Just returned from a few action-packed days in Copenhagen, still a super exciting food town. I’d been invited to join a friend’s table at NOMA, René Redzepi’s internationally acknowledged restaurant in the midst of a garden overlooking the famous Copenhagen incinerator and ski slope. It’s been awarded the best restaurant in the world for 3 years in a row in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.
Having achieved all possible accolades, René has decided to follow in the footsteps of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli in Spain so this will be the last season of NOMA. He’s working on a new project yet to be revealed. The whole NOMA experience is unforgettable from the moment you are welcomed on arrival. One walks up the beautiful borders of swaying grasses and perennials interspersed with fresh herbs to the restaurant. The planting plan was designed by Piet Oudolf who created the garden on the Highline in Manhattan. The food is creative, complex and delicious.
René and his team greeted us warmly with a glass of sparking fizz,
Fifteen memorable vegetarian courses followed – I would have no idea how to create any of the complex multi-ingredient dishes with up to 5 or 6 people working on each course. Many are willing interns anxious to learn in this famous kitchen. The name NOMA on your CV, certainly opens doors but nowadays questions are frequently being asked about the future of this practice.
Some of the produce and fresh herbs come from the gardens and the glasshouse beside the kitchens and the fermentation and pickles are a revelation. But Copenhagen is not just about NOMA, the restaurant that is credited with starting the Nordic food revolution and transforming Copenhagen into the culinary capital of the world.
During the pandemic, NOMA opened Popl, a NOMA burger joint selling fat, juicy burgers made from organic grass-fed beef. It too is a huge success but I particularly love the little cafés cum bakeries, wine bars and cocktail bars all of which serve a selection of delicious small plates. In the few days we were there we tried as many as possible.
Lille Bakery in Refshaleøen is in an old industrial area in a non-auspicious part of town. It was started in 2018 on a shoestring by Jesper, Mia and Sara who met at 108, the Michelin-starred restaurant of René Redzepi. Tables are a mixture of junk shop finds and timber cable reels but the sourdough bread, flaky croissants, cardamom buns, sausage rolls and baked goods are exceptionally delicious. I was thrilled to find that one of our past students, James Lang who learned to bake his first loaf of sourdough in our Bread Shed here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School was one of the bakers in this tiny but exceptional bakery. I also loved their typical Danish breakfast, a ham and cheese sourdough sandwich slathered generously with butter and I’m still dreaming about the soft, puffy Berliner, a doughnut with no central hole in the centre filled with a rhubarb cream and topped with a little smidgeon of meringue.
Alice Café is another hidden gem in Markmandsgade 1. It too has a short menu of very good things and some say the best hand-crafted ice-cream in Copenhagen. The notice board on the wall told us the time when the sourdough buns, flaky croissants, tebirkes (poppy seed pastries), cardamom twist and teboller (buttermilk buns) would be coming out of the oven. Apart from really sensational bread, each has their own specialities and devotees. We also visited the Hart Bageri owned by Richard Hart, originally Chad Robertson partner at Tartine (in California) and later head baker at NOMA. His bread is legendary and he too had his specialities – a burnt basque cheesecake plus cardamom croissants and spandauer – a black sesame cookie to die for!
And yet another gem, Hahnemann’s Køøken in Østerbro. When I arrived Trine Hahnemann was teaching a French group from Brittany how to make a selection of Danish smorgasbord (see next weeks column) but then she showed me around her café, bakery and truly sensational selection of baked goods – cakes, pastries and breads, all made from 100% organic ingredients.
Thank you to all these generous bakers who shared their recipes with us all. Let me know how you enjoy them…
Puffy doughnuts without the hole in the centre – totally irresistible!
25g (1oz) fresh yeast
450g (1lb) baker’s or strong flour
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
pinch of salt
75g (3oz) butter
1 organic egg, whisked
150–225ml (5 – 8fl oz) water at blood heat
Dissolve the yeast in a little of the tepid water. Sieve the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter and then add the whisked eggs. Add the yeast mixture and enough additional water to make a fairly soft dough. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Turn out onto a floured board. Knead well, about 5–10 minutes, until the dough becomes firm and springy. It should bounce back when pressed with a finger.
Put into a deep Pyrex bowl, cover and leave to rise until it doubles in size. Punch down to knock out the air and redistribute the yeast back in contact with the dough. Knead well for 2–3 minutes. Leave to rest for a further 5 minutes.
Divide the basic yeast bun dough into 25g (1oz) pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and flatten. Arrange on a floured tea-towel or tray, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Heat some good-quality sunflower oil in a deep-fryer to 160°C (315°F). Gently slip a few risen Berliners into the oil. Cook for about a minute on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon until they are evenly brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Leave to cool slightly.
