Monthly Archives: March 2011

BOOK REVIEW Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair

These Nordic recipes rooted in Scandinavia remind me of my own winters in Minnesota, where the author developed them.

reviewed by Bakery Boy

I’ve long had a warm place in my heart for Minnesota. It might have been my only warm part during the long cold winters I spent visiting my sister there and getting involved in Great Frozen North activities such as ice fishing, cross country skiing, sled dog racing, pond hockey, and trying to keep my car—a native Southerner like myself—in running condition.

Author Pat Sinclair

Those Nordic experiences are partly why I’m drawn to Pat Sinclair’s book, Scandinavian Classic Baking (from Pelican Publishing Company, $16.95). Based in Edina, Minnesota, this author, food consultant, and recipe developer’s baked goods remind me of coming indoors from arctic winter weather, being pleasantly surprised to find something delicious baking in the oven, and looking forward to that first still-steaming bite.

Given the Upper Midwest’s abundance of Scandinavian descendants—all of them more accustomed to extreme cold that I am—those goodies fresh from the oven usually reflected the cuisines of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. The aromas of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange peels dominate baking days, often accented by the yeasty smell of rising breads, by colorful tarts loaded with berries, and by pastries bristling with nuts.

Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars. See the recipe in a separate post. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

At first the names of some of the recipes threw me. But under Pat’s guidance I soon learned that aebleskiver means pancake balls, fattigman is poor man’s cake, and pepparkakor translates to spicy cookies. Also, lefse is a sort of sweetened and fried potato crepe served with butter and sugar, toscakake involves a top layer of sliced almonds covered with buttery caramel, and sandbakkels are butter cookies whose dough gets pressed into fluted tins before being baked and are later filled with whipped cream, jam, lemon curd, or chocolate ganache.

Pat got my attention with 42 recipes ranging from coffee breads (especially the Danish Almond Tea Ring shown on the cover), cakes (the Norwegian Toscakake stands out), cookies (I tried the Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars recipe first and it won’t be the last time I make them), tarts (from blueberry to rhubarb), and pastries (such as Swedish Kringle made from a paste similar to that used in making éclairs).

Photographer Joel Butkowski

Stunning food photography by a fellow Minnesotan Joel Butkowski, whose shots illustrate every recipe, kept me focused and occasionally salivating. (See Joel’s work at

An intriguing addition to the format is Pat’s sprinkling of sidebar-style vignettes that elaborate, like a travelogue, on Scandinavian culture, traditions, celebrations, foods, and popular destinations. One brief entry explains the importance of cardamom, a member of the ginger family, in Scandinavian baking and recommends splitting the pods and grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle right before use in order to release fragrant oils for the most flavorful results. Another encapsulates 700 years of Viking shipbuilding and exploration starting in the 5th Century.

Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies. See the recipe in a separate post. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

Still more of these side notes expound upon reindeer, the candle-filled Feast of St. Lucia, the joy of eating Shrove Tuesday Buns the day before the Lent starts, the Land of the Midnight Sun effect north of the Arctic Circle (lots of daylight in summer but long dark winters too), Norway’s fjords and 11th-century Stave Church construction, Denmark’s ornate Amalienborg Palace and famous Tivoli Gardens, Sweden’s ancient city streets and modern architecture, Finland’s saunas, and more.

So besides offering goodies to bake and eat, Scandinavian Classic Baking provides quick lessons in foreign culture too.

Once I tried baking a few of these recipes, the at-first strange terms quickly became familiar, joining the lexicon and the baking rotation at my house. Tonight, with spring coming on strong here in Alabama and with what most likely will be the last snowstorm of the season blowing across the northern tier states, I think I’ll bake Meringue with Peaches and Raspberries, the book’s most summery recipe. I remember bone-chilling Minnesota winters vividly, but a summer dessert like this seems just the thing to serve as a farewell to the cold and a harbinger of warmer days ahead.


Find Scandinavian Classic Baking in bookstores or order it from Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, LA; 504-368-1175 or

See author, food consultant, and recipe developer Pat Sinclair’s blog at

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Click here to see a brief video of Pat Sinclair demonstrating her Finnish Brown Butter Teaspoon Cookies recipe during an appearance on Minneapolis-St. Paul television station KARE-11.


RECIPE Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies from Scandinavian Classic Baking

Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking (from Pelican Publishing Company) includes this excellent recipe for Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies. Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a review of the book.

Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

(Makes 24 sandwich cookies)

1 cup                     butter

2 cups                   all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon         baking soda

¾ cup                   sugar

1 tablespoon        vanilla

1/3 cup                 raspberry or strawberry jam

—                           confectioners’ sugar

Brown the butter by melting in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When butter begins to foam up, stir constantly until it turns a deep golden brown. Watch carefully because at this point, the color changes quickly. It takes about 7 minutes to brown the butter. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 325° F.

Mix the flour and baking soda together.

Combine the cooled butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Add the flour and mix to form dough.

Shape the cookies by placing about 1 teaspoon of dough into the bowl of a teaspoon and pressing against the side of the bowl, leveling the top. Press out cookie, flat side down, onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and remove to a wire cooling rock.

Pat Sinclair

When cookies are cool, spread a scant ½ teaspoon of jam on the flat side of one cookie. Make a sandwich by pressing the flat side of a second cookie onto the jam. Sprinkle the sandwiches with confectioners’ sugar.

PAT’S BAKING TIPS: Buttery and tangy, these cookies are always popular on buffets or cookie trays during the holidays. Experiment on the easiest way to press out the cookies using the bowl of a teaspoon and forming the delicate oval shape. The dough is easy to shape because it’s slightly dry.


Excerpted with permission from Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair, published in 2011 by Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, LA; 504-368-1175, Review copy provided by the publisher.


Click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog review of Pat Sinclair’s book.

Click here for a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Click here to see a brief video of Pat Sinclair demonstrating her Finnish Brown Butter Teaspoon Cookies recipe during an appearance on Minneapolis-St. Paul television station KARE-11.

For more resources and inspiration, see


RECIPE Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars from Scandinavian Classic Baking

Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking (from Pelican Publishing Company) includes this excellent recipe for Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars. Click here to see a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a review of Pat’s book.

Scandinavian Apricot Almond Bars. Photo by Joel Butkowski.

(Makes 24 to 30 bars)


2 cups                all-purpose flour

1 cup                  confectioners’ sugar

¾ cup               butter


¾ cup               apricot preserves

2                         egg whites

1 cup                  confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon        almond extract

½ cup               slivered almonds, toasted

Heat the oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 13” x 9” baking pan with aluminum foil, extending the foil over the long sides of the pan. Lightly spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar and butter for the crust in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the baking pan, pressing about ½” up the sides.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

While the crust is baking, toast the almonds. Place the almonds on a small baking dish and bake about 8 minutes.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk until foamy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and almond extract.

Spread the apricot preserves over the crust. Spoon the egg whites over the preserves without covering the preserved completely. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until the topping is a golden brown. Run a metal spatula along the short sides of the pan to loosen the pastry. Cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Using the foil, lift the pastry from the pan and cut into 24 bars.

Pat Sinclair

To cut diamonds, cut lengthwise into 6 strips. Make parallel diagonal cuts on each strip to form diamonds.

PAT’S BAKING TIPS: A pastry blender makes it easy to combine flour and butter for the crust and results in flaky layers. You can also use two knives and a scissor-like motion to get the same results. Don’t leave large pieces of butter, or holes will form when they melt.


Excerpted with permission from Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair, published in 2011 by Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, LA; 504-368-1175, Review copy provided by the publisher.


Click here to see a Bakery Boy Blog review of Pat Sinclair’s book.

Click here for a separate Bakery Boy Blog post with a recipe for Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies from Pat Sinclair’s Scandinavian Classic Baking.


Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival, Asheville, NC

Challah from Creme Patisserie in Asheville, NC

Sample great bread and learn a few baking techniques during an extraordinary convergence of bread bakers on April 2.

by Bakery Boy

A variety of loaves from City Bakery in Asheville, NC, will be among those available to sample during the Artisan Bread Bakers Festival's "Showcase" event April 2.

If you’re a big fan of good bread, you need to be at this gathering.

For baking enthusiasts, the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival—April 2, 2011, in Asheville, NC—might as well be Shangri-La, Paradise, Nirvana, El Dorado, and Heaven all rolled into one. It’s an all-day tribute to crusty, chewy, aromatic, wholesome, air-hole-laced breads. It’s a participatory ode to time-honored, Old World, slow-rise techniques, and top-quality natural ingredients. It’s a showcase for dedicated bakers who consider their vocation to fit somewhere between an art form and a religion.

Expect to hear plenty of talk about wild yeast, whole grains, sourdough starters, wood-fired brick ovens, fermentation, organic ingredients, and other bread-centric topics. Also join in conversations about sustainable agriculture, organic farming, the slow food movement, and related subjects.

