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Weekend Cake: Brunsviger from Fyn

My husband’s absolute favorite cake is a Danish cake called “Brunsviger” originating from the small southern Danish island Fyn (Funen) where Hans Christian Andersen is from. I have no idea how to translate this name into English. It is a yeast bread with a caramelized brown sugar topping. You can find it in most Danish bakeries but there is a big difference between the Copenhagen version and the one from Fyn. Actually, it was not until my husband took me to Fyn where his family is from that I discovered how good brunsviger can be. Of course brunsviger is also delicious in Copenhagen but the version from Fyn tops everything. In Copenhagen the brown sugar topping is thick and sugary whereas on Fyn it is like a sirup-caramel topping. Apparently, it is so unique to Fyn that my husband told me to think of the rolling hills of Fyn when I shaped the cake. As you can hear he is very passionate about this cake and Fyn. This southern Danish island sure is beautiful with its lush fields and rolling hills, old farm and manor houses, idyllic coastal towns such as Svendborg, Faaborg and Kerteminde and a lot of beaches. The weather is even a tiny bit warmer than in the northern parts of the country – which is always very helpful in Denmark.

 

I found a great recipe for fynsk brunsviger on the Danish food blog Sesamsesam.com (here is the link: Opskrift paa fynsk brunsviger ).

For the non-Danes I have an adapted version of the Sesamsesam.com recipe here:

Fynsk Brunsviger Recipe

Dough Ingredients:

250 gram / 9 ounces all-purpose flour

25 gram / 1 ounce sugar

1 package active dry yeast

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2- 1 3/4 dl whole milk

25 gram / 1 ounce butter, softened and cut into small cubes

Topping ingredients:

125 gram / 4.5 ounces butter

150 gram / 5.3 ounces dark brown sugar

4 tbsp sirup (maple sirup was delicious)

How you do it:

Heat the milk in a small pot until it is lukewarm. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast. Then you mix in the salt, sugar and flour. Add the butter and knead. Then you shape it into a nice ball and let it rise in the bowl in a warm place under a dish towel for about 30 minutes.

While the dough rises you make the topping by mixing all the ingredients in a medium sized pot over low heat until it is well mixed and melted.

Next you roll the dough out to a rectangle and fit it into a large metal baking pan (35 x 25 cm) with tall sides. Press a lot of holes into the dough (for the topping to run into). This is when you should think about shaping it like the rolling hills of Fyn. For more pictures on how to make the “hills” see SesamSesam.com Brunsviger Recipe.

Spread the topping evenly over the dough, cover with a dish towel and let it rise for about 30 minutes. After rising you press holes in the dough once again.

Now it is ready to bake for 12-15 minutes on 350 degrees fahrenheit (180 degrees celsius). Make sure to make it the same day as you wish to serve it because it is supposed to be eaten fresh. Already the next day it will start to get dry and you will have to warm it up to get the sticky tastiness back. It tastes extra good when it is a little lukewarm. Good luck! I hope you will love it too 🙂

 

 

 

Fairies, Merpups and Finding Joy When Things Don’t Go as Planned

In my last post I promised to give you an update on my use of the playguide in the book Play – The Danish Way by Iben Sandahl. I am not sure what happened but we went on vacation to Cape Cod and now suddenly half the summer has gone by. I am so excited that we have been electronics free for two entire weeks now (two hours after I published this post my kids were watching “Chuggington”… oops)! The absence of electronics has definitely made room for a greater imaginary universe but the summer still has not been as perfect as I imagined: me sitting in a garden chair, reading books while my children would play joyously for hours by themselves. A lot of times, I have had to dig deep in order not to get (too) frustrated with constant requests for help, questions about every possible thing (“why do people have swimsuits?”) and cleaning in 95 degrees fahrenheit with what seems like max air humidity (Maryland summers are tough for a Dane!). But I will save my realization about finding joy on less than imperfect days as a bonus in the end of this post. First, I will tell you how the playguide has helped me have more hygge, fun and play with my kids this summer.

