Morgan Larsson from Sweden, former Pastry Chef at the Russian Tearoom, returns the favor with a luscious dessert – a Swedish Princess Cake fit for a Tsar.
The Russian Tea Room evokes images of lavish imperial days with its grand emerald green, red, and gold interior. Occupying four floors in a brownstone on 57th Street, the restaurant has for the past eighty years added splendor and beauty to the Big Apple. First opened in 1926 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet as a place for Russian expats to gather by the samovar, the Russian Tea Room has remained an important New York landmark. Here one could rub elbows with elegant émigrés like Stravinsky and Balanchine, and the posh interior also acted as a backdrop in famous films like “Tootsie”, “Manhattan” and “The Turning Point”. If you dined here in the late 1970’s, the Material Girl herself (aka Madonna) probably took care of your coat in the coat check. In spite of the Russian Tea Room’s ups-and-downs – it hasn’t received stellar reviews since it re-opened in 2006 – the place still reeks of class. We're not the New York Times but our own anonymous visit not only offered superb food but the meticulous attentive service you'd expect from one of New York's true landmark restaurants.
“It’s a treat to come here and work,” says Pastry Chef Morgan Larsson, “because it’s always festive. Today people expect a different kind of cuisine - more modern - and that’s not what we’re about. The food here is still old-fashioned and heavy; that’s simply the way it is. I don’t know if you can really do much about that.”
This is Larsson’s second turn at The Russian Tea Room. He was here some years ago, and has also worked as Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World and Aquavit. Not a bad résumé. It all began in the small city of Sölvesborg in southern Sweden, where Larsson’s father had a bakery. Baking, he says, is in his blood.
“I had to help out before school and after school. At first it wasn’t much fun, but it grew on me and now it’s a passion. I love my job!”
In 1989 Larsson left Sweden for Los Angeles and eventually settled with his wife in New York—a place he considers paramount when it comes to getting ideas for whipping up tasty treats.
“Just walking down the streets here gives me inspiration. I also like to go out and eat and try different things – New York’s perfect for that.”
But it is a traditional Swedish cake – the Princess cake – that Larsson offers Nordic Reach. This beloved cake, a beautiful creation covered in green marzipan and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, makes most Swedes sigh with blissful memories. Why does Larsson think it’s so popular?
“I think it’s a reminder of childhood birthday parties, of our childhood in Sweden in general. And of course, it’s just very good! I used the recipe to make a version of it for a wedding cake just the other week – only I used pink marzipan instead.”
Pastry making is first and foremost a French specialty, explains Larsson. He, too, learned from the French, by studying at the acclaimed Valrhona École du Grand Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage. There’s one advantage Swedes and Danes have over the French, however, and that’s the knack for making Danish pastries.
“It’s an old tradition we have,” Larsson explains. “And we’re the best when it comes to rolling out puff pastry - nobody can beat us on that!”
Making Danish pastries requires patience and subtlety as it involves rolling, buttering, folding and chilling the dough a number of times in order to create the flaky, buttery pastry. Larsson has also created some Blue Cheese Danishes for us.
“We serve Cheese Danishes for brunch at the Russian Tea Room, and they’re perfect for having in the morning. This cheese filling works particularly well.”
Fresh Cheese Danishes and a Princess Cake - now how’s that for an Imperial treat?
Text: Eva Stenskär
Photography: Nikolaj Alsterdal
For more info, see www.russiantearoomnyc.com
Pastry chef Morgan Larsson has moved on (since our interview and cooking session) to Hotel Essex House along posh Central Park South, New York. Here are his recipes, based on Danish marzipan, nougat, and cheeses.
1) Seared foie gras, grilled peaches, and Anthon Berg nougat
3oz. piece foie gras
2oz. piece peach (halved)
chocolate chip brioche
peach gastrique (recipe follows)
1oz. Anthon Berg nougat
1T foie gras (melted fat from pan)
sear foie gras with butter in a hot pan on one side. When browned, turn and let sit in warm oven for 1-2 minutes to cook through. Grill peach on hot grill, turn and let cook slowly through.
