Swedish Christmas meatballs

 

Swedish Christmas meatballs

Christmas is approaching. I presume that most of you are aware of that. You may have started putting up the Christmas decorations yourselves. If not, you just have to walk out through the door to be surrounded by glittering stars, flashing raindeers with associated Santa Clause, obscure little gnomes, and millions of Christmas lights.
You know it’s high time to start planning the Christmas dinner.
Here in Sweden, we must start planning in good time if we are to have a chance to be ready on time.
The list of required food items is long. There has to be, ham, potatoes, stewed kale, pickled herrings, smoked salmon, spare ribs, mushroom omelet, mustard, sausages…..

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. And from a food waste perspective, it’s quite depressing. We have to waste most of the food we are cooking because there’s no chance that we can eat all of it. Something I use to rant about to my family’s dismay.

But we have tried to reduce the amount of food the last years. Instead of cooking everything that is supposed to be on the Christmas table, we are focusing on what we want.
For me, that includes three things. Ham, pickled herring, and meatballs. A small potato to the herring is desirable, but not necessary. If I can also get a glass of good Christmas beer and a schnaps, I’m more than happy.

But meatballs are a must.

And for most other Swedes too. I don’t think I have ever experienced a Swedish Christmas meal without meatballs. What can I say? We take our meatballs seriously.

I searched for Swedish meatballs on Pinterest and found lots of recipes. They seem to be quite well-known around the world, and I suppose we can thank IKEA for that.
Most of the recipes claim that they are traditional and authentic, which is not entirely correct, I’m afraid. I’m sure that most of them are delicious, but I only found a handful that can be classified as authentic.

And let me get this straight. There is no such thing as Authentic Swedish meatball soup. Ask a Swede for a recipe for that, and you will see a face in complete confusion.
And don’t mention anything about vegan meatballs. You can almost compare that to shouting obscenities in church. There is nothing wrong with the vegan food. I’m trying to reduce my meat consumption as well, but it’s not an option when it comes to meatballs.

You see how important this subject is, even for me? I have used a whole paragraph nit-picking on other peoples enthusiastic attempts to create new exciting dishes. It’s time to stop that and give you my version of a Swedish meatball recipe. My traditional Christmas meatballs.

Perhaps I shouldn’s say it’s my recipe. I have been inspired by a recipe by the Swedish chef Leif Mannerström. I have of course tweaked it a little bit, but it’s very close to the original.
Leif points out two important things to consider when frying meatballs.

Use a mixture of ground meat from both beef and pork.
If you only use ground beef, there’s a risk that the meatballs will become a bit dry.

Use both fried and raw onion.
Fried and raw onion taste very different, and you want both these tastes.

frying onion

 

 

 

The original recipe, like most other, contains egg. The egg acts as a binder, keeping the ball together during the frying. It also adds a more compact, and in my opinion, a bit gummy texture that I don’t like. I want a more loose texture, so I use to exclude the egg. You have to be more careful when frying meatballs without egg, but it is possible. Just watch all the pictures in this post.
However, this is a matter of taste (and courage). Try both versions and see which one you prefer.

Frying meatballs

What distinguishes Christmas meatballs from the ordinary are all different types of seasonings. The most common is allspice. Cinnamon and clove are also quite popular. My favorite is no extra seasoning at all. I prefer ordinary meatballs even when it’s Christmas.

Spices

 

Traditional Swedish Christmas meatballs

I know. Sometimes I can be quite boring. But I think Leif Mannerström agrees with me. He has no extra seasoning in his Christmas meatballs either.

Print Recipe
Swedish Christmas meat balls
There will be no Christmas in Sweden without meatballs. At least not a merry one.This is a recipe for traditional Swedish Christmas meatballs.
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
"Standard" meatballs
Seasoning. Choose one of the following aternatives.
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
"Standard" meatballs
Seasoning. Choose one of the following aternatives.
Instructions
  1. Boil and mash the potato. Mince one onion and grate the last half. Fry the minced onion in butter until it gets translucent. Mix all ingredients. Add some salt and pepper and fry a small dollop of the mixture and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  2. Form the meatballs by rolling a piece of the mixture with your hands. Fry them in batches with butter in a skillet for 4-6 minutes on medium heat. They shall have a nice brown color.
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Sourdough baguettes

Sourdough Baguettes

Look at the picture above. What is wrong with the three sourdough baguettes you see? Not much, some of you will probably think. And I agree. There is nothing wrong with them. They have a nice golden brown crunchy crust, and they tasted just great.


But if you are an experienced baker you may point out that there is not much oven spring to theses baguettes. And that is the problem.

Let’ face it. Oven spring adds an aesthetic touch that is hard to ignore. Compare my baguettes with these ones.

Baguettespixabay

We both know which ones you had chosen, right?
But what happened to my baguettes? I think they fell victim of the gruesome sickness called over-proofing, caused by a sloppy baker (aka me).
But I was not so sloppy this time. I made the finger poke test several times. Still, I did not get the result I wanted. Most of you probably know what the finger poke test is, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief description.
You make a little imprint on the top of the loaf by pressing your finger on it.

If the imprint springs back and fills up quickly, the loaf is probably under-proofed.
If the imprint springs back partly, the loaf is ready to be baked.
But If the imprint doesn’t recover at all, you probably have an over-proofed loaf.

