Nordic cuisine is hot — we don’t need to tell you that. With several of the world’s best chefs hailing from northern Europe, this is the food you should be cooking now. Darra Goldstein is a renowned culinarian, the recipient of countless food and media awards and the founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Her latest work is a comprehensive collection of recipes from all over Scandinavia. Take it from her: You can do this (and definitely should).
Thankfully, the art of baking is alive and well in Scandinavia, where coffee breaks are a cherished part of the day. I’m especially fond of the sweetened yeast breads made in all sorts of intricate shapes. The truth is, anything with almond paste makes me swoon, and this beautiful wreath is a particular favorite. During our penurious year in Stockholm, we had two weekly indulgences: a visit to Tommy, our friend the fishmonger, and a pastry at Vete-Katten, a warren of small rooms where coffee was served in Royal Copenhagen china and most of the patrons (it seemed to us) were ladies of a certain age, all perfectly dressed and coiffed. This konditori is now less formal and the plates more pedestrian, but the pastries and breads remain spectacular. It’s hard to decide which I like best: kanelbullar (soft cinnamon buns), semlor (tender cardamom buns filled with marzipan and whipped cream), the lavish prinsesstårta (sponge cake layered with pastry cream, raspberry jam, and whipped cream mounded into a dome and draped with pale green marzipan), or this delightful almond wreath. Mandelkrans tastes best when very fresh, but you can reheat it gently to serve the next day.
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 3/4 cup whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon natural almond extract
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- Pearl sugar, for sprinkling
For the wreath
In a large bowl, stir the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar into the lukewarm water and let proof until bubbles appear, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the lukewarm milk, egg, butter, and salt. Add 3 cups of the flour, mixing well until a soft dough forms.
To knead the dough by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it springs back to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes, adding up to a cup more flour if necessary. To knead the dough with a mixer, attach the dough hook and knead the dough at slow speed until it springs back to the touch, about 5 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball, transfer to a greased bowl, and turn it to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, in a food processor grind together the almonds and sugar until the nuts are very finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add the butter, and stir until a mass forms. Stir in the almond extract.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to a 12-by-18-inch rectangle. With a small spatula, spread the filling evenly over the entire rectangle. Starting at the long end, roll the dough up into a log. Transfer it to the baking sheet, seam side down. Bring the ends together to form a circle, pinching them tightly to seal.
With scissors, snip the dough two-thirds of the way through the circular log at 1-inch intervals. Gently turn each cut section on its side. Let the loaf rise in a warm place, uncovered, until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the bread until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by mixing together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice. While the loaf is still warm, spoon the glaze over the loaf. Sprinkle with pearl sugar. Transfer carefully to a rack to cool.