One rectangular piece of chocolate brioche, should be warmed and toasted in a warm pan, add 1/2 cup of peach gastrique, when hot whisk in 1oz. piece of Anthon Berg nougat to emulsify, and 1T foie gras (melted fat from pan) to finish, season.
Peach Gastrique sauce:
2 oz/50g dried peaches
3oz/75g champagne vinegar
1 cup/200g water
1 1/4 cup/250g sugar
1 tblsp/5g ginger smashed
1T vanilla infused simple syrup
1T guajillo powder
2-3 tbsp/15g each of peach schnapps and Grand Marnier
In a medium hot pan add sugar until golden brown, when color is achieved add vinegar. When all sugar has been melted, add the rest of the ingredients. When liquid come to a boil, turn down heat to low and let simmer 15-20 minutes. Strain and cool.
2) Princess cake
1-1/8 cups/250 grams sugar
1-3/4 cups/200 grams flour
7/8 cup/80 grams almond flour
Whisk eggs and sugar to volume in a warm water bath. Fold in sifted flour & almond flour.
Bake in (2) 10” cake rings at 375 Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Cool on racks, slice in 3
Strawberry, Raspberry Jam
8 oz/250 grams fresh strawberries
8 oz/250 grams fresh raspberries
1-1/8 cups/250 grams sugar
1 oz/25 grams pectin
Quarter the strawberries and cut raspberries in half. Warm in stainless steel pot.
Mix sugar and pectin together, add to berries when warm. Cook to a boil.
Chill, puree and strain trough a chinois
2 cups/500 grams half & half (milk and cream)
6 egg yolks
½ cup/100 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/8 cup/10 grams corn starch
1 gelatin sheet
Cook cream & milk with the vanilla bean
Mix the sugar with cornstarch, add to egg yolks. In the meantime soak the gelatin leaf in cold water. When soft, squeeze excess water and add to hot liquid. Temper the boiling liquid into the egg mixture. In three steps put back on stove and just bring to a boil stirring vigorously.
Cool and strain.
1.5 lbs/700 grams Anthon Berg’s 67% marzipan 67%
5-1/4 cups/600 grams powdered sugar
7/8 cup/100 grams liquid glyucosekos
Green food coloring
Mix everything together, then add color.
P.S. Must incorporate to smooth otherwise too oily.
Build the cake: Slice the cooled genoise horizontally into 3 equal sections. Place one genoise layer onto a cake plate, and spread the jam onto the top surface of the genoise. Cover the jam layer with another slice of genoise. Next, spread the pastry cream, followed by a layer of whipped cream. Cover the cream layer with the remaining slice of genoise. Very thinly spread whipped cream over the entire cake, and finally drape the rolled-out marzipan over the whipped cream. Cut off the excess marzipan around the bottom, add decorative ribbons or flowers, and top with powdered sugar.
3) Petit Clafoutis. (classic cherry pie)
300 grams flour
200 grams Lurpak butter
100 grams sugar
1 small egg
Mix flour, room temperature butter, sugar together. When smooth , add egg and incorporate, cool and mold in a pie ring for large or individual pastry ring for small.
Clafoutis mixture with Anthon Berg’s 60 % marzipan
1000 grams heavy cream
480 grams eggs
240 grams egg yolks
400 grams sugar
280 grams Anthon Bergs 60% marzipan
40 grams flour
Mix almond pastry sugar together, add yolks and whole eggs. Make smooth, gradually add heavy cream and finally flour. Strain and let rest overnight.
Marzipan ice cream.
440 grams Anthon Berg’s 67% marzipan
1200 grams milk
100 grams heavy cream
60 grams milk powder
200 grams sugar
8 grams stabilizer
40 grams invert sugar
60 grams dark rum
Heat milk and cream with milk powder. Mix sugar and stabilizer, add to liquid, add invert sugar, pasteurize at 86 C. Add almond paste to dissolve, let rest in fridge for at least 12 hours. Whisk and add the rum. Spin in an ice cream machine. Delicious.
