Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cookbook Review: Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair

Growing up with an Italian grandmother, desserts usually meant full-bodied, booze-spiked, often savory treats including tiramisu, Italian pizzelle cookies, pignoli cookies, and pepper biscuits. The only thing I knew about Scandinavian desserts was, well, nothing. Thumbprint cookies didn't count since I thought Mrs. Claus invented them.

Not anymore. Thanks to Pat Sinclair's lovely new cookbook Scandinavian Classic Baking, I now know how to make Swedish Pepparkakor (spicy gingerbread cookies), Sandbakkels (miniature butter cookies shaped into a cup and filled with jam or cream), and Spritz (classic Swedish butter cookies made with a cookie press).

Sinclair organizes her 42 recipes into five chapters: Coffee Breads, Cakes, Cookies, Tarts, Fruit Desserts & Pastries, and Traditional Favorites. Recipes are highly detailed, so even a novice baker can feel confident attempting a new recipe. You'll find sublimely simple recipes such as orange bundt cake next to more sophisticated ones such as Scandinavian apricot almond bars.

Swedish Kringle

Each recipe is accompanied by engaging historical facts and a beautiful, full-colored photo from Joel Butkowski. Did you know, for example, that Scandinavia is called the "Land of the Midnight Sun" during the summer since the sun never sets at higher altitudes? How about that on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) it's tradition to eat rich, buttery "Shrove Tuesday Buns" as an indulgence before the coming lean days of Lent? Sinclair also sprinkles useful tips and advice throughout the book such as how to properly beat egg whites and how to grind cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle.

Whether you're an accomplished baker or baking newbie, you'll find many sweet spots in Pat Sinclair's Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Now, it's give-away time!
One lucky Food Blogga reader will receive a copy of Scandinavian Classic Baking. To enter, simply tell me why you'd like to win the book. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 17, 2011. If you tweet about it and mention @foodblogga, I'll count that as another entry!

Swedish Kringle

Swedish Kringle
Makes 2, 10-servings each
Printable recipe.

Warm-hearted thanks to Janet Russo, my mom, for baking this Swedish Kringle with such love.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water

1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or whole milk

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the crust. Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. With the machine running, add water and process until the dough is formed. Put dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a strip about 3 inches wide and 10 inches long on a ungreased baking sheet.

2. Make the topping. Heat the water and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until the butter is melted and the liquid is boiling. Add the flour all at once and whisk until a thick paste forms and leaves the sides of the pan. Cook about 1 minute longer, stirring constantly to evaporate excess moisture. Remove from the heat and cool at least 5 minutes to prevent the eggs from cooking when you add them.

3. Using a hand mixer or whisk, beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Each egg should be completely mixed in before the next egg is added. Stir in almond extract.

4. Spread over the pastry strips, spreading almost to the edges. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool on wire cooling rack. As the pastry cools, it will collapse. Cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. Mix the confectioners' sugar, butter, almond extract, and 2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk until smooth. Add more whipping cream or milk if needed for spreading consistency. Spread over pastry. Cut into slices before serving.

UPDATE: The winner was announced in the comments section, but I'm adding it here for those of you who didn't see it. Congratulations to Nicole Antoinette! You're the winner!