Deeply Danish downtime

Nadine Levy Redzepi is married to the world’s best chef. But she’s the family cook – with a brilliant new book of her own (and a thing for serious puds.

NYC cheesecake

I’ve had a weakness for cheesecake since my first visit to America as a little girl. Over time, I’ve made my recipe a bit lighter, cutting the cream cheese with mascarpone and yoghurt. The first time my husband René and I went to New York we visited a diner for cheesecake, and he said mine was better!

 

SERVES 8

 

CRUST

90g digestive biscuits

40g sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

55g salted butter, melted

 

FILLING

340g cream cheese, at room temperature

120g plain Greek yoghurt

110ml mascarpone, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

15g salted butter, melted

½ vanilla pod

⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt

 

1 Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2.

2 Make the crust: crumble the biscuits into a medium bowl. Use a pestle or the bottom of a heavy bottle to crush them into fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir until very well combined. (Or grind the crumbled biscuits and mix them with the sugar and butter in a food processor, if you prefer.) Press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of a 23cm springform tin. Bake until the crust looks a little darker and smells sweet and toasty, 10 to 12 minutes.

3 While the crust bakes, make the filling. Combine the cream cheese with the yoghurt and mascarpone in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. One at a time, beat in the eggs, followed by the melted butter. With a small, sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lengthwise and use the tip of the knife to scrape the seeds into the bowl, saving the pod for another use. Add the salt and mix just until smooth. Do not overbeat the filling. (Tip: for a smooth filling, the cream cheese and mascarpone must be at room temperature; set them on the work surface for an hour or two before you start cooking.)

4 Pour the filling on to the hot crust and smooth the top. Tap the tin on the work surface a few times to release any air bubbles in the filling. Bake until the filling is nearly set in the centre, about 25 minutes. Move the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely. The filling will continue to cook even after you take it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem completely set. You don’t want to let it get brown.

5 When the cheesecake has cooled, cover the tin with clingfilm and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. To serve, run a sharp knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cheesecake and then remove the sides. Cut the cake into wedges with a thin, sharp knife. Dip the blade of your knife in cold water and wipe it clean between cuts to keep the slices neat.

Frozen avocado cake

This is akin to an ice cream cake and so refreshing. Adding sweetened condensed milk to the crust gives it a sugar-like texture that reminds me of a Twix bar (a childhood weakness I rarely get to indulge since marrying a chef!). That same sweetness accentuates the buttery quality of ripe avocados. Chill it thoroughly, then let the cake sit at room temperature for a bit before you slice it.

 

SERVES 12-14

 

softened butter for the tin

180g Digestive biscuits

2 x 400g tins of condensed milk

3 Hass avocados

450g cream cheese, at room temperature

pinch fine sea salt

2 unwaxed lemons

2 limes

 

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) gas 4. Lightly butter the inside of a 23cm round springform tin.

2 Make the crust: Crumble the biscuits into a medium bowl. Use a pestle or the bottom of a heavy bottle to crush them into fine crumbs. Add 75ml of the condensed milk and stir until very well combined. Press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the tin. Bake until the crust looks a little darker and smells sweet and toasty, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool the crust in the tin on a wire rack. (Tip: you can grind the crumbled biscuits and mix them with the sugar and condensed milk in a food processor if you prefer).

3 One at a time, cut an avocado in half lengthwise. Twist the halves to separate them. Hold the half with the pit in one hand. Holding the knife in your other hand, rap the knife blade into the pit to lodge it there. Twist the knife to loosen and remove the pit. Use a large spoon to scoop the avocado flesh onto a chopping board, discarding the skins. Coarsely chop the avocados.

4 Add the chopped avocados, cream cheese, remaining condensed milk and salt to a food processor. Grate the zest of 1 lemon and set aside. Squeeze the zested lemon and the limes (you should have about 75ml lemon and lime), reserving the remaining lemon for garnish. Add the juice to the avocados and process the mixture until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. (Note: you can combine the filling in a blender instead but you may need to work in batches).

5 Spread the filling on the cooled crust and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest. Cover the tin and freeze until the filling is firm, at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

6 Let the frozen cake stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing. Dipping a thin knife into hot water between each cut, slice the cake into wedges and serve, topping each serving with freshly grated lemon zest.

Do it all cake

This may be the most valuable recipe in my new book, because once you are comfortable making it, it is the gateway to a host of rather impressive desserts that use this simple batter as a foundation. It’s so easy to dress up for any occasion by adding fruits and berries to the batter or adding a topping, or even just baking it in a different tin. It’s based on a recipe given to me by the super-talented chef Rosio Sanchez (who worked in the kitchen at Noma and now has her own place in Copenhagen). I stripped it down to the bare essentials and since it uses so few ingredients, make sure they are the best quality you can find. Using a vanilla pod rather than extract, for example, does make a difference here.

