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Monday, October 17, 2011

Rye bread -- Ruispalat

There is a type of rye bread in grocery stores in Finland that I have never eaten home made.  According to Wikipedia:  

"Vaasan Ruispala, a brand of rye bread by Vaasan & Vaasan, is Finland's "most popular bread" according to the company. It is otherwise similar to reikäleipä, but is more consumer-oriented. It comes in single portion size, it mixes condensed rye bread taste with zero-day delivery, it borrows from the German rye bread tradition in keeping a more humid, greasier texture than is traditional in Finland, and it makes the best of the humidity preserving qualities of traditional rye bread by serving each piece of bread as a pre-cut pair of two halves, which protect each other but can still be easily separated."  

I've been looking for the recipe for a very long time, I've found a lot of posts online where expatriate Finns stuff their suitcases full of this bread and store it in the freezer.  The only recipe I've found is here.  The main problem is that the recipe calls for rye bran, which doesn't seem to be available in my area or online.  

Other problems with the recipe are the color and the shape.  To get the color right, I think it would be necessary to add a bread colorant, Beatrice Ojakangas talks about these in her bread baking books.  I haven't seen these in stores, but plan to order some and retest the recipe.  To shape the bread, I am looking for the right pan(s) but haven't found them yet.

Anyway, here is a post of what I've come up with so far, it is not exactly like ruispalat, but I think you will enjoy the results!

Stir together:

2 cups warm water (not too hot or the yeast will die!) (5 dl)
2 Tablespoons dark syrup (I used beet syrup from Ikea which is what is available in Finland...dark corn syrup is more common in the U.S.  Don't use pancake syrup!  You could substitute honey or molasses).

2 Tablespoons salt 
1 packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

Then stir in:

1 2/3 cups rye flour (4 dl), I used dark rye flour from Hodgson Mill...I grew up near that mill in the Ozarks!  They don't actually make the flour there, but it is a beautiful place to visit, you can see photos of it and other area mills here.

2 cups bread flour (5 dl).  Since this recipe calls for so much whole grain flour, it is important to use flour that has a high gluten content here.  I actually tried whole wheat flour once--the bread was so hard that even the dogs couldn't eat it!

2/3 cup of wheat bran (1.5 dl)  In the Finnish recipe, it calls for rye bran, but I haven't found this.
1/4 cup of oil (0.5 dl)

The dough should be very sticky, a little thicker than cake batter.  

Pour the dough out onto a jelly roll pan which has been lined with parchment paper.  The parchment paper is VERY important, otherwise the bread won't release.  I used wet hands to pat the dough out smooth.  Sprinkle a little flour on top and cover with a towel.  Let it rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.  

Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (225 Celsius) for about half an hour.

After the bread cools for a bit, it can be cut into squares.  Split each square in half before eating, these pulled apart easily.

The top half of this bread was very much like ruispalat, but I think I need a heavier pan to bake it in because the bottom half was a bit bland and didn't have the right texture.  The wheat bran changed the taste a little, too.  I might try making this with oat bran next time to see what happens, and maybe I'll make it into three loaves in cast iron skillets.  A circular shape would be nice, then it could be cut into wedges to serve.  I'll continue experimenting and posting, check my Facebook page for more frequent updates.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

African style braised chicken

For dinner tonight I made African style braised chicken, nothing Finnish about this recipe except that I've adapted it from a cookbook written by Judith Finlayson!  I think it must be possible to find a Finnish connection to most things, if you try hard enough...

Speaking of Finlayson, I would love to be in Tampere at the Finlayson outlet right now, we really need some new towels.  The ones I bought there in 1993 just wore out!

You can find the original recipe here.  I found it in the Chicago Tribune a long time ago, it is one of my kids' favorite dishes.  I don't really follow the original recipe, though, so I'll post what I do here so my kids can make it, too.

4 pounds (1.8 kilos) of  boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 onions  (I used 2 tablespoons of dried minced onion this time)
4 garlic cloves (I used 2 tablespoons of dried minced garlic this time)
1 bay leaf

1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of tomato sauce
1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of water
1 chicken bouillon cube

peppers and vegetables

1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of peanut butter
juice of one lemon

First, I browned about 4 pounds (1.8 kilos) of  boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I used a heavy pan to do this, cooking slowly until the thighs were browned well on all sides.  If I had used fresh onions and garlic, I would have cooked it with the chicken, but all I had was dried so I added it later.  If you use fresh, add 2 chopped onions and 4 minced garlic cloves.  Make sure and turn the chicken and cook it slowly so it doesn't burn.  Then I took them out and drained them on paper towels and also wiped most of the oil out of the skillet.

