Scandinavian cuisine is newly hip, thanks to René Redzepi and Noma in Denmark.
Now Norway is getting into the act with something that just might steal Redzepi's show: glorious, buttery pastries and rich, creamy desserts. The contender is Norway's star pastry chef, Sverre Saetre, whose book on modern Norwegian baking has just been translated into English.
Its plain title, Norwegian Cakes and Cookies (Sky Horse Publishing), and blue-and-white-checked cover lead you to expect a collection of Grandma's homey recipes. Instead, Saetre twists, tweaks and reconstructs Norwegian classics into stylish new presentations. The photographs by Christian Brun are just as innovative. The one that goes with strawberry jam with star anise could hang in a gallery.
Like Redzepi, Saetre promotes native Norwegian ingredients such as specialty butters, pine shoots, birch sap and berries, including cloudberries, lingonberries, black and red currants and a couple you've probably never heard of, crowberries and sea buckthorn.
Saetre says you can substitute orange juice for sea buckthorn when you make his carrot cake with sea buckthorn cream. And there are recipes without obscure ingredients, such as caramel pudding, cream puffs with coffee cream, puff pastry sticks with brown sugar and cinnamon, and cookies sprinkled with orange zest and dipped in milk chocolate.
Saetre was on the Norwegian National Culinary Team that won the Culinary Olympics in 2008. One of the team's winning entries was porcini mushroom chocolates, and that recipe is in the book. There's also a recipe for another Olympics winner, the salted caramel chocolates that are the biggest seller in his Oslo shop.
Along with these, you'll get the original recipe for prince cake, which was introduced in the 1860s at Erichsen's Konditori in Trondheim, where Saetre worked as an apprentice.
But the dessert you need to make right now is wreath cake tart with strawberries and anise cream. That's because wreath cake is often served on May 17, which is Constitution Day and a national Norwegian holiday. (The signing of the constitution on May 17, 1814, established Norway as an independent country.)
Wreath cake is typically served with strawberries and coffee or sweet wine. Saetre's concept is to use the cake as a tart crust, spreading it with cream flavored with star anise and then lining it with strawberries.
Wreath cake tart with strawberries and anise cream
From: Norwegian Cakes and Cookies, by Sverre Saetre.
Makes: 1 cake
1 ½ cups blanched almonds
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg white
1 whole egg
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Process the almonds and powdered and granulated sugars in a food processor until the nuts are completely minced. Remove from the processor and knead in the egg white until the dough is smooth and firm.
3. Set aside ¾ cup of the dough for the filling. Form the remaining dough into a roll about 1 inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Shape the roll into a circle 7 inches in diameter and place it on the baking sheet.
4. Combine the reserved ¾ cup dough and the whole egg in a food processor and process until smooth. Fill the wreath cake ring with the mixture and bake it until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature.
1 cup milk
2 star anise
1/3 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 small egg yolks
1. Combine ¾ cup milk, the star anise, cream and sugar in a saucepan and heat to the boiling point. Place the remaining 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch in a bowl and lightly whisk together. Whisk in the egg yolks.
2. Gradually pour 2/3 of the heated liquid into the egg mixture while stirring with a whisk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute while constantly stirring in the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.
3. Remove the star anise. Pour the cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and immediately place in the refrigerator to cool quickly.
The wreath cake
The anise cream
1 cup strawberries, sliced
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1. Spread the cooled cake with the anise cream, then cover with sliced strawberries.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at www.eatmx.com, www.tableconversation.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook