31 December 2009


happy new year : godt nytår : felíz año nuevo!

26 November 2009

CONDIMENT 01: Ahhh, Cucumbers!

'Agurk Salat'

Given it is Thanksgiving today, here is a quick and easy condiment for your turkey meal that will introduce you to a very basic Danish condiment.

It is both used with hot/cold meals and is a basic staple of open-face sandwiches.

1 English/Hot House Cucumber (large)
1/2 c Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 c Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar
1 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped

Glass jar with lid, 600g size / mason jar is okay.


1.  Prepare: Clean and cut ends off of cucumber. Cut uniform thin slices. 
2.  Take a deep glass/plastic bow and place a single layer of cucumber slices on the bottom and lightly sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have a layered tier of cucumber slices in the bowl. Place a smaller bowl on top of the layer in the bowl and add a heavy can/bottle on top to make a press. The pressure and salt will help to break down the meat of the slices as you allow it to sit in a cool place for about one hour. 
3.  Marinade: While the slices are being pressed away, take a small jar and add equal parts vinegar and sugar. Put the lid on and shake it until the sugar dissolves. Don't worry if some granules remain at the end of the hour...they will dissolve. 
4.  Take a fresh handful of parsley and chop enough for about a tablespoonful. 
5.  Once the hour is over, place the marinade near the sink with the lid off and remove the weight from the slices. With clean hands, grab a handful of cucumbers from the bowl and gently squeeze the natural juices out and place in the jar. Repeat until all are done and add the parsley. 
6.  Replace the lid and shake well to mix the ingredients. These can be eaten immediately or chill. 

NOTE: Good maximum two weeks in refrigerator.

Danish Cucumber Salad : Agurk Salat on FoodistaDanish Cucumber Salad : Agurk Salat

06 November 2009

BAKERY/BAGERI: Slow Bake Pumpernickel

To quote my sister..."whose my little pumpernickel?"

This wonderfully dense multigrain bread is such a part of who we are that we have even taken it upon ourselves to use it as a term of endearment toward each other.  Yet, it is also an acquired taste that has left many a friend perplexed as to how we could find joy in such a thin slice of life. Some of my friends have likened it to calling it 'roof tiles, cardboard, soles of a shoe' or merely, 'rug-bread'. In either case, it should not be dismissed merely because it does not present itself with the fluffy light center familiar to your average American palette. It is indeed an acquired taste worth pursuing.

Since creating topless bread takes patience and the understanding that anything you build must begin with a good foundation...Can you tell I went to architecture school? -  it becomes especially important that you choose the right bread for your open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød). It must not only be stable to hold your creations; but, it must be that extra textural taste of wonderment that compliments all it's toppings.

I would recommend for anyone who has never tasted genuine danish pumpernickel bread (rugbrød), to find a loaf at your local deli/gourmet aisle that is multi-grained or multi with sunflower seeds and first enjoy it with a nice slice of havarti.  This last variety is my favorite - and if you have a Trader Joe's in your neighborhood, they have a pretty decent one to feast your first bite on.

If you decide to take the challenge of baking your own, there are a few things you first should know. A good homemade loaf of pumpernickel is a slow loving process of fine ingredients and patience with the end result most satisfying.

Here are some general rules of thumbs from master baker Nikolaj Halken Skytte at Meyers Bagery (Meyers Bageri) in Copenhagen  for fine tuning your baking experience:


Always use organic flour. Brug altid økologisk mel.

Buy Fresh flour. Køb frisk mel. Eller køb en melkværn og mal det selv.

Make your own sour dough starter. it helps a little to add a small pea size of ordinary yeast to your bread dough. Lav din egen surdej. Hjælp den lidt på vej ved at tilsætte en lille ært almindelig gær til din brøddej.

The softer the dough, the more succulent bread. The dough should be sticky - but,not like glue.  Jo blødere dej, jo saftigere brød. Dejen skal være klistret – ikke fast.

Knead the dough for long. Use a mixer. But beware - you may even end up driving a dough into pieces so that it stands for a soup-like mass. Such a batter can not be saved.  Ælt dejen længe. Brug en røremaskine. Men pas på – du kan også ende med at køre en dej i stykker, så den skiller til en suppeagtig masse. Sådan en dej kan ikke reddes.

Make gluten sample: The dough is perfect when you can pull it off, so it is almost transparent. Lav glutenprøven: Dejen er perfekt, når du kan trække den ud, så den er næsten gennemsigtig.

Give the flavor time to develop. Let dough raise cold overnight in the refrigerator. Giv smagen tid til at udvikle sig. Lad dejen koldhæve natten over i køleskabet.

Let the dough rise in a 2-3 hours. The dough should not be killed again. Lad dejen efterhæve i 2-3 timer. Dejen skal ikke slås ned igen.

Put the bread into a steaming hot oven. Use for example a baking stone and let the bread cool on a baking grate. Sæt brødet i en rygende varm ovn. Brug evt. en bagesten og ladbrødet køle af på en bagerist.

Here is a wonderful new recipe courtesy of Claus Meyer and Nikolaj Halken Skytte new baking book, "Meyers Bageri".

Though you may find this recipe cumbersome due to the length of time it takes to make a nice batch of bread, know what I have dubbed the 'slow bake' process will make all the difference in making you understand how time and care will result in an honest old fashioned delicious loaf of bread. Please not that I have left all measurements in metric - but, have converted the temperatures for your convenience.

