26/06/2010

Brauðterta – Icelandic style sandwich loaf: Salmon and egg

I had planned to post a sandwich loaf recipe much earlier, but since I rarely make them and when I do I don’t use a recipe, I had to find a set recipe first. I finally did find it, in fact several of them, which I will be posting in the following weeks.

Sandwich loaves, or ‘bread cakes’ as they are called in Iceland, are an enduring presence at Icelandic celebrations where cakes are served. While not an Icelandic invention (I think they may have originated in the USA), they have been popular here for at least 50 years and there seems to be no stopping them. While the fillings change according to fashion and whim and we don’t use half as much mayonnaise in them as once was the case they continue to be a vehicle for cooks to display their talents with garnish, and a savoury palate cleanser in between nibbles of all the sweet cakes usually served at traditional birthday parties.

They are generally made from white bread, and you can buy the bread pre-cut for the purpose.

There are two kinds of sandwich cake bread available. One is basically a pan-baked loaf of white sandwich bread that has been sliced lengthwise, like this (for a bit of a laugh at the expense of yesterday’s cookbook authors, keep clicking the “next” button until you get to the end of the pictures).

The crusts are removed, leaving between 4 and 6 long slices of bread.

The other kind are rolls. These are big, thin slices of bread that look like the cake layer of a jelly roll before it's rolled up. They can either be rolled up or layered to make large sandwich cakes. In a pinch, the other kind can be used instead, but care is then needed when rolling them up.

These cakes can be made using any sandwich filling or anything you will find as a topping for Danish smörrebröd, but certain fillings are more common than others.

The most common are:
Ham and asparagus
Ham and egg
Shrimp salad (shrimp, egg, ham or shrimp, ham and pineapple)
Roast beef (roast beef with French-fried onions, remoulade sauce, and either sliced pickled cucumber or slices of canned peaches or apricots)
Tuna spread (tuna and egg and sometimes either chopped onion or sweet corn)
Salmon and egg

Traditionally, the fillings are held together with mayonnaise, and here arises a problem: Commercially made Icelandic mayonnaise is like no-other kind I have tried. It is not only thicker, but it is not as vinegary-tasting. I have on several occasions tried to make these kinds of fillings (in small portions suitable for sandwiches) with imported mayonnaise, but the only time it has worked out was when making tuna spread, and then only because I not only drained the tuna thoroughly, but I actually squeezed out all the juice before making the spread. Still, the flavour wasn’t as good. When I tried making shrimp salad with Hellman’s mayonnaise, the mayonnaise turned soupy and ruined the salad.

These days, a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream is generally used, and sometimes the mayonnaise is dispersed with and cream cheese is used instead.

I never, ever use a recipe myself, but when you have never made one of these before a recipe is a good starting point. I rarely get the opportunity to make sandwich loaves, but I plan to take photos whenever I get the chance and will add them to show how these creations can be decorated. This and the other sandwich loaf posts are therefore going to become rerun posts, so if you leave comments, I will append your comments to the bottom of the appropriate post whenever I refresh it and bring it back to the top because Blogger erases the comments when you repost a blog entry with a new date.

And now for today's featured sandwich loaf:

Salmon & egg sandwich loaf
This is a delicious variation on the traditional salmon and egg salad loaf. A traditional loaf includes mashed hard-boiled eggs, but this uses scrambled eggs instead.

3 layers of sandwich bread

Salmon spread:
300 g smoked salmon, thinly sliced
5 eggs, hard-boiled
200 g mayonnaise
100 g sour cream

Keep back some extra slices of salmon

Chop the salmon and eggs into small pieces and mix well with the mayo and cream. Chill.

Scrambled eggs with salmon:
4 eggs
3 tbs cream
100 g smoked salmon
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly whip together the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper. Purée the salmon in a food processor and add to the egg mixture, stirring lightly together. Fry the scrambled eggs until well done and set aside to cool.

Put 1/3 of the salmon spread on the bottom layer of bread, top with the second bread layer, then the scrambled egg, then more bread and end with salmon spread. Smooth the remaining salmon spread on the ends and side of the loaf. Decorate with thin slices of salmon (or cover the whole thing with salmon slices) and garnish with vegetables, e.g. tomato roses, slivers of red bell pepper or cucumber. Egg slices are also suitable decoration.

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