Scandinavian Oatbake with Blueberries and Raspberries

The pernicious “bigger is better” myth even threatens to influence the selection of cookbooks for my ever-growing collection. I tend to think that biggest bang for my book buck is a hefty, substantial tome–the more recipes the better, right?  (How many do I use?  Don’t ask).  Meanwhile, I’ll admit to sometimes looking askance at the more modest ones: how much am I going to use a little book? Surely it always seems that they’ll just take up shelf space–and surely you’ll not get that much use out of it right?

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (2 of 6)

But now it’s time to dredge up another cliché: quality over quantity always wins. Perhaps big books are just too overwhelming, or perhaps it’s just a question of picking the right books: If that slender little volume is full of amazing recipes, it’s most definitely the better value.  A carefully curated set of great recipes is more valuable than a book that just flings lists and instructions at you, none of which are particularly compelling.  No secret that I turn to Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain more often than perhaps is wise, or Anupy Singla‘s Indian Slow Cooker which is at least as virtuous as it is easy to fit into a workday.  And now I’ve found another–Miisa Mink’s utterly charming Nordic Bakery cookbook, based on favorites from her bakery in London.  Since it opened in 2007, my stay in London only just barely overlapped with its arrival, which, while sad, may be a good thing.  But now that I have this cookbook in hand, I’ve already baked several recipes in a matter of days, all of which disappeared in a blink of an eye.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (4 of 6)

I love Scandinavian baking for its use of whole grains such as rye and oats, its generous use of cinnamon and cardamom, and its unabashed enjoyment of the tiny delicate fruits of summer–berries of all sorts, from lingonberries to the poetically named cloudberries–as ephemeral as their name, and which are gathered wild (though you can buy jams from both at Ikea rather than foraging north of the artic circle).

More to the point here, what I love about this  cake its slightly different (but decidedly unfussy) way of bringing familiar ingredients together.  Oats, berries, milk, flour–all the components of a classic morning quick bread, but united in a slightly different way:  soaking the oats in hot milk, then mixing into the batter.  Berries strewn on top of a gently sweet and moist cake.  I made it on a Friday evening when Marie was coming to visit for breakfast the next day, and it barely made it to see the morning light.

One comment on this cookbook:  as I said, I’ve made several recipes in the past few weeks (some,  like this one, more than once) and they’ve all been delicious.   And in some cases the amount of butter seems excessive–in particular where the butter is melted as the final touch on buns or smear into cinnamon rolls before shaping into logs.  I’ve always had extra left over and I’m not shy about using butter.   I’d almost say that something got lost in the translation from British to US measurements, except that everything has turned out remarkably well.  I’m left to think I may not be so profligate with the butter as I think, which is almost as happy a thing to think about as this recent news item about salt intake.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (6 of 6)

To sum up, though, don’t be deterred by this book’s slim profile.  You will find plenty to make.  Trust me.  I’ve bought a lot of cookbooks.  I have wisdom to share on this point.

Scandinavian Oatbake with Blueberries and Raspberries

Notes:  In this recipe, a 2lb loaf pan is called for; I used a 1 1/2 pound (9X3 inch) pan which is more standard and got a shallow but well-risen loaf.   You might think you should bake it in an even smaller loaf pan when you see the amount of batter, but the additional surface area is a nice platform for all those berries!  As I stated above, count on increasing the baking time if using frozen berries, or just defrost slightly (a bit frozen is still OK) before proceeding to bring things more in line with the timing below.  I’ve also not generally needed quite as much hot milk as called for in the recipe.  

  • 3/4 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 c hot milk
  • 6 1/2T unsalted butter, softened
  • 5T sugar
  • 3T honey
  • 1t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1c all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping cup blueberries
  • 1 heaping cup raspberries
  • powdered sugar for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9X3 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
Mix the oats and hot milk and set aside to allow the oats to absorb the milk, and to cool slightly.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the honey and vanilla extract, then the egg.  Sift the baking powder and flour together, then fold into the butter-sugar mixture.  Drain the milk from the oats (squeeze the milk out gently, but you needn’t try all that hard, and discard or use in another recipe).  Fold the oats into the batter, and scrape into the prepared pan.  Smooth the surface, then scatter the berries on top.
Bake 50-60 minutes (or logner for frozen berries) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 10-15 minute in the pan before removing.  This is a moist cake.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired before serving.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (3 of 6)

Pear Honey Buckwheat Bread

I have a lot of flours.  All-purpose, of course, but also bread, cake, whole wheat, and whole wheat pastry.  (I should talk about that last one someday.  It’s not as bizarre a product as it sounds).  And then there’s those milled from more unusual grains:  rye, spelt, barley, and buckwheat.  It’s satisfying to have a pantry stuffed with such variety, but it is often intimidating to contemplate.  Using bins of flour is much more of a challenge than buying them, and there’s a gnawing sense of urgency when you consider that whole grain flours have a much shorter shelf life compared to white flour.

It being fall, I’ve been buying a lot of pears.  And it occurred to me that the nutty taste of buckwheat might pair nicely with, well, pears.  And while I was at it, that using honey to gently sweeten the combination would make a bread that was as warm and golden as the colors of fall (though after last weekend’s nor’easter I fear we may already be on the other side of the divide and heading into an early winter). 

Pear Honey Buckwheat Bread (4 of 5)

As I worked out the proportions on this recipe, I wanted to ensure that the bread held its shape and to avoid any cratering, however slight–something that happened to me the last time I baked with honey.  I did a bit more research and learned that excess moisture in a batter can also result in a cake or bread that collapses in the center.  Pears can be, as you know, very juicy, so I was careful with my proportions, but I think I hit upon something that works.

Because breads made with honey darken very quickly, a gentler oven is required:  I baked this  at 325F, 25F lower than your standard “bake at 350.”  Even so, if you look closely at the slice above, you might even notice the deeper coppery brown gradations at the base.

Pear Honey Buckwheat Bread (1 of 5)

I baked this in the evening, as I usually do, and tucked myself into bed, cozily dozing with thoughts of the wholesome but sweet breakfast awaiting me.  (But if you are wondering, of course the loaf was taste-tested before I went to bed, just to prevent any stunning disappointment the next day).

This bread is exactly what I like for breakfast.  Sweet, but only just.  Interesting enough to wake up your taste buds, but with flavors that are familiar enough to feel comforting when you’re just rubbing the sleep out of your eyes.  And healthy enough to feel like you are starting the day off right.

This recipe only uses a small amount of buckwheat, so it didn’t make too big of a dent in my stash of flours.  On the other hand, pears will be around for a while yet so I’m not too concerned.

Pear Honey Buckwheat Bread

  • 2 cups (about 9 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (about 2.3 ounces) buckwheat flour
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/2c neutral oil
  • 1/2c + 2T yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2c honey
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1 pear, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice

Preheat the oven to 325.  Butter a 9 inch loaf pan and line the base with parchment paper.  {Note:  I forgot to take down which size pan I used when drawing up my recipe notes but after some forensic analysis of the photos and taking into account the amount of flour used I’m fairly sure it was a 9 inch rather than an 8 inch pan.  I am open to corrections).

Stir the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Whisk the wet ingredients together in a large bowl and add the dry ingredient mixture in 2 additions, stirring until just barely combined.  Fold in the diced pear.

Scrape into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Tent with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then finish cooling on a rack.

Pear Honey Buckwheat Bread (2 of 5)

If you’re looking for a yeast-risen bread using a combination of buckwheat and dried pears steeped in wine, check out Wild Yeast’s recipe.  I’ve made this too and it’s well worth the effort.