Posts Categorized: Home Grown

When life gives you lemonades

Lemonade Marmalade :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Finn recently returned from a trip to visit his Dad in the deep heart of the desert. On his return revealed a two kilogram bag of home-grown fruit from his Dad’s garden.

It’s harsh environment, but even in the driest and hottest of climates life prevails and can, if you’re lucky, provide a bounty. Behold… Lemonades.

The Lemonade is a hybrid southern-hemisphere citrus born from combining the navel orange with a lemon – add some  water, bit of Aussie sun and ding-dong , the bells of St Clements!

The fruit resembles a large lime, but ripens to a classic lemon yellow with the unique sweet taste somewhere between mild low-acid lemon and an orange. The best of both and a perfect choice for marmalade.

Lemonade Fruit :: The Scandinavian Baker
Lemonade Marmalade

The Pantry

2kg of Lemonades, washed and sliced into half-moons
2kg of sugar – white for a lighter result, raw for a much deeper desert sunset
Juice and seeds of one large lemon
8-10 jars, washed and dried, labels removed

Wash the fruit and slice into half-moons. Combine with the lemon juice (reserving the seeds) in a heavy-based large saucepan and warm through over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil as the juice is released from the fruit. Cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

Sliced Lemons :: The Scandinavian Baker

One of the issues with hybrid fruit is they often are seedless and with then need some extra assistance activating the pectin needed to set the jam. Take the reserved lemon seeds and gently boil them in a small saucepan with 100ml of water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes and then add this liquid to the marmalade mixture.

Add the sugar all at once and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. As soon as the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring the mixture to a vigorous boil. Don’t be afraid of this part, the marmalade must boil like the clappers for 20 minutes or so to transform itself from insipid sugar-juice to golden breakfast conserve.

While you wait, place a small side plate into the freezer.

Lemonade Marmalade :: The Scandinavian Baker

Once I was making marmalade from a gorgeous grapefruit tree that grew in the garden of an apartment we once rented. The landlord despised the bitter fruit so it was left for us to eat (breakfast), cook (marmalade), and drink (gin, soda and juice) the fruit away as we saw fit. As the jam was boiling away I placed a plate into the freezer with the perplexed Finn looking on. After some time trying to decipher my actions he asked why I’d done that.

I responded, it’s an old wives’ tale – place a plate in the freezer and you’re guaranteed you jam will set. I proceeded to fabricate the story further claiming it hailed from a time when you’d make jam in the winter and place a plate out into the cold as an offering of good will and no good baker/ jam-maker worth their salt would dare break the tradition.  I managed to keep that up for a good while, with a straight face, before revealing the truth. It’s all in the telling.

In fact the cold plate will help you tell if your jam has reached its setting point.

After boiling for 20 minutes, remove the plate and carefully drop a few blobs of the marmalade onto the surface. Give it a few seconds to cool and push your finger through the marmalade. If it wrinkles you’re done. If it stays runny continue to boil for a few more minutes and try again.

Lemonade Marmalade :: The Scandinavian Baker

Jars

Turn off the marmalade and allow to cool slightly. To prepare the jars I take the cheats option I learnt from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. Fill each jar half way with warm water, pop into the microwave and blitz for 5-10 minutes until the water boils and sterilises the jar. Carefully tip out the water and voila – jars ready for filling.  To sterilise the lids, boil in a small saucepan for five minutes.

Failing that you can pop your jars and lids into a low oven 120c and heat for 40 minutes.

Use a jug to fill each jar as close to the top as possible and carefully close the lid. As each jar cools the pop of the lid seals will ring out though the kitchen.

It’s best to let the marmalade settle for a couple of weeks before eating, but I can never wait that long. Guaranteed the half-filled left over jar will be pride of place on the breakfast table the next day, proudly offering up its desert bounty.

Home Made Lemonade Marmalade :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Baker Abroad – Scandinavian Summer

Finnair in Flight :: The Scandinavian Baker
We’re on the road. We’ve packed up the rolling pin and apron and are travelling around Scandinavia soaking in as much of the midnight sun as we can. While there hasn’t been much time for baking there has been plenty of time for tasting the traditional and delicious baked treats that are served up from cafes to kitchen tables right across Finland.
Korvapuusti :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

First stop Helsinki, one of my all-time favourite cities. From the moment you step off the plane, with its accents of Marimekko design, all number of Finnish delights are waiting.