Hygge is the first theme in the Playguide. Hygge with kids is a great way to create a nice atmosphere that will inspire joyful play plus allow the adult some much needed downtime. My favorite way to hygge with my children is to read stories that we all love such as H.C. Andersen’s fairytales, Peter in Blueberry Land or Blueberries for Sal. It is a great excuse to get to revisit stories from my childhood and look at beautiful illustrations. So while you might not get to spend days in art museums or sit and read novels for hours straight, this is one way to get some art into your life that both you and your children enjoy. We also love to dance and go for adventurous nature walks. Whatever you like to do, sharing something you love with your children is a great way of enjoying some togetherness/hygge.

Making things together is another idea from the Playguide. My daughter and her friend love making fairy houses and decorating them with flowers. Tree bark makes great construction material, shells become fancy sinks and bathtubs, moss provide soft fluffy beds and dried flowers add scents and colors to the interior decoration for the fairies.

 

Our vacation on Cape Cod has revitalized my children’s fascination with mermaids so finally my childhood’s endless hours of practicing how to draw pretty women has come to use. I draw the mermaids and the kids color them. In the end we will have a nice little mermaid picture book. My son’s request for “merpup” drawings (from Paw Patrol) is something I will have to work on later though… I love these kinds of crafts where I do not have to look up ideas on Pinterest and buy a million art supplies. Nice, simple and open-ended so you can truly get to create something out of nothing.

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I am hoping that my children will become so fond of drawing at the kitchen table that soon there will be no requests for TV while we cook and instead they will prefer exploring their own creative abilities.

But as I said, our summer has not been all faires, flowers and mermaids. Yesterday at the breakfast table I was finally able to read a few paragraphs in a magazine when my daughter said: “There is something yucky on the table!” Much against my will I took my eyes off the magazine that I had been trying to read for days and saw her pointing at something I badly wanted to brush off as “just some flaxseeds”. After a few seconds my sense of motherly responsibility returned and I had to admit that it sure did resemble feces from a mouse!! On our dining table, in the summer, while we were eating!! It took me up to half an hour to get over the frustration of having to sanitize the kitchen on one of the hottest and most humid days here in Maryland. But magically the children understood my need to recover from disgust and annoyance and started creating a role play on their own in the playroom. Suddenly what had started out as a bad morning became a morning of fun and free play with not a single sibling dispute. I heard them making dramatic and fun sounds for a whole hour while I mopped the floor and spritzed every surface. I even got the chance to play some loud music and think thoughts unrelated to parenting! This is when I realized that all they need to know is that sometimes their parents are not available, parents also have other things to do that are important and that they will be perfectly able to play by themselves. In fact, children have way more fun when they make up their own play and learn so much more from it. Strangely enough, the mouse visit became some sort of odd gift that proved how great children are at using their imagination and playing on their own – and how beneficial it can be for everyone to tell your children to leave you alone every now and then…

To take your mind off mouse feces here is a picture of wild roses on a Cape Cod beach just like on the Danish beaches. There is definitely lots of Danish happiness to be found on Cape Cod and its many beaches…

There are many more ideas on how to inspire more free play, fun and hygge for your children in Play – The Danish Way and I will let you know how it goes trying some more of them out.

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Wild Rose on a Cape Cod beach. Photo by Christian West.

 

Review: Play -The Danish Way

Iben Dissing Sandahl, one of the authors behind the international bestseller The Danish Way of Parenting, is out with a new book Play – The Danish Way. This book follows up on the wide interest in how to help children enjoy unstructured free play. It is such a great book to read here at the beginning of the summer holiday where children have what seems like endless time. It provides the readers with a great opportunity to encourage free play both for the sake of their children’s healthy and happy development and for the sanity of their parents!