I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of water.  To deglaze, just pour in all the liquid and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the dried-on bits off.  Season with a bay leaf (take the bay leaf out before serving, you can't eat it!), one chicken bouillon cube and pepper.

I put the chicken in the bottom of a crockpot slow cooker and poured the sauce over it.  Then I added some vegetables that I found in the garden...a few green beans, some cherry tomatoes, and a variety of peppers, both hot and sweet.  It is easy to adjust the heat of the dish by omitting the hot peppers.  I leave the vegetables whole when possible in case one of the kids wants to sort them out.  I also added a generous two tablespoons each of dried minced garlic and dried minced onion at this point.

This cooked on low for about 3 hours (if you don't cook the chicken as well in the skillet as I did, you should cook it 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high).  When it is done the chicken will shred easily with a fork.

Just before serving, add the juice of one lemon and 1/2 cup (1.25 dl) of peanut butter.  Stir well and serve over rice.

If for some reason you couldn't add peanut butter, this dish would still be delicious without it, but I would still add the lemon juice and maybe a tablespoon of brown sugar (to taste).

My family loves this dish, and I hope yours will, too!

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Cream--Uunissa Paistettu Lohi Kerma ja Sitruuna Kastikessa

This is the second time I've posted about baked salmon, you can find the other post here.  I just can't resist buying Norwegian salmon when I find it fresh, it really is so much richer than the Chilean salmon we usually have at the grocery.  Scandinavia has the most delicious fish!  This beautiful 3 pound (1.5 kilo) fillet came home with me from Sam's Club yesterday, and I wanted to cook it right away.  

This time I baked the salmon in cast iron, I love to cook in cast iron when I can.  I have to admit that this is a fairly new cast iron pan, none of my Grandmother's pans were large enough to hold this much fish.  But I've used the pan enough that it is well-seasoned.

First, I rubbed the pan with olive oil (you could use any vegetable oil if you want, I don't really think it matters as much as the chefs on TV would like for you to believe!).  I stuck the pan in the oven and preheated it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (that is about 230 degrees Celsius).  Be careful taking cast iron out of the oven when it is that hot--and NEVER use a damp potholder because the dampness will conduct heat.

While the pan was heating, I cut the fillet in half so it would fit an rubbed both sides with smoked sea salt.  I've tried a lot of the different sea salts available now, and smoked salt is definitely my favorite for meat.  It is a little hard to find, but worth the effort.  I also sliced two lemons to put on top of the fish.

After the pan was heated, I took it out of the oven and put in the fillets, it started to sizzle immediately.  I quickly put the lemon slices on top and poured just a little cream around the edges, as is typical in Finnish cooking.  When you bake a big piece of fish, it is important to have some kind of liquid in the pan, this helps the fish cook more evenly. 

The fish was perfectly baked after 15 minutes.  Be careful, salmon gets dry if it is overcooked.  The thickest parts of the fillets should be slightly raw looking in the middle when you take it out of the oven, This will go away when it sits for five minutes before eating, especially if you are using a heavy pan like this.

I sprinkled capers over the salmon, and we ate it with potatoes and mixed vegetables cooked with a little chicken bouillon.   Would you hold it against me if I admitted that the "potatoes" were actually french fries?  The cream sauce around the fish would be incredible over pasta.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Like" Cooking Finland on Facebook!

Seems like there are quite a few people who would like some input into what I cook, so I've created a page on Facebook where we can have an ongoing dialogue on Finnish food.  Click here if you have a Facebook account, then click on the "like" button to be able to post comments.  I hope everyone enjoys this new feature...and I'll have some exciting new posts in the very near future!