 

MAKES 1 LOAF CAKE

 

SERVES 8-10

245g plain flour, plus more for dusting

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine sea salt

110g salted butter, at room temperature

300g sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

1 vanilla pod

2 large eggs, at room temperature

175ml double cream

¼ tsp flaky sea salt

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) Gas 4. Lightly butter a 23cm × 12cm loaf tin. Line the bottom with baking paper.

2 Whisk the flour, the baking powder and the sea salt in a medium bowl. Put the butter and sugar in another medium bowl. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla pod lengthwise then scrape the seeds into the bowl, saving the pod for another use. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer on high speed until it is pale, 4 to 5 minutes. (Tip: don’t shortchange this step. Because of the high proportion of sugar to butter, this will take some time to change colour and texture.)

3 Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the cream, and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, just until smooth.

4 Spread the batter evenly in the prepared tin and sprinkle the top with the flaky sea salt.

5 Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean and the top has a nice golden colour, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

6 Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the paper, and turn the cake right side up to cool completely.

Brownies with flaky salt and white chocolate chunks

The world is divided between those who like their brownies cakey and those who like them chewy. Mine are in the latter camp, dense and chocolatey, and while you can eat them as soon as they are made, they are even better when refrigerated overnight, which makes them extra fudgy. I usually use Valrhona Caraibe chocolate, which is 66 per cent cacao but feel free to use another brand that you like, ideally one with a cacao content of 60 to 70 per cent rather than the super-bittersweet kind. White chocolate chips will work here, but I prefer the irregular appearance you get when you chop a bar into bits.

 

MAKES 12-15 BROWNIES

 

200g dark chocolate (minimum 60 per cent cacao, see above)

110g salted butter

200g sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 vanilla pod 1

75g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine sea salt

100g white chocolate

¼ – ½ tsp flaky sea salt

 

1 Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) gas 4. Cut a 23cm × 40.5cm strip of baking paper and use it to line the bottom and two sides of a 23cm square tin, letting the excess paper hang over the ends. (Tip: don’t trim the paper to fit the bottom of the tin. You will need the overhang to lift the brownies out of the tin once they cool).

2 Bring about 2.5cm depth of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Turn the heat to low so the water is barely simmering. Place a glass or metal bowl over the pan. (Note: the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the simmering water. If the chocolate gets too hot, it can become grainy.

3 Coarsely chop the chocolate and put it in the bowl. As it starts to melt, cut the butter into chunks and add them to the bowl. Let them melt together, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool for about 5 minutes. (Note: if the chocolate mixture is too hot, it will scramble the beaten eggs in the next step).

4 Combine the sugar and eggs in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until pale and light in texture, about 2 minutes. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the egg mixture, saving the pod for another use.

5 Add the chocolate mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder and sea salt onto the chocolate mixture and mix by hand just until combined. Coarsely chop the white chocolate into small bits and fold them into the batter. (Tip: you don’t want to overmix the batter after adding the dry ingredients or the brownies will be tough; mix just until it is a uniform dark brown).

6 Spread the batter in the prepared tin. Sprinkle with flaky salt to taste. Bake the brownies until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t overbake! Place the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

7 Run a knife around the inside of the tin and lift up on the paper flaps to remove the brownie from the tin in one piece. Let the brownies cool completely before cutting into bars, and store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Walnut squares

René is not particularly big on sweets, but he is obsessed with nuts, especially walnuts, so I knew they were the key to making a cake he would love. This is moist, dense and has great texture. I made it for the editors of Bon Appetit magazine when they came to our house for a shoot, and they ended up liking it so much they named it one of their recipes of the year. It’s filling, so serve it in small pieces. It also keeps very well.

SERVES 12

 

FOR THE TIN

a little softened salted butter

3 tablespoons sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

 

FOR THE CAKE

800g walnut halves and pieces

105g plain flour

135g ground almonds

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

225g salted butter, at room temperature

150g sugar (as above), plus 3 tablespoons for the top

1 vanilla pod

6 large eggs, at room temperature

180ml double cream

120ml plain yoghurt, preferably whole milk or low-fat (not fat-free)

TO SERVE

480ml double cream

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160 fan/gas 4. Lightly butter a 23cm x 33cm baking tin. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of sugar in the bottom of the tin.

2 Pulse 225g of the walnuts in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer the chopped walnuts to a bowl and set aside.

3 Add the remaining 575g walnuts to the food processor with the flour. Working in two batches if necessary, process until the mixture is very finely chopped and powdery. Add the ground almonds and salt and pulse to combine. Set the walnut flour mixture aside. Adding the plain flour to the walnuts keeps the nuts from becoming an oily paste.

4 Put the butter and granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla pod lengthwise, then scrape the seeds into the bowl, saving the pod for another use. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer set on high speed until it is light in colour and texture, about 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition.

