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Seeing baking ingredients from a Swedish angle

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The Swedish furniture store Ikea has pretty much set the design standard for the modern American dorm room and first apartment. But it recently tackled a new challenge: Making baking sexy, even to non-bakers.

Ordinary stuff like flour and sugar take on sculptural qualities in a cookbook called Homemade Is Best, which the company gave away to customers buying kitchen appliances last year.

The books, which feature classic Swedish cookies and other pastries, went like the proverbial hot pannkakor — they sold out almost immediately.

"We could never guess that it would be that successful," says Christoffer Persson, the project's art director.

He chalks it up to simplicity. "And because it's simple and quick, people know straight away if they love it or don't like it at all," he says.

"We let ourselves be inspired by high fashion and Japanese minimalism," Persson says.

We've picked a few beauties to inspire you, and got Persson to dish the details.

Q: The layout for Bondkakor (Farmer Cookies) looks like the U.S. flag — any connection?

A: Nope.

Q: Mandelkubb (Almond Biscuits) — Frankenstein or ancient pyramids?

A: Well, I'll have to go with ancient pyramids, then.

Q: Radiokaka (Radio Cookies) We couldn't resist the name. What are the ingredients in the circles at the top left?

A: Vanilla sugar mixed with chocolate flour.

Q: Nationaldagsbakelser (National Day Tart) — what's that green leaf doing on a dessert?

A: It's Melissa.

Note: In English we call it lemon balm. It's in the mint family and frequently used in teas.

Persson assured us that the food is real and took about two weeks to shoot. Stylist Evelina Brattell and photographer Carl Kleiner made custom molds for some of the shapes, and also made use of some Ikea kitchenware.

Unfortunately, Ikea only printed 50,000 copies, all of which are gone. We can't even find it on eBay. But there is hope.

There will be a second edition, Persson says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.

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