They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but I beg to differ on my newest addition to my cookbook shelf. Just before Christmas I passed a tempting a festive Nordic window display with ‘Scandinavian Baking – Loving Baking at Home’ by Trine Hahnemann placed centre stage. In a rush, I couldn’t buy it on the spot but ventured back to purchase in the New Year as a treat to chase away the post-Christmas blues and to fill a gap in my cook book repertoire. On the cover is a sumptuous berry cake oozing with cream and red summer berries; in the Christmas display it was visually festive but now home in my warm kitchen with raging winter winds at my window and a grey sky beyond it is a promise of summer. Trine chose her ‘Fru Pigalopp Cake’ for the cover. A creation of her own based on a traditional layer cake, inspired by her love for the children’s book character Fru Pigalopp, it demonstrates the bold promises made in the inside cover: ‘This is the authoritative work on Scandinavian baking, containing more than 100 authentic recipes with a modern twist.’
Thus far all my baking books have been English, American, New Zealand, French and Italian, so this book is perfect to introduce me to Scandinavian ways. Last year I wrote a posting about Cinnamon Buns inspired by the loss of my dear Swedish friend. It became an emotional journey making these gorgeous buns, metaphorically in the dark, using Rosa’s sketchy handwritten recipe but without her guidance. It was through this research I first began to fully appreciate the depth of the baking culture in these Nordic lands, and Trine confirms this: ‘baking is engrained into every Scandinavian soul’ – and my friend was an absolute testament to this.
Danish Trine Hahnemann is a well-known chef, food writer and entrepreneur with her own corporate catering company supplying around 3,000 lunches every day for businesses and companies in the Copenhagen area. In this book she declares herself as a self-taught baker educated by cultural osmosis and her lust to learn. A period in the UK away from her homeland spurred her development as she had to make for herself the tastes of home, especially rye bread. I think there is nothing like absence from one’s own food to focus a cook! This need spurred a huge passion for rye bread and the quest to inspire and educate others, which has led her to become a keynote speaker for TEDx. Trine also admits to writing the book through an ‘unsettling year’, describing the book’s creation and the baking required as ‘healing’ and ‘grounding.’ I totally get this. Baking is my happy place in stormy waters or when I just feel out of sorts and fidgety. For me baking offers a beginning, middle and an end in a short time frame, unlike many aspects of life! As a child raised in a commune with socially motivated parents and free thinking it isn’t surprising that she hopes that we too will find some ‘peace’ within these pages.
So new baking adventures await and I am eager to get cracking! Firstly I am impressed by the size of this book and the variety of recipes: Danish pastries, cookies, cream buns, cakes, bread and companion recipes such as Redcurrant Cordial – ‘the Scandinavian drink’ – and Herring with Apple, Beetroot and Red Onion – a recipe that might actually tempt me to try the world famous herring Scandinavian style!
I get besotted by good food photography and though crass, food porn is a rather good analogy! I am glad to report Scandinavian Baking does not disappoint. If I did have a criticism it would be that I find the pictures a little dark, but perhaps for a region that spends many months with no or little light during the winter months this is intended. Also I would have liked to have seen more outside shots. The outdoors Midsummer Cake Party scene gave me a glimpse into family life by the beach.
Overall the styling is rustic, homely and feminine with masculine bursts but a little generic. I say this with caution as on further thought I think many stylists over here have been influenced by the Scandinavians!
The recipes are clearly written with a short back story. More extensive technique is demonstrated with step by step pictures, which I really like – seeing a cheese slice used for thinly slicing butter when making Danish dough will be very helpful. I am a passionate bread enthusiast and there are some excellent recipes both traditional and inventive. Limpa with Anise, Sweet Rye Bread with Fennel seeds sound fascinating, and Nordic Spelt Focaccia with Fruit and Nuts makes a lovely alternative to cake. Trine also dedicates a couple of pages to grains and flour, which is very insightful. I am itching to try the Danish recipes: Kringle with Rosehip Jam and Poppy and Sesame Danish cry ‘try me’ from the page! Cake-wise I have to try the Apricot and Marble Cake as it makes me sentimental for what Rosa called Tiger Cake, and the various cream and layer cakes will certainly be entertaining show stoppers to be proud of. Marzipan is a favoured ingredient crowning choux buns known as Potato Cakes or a layered cake wrapped in marzipan and decorated with marzipan flowers such as her Tilly’s Dream Cake which looks heavenly. Medals, Danish Custard Pies, Raspberry Snitter, Runeberg Cakes are all reasons why I wanted this book – they are all new to me and will broaden my baking education, palette and probably my waistline!
The book closes with a cosy chapter on Christmas, full of warmth, spice and tradition, leaving me in no doubt that these people know how to chase out the winter blues and make the most of their long nights.
You can purchase the book via Amazon here. (Affiliate link.)