Yes! It’s that time of year again.
For me, born and raised in Denmark but now resident in the UK, there is no excuse like Christmas to re-connect with my roots and take a stroll down memory lane with some favourite activities that are specifically linked to my memories of ‘home’.
It’s not that I do not feel perfectly at home in the UK, because I do, but for those of us who have upped roots and moved a fair distance from where we were brought up, there are still certain things that are hard to leave behind – and for me, one of these things is the definite (and apparently very unique) Scandinavian concept of ‘Hygge’.
Now until recently, this idea was seemingly unheard of across most other countries, including the UK and US, but I’m pretty sure that most people now have a fair inkling as to what it entails. However, if it still baffles you, allow me offer you my own simple thoughts on the matter.
‘Hygge’ is somehow both a feeling and an activity. Yet simply put, it’s essentially a term us ‘Scandies’ use when we need to kick back and deliberately embrace the urge to get cosy – usually without any added ceremony involved.
It’s the ‘put your feet up and snuggle down with hot coco and biscuits on a windy afternoon’ kind-of-thing, or it’s the ‘put your PJs on immediately after a long day at work, then open some wine, eat a pizza, and binge-read your favourite book in utter disregard of the outside world and the coming of tomorrow. You can be alone or with friends and/or family, it doesn’t matter. See, the number of people is irrelevant because it’s all about evoking that feeling of contented intimacy with the present. It’s about somehow simplifying your life for a few hours in a way that allows you to enjoy that bit of selfish ‘me’ or ‘us’ time without guilt.
Yet ‘Hygge’ would not be ‘Hygge’ without food and drink. It cannot be helped – it’s crucial to the concept and without it you cannot achieve the right sense of nesting and belonging. It’s just the way it is.
I wonder if this has come about from the notion of simply enjoying what you have when you can? Or perhaps it’s come about from the urge of making the most of the Scandinavian seasons where the winters are long and dark, and the need to burrow down behind shutters and locked doors lingers until the summer days come along once more and people feel encouraged by the light to celebrate its return – but in truth I do not know.
What I do know, however, is that there is simply nothing quite like a ‘taster’ to invoke understanding, so if you feel like sampling a sliver of true Danish Christmas ‘Hygge’, here’s your chance.
Recipe for ‘Apple Slices’ (or as we call them, ‘Æbleskiver’)
It should be noted that the original recipe called for slices of apple to go in the middle – hence the name and its reference to apples – however, these days the majority forego this, but do feel free to add bits of apple if you should feel like it.
To make these, you need a special pan called an æbleskive pan – you can find these on Amazon and speciality shops. You can also use a Japanese takoyaki pan.
If you use a frying pan, they will look like mini pancakes instead but will still be delicious.
Danish Christmas Pancakes (æbleskiver)
3 eggs, separated
300 ml buttermilk
100 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
250 g plain flour
grated zest of 1 medium lemon
50g butter, melted for frying
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
Jam, for dipping (optional)
Mix together the egg yolks, buttermilk, double cream and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients including the cardamom.
In another clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff using a handheld electric whisk on high speed.
Add the egg and cream mixture to the dry ingredients, then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites and lemon zest. Leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
Place the pan over high heat to warm through and add a little melted butter to the pan to stop the pancakes from sticking. If you are using an æbleskive pan, carefully add enough batter to each hole so that it reaches about 0.25 cm from the top. If you are using a normal frying pan, add spoonfuls of batter as you would if making normal small pancakes. Leave to cook for a few minutes until the edges become firm then, using a fork or knitting needle (knitting needle is easier!), gently turn the pancakes over to cook on the other side. If you have filled the holes too much, this can be tricky – you’ll get the hang of it after a few.
Once browned on both sides (3–4 minutes per batch), keep the cooked æbleskiver warm in the oven until you have finished frying.
Now light a fire and a few candles if you can. The ambience can also help create the certain kind of mood that is likewise associated with ‘Hygge’. Then serve the Apple Slices dusted with icing sugar and jam for dipping. If feeling extra festive, serve a glass of mulled wine too. Any leftover Apple Slices can be frozen – but I bet you there will be none left. Enjoy!
Recipe from ‘Fika & Hygge’ by Ryland Peters Small / Pictures from Spisbedre.dk & mydanishkitchen.com
I wish you all a merry Christmas and happy New Year.
L.L. Thomsen is the author of The Missing Shield: an adult high fantasy series that is set in an epic new world that involves a full cast of flawed, multi-faceted characters. With a hint of mystery, darkness and romance her conceptual approach to writing is utterly unique to the fantasy genre and cannot be fully appreciated unless you are prepared to read beyond the ‘first 10 pages’ and immerse yourself in the experience.
You can discover more about Linda on the Mon’s Favorite Reads website here:
Read Free Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2018