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If you don’t bake, if you’ve never kneaded dough, then this may be the book that changes your life. This is a brilliant book about a style of baking that too many of us have no knowledge of. I grew up in Portland, Oregon with a very heavy Scandinavian population. Walking the mile home from first grade, I would pass a dozen bakeries. The smell of rye bread and Danish steamed out of the doors. I had a sugar high by the time I made it home — whether I used my twenty-five cents for a pastry or not.

Trine Hahnemann didn’t just walk around her native Scandinavia. She started baking as a kid, encouraged by great parents. She bakes everyday still, eats rye bread every day, and avoids store bought bread and pastries with ease. Why buy when you can make things that are both beautiful and delicious at home.

We hear Scandinavia and think of snow. That’s a key factor. Rye flour only grows in higher latitudes so it is not a common ingredient here in the United States. In Scandinavia, it is the ingredient. And, to get through those wintry days and nights, surely some sweetness helps. So cakes and cookies are central life. You don’t just drink coffee. It’s coffee and cake.

The cakes. The first chapter here, Cakes and Pastries, is filled with that sweetness. The cakes are often rather basic, if not stark. And they are not slathered with buttercream. Rather they are filled and layered with creams of all kinds: coffee cream, crème patissiere, caramel cream, apple compote, rosehip whipped cream, plum compote, …

My favorite cake here reflects the frugality of Scandinavian life. Nothing goes to waste. Have some leftover rye bread? There is the Rye Layer Cake where that stale bread is combined with lots of eggs and butter and sugar. The resulting cakes is cut into thin layers that are separated and topped by whipped cream mixed with red currant jelly. Leftovers were never quite so grand.

As wonderful as the cakes and cookies are here, this is a bread book. Her favorite rye bread is in the picture at the end of this post. The recipes span all your kneads:

  • Sourdough Starters and Bigas
  • Rye Breads
  • Rolls
  • Crispbread
  • Savory Breads
  • Smorrebrod

What is a smorrebrod? It’s a sandwich with a bread bottom but no top. Why hide beautiful contents? Meat, cheese and veggies layered an intertwined in patterns that seem to be a Renaissance still life.

You’ll find many exceptional bread recipes including:

A Classic Rye, the one pictured below

Malted Rye with Mixed Seeds

Mini Rye Breads with Fruit and Nuts

Sweet Rye Bread with Fennel Seeds

Other bread recipes offered here include:

Caraway Seed Bread

Cold-Risen Wheat and Oat

Anise Bread

Spelt and Wheat

Nordic Cheese Bread

Walnut Bread

Buttermilk Bread with Wheat Berries

If you are already a bread baker, Scandinavian Baking is like discovering a new Disneyland. If you have never baked a loaf, now you can. And you won’t be thanking Walt Disney. It’ll be Trine Hahnemann.