Posts Categorized: Finland

Tradition with a Twist

Freshly picked Rosellas :: The Scandinavian Baker

One summer visiting Finland we retired to the family’s lakeside summer house for sauna, swimming under the midnight sun and hunting for early mushrooms and signs of bears.

The Finn’s lovely aunt was preparing a seriously traditional summerhouse style lunch of cheese, dark rye bread and pea soup followed by a bowl of Vispipuuro. The Finn’s eyes lit up – this was going to be a treat. After the main fare she presented the table with bowlfuls of blindingly-magenta wobbling whipped pudding – a sight to behold.

Vispipuuro :: The Scandinavian Baker

This is a super-easy, if not a little peculiar, desert that everyone will love and can be whipped up (pun intended) in a matter of minutes.

Made on fresh lingonberries and semolina this is a summer classic for summerhouse sojourns.

Fresh or frozen lingonberries are not an ingredient I can easily put my hands on, so necessity is the mother of invention and I took my lead from the Finn’s mother and used her home-grown rosellas.

Rosellas :: The Scandinavian Baker

She adapted the recipe many years ago when they lived in the sun-baked desert in far north western Queensland and berries were impossible to come by but rosellas thrived. There was no nipping down to the local supermarket even for frozen ones back then.

Rosellas make for a fantastic variation on the original. Their flavour is sour and slightly astringent, made deeper by the essential addition of sugar – and not dissimilar to lingonberries.

Ingedients for Vispipuuro :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry 

1 litre of cold water

300 grams of fresh rosellas (seed removed)

½ a cup of golden caster sugar

1 cup of semolina

Semolina :: The Scandinavian Baker

Place the rosellas, and water in to a large saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow the fruit to soften and release its deep red colour. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid in to a heat proof jug.

While the rosellas have given up some of their flavour and colour the remaining fruit is still rich and ready for another transformation. Reserve the flesh in a smaller saucepan for later to make into super quick jam.

Return the liquid to the pan and add the sugar, stir to dissolve and add the semolina. Return to the heat and bring the mixture to the boil stirring constantly. If the semolina begins to clump a balloon whisk will help smooth it all out.

Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the semolina is cooked and no longer grainy to the touch. Stirring, always stirring.

Vispipuuro :: The Scandinavian Baker

Here comes the magic.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and using a stand or hand mixer, beat the pudding with a whisk attachment for at least 5 minutes on high speed. The dark magenta mixture will begin to transform to a paler, lighter and much larger version of itself right before your eyes. The Vispipuuro is born.

It’s best served a room temperature, so allow to cool before devouring. Milk and sugar or cream make for a great accompaniment.

Vispipuuro :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Jam

Meanwhile, don’t forget about the rosellas. These are quickly transformed into jam with the addition of half a cup of caster sugar and the juice and seeds of a small lemon. Bring this all to the boil and cook for 10 minutes on a steady heat. Once ready fish out the lemon seeds and transfer into a sterilised jar.

Dollop jam on top of the Vispipuuro for a delightful rosella infused twist on a Scandinavian summer favourite. Then pop down to the lake for a dip!

Lakeside at the Summerhouse :: The Scandinavian Baker

Hoist the Flag to Runeberg

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

I have an addiction. An addiction to holiday food. It’s no secret I adore a recipe that’s made year in year out to mark a season, holiday or celebration. I’ll scour the pre-Christmas supermarket shelves for brandy custard as soon as Halloween is over and I’ll eat a hot cross bun on January 1 and feel no shame about it.

Right across Finland in late January and early February delightful pink and white iced cakes begin to appear. Stirring the national spirit and proclaiming winter is almost over! (That last bit I made up for effect, in February in Finland winter is nowhere close to being over, that’s happens in May)

Ingredients for Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

The cakes are actually heralding a lovely national flag day on February 5 celebrating Johan Runeberg, national poet and wordsmith of the Finnish national anthem Maamme.

How lovely to have a cake that celebrates a poet! Nice work Finland.

Made from almonds, eggs, butter and jam, these small cakes make for a delicious companion to a hot cup of tea and rousing discussion of the Fatherland while you watch the sun set… at 1pm.

