Pine-bark Cake

An authentic Nordic recipe that dates back thousands of years
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 “I have always wanted to make a good bark bread. The history of using pine-tree bark for this purpose in the northern regions of the Nordic countries dates back thousands of years and it is still used today, although these days it is seen more as a fibre supplement than a necessity for survival. I tried making it myself and looked up some old instructions on how to prepare it. I was surprised to learn that the part of the plant used is not in fact the bark, but the thin layer (the phloem) between the bark and the wood itself. The phloem is actually the part of the tree that transports the sugars and other organic nutrients around the tree, which explains why there is a certain amount of nutrition in it for us to use, even if we cannot break down the cellulose.

The first step is to chop down a pine tree in early spring, strip it of the bark, and then harvest the light-green phloem from the wood by scraping it off with a knife or other sharp-edged instrument. The bark is discarded, the wood is chopped up and dried into firewood and the strips of phloem are hung up to dry somewhere warm. When completely dry, the phloem is ground and sifted into a fine flour. The result will contain about 80 kcal per 100g, compared with wheat flour, which contains well over 300 kcal per 100g.

I then started experimenting with the resulting flour. It turned out to be very difficult to work with. The cream-coloured substance had the consistency of something you would put in a hamster’s cage. It smelled very nicely of fresh wood with a hint of caramel, but it tasted very, very bitter. I tried simply cooking some of it with water, imagining that it would act a little like flour and thicken, but it didn’t. The result, after 40 minutes of boiling was that the flour looked unchanged and tasted unchanged, but it had leaked a little of the colour and tannin into the water, which was now an unappetizing dark yellow. I tried adding a small proportion of this liquid to the wheat when we made our bread, but that didn’t work. When I added a lot, it reduced the total strength of the gluten and the bread did not rise properly. When we added little enough to allow it to rise, it didn’t taste of bark anymore (though it must be admitted that was an improvement in this particular case).

I finally made a sweet shortbread with it, like a traditional French sablé, and this is where it started to become interesting. It was a recipe that did not rely on yeast and gluten as a raising agent, and in which a low gluten content was even an advantage; you could almost disguise the sharpness of the wood in the mixture of delicious ingredients, such as the butter, sugar and eggs. After some tweaking I ended up with this recipe, in which the strong flavour of pine works very well with the rich and delicious qualities of the cake.

We always serve it with a simple and lightly acidic mousse or pudding made from sour cream and finish it with some kind of vegetable component, which varies over the year. In the photo to the right the pine bark cake is served as crumbs with an egg yolk preserved in sugar syrup and an ice cream made from birch sap syrup.”

-Magnus Nilsson

 

Serves: 6 (or more)

Ingredients for the Pine-bark cake

250g sugar
250g butter
1 whole egg
5 egg yolks
175g flour
55g pine-bark flour (see above)
10g baking powder

 

Ingredients for the Mousse

1 gelatine leaf
40g sugar
300g sour cream
300g double (heavy) cream

 

Method

To make the cake, mix the sugar and butter in a food processor and add the egg and egg yolks.

Add the flours and the baking powder and mix once more until completely smooth. Roll out between sheets of baking paper to a thickness of about 3mm, transfer to a baking sheet and chill.

Meanwhile, make the mousse. Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water, stir the sugar into the sour cream, then dissolve the gelatine leaf carefully into the sour cream mixture. Transfer to a bowl and stir until it reaches room temperature.

Meanwhile whip the double (heavy) cream into soft peaks, fold this into the sour cream-gelatine mixture and chill.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Remove the top layer of paper and bake until nicely coloured, leave to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into the desired shapes. Cool on a rack to allow the cakes to become firm. For the best results serve within 10 minutes of being taken out of the oven, with a spoonful of mousse on top.

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Faviken

Fäviken is an exclusive insight into one of the world's most interesting restaurants: Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden. Narrative texts, photographs and recipes explain head chef Magnus Nilsson's remarkable approach to sourcing and cooking with ingredients that are farmed and hunted in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, and how he creates a seasonal cycle of menus based on them.

Even though not everyone can visit Fäviken, Nilsson’s approach to working with ingredients in the most natural, intuitive way possible, and making the most of each season, will inspire all cooks and food-lovers to think differently about the ingredients that are available to them.

Many of the basic recipes for yoghurt, bread, porridge, vinegar, pickles and preserves are simple and straightforward enough for anyone to attempt at home, and the advice on natural preservation methods can be followed by anyone.

The text in Fäviken will provide inspiration for chefs and food-lovers all over the world and are fully accessible to the general reader.