'Slow Bake' Pumpernikkel (rugbrød)
One large loaf or two small ones
"1 stort eller 2 små brød"

9 dl lunkent vand / Warm water
2 spsk. salt / Salt
3 spsk. honning / Honey
2 spsk. mørk sirup / Dark syrup
5 g gær / Yeast
1 1/2 tsk. fennikelfrø / Fennel seeds
2 1/2 tsk. kommenfrø / Cumin seeds
1 tsk. spidskommenfrø
2 tsk. korianderfrø / Coriander seeds
3 tsk. kakao / Cacao
200 g hvedemel / Whole wheat flour
170 g speltmel / Spelt flour
670 g rugmel / Rye flour

Other: 1 large or two small bread forms with Teflon coating.
"Desuden: 1 stor eller 2 små rugbrødsforme med slip-let-belægning"

Day 1: Mix water, salt, honey and dark syrup together in a bowl, and stir the yeast into it. Spice grinder coarsely in a spice mill, or shock them with a mortar, and stir them into the liquid along with cocoa. Add the 3 kinds of flour, and stir the dough together thoroughly - It should not knead, just be like a thick heavy mush. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for 12 hours in the refrigerator. "Dag 1: Bland vand, salt, honning og mørk sirup sammen i en skål, og rør gæren ud heri. Kværn krydderierne groft i en krydderikværn, eller stød dem med en morter, og rør dem i væsken sammen med kakao. Tilsæt de 3 slags mel, og rør dejen grundigt sammen – den skal ikke æltes, men blot være som en tyk, tung grød. Dæk skålen med husholdningsfi lm, og lad dejen hæve 12 timer i køleskabet."

"Dag 2: Rør dejen igennem, og hæld den i 1 stor eller 2 små rugbrødsforme med slip-let-belægning. Dæk formen til med et viskestykke, og lad brødet hæve lunt i 3–4 timer."

Pack form with three layers of baking paper and put bread in a 140° (284ºF) hot oven. Bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven temp down to 100° (212ºF), and bake bread for another 22 hours. One hour before the baking time is complete, remove the baking paper to get a crust to form on the bread. "Pak formen ind i tre lag bagepapir, og sæt brødet i en 140°varm ovn. Lad det bage i 2 timer, skru så ovnen ned til 100°, og bag brødet videre i 22 timer. Fjern bagepapiret, 1 time før bagetiden er gået, for at få skorpe på brødet."

Allow the bread to breath for one day in a cool place before serving it. "Lad brødet trække 1 døgns tid på et køligt sted, før du serverer det."

TIP: Pack bread into wax paper or old-fashioned parchment paper to prevent drying out. This will allow the bread to breathe. Store bread at room temperature where it can be kept for a minimum of 1 week."Tip: Pak brødet ind i vokspapir eller gammeldags madpapir, der hindrer udtørring, alt imens det tillader brødet at ånde. Opbevar brødet ved stuetemperatur, hvor det kan holde sig i minimum 1 uge."

Making pumpernickel is a slow baking process. The dark, sweet and very aromatic bread takes about 24 hours to bake. But, the waiting is part of the experience of making pumpernickel. The long baking time allows the starch in the flour to caramelize and with its distinct spices of fennel, cumin and coriander a distinctive bread is made, which is crazy tasty especially with blue cheese."Det er slow baking at lave pumpernikkel. Det mørke, sødlige og meget aromatiske brød skal bage i 24 timer, men ventetiden er en del af pumpernikkeloplevelsen. Den lange bagetid får stivelsen i melet til at karamellisere, og sammen med krydderier som fennikelfrø, spidskommen og koriander giver det et karakteristisk brød, som er vanvittigt velsmagende sammen med ost, især af blåskimmeltypen."

Store in a cool dry place.  Do like most Danes and use a plastic bread container to place the bread in and then store it in a cool cupboard/pantry shelf.

29 October 2009


Once again...our cousin Claus Meyer has a new book. This time he has teamed up with his colleague Nicolai Halken Skytte from Meyers Madhus for a new baking book. It delivers an array of easy to follow recipes from the wonderful bread and cakes of Meyers own bakery.

DANSK: "Meyers Bageri - ny bog udkommer på fredag 30/10
Meyers Bageri af Claus Meyer og Nicolai Halken Skytte er en grundbagebog med mere end 80 opskrifter på alt fra rugbrød og hvedebrød til croissanter, æblemuffins og tebirkes."

ENGLISH: Meyers Bageri - new book for release on friday 10/30.
Meyers Bageri (Meyers Bakery) of Claus Meyer and Nicolai Halken Skytte have a basic baking book with more than 80 recipes all from rugbrød (pumpernickel) and hvedebrød (wheat bread) to croissanter (croisants), æblemuffins (apple muffins) og tebirkes (tea rolls). 

Published by Lindhardt og Ringhof.

Below you will find a translated excerpt from their upcoming book:
(Page 52)


This is the starter we use for all of the breads in our professional bakery - both wheat bread and rye bread. This starter is technically a ‘biga’ (see page 25) is nearly as thin as water. But, it gives a fantastic taste to the bread.It is my experience that a thin sourdough starter is far better than a very thick and often more acidic one as it brings out the taste of the grain better.