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker


The Pantry

175 grams of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

2 eggs

150 grams of golden caster sugar

200 grams of soft unsalted butter

90 grams of ground almonds

125 grams of fine fresh breadcrumbs (these can be made from day old bread)

75 ml of amaretto or other nut based liqueur.

Jam (raspberry or redcurrant)

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a food processor blitz the stale bread until it resembles… well, fine breadcrumbs.

In your mixer beat the eggs and sugar until ribbony, pale and thick. Pour into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer and beat the butter until creamy. Add the almond meal and bread crumbs and beat until the mixture is well combined.

Baking :: The Scandinavian Baker

Re-incorporate the eggs and sugar mixture. Once combined gently stir in the flour and baking powder.

Scrape the mixture into a smallish 12 cup muffin pan or dariole moulds if you have them (who seriously has these) and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Test with a skewer if needed. Allow the cakes to rest in their tins until cold.

Once cool, turn the cakes out of their pans and brush liberally with the amaretto. If you don’t have this, rum works brilliantly as well.

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Icing

3 tablespoons of icing sugar

1 teaspoon of water

Rose food colouring

To make the icing place the icing sugar and water and colour in a small bowl and combine. You’re after quite a stiff icing that will hold its shape and set. If it’s too wet just top up with a few extra teaspoons of icing sugar.

Pipe or dollop the icing onto the tops of the cakes. Gently place a small amount of jam in the centre of the icing and before you can sing the first rousing line of the Finnish national anthem, they’re ready.

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

The only thing left to do is raise your flag, and a glass to the great Johan Runeberg and toast Finland, poetry and the eating of cake!

O our land Finland, our land of birth,
sound, the golden word!
There’s not a valley, not a hill
not a water, a shore more precious
than this northern homeland
the dear land of our fathers!

Runeberg Torte :: The Scandinavian Baker

This recipe is based partly on one from The Food and Cooking of Finland by Anja Hill

A Christmas Years in the Making

Brandy :: The Scandinavian Baker

Everyone has a favourite home-made treat at Christmas time. For sure, the Christmas Pudding has to be up there with the best.

My Mum has beautiful recipe book that was handwritten by her mother. It’s filled with the recipes that have become our celebration meals and shaped our shared history – including Christmas Pudding.

It’s a wonderful thing to be now cooking these recipes for my family and friends.  The recipes travel with me and make up some of my cook-them-with-my-eyes-closed celebration standards.

Mixed dried fruit :: The Scandinavian Baker

The first Christmas we lived in Finland I managed to convince the Finn’s family to have Christmas twice (it wasn’t that hard to do).

The first Christmas would be on the 24th, the traditional day for the Scandinavians, and the second would be on the 25th featuring the best an Australian Christmas had to offer – including the Christmas Pudding. Our cousin excelled himself and cooked one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten – I think I may have started a tradition.

Christmas Pudding ingedients :: The Scandinavian Baker

Christmas Pudding

The pudding was unfamiliar to all, which made it even more exciting when I revealed the giant, cloth-wrapped behemoth and told them I needed a serving plate that wouldn’t crack if it was set on fire.

The Pantry

454 grams of fresh breadcrumbs (homemade, not the ultra-fine store bought kind – these will not work, put them back)

340 grams of unsalted butter, softened

113 grams of plain flour

340 grams of brown sugar

454 grams of currants

454 grams of raisins

113 grams of mixed peel

8 large eggs

1 wine glass of brandy (approx 150 mls)

Teaspoon of salt

1 pudding cloth, plus extra flour for dusting.

Clean pudding coins (for luck)

NOTE: The weights are a little strange as the original recipe is measured in Imperial weights.

This recipe works brilliantly halved if you’re not feeding a horde. Just adjust the cooking time by half plus 30 minutes.

Homemade breadcrumbs :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Breadcrumbs

To make the bread crumbs begin the day before. Take a fresh plain loaf of bread, regular store-bought sliced white actually works the best. Empty the slices into a bowl and cover with a cloth. Leave to bread to go stale overnight.

The next day crumble the bread in to rough crumbs. The crumbs don’t need to be very small, just even and no larger than your thumb nail. Rubbing the bread lightly between your hands in a circular motion gives good results. Huzzah! Crumbs.

