Bless Your Spoon: Danish specialties

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2022

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

March has arrived, but, I’m still stuck on February, the month of love.  I’ve been working on a true labor of love — that is, the love for my father.

My heart’s been immersed in a book project — more than 80 letters that Dad wrote while away at sea in the Merchant Marines and the historical significance contained within.

The letters give insight into what’s happening on the ship and around the world following World War II. More importantly, the letters chronicle relationships and separations — what was on the hearts and minds of young men, their wives, and parents at that time.

I wanted to share a brief glimpse into history as my father writes to his mother from a port in Odense, Denmark, on Thursday, Nov. 3, 1949:

“We got docked here last night and began discharging some of our cargo. Our cargo for all Denmark is cottonseed meal cake used for dairy feed during the winter. I am enclosing a picture I clipped out of the Korsor paper. The caption says, ‘Ship Kenneth McKay photographed in Korsor harbor, where the ship has arrived with Marshall Plan fodder-stover (cow feed).’”

Named after Secretary of State George C. Marshall, The Marshall Plan, (formerly European Recovery Program) was a U.S. financed European self-help program from 1948 until 1951 to help provide economic restabilization.   

Foder (fodder) is the Danish word for feed for cattle and other livestock. Stover was the cottonseed meal cake being carried as cargo to be used as animal feed. The principal use is as a high protein supplement in feed for cattle, swine, and poultry to keep the butterfat content in the milk during the winter.

For Scandinavian countries, fodder-stover was crucial to keep their livestock well fed. Denmark in particular, with no mountains, produced many field grains and large amounts of cheese and other dairy products for export.

Today’s recipes are Danish specialties. The Danes are master bakers and famous for delicate pastries, buttery cookies, homemade cakes, grain-rich bread and homemade cheeses. Bakers use lots of butter, eggs and milk so baked goods are some of the best in the world. Coffee breads are flavored with sweet spices of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Almonds are the favorite nut and often used as a paste or filling for baked goods. Sugar and salt are used sparingly.

Cow’s Milk Cheese Souffle

• 1 cup half and half

• ¼ cup all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 cup shredded soft, cow’s milk cheese

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. white pepper

• 4 beaten egg yolks

• 4 beaten egg whites

• 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

In a saucepan, combine half and half and flour. Whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil and add butter. Lower heat to medium, and continue to stir and cook until mixture thickens. Stir in shredded cheese, salt and pepper. In a mixer bowl, beat egg yolks. Stir ½ cup of cheese sauce into the yolks. Then stir entire egg mixture into remaining cheese sauce. Set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until peaks form. Fold the egg whites into cheese sauce. Pour cheese mixture into a butter greased baking dish and bake in a 375-degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Danish Apple Cake

• ¾ cup softened butter

• ¾ cup sugar

• 3 eggs

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. melted butter

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 5 peeled, halved, Golden Delicious apples

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add salt and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in flour and mix well. Batter should be stiff. Spread batter in an 11-inch tart or cheesecake pan with removable bottom. Peel and halve apples. Remove all cores. Place cut side down on a surface. Cut crosswise ¾ of way through each apple half, cutting about 1/8 inch apart. Don’t cut all the way through. Press apple halves core side down into batter. Brush apples with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 30 minutes or until apples are tender and cake is golden brown.

Caramelized Custard Pudding

• 2 quarts whole milk

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 cup sour cream

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ cup chopped nuts

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat. When boiling, reduce heat to low. Simmer 3-4 hours until milk is light tan in color and reduced to about 4 cups. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sour cream, flour, and sugar. Mix well. Stir ½ cup hot milk into the egg mixture. Stir egg mixture back into remaining hot milk. Occasional stir and cook on low for 15 minutes or until mixture is thickened and curdled. Sprinkle servings with nuts and serve hot.