If you bake regularly, you should always use the starter below. It is not at all complicated and you get a more personal, complex and healthier bread out of your efforts.

The starter should be kept partially hidden in a bucket, a glass or ceramic bowl on the kitchen table or in a closet. Here it can remain for about one week without going bad – even, if you don’t use it. Should you go away or on holiday, place the starter in the starter in the refrigerator. When you return home discard half and restart with fresh water and flour. Then it is ready for us again after two days on the kitchen table.

You can easily use a starter that smells sour as that is what I do often. But, it is a myth that it should smell this way. A perfect sourdough should smell like a good dark beer. If your starter smells sour, there are many acetic acid bacteria in it and not enough lactic acid bacteria. This means that your bread will be flatter, less elastic, less airy and more acidic than it was intended. But, it can still taste good anyway.

:: Remember to start a new batch from scratch every 10 days ::


9 dl vand / water
150 g økologisk hvedemel / organic flour
75 g økologisk grahamsmel / organic graham or whole wheat flour
75 g økologisk rugmel / organic rye flour

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together well. Transfer batter into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover the container partially as to allow the dough to still breath. Store at room temperature

Whisk the batter once a day. After about 10 days (of fermenting) the batter should have the good smell of a heavy dark beer along with a healthy foam on top. Now it is ready to use.

Afterwards, you will need to regularly stir the starter once a day or every other day at the very least. Stir gently thoroughly from top to bottom making sure you fully mix the foam throughout the batter. Otherwise, the starter will begin to separate and rot.

General Rule: Each time you use some of the starter, you freshen in up with the same quantity of flour and water that you use of the batter.

:: Once you have this starter up and ready....i'll post his rugbrød (pumpernickel bread) recipe!

18 October 2009

RETRO REQUEST: Øllebrød - Beer Bread Soup?

Oddly enough... I have to admit that it has been many years since I even had a nice bowlful of Danish Beer Bread Soup (øllebrød). The last batch I consumed was in the winter of 1981 when I was visiting my family after high school graduation. You see…My grandmother (bedstemor) was an amazing cook - and she was one of those experienced cooks who knew what to do with leftovers. Thus, this request is stirring up memories of low light winter evenings from that time and from those of my earlier youth in Jylland (Jutland).

Our first retro request comes from Giovanna Zivny (@giovannaz) from Portland, Oregon via Twitter as we pursue the lovely goodness of this winter bowl of bread and beer.

For those unfamiliar with this cold season Danish treat, take the scene from the movie Babette's Feast and imagine old-fashioned goodness versus the expression Babette showed us. Let me guess…anyone unfamiliar with this soup is probably grimacing away right now. But, take a look first at the clip and then, follow through with the recipes provided and I think you'll be easily converted...especially, if you already like a good bowl of oatmeal.

Since Denmark's love affair with 'smørre' (butter) and 'brød' (bread) has yielded their passion for smørrebrød (open face sandwiches), it seems appropriate to share with you something much older to the traditional cuisine of the Danes, 'øllebrød'.

Øllebrød is a dish that typifies much of the hardiness of its people. Its names are derivation of the two main ingredients of this soup; the word 'øl' (beer) and 'brød' (bread), which were generally stale or old. Any soup that takes the economy of stale bread and beer and turns it into a happy bowl of seasonal warmth deserves continued play.

Here are two recipes that were interchangeable used over the years by my family with a little change or two depending on the mood of the cook. But, remember it will taste the best when cooked over low heat with much patience.

Know your Danish measurements
tsk=demitasse spoon / spsk=large soup spoon / and measure in metric.

Below you will find recipes translated into English from the Danish original.

:: Here is ‘Frøken Jensens Kogebog’ (1901) version of the country classic.

Frøken Jensen’s Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)
4 servings

200 g Pumpernickel Bread - stale
1/2-3/4 liter Water
1/2 bottle Pale Sweet Malt Beer
1/2-1 dl Sugar
1-2 tsk Fresh Lemon Zest

Break bread into small pieces, cover with water and soak overnight. Cook slowly with lid over low heat until it becomes dark – but, stir often as not to let it burn. Whisk hard to eliminate all clumps before bread is cooked down or you will have to strain it or use a blender. If necessary, use more water to cook down the bread. Dilute the soup with the beer, adding sugar and lemon zest to taste. Cook an additional 10-15 more minutes on warm. Add additional water or beer, until there is about 1-1/2 liters of soup.

(optional) In place of the lemon zest, you can also use marinated orange rind or a whisked egg with sugar and two spsk of orange juice into the bowl while holding the bowl at an angle to allow for whisking of the ingredients.

Serve with milk, cream or whipped cream.

:: And from the notorious little paperback cookbook ‘Den Røde Kogebog’ that every Danish housewife has available in the kitchen comes this simpler version:

Den Røde Kogebog’s Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)
4-6 servings

350 g Pumpernickel Bread
3/4 liter Water
1 bottle Pale Sweet Malt Beer
50 g Powdered Sugar
1 tsk Vanilla Extract
1/2 Fresh Lemon (zest + juice)

Break the slices into four pieces each, soak in water and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a (large wire) colander and return to stove. Add beer to soup mixture and cook about 10 minutes more. Then, add sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and juice to taste.

Serve with whipped cream or cream.

