Featured country of the month: Denmark
For this month’s featured country I wanted to pick somewhere that has Christmassy vibes but didn’t feel cliche. Denmark it is; the home of hygge and Danish pastries, or at least you would think. To get me in the Christmassy mood this month I tried my hand at some Danish classics:
What could be more Danish than a Danish pastry? Lots of things it turns out - the origin of Danish pastries is in fact, Austria. In 1850 a strike took place in Danish bakeries and a large number of Austrian workers were hired in their place; they baked what they knew and these Austrian recipes soon became commonplace in bakeries throughout Denmark. Some Danish adjustments have since been made such as the addition of more egg and butter to make the pastries even more delicious. In Denmark they refer to their namesake pastry as wienerbrød - literally, Vienna bread. There are different shapes and variations of Danish pastries and I opted for ‘Spandauer’ and followed this recipe.
Oh boy was this a bigger task that I had anticipated. Do yourself a favour and if you’re planning on making Danish pastries yourself - set aside a day for it.
The first task is making the pastry which is similar to a puff pastry. Lots of butter and lots of careful folding. While the pastry was proving I made the two fillings that go into it - pastry cream and a remonce filling. The pastry cream is made on the hob, heating up milk and vanilla and slowly adding in egg, sugar and cornflour. It’s finished off with some butter and salt and let me tell you, even just on it’s own it is YUM. The remonce filling is made of grated marzipan, butter and icing sugar - that’s it. It’s got a delicate almondy taste to it which I also enjoyed.
The pastry is cut into (in my case not very) even squares which receive a blob of remonce filling and are then left to rise. Finished off with some pastry cream and chopped up hazelnuts, they take no time at all in the oven to bake.
All in all I confess I spent FIVE HOURS making these babies and you can just imagine my disappointment when I bit into one to find it was slightly under-baked. Although, a couple of them were perfect so I'll have to aim to get them all the same size next time - I'm not winning any awards for uniformity as you can see from the above images.
They still all tasted and looked pretty decent so we’ll call it a partial success.
Did you like it?
I absolutely did, I may even go to the trouble of making these again.
Marks out of 10: 8/10 (marks lost for complicatedness and under-baking)
Risalamande can be translated to rice and almonds - it’s a rice pudding with almonds in it so this somewhat makes sense. In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day and so this dessert would be the classic pudding to follow the main meal on Christmas Eve. The rice pudding is traditionally served cold and the cherry sauce that goes with it is served hot. I followed this recipe.
The fun part of this dessert is the game that goes along with it. A whole load of blanched almonds are chopped up and mixed into the rice pudding except for one which is left whole - this is pushed to the bottom of one of the bowls and whoever gets the whole almond wins.
I didn’t win.
Also, I had never made rice pudding before and I seriously misjudged both:
A. The pan size
B. The amount of rice pudding I would end up with (yes, I realise now that the instructions states that it will serve 8)
Apart from a few minor rice pudding exploding out of the pan incidents, it was relatively simple to make.
Did you like it?
I did but I’m going to have to quote Prue Leith and say that I don’t think it was quite worth the calories. Asides from all the sugar that goes into the cherry sauce, whole milk is used to make the pudding and then DOUBLE CREAM is whipped into too.. Yes I enjoyed it but no I won’t be making it again.
Marks out of 10: 5/10
Smørrebrød or ‘butter bread’ is essentially that; an open sandwich with some butter. In fact, as soon as you butter the rye bread - voila, that is Smørrebrød. Anything else is technically a bonus. A thick layer of butter is integral to the Smørrebrød and even gets it's own name 'Tandsmør' - tooth butter.
But it is also so much more than that. Smørrebrød comes with rules. You must eat it with a knife and fork - the generally loaded fillings that come with it mean that as soon as you pick it up, the fillings will slide off. If you have a large variety, you should start with herring first and then move to any other fish toppings you have, the meat would be next and then finally cheese.
*Disclaimer* I didn’t actually make Smørrebrød. I broke probably the first and most important rule. Determined that I had seen rye bread in the local shop, I left it until the last minute and found empty shelves. Woops. Wheaten bread would have to do. Call it a Danish / Irish fusion dish?
I made three different ‘open sandwiches’ - Egg & prawn; Salmon, Radish & Dill and Beetroot Hummus, Avocado & Pickled Red onions.
Did you like it?
I really did. With just a few simple toppings you can create something that looks beautiful and more importantly, tastes really good! Simple and effective.
Marks out of 10: 8/10