Fruit, Custard and Cream Cake

• 4 beaten egg whites

• ¾ cup sugar

• 4 beaten egg yolks

• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• ¼ cup cornstarch

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1 pint fresh strawberries or other fruit, plus

Custard filling

• 2 beaten egg yolks

• 1½ Tbsp. butter

• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 1 cup half and half

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Cream Topping

• 1½ cups whipping cream

• 2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In another mixer bowl, beat egg yolks. Add beaten egg yolks, flour, cornstarch, and baking powder to beaten egg whites. Bake in a 10-inch greased and floured springform pan in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until top of cake feels dry. Allow to stand 10 minutes after baking before removing from pan to cool completely cool. While cooling, slice fruit lengthwise and set aside. For the custard filling, in a saucepan, combine beaten egg yolks, butter, cornstarch, half and half, and sugar. Stir constantly over medium heat until thick and smooth. Cover and set aside to cool. When cool, fold in vanilla. Set aside. For the cream topping, in a mixer bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside. When cake is cool, cut horizontally in three layers. Spread first layer with half the custard filling and half of sliced strawberries. Top with second cake layer and spread remaining custard filling and strawberries on top. Top with third cake layer and spread with whipped cream topping. Decorate with additional strawberries. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spiced Berry Pound Cake

• ¾ cup softened butter

• 1¼ cup sugar

• 4 eggs

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. salt and baking soda

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 2 tsp. cinnamon

• 1 tsp. ground ginger and cloves

• 2½ cups sour cream

• 3-4 Tbsp. fresh chopped cranberries, lingonberries or other

• 3 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing between each addition. Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves a little at a time while alternating with sour cream. Mix well. Fold in chopped berries. Mix well. Bake in a butter greased and floured tube pan in a 350-degree oven for 55 minutes or until tests done. Allow to cool 5 minutes, then invert on rack and cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

Danish Dairy Coffee Cake

• 1 cup boiling water

• ½ cup softened butter

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 4 eggs

• 1 tsp. vanilla

• ½ cup salted butter

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 Tbsp. water

Hot Butter Coffee Glaze

• 1 cup confectioners sugar

• 2 Tbsp. very strong coffee

• 2 Tbsp. softened butter

In a saucepan, add water, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately beat in flour until smooth ball is formed. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in vanilla and mix well. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a mixer bowl, cut butter into flour until it resembles a coarse meal. Add water and mix. Shape into a roll 28-inches long. On a cookie sheet, arrange and spread dough on bottom of ungreased cookie sheet. Spread cooked mixture over top of dough. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes. Turn off heat and dry in oven for 10 minutes. Drizzle with glaze. For the glaze, in a bowl, blend sugar, coffee, and butter until smooth.

Cream Twist Pastries

• 1 beaten egg

• 1 cup sugar

• 1 cup whipping cream

• 1 cup sour cream

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 3½ cups all-purpose flour

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add sugar and whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Beat again. Slowly add flour while beating until it forms a soft dough. Turn out on a floured surface. Knead a few times to make a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. The next day, turn dough out on floured surface. Cut into fourths. Work with one portion at a time — keeping others refrigerated. Cut portion into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between hands to make an 8-inch rope. Shape each into a figure 8 and pinch ends to seal. Arrange dough 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in tightly covered container.

Scandinavian Spiced Coffee Ring

• 1 envelope active dry yeast

• 1 tsp. sugar

• ¼ cup warm water

• 1 cup scalded, cooled whole milk

• ¼ cup melted butter

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2½-3 cups all-purpose flour

• ¼ cup softened butter

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Glaze

• ½ cup confectioners sugar

• 2 Tbsp. hot coffee

In a small bowl, stir yeast and sugar into warm water and allow to stand 5 minutes to soften. In a mixer bowl, add milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup flour. Beat until smooth. Gradually add 1½ cups additional flour and beat until it makes a soft dough. If too moist, add 1 Tbsp. flour at a time. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled. Punch dough down and turn onto a lightly oiled surface. Stretch and roll dough until it’s 18 x 12 rectangle. Spread with softened butter to ½ inch from edges. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Starting with the 12-inch side, roll-up in jelly-roll fashion. Place seam side down in a greased and floured Bundt pan. Make scissor cuts halfway through dough every 1-inch. Allow to rise and double until it fills pan. Bake 30-40 minutes in a 350-degree oven or until tests clean. Cool 10 minutes and invert on rack. Drizzle with glaze. Serve warm or toasted. For glaze, combine confectioners sugar and coffee. Beat until smooth.

