There are many reasons to stop by Copenhagen Pastry, the bakery and retail shop in Culver City owned and operated by Danish native and longtime Angeleno Karen Hansen. The dark, seed-covered loaves of rye bread. The little bags of holiday sugar cookies. The LAMill coffee. The trays of freshly baked flødeboller and Napoleon hats and almond paste-filled kranse cakes in the enormous case. Since Hansen opened in June, the bakery has been turning out excellent pastries and baked goods in the ægte style of Hansen's homeland.
But in the next few days before Christmas, possibly the best reason to visit Copenhagen Pastry is the enormous marzipan pigs that Hansen has been selling. Imagine your favorite Charlotte's Web-style pig, made entirely out of almond paste and wrapped in a ribbon. What to do with these glorious pigs? Well, you can eat them whole in one sitting, as a certain 11-year-old girl will doubtless be doing when she finds one in her stocking next week.
Or you can award them as prizes, which is what Hansen suggests. And not just a prize for being nice or anything, but for finding an almond in a serving of Danish rice pudding, a custom Hansen described in detail as she gave us this recipe for Ris a La Mande with cherry sauce.
"The hostess puts the almond in, and whoever gets the almond will get the marzipan pig," said Hansen. It's a nicely Danish custom for a nicely Danish dish, the recipe for which follows. Bringing things Danish to L.A. being the guiding principle of Copenhagen Pastry.
"We didn't want to reinvent the wheel," said Hansen of the products she and her crew bake daily in the large open bakery next to the shop. "Everybody in Denmark bakes and bakes and bakes." So do the bakers at her bakery, who bake not only every day, but more than once every day. "Whenever we run out, we bake more." Particularly on the weekends, when they bake pretty much all day. This is made somewhat more practical since the bakers can see through the bakery's window right into the shop, and thus can see exactly what's on the shelves and what's empty.
Hansen, whose brother has bakeries in Denmark, opened the bakery in a space that was previously an auto upholstery shop. Now they make marzipan pigs instead, which is really what gentrification should mean, in an ideal world.
Danish rice pudding (Ris a La Mande) with cherry sauce
From: Copenhagen Pastry
Note: Traditionally this dessert is served on Christmas Eve. The hostess adds the whole almond to the pudding before serving. Each guest serves themselves, and whoever finds the almond gets a marzipan pig as a prize. (Find another prize if you don't have a marzipan pig.) Make the pudding the day before.
8 tablespoons Arborio or sweet Japanese rice
4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean (split, with seeds scraped out)
1 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 whole blanched almond
2 1/4 cups whipped cream
1. Simmer the milk in a large pot, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
2. Add the rice and vanilla bean (save the seeds for later), simmer for about 45 minutes until the rice is tender, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat. Add the sugar, almonds and vanilla seeds.
4. Refrigerate overnight, removing the vanilla bean.
5. The next day, stir the rice mixture to eliminate any lumps. Fold in the whipped cream. (The hostess should add the single whole almond.)
6. Serve cold in a big bowl, allowing guests to serve themselves.
2 cups frozen cherries
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, add the frozen cherries and the water. Heat on low until thawed, then add sugar an dstirr. Let simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
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2. Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce to thicken it. (This step can be omitted if you want a more natural and thinner sauce.)
3. Serve warm, allowing the guests to add to the pudding themselves.
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