Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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.
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