Christmas Pudding ingredients :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Mixture

Start early in the day. (You’ll see why below)

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix until well combined. Don’t panic if the mixture begins to split, the dry ingredients will help it all reincorporate.

Add the flour and salt and mix well. Add the fruit and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

Now, this is the important part. Add the brandy at once and stir. It’s tradition with this pudding for each family member to take a turn at mixing in the brandy and make a Christmas wish for their effort – proceed.

Once combined and wishes complete you can add pudding coins if you want to. Mix again.



How to prepare your pudding cloth

In a large saucepan place a heat proof plate and cover with water. Bring to the boil.

Lay out your clean and dry pudding cloth onto a table or the kitchen bench. Sprinkle the surface with flour and using your hands evenly spread the flour across the cloth. Get ready to wrap.

Pudding batter :: The Scandinavian Baker

Working quickly scrape the pudding mixture into a mound on the pudding cloth, bring up the edges of the cloth, forming a slightly squat ball and tie the cloth firmly with cotton roasting twine. Tie it as tightly as you can. Make a loop in the end of the twine to hang the pudding from later.

Once tied, lower your pudding into the boiling water and top up to cover. The pudding will float, so don’t worry of the top isn’t entirely covered. Pop a lid on top and boil for (wait for it) 6-7 hours.

Wrapped Christmas Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

Once the time has passed turn off the stove and gently lift the pudding from its bath. Hold it over a bowl until the cooking water has stopped dripping. The pudding now needs to hang in a cool breezy location to dry out and form a skin. It can last for months, but over the years, we’ve been known to whip it up a week before Christmas and the result is just as good.

To Serve

To serve the pudding it will need to be reheated in a pot of boiling water for an hour until warmed through. Now comes the fancy part. Gently unwrap your pudding and invert onto a flame-resistant serving plate.

Gently heat half a cup of brandy right before you’re ready to present the pudding. Don’t let it boil.

Christmas Pudding on the boil :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Brave and the Bold

There a two ways to do this. One: pour the warmed brandy over the pudding and light it with a match. The pudding will ignite and dazzle your guests with a stunning blue flame for a few minutes. Once the flames and applause have died down cut into generous slices and serve with cream, custard, ice cream or more brandy.

Two: (My preferred method) pour half the warmed brandy over the pudding. Take a match and light the remaining brandy in the saucepan. Take control of the elements and pour bright living flame onto the pudding and make it the best Christmas ever! (Photos to come)

Again: Once the flames and applause have died down cut into generous slices and serve with cream, custard, ice cream or more brandy.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas – Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!

Marimekko Christmas tree :: The Scandinavian Baker

Independent Pancake

Finnish Baked Pancake :: The Scandinavian Baker

It was a week of celebrations at The Scandinavian Baker headquarters. We marked my Dad’s birthday and Finland’s 96th Independence Day – Itsenäisyyspäivä. What better way to celebrate than with brunch in the garden on a summer morning?

If you love pancakes for breakfast, but can’t be bothered with the pouring, flipping and repeating while your hungry relatives eye-ball you from the table, then this one is for you.

It’s a one pan wonder and while its form may be unfamiliar it packs a punch of heart-warming pancakey comfort food flavour that will have you adding it to your regular repertoire.

Baking ingredients :: The Scandinavian Baker

Finnish Baked Pancake – Pannukakku

The Pantry

1 and ½ cups of plain flour

1 and ½ cups of milk

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

6 large eggs

25 grams of unsalted butter

Baking ingredients :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Toppings

Golden caster sugar or Panela (see Finnish Spice Cake)

Lingonberry Jam (or your favourite variety)

Thick Greek yoghurt

Any kind of fresh or frozen berries you have to hand

Milk for baking :: The Scandinavian Baker

Combine all the ingredients, except the butter, in a large bowl and whisk together until you have a smooth and silky batter. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Place a large baking dish, at least 20x30cm, into the oven and pre heat to 220c.

Pop the butter into the pan and allow it to melt while the oven is heating.

Once the oven is hot and the butter melted, brush the golden liquid up onto the sides of the pan, coating as much as you can. Immediately pour all the mixture in and bake for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes check the progress of the pancake. It will have risen dramatically around the sides and left a firm golden centre. The result is an enticing combination of light and fluffy meets dense and moreish – one thing is for sure it’s all pancake.

Sour Cherry Jam :: The Scandinavian Baker

The pancake is best served warm from the oven, sprinkled with a light dusting of sugar and dished out in generous slabs.

The rest is up to you. Adorn with the Greek yoghurt, berries, jam (or even bacon if you’re so inclined) and enjoy a taste of Finnish independence. Onnea!

Finnish Baked Pancake :: The Scandinavian Baker


Recipe based on one from Beatrice Ojakangas. Swoon

Recipes :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Spice Route

Finnish Spice Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

When it comes to mouth-watering offerings from the bakeries across Scandinavia, spice often trumps sugar. Subtlety is King and the subjects fall in line to taste gently warming flavours that shine through in many recipes and this recipe is no different.

Some of the things I love most about Scandinavian cooking is the ease at which everything comes together and that most of the ingredients are household staples – fair enough, unless you’re me you may not have multiple types of cardamom in your pantry, but apart from that the recipes are based on wholesome, simple ingredients that are readily at hand.

Spices :: The Scandinavian Baker

One rule for this recipe is to be generous with your spices. If you love ginger, then up the amount. I quite like adding some freshly ground black pepper to mine for an unexpected spicy punch to shake up the Scandinavian subtlety just a little.

Fresh Orange Zest :: The Scandinavian Baker

Finnish Spice Cake – Pehmeä maustekakku

The Pantry

4 eggs

225 grams of soft unsalted butter (melted)

225 grams of raw caster sugar

250ml of full fat sour cream

3/4 of a teaspoon of bi-carbonate of soda

225 grams of flour

Two teaspoons each of ground ginger, cardamom and mixed spice

(A few grinds of black pepper if you’re game)

Zest of one orange.

Sour cream :: The Scandinavian Baker

I stumbled upon a new variety of sugar at my local supermarket this week; Panela which is evaporated cane juice. Isn’t that just sugar…I questioned. Well yes it is, but this brand states that it is simply the result of evaporating the liquid from organically grown cane with no other refining process. Fair enough – in the trolley you go my sugary friend.

Health claims aside, it has a lovely caramel flavour and ultra-fine grain so I gave it a try in this recipe and it worked a treat. It added a deeper caramel flavour to the cake and really set off the spices. I can’t vouch for the nutrient factor, but give it a try if you see it.

Whisk :: The Scandinavian Baker

Pre heat the oven to 200c.

Using a whisk attachment beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. You really want to get a fair amount of air into this.

Once whipped add the melted butter. If you’re using a stand mixer with multiple blades, switch to your regular cake batter blade now for the rest of the recipe. Add the spices and orange zest.

Mix the bi-carb soda into the sour cream and then add to the mixture and beat until combined.

Add the flour and mix well. The batter is forgiving but try not to over mix as the result can be a little too bouncy.

Kugelhopf Pan :: The Scandinavian Baker

Pour into a greased pan. Traditionally a kugelhopf pan is used, but it will work just as well with a ring pan or angel food tin. Failing holey tins you could use a regular 20cm cake tin and adjust the baking time a little to allow the centre to cook through. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. The cake is cooked when gently browned and a skewer comes out clean when testing.

Once baked allow to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out. If you can resist the extraordinary spicy aroma emanating from your cake allow to cool completely and dust with icing sugar. Or if you’re like me and lacking in willpower take devour a warm slice now and dust whatever’s left for everyone else.

Best easten warm - before anyone else notices...

Best easten warm – before anyone else notices…

Biscuits, cookies or keksit…

Jam Drops :: The Scandinavian Baker

Preserving food is big in Scandinavia, and it’s easy to understand why. The seemingly endless frost-gripped winter, devoid of light and anything fresh in the garden lends itself to storing delicious preserves made from the sun-drenched summer harvest and roadside foraging.

So, what to do with an orchard full of fruit you’ve transformed into jam?

