Anybody who is called Bronte is all right by me, but then I like windswept Yorkshire moors with heavy rain and wind lashing against the window. Apologies as well for the lack of accents. Computers, eh?
Bronte Aurell is a Dane married to a Swede living in London. Together they set up a cafe and deli specialising in all things Scandi, a taste of home, and it has gone from strength to strength. You can visit Scandinavian Kitchen online at ScandiKitchen and in real life at 61 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7PP. She already has one cookbook, named for the cafe, under her belt and Fika and Hygge is her second cookbook, dedicated this time to the sweets and baking that are so popular in the dark, cold countries of the North.
Fika is a Swedish word used to mean a pause in the day for coffee and something sweet, while Hygge is the ubiquitous Danish word for feeling good within oneself whatever the world is like outside. The Untranslatable Word that I reckon we don’t translate, we should just do. Our way. Don’t expect this book to sit happily alongside your Ellas and your Amelias. This is the complete opposite of the low carb, no sugar healthy eating. It’s a book of cakes and buns, so don’t complain if you were looking for salads. It’s not here.
What is here are about 60 brilliantly photographed and excellently seductive cakes, bakes and biscuit recipes interspersed with chapter headings and short thoughts on what hygge is, how important baking is in the North and a beautiful spread on Winter Celebrations, because when you only get 6 hours of daylight a day in Winter, you have to celebrate or go mad.
There are 8 chapters, including The Scandi Baking Pantry and Basic Recipes chapters and the titles range from Traybakes & No Bakes to Little Fancy Cakes. There should be something for everyone in here; fancy a big celebration cake? You have the choice of Kransekage, Princess Cake (as featured on GBBO a couple of years back) or the unassumingly named World’s Best cake, a sponge, pastry, cream and meringue affair that looks delicious. For savoury lovers there are rye flat rolls, Swedish scones, crispbread and an intriguing savoury waffle with spinach in. How I wish I’d bought the waffle maker at Aldi last year now!
Recipes are clearly written, with ingredients handily listed down the side and steps marked in paragraphs. Every bake is illustrated with a beautifully staged presentation of the product, usually against grey or pale wood, that just makes you want to chuck out (in my case) a lot of your dark wood and start again. Were it not that I am allergic to cleaning, I would be tempted…. Actually, all joking aside, the whole pictorial ethos of the book is gorgeous and a big Kudos should go to Peter Cassidy, the photographer. I keep looking and thinking… what idea can I nick.. should I stage my coffee more than I do… and then common sense asserts itself and I know there’s no reason to. My blog is what it is. You’ll have to make do with shots of the desk and/or home until I finally upgrade my photographer.
I have made three recipes from the book so far, but there are a ton more I want to make. I loved the kladdkaka that I wrote about in Hyggelists, the brownie recipe that I made for Poldark last Sunday and posted on Instagram and the Cinnamon Buns that kicked off My Year of Living Hyggely on Tuesday. I am not the world’s best baker, being more of a cook, but all three have worked for me so far and…. I am delighted to say…. the brownies (Loki’s Brownies) and the Cinnamon Rolls have been the best recipes I’ve ever had for those products.
I’ve used quotes from the book in my blog before, and it’s these little feature pages that lift the book from cookbook to so much more. Bronte’s explanation of Fika as “time out of our busy lives to enjoy the company of others” and of hygge as ” a state of mind and being” are two small, simple but really effective explanations. Sometimes the recipes have stories about when, where and how the cake or biscuit came about, sometimes just a simple line about the name. It all adds up to a beautifully presented and written book that would be ideal for anybody who has a sweet tooth and a hankering to hygge.