Clearly, we Danes aren’t religious enough. We need a whole day off from work every year dedicated to somehow compensate for our incessant sinning. Store Bededag (literally The Great Prayer Day) was introduced by Christian 5th of Denmark, in 1686 on the fourth Friday after Easter – and soon after turned into a gluttonous event.
You see, the bakers had the day off too, and came up with a bun that could be baked the day before and, technically at least, last till the day after. But it’s a trick!! They never last that long; we always end up eating the first batch Thursday evening – so consider making 2 batches 😉
Thus The Great Prayer Day is now mostly known as the day we eat Varme Hveder (warm wheats).
Warm wheats is known to every Dane by the distinctive cardamom smell, the tanginess from buttermilk, and the slightly flaky texture in the sides from where the buns have grown together. I’ve always loved the tanginess and the slightly rough texture from the wheat – and this sourdough whole wheat version enhances exactly this tangy roughness.
Varme Hveder “Surdejshveder”
Makes 12 buns, 1 sheetpanfull
- 60 g beurre noisette (brown butter)
- 60 g brown sugar (brun farin)
- 2 eggs
- 130 g whole milk
- 250 g buttermilk (Norwegian kulturmelk) – or 200g Danish kærnemelk
- 150 g whole wheat flour
- 500 g wheat flour
- 15 g fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp cardamom powder
- 100 g sourdough starter (100 % hydration)
Start by putting the butter in a pan on medium to medium-high to start the beurre noisette. Let the butter gently come to a nice brown colour – but be careful so it doesn’t burn. When browned, turn off the heat and let it cool a bit.
Next, in a small bowl, mix the eggs with the brown sugar. In another, larger bowl, mix all the dry ingredients: flour, salt & cardamom. Meanwhile, the beurre noisette has cooled a little. Cool it further by adding the whole milk and buttermilk into the pan.
Add both the egg-sugar and the “noisy-butter-milk” to the dry stuff in the large bowl, and finally add the sourdough. Stir everything quickly together and rest for 30 minutes..
Continue with the stretch & fold technique for best results. If you are unfamiliar with the no-knead stretch and fold technique, check out this tutorial with video here. Alternatively mix with a dough hook on the very lowest speed. Leave to rise overnight until doubled in size.
The next day, divide the dough into 12 dough balls, then tuck in the ends of each dough ball, and roll gently to tuck further in to build surface tension and shape into nice buns.
Place the 3×4 buns on one sheet pan, and leave to rise. The buns get their shape from rising and growing into each other, so let them sit side by side in the sheet pan. You want them to grow into each other then upwards resembling a cube. Expect the buns to rise for 2-4 hours until double in size.
Preheat the oven at 180C convection, 80% steam if you have it. Bake the buns for 15-18 mins, till they’re nicely browned.
Also, I never eggwash these – I want them to look as rustic as the wholewheat flour they grew from.
No sour dough?
If you have no sourdough, replace the starter with 50 g water and 50 g flour, and add 3 g dry yeast. Ferment in the fridge for 24 hours.
Tips / for best results:
When whisking the eggs and brown sugar, you’re looking for just fluffing it up a little, and also making sure the brown sugar doesn’t stay glued together in one corner of the dough. But don’t bother trying to whip it up nicely, as the leavening here will come from the sourdough.
Danes, Beware of bakers percentage!
You can use Danish kærnemælk in place of Norwegian kulturmelk, but kulturmelk is a lot like tykmælk in texture. So in order to keep the hydration right, you’ll need to replace the 250g kulturmelk with 200g kærnemælk.
On a boat?
You can use just one bowl. Just start by adding all the dry ingredients first, ignore fluffing the eggs, but make sure the butter is sufficiently cooled down by the milk, before you add the sourdough as the last step.