Posts Categorized: Seasons

A Rocky Road Less Travelled

Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker
Rocky Road, like trick-or-treating on Halloween, can be polarising. Some love it, others loathe it. I love both, and as a child I was desperate to try anything that was rocky road related; and hit the neighbourhood streets with my pals dressed as ghouls to replicate The E.T.-esque American-style trick or treating I’d witnessed at the cinema in the 80s. What an adventure.

Unfortunately for us, we were often met with perplexed expressions and whatever fruit was lying around in our neighbour’s kitchen. It wasn’t a ‘thing’ here.

Times have changed, and love it or loathe it, trick-or-treating is fast becoming the norm in the neighbourhoods of Australia.

This year I’m making up for those lost nights of October 31st and whipping up a treat that is sure to please even the scariest 8-year-old ghoul, and maybe their parents.

Singaporean Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker

Two Rocky Roads from far away places

If you can’t bear the sickly sweet commercial marshmallow and cheap chocolate that is often found in store-bought rocky road, take the path less travelled and make the road your own.

My tribute to some of the flavours we’ve enjoyed travelling over the last year takes its form as Scandinavian Tundra and Singaporean Rocky Road.

Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker

Scandinavian: Features dark chocolate with toasted almonds, spiced marshmallow, mulled wine jelly, gingerbread crumb and cardamom dusted pearl sugar.

The Pantry 

Chocolate: 400 grams (dark) 200 grams (milk)
1 half portion of Home Made Marshmallow
with mixed spices including ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper (recipe below)
Mulled Wine Jelly with cinnamon quills, cloves, star anise and cardamom seeds (recipe below)
Toasted almonds (chopped)
Gingerbread crumbs
Pearl sugar
Ground cardamom

Singaporean
: Features milk chocolate with crystallised ginger, roasted & salted peanut and chilli marshmallow, pandan and coconut cream sago pearls, coconut ganache, dried pineapple and toasted coconut flakes.

The Pantry 

Chocolate: 200 grams (white), 400 grams (milk)
1 half portion of Home Made Marshmallow
with roasted, salted peanuts (chopped) and dried chilli flakes (recipe below)
1 small can of coconut cream
Pandan essence (available from Asian food stores – often likened to Asia’s version of vanilla)
100 grams of dried sago pearls
Crystallised ginger
Dried pineapple
Toasted coconut flakes

Begin by preparing the fillings for the rocky road. You may wish to start this recipe a day in advance. One bonus of this recipe is all the extras can be used on their own for delicious treats and deserts.

Mulled Wine :: The Scandinavian Baker

Mulled Wine Jelly

One bottle of bold red wine
One vanilla pod (split)
3-4 star anise pods
7-8 cloves
2 cinnamon quills
10 cardamom seeds, crushed
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3 slices of orange
1/2 a teaspoon of orange zest
Juice from half a freshly squeezed orange
1 packet of gelatine leaves

Combine all ingredients, except the gelatine leaves, in a medium sized saucepan and warm over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and the reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes until slightly reduced.

Once reduced, remove from the heat and allow to cool a little while you soak the gelatine leaves in water. Follow the instructions as a guide for the type of gelatine you have. Once softened, squeeze out the excess water from the leaves and add them to the wine mixture. Stir to dissolve. Transfer the liquid to a mould and allow to set in the fridge for at least 5 hours or overnight. Once set, cut into cubes ready for the Rocky Road.

 

Mulled Wine Jelly :: The Scandinavian Baker

Marshmallow

500g caster sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
2 tablespoons gelatine powder
2 x 200 ml of water
2 eggwhites
1/2 cup (75g) cornflour combined with 1/2 cup of icing sugar

Line a baking dish with plastic wrap. Dust inside of pan with a mix of icing sugar and cornflour.

Combine the caster sugar, liquid glucose and 200ml of water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. If you have a sugar thermometer, take it off the boil when it reaches 130°C.

Place another 200ml of water into a small bowl and sprinkle over the powdered gelatine, then stand for 10 minutes. Stir the gelatine mixture until well combined and then add it into the sugar syrup.

Home-made Marshmallow :: The Scandinavian Baker

Beat eggwhites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. Continue to beat while you gradually add the sugar syrup mixture, then beat for a further 10 minutes until mixture thickens and becomes glossy.

Remove half the mixture and place into a separate bowl. Once split, start the mixer again and add the Scandinavian spices and beat until combined.  To the second bowl add the Singaporean themed ingredients of peanuts and dried chilli flakes.

