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A grand­mother’s Dan­ish honey cakes are a cher­ished re­minder of home for Kris­tine Hansen.

NINE YEARS AF­TER Kris­tine Hansen and her fam­ily moved from Copen­hagen to Aus­tralia, they are still ad­just­ing to cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas in sum­mer. The heat makes some Dan­ish tra­di­tions im­prac­ti­cal — such as dec­o­rat­ing with pine branches that would wilt within hours — but it does have un­ex­pected ben­e­fits. “In Den­mark we cook our honey cakes in Novem­ber, then place them in a closed jar with a piece of rye bread for two weeks to ab­sorb the mois­ture, as they are quite hard… Here we can eat them the next day be­cause of the hu­mid­ity,” Kris­tine says with a laugh. “I al­ways make sure I have all the in­gre­di­ents at the end of Novem­ber, so if we have a rainy day we can start the oven. But they are of­ten eaten be­fore we get to Christ­mas Eve, so we have to make an­other batch!” The iced honey cakes are one of sev­eral Christ­mas recipes handed down by Kris­tine’s late grand­mother, Anne-marie Sch­midt Clausen (pic­tured above with baby Kris­tine). Best known as Midde, Anne-marie was born in 1907 and grew up on a farm near the vil­lage of Broballe on the is­land of Als in Den­mark’s south. She mar­ried Hans Chris­tian From Clausen and to­gether they raised four chil­dren and ran a small mixed farm. “They had cows and pigs, and grew crops... My sis­ter Mette and I spent our hol­i­days there,” Kris­tine says. “At Christ­mas they’d in­vite the whole vil­lage for af­ter­noon tea to try the recipes that were unique to our fam­ily.” Each day, Midde would pre­pare hearty meals for up to 15 farm work­ers and had a cel­lar full of hams, sausages and clay jars of pick­les and jam. “She was al­ways up early pick­ing berries or beans, and she al­ways had her apron on,” Kris­tine re­calls. But Midde still had time to create some Christ­mas magic. “On Christ­mas Eve she would close the doors and light the can­dles on the tree, then ring a bell and we would all run to see them… I now do the same with my two kids.” Stick­ing with an­other north­ern hemi­sphere tra­di­tion, Kris­tine’s fam­ily cel­e­brate on Christ­mas Eve, when they en­joy a fes­tive meal of duck stuffed with ap­ples and prunes, fol­lowed by Dan­ish rice pud­ding with al­monds, cream and cherry sauce, and plenty of singing and danc­ing. But it’s the spiced scent of her grand­mother’s honey cakes that make them feel at home. “I prob­a­bly cook more now that we live in Aus­tralia. I want my boys to have the same joy and child­hood mem­o­ries that Midde’s recipes brought me.”


Makes about 46 ¾ cup honey 1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar 3½ cups plain flour 1 tea­spoon bi­car­bon­ate of soda 1½ tea­spoons cin­na­mon 1½ tea­spoons ground cloves 1½ tea­spoons ground gin­ger 1½ tea­spoons ground fen­nel 2 eggs, lightly beaten IC­ING 3 cups ic­ing sugar mix­ture, sifted 2 tea­spoons soft­ened but­ter 3 ta­ble­spoons boil­ing wa­ter

Pre­heat oven to 200°C. Line 4 large bak­ing trays with bak­ing pa­per. Place honey and brown sugar in a saucepan, and stir over a medium-low heat un­til sugar dis­solves. Cool for 10 min­utes. Sift flour, bi­car­bon­ate of soda, cin­na­mon, cloves, gin­ger and fen­nel into a large bowl. Make a well in cen­tre of flour mix­ture, then pour in honey mix­ture and egg. Mix with a wooden spoon un­til a soft dough forms. Turn dough onto a lightly floured sur­face and knead un­til smooth. Us­ing lightly floured hands, roll dough into wal­nut-sized balls. Place on pre­pared trays, al­low­ing room for spread­ing. Bake for 12 min­utes or un­til lightly golden. Cool on trays. To make ic­ing, mix ic­ing sugar, but­ter and wa­ter in a bowl un­til smooth. Top each honey cake with a tea­spoon­ful of ic­ing. Set aside for 30 min­utes to set. SHARE YOUR FAM­ILY FAVOURITES Do you have a recipe that has been passed down through gen­er­a­tions? Send us your recipe, the story be­hind it and a pho­to­graph (prefer­ably a copy or scan) of the rel­a­tive who passed it on. Re­mem­ber to in­clude a day­time tele­phone num­ber. Email Sarah Neil at [email protected]­dia.com.au or send a let­ter to Heir­loom Recipe, Coun­try Style, PO Box 4088, Syd­ney NSW 1028.

“I want my boys to have the same joy and child­hood mem­o­ries that Midde’s recipes brought me.”

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