Among other things, make jam drops. The only difference in this recipe compared with a foundation jam drop mixture is the addition of a little sour cream which seems unique to Scandinavia and I think gives the biscuits a beautiful balance somewhere between crumbling cookie and crisp shortbread. A match made in heaven…

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m addicted to biscuits. For me they’re better than any chocolate bar or bag of sweets. I soon discovered, however, that the over the top range I was used to in Australia was not matched in any capacity in Finland. Our local store had about three varieties of mostly plain keksit, and nothing remotely like a shortbread cream. Thankfully the Jam Drop knows no borders. Phew!

Jam Drops :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

120 grams of unsalted butter

1/2 of a cup of raw caster Sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Pinch of salt

2 and 1/2 cups of plain flour

1/3 cup of sour cream

1 scant teaspoon of baking powder

Lingonberry jam (about 3/4 of a cup)

Biscuit dough :: The Scandinavian Baker

In a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add the sour cream and mix again. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

The dough is stiffer than a usual biscuit dough but if it does look too soft don’t be afraid to add a little extra flour until it forms a ball.

It’s hot here, and if it’s hot where you live you’ll need to rest the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before rolling out otherwise it may begin to melt and stick to everything. Not pretty.

Biscuit dough :: The Scandinavian Baker

Make a cup of tea.

While the dough is stiff and can be rolled, it’s still quite a pliable mixture and you’ll need to be gentle with it. Once relaxed – you and the dough, place between two sheets of baking paper and roll out to half a centimetre thick.

Cut out as many biscuits as you can and then re-roll to use the rest of the dough.  Place the cut biscuits on to a baking sheet leaving a little room between each one for spreading.

Jam jar :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Jam

For this recipe I used a combination of lingonberry and damson plum jam, as I had both on hand. The lingonberries have a delicious astringency that works perfectly with the delicately sweet biscuit. If you’re all out of freshly harvested lingonberries just nip down to IKEA and pick up a jar of ready-made jam.  Any jam will do, although if you’re using a thickly cut jam blitzing in the food processor first will give you a more consistent result.

Jam Drops :: The Scandinavian Baker

Using your thumb, or any shape at hand, gently press down into each of the biscuits to make an indent for the jam. Place a scant teaspoon full of jam on each biscuit. Don’t overfill as the jam with spread in the oven and make itself at home in its biscuity hollow.

Bake at 170-180c for 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured. They’ll continue to harden as they cool. Once cool enough to handle transfer to a cooling rack and try to avoid eating the entire batch in one sitting. On second thoughts make another cup of tea, fill a plate with jam drops and think of the summer’s harvest to come.

Jam Drops :: The Scandinavian Baker

Witches, pumpkins and pie…oh my

Pumpkin Pie

Paths converged this week and the result was pumpkin pie.

Firstly it was Halloween and without warning our street has embraced the tradition and launched into full-scale trick or treat territory. Secondly, I had a super-tasty lunch at a new USA styled diner with a finger-licking good selection of pies on the menu; and thirdly some lovely Canadian friends have been on our minds recently and one of them carved a seriously impressive jack-o-lantern in the shape of an anatomically correct heart (that deserves pie in itself) – anyway, I got the message… all signs point to pumpkin. Tenuous link? I don’t think so…

Pumpkin :: The Scandinavian Baker

Not traditionally Scandinavian I know, but delicious nonetheless. And while Halloween trick or treating isn’t a Finnish tradition they do a pretty good job with it at Easter.

Our first Easter in Helsinki we were roused in the morning by a collection of neighbourhood girls dressed as witches, brandishing twigs decorated with ribbon and demanding treats – or a pox be on all our houses or some such. I discovered a couple of things that Easter; always save a few chocolate eggs for the witches, and all witches seem to resemble Pippi Longstocking… unexpected.

Back to the pumpkin. This recipe uses fresh pumpkin as opposed to canned which is near impossible find in regular stores – at least in this country. The pastry is spiced and gives the hint of gingerbread to the pie.

Pumpkin Pie :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pastry

200g plain flour (wheat or spelt)

1/2 teaspoon of salt flakes

1 tablespoon of icing sugar

100g of cold unsalted butter, diced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons of cold water

Spices :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Filling

700g pumpkin (uncooked)

1 (375ml) can evaporated milk

2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk beaten (reserve the extra egg white for use later)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dark brown sugar :: The Scandinavian Baker

Begin with the spicy pastry.