5 Reduce the mixer speed to low. Mix in about one-third of the walnut flour mixture, followed by the double cream, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in another third of the walnut flour mixture, followed by the yoghurt. Mix in the remaining walnut flour mixture and beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, just until smooth. Using the spatula, gently fold in the chopped walnuts. Do not overmix.

6 Spread the batter evenly in the tin and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick or fork comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Set the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

7 When ready to serve, whip the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Cut the cake into squares and serve with the whipped cream.

Danish dream cake

Every Danish kid grows up eating dream cake as an after-school treat and you will find them at just about any bakery. I thought it would be fun to make a version for adults. The super-sweet, sticky coconut topping is the best part and it keeps the cake very moist. I’ve made this in a 23cm square tin, but you could make individual dream cakes by baking in muffin tins and reducing the cooking time by 5 minutes.

SERVES 12

 

CAKE LAYER

245g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

110g salted butter, at room temperature (plus extra for the tin)

300g sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

1 vanilla pod

2 large eggs, at room temperature

175ml double cream

 

TOPPING

200g salted butter

100ml whole milk

200g granulated sugar (as above)

300g light brown sugar

200g desiccated coconut flakes (not the sweetened kind, the cake is sweet enough)

1 Make the cake layer: preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Lightly butter a 23cm square cake tin.

2 Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Put the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. With the tip of a small knife, split the vanilla pod lengthwise, then scrape the seeds into the bowl, saving the pod for another use. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer on high speed until it is pale, 3 to 4 minutes.

3 Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the cream, and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, just until smooth.

4 Spread the batter evenly in the tin. Bake just until the top is browned and the centre feels almost, but not quite, set when pressed with a fingertip, about 30 minutes.

5 While the cake bakes, make the topping: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the milk and heat until it is simmering. Stir in the granulated sugar and light brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring often. Stir in the coconut. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes.

6 Remove the cake from the oven and immediately poke holes all over the surface with a wooden skewer. Pour the topping evenly over the cake, using the back of a spoon to spread it into the corners. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the topping is set and has turned a shade or two darker, about 15 minutes. Place the tin on a wire rack and let the cake cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Brandied plum cake

Using the same basic batter as my Do-It-All Cake, this dense, moist dessert with fresh and dried plums and a crumble topping is a cross between a cake and a pudding. It’s the kind of thing I serve when I know we will be sitting around the table for some time after the main course, talking, drinking wine, maybe having a little cheese. After a while, I bring this out. You could make it with all fresh plums or only prunes, but I think the combination of chewy and soft fruit is what makes it interesting.

 

SERVES 8-10

 

2 large plums

170g stoned prunes

240ml brandy or Armagnac, or as needed

 

CRUMBLE

140g plain flour

65g sugar (I use organic granulated cane sugar)

pinch fine sea salt

75g salted butter, at room temperature

CAKE LAYER

245g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

110g unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus extra for the tin)

300g sugar (as above)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1½ vanilla pods

175ml double cream

 

TO FINISH

30g salted butter, cold

25g sugar (as above)

1 Stone the fresh plums and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Cut the prunes in half. Combine the plums and prunes in a small bowl and cover with the brandy. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Soaking the fresh plums in liqueur gives even out-of-season fruit a flavour boost.

2 To make the crumble, whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Slice the butter and add it to the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, rub the mixture together until it is well combined and holds together when squeezed in your fist. Set aside at room temperature.

3 Make the cake layer. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Lightly butter a 23cm x 33cm tin or baking dish.

4 Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until light and fluffy. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla pods lengthwise, then scrape the seeds into the batter, saving the pods for another use. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the cream, scraping down the bowl as needed, and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the tin.

5 Strain the fruit in a sieve set over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Scatter the soaked fruits over the cake batter and use a spoon to push them down into the batter. Spread the crumble topping over the batter, leaving a few large pieces. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Dot the crumble with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar.

6 Bake until the cake is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre (avoid the fruit!) comes out with moist crumbs, 40 to 45 minutes. Set the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve it slightly warm or cooled to room temperature with a drizzle of the reserved soaking liquid. I love this when it is slightly undercooked with a very moist centre, as here, but if you prefer, bake it for about 55 minutes, or until cooked through and the crumbs on the toothpick are dry. It is super-delicious either way.

Cook and author Nadine Levy Redzepi

Today’s recipes are from Downtime: Deliciousness at Home by Nadine Levy Redzepi (@nadinelevyredzepi). Since the age of 19, Nadine has been part of the team at the world’s most famous restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, where her husband René Redzepi helms the stove. Away from the pressure and the glamour, Nadine is an inspired home cook with a love of food that began in childhood. In Downtime she brings together the simple, delicious dishes (starters, mains and desserts) that she, René and their three daughters share around the kitchen table. There is a warm introduction filled with memories of learning to cook and life lessons so far. And every enticing recipe tells a story, from old-school pork chops with garlic to the ‘seal the deal’ pasta that René made on their first date.

 

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