Bakeland is a treat for the eyes & tastebuds
Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature is the first recipe book by Marit Hovland, the Norwegian graphic designer, baker and photographer behind the popular Instagram account and blog, Borrow My Eyes.
When you open Bakeland, it feels almost as if you’re looking at the well-loved child of a coffee table book and a recipe book. Bakeland is so well illustrated that I found myself wanting to make each and every recipe based on the photos alone. When you take into account that Hovland is a graphic designer and photographer as well as a baker, it makes sense that her first cookbook would be so visually appealing.
The dessert recipes themselves are little pieces of art that are only slightly intimidating on first glance. The clear, concise directions help ease a bit of that intimidation. A selection of templates at the back help ease the rest of the uncertainty.
I highly suggest reading the intro to each recipe as it sets the stage for why the recipe works and when to make it. Hovland also includes variations and tips throughout the book to help you improve your skills and make each recipe your own.
The book is divided into seasons, and each season has it’s own flavour profile. Winter to spring feature nutty, woodsy recipes balanced with natural sweeteners; spring to summer is all about the citrus acidity mixed with pops of savoury, floral and fruit flavours; summer to fall has refreshing seasonal fruit (berries, apples) combined with warm flavours (cinnamon spice); and fall to winter features the warming spices with sour/sweet profiles that seem perfect for the cooling season. The final section celebrates “A New Year”; the recipes are similar in profile to winter to spring.
I had the opportunity to speak with Hovland about Bakeland, and her inspiration for the book.
What inspired you to write Bakeland?
Nature! I have always loved being outdoors. It’s easy to get excited about all the beautiful things out there. To me, this was the perfect starting point for a baking book that would be a little out of the ordinary. By making Bakeland, I combined a lot of things I like: baking, crafting, photography, graphic design and nature.
The book follows the seasons – a unique approach to baking. Why did you decide to use this outline?
Once I had decided that the whole book was about nature, it was only natural to build the book in this way. It’s nice to bake throughout the year – and this way, readers can easily find recipes for the holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. I have also provided different tastes to suit each season. But of course, all of my cakes can be baked at other times of year as well.
How did you develop your recipes?
Sometimes I started with a decorating idea that needed a cake, while other times I started with the cake itself. It has been important to me that these two things be connected. Some of the cakes in the book are old family recipes with a twist.
Flavour profile plays a large role in your recipes; how do you prevent your desserts from being super sweet? Especially when it comes to the decorations?
I use a lot of lemon and fresh berries when I bake. And nuts! When it comes to decorating, my number one rule is no sugar paste or large amounts of frosting! That is just too sweet for me. It is important to me that the decoration does not spoil the taste. Ideally, it should add something, either in terms of texture or flavour. Some examples from Bakeland: the carrots on top of the carrot cake are made from walnut marzipan, the strawberry macaroons are filled with an icing made from real strawberries, and the acorns on the spice cake are almonds dipped in chocolate and cinnamon.
What is the one thing you hope home bakers and readers will take away from your book?
I think the most important thing is to have fun in the kitchen and to dare to try new things. Things often go better than you first think. And with good explanations and some smart tricks, you can go a long way. I hope this book contributes to more creativity — and that more people will think a bit outside of the box when it comes to baking, and especially decorating. (I’m fed up with cakes that are decorated with a lot of sugar paste, which, in my opinion, tastes disgusting.)
Which recipe was the most fun to create and write?
That is a difficult question. So many of them were fun! I thought it was magical to see the sugar crystals form while decorating of the chocolate mousse. It was also fun to see something as simple as a little pistachio in marzipan, along with pretzels and almonds, become pears. I always get excited when something simple really works! The same is true of the pinecones made of gingerbread: so simple, but so powerful. It was also fun to photograph the chocolate shells. There were many seagulls trying to eat them along the way!
But the answer to this question is really everything. Everything was fun in its own way.
What is the most surprising/interesting thing you learned or discovered while writing Bakeland?
This is perhaps not so surprising, but I learned that ironing sugar is not a very good idea. But that’s a bit of my mindset behind everything I do; you will never know how anything will go before you’ve actually tried it. And it’s not a bad thing if things go wrong, it just means that you need to try something new to achieve what you want. In this case, the solution was to boil sugar and let it sit for a few days to get the sugar stains I wanted.
I also learned a lot about tempering chocolate. I had never enjoyed working with chocolate since it would always melt in my hands before I could eat it. But after reading more about chocolate, melting it became so fun! With some simple rules you can create chocolate that does not melt when touched—and even remains crispy. Hurray!
Are you working on a second recipe book?
I have many other ideas, but I do not want to reveal them yet! Some secrets you must keep to yourself! Above all, I do not want to make books just to make books. Whatever I write next, I will make sure that that it stands out and is well done.
Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature was released online on April 1st for $35. It’s a book worthy of any kitchen and definitely one for bakers everywhere.
rosemary cupcakes with lemon cream
Makes 12 cupcakes
Is there anyone who hasn’t picked a daisy, pulled out petal after petal, and asked: “Loves me, loves me not?” I think you’ll love these rosemary cupcakes, filled with a tart lemon cream and topped with a daisy made of icing sugar.
2 tbsp (30 g) butter
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup (70 g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
Cut the butter into cubes and keep them cold. Put all the ingredients, except the butter, into a double boiler, or a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with water, and heat, stirring constantly. (You can also put the ingredients directly into the saucepan if you keep it on low heat.) When the mixture begins to thicken, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside
1/4 cup (65 g) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (165 g) light sour cream
1 cup (135 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners, or place the liners directly on a baking sheet.
Using a handheld mixer, whip the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until fluffy. Keep whipping while you add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each. Fold in the sour cream with a rubber spatula.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold in. Finally, fold in the rosemary, crushing it a little between your fingers before you add it.
Fill the cupcake liners evenly with the batter. If you’re not using a muffin pan, you’ll need to use more than 12 liners and fill each one only ⅔ full so it doesn’t overflow. You’ll also need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes.
Bake the cupcakes on the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove them to a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the stencil. Copy the daisy pattern onto a piece of paper, or draw your own. Cut out the daisy.
Use an apple corer to make a hole, approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, in the middle of each cupcake.
Place the stencil on the cupcake so the hole is in the middle of the flower. Sprinkle icing sugar onto the cupcake through a tea strainer. Carefully lift the stencil off the cupcake. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.
Fill a piping bag with the lemon cream and pipe it into the hole on each cupcake. Heap the lemon cream so it makes a raised dot in the center of the flower.
Excerpted from Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature by Marit Hovland, published April 2018 by Greystone Books. Reproduced and condensed with permission from the publisher.