Into a food processor place the flour, spices, sugar and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix the eggs, yolk and water together and gradually add to the flour mixture with the motor running. Mix until the dough forms into a ball. Take the pastry ball and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour to rest.

Chop the pumpkin in to large pieces and place into the microwave for 5-8 minutes on high. This really is the easiest way to cook the pumpkin without introducing excess water. You can boil the pumpkin until soft, but make sure it is well drained after cooking.

After five minutes check the pumpkin with a knife. It should be very soft. When cooked through allow to cool and remove the skin. You should end up with approximately 500grams of cooked pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie :: The Scandinavian Baker

To create the filling couldn’t be easier. Place the pumpkin into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the spices, sugar and eggs and mix again. While running gradually incorporate the evaporated milk and blitz until smooth and combined. The mix will be very runny.

Put this aside and get back to the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 200c and roll out your pastry. Place into the pie tin and return to the fridge for 15 minutes.  Bake blind for 15 minutes until the base in golden.

Now this is a handy trick. To prevent your mix from leaking and making the pastry soggy, brush the base with the reserved beaten egg white and return to the oven for a few minutes. This will form a barrier while the filling sets.

Pour your filling into the prepared base and bake for 40 minutes until the custard mixture is set and the pastry is golden. You can certainly eat the pie warm, but it is wonderful once it has cooled and set a little further.

Serve with coffee, whipped cream and chapter or two of Pippi Longstocking. It’d also be a good idea to reserve a piece or two… in case of witches.

Pumpkin Pie :: The Scandinavian Baker


A pie by any other name

Karelian Pies

The Karelian pie is everywhere and – by my observation – eaten at all times of the day. It even holds Traditional Specialty Guaranteed status in the EU. That’s a big deal!

I like to imagine weather-hardened Finns in far eastern Karelia (now divided and split between Russia) toiling on their frost-gripped land with a couple of karjalanpiirakat stowed away beneath their fur-lined coats for a wholesome meal between felling trees, chopping wood and herding reindeer.

These tasty savoury pies became a staple for us in living in Finland. We seriously ate them all the time. Sometimes for dinner with beer air-chilled from our balcony – and that was enough.

Karelian Pies

To the horror of our onlooking relatives the traditional Finnish way of eating them was pushed aside for the traditional Australian way: covered in tomato sauce. It’s seriously good, despite the protests.

In times past the dough was made with just rye flour, but as tastes and access to food evolved the addition of wheat flour created a softer texture to the end result. I’ve also learnt that pies were also filled with a milled flour mixture called talkkuna, consisting of roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flour.

All variations are delicious, and while the two main filling these days are rice or potato the options are endless. I’ve even considered making a sweet variety – despite the protests.

I like these pies reheated in a pan with a little butter and then covered in tomato sauce, but if you’re more of a traditionalist they should be served with sliced boiled eggs or Finnish egg butter, a combination of mashed boiled eggs and butter that can be spread over the pies before devouring.

Spanish short grained rice

The Pantry

100 grams of rye flour

75 grams plain flour

15 grams of butter, melted

100 ml water

1/2 teaspoon of salt

The Filling

100 grams of short grain rice (risotto or paella rice works perfectly)

350 ml of water

500ml of milk

1/2 tablespoon of salt

The Glaze

20 grams of butter

75 ml of milk

The Topping

6 hard boiled eggs

2 tablespoons of salt reduced butter

Begin by making the savoury rice porridge. Place the rice, salt and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until the rice has absorbed almost all the water. Add the milk and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the rice is tender and the mixture is like a thick rice pudding. Once cooked, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Don’t panic if you sample the rice porridge and it tastes like sea water. In the end the salt balance is perfect for the whole pie. It’s a baking miracle.

Rye pastry

The dough takes hardly any time at all. Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead gently a few times to bring it together, and it’s done.

Divide the dough in to eight even pieces and roll into balls. The dough is quite delicate and the rye flour can make it dry our so I place all the balls into a shallow bowl of rye flour to coat and wait their turn before rolling out.

When your filling is cool/warm you can begin.

Karelian Pies

Roll out each ball into a circle 12 cm across, dusting with extra flour if needed.

