There was an increased focus on Norway on my most recent trip to EPCOT at Disney World. I have a six-year-old daughter, and Norway has become quite the destination for girls of her generation. Any guesses why?
While members of my own clinging-to-our-youth generation probably associate EPCOT’s Norway with Maelstrom, a ride Disney described as “a mysterious boat ride through Scandinavian seascapes and swamps,” the site is now home to Frozen Ever After, starring—you guessed it—Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff. Arendelle, the fictional kingdom in Frozen, is based on the real-life Norwegian town of Arendal, so Norway is a natural fit.
I’d spent a lot of time thinking about Frozen Ever After in anticipation of riding it, mostly thanks to a two-hour exploration I’d listened to on Podcast: The Ride, a show about theme park attractions. But more than that, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to eat when I got off the ride. The treat that was populating my daydreams was school bread, the flagship item available at EPCOT’s Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe.
Despite having spent a lot of time in EPCOT in the past (I worked in Disney World in my 20s), I’d somehow never tasted school bread. Disney describes it as “a sweet roll filled with custard and dipped in coconut.” Admittedly, I took “roll” and turned it into “doughnut” in my imagination, which means I was picturing a fluffy, puffy deep-fried thing filled with custard and covered in coconut. Yes, please.
In reality, the sweet roll is, well, more of an actual roll. It’s a yeast dough that is baked, not fried, and EPCOT’s iteration was not puffy at all. It also wasn’t soft like a cinnamon roll. In fact, I found it pretty dense, which took me by surprise.
It was heavy on cold, luscious custard (I’m not complaining). The coconut was a perfect accoutrement, as coconut always is in my opinion. But what was really fetching about it was that the dough of the roll was spiced—perfectly spiced—with cardamom. The overall experience of the roll was just sweet enough, a level of restraint I appreciated.
For better or worse, I’ve always thought of EPCOT as a pretty lovely place that at least intends for its menu to be somewhat “authentic.”
Authenticity, despite the fact you’re in a very hot theme park in Florida, is, in my experience, something that can be found at EPCOT. The food, the atmospheres, the people—it’s possible to get lost in feeling like you were transported somewhere else, sometimes. Such is the magic of Imagineering.
But this time, things felt different. For years I’ve talked about the fact that through Disney’s Cultural Representatives Program, most of the cast members in EPCOT’s countries actually hail from that country. But because of the pandemic, that program was put on hold—actually, cultural representatives are just starting to return, and most of them were not there when I was at the park this summer.
Was it their absence that popped a bubble for me? Or was it just the fact that I’m older now, and more aware than that a theme park is, well, a theme park?
Either way, I found myself wondering if school bread was real or just a fairy tale, and I decided to find out what I could. Because I couldn’t fly to Norway itself, I decided to try making school bread at home from a recipe that didn’t claim to be EPCOT-inspired.
School bread, technical name skolebrød or skolebolle, is described as a food that is often packed in school lunches, hence the name. Wikipedia didn’t get far into the flavor, so I found a recipe on The Spruce Eats and gave it a whirl.
Though my dough came out puffier and less dense than EPCOT’s, it certainly was still nowhere near the doughnut I had imagined, and I’m coming around to the idea that this is actually an altogether better option than homemade doughnuts. The cardamom profile in the recipe was nearly identical to the EPCOT version, which is so much of what sets this treat apart. My only regret is that I followed the recipe’s suggestion to use instant pudding in the center. Next time, I think I’ll make my own custard, and I might pipe it in cold instead of baking it into the bread—that’s how it seemed to be prepared at EPCOT, and to great effect.
One word of caution that isn’t quite spelled out in the recipe: the milk and butter get much, much hotter than yeast can handle during scalding, and the mixture has to cool down quite a while before the yeast and sugar should be added.
If you have a trip planned to EPCOT, the Norwegian school bread is a must-order. Otherwise, the Spruce Eats recipe produces a delightfully similar product that will give your adult palate a taste of theme park flavors, perhaps for the first time in forever.