Georgina Campbell Cookery Feature - The Nordic Baking Book

Traditional baking is always of special interest at this time of year, and there’s no better time to focus on specialities from the Nordic countries.
For the definitive reference, seek out the latest book by the acclaimed chef and photographer Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet restaurant in Sweden, The Nordic Baking Book. Recently published by Phaidon, this handsome hardback includes over 450 recipes, 100 food and evocative landscape images (and a great deal of fascinating opinion and factual information) in its 576 pages. In its depth and detail, it reminds me a bit of Rory O’Connell’s books - there is the same determination to include everything that is needed rather than allow space restrictions to dictate short cuts. It would make the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in baking, in Nordic cuisine, or in food and culture generally - and, like all good books, it’s a bargain: this magnificent tome costs just €39.95 (£29.99).

‘I am more of a cook than a baker, which I think makes me well suited to write a book about baking’ states Magnus Nilsson - meaning that he doesn’t make assumptions. This, and his insatiable curiosity, make him a very good companion for readers sharing his travels throughout the Nordic countries - Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. While visiting bakeries and home cooks, talking to food experts, professional bakers and historians, and documenting the local baking traditions in this vast region, he also collected the hundreds of traditional and modern recipes that would be transformed into consistent references by hands-on bakers, including his wife Tove and Petrus Jakobsson of the famous Petrus Bakery in Stockholm.

He also found himself unexpectedly having to define baking for the book - and, far from limiting the scope to food baked in an oven, he decided to include all the other ‘need to know’ items to make it a comprehensive reference. Yet, thanks to a strong team including a much-respected editor, it isn’t a sprawling work - the content is well managed to give a real sense of the shared culinary culture (“the Swedes have fika, the Danes have pastries and the Finns need something sweet to go with their coffee”) with some fascinating background information about ingredients, and things you might not ever have thought about such as how meals relate to the length of daylight hours. And the recipes are varied, simple and easy-to-follow. There are all kinds of delicious breads, pastries, cakes, buns and flatbreads, both sweet and savoury - and as well photographs, there are detailed illustrations of traditional techniques such as step-by-steps for shaping cinnamon buns, making saffron braids and building a gingerbread house.

Christmas baking traditions are very strong in the Nordic countries and, while there is no dedicated section, recipe introductions frequently refer to the festive specialities, perhaps also explaining the occasion, or how they are likely to be paired with other foods or drinks.

SAMPLE RECIPES: The page references to related items and Basic Recipes have been left in the recipes below to show how cross-referencing is used in the book.


Julekake (Norway)
Julekake is a sort of sweet and rich wheat bread, leavened with yeast. It is flavoured with cardamom and often filled with dried and candied fruits. Julekake is traditionally served for Christmas with different toppings, which can be either sweet or savoury. I have also seen a few recipes flavoured with saffron, a bit like the Swedish Saint Lucy's Day Saffron Buns (page 276).

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Rising time: 50 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Makes: 2 loaves

150 g/5 oz (1 stick plus 2½ tablespoons) butter
500 ml/17 fl oz (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) milk
50 g/2 oz fresh yeast (pages 58-61)
650 g/1 lb 7 oz (4/2 cups) strong wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
140 g/4¾ oz (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
150 g/5oz (1¼ cups) raisins or other dried or candied fruits
Egg Wash (page 73-4)

Melt the butter slowly in a medium pan. Pour in the milk and warm very gently to a temperature of about 37°C/98.6°F. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour, sugar, salt and cardamon. Knead with the dough hook until the dough is shiny and smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.
Line 2 baking sheets with baking (parchment) paper. Place the dough on a lightly floured work counter and add the dried fruits. Work the dough by hand until the fruits are evenly incorporated. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 large round buns. Place them on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave to rise for about 20 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 175°C/345 F/ as mark 4.
Brush the buns lightly with the egg wash and bake for 30-40 minutes. They should have a nice golden colour to them when ready.

Many old recipes for mulled wine in the Nordic state that you are supposed to make a kind of essence from the aromatics and hard liquor that you add to the sweetened wine. I prefer to mix everything together and keep it in a glass jar rather a bottle, aromatics macerating in the wine itself before being strained as you pour the glogg
into a pot to heat and drink it.

Choose a young red wine, not too tannic and not too oaky. I like to use a not-too expensive Burgundy or another pinot noir of that style. For the brandy,
do not use a too-oaky one, but rather a young fruity kind. Often a simpler and cheaper one from the bottom range of the brands is perfect.

Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes
Macerating time: at least a week
Makes: 1 litre 34fl oz (4½ cups)

750 ml/25 fl oz (3 cups) young red wine
1 knob fresh ginger
1 vanilla bean
5 cardamom pods
20 cloves
2 cassia cinnamon sticks
10 black peppercorns
1 orange, sliced (rind and all)
1 lemon, sliced (rind and all)
100 ml/3½ fl oz (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sweet Madeira
150 g/5 oz (¼ cup) sugar
a dash of Cognac or Calvados
3 tablespoons honey, or to taste
Combine all of the ingredients, except the honey, in a sterilised, lidded glass jar. Seal tightly and leave to macerate for at least a week. Agitate the jar from time to time so that the sugar doesn't just sit at the bottom but dissolves into the wine.
When you are ready to drink the wine, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve straight into a pot. You don't have to use it all at once; you can strain just the amount you need and leave the rest to continue macerating. If the spices become too strong, then add a splash more red wine as you heat it, and perhaps some extra sugar. Heat the wine gently, adding honey until you think it is sweet enough.

[*Magnus’s Glogg Version 2 is an alcohol-free version, which he makes with blackcurrant cordial]

Skanepepparkaka (Sweden)

I love these gingersnaps spread with salty butter and mature hard cheese, for a snack with coffee on the side. They should be chewy, and for them to remain so, you need to store them in an airtight container.

Preparation and cooking time: I½ hours
Resting time: 2 days
Makes: about 25 gingersnaps

80g/3oz (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
210 g/7¼ oz (2/3 cup) golden syrup or molasses
75 / 2¾ oz (5 tablespoons) butter
I pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
50m/2 fl oz (3½ tablespoons) milk
400g/14 oz (3¼ cups) weak (soft) wheat, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baker's ammonia
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the sugar, golden syrup or molasses, butter and spices in a pan and melt over a medium heat, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat add the milk to the mixture. Stir continuously until it cools almost to room temperature. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift the flour and leavening agents together into a bowl and beat until properly combined, but not any longer. Tip the dough out of the bowl wrap it in clingfilm (plastic wrap). Refrigerate 48 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and line several baking sheets with baking (parchment) paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough and place it on a lightly floured work counter. Shape into a long log and cut into 25 slices. Shape each slice into a little ball, then place on the prepared baking sheets, flattening them gently with the palm of your hand.
Bake the gingersnaps for 12-15 minutes, until they are cooked, but not dry. Once they start to brown a little around the edges they are generally done. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

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