:: And best of all, without the Noma Cookbook at my finger tips, I found their heavenly reinterpretation online thanks to a posting in the kristeligt-dagblad:

Noma’s divine....Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)
(four part recipe)
4 servings

Øllebrød- Part 1
500 g Pumpernickel Bread soaked in pilsner beer
120 g Brown Sugar
80 g Sugar
100 g Heavy Cream
½ Fresh Lemon (juice + zest)
1 tsk (Apple Cider) Vinegar Reduction
20 g Dark Chocolate - grated fine

Remove 250 g of the liquid from the wet pumpernickel and blend with the rest of the bread. Cook until thoroughly warm adding the rest of the ingredients while adjusting the sugar and lemon to taste.

Rhubarb Sorbet (Rabarbersorbet) - Part 2
500 g Fresh Rhubarb
½ liter Simple Sugar (from ½ l water, ½ l sugar + 50 g liquid glucose)
2 sheets Gelatin (dissolved in cold water)

Parboil 300g of rhubarbs with the simple sugar. Cook until the rhubarb is broken down and allow it to cool off. Then, mix in the dissolved gelatin. Blend the mixture with the rest of the remaining 200g of rhubarb and strain mixture. Allow it to cool off and then freeze until needed as sorbet using an ice cream machine.

Milk Chiffon/Siphon (Mælkesifon) – Part 3
¼ l Heavy Cream
20 g Pastry Sugar
3 sheets Gelatin (dissolved in cold water)
½ l Whole Milk

Heat the cream up with the pastry sugar. Melt the gelatin in the mixture and mix it up with milk. Pour the mixture on a siphon bottle and allow it to cool down. Give the bottle a new charge….or if you don’t have a manual seltzer bottle with charge, use a hand mixer and whip until fluffy.

Pumpernickel Crumble (Rugbrødcrumble) – Part 4
2 slices Multigrain Pumpernickel Bread
4 spsk. Butter
rock salt

Tear pumpernickel into fine pieces and roast until crisp and golden in butter. Drop and scatter onto a sheet and sprinkle with salt.

How to serve:

Place a spoonful of the hot beer and bread soup at the bottom of four soup plates. Place on top of soup a ball sherbet and the splashes milk siphon/chiffon around it, so that it covers the hot porridge. Sprinkle with crumble and serve immediately.

Nordic resources

 Here is a quick shopping resource guide for Nordic food and supplies:


2709 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
T 510.705.1932 / 800.854.6435

30 High Street
Norwalk, CT 06851
T 203.838.2087


Olsen's Danish Village Bakery
1529 Mission Drive
Solvang, CA 93463

1216 Burlingame Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010

1679 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA 93463-2734
T 800.621.1679

::BASIC FOOD SUPPLIES (non-specialty)::

Trader Joe's
European Style Pumpernickel Bread
Fried Onions (seasonal)

IKEA (food market)
items vary from cheese, salmon, herring, etc.

05 October 2009

RETRO FLASH: Krydderfedt Sandwich 1944

slrfrom the archives of Gourmet Magazine...



"Present butter supplies just won't stretch to meet every holiday occasion. Take a tip from the Danes and try a quarter-pound of an unrationed fat, the Krydderfedt, made of tried-out fat of poultry, beef, and pork. It's a good spread for dark bread or the ubiquitous rye krisp. We approve it especially for a sandwich made with salami or corned beef or the Danish rolled veal. The chef of Old Denmark, 135 East 57th Street, cuts the fats into small bits, puts them into a heavy kettle along with diced onion, then over low heat for two to three hours. Next the fat is strained, then set to harden. Meanwhile, the crisped skin of the poultry and the golden bits of onion are ground and returned to the fat, to make a savory stuff that has all the appearance of a golden nut butter.

Spread it over a slice of pumpernickel, sprinkle with a liberal addition of salt and freshly ground pepper. For a treat of the first order top the fat with paper-thin slices of Danish salami. In Denmark this fat is used the year around as a spread for the meat sandwich. A little spreads about a mile, and so it should—for the cost is 80 cents a pound."

Now I know where our mother got her taste for bacon fat sandwiches from...it was an way of stretching the rations of war and economy. And heck, even today I still drain the bacon grease from the pan and save it in the fridge for later uses...but, for me - never on a sandwich alone like she did.

12 September 2009

::The Origins of Traditional Smørrebrød

As I begin to share the wonderful Danish tradition of making ‘smørrebrød’, you will find endless 'topless' possibilities for your own creations. These open-face varieties range from simple everyday ‘low’ version that can be eaten on the run or taken to work… to very intricately layered ‘high’ versions that require knife, fork and yes, time and patience.

In some ways, these little creative sandwiches reflect the general egalitarian psyche of the Danish people. Each 'topless' creation', no matter the quality of ingredient(s) will become the gastronomic enjoyment of all.

The everyday ‘low-end’ version is generally one that is made from scratch at the table for quick consumption or one that can easily be prepared for lunch via the Danish version of a lunchbox called a ‘madpakke’. Here quick simple open face sandwiches are separated by pieces of small parchment to prevent them from becoming one in transport or are limited in the layering of ingredients. A typical meal can easily consist of 4-6 simply layered slices of bread. Since Danes still prefer to eat their meals with a knife and fork, these versions are given leniency from proper eating etiquette due to their ease of handling.

