Posts Categorized: Not Quite Scandinavian

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta, Sea Salt… and a ridiculous amount of herbs.

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta with Sea Salt… and a ridiculous amount of herbs. 

I was recently reminded of a much loved favourite. I used to bake it for all manner of parties with such success it started receiving invitations itself, and disappointed looks if it didn’t appear. Oh you brought cake instead… I’m sure it’ll be fine… 

It has been part of the repertoire for so long I can’t remember where it originated from. What I do know for sure is that it has certainly evolved into the mouth-watering punch in the mouth flavour-bomb  it is today.

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker

Last week an old friend asked me for the recipe and the on-line discussion thread developed with calls of glee from others at the same party (5 years ago!) at the memory of this now legendary delight.

For the life of me I can’t remember why I stopped making this extraordinarily simple but delightful dish.

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta with Sea Salt… and a ridiculous amount of herbs. 

The Fridge

1kg of fresh ricotta – from the deli not from a tub – tub cheese is way too soft for success
Sea salt crystals
Dried chili flakes to taste (trust me, err on the side of too much as the cheese will mellow the heat)
A few generous slugs of extra virgin olive oil
Great big bunches of oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme*

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker

Preheat the oven to 200c. Line a loaf tin and press the ricotta into the tin. Bake for 20 minutes until firm and the edges have the slightest hint of gold.

Allow the cheese to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes, in which time it will become firmer.

Meanwhile in a shallow baking tray make a bed of half of the herbs and dress with a little olive oil and set aside.

Once cool enough to handle, cut the loaf in half and invert onto the green bed of waiting herbs.

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker

Separate the halves slightly and drizzle with olive oil. Liberally sprinkle the crystalline flakes of salt over the two slabs. Don’t be shy, ricotta can handle the salt.

Follow with the chilli flakes and the rest of the herbs. Douse with olive oil and return to the oven to bake for a further 30-40 minutes.

After 15 minutes baste the cheese with the sizzling herb infused oil. Repeat every 10 minutes until the blanket of herbs are soaked and scorched and the cheese is a deep burnished gold.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving – just ever so slightly warm.

Sit back and let the praise wash over you between greedy mouthfuls.

Fiery Twice Baked Ricotta :: The Scandinavian Baker
* All available at Scarborough Fair (see what I did there)

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

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffin

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffins :: The Scandinavian Baker

I’ve always been the kind of baker who’s drawn to the hand-made, rough-around-the-edges, but still thoughtfully crafted pudding, cake or loaf. For me, it’s the story behind the recipe that drives me to recreate much-loved recipes in my own kitchen and, in turn, add my own few sentences to the chapter.

When it comes to more-famous-than-me type bakers and cooks, I adore those who can slap together a delightful treat without too much pomp and don’t shy away from licking the beaters fervently while no one else is looking – or if you are the ever-delightful Nigella Lawson, while the whole world is looking and falling in love with you just a little bit more – swoon.

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffins :: The Scandinavian Baker

Plus, let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a super easy, no fuss recipe that’s sure to please? Especially when you can eat cupcakes for breakfast – (everybody cheer) – alright they’re muffins and there is certainly a difference, but let’s not beat around the bush. It’s the Christmas season, friends are inviting themselves around for brunch like nobody’s business – so let them eat cake.

Fresh Oranges :: The Scandinavian Baker

So, today I pay homage to a great influence of mine – Nigella Lawson. This is her recipe that has got me out of tight nothing-to-serve spots on more than a few occasions and satisfied cravings for cake at breakfast time on a few other occasions.  Ms Lawson, to you I tip my hat.

The Homage Orange Breakfast Muffin

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffins :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

75g unsalted butter – melted and cooled
250 grams of self-raising flour
25 grams of ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
75 grams golden caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
100ml full-fat milk
1 egg
12 hole muffin tray lined with paper cases

Orange Zest :: The Scandinavian Baker

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Combine the flour, ground almonds, bicarb, baking powder, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl. Combine the orange juice and milk into a jug and whisk in the egg and the cooled, melted butter. This mixture will split and look curdled as the milk and orange juice combine, but never fear, this concoction has extraordinary powers.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing with a fork as you go. The batter will be beautifully. Mix until only barely combined and never over mix – the odd lump is perfectly fine.

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffins :: The Scandinavian Baker

Enter the much talked about powers – When I first made this recipe I marvelled at the instant reaction between the acid from the juice and the raising agents. In the time takes to set out your muffin cases the mixture begins to transform into a cloud-like fluffy delight.

