As the weekend approaches and excitement brews, so do we as we begin to plan our weekend. Plans to zip to visit a friend, take the yoga class, sort out the house, or schedule in a nap. Even if it is the laziest of times, we sometimes forget that lazy is often ironically scheduled in. For me, the summer weekends mean one thing: the cottage.
In the Czech Republic, cottages are famously popular and Czechs make them the highest country per capita for ownership in Europe. It has been long said that cottages are a byproduct of the Communist era when travel was unspeakably difficult and painfully restricted. The weekend country house was the solution to get out of the city and enjoy time with family and friends (and of course our favorite, mushroom pick). During the mid-20th century, dams were built to create vast lakes for swimming and fishing, too, thus making cottage life a whole new alternative world – and an animated one at that.
Europeans are notably and noticeably more active than their American cousins. Hiking, cycling, skiing, and ever “-ing” you could think of, they’re doing. Americans? Not so much. In fact, the prognosis for general American idleness looks pretty dim, too, I think. For example, it is common here to see a young couples in their late teens and early 20s on a date hiking in the mountains or in-line skating together in the park. Back in America I think it would be more of a mall-turned-movie activity then maybe some grub at an nondescript, big-box restaurant where they drop the check when you’re still finishing your meal. “I’ll take it when you’re ready!” Hmm. Which date would you rather be on?
Yet even long before the cottage life and the merry compulsion of seeking out Mother Nature, there was always an awareness of well-being through physical activity in Europe. The Victorians headed to the mountains for factory-free air, so clean that you could almost drink it, and relaxation from the city bustle and her cable car hum. Not much has changed since then either. To this day your doctor can render you to a mountain resort for an insurance-paid treatment as a prescription or a rest cure. I should know. I was offered one.
Today, cottages are popular than ever. Families reunite, neighbors greet each other and gossip a bit (if you’re lucky), and you’re given carte blanche to eat as many things as possible. Now of course you can’t show up empty-handed at the cottage – that would be an abominable faux-pas. For this weekend I headed to the kitchen to bake a Scandinavian coffee cake that we all could enjoy over early-morning coffees on the lake. They are the type of mornings when you wake and walk out and run your bare feet in the cool, cottage fern-like grass and look out to watch the old men on their tired, sunbathed boats, outsmarting the morning fish. Hats and fishing poles dappling the waking water that ripples toward you like a rhythm on nature’s shore.
For me it’s time to get packing up and on the southbound roads but before I do, I wish you a very pleasant, full weekend. Take some time and do some activities with someone you love. Weekends are made for two (or more), anyway.
..and make sure you start your weekend mornings off right. With a coffee and a cake. Try this Danish coffee cake with toasted coconut and rum – can you resist?
- 15 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 3⁄4 cups AP flour
- 1 3⁄4 cups plus 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1 tbsp rum
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp rum extract
- 1 1⁄2 cups shredded coconut
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C), set your baking rack in the middle, and butter and flour dust a 10 inch baking pan; set aside.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, place 1 3/4 milk + 6 tbsp of butter. Melt butter within the milk; set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl - either by hand or in a stand-up mixer - beat the sugar and eggs until pale yellow in color (appx 5 minutes) and makes ribbons. Add the flour, baking powder, and extracts. Combine. Once the milk/butter is cool, begin to slowly add and beat it. Note: if your milk is too hot you will scramble your eggs in the batter. Once the batter is created, add to the pan, tap a few times to release any air bubbles, and run a knife around the pan's parameter. Place in oven for 35-40 mins or until the toothpick comes out clean.
- While your cake is baking, place rum, milk the remaining 9 tbsp butter, coconut, and brown sugar in a sauce pan. Heat until the sugar crystals dissolve, moving on and off the heat source to not burn your coconut. Stir frequently, set aside.
- Once the cake is five minutes out from finishing it's bake, pull the cake out, add the coconut, and return to oven to brown the coconut.
- Remove from heat to cool and serve with a hot cup of coffee or tea.