Northern Norwegian Solboller (Sun Buns)
The sun has finally started to return to Northern Norway after a long polar night when the sun didn’t rise at all, and after four years living in the North I know exactly how Northerners are celebrating – with solboller!
Interestingly, Northern Norwegian solboller, or sun buns, are different from Southern Norwegian solboller, also called solskinnsboller, or sunshine buns. Northerners do eat solskinnsboller as well, but these are not the buns they eat on soldagen, the day the sun returns after polar night. You can find my solskinnsboller recipe here.
Northern Norwegians celebrate the day the sun returns after polar night, the period of winter when the sun doesn’t rise, with their own version of solboller. These are doughnuts filled with raspberry jam or vanilla cream and sprinkled with sugar, a lot like berliner doughnuts. Some bakeries also sell solboller without filling. I like to fill half the batch with raspberry jam and half with vanilla cream.
Soldagen is such a special day. When I lived in Tromsø I would always buy some solboller and head down to the southern tip of the island to watch the sun peek above the mountains for the first time in months (polar night in Tromsø lasts from November 21st to January 21st). Some kindergartens also take their children here to sing a song to welcome the sun. And somehow the skies were always clear on January 21st so that we could see that first glimpse of the sun. I think I got teary every time!
And while I now live in Bergen, I still wanted to make a batch of solboller to celebrate. I’m sure I’m biased, but these are actually my favorite doughnuts, and the homemade version is definitely best!
Start with heating the milk and butter in a saucepan so that the butter melts. Then pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and let it cool to lukewarm. Take the time to let the mixture cool before adding the yeast, as the yeast will die if it’s too hot.
Because this is a Norwegian version of berliner, we of course spice the dough with a bit of cardamom.
You can use ground cardamom for this recipe, but if you have a mortar and pestal I highly recommend grinding cardamom seeds instead, as freshly ground seeds are much more flavorful. I wouldn’t bother unless it really made a difference, but it really does.
I mix a fairly sticky dough in the bowl, and then I flour my counter generously so that I can knead the dough. Knead the dough for about five minutes and then cover and let rise until it’s double in size.
The trickiest part of making solboller is forming the dough into smooth buns, as any deep wrinkles or crevices will affect how they fry. The easiest way to get smooth buns is to roll the dough out into a thick (3/4 inch, or 2cm) square and use a glass or form to cut out round slices. Then you’ll let these rise again for 15 minutes before frying.
I use flott lard to fry the buns, but you can also fry them in a neutral oil. I use a cooking thermometer to monitor the fat and keep it at about 330°F (165°C). But if you don’t have a thermometer, you can check that the fat is hot enough by sticking the end of a wooden spoon in the fat – if it bubbles the fat is hot enough to cook the solboller. Once I get it at the right temperature, I keep the heat on low/medium to maintain it. You don’t want the fat to get too hot, as then the outside of the buns will burn before the center cooks through.
Fry the buns until they are a nice golden brown – about 90 seconds on each side. If you are going to roll the buns in granulated sugar, do this soon after removing them from the fat so that the sugar sticks. Or you can wait until they’ve fully cooled and sprinkle them with powdered sugar instead.
Then you can fill the doughnuts with vanilla cream or raspberry jam – or both! To make the vanilla cream I used the vanilla custard from my skolebrød recipe. Or if you want to make it easier, you could use vanilla pudding instead.
If you have a long piping tip you can use that and then pipe the vanilla cream or jam directly in the doughnuts. If using a regular piping tip, I like to make a hole with a chopstick (actually I used a knitting needle this time) to make space inside the doughnut for the filling.
If you have jam in a squeeze bottle you can squeeze the jam directly into the solboller without needing a piping bag.
And then you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar.
Northern Norwegian Solboller (Sun Buns)
- Rolling Pin
- piping bag (or squeeze bottle of jam) for filling
- chopstick or something similar to help with filling (optional)
- 7 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- 4.5 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 4 eggs
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 5 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
- 4 cups lard or vegetable oil for frying
- granulated sugar or powdered sugar for sprinkling
- 1 cup raspberry jam or vanilla custard for filling
- Heat the butter and milk in a saucepan until the butter melts. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and let it cool to lukewarm.
- Add the yeast, cardamom and eggs and mix until smooth. Then add the flour, baking powder and vanilla and knead the dough on a floured surface for about five minutes. You might need to add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky to knead (but don't add more than necessary).
- Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes, though time can vary).
- Roll the dough out into a thick (3/4 inch, or 2cm) sheet and use a glass or form to cut out round slices. Cover and let them rise again for 15 minutes before frying.
- Heat the lard or oil in a large pot or pan to 330°F (165°C). I use a cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature, but if you don’t have a thermometer, you can check that the fat is hot enough by sticking the end of a wooden spoon in the fat – if it bubbles the fat is hot enough. Then reduce the heat to low or medium so you can maintain a stable temperature.
- Gently drop the dough in the oil and fry on each side until golden brown (about 90 seconds per side). Transfer to a wire rack covered in paper towels. If using granulated sugar, roll the doughnuts in sugar while they're still warm.
- Make a small hole in each doughnut with a chopstick or something similar and use the chopstick to make a hollow in the middle of the doughnut (see video below).
- Use a piping bag or squeeze bottle to fill each doughnut with jam or vanilla custard.
- Optional: sprinkle with powdered sugar.