Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Scandinavian Baking - Trine Hahnemann
There was never any question of resisting Trine Hahnemann's 'Scandinavian Baking' (the fashions for baking and all things Scandinavian have been my friend here). What fascinates me about food is seeing how different flavours and combinations travel the world - or not, there's so much of our shared cultural history there if you care to look for it including the chance to appropriate the bits we like from other places - and in this case delicious cake too.
I found a copy of Hahnemann's 'Scandinavian Christmas' in a Waterstones sale a couple of years ago, it's full of good stuff and is the reason I was particularly excited to see what she'd do with a baking book. I love baking for all sorts of reasons, but mostly because it gives me a deep feeling of contentment (I do realise this isn't universal) but the sort of baking specifically, and cooking generally, that interests me is domestic rather than professional. That the extended title for this book is 'Loving Baking at Home' is another selling point for me, and that's exactly what it advocates.
It's this book which has prompted me to finally get to grips with sour dough (I tried adding some starter to an ordinary loaf the other day which seems to be making it keep longer, oh but there are endless happy experiments ahead for me!) with the eventual ambition of making rye breads. There are some great looking loaves in here, so though it may take me some time to source all the ingredients for the rye breads (or at least, and typically, the ones I most like the look of) there are plenty of other things to play with meanwhile. There's also a whole world of meringue based cakes which will get further investigation. I'm firmly of the opinion that there's not nearly enough nutty meringues in my life. I made mini versions of one pavlova/cake affair which sandwiches caramel cream between meringues then tops them with figs and chocolate for a Macmillan coffee morning at work. Sweet but good.
Anyone who loves marzipan (I do) will also find lots to get excited by, and this is the book which is going to make me make Danish pastries (something I've wanted to make for a dozen years or more without ever getting organised to do so). All of which is great but it's the philosophy behind it that really makes 'Scandinavian Baking' so good. To quote the introduction "baking forces us to take time out from our busy lives and, in doing so reminds us why that is necessary", it's not everybody's thing but if you want making a daily loaf of bread to be part of your life this is the book that will help you work out what sort and how to fit it in.
She also talks about getting to know your ingredients. I had never really considered this in relation to flour before but it makes a lot of sense. I'm going to give it a bit more thought now, especially as I make more bread where the quality of the flour is going to be most noticeable and no longer assume that all strong white flours will be much the same. All in all a thoroughly exciting and inspiring baking book which is more than worth the effort of finding a space for in my poor, tiny, overcrowded, kitchen!