Free play is so much more important to children’s development than many of us parents realize! I have to admit that before I read this book I viewed play as a way children pass their time. Just fun or maybe even waste of time compared to going to a sports class or storytime. I did not take it as seriously as I should. In fact, play is so much more than passing time. It is one of the most crucial factors in healthy childhood development. Play is children learning on their own. Coming up with new creative ideas, experimenting, learning by mistakes and thinking and acting independently. Most of their world is arranged by adults, governed by adult rules and decision making. In free play children get freedom to create their own world, however they want it. Through play with other kids they learn how to interact, not because an adult tells them how they should behave but because they experience the consequences of their actions on their own. These skills from play are so important also for how they do in school and later in life. Through free play children develop the ability to think outside the box and to take initiatives independently instead of constantly being in need of adult guidance. But most important of all – free play is a a cornerstone in parenting happy children who are emotionally, socially and physically healthy and resilient.

Unfortunately the amount of time that children spend on free outdoor play has dropped by 90% since 1970. Meanwhile, attention disorders, narcissism and even lack of physical skills have increased by a lot. Play – The Danish Way is such a great reminder of the value of children’s magical and fun universe. And the book not only reminds us to treasure children’s playtime, but also our own. Even adults can still play – it is what happens when we become so absorbed in a project that we forget about time. Just like when a child refuses to go home because they are having such a fun time playing with their friends. The same thing happens to adults every now and then when we create or do something we enjoy. Innovating, thinking and being creative is play and as a society I hope we will all keep up this ability. A playful home where parents show that they like to play or have fun is encouraging for children’s desire to play. In fact the book includes a play guide with ideas on how to facilitate your children’s desire to play and there are many things adults can do to help the play along.

I cannot encourage this book strongly enough. It provides the readers with a positive, warm and fun-loving view of the precious childhood without lecturing and preaching. Iben Dissing Sandahl truly writes with a love and passion for childhood which she passes on to her readers. Moreover, it is quick to read, well-structured and has many eyeopening and useful insights with a good balance of research and tangible examples. Play – The Danish Way is sure to become my guidebook on how to make a happy fun-filled summer with my children. More blog posts to come on my attempts to follow its fun playguide throughout the summer – so stay tuned 😉

A Summer of Free Imagination – Let the Kids Be Bored and Play

 

“Mom I’m bored, can I watch something?” says my five year old like it is the most terrible thing that could have happened to her. We have just been out for a kid event and now five minutes later she is already bored. I feel highly tempted to turn on that pony show so I can get half an hour to get some stuff done. But I stand firm and say “No, it is good to be bored – now you can come up with something yourself.” She looks at me perplexed but leaves the kitchen. Sure enough, ten minutes later I hear her singing and talking while she plays with her dolls in the family room. Yet every time she catches a glimpse of me she tries to talk me into entertaining her and I have to neglect all my feelings of guilt and let go of my inner pressure to constantly stimulate her. It helps me to know that letting children be bored and play by themselves, or with other children, is actually one of the most important things in their development… Boredom is good! Or rather the free unstructured play that children come up with without adult input is crucial for their ability to think outside the box. This is how they absorb and process their experiences and learn to be creative and imaginative. In fact children need three hours of unstructured play, preferably outside, every day according to Angela Hanscom, pediatric occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook and author of Balanced and Barefoot (Article on outdoor play)

It is not only children who want to be constantly entertained instead of creating and imagining things on their own. I recently read an article on BBC.com about an airline that had responded to the ban on carrying electronic devices on certain flights by providing passengers with a list of 12 things to do without a tablet or laptop (read article here: Why Idle Moments are Crucial for Creativity)! Like read a book or daydream. I cannot believe that we are getting to the point of not knowing what to do without electronics! What happened to independent thinking and imagination? The irony of it all is that we all – adults and children – appear to be much happier when we put our iPhones and iPads away. Of course it takes a while to get over the cravings, just like with sugar or alcohol, but after a day or two it is actually very peaceful not to check the internet or text messages all the time.

Last week our family had staycation at our house where we left the iPhones attached to their plugs like old-fashioned landline phones and only checked them once a day. The kids did not watch any tv. Instead, we spent time relaxing together doing yard work while the kids played outside. It definitely also helped that their grandparents stayed with us for a while being fun and playful. This inexpensive vacation ended up being one of our best vacations! Everyone relaxed and felt happy spending time together instead of in some non-real world online. No deadlines, no schedules, no stress – or rather we just forgot about our commitments… and it was great!

