Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let the kaffebord begin: a private pop-up bake shop in Roskilde, Denmark

For many months I have been trying to plan a collaborative baking day with Lone, a talented baker from Roskilde, Denmark who has made several appearances on my blog.  (Lone was my host mom when I was an exchange student in Denmark, and Roskilde was my temporary hometown.)  Lone and I set up a date for Sunday morning with a few recipes in mind.

When I arrived at Lone's house, she said that today we would make a 'Sønderjysk kaffebord' (roughly translated, Southern Jutland coffee table.)  If you are not from Denmark's Southern Jutland region, then I'm certain you're currently wearing the same puzzled expression I was approximately 9 hours ago.  I quickly learned that a Sønderjysk Kaffebord is a regional Danish tradition where Danes in Southern Jutland prepare a massive amount of cakes in different varieties and gather to feast on them as a group. While in our planning of the day, we had only talked about making three recipes, I was delighted to know that we would be producing the equivalent number of desserts necessary to open up our own little private pop-up bakeshop in Roskilde.  When someone presents me with such an opportunity, all I can say is: "Let the kaffebord begin!"

We started the day by preparing the dough for some grovbirkes using the Meyers Bakery cookbook recipe-- a process that includes several alternating steps of folding butter into dough and chilling the dough.  There is nothing quite like a grovbirke in the US, but if you have never tasted one, just imagine a pastry that includes a lot of flaky dough topped with variety of tasty seeds.  According to Lone, some varieties of grovbirkes include a sweet filling, depending on where in Denmark you find them.  We decided to make the savory version, although I am quite fond of thebirkes (the sweeter cousin to grovbirkes.)  All versions are perfect with coffee, a heavenly combination. 

Another Danish friend Dorit helped us all day in the kitchen to keep us on schedule and ensure the bake-shop was a success!  We would have never made our afternoon deadline without her.

To add to the kaffebord, Lone suggested we make brunsviger, a coffee cake with a cardamom flavored dough and an aggressive amount of brown sugar topping.  We used the recipe she once collected for free from a grocery store display--on a shopping trip 40 years ago!

 My recipe nerd self cannot help but adore this!

Lone taught me how to press the topping layer into the dough with a fork, so all the buttery goodness would seep down into valleys of the dough underneath.  We also made more of the butter mixture than the recipe called for, since having a lot of this on the top layer of the cake is what takes a batch of brunsviger to the next level.

And then we topped it with more brown sugar than the recipe stated for the same reasons.  There is something quite magical about the very moist, Danish brown sugar sold here.  When I googled 'why is Danish brown sugar so good?,' the results were inconclusive, but I assure you, it has the loveliest texture and taste.

This cake was probably the winner of the day, if the cakes were in a friendly competition.  Bakery versions of this cake are sometimes dry, so eating the homemade version right out of the oven gives you the experience of eating brunsviger the way nature intended it!

We also made smørkage, a rich Danish butter cake traditionally served with rings of icing.  This was one of my favorite desserts as an exchange student, and I daydreamed about it frequently after I went back to the US.  Below, you can see the steps that you take in order to make the distinctive ring design featured on the top of this dessert. 

 Without a doubt, the best part about this recipe is the layer of vanilla custard waiting for you on the bottom layer (but I have also had excellent versions with marzipan.)

We also made grøn kage, a cake flavored with almond extract and traditionally colored with green dye. 

And finally, to finish things off right, we made vandbakkelser, also known as cream puffs.  We used a whipped cream and raspberry jam filling, and topped the puffs with a layer of icing.  

When it comes to doughs, I've always felt that choux pastry dough (which we used to make these cream puffs) goes through one of the most incredible transformations-- first you prepare it on the stove, then you bake it, and it becomes a puffy vehicle for all sorts of sweet (or savory) fillings. 

While most of these recipes were in Danish, I have become fairly fluent in Danish baking terminology-- and this was another great opportunity to practice my grams and decaliters! 

While we prepared our spread of desserts, we chatted about food and talked about other Danish culinary traditions. Whenever I'm cooking in Lone's household, there are always adventures just waiting for my discovery. I open a cabinet or step into the backyard, and something is waiting to wake up my palette! During the bake-a-thon, we tried fresh peas and tomatoes from her garden and the beginnings of some homemade 'snaps' (one flavored with berries, and one flavored with citrus fruit and coffee beans.)

Of course, once the cakes were done, we feasted on them in the garden!  The customers seemed pretty happy.   

I could not have asked for a better day at the The Sønderjysk Kaffebord Pop-Up Bake Shop.  I learned a lot of new recipes and best of all, spent some quality time with my lovely international family.  Teaching someone to cook is an act of love, so a kaffebord bake-a-thon makes you feel like a particularly lucky student. Not only did I get my very own bake-a-thon, but this thoughtful bunch gifted me three Danish cookbooks so I can practice my Nordic cooking once I return to America.  Amazing!

 The Danish cookbook tally for my suitcase is currently at 4 (Meyers Bageri cookbook not pictured above), and I'm trying to decide how many I can get away with fitting in my luggage.  Most of my new books are in Danish, so I will be sure to keep practicing!  I'm hoping for part two of this private pop-up bakeshop in Los Angeles.  

Thanks to Lone, Dorit, and everyone who joined the kaffebord to make it such a success.  You make my life more fun and more full, and I will think of you each time I make these recipes.  
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