Place a heaped dessertspoon full of rice mixture into the centre of the dough sheet.

Fold the edges of the dough over towards the mixture leaving the centre exposed and then crimp or pinch the edges into a wavy pattern – you’ll get better with practice – trust me.

Bake at 200c for 20-25 minutes. You’ll know when they’re ready by the burnished gold the rice pudding develops and the darker hue to the rye pastry.

Once they’re cooked you’ll need to glaze them – or actually soak them in the butter and milk mixture to prevent the rye pastry from becoming teeth-shatteringly hard.

Heat the butter and milk until they combine then brush the mixture liberally over the pastry. Don’t be afraid to really soak them, the pastry will absorb the mixture and reward you with a soft and delicate result.

Serve warm or cold or reheated in a pan or even a microwave – these things can take anything. To make the egg butter: roughly mash the eggs and combine with the softened butter. Spread this tasty mixture atop the pies and devour.

Karelian Pie and salad

On consumption

The Finn: Munch munch…

The Baker: Munch

The Finn: Good job

The Baker: Thanks – are they just like Mummo (Finnish Grandmother) used to make?

The Finn: Umm… I don’t know, I think she used to buy them from the supermarket

The Baker: …right then…

I love the history of food like this. The fuel of our ancestors still relevant today and still celebrated daily as a tasty piece of living Finnish culture – found in supermarkets and kitchens across the land.

Long live the Karjalan Piirakka!

Map of Finland including Karelia

Map of Finland including Karelia (late 1800s).


Green is the colour of my true love

Finnish Cucumber Salad

It’s warming up this side of the hemisphere (too hot for the oven today) and our garden is galloping along head first into Spring. The cucumbers have grown from petite cornichons into heaving goliaths and are ready to pick within two weeks of appearing on the vine.

The poor salad is often considered the side dish, but this version of cucumber salad matches any competitor, bite for bite. While to some a cucumber salad may seem a little lacking, the combination of flavours in this concoction will have you coming back for more.

Freshly grown cucumbers

In my travels though Scandinavia I’ve noticed the locals like their salads clean and minimal, like their kitchens. Not too many ingredients and those included should really shine. Beetroot salad, mushroom salad, carrot salad…and this recipe is no different. The cucumber is the hero.

I’m often surprised when people tell me that cucumber is insipid or lacking in flavour. To me it’s one of the most flavourful of salad vegetables – with a heady freshness that instantly makes me think of summers by the lake, smoked fish and midnight paddles out and about in the old boat.

Essentially you’re creating a fresh pickle with this salad. The vinegar salt and sugar begin to cure the cucumbers, leaving them silky but still with a good crunch and mouth-watering tartness.

Golden caster sugar

The Pantry

3 cucumbers (Lebanese or continental)

1 thinly sliced fennel bulb

A good slug (3 tablespoons) of Apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of sugar

1/2 tablespoon of salt flakes (or to taste)

A medium sized bunch of dill

Apple cider vinegar

Thinly slice the cucumber using a mandolin, food processor or as finely as you can by hand. If you’re making a large amount for guests go ahead and use the food processor, it’ll be worth it. It’s also quite lovely if you ribbonise the cucumbers with a vegetable peeler.

Repeat the process with the fennel bulb. You want these really thinly sliced. The addition of the slivers of aniseed flavour really adds to the freshness.

I hadn’t eaten a lot of fennel until moving to Scandinavia; and now I associate its fresh crunch with my memories of zipping through cities in Europe by train. Surprisingly fennel grows wild along railway lines in many European cities – so if you ever find yourself roaming the abandoned city limits foraging for wild food – there’s fennel aplenty.

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and pour over the cucumber and fennel. Allow this to sit in the fridge for up to an hour while you prepare the rest of your meal.

Remove from the fridge and serve cool. NOTE: If the salad is too filled with liquid lift the cucumber our and retain a little of the pickling liquid for dressing.

Serve with coriander and fennel seed encrusted salmon and an icy cold Hendricks’s Gin and tonic… with cucumber, of course.

Midnight on the lake

Slapped ears, buttery eyes and rosy cheeks


There’s nothing quite like a slapped ear in Finland, I’ll be honest. They’re everywhere. Old people with slapped ears, children, students, and tourists… the Finns are dishing them out to anyone who asks and some who don’t. It’s a national pass time.