So my goal for this summer is a “go-with-the-flow” attitude where we make the most out of not having to get ready for school every day. This is my chance to undo my own and my children’s screen addiction. Our chance to enjoy the freedom of long days of free play that is not squeezed into a tight schedule. I hope for a summer of fairies and dump trucks, dirt and flowers, endless amounts of berries and lemonade, lounging on the beach or by the pool. A summer where the mom (me…) will not care about sand or grass carried inside on wet shoes, about swimsuits and towels drying all over the house because her imagination has made her house into a “beach house” and she is on vacation even when at home.

Dream Cake from Brovst

Dream Cake from Brovst is such a classic from my childhood in Denmark. Originally invented by the Danish woman, Jytte Andersen, who took part in a baking competition in 1960 in the Danish town Brovst, Jutland (See Droemmekage on Wikipedia). This woman would be a millionaire if she had got the copyrights for the recipe because it is a favorite everywhere in Denmark. So much so that it was voted the fourth most popular cake in Denmark in a cake research/questionnaire conducted by the newspaper Metroexpress. I have already received feedback from enough Americas to know that this cake will become a classic over here as well.

It is similar to a pound cake – heavy and moist with lots of eggs and butter. But it is the topping with coconut and brown sugar that makes it. It is pretty simple to make and will be a hit at any social get-together.

 

Droemmekage fra Brovst / Dream Cake from Brovst Recipe

Ingredients:

250 gram / 9 ounces all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

50 gram / 2 ounces softened butter

250 / 9 ounces gram sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

2 deciliter whole milk

For the topping:

130 gram / 4.6 ounces butter

260 gram / 9.2 ounces brown sugar

125 gram / 4.5 ounces shredded coconut

3/4 deciliter milk

A large rectangular metal baking pan with tall sides (38 x 24 centimeter or 15 x 9 inches).

 

How you make it:

Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Beat butter, sugar, salt, vanilla in a mixing bowl until creamy and soft. You have to beat for a long time. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and for a long time. Add some of the flour.  Stir in the milk and the remaining flour.

Then you cover the baking pan with parchment paper so it is covered all the way up on the sides and bottom. Pour the batter into the pan and bake it on 390 degrees fahrenheit in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. When a chopstick or another stick comes out clean it is done.

While the cake bakes you boil butter, coconut and brown sugar in a medium pot while constantly stirring.

When you take the cake out of the oven, you spread the brown sugar and coconut topping evenly on it right away and put it back in the oven to bake for another 6 minutes on 440 degrees fahrenheit.

The cake can be served when it has cooled off. You can can simply cut the pieces out in the baking pan and serve as is. And don’t forget the coffee!

 

 

 

Danish Pancakes

It seems that every country has its own version of pancakes – Denmark included. Some would say there is nothing more Danish than pancakes and that Danish pancakes are certainly a way to Danish happiness. Danish pancakes are typically an afternoon treat that often end up becoming dinner as well because the kids will eat so many that there is no room for anymore food that day. They are very similar to French crepes, topped with whatever you like but strawberry/raspberry jam and powdered sugar is the most classic version. I guess the Danes just love their red and whites! I enjoy a summer version with fresh berries and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Banana slices and nutella works too.

 

Danish Pancake Recipe

Ingredients:

4 eggs

8 deciliter/3 cups whole milk

400 gram/14 ounces all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Butter for frying

How you make them:

In a medium sized bowl beat together the eggs and flour while adding the milk a little at a time. When the dough is smooth you add sugar, salt and vanilla extract. The dough will be much thinner than American pancake dough. Cover the bowl and set aside in a cozy place for about 1/2 hour.