 

Helsinki :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

You cant beat the tastes and smells of the market stalls overloaded with fresh berries, open air grills serving hot smoked salmon and tiny buttery summer potatoes and bakers windows filled with more varieties of bread and pastries than you can count. It’s a vibrant city that celebrates its local flavours, all with a dash of bright Marimekko colour.

 

Marimekko & Unikko :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

This past week marked Midsummer and we celebrated in Oulu (the capital of northern Scandinavia) with a birthday, surprise wedding and of course some delicious baking under the endless light of the midnight sun. One of the things I love most about returning to Finland during the holiday season is the crowded houses filled with family, stories and so much food. All this paired with late evening walks in the forest and foraging for berries and birch leaves for the sauna. We were treated with home-made pulla, karjalan piiraka and the show-stopper, Summer Sitruuna Tortuu.

 

Summer Sitruuna Torttu :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

When it’s time to celebrate in Finland, nothing beats the sponge cake. Often overlooked for something showier, it’s the perfect base to showcase the flavours of summer on a lighter than air cake. This particular version has been making an appearance and family gatherings and my brother-in-law’s birthday for years and holds a special place in the hearts of the family, and now in mine. It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity, dressed with creamy lemon icing, praline and foraged summer flowers.

 

The Pantry

3 large eggs

75 grams of caster sugar

3 heaped tablespoons of flour, sifted

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

 

The rules are simple with a sponge. Treat it kindly and it will reward you. Also resist the urge to open the oven to peek at your creation. The eggs are the raising agent, but if you’re worried you can add a teaspoon of baking powder to help it along.

 

The Icing

150grams of quark or cream cheese

75 grams of icing sugar (or more to taste)

Rind of one lemon 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

 

The Praline

75 grams of caster sugar

35 grams of toasted hazelnuts

 

Summer Sitruuna Tortuu

Preheat the over to 175c. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until very light and fluffy, and considerably larger. The batter should be quite thick.

Gently fold in the sifted flour and baking powder (if using) by hand with a whisk or spatula, trying to keep as much air in as possible. Gently scrape the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin and bake 30-40 minutes. You can safely check at 30 minutes, but not before or the cake will fall. Once cooked and cooled slightly, remove to a rack to cool completely before icing.

 

The Icing

Beat the quark, lemon zest and juice and sugar together until light and creamy.

This cake is meant to be served in layers. Gently slice the cake horizontally into the three layers and spread the icing mixture onto each layer, reserving half for the top and sides.

 

The Praline

Sprinkle the nuts onto a lined baking tray. Gently heat the sugar in a heavy saucepan until it melts and begins to turn a deep golden colour. Avoid stirring too much as crystals will form. Once golden like the midnight sun pour over the nuts and allow to cool. Once cool and hard, shatter the praline and sprinkle over the iced cake.

 

Decorate with foraged edible flowers, we used viola petals, and it’s ready to kick off the celebration.

Happy birthday, happy holidays and Hauska Juhanuusta!

 

Summer flowers :: The Scandinavian Baker

Harvest & Celebration

Quark & Pomegranate Cheesecake :: The Scandinavian Baker

I adore cheesecakes. All varieties are delicious, but my true love lies with a continental cheesecake.

It was my birthday this week and cake was definitely in order. Given it’s still hotter than hades at The Scandinavian Baker HQ, I decided to abandon the oven again and adapt a Finnish favourite, the Rahkapiirakka – a baked cheesecake made from quark cheese – and give a tasty twist to a great summer standard.

Quark is big in Scandinavia – it’s a fresh, soft-set cheese that sits somewhere between ricotta, Turkish yoghurt and fromage frais and well and truly in the realm of delicious. It comes in all variety of flavours and is eaten as a snack as much as it is used in cooking.

The addition of the quark makes this cheesecake wonderfully light and cuts through the richness a little. You should begin the recipe the day or at least morning before you need it to allow enough time for it to set.