The more intricately layered ‘high-end’ versions are also made from scratch. However, they are prepared with a greater attention to detailing utilizing more intricate ingredients, such as caviar or delicate micro-greens. Because of the various layers of food and/or condiments these single creations almost a meal in itself.

To illustrate just how much the Danes pride themselves on this delicacy, there are endless possibilities for creating traditional and yet, new combinations. In fact, the renowned Ida Davidsen Restaurant in Copenhagen has a menu list of 250 ‘smørrebrød’ varieties from the initial list started by her great-grandfather Oskar Davidsen who created his own list of about 175 back in the late 19th century.

Below you will find an except from ‘Oskar Davidsen book of Open Sandwiches’, compiled by James R. White from traditional Danish recipes and specialties of the House of Oskar Davidsen [Host & Sons Forlag: Copenhagen], 3rd revised edition, 1962

"Smørrebrød can be anything between heaven and earth. Primarily it consists of a piece of bread of some kind. The Danes make most use of rye bread because it is more suitable than other varieties for many of their sandwiches...Upon the bread something, generally butter, is in most cases spread. As one would expect, when the Danes spread the fine butter for which they are famous, they spread it generously. Not only because it gives them vitamin A or because they like the taste but also because fat stuffs help to keep out the cold. And keeping out the cold is important for most of the Danish year. Though butter ranks first as "the something to spread", spiced lard or pork dripping, maybe even goose or duck dripping, are often used. Not only, in the case of the pork fat, as an economy measure but because the Danes prefer fat to butter when liver paste, salt meats and most kinds of sausage, are to be the crowning glory of the smørrebrød. When it comes to the question of what to put on the "buttered bread" (The Danish works for "butter" and "to butter" are the same as for "grease" and "to grease" so the expression "buttered bread" include bread spread with dripping of one kind or another) the only answer can be: "There is absolutely nothing edible which cannot be used for smørrebrød". The Danish town housewife patronizes the charcuterie of cooked meat shop around the corner; her country sister may but certain kinds of pale (literally "something laid on", i.e. any fish, meat, vegetable etc. used on the buttered bread) from the butcher who brings his mobile shop to her door...Above all both town and country housewife will make use of leftovers from palæg. "Leftovers embrace anything from slices of cold pork sausage garnished with a remnant of red cabbage to slices taken from a still substantial joint of meat. It is this use of leftovers which makes smørrebrød such a useful thing to know about in order to be able to cope in an interesting yet substantial manner with those unexpected guests...The average Dane has only one hot meal daily. For lunch and/or supper he eats smørrebrød."
(p. 9-10)

"The Sandwich Story. Somewhere in the centre of Copenhagen there ought to be a monument to the man or woman who discovered smørrebrød, the open sandwich which is Denmark's national dish. An appropriate site would be the Town Hall end of the new Hans Andersen Boulevard, for the inventor of smørrebrød obviously had something of a fantasy of the great Danish storyteller. Alas, historians are silent as to the identity of the man who first placed fish, fowl, meat and vegetables on a piece of buttered bread. Some Danish encyclopedias do not even list one of the most important words in the Danish language. The inventor of the smørrebrødsseddel or sandwich list is, however, known. And nobody has ever disputed that it was not until old Oskar Davidsen acceded to the request of young Axel Svensson to be allowed to make something amusing out of the restaurant's sandwich list that open sandwiches in all their infinite variety began to develop into what they are today...The origin of the sandwich is a subject on which even historians can but speculate. Some suggest that recognizable sandwiches were known in ancient Babylon, others that a rabbi contrived them for the Passover by placing bitter herbs between two slices of unleavened bread to symbolize Jewish privations in Egypt. When smørrebrød first saw the light of day is equally a matter for speculation. Certainly it appeared centuries before an Earl of Sandwich first placed pieces of meat between two slices of bread to enable his guests to eat without leaving the card table. The Danish worked simply means, "buttered bread". But the origins of open sandwiches can be traced back to the days when, in Denmark as elsewhere, a round of bread served as a plate for both hot food and cold. Naturally the rich refrained from eating their plates but these, soaked in nourishing gravy from the main course, invariably found their way to the mouths of the serfs or deserving poor of the parish. And between rich and poor there was doubtless a class, which ate both bread-plate and the delicacies, which reposed upon it. As yet...this open sandwich could not have been known as smørrebrød for butter was still unknown in Denmark...The earliest mention of the word smørrebrød is found in the works of the playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) who describes the diet of the gentry as consisting of soup, salt meat or smørrebrød. No mystery, however, surrounds the invention of the smørrebrødsseddel or printed list of open sandwiches. It was Emil Bjorn, head waiter at the Copenhagen officers' club, who, when harried by shouted orders from the card tables, conceived, in 1883, the idea of lists on which the guests could mark off their requirements. Bjorn's idea was soon adopted by restaurants throughout the country, but many years were to pass before these scant lists were developed into what they are in Denmark today."
---ibid (p. 11-12)

I would say if you are ever in Copenhagen near Store Kongensgade (70) stop by Restaurant Ida Davidsen or Aamann’s Smørrebrød on Øster Farimagsgade (10) for a taste of some of Denmark’s best smørrebrød. You will not be satisfied with just one!

10 September 2009

::Why Go ‘Topless’?

