last year, talking with a few girlfriends about books we were reading, a friend said she was reading The Year of Living Danishly. she had just started it but said that so far it was funny and interesting and explained that the part she was in was talking about a Danish word: hygge. she said it was something about being warm & cozy, and we all laughed about how to pronounce the word (“hue-guh” not “hoo-gah”).
sounding like an interesting, light-hearted read, i put the book on my to-read list, but i was the most intrigued about that word: hygge. warm? cozy? sold! Google, of course, gave me lots of great places to learn more, which i did lightly, but it wasn’t until the end of the year that i really came back to it.
each year, i choose a word to focus on for the year. i first heard about “one word” in 2012, and i think of it in a few ways: sometimes as a word that i need to focus on…something to choose. other times the word is more of a lens…something that helps me as i’m making decisions. without much expectation, i chose “breathe” for 2013, and lo & behold, it truly was a word that helped guide that year; so i kept at it.
usually a word would surface as the year began, but at the end of last year, “hygge” popped back into my mind. i felt like it would be a good word for 2018, so i started to dig into it more seriously. without a direct English translation, hygge can maybe most closely be described as a feeling, but as i continue to learn, it seems more like a mindfulness or an intentionality to me. i love how alex at hyggehouse put it:
…whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cosy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.
and with that: i think hygge is basically my life word…but starting with a year is probably a good idea ;o) hygge effectively sums up in one word what i’ve been using many words to try to describe for the past few years; what i have been working towards & how i want to continue to grow.
wired for productivity & feeling a constant need to be a better multi-tasker, i truly long to slow down & be more intentional. getting married, becoming a parent, and moving into our house are all things that have made continuing to choose this new lifestyle even more meaningful, but – even after a few years of work – daaaang do i have a long way to go! i know i’m doing a lot of re-programming after so many years of feeling like i’ve needed to work harder, do more, and excel. i remind myself often that Rome wasn’t built in a day & that small steps matter.
by the grace of God, i’m getting there, and i feel like learning more about hygge is already another helpful lens for me. it’s helped me take a step back & think less about what i need to do or not do and more about how i do things. how i hope others receive time with me or time with us at our house.
then it hit me, these past few days, that it also includes how i go about doing even the most normal things & the simple ways i can enjoy them – or enjoy them more. lighting a candle while i work. [finds & lights candle; immediately feels more cozy.] a cup of tea. gardening. weekend brunch. a vase of pretty blooms. typing those things out makes them sound so simple, and in general they are, but i know that the profundity of hygge is the balance it strikes between how we do what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for (ourselves included). and that sounds like a very worthwhile life – er, year – pursuit.
it could just be me, soaking up the cozy, slow nature of these snowy winter minnesota days, but i think winter may draw out the hygge-ness in many of us. bundling up to head out, then the rush of warmth as you enter a cozy house and gather around fireplaces and tables with friends and family. slow meals. pajama-jamy days with only playing & naps & movies under soft blankets on the agenda. whatever it is for you, i hope you find those simple moments more readily and that they leave their joyful, peace-breathing mark on your heart each time.
one thing that brings me great joy & slows me down is cooking & baking for others. the very nature of cooking & baking evoke hygge for me (maybe not so much weeknight cooking hygge-ness, yet. i love it but, i’m working on more cozy/calm, less post-work hustle/multi-tasking. maybe lighting a candle will help? haha!), and the recipe below was really fun to make and has been a gift to enjoy together this weekend.
:: cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce ::
adapted slightly from nigel slater, ripe
nigel writes, in the head note for the recipe, “This is the most gorgeous fudge sauce imaginable, tasting like melted, creamy vanilla toffee. The pear cake isn’t bad either.” our family would like to enthusiastically second, third, and fourth his sentiments. that sauce…
i needed to make a few ingredient substitutions:
– i commonly sub light brown sugar for light muscovado sugar and did so here.
– i used granulated sugar in place of golden baker’s sugar. google pointed me in that direction, letting me know that golden baker’s sugar can be found – it’s just rather expensive.
– i didn’t have self-rising flour but found a number of recipes that all lead me to the same result: it’s super simple to make. to each cup of flour, add 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. whisk well & use as directed in recipe.
14 tablespoons (200g) butter, softened
1 cup (200g) golden baker’s sugar [sub: regular granulated sugar]
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups (200g) self-rising flour [if making your own: 1½ cups flour + 2¼ teaspoons baking powder + ⅜ teaspoon salt]
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ pounds (750g) ripe pears
3 tablespoons (40g) butter
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
heaping ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
vanilla fudge sauce
scant ½ cup (100g) light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
⅓ cup (100g) maple syrup or golden syrup [i used maple syrup]
3½ tablespoons (50g) butter
⅔ cup (150ml) heavy cream
a couple drops of vanilla extract
- preheat oven to 325º.
- lightly butter a 9½ inch springform cake pan (ours is 9 inches and was fine. i don’t see why an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan wouldn’t work).
- peel, halve, and core the pears. dice into ¾ inch cubes. to prevent pears from browning, you can put them in a bowl of water mixed with the juice from the half lemon.
- melt butter and muscovado/brown sugar in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. add pears (drain, if in lemon water) and cinnamon to the pan, cooking until they are tender and the sauce coats the pears; about 5 minutes. take pan off the heat to cool.
- in a medium bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and golden baker’s/granulated sugar until light and creamy.
- alternating (so that the mixture doesn’t curdle), add eggs and half of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition.
- using a spatula, fold in the remaining flour and the baking powder, followed by the cooked pears and their syrup.
- pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden. a metal skewer inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean when it’s done. in a pan smaller than 9½ inches, the cake will take longer.
* i checked the cake every 3 minutes and ended up needing and additional 6 minutes for a 9 inch springform pan.
vanilla fudge sauce
- stir together sugar, syrup, and butter in a small sauce pan.
- bring mixture to a boil for about a minute, stirring only enough to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
- stir in the cream, remove from heat.
- add the vanilla, stir well, and leave to cool. sauce will thicken as it cools.
serve slices of cake topped with a spoonful of sauce. slater also recommends ice cream which would be decadent, but even with “just” the sauce, it’s a warm, cozy, luxurious treat.
yield: one 9½ inch cake; approximately 1 cup of sauce; 8-10 servings