Quark & Pomegranate Cheesecake :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

375 grams of cream cheese – softened

250 grams of quark

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

200 grams of digestive biscuits

75 grams of unsalted butter

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 heaped teaspoon of ground cardamom

1 pomegranate

Home Grown Pomegranate :: The Scandinavian Baker

Combine the roughly broken biscuits, ground cardamom, half of the lemon zest and softened butter in a food processer. Blitz until the mixture resembles damp sand.

Press the biscuit mixture into a lined 23cm spring form cake tin. Place the tin into the fridge to set while you prepare the filling.

Quark & Pomegranate Cheesecake :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Filling

This couldn’t be easier. Place the softened cream cheese and quark in to a stand mixer. If you have a beater with a spatula edge, use it to cut down on the times you need to scrape the mixture down from the sides.

Mix on a low speed until well combined. Add the lemon zest and condensed milk. Pour in the lemon juice and beat until creamy and smooth.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, cover with cling film and return to the fridge overnight for at least 6 hours to set.

Digestive Biscuit :: The Scandinavian Baker

Prior to serving cut the pomegranate in half and over a bowl using the end of a wooden spoon beat the skin to remove the seeds. With any luck the ruby jewels will fall into the bowl and not all over the floor.

Sprinkle the seeds on top of the cake and present to your wide-eyed guests, basking in the accolades you’re sure to receive! Enjoy

(If worst come to worst and it’s too hot even for cheesecake this recipe would also make a great base for ice cream with the biscuit base crumbled though – tasty!)

Quark & Pomegranate Cheesecake :: The Scandinavian Baker

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

Forests and fruit stands

Blueberry pie

Each time we return to Finland, the Finn and I have the same routine. Once we’re settled and showered and partially recovered from what is possibly the longest distance you can travel in a day, we set out for a walk.

Usually it’s in the forest – which is not as unusual as its sounds. Finland is a small place; small cities, towns and villages dotted between lakes – none very far from its own patch of forest.  It’s the perfect antidote to jet-lag and ensures for a great night’s sleep and usually delicious hand-foraged dinner.

The last time we visited, we stayed in Helsinki overnight instead of travelling to family.  While the city is small, we weren’t up to trekking to the outskirts to find dinner, so it was down to the water’s edge and Kauppatori – the stunning harbour side market. This was the last place we visited before we left Finland and moved home, so it felt right to make it the first port of call.

For weeks the Finn had been describing how this would be the first stop – drop off the travel bags and pick up the bags filled with fresh local berries. That’s exactly how it happened; perched on the water’s edge, sun in our eyes, berries in our bellies (crazy oversized 1 litre beer can in our hands – yikes).

Kauppatori fruit stands

There’s no shortage of fresh berries in Finland during the summer. They’re everywhere at town square markets and street-side fruit stands across every town. The smell is intoxicating and the trade bustling.

Too late for the market, I once bought frozen berries to our cousin’s house for dinner and was dutifully mocked. If the fruit stand is closed, simply step outside and look down into a forest filled with blueberries. In parts the entire forest floor is covered with them. No kidding – it’s kind of like Narnia.

Forest floor and blueberries

Forest floor and blueberries

Mustikkapiirakka – Blueberry Pie

This pie screams Finland to me. My sister-in-law makes a seriously great version, and the one below does a pretty good job replicating it. It’s not your traditional type of pie; it’s open-faced and uses dough for a base rather than a pastry. You won’t be disappointed.

The Pantry

1 pack instant yeast
1/4 cup of warm water
1 egg
1/2 cup of raw caster sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of lukewarm milk
1/2 cup or approx 115g of softened butter
3 1/4 cups of Spelt flour (regular plain flour is also fine)

The Filling

3-4 cups of blueberries (frozen is fine – but allow to get to room temperature)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of corn flour

Into your mixing bowl place the yeast and warm water and allow to sit for a few minutes until it activates. Add the egg, milk, sugar and salt and switch on to mix. (I used my cake batter blade initially, as the mix is very wet, then swapped to the dough hook to finish).  Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the flour and knead until smooth and elastic. It’s going to be soft. Try not to over mix, it should come together easily.

That’s it – leave the dough to rise until doubled in size – 1-2 hours or so depending on the temperature.

Place the berries and sugar into a bowl and allow to macerate while the dough is rising.

Turn on the oven and pre-heat to 190c.