I’m talking about Korvapuusti – Finnish cinnamon and cardamom buns. Translation – slapped ears.

Korvapuusti are just one of copious varieties of Finnish Pulla – sweet yeast-risen pastries that make their appearance throughout the day at breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea, supper and late night snacks, both in the dead of winter or under the white night sky of summer. Rolled into a shape that resembles a slapped ear, they’re as Finnish as Sauna and a must-try when you visit.

While every family has a recipe, they’re so popular and essential to the day that they’re baked on a massive scale at bakeries across the country and sold in supermarkets.

I worked briefly in a bakery in Finland – at two actually; one small bakery in a picture-perfect neighbouring village and in a much larger industrial bakery in the next city over. Both were filled with the unmistakeable and comforting smell of Pulla baking away to be ready for the morning. Stepping from the snow outside into the warm sugary-smelling bakery was the best part of the night. (Cleaning the industrial frozen pizza conveyer belt was not the best part – although both smells were unmistakeable).

The Finn has grown up on these things – made of course by loving tradition-trained, sleigh-riding Finnish aunts (both related and acquired), so when I first got out the rolling pin the pressure was high.

The recipe below helped me tackle the traditional taste. It takes a bit of time, but mostly for raising the dough. Cooking, like life feels slower in Finland – there’s lot of time to kill on dark 23 hour long nights, hence the seemingly endless variations for Pulla – and births in August…

I’ve made two varieties from the same dough. Firstly Korvapuusti and secondly Voi-silma ( butter eye).

Cardamom seeds

Cardamom seeds

The Pantry 

250ml tepid milk
100 grams of raw caster sugar
2 packets of instant/dry yeast
1 egg
125 grams of soft unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom (plus a small amount of seeds, crushed roughly for texture and extra punch)
1 teaspoon of salt
650 grams of plain flour (Spelt flour also works really well and will give a slightly more dense result)

The Filling

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
25 grams of caster sugar
50 grams of butter

25 grams of caster sugar
50 grams of butter

NOTE: If you’re only making Korvapuusti, then combine all the filling ingredients (100g butter/50g sugar).  Leave out the cinnamon if just making Voi-silma.

Use the dough hook tool on your mixer. Combine milk, sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl. Allow to activate for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter, egg, cardamom and salt and combine. With the mixer on low gradually add the flour until combined. Once the dough comes together you can kneed by hand until you reach a soft elastic dough, although I use the mixer to do this with equal results – approximately 5 minutes in my mixer.

Once smooth and elastic, allow to rest for a couple of hours until at least doubled in size.

To make the filling I break with tradition here – mix the cinnamon and butter into a paste. You’ll use this later on to spread across the rolled out dough.

Divide the dough into four portions. Here you can decide what to do; two for korvapuusti and two for voi-silma, or keep all four for the ear slap.

Pulla rising


Pre heat your oven to 180c degrees.

Roll the dough into two rectangles, (30x25cm, 3-5mm thick). Spread an even portion of the dark spiced butter across the dough and sprinkle with some of the sugar. Roll into a sausage and set aside. Repeat.

Line the dough sausages up and cut them on the diagonal. You want to end up with v shaped pieces with the point about 2cm across. Place the pieces point side up on a baking tray and press down on the point with your finger – almost through to the tray. Brush with beaten egg and dust with sugar. Set these tasty ears aside to rise for another 30 mins to rise and then bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Voi-silma pulla


Take your remaining dough and divide further in to four pieces each – eight in total. Roll each piece in to a golf ball size and place on a baking tray to rise for 30 minutes. (These make super-tasty plain Pulla as well). In the meantime, take the remaining butter and sugar and mix together to form a paste.

Once risen, gently press a hole into each bun and place or pipe a teaspoonful of the filling into each one and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Voila! Two decidedly tasty varieties of Pulla. Serve them warm with coffee for a classic Finnish experience. They’re sure to put a rose in every cheek… (wait, that’s vegemite)

Finnish morning tea

This recipe is based on one from Tessa Kiros, a cook whose recipes I love; also with a heart in two places.