Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cookbook of the week #2: 100 fristende konditorkager

Danish, Swedish and Norwegian women's weekly magazines are quite popular in Iceland, especially among the older generations of women who grew up before English became the Icelanders' foreign language of choice. These magazines feature true life stories, interviews, crafts, horoscopes, columns of all sorts, and recipes. Several times a year they will include a free gift, often a small recipe book or booklet. This is one such, included with a copy of the Norwegian Sunday edition of Ugebladet ("The Weekly"). Most of my Scandinavian recipe books came with similar magazines, most of which were collected by my grandmother, but a couple I bought myself, either for the recipe book or quilting or crochet patterns.

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This is a difficult book to read. Every recipe is mouthwatering, and it doesn't matter if it's read before, during or after a meal, it induces hunger – or rather, it gives one an appetite for something sweet. The chapters cover small cakes, oven-pan cakes, layer cakes, rolls, tarts, choux-pastry, meringues and marzipan cakes, and cookies, all of them something you might expect to find in a fine bakery or served in a fancy café, and, as a matter fact, the title translates as 100 tempting pastry-chef cakes.

There are a few old friends here, like Sarah Bernhardts and Sachertorte, as well as creations I have never heard of. I would have loved to make just about everything in the book, but finally I narrowed it down to half a dozen recipes:

The first is called Bird's Nests. These are small individual pastries in four layers: one of baked marzipan, then a layer of butter icing, then melted chocolate over the icing, and a decoration of small pieces of gelatine/fruit juice glazed tinned fruit on top. If I make these, I think I will use fresh fruit.

The second is Honey-cake Squares. This is a spicy oven-pan cake with honey and almonds and chocolate icing. The cake is cut into small individual cakes before being glazed.

The third contender is Napoleon Cakes or simply Napoleons. These are little layered cakes made from vanilla custard sandwiched between pieces of puff pastry with a layer of raspberry marmalade, and topped with rum icing and whipped cream. According to Wikipedia they are known as Vanilla or Custard Slices in Britain and are a variation of Mille-feuilles pastries, which are similar but have more layers of both pastry and custard.
I have never tasted these, but my mother speaks of them with much nostalgia as a childhood favourite and has asked me to find out if they are sold in any bakeries in Reykjavík. Unfortunately I have yet to find one, so this is a strong contender. I would love to surprise her with Napoleon cakes the next time she comes to visit me.

The fourth is a Chocolate-Nut Roll. This is a log or roll (obvious, really). The cake is made with nuts and cocoa with a chocolate-orange cream filling and decorated with white chocolate and flaked hazelnuts.

The fifth is a Chocolate Roll with Daim Filling. This is a chocolate roll filled with buttercream into which has been mixed crushed Daim candy, and decorated with dark chocolate and chocolate sprinkles. For those unfamiliar with Daim, it is almond brittle covered with milk chocolate and if there is an IKEA store near you it is sold in the food section.

The sixth is French Waffles, puff pastry sandwiches filled with coffee-cremé. I love these, but I like them better with vanilla buttercream, so I would probably make half with coffee-cremé and half with vanilla buttercream.

Since there is not a problem with copyright here (I translated the recipes into English and whatever copyright there may be therefore belongs to me – not that I forbid anyone to copy them), I am going to showcase all six recipes, two per day, starting tomorrow, and then decide which one I will make. I have plans to try all of them eventually, but I will only test one now (or perhaps two if I'm in the mood).

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