Spoon out the mixture equally into the muffin cases and cook for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove, in their paper cases, to a wire rack and let cool slightly (but not completely) before devouring – with butter, or clotted cream, or jam or a little of each. Makes 12

Homage Orange Breakfast Muffins :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

Recipe adapted from Nigella Bites, by Nigella Lawson

 

Hot Cross Panic

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

The week leading up to Good Friday stirs a animalistic panic somewhere deep in my subconscious.

It’s the fear that I’ve squandered the weeks of plenty, where Hot Cross Buns were stacked 6ft high at the entrance to every supermarket.

The (now four) months of bunly-goodness have quickly come to an end and caught all of us by surprise. All we have left on the holiday food horizon are Anzac biscuits and then we’re cast adrift on a barren sea until the return of fruit mince pies in October.

Candied Peel :: The Scandinavian Baker

As you know a big part of my motivation for baking arose from an enduring desire to eat tasty baked treats I couldn’t find in bakeries at home.  And while the buns are plentiful for a quarter of the year here, I found myself living in Finland where the mention of a Hot Cross Bun evoked a reaction of perplexed staring, as if I’d strung three unrelated words together. (You’d think the Finns could relate to that).

While I’m not taking the credit for introducing HCBs to Central Finland…  this recipe clearly contributed to something…

Ingredients for Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

700 grams of plain flour, sifted
55 grams of (¼ cup) raw caster sugar
2 packets of dried yeast (14 gm)
1 teaspoon of allspice, cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger
1 teaspoon of salt
250 grams of (1½ cups) sultanas
100 grams of candied mixed peel
Rind of one lemon
300 mls of milk
100 grams of unsalted butter
1 egg

Spice :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Glaze
55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
¼ tsp mixed spice

The Crosses
50 g flour
¼ cup water

Spices :: The Scandinavian Baker

Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, mixed peel and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.

Gently warm the milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid – don’t let it get too hot as this will kill the yeast. Add the egg to milk mixture and whisk to combine.

Make a well in the centre of flour mixture, add the milk mixture all at once and stir. You can either kneed by hand for 10 minutes if you’re feeling virtuous or mix on speed 2 for 5 mins in your stand mixer.

Leave the dough in the bowl to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until at least doubled in size.

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

This dough is fairly forgiving and I like to let it rise longer up to 90 mins to give a lighter texture.

Knock back the dough and cut into 16 equal pieces. Gently knead each piece into a ball, place each into a lightly greased 22cm-square cake pan – just touching one another. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

The Crosses

Preheat oven to 220C.

Combine 50 grams of flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses.

Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden. (They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped).

The Glaze

While the buns are still hot combine spices and sugar with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over still hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

These buns are delicious with lashings of salty butter and sweet lingonberry jam.

Enjoy and rest easy that the annual bun panic can now be quietened in your restless subconscious.

Hyvää Pääsiäistä  - Happy Easter

Hot Cross Buns :: The Scandinavian Baker

Pavlova – Just the way you remember her

Pavlova :: The Scandinavian Baker

There’s nothing quite like a Pavlova to elicit a wistful and starry-eyed response from those about to eat it. It makes an appearance at all kinds of summer celebrations and is often the queen of the table when deserts appear.

To be honest, I love them because of their simplicity. They’re a breeze to make and they showcase stunning summer ingredients like nothing else – and then there are the starry-eyed recipients.

Named for a Russian ballerina but not well known outside of the antipodes  I was glad to introduce the Finn’s family to it one lunchtime to much acclaim.  A new experience for them and a success all around.

The Pavlova Recipe :: The Scandinavian Baker

This Pav recipe comes from my heavily dog-eared copy of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion  and has become a staple for me. When you’ve found the best, there’s no need to mess, (well, except that I can’t help it and use raw or golden caster sugar instead of white to transform the meringue to an almost rose gold caramel – but that’s it I swear).

A lovely friend and colleague left the team this week past to start a new exciting adventure as a soon to be parent, so what better way to celebrate a new generation of Pavlova lovers than with this.

Ingredients for Pavlova :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

4 egg whites, at room temperature

pinch of salt

250 grams of golden/ raw caster sugar

2 teaspoons cornflour

1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar

A few drops of pure vanilla

250ml of thick cream or firmly whipped if you prefer

Raspberries, blueberries, walnuts and lemon curd (recipe below)

Set your oven to 180c. Beat the egg whites with the salt until firm. Add the sugar a little at a time and beat until shiny and stiff (and no longer gritty). Add the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and gently fold into the mixture until combined.