I'm moving photos of all of the previous posts over to Facebook in order to use the page as a visual index for this blog.  That way if you really are just looking for bread, for example, you don't have to dig through all of the delicious dessert photos...unless you want to, of course!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


With Oktoberfest celebrations all around, we have really been in the mood to eat German food.  Both of my older kids are studying German in school, and enjoy all of the food-based celebrations.  In Finland, schnitzel or weininleike has been a popular lunch dish at restaraunts, usually served with lemon slices and capers and mashed potatoes or french fries on the side.  My husband has really been missing this dish, he ordered it at a German restaurant the other night, the most expensive dish on the menu!  Of course, the German restaurant served veal schnitzel, but in Finland it is most usually made with pork.  I prefer pork for many reasons.  

I started with a whole pork loin that I bought at Sam's club for about $16.  I usually buy the smaller ones, they come from smaller animals and are generally more tender.  I cut the loin in four big pieces and refroze each piece individually--each piece is enough for one meal for our family of big eaters plus plenty of leftovers.

To make the loin into pork chops, I thawed it until it was still slushy and frozen in the middle, partially frozen meat is much firmer and easier to cut up.  I used a very sharp serrated knife to cut the thin pork chops.  I cut them fairly thin so the schnitzels wouldn't be too big when they were pounded out.  

The serrated knife I used is really a bread knife, but I think it cuts partially frozen meat much better than my other knives, the teeth really dig in.  After the chops were cut, I laid them on a metal cookie sheet to quickly finish thawing (about 5-10 minutes).  Everything thaws quicker if you lay it on metal--the metal conducts heat away from the food.

Next, to pound out the chops, I've been using my heavy rolling pin, but today I used my new meat mallet that I bought just for this (my family has been wanting schnitzel every night lately!).  The rolling pin works fine, but it is sometimes hard to get the chop as even with it.  Cover the chop with plastic wrap before pounding it out, otherwise the kitchen will be splattered!  After pounding out the chops, I salted them a little and put them in the refrigerator until closer to dinner time.

About 45 minutes before dinnertime, I prepared the coating.  On the first plate, I put 1.5 cups of flour (3.5 dl) and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  In the bowl, I mixed 3 eggs and 1/4 cup of milk (0.5 dl).  On the last plate, I put about 2.5 cups of bread crumbs (6 dl).  I make my own bread crumbs from all the odds and ends that the kids don't eat--I keep a bag of bread bits in the freezer and when I have enough I run it through the food processor.  You could also use any dry bread crumbs--panko Japanese bread crumbs would be delicious.  I based this recipe on one by Tyler Florence, you can find it here.  Lightly season the bread crumbs with salt and pepper, too.

Coat the chops completely in flour, then carefully shake off the excess.  Dip the chop in egg and coat it liberally in bread crumbs.  At this point, I laid them in individual layers on cookie sheets.  Letting them rest for 10 minutes is supposed to help the coating stick better.

After 10 minutes, I heated olive oil and a little butter in a cast iron frying pan.  Cast iron is great to cook in because it holds heat so well and heats so evenly.  I put in a few sprigs of thyme and was really careful not to overheat the butter.  Burnt butter is not a good flavor!

At this time, I preheated the oven to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius).

I took out the thyme and put in the schnitzel two at a time.  I barely browned them on each side and then put them back on the cookie sheets.  I had to add olive oil and butter to the pan as I added more schnitzel.  When all of them were browned, I put the cookie sheets in the oven for about 20 minutes to finish cooking.  That way all my schnitzel were done at exactly the same time.  You could also cook them completely in the skillet, but for a big family, it is so much easier to use the oven.

I used the drippings from the skillet and the left-over flour to make a pan gravy.  First, I browned the flour in the pan, then added milk, stirring rapidly.  I added a little Knorr beef bouillon and pinch of brown sugar.  The gravy was delicious on mashed potatoes, but I also baked a few french fries for my husband...

Don't forget to give everyone a slice of lemon to squeeze over the schnitzel.  And a few capers make this dish authentically Finnish.  I've made the pork version twice, and last night I made it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  

My husband said it was just like in Finland.  The kids just wanted to know if they could have it again tomorrow...and the teenager even smiled.  No better compliment than that!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rhubarb tart -- raparperi-torttu

This year I decided that the rhubarb plant that I put in the ground (bare root) about 5 years ago was big enough to pick a few stems.  I found this recipe in a new cookbook that I bought a couple of weeks ago, Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink.  It is a cookbook from a bakery in London and the author is Finnish.  Gorgeous photos in the book!

