Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Scandinavian Cookbook review and a recipe for Brunsviger

Here's a post that I've been mulling over for ages. I received the review copy of Trina Hahnemann's latest cookbook, The Scandinavian Cook Book – A Year in the Nordic Cuisine, early last summer (I'm talking 2009 here, folks!), and loved the book a lot. The choice of recipes was inspiring and the photography by Lars Ranek was utterly delicious! I've tried several of the recipes, but somehow never got around to writing up a review post. It's about time, as I really do think the book is worth buying if you're into Nordic/Scandinavian food.

But first, a little detour. Living in Estonia, we think we're rather different from our two southern Baltic neighbours, Latvians and Lithuanians. We tend to look more up north for inspiration and identification, you see. But when you look from a distance - say, the USA - there are many more similarities between Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians (yes, also in culinary sense) that we often give credit to. I guess it's the same when you try to make sense of the Scandinavian cooking when living in the centre of the culinary region (say, Stockholm :)). Differences between your own cuisine and that of your neighbours seem much bigger when you're in the midst of it, than they look from afar...

For me, living just on the outskirts of the region that's traditionally considered to be Scandinavia (that is, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland; Finland is usually not included on the list), there are many more similarities that there are differences between the various. I'm slightly biased, as I'm most familiar with Danish food, having spent a year studing there in early 1990s. But I have been to Norway and Sweden on many-many occasions, trying to sample local food, that I feel I'm at least somewhat authorised to generalise here :)

The cookbook follows the seasonal trend - furthermore, the recipes are given in monthly chapters. It has most of the recipes one would think of when thinking of Scandinavian dishes - Danish pastries, rye bread, several smørrebrød recipes, gravlax, cardamom buns and cinnamon rolls, Captain's Stew (I should blog about that as well, totally addictive!), Biff Lindström, couple of herring recipes, kransekage almond cakes, meatballs with lingonberry jam, rødgrød med fløde (the famous Danish tonguetwister), the Danish summer soup koldskål (similar to this one), Swedish crayfish feast, Västerbotten cheese tart, glögg, Swedish Lucia bread Lusekatter and Christmas ham, caramel potatoes, risalamande, to name just some of the 100 or so recipes included in the book. Granted, I would have wanted to see a recipe for Jansson's Temptation, syltkyssar, Toast Skagen, Tosca Cake or some other Scandinavian classics, but having just completed my first cookbook, I know one has to draw a limit somewhere..

So if you're looking into buying a cookbook with a lovely selection of Scandinavian recipes, then do buy this one.

Brunsviger is a lovely soft Danish pastry - basically a yeast-dough tray-bake with a caramel topping. Trina introduces the recipe like this:

"This soft, breadlike cake originated in Funen, Denmark. I think it deserves to become world famous. Sweet and tender and best the same day it is baked, it is traditionally eaten in the morning or with the afternoon coffee, but I also think it is perfect with a cup of tea. The only problem with this cake is that I can eat almost half of it all by myself."

You'll find the original recipe here (and in Danish here). Below is a very lightly adapted version that I've been successfully making on several occasions now.

(Taani pehme suhkrukook)
Adapted from The Scandinavian Cook Book
Serves 12 to 16

Brunsviger / Danish sugar cake / Taani pärmitaina-suhkrukook

40-50 g fresh yeast
250 ml milk, lukewarm
2 large eggs
500 g all-purpose/plain flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
0.5 tsp salt
75 g unsalted butter, melted

Caramel sugar topping:
150 g soft brown sugar
150 g unsalted butter

POUR THE MILK INTO A BOWL, add the yeast, and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast has dissolved. Add the eggs and mix well, then add the sifted flour, sugar, salt and finally, the melted butter.
Stir the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon (or simply use the dough hook on your KitchenAid) to make a dough. When the dough comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl, transfer to a floured counter and knead for about 5 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
LINE A 25 BY 35 CM BAKING DISH WITH PARCHMENT PAPER and press the dough evenly in the dish. Cover with a dish towel and let rise again for 15 minutes.
MAKE THE GLAZE. Melt the brown sugar and butter together in a pan over a moderately low heat, stirring until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is no longer crunchy. Do not let it boil.
PREHEAT THE OVEN to 200 C. Press your fingers down into the risen dough, making small indentations across the surface. Spread the glaze evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-2 cm border. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sugar has melted, and is brown and sticky. Let the brunsviger cool a little before cutting into pieces and serving.

Other foodbloggers reviewing this book:
Anne's Food
Icelanding cooking, recipes and food
Gourmet Traveller
Wrightfood: recipes & culinary adventures from a Brit in Seattle


Nicole Pearce said...

I was in Omnivore Books in San Francisco a few weeks ago and looked through this book. It was stunningly beautiful. Now, after reading your review I wish I had purchased it.

Emma said...

I love this book, the photos are beautiful, but more importantly, the recipes work, nothing is overly complicated and everything we have made so far has tasted great! Thanks for a good review!

pagulane said...

Ema küpsetas seda sageli, kui väiksed olime ja kutsus seda lihtsalt plaadikoogiks.

Pille said...

Nicole - you can always buy it on Amazon ;)

Emma - the recipes I've tried have worked very well!

Pagulane - mina "kohtasin" sellist karamellise kattega pärmitainast plaadisaia küll esimest korda alles Taanis ja ükski eesti tuttav pole öelnud, et nende jaoks on see vana ja tuttav retsept! Ju Su emal oli Taanist pärit retsept!

Anonymous said...

Might have to pick up a copy of this one, looks great!
If you're into Nordic Cuisine, check out my new food-blog documenting my 5 months studying abroad in Copenhagen this spring!

Mamun said...

First time here...u have nice space and really inspirational stuff... I'll be back soon.