Coffee bread is so named because it used to be served in the informal coffee breaks that Danish people, especially women, took during the day. Today that would be at work, probably in an office, but 50 years ago it would have been in the kitchen with your neighbour, and would be part of women’s daily culture during the week.
It was very rude not to serve something with the coffee, and many of the sweet things we serve before lunch involve something made with bread.
Using leftover bread is a long tradition going back to when Scandinavia was a poor region and food had much more value than it has today. We simply could not afford food waste. There are many ways to turn bread into sweet things, and this is one of them. If you do not have any leftover bread (any type can be used), make the one I have included here.
Start by crumbling the butter into the flour in a mixing bowl, then stir in the sugar and salt. Dissolve the yeast in the water and add to the flour mixture, stirring to mix to a dough. Knead the dough well on a floured surface, return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle measuring about 12 x 34cm/4 ¾ x 13 ½ in. Place both rectangles on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and leave to rise for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack. When cold, cut each rectangle into 20 slices and place on a wire rack with the cut side facing up. Toast in the oven until crisp, about 10 minutes.
While the bread slices are in the oven, grate the marzipan and mix with the sugar in a bowl. Add the egg whites a little at a time and whisk with a balloon whisk to a smooth mixture, then mix in the flour and baking powder. When the bread slices come out of the oven, spread the marzipan mixture onto each slice of bread, using a spoon or piping bag. Return to the oven and bake for 10–15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool a little, then serve warm with a nice cup of coffee. Stored in an airtight container, they keep for a couple of weeks.
Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille £25) Photography: Columbus Leth
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