Playful desserts, inspired by nature

Bakeland cookbook features Nordic flavors and ingredients with a quirky look

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Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

Bakeland

Cover image: Greystone Books
Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland

When it comes to Scandinavian baking, it’s hard to beat a classic cone-shaped krumkake or bløtkake with layers of sponge cake, strawberries, and cream. But the ones that break from tradition can be just as delicious and provide a good dose of inspiration. Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature (Greystone Books, Spring 2018) by Norwegian graphic designer and photographer Marit Hovland does just that.

New Nordic chefs take inspiration from nature in their creations, and so does Hovland in this playful book that’s filled with creative recipes organized by the seasons and gorgeous food photography.

Nature certainly inspires the desserts in the book, from ingredients to decoration. The cinnamon bun cake with rum glaze is shaped like a daisy. You’ll find templates and instructions for decorating treats with delicate petal designs, along with maple leaves, butterflies, bird eggs, and snowflakes.

The birch bark cookies start with a vanilla cookie that’s decorated to look like the distinctive white bark of birch trees. And the chocolate “rocks” are a mix of nuts and dried cranberries encased in a chocolaty shell. If you’re more in a beachy mood, there are also white chocolate seashells filled with raspberry.

Marit Hovland, author of Bakeland

Photo courtesy of Marit Hovland
Marit Hovland, graphic designer, photographer, and author of Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature (Greystone Books)

While you’ll find some classics in here, including cardamom buns with almond filling and a kransekake (decorated with coconut frosting), most aren’t the traditional Scandinavian desserts you may know well. Instead, most of the cakes, cookies, and other desserts take inspiration from the flavors and ingredients of the Nordic countries and then whirl them into something entirely new and innovative—and beautiful at that. Norwegian troll cream—an airy whipped dessert made with lingonberries and egg whites—becomes the topping for a pistachio brownie cake. Cardamom makes its way into macarons with blueberries and cream cheese, as well as a blueberry crepe torte.

Whether you’re looking for something to help you break out of a baking rut or just want something beautiful and delicious to read through, Bakeland is likely to do the trick. It’s a gorgeous book with a playful touch, and it’s sure to be a treat whether you bake out of it or just enjoy flipping through the pages.

Cinnamon Bun Cake with Rum Glaze

Bakeland cookbook

Photo courtesy of Greystone Books
This bun cake is shaped like a daisy because of the special way you cut and twist the dough. The zesty glaze makes this cake the perfect accompaniment to a fine summer’s day.

Buns:
3 ½ tbsps. butter, melted
2⁄3 cup whole milk
3 tbsps. fresh yeast, or 1 ½ tbsps. active dry yeast
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsps. ground cardamom
½ tsp. salt
1 egg (for brushing)

Cinnamon filling:
2 ½ tbsps. butter, at room temp.
3 tbsps. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Rum glaze:
1 2⁄3 cups icing sugar
1 tsp. rum extract
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ tbsps. water

Combine the melted butter and milk in a mixing bowl. When the mixture is lukewarm, crumble the yeast into it. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt, then add to the yeast mixture. Work the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 50 minutes.

Mix together the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Knead the dough and divide it into three equal parts. Roll each part into a ball. Flatten each ball to a diameter of about 7 inches.

Spread half of the filling on one circle, leaving ½ inch clean along the edge. Put the second circle on top and spread the rest of the filling in the same way. Finally, cover with the last circle. Press the edges together. Transfer the bun cake to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press it out to a diameter of about 8 inches.

Gently place a glass in the middle of the cake. Use a sharp knife to cut notches from the edge of the cake toward the glass, cutting all the way through the cake to make 16 sections. Take hold of one section, gently pulling it from the middle without tearing it. Twist so that the side faces up. Repeat with the rest, twisting each section in the same direction. Let the cake rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the cake with a whisked egg and poke several holes in the middle of the flower with a toothpick.

Bake for about 12 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.

In a bowl, stir together the icing sugar, rum extract, lemon juice, and water. Put the mixture in a piping bag and pipe out on the flower petals.

Makes one round bun cake, approximately 10 inches.