Here is a photo of my little rhubarb plant.  I wish I had put more in the ground back when I planted this!
I barely got enough rhubarb to make the tart.

Remember that when you are cooking with rhubarb, only the stems are edible, the leaves are actually poisonous.

Here are the ingredients I used for the tart base, which is almost like a cross between a cookie and a pie crust.

1 1/3 cup flour (3 dl)
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup sugar (1 dl)
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

First, mix the flour and baking powder together.  Then I used my fingers to mix the softened butter into the flour until it made pea-sized lumps.  You could also use a pastry blender, but I like to use very clean hands.  Mix this very well, working the butter into the flour.  When the butter melts as you bake it, this leaves the crust light and flaky.  This is the same method used to make American biscuits.

In the next photo, you can see the texture of the pea-sized lumps.  Next, I mixed in the egg yolk and sugar.  It made a very crumbly dough.

I pressed the dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom.  If you don't have one of these, you could just put it in a pie pan and press the dough partially up the sides.

For the filling, mix10 oz (280 grams) rhubarb (I doubt I had that much!) with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  Spread this in the tart pan.

Next, for the topping, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter with 1/3 cup sugar (3/4 dl) and 1/2 cup rolled oats (1 dl).  Sprinkle this evenly over the top.

Bake at 400 F (200 C) for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

This was a wonderful dessert, the tartness of the rhubarb is a perfect with the sweetness of the brown sugar.  The only one in the family who didn't enjoy it was my 7 year old son--he just couldn't get past the fact that there were green bits in his dessert!

Next time I make this, I may give my poor little rhubarb plant a break and try substituting wild blueberries, raspberries, or even granny smith apples.  It would be delicious with any kind of tart fruit.  My daughter even suggested that it would also be terrific with no fruit at all.

It would be even better with a little whipped cream on top!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Funnel cakes for May day--Tippaleipä

The first of May, or vappu as it is called in Finnish, is a huge celebration.  The entire country celebrates with street festivals.  The most traditional food for this celebration is funnel cakes, and these are enjoyed with sima, a lemon-flavored mead.  I'm making these a few days early as a surprise for the kids when they come home from school--that way I'll have the photos to post this so you can make them for May 1, too!

I based my recipe on the one in the Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas.  I doubled the recipe because yeast batter keeps well in the refrigerator and you can always make waffles out of the extra for breakfast tomorrow!  For the funnel cakes, you need:

4 eggs
2 cups of warm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package dry yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour

Oil for frying

First, warm the milk but don't get it too hot or it will kill the yeast.  Break the eggs in a very large bowl and stir them to break the yolks.  Stir in the warm milk, sugar and yeast.  Add the salt and about half of the flour.  Stir this well--I didn't bother using the stand mixer for this because the batter is much easier to mix than a bread dough.  Then I stirred in the rest of the flour, and continued to stir until it was fully combined.  Next, the recipe said to let it stand in a warm place for about an hour.  Since I have several hours before the kids come home, I just left it on the counter so it would rise more slowly.  After it doubled, I put it in the refrigerator to wait for the school bus to come.  Watch the dough carefully, if it rises too much, you may need to stir it to knock it back down.  Look at how much the batter rose before the kids started coming home!

Instead of using a funnel, I used a gallon-sized plastic baggie, and put some batter in it.  I snipped the corner (be careful--the hole doesn't have to be very big!) and used that to squeeze the batter into the hot oil.

To fry the batter, heat oil in a heavy skillet until it sizzles when a small drop of water is dripped in it.  I used canola oil in an old cast iron skillet.  Never leave oil unattended while you are frying!

Squeeze in the dough, it will brown almost instantly.  Flip it with a fork, and let the other side brown also.

When both sides are brown, use the fork to take out the pastry and set it on a plate covered with a few layers of paper towels to drain.  I always use plain white paper towels for this.  Sprinkle on some powdered sugar and eat immediately!  I wish the Sima was finished to drink with these...

Sima--Finnish lemon mead for May Day

Sima is the traditional drink of spring in Finland.  It is a lemonade that is made from whole lemons and brown sugar, then carbonated with yeast.  Drink it cold with funnel cakes, like they do in Finland on the first of May.

