Norwegian Cardamom-Almond Pie (fyrstekake)

IMG_6784Once upon a time, Happy Food Baby, Big Sister and their friend Corie, all lived together in a big house in Bloomingdale. Every Sunday they would make a huge feast with some of the most delicious and decadent food: roast chicken, milk-braised pork, lentil and chorizo casserole. There were always yummy roast potatoes, tasty green salads and lashings upon lashings of wine! One week, when they were planning their next epic feast, they thought to themselves: what haven’t we tried yet?  And of course, it was obvious, they hadn’t done anything with fish. But Happy Food Baby was perplexed. She was usually responsible for desserts and she couldn’t think of anything suitable to end a fish dinner. I mean, you can’t have fish for dessert. But luckily, she happened to be leafing through the magical pages of Corie’s latest Bon Appetit magazine when she came across her next recipe. It was so laughably perfect: fyrstekake, a Norwegian cardamom and almond tart. But what made it so fitting is that fyrstekake is actually pronounced fish-de-ka-ka, and so there it was, Happy Food Baby’s delicious contribution to next Sunday’s dinner. It was a hearty feast, with white fish and prawns and spuds (and roasted chestnuts on the side) although the less said about the fish sauce, the better. The End.

I haven’t used cardamom before in cooking or baking. This recipe calls for freshly-ground cardomom, and I can see why. The smell of fresh cardamom is so beautifully fragrant and perfumed – a delightfully unexpected flavour in an otherwise unassuming-looking pie. First time round I used a clean pepper mill to grind the seeds but I would certainly recommend a mortar and pestle, which is what I used for this second attempt. You can also add this to your list of things to make when you have loads of egg whites left over after making ice-cream.

The pie requires a 9-inch dish. It’ll feed 8-10 people. The only accompaniment you need is simple, whipped cream.

Freshly-ground cardamom is called for in the crust and the egg white filling so grind up all of your cardamom seeds in one go and divide as necessary.

IMG_6745 thisPie Crust

1 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp freshly-ground cardamom
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ Cup / 4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature 
½ Cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp whole milk or cream

1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 mins.

3. Add the egg yolk and milk or cream and beat until full combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat again.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. It will have the consistency of clumpy breadcrumbs.

5. Lay out a large piece of clingfilm or plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Dump the crumbs onto it and gather together to form a ball – don’t worry, it will be super crumbly. Pull the clingfilm up around the sides of the pastry ball and use that to mash any outlying crumbly bits into the bigger ball. Remove approximately one-quarter of the dough, flatten and wrap separately. Flatten and wrap the larger piece of dough. Refrigerate both for at least 2 hours or overnight.

6. Butter the pie dish.

7. Unwrap the larger piece of dough and, in the base of the pie dish, crumble it into small pieces. Use your fingertips and the palms of your hands to squish the dough down and outwards towards the sides. You can also use a large metal spoon or anything else flat and heavy to help smooth out the dough. Begin pushing it up the sides of the dish to a height of about half an inch. Pop back in the fridge to chill.

8. Roll out the quarter piece of dough to approximately 1/8 inch and use cookie cutter to cut out a bunch of shapes (these will go on top of the egg white filling). I used stars. Place them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge to chill.

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For the Filling

2 Cups Slivered Almonds
1 Cup powdered sugar / icing sugar
¾ tsp freshly-ground cardamom
¼ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
3 large egg whites
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk + 2 tsp water

1. Preheat oven to 175 C / 350 F.

2. In a food processor, combine the slivered almonds, powdered sugar, cardamom and nutmeg. Pulse until the mixture is quite finely ground, about 2 mins, stopping halfway through to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and vanilla until medium peaks form. Using a spatula, scrape the egg whites into the bowl of ground almonds and gently fold them in until completely combined.

4. Spoon the egg white and almond filling into the chilled pie crust and smooth the top. Arrange the dough cut-outs on top.

5. Whisk together the egg yolk and water and brush over the cut-outs and the edges of the pie crust.

6. Bake in the oven for approximately 30-35 mins, until the pie crust and cut-outs are browned and the egg white filling is set and firm to the touch (it shouldn’t wiggle).

7. Allow to cool then dredge with powdered sugar. Serve with whipped cream. See the Bon Appetit recipe here.




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