Spread both mixtures into trays and refrigerate for an hour until set.  Cut marshmallow into squares and roll each in the sugar cornflour mixture. Stand for 1 hour to dry. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Home-made Marshmallow :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

Pandan and Coconut Sago

This one is simple. Cook the sago per the instructions on the packet, substituting the same amount water with half the can of coconut cream. Normally you would add some sugar to the mix, but the rocky road may be sweet enough for you. If in doubt you can add tablespoon of caster sugar to the sago while cooking. Add a few drops of Pandan essence to achieve a vibrant tropical green colour and delicate flavour.  Once cooked, allow to cool before using.

Pandan & Coconut Sago :: The Scandinavian Baker

 

Preparing the Rocky Road

Assemble your themed ingredients. You’ll need two baking dishes lined with plastic film or non-stick baking paper. Scatter the cubes of jelly, chopped almonds and spiced marshmallow into the first tray. In the second tray, scatter the peanut and chili marshmallow and pieces of crystallised ginger.

Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker

Melting the chocolate

400 gram of dark + 200 grams of milk for the Scandinavian
400 grams of milk for the Singaporean

If your microwave has a chocolate setting, live like it’s the future and use this method. Otherwise break the chocolate into pieces and place into a heat proof bowls and melt over a pot of simmering water. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted. Repeat the process with the remaining chocolate types.

Coconut Ganache

To make the coconut ganache, heat the remaining coconut cream in heat proof bowl, when warmed add the white chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Scandinavian Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker

Assembly

Pour the melted dark chocolate over the mulled wine jelly, almonds and marshmallow.

Home-made marshmallow tends to melt a little when exposed to the warm chocolate, but it will reform when you let the Rocky Road set.

Sprinkle the chocolate with the gingerbread crumbs and pearl sugar, dust with ground cardamom and put the mix aside to set.

Repeat the process for the Singaporean Rock Road.

Pour the melted milk chocolate over the marshmallow and ginger. Scatter the pandan sago and drizzle over the coconut ganache. Finish with the toasted coconut and dried pineapple.  If you like things spicy thrown a few extra chilli flakes on top and put aside to set.

Place the Rocky Roads into the fridge to set. Once chilled, cut into bars and wrap in small cellophane bags, ready for the little ghouls and goblins to come knocking.

Rocky Road :: The Scandinavian Baker

Foundation marshmallow recipe adapted from one by Valli Little.

Blood Orange, Chiffon and a glass of Campari

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

I was strolling through our local produce market the other day and was delighted to see that the blood oranges had arrived and were in plentiful supply.  A bitter-sweet few weeks of red-orange blush wondrousness that I look forward to each year. If you’ve never tasted blood orange juice you’re in for a treat, it is at once refreshing, sweet and bitter; nature’s original aperitif – part orange, part chinotto, part sunset.

Blood Oranges :: The Scandinavian Baker

I’m an unyielding fan of Campari – in fact I drank so much of it on a summer holiday in Rome that just the scent of it, and blood oranges, instantly transport me back to the heat, bustle and noise of the city.

Now, an orange chiffon cake is a classic, and you know I can’t resist missing with a classic. The addition of the blood oranges and the Campari takes this cake from much loved faded Polaroid memories of afternoon tea on the patio with Grandma, to an equally pleasing afternoon tea on the terrace overlooking the Seven Hills of Rome.

So, squash those fears of sponges, ungreased tins, inverted half-baked eggy disasters waiting to happen; embrace a touch of Roman Holiday and thrust your hand into the waiting mouth that is the Chiffon.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

6 large eggs plus one additional egg white

225 grams plain flour

300 grams of golden caster sugar (reserve 50g for the egg whites)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Zest from two blood oranges – or 1 garden variety orange

125 ml of canola or sunflower oil

200 ml of freshly squeezed blood orange juice (reserve 20 ml for the icing)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 Angel Food cake tin – ungreased and unlined (trust me; you do actually need this type of tin. Preferably one with feet attached to the rim. Although you’ll see in my case I threw caution to the wind and relied on just the spout – rebel)

Edible Flowers :: The Scandinavian Baker

Icing

250 grams of icing sugar

125 grams of melted butter

20 ml of blood orange juice

20 ml of Campari

Blood Oranges :: The Scandinavian Baker

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake

Preheat oven to 170c.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites (plus the extra one) into a large metal mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine the sifted flour, 250 grams of the sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest in your stand mixer bowl. Add the wet ingredients, juice, yolks, oil at once and mix on a medium speed until smooth and well combined.