I have started the sima, but it isn't finished yet, it takes several days.  I'll post more photos later, but I wanted to go ahead and share the recipe so you can have it ready for the weekend, too!  I make several batches of this for my husband every year, it reminds him of home.

I based my recipe on Beatrice Ojakangas' the Finnish Cookbook.

First, boil 4 quarts (3.75 liters) of water.  While you wait for the water to boil, thinly slice two lemons.  Make sure and wash them well, and then slice them peel and all.  I use a mandonlin to slice them, it works really well and makes nice thin slices.  

When the water boils, stir in one cup (2 1/3 dl) of brown sugar and one cup (2 1/3 dl) of white sugar until they dissolve.  Remove the pan from the heat, then put in the lemon slices, making sure to get all of the juice.  Let this set for a couple of hours until it is lukewarm.

After the liquid cools to lukewarm, stir in 1/8 teaspoon of yeast.  This isn't much--don't add more or the mead will taste too yeasty!  The yeast is what carbonates the mead.  Let this sit overnight in a large non-metal bowl.

When it is ready, it should have small bubbles around the edges.  At this point, strain out the lemon slices and use a funnel to put it in bottles with a tight lid.  I reuse gallon water bottles or 2 liter seltzer bottles for this.  If you use bottles that had anything but water in them, be sure to clean and sterilize them well!

Into each bottle, put a couple of teaspoons of sugar and 4 raisins.  Close the lid tightly and let it stand at room temperature until the raisins rise to the top.  This could be anywhere from 8 hours to 2 days, depending on the room temperature.

When the raisins float, the sima is fermented (but not enough to be alcoholic) and ready to drink.  Store it in the refrigerator, and drink it cold.Publish Post

The pith (white part) from the lemon slices sometimes makes the sima taste a little too bitter for my kids--often when I make it I will zest and juice one of the lemons and slice the other (remember to zest the lemons before juicing--it is almost impossible to zest an empty lemon peel!).  The kids like it best if I zest both lemons then squeeze the juice, but this completely removes the characteristic bitter undertone.  Experiment and see what you like best!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lemon pasta--sitruunapasta

This is a dish I found in a newspaper article about a decade ago, and it is probably my kids' favorite food ever.  Our chives just started growing again in the last week or so, so it is time to make this simple spring pasta dish.  I've found versions of this recipe on Finnish sites, also, but this came from an American newspaper.  You can add other fresh herbs such as basil if you like, and vary the amount of cheese if you like more or less.

First, put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  You can use angel hair or regular spaghetti.  Last night for supper, I used whole grain spaghetti.

While waiting for the water to boil, wash a large lemon thoroughly and grate the zest.  After zesting the lemon, squeeze the juice.  It is nearly impossible to zest a lemon that has already been juiced!  In a large mixing bowl, put the following:

The zest and juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons of butter cut in small pieces
pepper to taste (we like fresh-ground for this recipe, or you could use lemon pepper for more zing)

about 1/4 cup of snipped chives or green onions (I've even used dried onions before with good results.  A chopped sweet onion could be substituted)

about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta (1 package = 1 pound or 1/2 kg) according to the package directions.  As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and immediately add it to the large bowl.  Stir thoroughly, melting the butter and cheese.  Serve with more Parmesan cheese and lemon pepper if you want.  This dish is also wonderful chilled in summer.

Pasha and Kulitsa--Eastern Finnish creamy dessert and bread for Easter

This week, I made pasha and kulitsa, dishes that are traditionally eaten at Easter in eastern Finland.  My husband had never had these before, but I will definitely be making them again for dessert on Easter Sunday.  Pasha is a creamy dessert, kind of like a fruit and almond flavored cream cheese.  Kulitsa is a sweet bread, full of raisins, with a beautiful golden color.  Everyone was really excited to try it, it is the kind of food that you just can't stop eating once you start!  

I made two size 4 coffee filter sized  pasha and two loaves of kulitsa, the plan was to have one for dessert after dinner, and the other for the next day...somehow almost all of it disappeared last night!  

The pasha takes at least 24 hours to make.  There are a lot of different flavorings used in pasha in Finland, including raisins, currants, cherries, or candied citron.  Another complication with making this in the United States is that we don't have "maitorahka" or quark.  I did quite a bit of research before deciding on this combination of several recipes.