The imprint on my sourdough baguettes bounced back halfways, indicating that the timing for putting them into the oven was perfect. I won’t claim that the test failed me completely. There was some oven spring. But not enough.

This problem has occurred before, especially when I’m trying to bake sourdough baguettes. I realized that I had got a mission. The mission to crack the code about baking baguettes (with lots of oven spring).

I knew I couldn’t blame my starter this time. My starter can be an obnoxious creature that doesn’t want to cooperate far too often. But this time it had been extremely bubbly and lively. It was also something I noticed during the bulk fermentation as the dough was rising very quickly. So I could only assume that I had over-proofed a little during the final rise.
But believing is not enough. I wanted to know.

Starter

I remembered that I used to use the double size test before I learned about the finger poke test. You try to measure the size of the loaf with your eyes. When it has doubled in size, it’s time to put it in the oven. This method is very unreliable as it’s very hard to tell when a loaf has doubled in size if you let it ferment in a banneton. It’s easier if you have it in a bread pan, but that’s not an option if you want to bake baguettes.

But there is another way. You can place a small piece of dough in a straight glass. If you mark the initial level of the dough with a rubber band, it’s easy to measure when it has doubled in size. This test is far more reliable because the dough can only expand in one direction and that is upwards.

I decided to use both tests for my next trial.

SECOND BAKING SESSION

My second attempt didn’t start that well. From being very lively and active, my starter returned to a grumpy, sleepy behavior. Everything looked good the day before when I mixed the poolish. But I also used some amount of the starter to a batch of sourdough breakfast rolls that we were going to eat for breakfast the next morning. Obviously, my starter thought that was enough. It was not in a mood for any more baking adventures, and all I could see was some tiny bubbles on the surface. But after feeding it and placing it warm, it was in a better mood again after an hour or two.

I followed the same procedure as last time except that I placed a small piece of dough in a high straight glass for both the bulk fermentation and the final rise. I marked the starting level with a rubber band and placed it next to the main dough.

The poolish had already developed a lot of taste and sourness, so I didn’t want long fermentation times. This is, of course, a matter of taste. Personally, I don’t want my sourdough baguettes to be too sour. So I let the dough and formed loaf ferment in a warm environment, about 77ºF /25ºC. Total fermentation time was 4.5 hour. 3 hours for the bulk fermentation and 1.5 hours for the final rise. After that, both the finger poke test and the dough-in-glass-test indicated that it was time to place the baguette loaves in the oven. Besides, I want to point out that I agree with all that thinks that dough-in-glass-test is a ridiculous word. Feel free to come up with a better suggestion.

Poolish

Bulk fermentation

 

I studied the baguettes through the window in the oven door. But after a few minutes, I realized that I wouldn’t get that profound, nice oven spring I sought for this time either. I have to admit that I was disappointed. Everything looked so good when I shuffled the loaves into the oven. But I have to realize that I haven’t cracked the Baguette code yet. When it comes to oven spring, that will say. Because what these Baguettes lacked in oven spring they made up for in taste. They turned out to be exactly how I want my sourdough baguettes. A soft an airy crumb with lots of taste and a hint of sourness. The crust was a dream of cracker-like crunchiness. So I suppose I should be satisfied after all.

 

If I could only get a little better oven spring.

Next time, maybe.

Sourdough Baguettes

Print Recipe
Sourdough baguettes
Sourdough baguettes with a soft an airy crumb and cracker-like crunchy crust. A lot of taste with a hint of sourness makes these baguettes on of my most baked bread.
Servings
Ingredients
Poolish
Baguette
Servings
Ingredients
Poolish
Baguette
Instructions
Poolish
  1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Make sure that all flour is hydrated. Cover the dough with cling film and let it ferment for 10-12 hours.
Baguette
  1. Mix all ingredients including the poolish, but except the salt in a dough mixer until the dough is elastic. Use windowpane test. Add the salt the last minutes.
  2. If you prefer to knead by hand you can use a stretch and fold technique. You will find a link to a description of the technique in the recipe notes. There's also a link to a video. Start by letting the mixed dough autolyze for an hour, and then run a stretch and fold session every half hour, 3-4 times in total. Add the salt during the first stretch and fold session.
  3. Let the dough ferment until doubled in size. Use the dough-in-the-glass test described above.
  4. Lightly flour your work surface and dump out the dough. Divide it into three pieces with your bench knife. Flatten the dough gently with your hands. Fold one side against the other and repeat with the other. Form the dough to a baguette by rolling it gently against the work surface. There's a link to an excellent video showing how to form a baguette in the recipe notes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 480ºF / 250ºC with two oven plates. One to bake the bread on and one just below.
  6. Let the baguette loaves rise until doubled in size according to the dough-in-glass-test, in combination with the finger poke test.
  7. Score each loaf 3 or 4 times and place them in the oven. Pour some water on the plate below and bake each loaf in 15-25 minutes, or until the loaves has got a nice, golden brown color.
  8. Let the baguettes cool on wire racks.
Recipe Notes

For those who prefer to use a stretch and fold technique instead of running the dough into a dough mixer, you may find this video helpful. You can also look at one of my previous recipes.

This video shows how to form a baguette loaf. It also shows how to use a kitchen towel for the final rise if you don't have a baguette pan.

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