Baking

Baking

By
Simon Bajada
Contains
13 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708799
Photographer
Simon Bajada

To generalise that Nordic folk have a sweet tooth wouldn’t be wrong. Across the region, whether pre- or post-lunch, it is common to see people taking a quick break from work or holding a meeting over a cup of filter coffee with an accompanying taste of something sweet. So popular is this culture of coffee and cake in Sweden that it even has its own name, fika!

Spices are prominent in doughs and batters and there are many varieties of flour, producing a huge range of textures in breads, pastries and cakes. All those warming flavours we know and love – nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom – are as likely to cosy up in a mug of mulled wine as they are to find themselves in sweet bakes.

But it is the impressive selection of breads that really deserves our full attention. A good piece of dark rye with butter and a slice of sharp cheese is Sweden’s most celebrated chef, Mathias Dahlgren’s preferred last meal – with black coffee, of course. Whether crumbled up into ymer, served simply with butter during a meal, or providing the base for the famous smørrebrød, ragbröd is loved all over the region.

Today, traditional breads and crispbreads sit alongside some unusual varieties of softer, sweeter breads: carrot bread, sunflower seed bread and lingonberry bread, to name a few. With such a range of grains and flours to choose from, Nordic chefs have been encouraged to develop some wonderful new recipes for quick-bake breads. The chapter ahead explores some of the classic recipes that you will find all across the region, along with a few more contemporary bakes.

Danish rye bread

Rye bread to a Dane is like a baguette to a Frenchman. Although, outside of Denmark, and unlike the classic French stick, there seem to be endless techniques and combinations of ingredients in countless recipes for this iconic rye flour loaf. Everyone has a favourite – from pale off-white fluffy versions to those taking up to five days to complete and that end up weighing a ton. There are a few golden rules though: real Danish rye bread must use cracked rye (broken rye kernels), it must be heavy, when sliced, it should have an almost waxy, al dente interior, from the seeds and grains, and the flavour must be a deep malty one.

Rye is a variety of grass similar to wheat and barley. It is grown extensively as a grain crop in Northern Europe and Canada; the reason being it is very hardy and more tolerant to cold temperatures than other grains. It is rich in soluble fibre making it nice and healthy, but being low in gluten means it doesn’t rise well – giving the bread its famously dense texture.

In this chapter there are two rye bread recipes: the authentic and a slightly simpler version. Both deliver a great bread, perfect for smørrebrød (open sandwiches).

The real deal rye bread uses a sourdough starter, which helps the dough bind together and gives it a deeper flavour. Because you have chosen to embark on this mission the reward is two loaves! It also freezes well.

If you keep feeding your starter you can use it every time you want to make rye bread. Stockholm even has a ‘starter hotel’ where locals leave their starters when they go on holiday to be fed by a baker!

Cookies

As a child, I remember there being countless empty round tins stacked up in the pantry, all of which having, at some point, contained Danish butter cookies. All across the region, sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee is a popular pastime and so it is no surprise that there is also a vast array of sweet accompaniments on offer. Generally, you will find that most Nordic cookies are made from the same type of dough, flavoured with warming spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, cocoa and cardamom. They are cut into different shapes, and you will also see them topped or sandwiched with jam.

The Swedish, however, have a particular affection for shortbread and variations on the basic recipes are so numerous that each household can probably claim one as their own. So popular is this crumbly cookie that, in the 1960s, a supermarket chain invited housewives to send in their own twists on the basic dough recipe. The resulting book containing all those recipes can still be found on most kitchen shelves today.

Hjorthornssalt is a traditional ingredient used in Swedish baking, and in cookie-making in particular. It was originally made from deer antlers but now a more animal-friendly version made from ammonium carbonate is used instead. The carbonate has a very off-putting smell when it is doing its thing in the oven, but it delivers an incredible texture: the biscuits pillow up and develop tiny pockets of air inside, which make them lovely and light. Baking powder produces a similar result.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again