Then you heat up a frying pan and melt one teaspoon of butter on it. Next you pour about 1/4 cup of pancake dough on the pan while you move the pan around so the dough is evenly divided on the whole pan. When the dough is light brown on the edges you flip it with over and fry it on the other side until it is golden brown on both sides. Transfer it to a plate covered with aluminum foil. Then you melt about a teaspoon of butter on the pan and start frying up a new pancake and so forth until you have a nice stack of pancakes. My children usually eat them while I make them so I never get a stack. The pancakes disappear quickly!

Serve them with a selection of different toppings – such as strawberry or raspberry jam, powdered sugar, nutella, berries, banana slices – so people can design their own pancakes.  Putting toppings on is an important part of the fun! Roll them up and eat them with your fingers.

Hindbaersnitter / Raspberry Slices of Happiness

Summer and heat is here and hygge has moved outside. Outdoor summer hygge makes me crave the Danish pastry called “Hindbærsnitter” or “Raspberry Slices”. In fact, I cannot think of a happier cake than a Hindbærsnitte (except for maybe a cupcake or birthday cake). Just take a look at it! A real slice of happiness… Raspberries on a flaky crust glazed with sugar to give you that happy kick. And kids seem to go crazy for them – just cut the slices into halves for small children so the sugar doesn’t make them go truly crazy!

Hindbærsnitter have a lot in common with Pop Tarts but are not quite the same. You can find Hindbærsnitter in every Danish bakery. It is a true Danish classic. Good news is that you do not have to travel all the way to Denmark to bring them to your coffee table – they are actually pretty easy to make! So here you go – a recipe on how to make your own slices of happiness:-)

Hindbærsnitter / Raspberry Slices Recipe

Ingredients:

300 gram / 10.6 oz all-purpose flour

100 gram / 3.5 oz confectioners sugar

200 gram / 7 oz butter, softened

2 egg yolks

250 gram /8.8 oz raspberry preserves with seeds

Icing:

270 gram / 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

4 tablespoons cold water

Multicolored sprinkles

How you do it:

Mix butter, flour, confectioners sugar in a mixer with paddle attachment or just with a spoon until crumbly.

Add the egg yolks and increase the mixing speed and mix until the dough is smooth and forms a ball but do not over-mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into two. And here comes the trickiest part – at least for me – rolling each ball out on parchment paper so it forms a square of 25 cm 25 cm (9.5 x 9.5 inches). The dough kept sticking to the rolling pin. It helped to knead in a tablespoon or two of cold water and keep the rolling pin covered with flour. You can also use your hands to flatten the dough out. Repeat with the other dough ball.

Transfer each square of dough on parchment paper to a baking sheet. Then bake them one at a time for about 12 minutes on 390 degrees fahrenheit until light golden. Cool down for about 15 minutes.

Stir the raspberry preserves so it becomes more liquid and then spread it evenly on top of the first cake. Then carefully transfer the second cake piece on top of the first.

Mix the icing in a bowl. If necessary, carefully add a little more cold water drop by drop until it is thick and smooth like syrup. Cover the top piece with icing and spread the sprinkles over immediately after so they will stick.

Now you have to wait till the icing is completely dry before you cut it into 12 pieces or more. Use a big sharp knife and cut with a press, not a sawing motion. You might also want to cut the edges of so the slices are nice and straight on the sides.

The second hardest part is that you have to wait until the frosting is completely settled before you start eating. I recommend waiting a couple of hours before you serve them because they will taste better then.

And don’t forget to serve them with coffee – or a glass of cold white wine. They can be stored in an airtight container for several days. No need to refrigerate.

Recipe adapted from Mydanishkitchen.com

So, my “Friday Cake” series has ironically caused me more stress than hygge because I rarely have time to bake, hygge and write on Fridays plus it has turned me into a heavy sugar addict (Danish cake portions are really meant to share with guests…). And after all, what is the point of a hygge cake if you are so busy baking that you do not get to the hygge part? From now on I am just going to bake and post cake recipes when I have someone to bake them for and the time for it. This does not mean there won’t be more cakes on happyasadane – just not every week. I am already excited to try out more Danish cakes so lets see how long I can wait…