A few days after I met my future Danish husband, he wanted me to meet his parents. Once again, we crawled into his little car and drove towards the exclusive part of Denmark.
We arrived in a sleepy little town north of Copenhagen on a cold Sunday afternoon in November. We came to a lonely intersection. We were parking on the main street in front of a supermarket. his parents lived in an apartment, on the fifth floor, on top of a supermarket. I looked around in amazement, taking in the other shops and saw a butcher shop, a bakery, and hardware store. They were all closed, and there wasn’t a person on the street.
All the shops, department stores, and supermarkets in Denmark were not open on Sunday. These same stores also closed at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon making it impossible for working people to do their shopping on the weekends. Like most apartment houses, there were a million doors, and I stopped not knowing where to go. The stairs were rickety, and, as I started to climb the five flights to the top, I wondered if I would ever make it to the top.
My boyfriend lived at home, but he rang the doorbell. I guess he was warning them that we were here. His mother opened the door.
Of course, his parents both spoke perfect English.
The most beautiful tableware, I had ever seen, was sitting on the table. I admired the plates: white with small blue flowers. “It is Royal Copenhagen,” the mojther said when she saw me admiring the plates. “It is hand painted and very famous. People from all over the world come to buy dishes from Royal Copenhagen.”
In front of each person, there was a small plate, a napkin and a little silver fork for eating the cake. Cups and saucers in the same beautiful pattern with a tiny silver spoon resting on each of the saucers if the guests wanted to stir their coffee after adding milk or sugar to it. The cream and sugar bowls were of silver, as was the coffee pot.
The mother served coffee in the smallest cups I had ever seen. The coffee was strong. It was nothing like I had ever tasted. I never drank coffee at home because I thought it was too weak. This coffee was excellent, rich and dark. There was a large platter in the middle of the coffee table with the most stunning cakes and pastries I had ever seen.
Asgar explained about the different cakes. “This cake is named after the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt. She visited Denmark many times, and around the turn of the century a cake was created for her,” he said as he pointed to a small chocolate pyramid form. “It is made of macaroon with a layer of chocolate mousse coated with rich dark chocolate and decorated with candied fruit.”
My boyfriend explained, as he slid a piece of whipped-cream-covered cake onto his plate, “This is Rubinstein cake, named after the famous pianist Anton Rubinstein. He lived around the time of Hans Christian Andersen. They were good friends. The white whipped cream and the coated chocolate choux pastry should resemble the black and white tangents of a piano.”
I had my eye on a lovely white cake filled with lots of whipped cream. It had a cylindrical shape with chocolate and small bits of candied fruit on top. “Goose Breast” is the name, and there is both a vanilla cream and whipped cream in this cake. It is then covered with marzipan and decorated with chocolate and candied fruit. It was always nice to have afternoon coffee at the parent-in-laws.
It is summer and lots of strawberries are on the market. Here is a lovely tart with chocolate and vanilla cream.
Strawberry Tart with Chocolate and Vanilla cream
makes 8 small tarts
1½ cups flour
6 oz. (180 grams) butter
3/4 cup (145 oz.) sugar
2 eggs yokes
3 tbsp. sugar
1½ tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. heavy cream
Filling: 250 gram/8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 lb. strawberries
To make dough, bland flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just enough water and stir until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or until you make the tarts.
Preheat the oven to 340° F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit 10-15 minutes (longer if the dough has been in the refrigerator over night), or until the dough gives to a light pressure. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 8 squares. Transfer the dough to 8 small tart pans. Refrigerate 10 minutes before baking.
To make the cream, whisk egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract together. Sprinkle cornstarch in egg mixture while whisking. Bring milk to a boil over low heat and pour slowly into the egg mixture. Return egg mixture to the pan and whisk until it thickens, 4 minutes. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add butter and cream.. Pour cream into a bowl, cover and set in the refrigerator.
To assemble, just before serving, melt chocolate over a water bath. Brush bottom of each tart with chocolate and come cream in the baked tart shells and not before. The bottom will be soggy if you do it to early. Place the fruit that has be cut into smaller pieces in a decorative pattern. Serve immediately.