Personally, I say why not  go 'topless'.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Danish ‘smørrebrød’, these are ‘open face’ sandwiches consisting of only one piece of bread as the base with all the toppings exposed to the elements.  My belief is that once you understand the concept behind these heavenly creations and learn how to make them you will begin to view how wonderful and healthy going ‘topless’ is you. 

First of all, in order to choose this ‘topless’ route we are going to have to dispel some basic ideas about sandwich making.  The main thing you must first do is forget that you will never cover up again.  That’s right…it will be not so much a matter of taking it off – but, never having to put that last layer of bread on again. This idea holds especially true from a health standpoint to only eat one slice of bread over two.  Your will find that not just any type of bread will do as the single slice itself will play an important role in the final layering of the open face sandwich. This is something my husband has laughed at me for years...as I often remove the top lay of bread from any sandwich or hamburger and set it aside in order to enjoy more of my meal than the usual carb filler of bread.  So, perhaps, you will join me, too. Once you accept this idea of the single slice, you will be more than halfway there.

Next, we must rethink the concept of ‘quality over quantity’ with regard to choosing the right ingredients.  Because one’s is exposing the best to the elements, the aesthetics of freshness come into play.  Making the right choice, in terms, of which fresh ingredients to choose from will make all the difference in the final outcome of your creations.  Not all ingredients will be readily available in their final form.  Certain parts of the whole will be done from scratch as they will not be found at the local market.  But, this is a good thing. You will learn the design concepts as to why certain ingredients play off each better than others.  Preparing from scratch will teach you to honor local fresh food items and the time honored skill of preparation.  Once you have learned some of these simple tasks, you will see you ability to create these ‘topless’ joys without hesitation.  And soon you will find how wonderful it is to share this concept with your friends and family.

And finally, you will learn the history of ‘smørrebrød’, how it has evolved into the signature dish of Denmark, of the etiquette involved in menu preparation and of course, in eating these creative delights.

05 September 2009

::Let's Begin!

This first blog entry is essentially inspired by the Danish word, 'hygge'. The meaning of the word is derived from the 'cozy' feeling one gets from the company of good friends. For anyone who enjoys the 'coziness' of friendship...and yes, food accompanied by drink - 'hygge' exemplifies this experience.  And it is within this context of 'hygge' that I hope to share with you of my lifetime passion of smørrebrød, which I affectionately call 'topless bread'.  Once you come to understand the simple ritual involved in preparing these wonderful slices for yourself and friends, you will discover an even greater appreciation of the word 'hygge' and indeed, the magic that these plates can bring to the palettes of your friends and family.

Thus, the goal of this new blog is to take you on a completely different type of gastronomic journey. It will teach you how to see the art of 'topless bread' as a modern creative and yes, healthy alternative to the idea sandwich making. Not only will there be step-by-step recipe instructions, you will learn about various Danish traditions, the simple etiquette of eating the 'topless' way and how to make your own creations. In preparing these traditional one-of-a-kind dishes you will hopefully become more comfortable in preparing modern versions from scratch and also learn how to appreciate the use of fresh and organic ingredients in your own dishes. And I'll provide links to my inspiration and share in the many experiences learned in the kitchen from my Danish mother and bedstemor (grandmother). 

So, let's begin.


Basic Kitchen Tools


04 September 2009


My Danish Cookbook Library

updated 02.2015 with new in BOLD

Adams, Charlotte. The SAS World-Wide Restaurant Cookbook. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1960. Hardcover. 

Bang, Asta, and Edith Rode. Open Sandwiches and Cold Lunches. 1st ed. New York: Pitman, 1957. Hardcover. 

Berg, Karen, ed. Danish Home Baking: Traditional Danish Recipes. Comp. Kaj Viktor and Kirsten Hansen. Copenhagen: Andr. Fred. Høst & Son, 3rd Ed.,1962. Hardcover. 

Bonekamp, Gunnevi, comp. Round the World Cooking Library: Scandinavian Cooking. 1st ed. New York: Galahad, 1974. Ser. 4. Hardcover.

Brobeck, Florence, and Monika B. Kjellberg. Smorgasbord and Scandinavian Cookery. New York: Grosset; Dunlap, 1948. Hardcover. 

Brown, Dale, ed. Foods of the World: The Cooking of Scandinavia. 1st ed. New York: Time-Life, 1968. Hardcover. 

Constantin, E. 

Mellemretter til Middagsselkaber. 1st ed. København: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1919. Hardcover. 
Fru Constantins Husholdnings- og Kogebog. Tiende oplag (10th Ed). København: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1927. Hardcover.

Dania Ladies Society Danneborg. We Cook With The Danes (Vi Koger med de Danske). Tennessee, Fundcraft Publishing, Inc. 1978

The Danwich Guide to Danish Party Foods: The Art of Making Danish Open Face Sandwiches and the Danish Cold Table. London: Danish Centre, 1970. Softcover. 

Dedichen, Hetna. 88 Danish Dishes or Dining in Denmark. Copenhagen: Andr. Fred. Høst &Søns, 1936. Softcover. 

Den Gule Dessertbog. 36th ed. København: Tørsleffs Husmoder Service. Softcover.
Den Hvide Frokostbog. 35th ed. København: Tørsleffs Husmoder Service. Softcover.
Den Røde Kogebog. 49th ed. København: Tørsleffs Husmoder Service. Softcover.

