This weekend I found myself with a craving for something sweet and starchy. With limited ingredients in the house, I decided to make the popular Danish dish of Brunsviger. Some say its name derives from the German city of Braunschweig, while others say it originates from Brunsegård in the Danish town of Tommerup. Either way it is intrinsically associated with Fyn (Funen in English), the Danish island where Hans Christian Andersen was born, some 150km west of Copenhagen.
Neither cake nor bread, Brunsviger is essentially a sweet doughy pastry glazed with lashings of sugar and butter. It is sometimes known as 'poor man's birthday cake' and is often made for children's birthdays, where it can be decorated with various small sweets and little paper Danish flags. I love the way the sugar-butter glaze permeates through the holes you have made in the dough to create great big clumps of sweet sticky goo. Needless to say, it goes perfectly with a cup of hot black coffee.
There aren't really many variations on how to make Brunsviger, but I used a recipe from Trina Hahnemann – one of my favourite Danish food writers – who in turn got it from her grandmother. The recipe can be found in her excellent book, The Scandinavian Cookbook.
We're very lucky in Scandinavia to have fresh yeast readily available and I love the distinct flavour it adds. If you can't get hold of any then use dried yeast instead. Also, if you like you can add a slight Norwegian touch to this recipe by adding a teaspoon or so of ground cardamom to the dough. Alternatively, adding some ground cinnamon to the glaze wouldn't go amiss either.
If on the rare occasion when you end up with leftover Brunsviger, you can always soak it in beaten egg to make French toast for an ultra decadent breakfast.
- 250ml lukewarm milk
- 50g fresh yeast (or you could use 1 packet of dried yeast)
- 2 medium eggs
- 75g unsalted butter, melted
- 500g plain white flour
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 150g dark brown sugar
- 100g unsalted butter
- Pour the milk into a mixing bowl and crumble the yeast into it, stirring so you get a smooth mixture
- Add the eggs and the melted butter to the milk and mix well
- Sift the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture and mix well (I used an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment)
- When the dough comes cleanly from the edge of the bowl, transfer to a floured worktop and knead for 5 minutes
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm for 30 minutes
- Line a large baking or roasting tray with baking paper and spread the dough evenly out
- Cover again with a tea towel and let it rise for a further 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C and make the glaze by melting the brown sugar and butter over a low heat until smooth and all the sugar has dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil
- Using your thumb, make several small indentations all over the dough. Pour the glaze evenly over the top, leaving an unglazed border around the outside
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool slightly before cutting into pieces and serving. This is best eaten warm. Don't worry about how to store leftovers as there won't be any.