Swedish Christmas Food

Taste a different type of festive feast this year with these alternative Swedish recipes

Jansson’s temptation

Jansson’s temptation or Janssons frestelse − a creamy potato and anchovy casserole − is said to have been named for Pelle Janzon, a food-loving Swedish opera singer of the early 20th century.

The recipe was published for the first time in 1940, and this rich casserole quickly became a classic of the Swedish Christmas dinner table. But Jansson's temptation can just as easily be eaten at any time of year.

Makes: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
1.2 kg potatoes
400g onions
375g spice-cured sprat (anchovy) filets
6dl heavy whipping cream
salt and white pepper, to taste
breadcrumbs
butter

Preparation:
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into strips. Peel and cut the onions into thin slices, sautéing them gently in a little butter without browning.

2. Grease an ovenproof baking dish and cover the bottom with a layer of potatoes, then add half the onions and half the sprat filets. Add another layer of potatoes, then the rest of the onion and sprats. Finish with a layer of potatoes.

3. Flatten the surface, apply a few turns of pepper fresh from the mill and sprinkle on a little salt. Pour the cream on until it is almost visible through the potatoes. Place a few pats of butter on top and, if desired, sprinkle with some bread crumbs.

4. Bake in the oven (250'C/475'F) for about an hour.

Saffron buns and gingersnaps

Saffransbullar and pepparkakor means saffron buns and gingersnaps. These are among the traditional Swedish Christmas treats. The sweet yeast rolls that are served during the Christmas season are flavoured with golden saffron and dark raisins and often shaped into “Lucia cats” (lussekatter, pictured).

The gingersnaps are customarily cut in the shape of little men and women, pigs or hearts, and are often decorated with frosting. It is not uncommon for children to help build little houses out of gingersnap dough to celebrate Christmas.

But sweet yeast buns without saffron are eaten year-round in Sweden, usually in the form of cinnamon buns. Gingersnaps are also eaten year round, though most of the time they are not home-made and are generally just round in shape.

Makes: 25 buns

Ingredients:
3g saffron threads
50g yeast
2½dl sugar
3dl milk
1 egg
150–200g butter
1 tsp salt
750g flour
1½ dl raisins

Glaze:
1 egg
2 tbs water

Preparation:
1. To make "Lucia cats", grind the saffron along with a cube of sugar, using a mortar and pestle. (For those who think ahead: drip a little cognac on top, and let stand a few days.)

2. Crumble the yeast in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter and pour on the milk. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, and knead the dough in a dough mixer for ten minutes. Carefully mix in most of the raisins, cover the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.

3. Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll the buns in an oblong shape, about 10cm long. Cover them and let rest for ten minutes, then roll them twice as long and twist the ends of each bun in opposite directions to form a sort of figure 8.

4. Put one raisin in the middle of each half figure 8.

5. Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 90 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size.

6. Bake in the oven (220'C/425'F) for five minutes. Beat together the egg and water, brush the mixture on the buns. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

Pepparkakor (gingersnaps)

Ingredients:

3 dl brown sugar
2½ dl white sugar
1½ dl dark corn syrup
1½ dl water
300g butter
2 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs ground ginger
2 tbs ground cloves
1 tbs baking soda
0.9–1kg flour

Preparation:

1. Heat the brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup and water in a pot. Add the butter and let it melt. Stir and let cool slightly, then blend in the spices and baking soda.

2. Then mix in the flour to a smooth consistency.

3. Sprinkle a little flour on top and put the dough out to cool, preferably overnight.

4. Take the dough and knead it smooth on a baking table, adding more flour if desired. Roll it thin and cut into shapes, using the desired cookie cutters.

5. Bake in the oven (180'C/350'F) for eight to ten minutes. Let the gingersnaps cool on the baking sheet.