Eva Kakkelbog Serie. Danmark: Fogtdals Bogforlag A/S. 1969 
(24 mini softcover books)
02 Småkager.
11 Ovnmad.
12 Julekonfekt.
15 Fransk Hverdagsmad.
20 Det Koldt Bord.

Frank, Beryl. Scandinavian Cooking. [Barre, Mass.]: Weathervane, 1977. Hardcover.

Jesnen, Kirsten Marie. 
Frøken Jensen's Kogebog med Syltebog. 30. Oplag. København: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1936. Hardcover.
-. Frøken Jensen's Kogebog
København: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1990. Hardcover.
Hahnemann, Trina. The Nordic Diet. 1st ed. London: Quadrille, 2009. Softcover.

Husmoderbibliotekt. Morsomme Silderetter, 95 Opskrifter. Danmark: Spektrum, 1963. Softcover.

Jensen, Ingeborg Dahl. Wonderful, Wonderful Danish Cooking. New York: Simon &Schuster, 1st Ed.,1965. Print. Hardcover.

Kirkeby, Henning. Danish Akvavit: How to savour and how to flavour it. København: Høst, 1975. Hardcover. 

Larsen, Kirsten. Only One Slice: Danish Sandwiches "Smørrebrød", 6th Ed.,1998. Spiral bound. 

Meyer (Nielsen), Claus. 
AlmanakKøbenhavn: Lindhardt og Ringhof A/S, 2010. Hardcover.
Julemad. København: Lindhardt og Ringhof A/S, 2010. Softcover. 
Chokolade. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1995. Hardcover. 

McDonald, Julie Jensen. Delectably Danish recipes and reflections. Iowa City, Iowa: Penfield, 1982. Softcover.

Møller, Ingeborg. Koldt BordKøbenhavn: Andr. Fred. Høst & Søns Forlag: 1939. Hardcover.

Mønsted, Otto. Mad og Kvadrater. København: Egmont H Petersens KGL. Hof-Bogtrykkeri: 1939. Hardcover.

Nietlispach, F & E. 200 MiddageKøbenhavn: Andr. Fred. Høst & Søns Forlag: 1949. Hardcover.

Oest-Larsen, R. Mesterkokkens Smørrebrøds Bog. M. Odense: Normanns Forlag, 1969. Hardcover (original 1965)

Samuelsson, Marcus. Aquavit And the New Scandinavian Cuisine. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Hardcover.  

Skovgaard-Petersen, Anne. Brugsens Syltebog. København: Komma A/S, 1988. Softcover.

Susanna. Danish Cookery. Copenhagen: Andr. Fred. Høst & Son, 8th Ed.,1968. Hardcover. 

Wisman, Ingrid. Kulinariske StrejftogKøbenhavn: Martins Forlag: 1950. Hardcover.

My Danish Cookbook Wishlist
updated 02.2015 with new in BOLD and acquired with STRIKE-THRU

Klinken, Katrine. Smørrebrød – Danish Open. Thaning og Appel, 2007.
Jensen, Kirstine Marie. Frøken Jensen's Afternoon Tea. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske  Boghandel, 2008.
-. Frøken Jensen's Julemad. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 2000.  
-. Frøken Jensen's Danske Desserter. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 2001.
-. Frøken Jensen's Syltebog. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 2001.
Danish Cookbooks. University of Washington Press and Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen: 2007. Softcover. 
Bang, Asta: Smørrebrød og koldt Bord. Gjellerup 1946 (Danish Edition)
Benthien, Claes. Husmoderens køkken i 50´erne & 60´erne. Copenhagen: Vandkunsten, 2009.
Kristjansen, Milla. Den gyldne Smørrebrødsbog. Skandinavisk Bogforlag, u.å. (ca. 1950)
Lotz, Inge. Dansk smørrebrød. Aschehoug Dansk Forlag, København, 1993
Oest-Larsen, R.: Mesterkokkens smørrebrødsbog. M. Normanns Forlag. 1965. 
Mønsted, Otto. Mad og Kvadrater. København: Egmont H Petersens KGL. Hof-Bogtrykkeri: 1939.
Meyers, Claus. Meyers bageri. Copenhagen. 2009.
Lundstedt, Agnete. Borddækning. Tegninger af Ebba Schultz. Hasselbalchs Forlag, 1946.
Nimb, Louise. Fru Nimbs Kogebog. Praktisk og økonomisk indrettet for større og mindre Husholdninger. 1. udgave. Illustreret. København 1888.
Rydelius, Ellen. Fremmed mad smager bedst. Det Danske Forlag, (1956). Hardback
Smaakagebogen. Lind og Boie, 1952.
Cramer, H.B.J. Øl og Snaps. Illustreret af Paul Høyrup. København 1948.


'Lunch', a plate of open sandwiches painted by the Danish artist Niels Strøbek in 1966. Photo: Skive Kunstmuseum.

The Art of Topless Bread...Known as 'Smørrebrød' to the Danes, these delicate and yes, sometimes rustic versions known as 'open-faced sandwiches' to the rest of the world turn the daily mundane task of sandwich making into a gastronomic art form.

Traditional definition of 'Smørrebrød':
Danish, from smør butter + brød bread

Modern definition of 'Topless Bread':
My personal reinterpretation of Smørrebrød which I call 'Topless Bread'. This concept is derived from the same Scandinavian sun-worshiping concept of sunbathing topless where the top is removed to reveal it's contents and the bottom remains.