Pavlova :: The Scandinavian Baker

Transfer on to a prepared baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the mound a little and smooth out the sides. As I don’t invert my pavs after baking this is the point you can get creative. Using a spatula pat the meringue around the edges of the top lifting gentle waves and loops across the surface. Don’t worry too much about the centre as it will be covered with cream.

Lemons :: The Scandinavian Baker

Place into the oven and reduce the temperature to 150c and bake for 30 minutes. Then reduce again to 120c and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Switch off the oven and allow the meringue to cool completely. I often bake it the night before the party and leave it in the oven overnight.

The Lemon Curd

4 egg yolks (reserved from the meringue above)

75 grams of unsalted butter

1/2 cup of caster sugar

Juice and rind of two lemons

Because I make this curd often to dress a pavlova, it can sometimes be runnier than you’re probably used too, but don’t worry – that’s how you want it. If you want the curd for crumpets in the morning, pop it into the fridge to set a little or reduce the lemon juice to around 100ml if you’re using larger lemons.

Combine the sugar, egg yolks, butter and the juice and rind of the lemons in a small saucepan. Stir  over a gentle heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is combined. Bring to a simmer while stirring and cook for a few minutes until think and the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. And there you have it – instant lemon curd and possibly the best unexpected  pavlova topping you’re likely to come across.

Naked Pavlova :: The Scandinavian Baker

Dress it up

Dress your cooled meringue with thick dollopy cream (or light fluffy whipped if you prefer), spoonfuls of the home-made lemon curd, raspberries, blueberries and walnuts.

There it is in all its glory – Pavlova. Irresistible! (Hooray)

Pavlova :: The Scandinavian Baker

Ice Ice Baby

Sencha Iced Tea :: The Scandinavian Baker

It’s no surprise to anyone this side of the equator that Australia is having its hottest summer on record. The high temperatures have been sky-rocketing as we head out of the hottest year on record and into another. Yikes!

The Scandinavian Baker headquarters tipped +43.5c last week so there was nothing on this green (read: brown and crispy) earth that was going to convince me to turn on the oven.

The only thing left to do was to escape the heat any way possible, be it by pool, beach or… sigh… mega shopping centre.

The Finn and I escaped beachside with as much new summer fiction as we could carry and quenched our thirst with tasty tasty iced tea.

Sencha Green Tea :: The Scandinavian Baker

I’m a recent convert to homemade iced tea. Give me rich malty Assam by the steaming pot full any day – but make it green and chilled and I’d often opt for water.

One scorching afternoon, lounging by the Maker & Merchant HQ pool I was reborn. Green iced tea was my drink and so became my passion (this may have been a touch of sunstroke talking).

I’m sure you all know how to make tea, but a boy’s got to blog and as previously mentioned – too hot to bake.

Sencha Iced Tea :: The Scandinavian Baker

Iced Sencha – Scandinavian style

The Pantry

1 tablespoon green sencha.  Any will do, I used one with blue cornflower petals and dried quince – delightful!

2 or 3 bruised cardamom pods (or a sprinkling of lightly dinted seeds – crush them gently with a pestle)

1 lemon, sliced

1 jug of boiling water

750ml of sparkling water

A few fresh mint leaves

Fresh Mint :: The Scandinavian Baker

Boil the jug and let sit for a minute or two after boiling. Green tea is best brewed slightly off the boil between 80-90 degrees. Add your chosen leaves and cardamom pods to a medium sized pot and fill with the hot water. Allow to sit for up to an hour to brew and cool.

Slice the lemon and add a few slices to a large jug or bottle. Add the mint leaves – scrunched a bit.

Pour in the tea to fill about a quarter of the container. Top with cold-as-you-can-get-it sparkling water and give a quick stir.

Serve immediately in chilled glasses with a little extra mint and a wedge of lemon to parched over-heated friends, preferably pool-side. Enjoy.

Fresh Sencha Iced Tea :: The Scandinavian Baker

A Christmas Years in the Making Part 2: Flame On!

Christmas Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

The time eventually came for pudding – and it didn’t disappoint.

We saved our pudding for New Year’s Day which might become its own tradition at The Scandinavian Baker HQ. As indicated I opted for showy and awe-inspiring  when it came to the brandy.

The Method
See: A Christmas Years in the Making Part 1 to prepare.

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 New Year ever!

Christmas Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

Even my self-proclaimed pudding hater friend devoured her slice – perhaps I have a convert?

Behold…

Christmas Pudding :: The Scandinavian Baker

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.

IMG_5621

 

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

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