8 Dec 2011

Why Danish Bakers are Toast

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Still on my outpost in London, where the cold weather and lack of heating in my house has begun to made me homesick. Just this morning I felt the need to browse through some old photos of T, my friends and endless meals I’ve cooked and I stumbled upon these shots of another  thing I really miss: Danish bakeries.

Introducing a classic Danish pastry called “gåsebryst” (goose breast). The naughty combination of strawberry marmalade sandwiched between two delicate layers of soft sponge, then a layer of thick vanilla custard, a generous wave of whipped cream, topped off with a coating of soft white marzipan, a little blob of pistachio marzipan, some candied violet flowers and a pecan nut (not a classic choice of nut in Denmark). A delicious vice in itself, its name has also encouraged many a seedy joke from gentlemen who enjoy making young bakery ladies blush (“bakery virgins” = bagerjomfruer as they are actually called in Denmark): “Do you carry goose breasts, miss?”. Very clever. I might even have had the pleasure of that joke in my day as a bagerjomfru, though those cakes were definitely not worth the rush of blood to my cheeks.

The thing is, for many years now the classic craft of bakery seems to have gone down in Denmark. I mean no disrespect to the bakers who get up before the crack of Shawn and work their hairy asses off every night, but there have been too many cases of sad looking cakes in the shop windows, desperate for a new home with a family who cared. Luckily there has also been a surge of new (though expensive) bakeries in the recent 5-10 years with a fresh take on bread and pastry, so we do still have plenty of baked deliciousness around.  It’s just the classic craft and the classic recipes that are sagging behind and we really need them for everyday use. And as I see it, the Danish bakers have just experienced their final death blow: Andersen Bakery.

With a combination of classic Danish recipes and a Japanese sense of surgical precision and aesthetics, this bakery represents a huge challenge to the classic “craft baker”. As you might have guessed already, the goose breast above was not bought in a dime-in-a-dozen bakery, but at Andersen Bakery, where I find myself clapping my little hands when gazing at their perfectly sized selection of treats. I have never before lusted for a gåsebryst, but after seeing this baby at their shop, I have had wet dreams of sinking my teeth into its gentle softness.

At 22 kroner, this cake places itself somewhere close to the boring bakers at the supermarket Brugsen, while the quality is up there with the fancy old school bakery Rheinh. van Hauen (whose expensive cakes and great service I have raved about here). Furthermore, they have the most exquisite puff pastry ever, with endless layers of buttery flakes, only delicate drops or thin lines of icing, great custard filling topped with changing fruit (rhubarb or the single fat black cherry are my favourite).

(Just wanted to show the scale of their miniature puff pastry, which means you can easily have two before your coffee goes cold)

Embarassing to say, but I think they make the best Danish in Denmark, and they’re from Japan! It’s as if every single cake there is an hommage to the Danish bakers of yore. And what are the current craft bakers doing all the while? Probably running around the back rooms of the bakery, slapping each other with a wet tea towel as they did at my old job (seriously! The stories I could tell you from back then…). But certainly not making this.

That, and they make a killer sourdough loaf:



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