Scandinavian Baking

I own many cookbooks. I read dozens more, mostly for pleasure, often for inspiration. And I am so lucky that people gift them to me too. Some as presents; others to review.

A few I flip through quickly, adoring the photographs but not tempted to try the recipes. Others are too intense, too earnest – too unattainable – and I know I could never do those recipes due honour in my kitchen.

But some – some I immediately take to my heart like an old friend. With these I find myself turning pages, planning when I can try this recipe or that, mentally adding to my shopping list the ingredients not yet on hand.

Trine Hahnemann's wonderfully evocative book is like that.

It helps that, like her, I too love baking. Bread is a special favourite of mine, and hers as well, as this book clearly shows. Denmark (and indeed Scandinavia) is close to my heart. And so this luscious combination of a book about baking and recipes from countries that receive too little exposure on the cookbook shelves is a rare and long-awaited treat. 

So, what  shall I cook first? Trine's gentle enthusiasm leads me to the Nordic cheese bread first. Like a cheesy brioche, but quicker and easier, it has the unexpected sparkle of black pepper in it, making it ideal for a simple evening meal – try it with soup – or toasted the next day. It will be firmer and denser then, after cooling, and need heating or else slicing more thinly.

'Loving baking at home' is Hahnemann's sub-title for this large, beautifully illustrated book. Sweden's leading authority on Scandinavian baking, she is well-placed to lead readers (and, inevitably, cooks too) through such unknowns as  the 'cake table' party. Just imagine, a summer beachy feast with 15-20 cakes on a table, presented with the expectation guests will at least try each one!

And then there are festival foods – a whole chapter of spicy, dainty, wondrous Christmas goodies for the family to bake (and eat) together – and just for good measure a page of Scandinavian jams, just in case your bread needs that little extra something!

This generous, happy, friendly book confidently leads cooks of any experience into the sugary, floury, yeasty world of baking - cakes, biscuits, pies, tarts, crispbreads, loaves and buns, and then some. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury - there's even a healthy Nordic 'pizza' with kale and potato –  yet sometimes whimsical (see the storybook Fru Pigalopp cake recipe). The recipes are clear and easy to follow; the food photographs alone (one for every recipe) could set you heading off to preheat the oven. The stunning on-location Scandinavian shots might just have you booking a flight.

At any level, this is a book to treasure, to use, or just to read.

*******

Scandinavian Baking - loving baking at home, by Trine Hahnemann, published by Quadrille, September 2104, hardcover,  rrp $49.95, ISBN 978 1 84949 379 6

- reviewed by Sally Hammond

 

 

- Sally Hammond

 

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