Is the Danish really Danish? (And other facts about Nordic Cuisine)

Suppose I told you the raspberry Danish pastry that we know and love in the USA didn’t originate with the Danish.  Blasphemy, you say.

No, it’s true. In Denmark pastries are called Weinerbrød (which translates to “Vienna bread”) after their origins in none other than Austria. In the 1850s bakers went on strike in Denmark, and the country hired some from Austria to fill in for them.  When the strike was over, the Austrians went home, but the recipes remained to be used and improved upon by the Danish.

Variations of these delectable pastries were everywhere on our recent stay in Copenhagen, and I found quite a slew of them in the bakery near our Airbnb rental.    Carolyn and I made quite a few bakery runs in the morning while we were staying outside of the city center.  I think we both enjoyed the brisk morning air watching the residents zoom by us on bicycles as much as we did the bakery itself.

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The Danish Hindbaersnitter is a delectable treat found at many bakeries in Copenhagen.

One look at the hindbærsnitter above and my brain started thinking about Pop-tarts.  But truth be told, the taste of the hindbærsnitter is so much better that it’s probably not fair to compare the Pop-tart to one.  These pastries literally fall apart in your mouth with their buttery goodness and then if you’re not careful, they’ll fall apart in your hands. The trick is to eat them fast. At least that’s what I did.  But in Copenhagen they are more of a special treat for children’s birthdays and not an everyday breakfast food.  Made from two thin buttery cookie-like pastries with raspberry jam in the middle, they are topped with a sugary glaze and decorated with the non-pareils. Very sweet and delectable!

Not so with the next item. It’s called rugbrød and forms the base of the open-faced sandwiches called “smørrebrød” that are a popular meal for many in Denmark. The bread is very dense and chewy, and the one below was served before our dinner and was quite good.  It was so rich that I was afraid to eat a whole piece before my dinner came.

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This dense bread forms the bottom of the open faced sandwiches called Smørrebrød popular in Denmark.

I was glad I refrained from eating the whole piece when I saw my dinner.  A pile of tiny shrimp, some raw tuna, pan fried fish with several different relishes, some tomatoes and some sour cream topped with fresh dill and I was in heaven. The yellow relish in the little dish was my favorite. The Danish call it “remoulade,” but it is very similar to our tartar sauce only it is sweeter, has larger chunks of sweet pickles and pickled onions in it, and has curry and yellow mustard for flavor and color.

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My first meal in Denmark was truly a treat.

One rainy evening we visited Torvehallerne, which is a food market in the center of Copenhagen. It has two glass enclosed sections with about 60 stalls between the two, which was perfect with the rain. We tried a real smørrebrød from Hallernes in this market and it was incredible.

IMG_0164The lady who waited on us said we were lucky we came late (around 4:30 p.m.) because the line had wrapped all around the place earlier. I believe it. The food not only looked beautiful, but it was pretty delicious.

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A wide variety of smørrebrød was available at Hallerne’s Smørrebrød.

While I was enjoying my smørrebrød, I noticed this bottle of Linie Aquavit from Norway sitting on the counter. IMG_0159I had to do some research when I saw the label saying it “matured at sea,” especially for my husband, Captain Mike, who would also love to mature at sea, although not in an oak sherry cask. Apparently aquavit is a Scandinavian liquor that has the taste of caraway seeds and fennel with notes of dill and anise. The Danish like to drink it with fish, and I didn’t realize until I got back to Croatia and actually researched it that I had had some aquavit in on a day trip to Helsingør that came free with the pickled herring I ordered. It was delicious together, and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the pickled herring as much without it. So order some if you try pickled herring. You will thank me later.  Anyway, the Linie Aquavit travels all over rolling around on the sea in the barrels which gives it a really smooth finish.  I wish I would have tried it with the Salmon smørrebrød I ate at the market, although really good, I think it would have been even better.  You can see the small flute of it in the second picture below.  The first one is my plate of pickled herring, served with beets, mustard and pork fat (!!). The herring is hiding under the pile of fresh dill.

The Torvehallerne market itself is a must-see if you visit Copenhagen.  I’m told it is very busy throughout the year, but it’s worth hustling through a crowd to see all it has to offer. It also had some seating and produce booths outside the glass enclosure, which probably would be a nice place to hang out if the weather is good. Here are just a few pictures I took by the seafood section:

 

 

My next posts won’t be so food-oriented, but will be on a few of the places we visited in and around Copenhagen, including my husband’s favorite, The Viking Museum in Roskilde.  Hope you will wander along with us for the next leg of the journey.

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