These delicious creations follow four easy steps:
Bread (brød) + Butter (smør) = TOPLESS BREAD...+ Topping (pålæg) + Decoration (pynt) 

Now, let's discover the fine art of topless bread together!

Topless Gallery

Great Scandinavian Cookbook Cover / Food Graphics
What you will find here is the type of clean and sometimes abstract use of 20th century graphics which is my personal favorite.  Hope you enjoy them, too.
Illust: Paul Hoyrup (1948) DK

Illust: unknown (1960) S

Illust: unknown (1956) DK

illust: unknown (1939)

illust: Hans Bendix (1964)

illust: unknown (1953)
...who doesn't love this little french chef?!

illust: later attributed to Viggo Rohde (1943)
from WWII 'legitimate' Copenhagen dailies, which included silkscreen drawings and folders.
depicting Danish exports to Germany with the title: "- and then everything else."

Glossary of Commonly Used Danish Food Terms

GLOSSARY / Ordliste

'rugbrød' - pumpernickel bread
'øllebrød' - beer bread soup
'madpakke' - literally 'food pack' / lunch box
'smørrebrødsseddel' - sandwich list
'hygge' - cozy
'Smørrebrød' - butter bread
'pålæg' - literally to 'lay on' something
'pynt' - to decorate

Art of Topless Bread

Known as 'Smørrebrød' to the Danes, these delicate and yes, sometimes rustic versions known as 'open-faced sandwiches' to the rest of the world turn the daily mundane task of sandwich making into a gastronomic art form.

These delicious creations follow four easy steps:
Bread/brød + Butter/smør = TOPLESS BREAD Topping/pålæg + Decoration/pynt

Now, let's discover the fine art of topless bread together.

TOPLESS BREAD Combinations

LEGEND: P=Pumpernickel / F=French Bread / S=Sourdough

No DescriptionPFS
E 1Fried Eel/Scrambled Egg/WatercressBBBB
E 2Smoked Eel/Raw or Scrambled Egg/Watercress BBBB
F 1Fried Plaice/Remoulade/Lemon Slice/ParsleyB--
H 1Spiced Herring/Chopped Apple/Chop Pickled BeetsB--
H 2Marinated Herring/Fresh DillB--
H 3Marinated Herring/Whipped Cream Horseradish/ChivesB--
H 4Marinated Herring/Remoulade/Chopped Red OnionB--
H 5Curried Herring/Chopped Red OnionB--
H 6Fried Herring/Remoulade/Fresh Onion RingsB--
L 1Smoked Salmon/Lemon Slice/Dill-B-
L 2Smoked Salmon/Honey/Red Pepper Flakes-B-
L 3Smoked Salmon/Bay Shrimp/Boiled Egg/Mayo/Lemon Slice/Chives-B-
M 1Mackerel in Tomato Sauce/MayoBB-
S 1Bay Shrimp/Lemon Slice/CaviarB--
S 2Bay Shrimp/Sliced Boil Egg/Lemon Slice/Caviar BB-
T 1Tuna Salad/Chopped Red Onion/Slivered AlmondsBB-


Hi, my name is Karen Elisabeth Lesney.

You see, I was trained in architecture - and love it. But, since late 2008 I have not been able to work and shy of going stir crazy from complete lack of creativity I needed a little mental outlet. And thus, when limited moments were pain free I found myself thinking about how much cooking has also been a huge influence in my life. Our mother was of a generation of women back in Denmark who was not allowed to attend college. And though she was an immensely talented and creative woman, she only attended cooking and sewing school. It also doesn't hurt to have the amazing Danish chef Claus Meyer as a cousin to top it off! So, genetics and location have had a great influence on my love of Danish design and  cuisine.

Both of my passions actually originated from a childhood spent in Denmark. If I wasn't playing with ‘legos’ and building things, I could be found hanging out in the kitchen with a generation of women and family members who brought to the table amazing traditional Danish dishes.
here i am in denmark (near barritskov in jylland)...wearing my 'ikea' colored dress with my little sister, lisa and our mother, ulla.

If there was an ad in the personal section of the newspaper, it would read, “someone seeking happiness in both cooking and design.”

Being out of the creative architectural loop can be frustrating for anyone dealing with chronic pain. What you have before you in this mini-blog are the results of my daily mental moments of clarity that have allowed me tiny escapes from pain. From one obsession to another, this is my place to share thoughts and recipes about the fine art of TOPLESS BREAD.

Now you must wonder...why call this little blog by such a name? Well, it originated some years back when friends would ask why I would eat my sandwiches without the top piece of bread. My silly response was to say that I preferred to eat my sandwiches topless the way I like to sunbathe...which, I don’t. But, it is always fun to respond with the unexpected. Eventually, I started to think about writing a book on open face sandwiches...but, as you can see I have directed that current limited energy toward this endeavor.

Today, without the mental release of architecture at my fingertips I have two blogs, which are each dedicated to a part of my Danish heritage. There is this one and the other one that is dedicated to the modern appreciation of Danish akvavit and other libations called Water From the Vine.

Thus, welcome to the gastronomic delights of my blog TOPLESS BREAD on Danish Open Face Sandwiches, ‘Smørrebrød’ and other kitchen musings…where ‘going topless’ is not an option.


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