The two-part festival starts with bread tasting during a Bakers’ Showcase to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery, 70 Merrimon Avenue. You’ll find loaves for sale too, ranging from baguettes to brioche, challah, ciabatta, focaccia, rye, walnut, raisin, spinach-feta, and whatever else bakers representing as many as 16 area bakeries bring to their tables. Local millers, cheese makers, and brick-oven builders will be on hand doing demonstrations. Admission to the showcase is free.

An afternoon series of workshops and lectures ($10 admission per session) takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at nearby Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), 340 Victoria Road. This year’s featured presenters include:

Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD

• baker Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD (near Washington, D.C.), who will show home bakers how to make his signature pear buckwheat bread and share techniques for making sweet breads such as one he calls German almond butter bread

• baker, author, and Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte, NC) teacher Peter Reinhart, who will demonstrate making bread with sprouted whole wheat flour

• baker, author, and chemist Emily Buehler, who will lead a workshop about the chemistry of bread dough—explaining what actually happens during the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking stages—and demonstrate hand-kneading techniques

• baker Jennifer Lapidus—director of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project linking local wheat farmers, millers, and bakers—who will talk about bread’s journey from planted wheat seed to steaming loaf, with emphasis on all that happens before the baker takes over for the final stages

Walnut-Sage bread from La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC

• baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC (topic to be determined, but one look at the gorgeous breads he makes, such as those shown at right, and you know it’ll be worthwhile)

Now in its seventh year, the festival was initiated by Steve Bardwell, an artisan baker who runs Wake Robin Farm Breads in the western North Carolina community of Sandy Mush. Area bakeries planning to participate in the Showcase tasting include Annie’s Naturally Bakery, Sylva, NC; Bracken Mountain Bakery, Brevard, NC; Carolina Mountain Bakery, Hendersonville, NC; City Bakery, Asheville, NC; Crème Patisserie & Confectionery, Asheville, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Crème Patisserie); Hillside Bakery, Knoxville, TN; Farm and Sparrow, Candler, NC; Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock, NC; Loaf Child Bakery, Marshall, NC; Rising Creek Bakery, Morris, PA; Simple Bread, Asheville, NC; Stick Boy Bread Company, Boone, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Stick Boy); Underground Baking Company, Hendersonville, NC; Wake Robin Farm Breads, Marshall, NC; West End Bakery, Asheville, NC; and Wildflour Bakery, Saluda, NC.

Festival sponsors include the Bread Bakers Guild of America; Lindley Mills in Graham, NC; Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery; the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project; Slow Food Asheville; and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

For more information visit or contact key organizer Steve Bardwell at or 828-683-2902.


World’s Best Carrot Cake, Asheville, NC

With “world’s best” in the name, does it live up to the claim?

story & photos by Bakery Boy

The World's Best Carrot Cake company stacks its signature treats mighty high.

It takes gumption to name any business “world’s best.” Avi Sommerville and her husband Morgan showed just such spunk when they launched World’s Best Carrot Cake from their home in Asheville, North Carolina. “We feel very confident in that name,” says Avi, who comes from a long line of foodies and was a professional cook, baker, and caterer before discovering her calling with carrot cake. “The idea actually started with our customers. We kept hearing over and over about how we made the best carrot cake they’d ever eaten, how it must be the best in the world, so we decided to go with that as a company name.”

Production manager Hannah Layosa, whose parents founded World's Best Carrot Cake, makes hundreds of the rich, moist, tasty, organic-carrots-filled cakes each week.

Based on a recipe from her mother-in-law, Juanita, Avi developed several variations and tinkered with them until she was satisfied. “We only use organically grown carrots,” she says. “All the ingredients—the milk, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, and soy products—have to be the freshest and the best available, especially the carrots,” she says. “The proportions have to be just right. That’s what took the most effort to figure out. And moisture is key. I don’t like a dry cake and won’t ever make a dry cake. The carrots themselves provide the moisture that makes our cakes so good.”

The bold name seems to be holding up over time. “In the five years we’ve been doing this,” Avi says, “we’ve had countless people agree that we make the world’s best carrot cake and maybe two people say, ‘Well…maybe.’ But in those cases, they were siding with a wife’s or a mom’s cake.”


The larger cakes weigh in at five pounds apiece.

Each 8-inch-round, 3-layer cake weighs 5 pounds. There are 6-inch, 4-inch, and cupcake versions too, all made from scratch, daily, in small batches, by hand.