Variation: You can replace the cinnamon filling with a macaron filling. Finely chop ½ cup almonds and mix with ½ cup icing sugar and one small egg white.

Pistachio Marzipan Pears

Bakeland: Pistachio Marzipan Pears

Photo courtesy of Greystone Books
When you replace some of the almonds in the marzipan with pistachios, the resulting color will remind you of pears. Then all you need to do is decorate with some pretzels and almonds to make your own extra-sweet pears.

Marzipan pears:
1 cup unsalted pistachios
1 cup almonds
1 2/3 cups icing sugar
1 egg white

Decoration:
2 tbsps. icing sugar, more as needed
10 pretzel sticks
20 almonds

Using a nut grinder, grind the pistachios and almonds into a bowl. Stir in the icing sugar, then grind the mixture one more time.

Add the egg white and work everything together with your hands to make a firm dough.

In a small bowl, stir the icing sugar with a little water to make a paste. This will be the glue for the almond “leaves.”

Shape pieces of marzipan dough (about 1 ½ tbsps. each) into small balls. Roll them a little extra on one side so they take the shape of pears.

Stick a piece of pretzel ¾-inch long into the top of the pear. Use an almond to make a little notch near the pretzel. Remove the almond and put a spot of icing there before you return the almond “leaf.” Store the marzipan pears in an airtight container.

Variation: You can also make green apples by rolling out small round balls. If you want other colors, you can replace the pistachios in the recipe with additional almonds, and color the dough with liquid gel food coloring.

Vanilla Cloudberry Macarons

Cloudberries

Photo courtesy of Greystone Books
Cloudberries, rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, grow in the Nordic countries and have a distinctive tart taste.

Vanilla macarons:
3⁄4 cup + 2 tbsps. almond flour
3⁄4 cup + 2 tbsps. icing sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla bean seeds, or 1 tsp. vanilla sugar
2 medium egg whites
pinch of salt
3 tbsps. granulated sugar
orange liquid gel food coloring

Cloudberry filling:
2 ½ cups cloudberries
1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. fruit pectin powder

Sift the almond flour into a bowl. Stir in the icing sugar and vanilla seeds, then sift again into another bowl.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites in a bowl at medium speed until foamy. Add the salt. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat at medium speed. Add the food coloring toward the end, a drop or two at a time. When the sugar has dissolved and you have a thick meringue, add the almond flour mixture, using a rubber spatula to beat it in. When the mixture is smooth, fill a piping bag.

Pipe out macarons onto a macaron baking mat or baking sheet covered in parchment paper, forming circles about 1 ¼ inches in diameter (see template). Tap the baking sheet against the kitchen counter to make any large air bubbles rise to the surface and burst. Let the macarons dry for about 40 minutes on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 250˚F using the convection setting, or 275˚F on the regular setting. Bake the macarons for about 15 minutes on the middle rack (a few minutes longer in a regular oven).

Press the cloudberries through a strainer to get rid of the seeds. Make sure you end up with approximately 1 ½ cups of mashed cloudberries. Combine the cloudberries and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes before you add the fruit pectin. Boil for 1 minute more, then remove from heat. Let it cool, then fill a piping bag with the mixture.

To decorate:
In a small bowl, mix a few drops of food coloring with a little water. Use a cotton swab to stamp dots on the macaron shells. The more water you use, the weaker the color will be—you can use different shades if you want.

Pipe out the cloudberry filling onto half of the macaron shells, and place the rest of the shells on top. Keep the macarons in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. Makes 35 macarons.

Tips:
If you can’t pick your own berries, you can find cloudberry jam in some stores. You can also use raspberries instead of cloudberries, and red liquid gel food coloring instead of orange for the shells and dots.

Use liquid gel food coloring if you want to color the macarons. This type of food coloring won’t change the consistency like liquid food coloring does.

One of the mixing bowls and the handheld mixer must be completely free of grease. This is necessary to get a thick meringue.
You’ll need an extra baking sheet placed on the oven rack below the baking sheet with the macarons. This prevents the macarons from cracking.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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