There was a point when Magnus Nilsson felt despondent about cooking and considered leaving professional kitchens for good, but the culinary heritage and produce of his homeland reignited his passion.
In his latest book, The Nordic Baking Book – a follow up to The Nordic Cook Book – the head chef of the two-Michelin-starred Fäviken in Sweden pays homage to the region with a comprehensive and thoughtful account of its rich baking heritage, as well as the contemporary twists on classics currently being created.
The 450 recipes set out in the almost 600-page book are not of Nilsson’s devising, but have been collected and compiled during his extensive travels through Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
As he travelled, Nilsson visited bakeries as well as speaking to food experts, professional bakers, historians and home cooks. As a result, this is not just a book of variations on kringles and cinnamon buns – although his “almost rant” on the scourge of sourdough variations should not be missed.
Nilsson’s determination to create a comprehensive guide is seen in the number of recipes and variations he includes – eight types of rusks and 18 of porridge – going back to historic recipes such as dried bread baked with blood, which was used as a preservation technique.
What Nilsson has created is a fascinating journey through the region’s baking heritage, interspersed with his own photography, which serves to set the scene of how the cuisine developed. The book also provides the reader with fascinating insights, including a slightly ethereal image of a thermally active area south of Lake Mývatn in Iceland, where each family has a hole in the ground in which they bake.
In creating both The Nordic Baking Book and The Nordic Cook Book Nilsson set out to counter the simplified view of Nordic cuisine as “gravlax, herrings and meatballs”. He has created a book essential for any chef who wants to incorporate ideas and influences from the region into their work in a knowledgeable way.
The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon, £29.95)