH's picture

Great to see you back and your superb baking : )  and lovely meals!

The bread is devine, so are the cakes and the almond tart is just heavenly with it's perfect crust and filling!  Very nicely done, Hans :)  You are an inspiration to me to tidy up my baking...but I just can't help that old grandma rustic homemade look..that's me 'lol'.  

I was just looking at those kind of almond tarts the other day..I have a lot of almond paste and flour handy..just love that almond filling.  I sometimes use a springform pan to remove the tarts or Italian pies and just put some parchment on the bottom to slide it off the bottom.  I have one large non-stick tart pan that has a removable bottom..I love this tart pan.  Nothing sticks to it and everything comes out unblemished.

Happy April 1st.  No foolin!


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hey hans.  Just when i felt confident with my weekend's sourdoughnloaf bake, younpostbthis amazing loaf and take me a few notches down ;)

i have some shaping and scoring practice judging from your loaf.  Nicely done!


Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb


I was going to comment on your superb loaf when Hansj's appeared and stole the spotlight, and my attention.  Best now before your post disappears off the page.  Make no mistake about it SotB, yours was a world-class loaf by any standard.  Very nice.  Between yours and HansJ's, I'm inspired re: my next bake.  High standards you guys are setting.  Makes TFL worth every visit.


Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thank you for the comments Tom.  Really appreciated.  Glad to be of some inspiration to a long time baker such as yourself.

Takre care.


dmsnyder's picture

The Spanish expulsion of the Jews in 1492 destroyed a thriving community that had been a major component of Iberian culture for a millenium. However, the Sephardic diaspora enriched the culture of the many countries to which they imigrated - from Greece to Norway. 

I always appreciate your comments on the provenence of the wonderful foods you show us, hansjoakim.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Hans,

All look delicious.

 I think it is great that you are learning about regional foods.  History meant little or nothing to me as a child in school but as an adult I am fascinated by it and learning about bread/food really tells the story of the people and how they lived....and are still living and moving around bringing their traditions with them.  Thanks so much for sharing what you are learning here.

Take Care,


chouette22's picture

What a beautifully open crumb. Which one is your standard bread again? Is this a Hamelman derivative?
Interesting cookies and what a great almond cake. You weren't stingy with the filling, I am sure it tastes very rich and wonderful. How funny that you found the recipe through a TFL member. And I love the research/history behind it. 

LindyD's picture

Nice to see you back, Hans.

You certainly haven't lost your touch.


Isand66's picture

Thanks for sharing your bread, cake and cookie/brreads.  Being Jewish I am facinated by your cookies or are they rolls?  What do they taste like and can you share your recipe?

Your bread looks perfect and must taste terrific and that pie has me wanting to turn around and go back to the gym to work off the 5 pounds I gained by thinking about it :0

I suppose some drizzled chocolate couldn't hurt it either!


hansjoakim's picture

Cheers everyone! Thanks so much for your wonderful comments!

@chouette: Thank you! Yes, the loaf formula is based on one of Hamelman's pain au levains (his pain au levain with mixed starters, if memory serves me right), and I've only made some smaller adjustments here and there to better suit my flour and sourdough. I put up the complete formula in the blog post above!

@Ian: Thanks a lot! Well, they're a bit hard to categorise as our take on the Jewish cake is not as dry as a regular cookie and not as soft as a roll. It's more like a slightly dense quick bread, perhaps? They're lightly sweetened, and the taste of fermented milk comes through. I've searched around the web for recipes, and there seems to be basically two varieties: i) A very moist dough that is spooned onto parchment paper and baked (this is rather sweet and produces a very soft cake that does not keep very well) and ii) a drier dough that is rolled out with a rolling pin, and cakes are cut out using a circular cutter (this is the type I made here). Here's the recipe I used:

  • Sugar: 200 gr.
  • Melted butter: 100 gr.
  • Bread flour: 500 gr.
  • Ammonium bicarbonate: 1 tsp.
  • Soured milk/kefir: 250 gr.

Mix everything together in a bowl, making sure everything is well blended. Do not work the dough more than necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and rest 1-2 hours. Use a rolling pin to roll out to approx 0.5 cm thickness, using flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Cut out cakes using a round cutter, and sprinkle some sugar in the centre of each cake. Bake at 175 degrees centigrade for approx. 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

chouette22's picture

for adding the formula - very nice!

Isand66's picture

Thanks.  I will save both your recipes and add them to my never ending growing binder of recipes to try!

Mebake's picture

Inspiring, again!

Such a beautiful collection of pastry and bread, Hans. Your Staple is my staple now.. your Rye SD pain au levain, yours is beautiful.

All the best, and a happy easter.

hansjoakim's picture

I'm very glad to hear that! A boost of inspiration that gave me. Thanks again!

evonlim's picture

wow.. how do you get your bread so perfectly beautiful, it bloomed so nice.  wonderful even open crumbs. of course the cake and cookies are both amazing too. 

thank you for sharing beautiful pictures and formula.


rossnroller's picture

Just a delight to open up your posts and leer at the pics. Your baking always has been exquisite, and you've lost absolutely nothing during your break.


varda's picture

your shoulder to see how you make such a precise and elegant presentation of your pain au levain.   It is quite unique in that respect and has your signature on it.   -Varda

hanseata's picture

As usual, your breads and pastry look very attractive, Hansjoakim (compare those to the eye sores sold in a professional bakery in the "NOT my bread" thread!) I, also, find it very rewarding looking at old, traditional recipes and trying to re-create them.

Thanks for sharing,



hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much for your compliments!

At first I didn't think the "NOT my bread" was bread at all...! But then realised what it was, and found it quite depressing.

nicodvb's picture

Hans Joakim, your bread is always perfect. It's a real joy to watch! Recently I started to repeat your 40% rye over and over until I removed all my mistakes. Now I get a delicious and incredibly soft bread that keeps for days almost without drying. 

Your tart looks absolutely heavenly. Butter, almonds and sugar are the only ingredients that I love more than rye:) 

hansjoakim's picture

Thanks so much, my friend! And I'm very happy to learn that you're enjoying the 40% rye as well! As long as these doughs are balanced and well-hydrated, I also find the baked breads to remain fresh for days. The crust will lose some of its crustiness over time, but the crumb should stay soft and moist.

I think the two of us have some things in common when it comes to baking and preferences, Nico :o)