Haga Memories

We once spent some time in Göteborg, a large town on the southwestern Swedish coast. Our university guest apartment was located near the Haga district, the oldest suburb of the town. Lining the pedestrian streets of Haga, in its characteristic closely-packed wooden buildings, were boutiques, antique & second hand shops, book stores and – of course – cafés. Every chance we could get, we would escape to one of the cafés along the main thoroughfare of Nygata and enjoy a breakfast of warm cardamom spiced pastries studded with giant nibs of sugar – what the Swedes call pärlsocker or sugar pearls.

Scandinavian baking wouldn’t be the same without ground cardamom. It is even more popular than cinnamon. Tradition has it that the Vikings brought cardamom back from their raids on Constantinople and thus established trade routes east to supply them with this precious cargo. The ground spice is made from the seeds of the green cardamom pods and if you want the freshest flavor from this spice, it is best to grind it yourself as it does not keep long once ground.

I loved our time in Göteborg and my memories of Haga will always be entwined with that heavenly smell of rich pastry and cardamom.

pear_cardamom_bars

Pear Cardamom Crumble Bars
This, I must admit, is not a Scandinavian recipe, but since I love the combination of pears and cardamom, I have adapted a standard recipe for fruit filled bars with these flavors.

  • 1-1/4 lb. ripe pears, approximately 6 small to medium-sized (such as Rocha or Anjou pears)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold (unsalted) butter, 2 sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and dust with flour a 9×13 baking pan. Peel and core pears, cutting into quarters and slicing each quarter into 4 thin slices. Set these aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars. Add the baking powder, flour, salt and cardamom. Cut small pieces of cold butter into the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter, a fork, or hands to incorporate the butter into the mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Beat the egg and mix this and the extracts into the crumble.

Taking about 3/4 of your dough mixture, press this firmly in your prepared pan to make the base. Then layer the pears over the top of the base. Scatter the remaining 1/4 of the crumb mixture over the top of the fruit. Do not press down.

Bake the bars for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the pears around the edges are just a bit bubbly. Completely cool the bars in the pan (best refrigerated overnight) before cutting. Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container if you have any left over.

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