4) Pain D’amande (almond brioche bread)
500 grams flour
40 grams sugar
15 grams salt
25 grams fresh yeast
375 grams butter
Anthon Berg’s 60% marzipan
Dissolve the yeast with 2 eggs at lukewarm temperature. Combine the dry ingerdients, add yeast ad all eggs. Mix together to stiff. Cube your butter and keep cold, add little by little until all the butter is incorporated. Let rest overnight.
Scale out 2 oz. dough. Cut a thin slice of Anton Berg’s marzipan roll into a small loaf. Proof until double in volume. Egg wash and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 400 until golden. Approx 12 minutes. Sift powder sugar on top and serve.
Chocolate Brioche used for seared foie gras
Melt 100 grams high quality chocolate 66% in a double boiler when melted, add 800 grams. Brioche dough. Cover with plastic let sit in room temp until double the size. Homogenize the dough with a maryse = dough hook. Shape and put in a bread mold. Let rise and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
5) Snickers Macaroons
80 grams cocoa powder
625 grams powder sugar
375 grams Anthon Bergs marzipan 67%
200 grams egg whites
450 grams sugar>
150 grams water>cook with sugar to 245 F (118 Celsius)
190 grams egg whites
Mix almond paste, powder sugar, and cocoa powder. Egg white to a smooth paste. Cook water and sugar to 118 celsius. Use a thermometer. Add to egg white already whipped slightly to an Italian meringue.
Fold meringue and the smooth paste together. Pipe small rounds on a sheet pan. Let sit in kitchen till a skin forms on top of the macaroons. Bake at320 Farh. For 8-10 minutes.
Peanut butter caramel filling
530 grams sugar
80 grams glykos
150 grams water-cook to 266 F (130 Celsius)
540 grams heavy cream
1 tsp/3 grams salt
690 grams peanut butter
30 grams Frangelico Liqeuer
Cook sugar glucose and water to 260 degrees F. Use a thermometer, add heavy cream and salt, be very careful. Whisk to smooth. Incorporate peanut butter and Frangelico Liqeuer
Traditional Danish with a bite
The Danish Rosenburg blue cheese mix gives this traditional Danish an interesting bite—an addition of taste, which makes it more of a grown up experience when compared to the otherwise sweet pastry.
2.5 lbs/1,125 grams flour
3.5 oz./100 grams sugar
1 3/4 oz./75 grams yeast
2 cups/450 ml icecold water
2 tbsp/10 grams salt
Work the dough, then chill it to ice cold
Flatten 45 oz./1,250 grams of Lurpak Danish butter
Roll out the dough
Put the flattened butter on top and envelop fold the dough (three-folds)
Chill the dough, let rest under refrigeration
Repeat three times, every time with three folds to create nine layers in all.
Remember to keep the dough chilled at all times, and rest in-between folds.
Flatten the dough one last time and cut into equal squares
Put cheese filling in the center
Finally fold up from each corner, “ear,” of the square and flattened dough, to create a new square with the corners folded into the center.
Let sit for 30 minutes
Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until brown.
3lb cream cheese
8 oz fromage blanc
8 oz. Rosenburg blue cheese
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
Soften cream cheese in a kitchen aid,
Add Fromage blanc and Rosenburg cheese
Whisk egg whites and sugar hard and fold into cheese mix like into a mousse.
Powdered sugar, egg whites and lemon juice
Other articles on Food /
Immigrant Chefs in Manhattan
Chef Sheri Kimball’s Lingonberry pizza
Chef Sohlberg’s Baked cod
Chef Andersson’s Floating Cheesecake
Chef Johansson’s Lingonberry soufflé
Scandinavian Thanksgiving in New England
The American Thanksgiving