The ingredients I used were:

16 ounces of 4 percent milk-fat cottage cheese (2 cups or 5 dl)
1/2 cup sour cream (1.25 dl)
(note:  if you have maitorahka or quark available, just use 6.25 dl instead of the cottage cheese and sour cream)

2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons of pasteurized egg product or 2 pasteurized egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup ground or finely chopped almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins or currants or candied citron if you want to change the flavor)

First, if you don't have maitorahka or quark, put the cottage cheese in a food processor or blender and process until it is smooth:

Next, add the butter and sour cream and process again.  Make sure the butter is soft or you may find a lump in the finished product.  Add the egg, in Finland eggs are sold pasteurized, but here they are not generally.  Do not use raw, unpasteurized eggs in this dish because it is not cooked.  Here are the products I used:

Next, add the sugar.  If you are using vanilla sugar instead of liquid vanilla, it is best to mix it with the granular sugar before putting it in the pasha.  Otherwise it may lump together and spoil the dish.

Use a spatula to mix in the dried fruit.  The most traditional dried fruit to use is raisin, but after some research I found that a lot of people really like the cherry pasha, and I thought my kids would like it better, too.

The pasha needs to drain overnight.  To do this, I used coffee filters and to support them, I used some parts out of old coffee makers.  Make sure to remove the mechanism that keeps the coffee from coming out unless the pot is under the filter.  This is easy to do, there is a little rubber ring that can be removed from the inside.  I'll put them back before I use these for coffee again.

If you don't have these laying around, you could also use a large yogurt container for the support, but make sure to punch a hole in the bottom.  You could use cheesecloth in a sieve instead of the filters and make one large pasha.  Anything that has a hole in the bottom can be used, as long as it is lined with a filter or cheesecloth.

This was my set-up.  After filling the filters, I used a small bowl to weight down the pasha, then set them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  About 2/3 of a cup of sweet liquid drained from them in that time.  Just before serving, unmold the pasha by putting a clean plate over the top, then flipping it upside down.  Peel off the filter or cheesecloth.  Decorate with fruit and serve with whipped cream or as a topping for kulitsa.  The recipe for kulitsa is here.

Kulitsa, a sweet bread for Easter

Kulitsa is a sweet, fruity bread served at Easter in eastern Finland and Russia.  It is wonderful with pasha spread on it!  The recipe for pasha is here.

There are a lot of recipes for this bread, some include saffron, currants, or citron.  I got this recipe from a Finnish site, here.  Of course I made a couple of modifications...

The ingredients are:

1 1/4 cups warm milk (3 dl)
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 cake of fresh yeast)
2/3 cup sugar (1.5 dl)
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted (50 g)
1 teaspoon cardamom
grated peel of one lemon
a little less than 1 cup raisins (2 dl)
1/2 cup ground almonds (1 dl)
about 4 1/2 cups of flour (11+ dl)

First, I washed a lemon well and grated the peel.  The microplane grater in the back works really well, but you can also use any fine grater, like the one the lemon is sitting on.  Make sure and only take the yellow part of the peel, the white part is really bitter.

Warm up the milk, but don't get it too hot or it will kill the yeast.  I put the milk in the stand mixer bowl, then stirred in the sugar and yeast until it was dissolved.  Next, I added all of the rest of the ingredients except the flour and mixed well.  I added the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough started to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Note that this dough is MUCH stickier than regular bread dough, this is because of the milk and extra eggs.

Grease a non-metal bowl (I sprayed it with cooking spray) and put the dough in it to rise.  I sprinkled the dough with flour to get it out of the stand mixer bowl, otherwise it would have been a sticky mess.  Cover the dough with a clean towel and put it in a warm place to rise.  I used my warming drawer, but you can put it in any warm place.  If you turn the oven on as low as possible for a few minutes, then turn it off again, you can put the dough in to rise--just don't forget and leave the oven on.