Toss in crunchy sugar and eat soon.
Alternatively, mix 110g (4oz) of caster sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
in a wide, shallow bowl. Toss the doughnuts in the cinnamon sugar. Pipe vanilla
pastry cream or rhubarb pastry cream into the centre through the side.
Lille’s Cardamom Buns
Remonce, a Danish word for pastry filling is basically a brown sugar and cardamom buttery filling that’s whipped, spread across sheets of croissant dough which is rolled up like a Swiss roll and portioned. This dough can also be used for croissants and cinnamon buns.
soft butter 500g (18oz)
brown sugar 225g (8oz)
caster sugar 225g (8oz)
salt 5g (scant 1/4oz)
cardamom (blitzed) 12g (1/2oz)
Put the soft butter into a bowl with the sugars, salt and ground cardamom. Whip until light and soft. This makes 500g (18oz) of filling, it could be halved but keeps well and can also just be spread on some Brioche toast or eaten on its own!
flour 833g (1lb 13oz)
sugar 83g (3 1/4oz)
salt 16g (generous 1/2oz)
fresh yeast 33g (1 1/4oz)
soft butter 50g (2oz)
milk 500g (18oz)
water 366g (12 1/2oz)
500g block of square butter
There is no big secret with this dough either. Put all the ingredients into a mixer (except from the extra 500g/18oz butter block). Mix with a dough hook for 5-10 minutes on a low to medium speed to a smooth texture. Wrap the dough and immediately transfer to the fridge. Leave overnight. The laminating begins the next day….
Roll the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper to approx. 20cm x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square.
Flour the worktop and roll the risen dough into a square (approx. 40cm x 40cm/16 x 16 inch). Place the square of butter into the centre of the dough and fold the dough over the butter. Press gently to seal the edges.
Next, make the first lamination….
Flour the worktop lightly, roll the dough into a rectangle. Brush off any excess flour and fold in 3 lengthwise. Give the dough a 90° turn, seal the open edges with a rolling pin. Re-roll the dough towards the open end into a rectangle. Fold in 3 once again. Cover tightly with greaseproof paper. Refrigerate for an hour. Then repeat this process, cover and refrigerate the dough overnight.
Next day, roll out into a long rectangle 30 x 12cm (12 x 5 inch), slatter with cardamom remonce (you won’t need it all), then roll it up to form a Swiss roll log shape. Portion into 100g (3 1/2oz) pieces. Place the buns on a lined tray, cover lightly and prove until the layers have begun opening up a little, approx. 3-4 hours.
Bake at 210˚C/410˚F/Gas
Mark 6 for 18-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the bottom.
Trine Hahnemann’s Traditional Strawberry Cake
This cake has got it all: marzipan, chocolate, cream, vanilla, and strawberries. It can be found in almost every bakery in Denmark. You can bake the marzipan base and keep it in the freezer; I like to bake 4 at the time. Then you can easily make this strawberry cake on a summer day.
125g (4 1/2oz) marzipan*, grated
125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar
125g (4 1/2oz) soft butter, plus extra for greasing
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) plain flour or corn starch
1 pod of vanilla
200ml (7fl oz) single cream
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
200ml (7fl oz) heavy cream
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
4 tablespoons heavy cream
500g (18oz) strawberries
2-3 tablespoons red currant jelly
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
Beat the grated marzipan with the sugar in a mixing bowl (you get the best result using an electric mixer), then add the butter and beat again until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, until the mixture is even and smooth, then fold in the flour or corn starch. Pour the dough into a buttered round baking tin 24 centimetre. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool down.
Now melt the chocolate over steam, add the butter and mix well.
When the marzipan base is cooled down, spread the chocolate evenly over it.
When the chocolate has set on the marzipan base, it is time to make the cream.
For the cream, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwaysand scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Put the vanilla seeds with the single cream in a saucepan and heat until steaming hot. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl until the mixture turns pale and fluffy, then whisk in the corn flour. Stir one-third of the hot cream into the egg mixture, then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Stir over a low heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
When the cream filling is cold, whip the double cream until it forms stiff peaks and fold it in the cream.
Carefully rinse the strawberries in cold water, remove the little flower and cut in half, dry them carefully. Place the red currant jelly in a piping bag.
Whip the cream quite firm, fold into the cold custard, place on top of the chocolate 2 centimetres from the edge, form into a little pyramid shape. Cover it with the strawberries, place small dollops of jelly in between the strawberries, decorate with flowers. Serve right away or keep in refrigerator until ready to be served.
*real marzipan with 60% almonds