• ORGANIC CARROT CAKE The bakery’s original and still bestselling online cake has rich vanilla cream cheese and walnut icing between layers and covering the top and sides. It’s garnished with crushed walnuts ($49.99 plus shipping).

• GLUTEN FREE CARROT CAKE Carefully processed brown rice flour from a gluten-free mill forms the basis of this version produced for gluten-free purists. Again the use of fresh, organic carrots and the same vanilla cream cheese-walnut icing as in the original keeps both moisture content and taste factors high. Garnished with a few walnut halves ($35 plus shipping).

• CHOCOLATE GLUTEN FREE CARROT CAKE This one contains no wheat—for gluten-free fans—but plenty of carrots plus melted chocolate in the batter as well as in the velvety cream cheese icing. It’s garnished with an equal mix of chocolate chips and crushed walnuts ($38 plus shipping).

• ORANGE CITRUS VEGAN CARROT CAKE This version is entirely dairy-free (no eggs, butter, milk, or cream cheese), features natural orange oil, and is garnished with hand-grated orange zest ($38 plus shipping).

For more about these and other products visit


It takes a lot of cake pans to make as many carrot cakes as get made regularly at World's Best Carrot Cake.

Anyone can walk in and buy a carrot cake from the small retail counter at the front of the World’s Best Carrot Cake production facility in Woodfin just north of Asheville. Or find a slice at local health-oriented eateries such as The Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café downtown. Or mail order home-delivered cakes via phone or web site. But by far most of the hundreds of cakes produced each week supply two key wholesale accounts that distribute them all across North Carolina and neighboring states.

“Our carrot cakes go to 21 Earth Fare stores and 21 Whole Foods Markets in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee,” Avi says. “An Earth Fare representative found us at the Organicfest one September in Asheville’s Pack Square, started ordering a lot of cakes, and asked us to develop the gluten-free option.”


“When you have something that's really the best, that's all you need.” - Hannah Layosa

Avi’s daughter Hannah Layosa joins in as production manager. She previously worked at the now-defunct Picnics Restaurant & Bake Shop and as a short-order cook at Nick’s Grill, both nearby in the Woodfin community just north of Asheville.  “I’ve been baking carrot cakes now for five years,” Hannah says. “My mom and grandmother come in every day. My dad [who works as regional director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy] is involved in the operation. My husband Jason is the purchasing manager. Our friend Heather is our ‘icing master’ and handles retail sales. We all manage to have fun doing what we do—making cakes by the hundreds.”

Cupcake versions of the Chocolate Gluten Free Carrot Cake (left) and the original Organic Carrot Cake.

As for the family business’s super-confident name, Hannah says: “When you have something that’s really the best, that’s all you need. We believe in our cakes and we stand by the name.”

Avi harbors ambitions to expand the family’s line of food products. “I want to be the New Age Sara Lee,” she says. “I’ve always been a food person. I cut back on cooking and catering to concentrate on carrot cakes, but eventually I want to add other healthy and all-natural lines and get them into as many stores as possible.”


Employee Heather Taylor, affectionately dubbed the Icing Master, also handles retails sales.

So are these indeed the world’s best carrot cakes? I’ll say this: I thoroughly enjoyed the ones I sampled at the World’s Best Carrot Cake headquarters. They were, as advertised, perfectly moist, plenty tasty, stacked high, and beautifully presented, both the whole cake and the cupcake versions. Because I haven’t personally tasted every carrot cake in the world for comparison (which sure would be a fine goal to pursue!) I can’t say with absolute certainty. Still, I firmly believe these desserts rank way up high in the hierarchy of carrot cakes. Here’s my suggestion: Order one or two and decide for yourself.


World’s Best Carrot Cake

175 Weaverville Hwy, Suite V

Asheville, NC 28804



For more about Asheville:

For more about North Carolina:


Bakery Boy Blog Goes Global

The Bakery Boy Blog has gone international. Besides reaching a growing audience of bakery fans all across America, the website now has followers signed up for free e-alerts in…

Dunolly, Australia (G’day, Rod!)

Kaunas, Lithuania (Sveiki, Julita!)

Waterloo, Canada (Hello & Bonjour, Cameca!)

UPDATE: Since posting this piece, additional subscribers from London, England; Adelaide, Australia; Sydney, Australia; Assam, India (east of Calcutta); Israel; and Tuscany, Italy, have signed up. Welcome, all! 