Let the loaves rise, covered, for another 1/2 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) and then bake for about 40 minutes.  The original recipe suggested basting with egg before baking, but I forgot.  I think the loaves are beautifully brown anyway.  The outside of this bread bakes to a deep brown color, but the inside remains soft and golden.  Sweet and delicious.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mämmi, a traditional Finnish porridge or pudding

Mämmi is probably one of the most traditional foods eaten at Easter in Finland.  Traditionally it was baked in boxes made of birch bark, but today you can buy it in cardboard boxes in ever grocery store.  There are a lot of mämmi recipes, but the one I used is from The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas.  Mämmi is a type of baked rye porridge, with a very strong molasses or malted flavor.  I have always loved molasses and enjoy this dish a lot.  

My husband has never really cared for the dish as purchased at the stores in Finland, but when I made it for him fresh, he really enjoyed it and asked if I could make it again.  There really is no substitute for homemade!  This dish had mixed results with the kids--I think part of their objection was the color.

The Finnish recipes generally include grated orange peel, or more specifically, grated bitter orange peel (pomeranssi).  After reading some side effects of bitter orange on Wikipedia, I decided not to include it.  I'm sure the small amount generally used in this dish is probably safe, but it sounds poisonous to me.  I left out the orange peel completely, and evidently that is what my husband didn't like about the purchased dish in Finnish grocery stores!  He commented that the flavor was very authentic except for the lack of a bitter aftertaste.  I took this as a compliment!

The ingredients I used were:

4 cups water (1 liter)
1/2 cup sorghum or dark molasses (1 dl plus 3.5 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rye flour (2.5 dl)

Boil the water, molasses, and salt to a slow boil.  Use a whisk to stir in 1/4 of the rye flour.  Whisk vigorously and turn off the heat.  Let the mixture cool for at least 10 minutes, then whisk in the rest of the flour.

Stir in the remaining rye flour (and two tablespoons of bitter orange peel if you are using it, I didn't).  Remove from heat and pour into a 1.5 quart (1.5 liter) casserole dish.  I sprayed the dish with some cooking spray first, the recipe didn't say that it was necessary to grease the dish, but I think it would stick terribly if you didn't.

Bake at 275 F (135 C) for 3 hours.
Serve with whole milk or cream and a sprinkling of sugar.

Hope you enjoy this very traditional dish!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Apricot-Cardamom Cake

I collect cookbooks of all kinds, but especially the red-checkered Better Homes and Gardens ones.  There are a lot of them that look exactly alike on my shelf, but the ones from different years have very different recipes.  Cooking from the older ones is like a short culinary trip back in time!  This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, and is from 1998, not so long ago.

This recipe is not Finnish at all, as far as I know, but it contains cardamom and apricot which are popular flavors in Finland.  These flavors combine with brown sugar to make a moist and flavorful cake.  I doubled the recipe so that it would be easier to convert the amounts to metric, and a jelly roll pan is perfect to bake the larger cake.  Plus, it is Saturday and everyone is home, a single recipe wouldn't have lasted long!

Here are the ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour (5 dl)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar (2.5 dl)
1 cup orange juice (2.5 dl)
1/2 cup applesauce (1.25 dl--not an exact conversion, but a little extra is ok in this recipe)
4 tablespoons butter, melted (57 grams)
1 cup finely snipped dried apricots (2.5 dl)

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

First, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom) in a separate bowl and mix well.  It is always important to mix the baking soda and/or powder in the flour first because otherwise the batter won't rise evenly.

Next, mix the egg, brown sugar, orange juice, applesauce, and melted butter together in a separate bowl. Make sure you pack in the brown sugar to measure it to get the right amount.

Here are the snipped apricots, I used clean Kitchen scissors to cut them up.

I stirred together the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients, and the apricots, scraping the sides well with a spatula.

I baked the cake in a jelly roll pan which was lined with parchment.  The original instructions said to use an ungreased pan, but I was afraid it might stick.  Better Homes and Gardens also suggested that you could line the pan with foil, but the parchment worked really well.

Bake the cake in preheated a 350 F (175 C) oven for about 20 minutes.  The cake baked really quickly in this size pan.  Cool without removing from the pan, or it will fall apart.

For the icing, mix about a cup (2.5 dl) of powdered sugar with enough orange juice so that it drizzles easily (about 2 or 3 tablespoons).  Drizzle this over the cake.

When the cake is cool, cut it into bars.  Or if your family is impatient like mine, just cut it and eat it warm and crumbly!  This cake got rave reviews from everyone, even the family members who prefer not to find fruit in their cakes.