I’m very selective about the ‘hygge books’ I write about on here, mainly because there are just so many and a lot of them are pretty similar. How many ways can there be to light a candle, and how many books do we really need to tell us about the joys of spending time with friends? I only tend to feature my favourites on Hello Hygge, so I’m excited to have a truly outstanding new book to share with you today!
ScandiKitchen: The Essence of Hygge is by, to use the technical term, Danish megababe Brontë Aurell, who I interviewed for Hello Hygge last year. This book contains what I think are the essential recipes from her previous two books, The ScandiKitchen and Fika & Hygge, along with essays detailing Brontë’s thoughts on different elements of hygge. This book strips it all back to basics and is a great reminder that hygge isn’t about spending a bomb on hygge-branded home accessories (nothing wrong with that if you want to do it though), but about tapping into an emotional state. We all have to eat, so we may as well hygge while we do it right?
This is a teeny tiny little book, which I love – about the size of a CD case (remember CDs?). The chapters cover topics like hygge and sharing, hygge and darkness (my personal favourite), hygge and soul and hygge and nature, and I’m very, very happy that every single recipe includes a (gorgeous) photo of the finished dish. It really bugs me when you find recipe books which don’t show you what you’re aiming for, and who doesn’t appreciate some quality food photography? And on that note, whoever did the food styling for this book must be made of magic because these are some of the best food photos I’ve ever seen. (ScandiKitchen just informed me that Peter Cassidy took the photos and Tony Hutchinson did the food styling – they did an incredible job!)
If I’m going to talk about a recipe book I feel as though I should try out one of the recipes for myself, and this was a super easy choice – Auntie Inga’s Kladdkaka (sticky chocolate cake) from the ‘Hygge and Happiness’ chapter. If anyone knows a thing or two about happiness, it’s our Scandinavian friends, who always top the world happiness rankings, and I’ve eaten so much of this cake in the past that it was high time I made one myself. Perfecting kladdkaka can only transform the entire fika experience, right?
I can honestly say this is the easiest cake I’ve ever made. Easier than a Victoria sponge, even! I had all the ingredients in the house already (flicking through the book, there are very few recipes calling for ingredients you probably don’t already have), and as weird as it sounds, the cake batter was a dream to work with. It’s so light and fluffy, and raw cake mix has never made me feel happy before. I found myself smiling uncontrollably at the ribbons of chocolate much like Nigella Lawson, and after about 12 minutes in the oven it was done. 12 minutes! For beautifully rich, sticky chocolate cake! The key here is not to overbake – even if it looks nowhere near done 15 minutes into baking, take it out of the oven and let it sit for a while. It should be very soft in the middle without being runny (mine could’ve done with a minute or two more). Mine certainly looks very ‘homemade’, but the great thing is that if yours does too, you can just say it’s meant to look hyggeligt and nobody can say anything.
(can I just say, if you’re looking at these photos thinking ‘that is way too much cream for that amount of cake’, you’re wrong, OK?)
I think I’ll get a lot of use out of this book. As much as I love a hefty, glossy recipe book, this feels much more accessible. I like the little snippets of backstory before the recipes (especially the birthday buns and the nothing biscuits), and this is literally the only recipe book I’ve ever owned where I’d happily make and eat every single thing in it.
Although the word ‘hygge’ is in the title, it’s really, really not just another ‘hygge book’. The focus here is on the food, and these are all easy, accessible recipes that anyone could make. I’m no expert, but I can imagine this is a fantastic entryway to making your own Scandinavian dishes without being pretentious, fussy or requiring a mile-long list of ingredients. I can honestly say that this is the best recipe book I’ve read and used in a very long time, and I’m 100% confident you’ll love it too if you have even a passing interest in Nordic food.
ScandiKitchen: The Essence of Hygge is out on 14th February (very romantic!) and you can order your copy here.