Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blood Orange Crostata Survives Perilous Journey through Snowy Bike Paths of Copenhagen

A recent potluck brunch invitation left me searching for a recipe to make.  And just when I needed some inspiration, the first blood oranges of the season appeared in my Copenhagen supermarket! I knew what I had to do.  Seeing the oranges felt like a sign, since this season I'll miss picking up bagfuls of the citrus fruit at the Santa Monica Farmer's market, a yearly tradition.  As I purchased two bags of the oranges (one for the recipe, one for good measure,) I couldn't help but think about how lately I've been missing a favorite bakery at home. And in fact, this bakery feels like a second home considering my frequent visits there during my time living in Santa Monica, CA.  I know, I know, I'm living in the land of incredible European bakeries.  But lately I cannot help but salivate over this California bakery's Facebook news feed, which has featured particularly mouth-watering updates lately.  As it turns out, not only does absence make the heart grow fonder, but so do facebook news feeds.  It used to be that you could only reminisce about life's great meals by reliving each course in conversation with the friends and family you dined with.  Now you can literally see what you're missing minute by minute, as news feeds nourish us with appealing snapshots of what we could be eating right now, (if not, in my case, for the small matter of an international flight.)  Perhaps the posts are making such an impact because the bakery itself is one of the most visually appealing bakeries I have ever set foot in: each donut and crostata and cake seems created and arranged with such care and intention. Thankfully, the baker Zoe Nathan published her Blood Orange Crostata recipe in Food and Wine so at least I can appreciate the spirit of Huckleberry from afar.  Sometimes you just need a little rustic fruit tart to remind you of where you come from!  

One of my favorite things about this blood orange crostata recipe is that you freeze it before baking-- so you can freeze it overnight and then pop it in the oven if you are expecting guests.  If you're like me, you aspire to be the kind of person who has a batch of fresh scones, chocolate chip cookies, coffee cake, or a simple fruit tart waiting for visitors when they drop by.  I may not have reached such heights yet, but I can bike a freshly baked fruit tart across the city of Copenhagen unharmed, through the snowy streets and onto the brunch table.  It's not a goal I anticipated having, but nevertheless, it felt pretty good to accomplish it.  Happy Baking everyone!
Fruit tart wrapped in foil, sitting safely in my bike basket above.  The journey to brunch is about to begin. Game face: ON (not pictured.)

Pastries by candlelight

What's the perfect antidote to the Scandinavian winter chill?  While the cold weather is not stopping devoted Copenhagen cyclists from two-wheeling it to and fro every destination, even the locals reminisce about summer as a much too distant memory.  It's hard to believe there was ever a time when outdoor flea markets dotted the city each weekend, and friends welcomed me into their sunny garden for a big paella feast.
Summer here is filled with so many hours of daylight that it can slip your mind when it's slumber time.  Winter days, however, are short and incredibly dark, but they too have their pleasures.  Like eating some of the best pastries in the world by cozy candlelight, and discovering the seasonal baked goods produced by bakeries across Copenhagen.  With each holiday, it seems, at least one new baked good appears in the pastry case, providing a very welcome excuse to sample sweets for cultural research purposes.

By the end of January, the excitement of the New Year passed, and with it, the celebratory almond kransakage traditionally eaten at the stroke of midnight mostly disappeared from storefronts.  But only to make way for growing pre-holiday hype over Fastelavnsboller, the traditional buns eaten for the Danish holiday Fastelavn (often referred to as the Nordic Halloween.)  As January came to a close, I knew to keep a watchful eye on the bakery window so I wouldn't miss my chance to try one of these.
The Fastelavnsboller pictured is from local bakery Reinh van Hauen, and it's packed with a layer of whipped cream paired with a layer of vanilla custard-- its shell a wonderfully flaky dough bun  topped with a dollop of simple chocolate icing.  Fastelavnsboller are not for the faint of heart-- the rich buns are aggressive with decadence.   
While there's much more I appreciate about Copenhagen beyond candlelit pastry consumption, this  act may just be the perfect antidote to the winter chill.  Baked goods here are so exceptionally delicious that they have the power (at least partially) to make up for the temporary lack of sunlight. Wherever you are during this chilly season, don't forget to enjoy a little winter decadence.  Summer will come soon enough.