We share in common a love of baking and bakeries. These three—like Bakery Boy followers from Maine to California and from Oregon to Florida—receive e-mail notices whenever new articles about bakeries, cookbooks, recipes, events and more are posted to the site.

In honor of bakery fans abroad, here is a peek at some of the bakeshops these three enjoy in their communities.


Dunolly Bakery in Australia


Rod Stuart owns and operates Dunolly Bakery in the small town of Dunolly in Victoria, about a two-hour drive northwest of Melbourne. Known as the Historic Central Goldfields region because of a gold-mining boom in the 1850s, the rural area now attracts bicycle riders who—like Rod does when he’s not busy baking—ride a network of scenic bike routes called the Dunolly Cycle Tracks.

Dunolly Bakery Turnovers

“I stumbled upon your blog via Google alerts for bakeries,” Rod tells me. He had heard of the Australian Bakery Café in Marietta, Georgia (near Atlanta), which I blogged about last summer, and knew that the two owners originally came from a small town not far from his. He saw my story about them and signed on. “I’m so glad to be your first Aussie subscriber,” he adds. “I love being involved in the baking industry and checking out other baking ideas from around the world.”

Aussie Meat Pies

His compact bakery facing the Dunolly’s main street makes breads, cakes, pastries, and of course Aussie Meat Pies—hearty staples filled with beef, chicken, lamb, and gravy that practically rank as a national dish Down Under. The closest I’ve come to tasting such meat pies are those I sampled at the Australian Bakery Cafe in Georgia, but someday I hope to visit Rod’s country for a first-hand experience. Out of loyalty to my first international subscriber (and no doubt hungry from the long flight) I’ll head straight for Dunolly and the Goldfields.

Dunolly Bakery: 97 Broadway, Dunolly, Victoria, Australia 3472;; phone (03) 5468 1331; email Rod at

One of several Crustum bakery locations in Lithuania


Julita, who bakes at home for fun and also found the Bakery Boy Blog while web surfing on Google, lives in Kaunas, Lithuania, the northern European country’s second largest city after the capital, Vilnius. “Bakeries here mostly specialize in Bundt cakes, croissants with a variety of fillings, and some breads and cakes,” she says. “One of my favorite bakeries in Lithuania is Crustum Mano Kepyklėlė, which translates to ‘Crustum My Bakery’ in English.”

Pastries at Crustum

Bread from Crustum

She also sometimes buys baked goods from SOTAS, a chain of café-bakeries, and Mantinga, a large-scale bakery that supplies frozen and fresh items to markets and grocery stores.

Swirl bread from Crustum

Lithuanian bakeries, Julita laments, rarely bake some of her favorite treats, such as brownies, cupcakes, or macaroons. So she bakes at home, trying new recipes she finds on the Internet.

“Maybe you could send me some of your favorite baking recipes?” she asks, addressing both me as Bakery Boy and anyone else reading this. [NOTE: If you have a great macaroons recipe please send it along and I’ll forward it to Julita.]

Crustum Mano Kepyklėlė (“Crustum My Bakery”): If I understand this right—I speak no Lithuanian, so the website is a bit of a mystery, though it is photogenic enough—there are apparently five locations of this bakery in Vilnius and Kaunas;; phone in Kaunas 370 685 87702; email


Wedding cake from Jirinas Bakery in Waterloo, Ontario

Cameca hails from Waterloo in southern Ontario, a city known for universities and high-technology companies just west of Toronto and Niagara Falls and surrounded by three of The Great Lakes: Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Waterloo and Kitchener (neighboring communities known locally as the Twin Cities) boast several noteworthy bakeries, including European-inspired Nougat Bakery & Delicatessen and Nova Era Bakery & Pastries (the latter an extension of a five-location Toronto operation); cake-oriented The Cakebox and Jirinas Bakery; fresh-local-organic-and-preservative-free-obsessed Golden Hearth Baking; artisan bread specialist Grainharvest Breadhouse;  and creative-pastry-designing Sablétine. Apparently there’s a lot of creative baking energy in this area.



That’s a quick glimpse of three far-flung places that have added a global profile to the Bakery Boy Blog. Feel free to join us and share your favorite bakery stories. You’ll find a Free E-Alerts sign-up field near the top right corner of each page on this site.

Let me say “thanks” here to everyone who reads this blog, wherever you are. I’m glad to have you along for the ride and I hope to hear from you. Meanwhile let’s all go out and find some great baked goods. Be sure to tell me about your discoveries! (Email

– Bakery Boy