Reading the several reviews that have been disappointed by this outstanding cookbook, I decided to offer another experience. They were looking for a traditional book of Swedish baking, one that presented recipes from the old country that Grandmother baked. There are additional criticisms about the presentation of this material, troubles with the weights and measures and a few confusing steps in the instructions. All these are valid criticisms. My perspective is different so I offer it without prejudice to their honest remarks.
This cookbook is not for beginners. If you want a basic approach with traditional recipes, I suggest you consider Ojakangas fine book. Even so, she has a Scandinavian approach rather than anything you might imagine as strictly Swedish.
Sweden is not an insular country. Wars aside, you cannot fully separate them from Denmark or Finland, for starters. But I must go at least one step further; you cannot separate Sweden from Europe. So Jan Hedh is for me a typical Swede - adventurous, international and brazenly pilfering from whichever lands suit his purpose.
Go to a Swedish bakery and you will find Danishes labeled Vienna; and there will be no shortage of French breads and pastries, or of Berliners either. But they all have a Swedish accent, which means aromatic spices and herbs. That is what I hoped to find here.
Somebody was telling me that she does not use butter in bread, only on it. Hey kid, no margarine in Malmo. Beautiful butter makes soft sweet breads. The first treasure in this book is Jan's discussion of rye flours and rye bread. His is not the wimpy cousin you get in cellophane at the store.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jan does not get carried away with caraway. How about raisins and honey instead? And true rye sour dough, the five-day kind that leaves them begging on their knees for more. Use this Jan Levain. You will be happy to use your own robust local yeast falling out of your ambient air into this spectacular starter. No foil packets here. Rather, freshly grated apple to charge your incubating yeasties. This is just like back home in Northern Italy, which is kind of like Sweden - high large lakes and snowy mountains and great old apple trees that bear in late fall after frost. But I went for the Aceto Balsamico Pain au Levain, mind you the vinegar has to be aged at least sixteen years, better twenty-five.
There are only a dozen bread books I use continually; and another bakers' dozen on pastry. The rest are obscure reference books that light see the light of day once a year or so. Jan has so much new material that his book has not left the kitchen since I got it. I am overjoyed to see how little overlap there is to my collection. He is especially strong on his use of flours. So if you already are pleased with your command of dough, then come here to let your horizons rise, as it were.
You will be happy to know that Jan's pastry section is rather homey. These recipes are rather small scale and not trophy class, though God knows he has won more than a few. Most all of these will not stress your technical prowess, but you will find a whole new field of competence.
You will find uses for a big bag of blue poppy seed. I have a poppy seed grinder. They are cheap and easy, just like me. You can make do with your coffee mill. But I warn you, this urge will come upon you to have a dedicated poppy seed grinder. The good news is that blue poppy seed is economical in bulk. And that 4/5th s full jar, dark with dust in your neglected cabinet - just throw it out.
One stern warning: If you have not graduated to measuring your baking ingredients on a scale, you must make that leap now. There is little point in buying this book otherwise. But you already know that since I said this book is not for the novice.
Into the heart: The sponge cake is easy, Gateau de Savoie. Nobody will believe you made it; and hardly anybody has eaten one. Real Swedish? Cardamom is the seed pod of a special lily. Here, the lily guilds the pastry. How is that for a twist? A pure Cardamom Twist!
Once you get a load of those, you will push onto more cardamom adventures. How about Swedish Buttercake with even more cardamom, but jacked with rum and rind?
This is my top bread book for the last year. Thank you for your precious time.