Berry Butter Bars

Crust

• 2½ cups all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. baking powder

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 cup softened butter

• 1 beaten egg

Blueberry Filling

• 2 cups fresh blueberries

• ¼ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel

• 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

• ¼ tp. salt

• 1 Tbsp. decorative sugar

To prepare crust, in a mixer bowl, combine flour, baking powder and sugar. Blend in butter. Add egg and mix until dough forms. Refrigerate 30 minutes. For the filling, in a saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, peel, cornstarch and salt. Cook over medium heat while constantly stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Divide chilled dough into a ¾ portion and a ¼ portion. On a floured surface roll out ¾ portion into a 15 x 11 rectangle for bottom crust. Place dough in bottom of butter greased and floured 13 x 9 baking pan making sure it extends 1-inch up sides. Spoon cooled filling onto pastry. Roll out reserved portion of dough into 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into ½-inch strips. Place strips over filling in a lattice design. Sprinkle top with large granule sugar. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cut in 3-inch squares.

Butter Cookie Dough

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 cup softened butter

• 1 egg

• 2½ cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1-2 tsp water

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Add flour, salt and vanilla. Mix until a dough forms. Add water only if mixture seems dry. Gather dough into a ball and slightly knead. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Dough can be stored up to a week.

Danish Pastry Dough

• 1¼ cup chilled, unsalted butter

• 2 envelopes active dry yeast

• ¼ cup warm water

• ½ cup evaporated milk

• 2 room temperature eggs

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ cup sugar

• 2½ -3 cups all-purpose flour

Tear out two 12-inch squares of plastic wrap. Place butter between the two squares. Pound the butter until it can be shaped and not broken. While between the wrap, roll to a 10 x 8-inch rectangle. Refrigerate. Meanwhile, in a mixer bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water for 5 minutes while softening. Add milk and eggs, salt, and sugar and blend. Add 2½ cups of flour all at once and beat until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should be soft and smooth. Place dough in a greased large bowl, making sure the dough is greased on all sides. Cover with wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Dust dough board with flour and turn dough out on the board. Dust dough with flour and roll into an 18 x 12 rectangle. Remove chilled butter and place it crosswise on one end of pastry, leaving a 1-inch area around all three edges. Fold other half of dough over butter. Pinch edges to seal. Roll out dough to make as large an area as possible — at least 20-inches square. Fold pastry square in thirds, folding right and left thirds over center. Seal layers together by pressing with your hand. Fold in thirds two more times. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Makes 1 ½ lb. of dough and can be stored in refrigerator for 4 -5 days.

Breakfast Crepes with Citrus Butter

• 2 beaten eggs

• Pinch of salt

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1/3 cup melted butter

• Shortening for greasing

Citrus Flavored Butter

• ½ cup softened butter

• ¼ cup sugar

• 1 grated orange peel

• 1 grated lemon peel

Sauce

• ½ cup orange-flavored liqueur

• 1/3 cup sugar

• ¼ cup butter

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs and salt. Beat in flour while alternating with milk and butter. Mix well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Grease a crepe pan and heat. Pour ¼ cup of batter into pan and swirl to cover bottom of pan. Cook until crepe is golden on bottom. Turn over and cook 15 seconds. Repeat until all crepes are cooked. And stack on wax paper. Add shortening to pan as needed to prevent sticking while cooking. For the citrus-flavored butter, in a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Then blend in grated fruit peelings. When ready to serve, spread each crepe with 2 tsp. citrus-flavored butter. Fold crepe in half and then half again and place in sauce. For the sauce, in a saucepan, add orange liqueur or orange juice. Stir in sugar and butter. Heat until butter melts. Pour onto a serving platter and add folded crepes. Keep warm.