When the dough has risen, turn it into a lamington pan (shallow rectangular pan 25cm wide) and press it out to fit.

Blueberry pie

Take the berries and sprinkle over the corn flour and mix. Pour the berry mixture onto the dough and press down gently. If your berries have lost a lot of juice, allow a little to go in, but don’t over soak it. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, the straight into the oven. The baking time for this can vary a lot depending on your berries, your oven, the whim of the pastry, so give it 25 minutes and check the progress – adding 5-10 minutes as you go (mine took almost 40). The dough should be risen and golden around the edges and the blueberries jammy and bubbling.

Allow to cool and set further before serving straight from the pan in large squares, to weary travellers from faraway lands.

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Short Summers, Long Lunches

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Summer is short in Finland; especially for me coming from the sub-tropics where Summer lasts about seven months. It’s so short you can miss it – especially if you nip off to Spain for a week and return with the forests no longer eye-blindingly green, but breathtakingly golden.

But while it’s short, it’s nothing if not miraculous.

The daily growth is visible. The local birch grove, opposite the apartment, sporting tiny unfurling bright green buds on Monday would be thick with leaves by Wednesday.  24 hours of life-giving sunlight is absorbed by everything and everyone that can get beneath the rays.

On the bank of the lake at the family’s summerhouse one thing that really flourishes in the constant light is rhubarb. Smaller and paler than the robust red stems I’m used to, but bursting with flavour.

For me rhubarb is all about warm deserts in winter; crumbles and compotes. But in Finland it’s all about ice cream, cakes, juice, cider and the bracingly sharp taste of summer.

This cake is perfect alongside a pot of tea in the afternoon sun (if you’re in my hemisphere), or to round out a picnic lunch and washed down with a pint of frosty apple cider (if you’re lucky enough to be sunning yourself in a northern summer).

I’ve just planted some rhubarb crowns in the garden which have burst into life – our short cool Springs, their cool short Summers; it’s enough to make a fella homesick.

Rhubarb and Custard Tea Cake

Rhubarb and Custard Tea Cake.  

This is a spin on a classic tea cake. By all means if you have a recipe you love, use that one and just dress it up with the additions of the rhubarb and custard.

The Pantry:

70g butter, softened

1/2 cup golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 egg

1 1/2 cups of plain flour, sifted

2 teaspoons of baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup of almond meal

3/4 cup milk

The Filling:

2-3 large Rhubarb stems chopped

2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar

Start by preparing the custard and rhubarb.

Wash the rhubarb and leave it wet. Chop into 2cm pieces and place into a saucepan with the sugar. Cook over a low to medium heat until the rhubarb collapses. Put aside and allow to cool.

Custard

500ml milk

6 egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup of caster sugar

50g cornflour

This is the same basic custard used in the Danish Pastry recipe – a good go to basic.

Scald milk and vanilla in a saucepan. Beat egg yolks, sugar and corn flour together in a bowl until well combined and ribbony-thick. Pour in hot milk and whisk until smooth. Return mixture to the wiped out saucepan and gradually heat until it has thickened and come to a boil. Beat for 1 minute and then pour into a bowl. To prevent a skin forming cover with cling film and press down to touch the custard. Allow to cool.

Rhubarb and Custard tea Cake

The Batter

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm loaf tin with baking paper. Leave some of the baking paper exposed. (This is a delicate cake and it helps to lift if out of the tin after baking).

In the mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg and beat well until combined. Add vanilla and mix well.

Combine flour, almond meal, salt and baking powder.

Note: If your mixer has a slow hand-mixing action then by all means gradually add the flour and milk to the bowl alternately until just combined, or gently fold in the flour mix and milk by hand.

Scrape half the cake batter into the loaf tin. Place spoonfuls of custard in a line down the centre of the mixture. Dot with some of the rhubarb and cover with remaining batter.

Spoon the remaining custard and rhubarb over the top of the cake batter in a rough line down the centre.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand cake in pan for around 10-15 minutes. Using the baking paper, gently lift the cake and cool on a wire rack. (Any left-over rhubarb makes for a great topping on yoghurt or rolled oats the next day).

While cake is still warm, brush top with a little melted butter to give the cake a gentle shine.

Enjoy in the sun, by a lake, on a rug, with a friend.

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