Switch bowls, and beaters, and whisk the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar in a steady stream and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

Take a couple of large spoonfuls of the meringue and beat it into the cake batter. Don’t worry about folding at this point. This primes the batter to take the rest of the meringue mixture.

Gently combine the remaining egg white mixture in two or three batches. Mix until just combined and the cloud like wisps of white have mixed with the sunset pink of the batter.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

Gently pour the batter into an unprepared Angel Food cake tin – I stress, unprepared, No lining, no greasing. Trust me on this; you need the cake to stick. Once the cake is cooked you’ll need to invert it to complete the baking process and a greased tin will mock you as you scrape up your deflated dreams and sponge up from the floor.

Bake for 55 minutes until golden and enormous.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

As soon as you remove the cake (take a deep breath) invert it and rest it upside down until completely cool. Give yourself a moment to bask in your success.

Once cool, run a sharp knife around the edge and the spout and invert the cake on to your serving plate. It may require a slight tap.

Don’t worry too much if you’ve left a little of the crumb behind in the tin. Icing covers all sins.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

The icing

Melt the butter and add the sifted icing sugar. Whisk vigorously, or use a hand beater if you’re worried it will split. Add the Campari and enough of the blood orange juice to form a smooth flowing consistency. Gently pour your blush coloured icing over the top of the cake allowing it to run down the sides and middle hole as you see fit, it will set as it cools.  Decorate with edible flowers and pour yourself a Campari over ice with a dash of any remaining juice. Then sit back and think of Audrey Hepburn.

Blood Orange Chiffon Cake :: The Scandinavian Baker

Original Chiffon Cake recipe from Joy of Baking. 

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

Jam, cream and austerity

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

For a long time I thought nothing could beat the classic Finnish Pulla. The somewhere between light and dense, cardamom laced, delicately sweet ubiquitous bread that is a staple in Finnish households, and eaten daily by me when in Finland.

Once I’d lived in Scandinavia, however, I discovered a smorgasbord of delightful variations, some appearing only once a year. And as you know I’m somewhat obsessed with holiday food – I was sold.

Enter the Laskiaispulla – the pulla for Shrove Tuesday. Push those common pancakes aside – Lent has a new King. Also known as Semla in Swedish, vastlakukkel in Estonian or fastelavnsbolle in Danish and Norwegian this little bun loved across the still icy Spring shores of the Baltic.

What better way to toast the season of going without than by stuffing your face with a jam and cream filled taste explosion.

The recipe below is for half the usual batch – even I can’t devour 32 buns, but if you’ve got a big group of hungry pilgrims popping around to feast one last time before Easter by all means double it.

Ingredients for Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

The Pantry

1 packet of instant yeast
1/2 a cup of Milk – warmed to body temperature
1/2 cup of golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
50 grams of unsalted butter – softened
3 cups of plain flour – sifted
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

For Decoration

Flaked or ground almonds – or a combination
Pearl sugar
Extra egg for glaze

Toppings

Lingonberry Jam
Cream – for whipping
icing sugar

Combine the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom, milk, butter and beaten egg in your mixing bowl. Using the standard mixing blade switch on and gradually add 1 cup of flour until the mixture in smooth. Switch to the dough hook and incorporate the rest of the flour.

Kneed in your mixer for 5 minutes or turn out onto a floured surface and knead by had for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover and allow to rise for up to two hours  or until at least doubled in size.

Once risen turn out and divide into 16 equal portions. Gently roll each portion into a ball and place on a lined baking tray to rise again.

While waiting, make a list of thing you think you should give up for Lent… (not compulsory – the dough will still rise if you skip this step)

Gently brush the risen dough with an egg wash and sprinkle the almonds or pearl sugar onto the rolls.

Bake at 190c for12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Ding – rolls become buns. Allow the buns to cool before adorning with the jam and cream.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

To Serve

Slice the top of each bun and spread a layer of jam on the bottom half, top with cream and pop the top back on. Dust with icing sugar and you’ve a got a perfect last supper on your hands.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: The Scandinavian Baker

Options

A delicious alternative is to fill the buns with almond paste – this can be made by processing blanched almonds,  a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and a dash of cream until it comes together to form a paste. It’s worth a try.

These buns are hard to put down; cute, perfectly proportioned and undeniably moreish – I’ve eaten three just writing this post.

A solemn and hungry Lent to all.

Laskiaispulla or Semla  :: 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

Runebergintorttu

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

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