Much like its predecessor Scandinavian Classic Baking, "Scandinavian Classic Desserts" will open up your kitchen to the tastes and smells of Scandinavia, a journey that will include cardamom-scented pound cakes, creamy baked puddings, jewel-like cookies and mini-tarts, and a variety of desserts made with fresh berries and fruit. You'll find favorites like Norwegian blotkake, frystekake, Mazarin tarts, Danish aeblekage, Swedish spritz cookies, several varieties of aebleskiver, rosettes and krumkake; there's even some Swedish glogg to round out the offerings!
The recipes were clearly written and easy to follow using commonplace pantry ingredients (most call for only a handful of ingredients) other than Swedish pearl sugar, which can be ordered online. Each recipe is written in a different color, which makes it easy to keep track of which recipe you're making. As with the previous book, there is gorgeous full-page photography for nearly every recipe, as well as unique sidebars with photos that give more information about a particular Scandinavian city, tradition, or ingredient.
I tried making several of the recipes including the Finnish orange cake (p. 15), chocolate almond torte (p. 23), cherry pancake pudding (p. 39), and baked rice pudding (p. 41; see photos above). For the Finnish orange cake, I tried two different versions: one as written, and one "light" version using Splenda and low-fat sour cream. Both were excellent! The moist, dense crumb is heavily scented with orange and perfumed with cardamom (for best results, buy green cardamom pods and grind the seeds yourself, as ground seeds start to lose potency immediately as the oil is exposed to the air). I baked it in my Nordic Ware Lemon Loaf to create a more festive-looking loaf appropriate for a teatime table.
The next recipe I tried was the chocolate almond torte, which handily catered to both my gluten-free coworkers as well as those observing Passover (it's a flourless cake that uses almond flour as a thickener). The flavor was fantastic: strongly chocolatey without being overpoweringly sweet. This is great with a dollop of unsweetened freshly whipped cream and fresh berries! (It is, however, a rather messy treat to cut and serve, as the moist chocolate crumbles everywhere.)
The baked rice pudding was very close to one my Polish grandmother made. I used Arborio rice, as it was what I had on hand, and the rice cooking directions were spot-on. Despite using four cups of milk, this makes a firm, creamy pudding that isn't soupy in the slightest. I happened to use dried Bing cherries in place of raisins, and the plump, slightly tart cherries complemented the pudding nicely. I also added a sprinkle of cardamom and cinnamon to the top of the pudding halfway through baking, and then stirred it in as the pudding continued to bake (my grandmother's recipe always used ground cinnamon and nutmeg on top). Finally, the cherry pancake pudding is essentially a French clafoutis (a thickened custard studded with cherries). This makes a really lovely breakfast treat that takes only minutes to throw together!
Overall, this is a fantastic cookbook that produces easy, consistent results that are a nice change of pace from my usual quick breads and muffins. I took this book to work, and my coworkers all wanted to borrow it to try out many of the recipes themselves! Whether you're looking for an elegant yet simple seasonal dessert or to reconnect with your Scandinavian roots, "Scandinavian Classic Desserts" is a winner!
(Review copy courtesy of Pelican Publishing)