Earlier this year, I had a great time reviewing the Italian cookery class at Food at 52. I loved how much we covered and that it was all hands on; I really appreciated class tutor John’s friendly, knowledgeable and encouraging approach and I loved the home-style feel of the basement classroom.
I also had a fun evening baking afternoon treats there, more recently.
This time, I was back to learn from Trine Hahnemann, the Danish cooking legend who runs a hugely successful catering business, has appeared as a regular guest chef on Danish cookery programmes and is the author of three books on Nordic and Scandinavian cooking.
The Scandinavian Christmas Baking class invited us to get a head start on our Christmas baking the Scandinavian way.
During the class, we made recipes from Trine’s latest book Scandinavian Christmas, including Christmas Danish pastries, Lucia saffron bread, kransekage aka almond biscuits, cinnamon biscuits, vanilla biscuits and brune kager aka brown cakes, actually another type of spiced biscuit.
Working in pairs, I teamed up with lovely Michelle and we measured, mixed, shaped and tasted our way through the recipes, under Trine’s watchful guidance and instruction.
Although we made most of the recipes ourselves, Trine had mixed together the dough for the Christmas Danish pastry ahead of time. She showed us how to laminate the dough (with a wonderfully outrageous volume of butter) and once it was sliced and laid on the dough, all of us took turns to roll and fold it throughout the day, popping it into the fridge between each folding.
When the dough was eventually ready, Trine cut it into pieces and showed us how to fold it into balls, pinching them closed on the underside.
Once out of the oven, we scarcely allowed the pastries to cool before diving in.
Although Trine felt the pastries had not risen as much as normal, I thought they were absolutely divine! Essentially, they were like softer, richer hot cross buns and it was that softness that made me fall in love with them.
That said, during the day, one of the pieces of information Trine shared was that baked goods with oil or butter are very much best enjoyed on the day they are baked as they go stale far more quickly than items without fats. Whilst these were still very tasty the next day, the pillowy-soft texture had gone.
One of the simplest recipes we made was also one of my favourites: the kransekage (almond biscuits). Made with marzipan, Trine warned us against the cheap marzipan that is prevalent in the supermarkets; indeed she carried several logs of top quality marzipan with her from Denmark when she last visited. We used a 200 gram log in each batch of biscuits, you can see the batch Michelle and I made, below.
These were so quick to make using a food processor and I loved the chewy marzipan with the crunch from the walnut pieces on top.
In order for it to have time to rise, Trine had also mixed the dough for the Lucia saffron bread. After showing us the traditional shapes, the dough pieces were shared out and we were let loose to make our own buns.
These soft buns were somewhat like brioche, an egg-rich dough with a gentle sweetness.
At this stage, in the middle of the day, it was time to stop for lunch. This was an absolute treat. With dense, rich slices of Trine’s homemade rye bread and soft fluffy poppy seed buns, we had some fantastic Danish salmon that Trine had brought across from Denmark on her latest visit. A side salad and cheeseboard were also welcome, as were fish and mushroom pates and the most fabulous pickled marrow, in a sweet sharp brine that I absolutely loved.
Wine was enjoyed by those who fancied it (and coffee and water throughout the day).
After lunch, it was back to the baking.
The brune kager or brown biscuits need a few days in the fridge for the flavours to meld and mature. Each pair of students made up a batch of dough, which we divided and took home with us.
I baked mine some of mine after a week in the fridge (transferring the rest to the freezer) and the combination of spices, candied citrus and almonds was just wonderful.
For the vanilla biscuits and the cinnamon biscuits, we divided the class into two. Half the pairs made the vanilla dough, and half made the cinnamon. At the end, we cooked just a small batch of each to try, and the rest of the dough we divided so that each student took a generous piece of each home with them.
Michelle and I made vanilla biscuits.
The traditional shape for the vanilla biscuits is cute little rings, made by rolling small pieces of dough into sausages before pinching the ends together to form a circle.
The cinnamon biscuit dough looked very similar to the vanilla one, though on close examination, we could see the dark specks of the vanilla seeds in one.
After being rolled thinly between two sheets of parchment paper, the cinnamon biscuits were cut into shapes with cookie cutters, brushed with egg and sprinkled with a demerara sugar and cinnamon mix.
As seems to be the standard for Food at 52 courses, we packed so much into our time and the hands on experience makes me feel confident that I can reproduce these treats at home.
Alongside recipes and techniques, the stories and traditions of Christmas and personal anecdotes that Trine shared with us throughout the day made this a really fun and enjoyable experience.
The recipes we made can be found in Trine’s latest book, alongside savoury dishes, mulled wine and cocktails, sweets, cakes and chutneys. Scandinavian Christmas is currently available from Amazon for £7.65 (RRP £16.99). (Buying via my referral link earns me a tiny fee from Amazon, thank you).
Kavey Eats attended as a guest of Food at 52.