This past fall, Beatrice Ojakangas published her new memoir, Homemade. Unsurprisingly, it falls into the combined memoir/cookbook genre – one I have enjoyed in the past, though upon reflection I haven’t actually read too many of them (when you find your favorites it can be hard to move past them, you know?). Nonetheless, I was really looking forward to this one when I first heard about it. For those who don’t know, Ojakangas has published an astoshingly diverse array of cookbooks throughout her life, including the one that led me to start this blog: The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.
While Homemade is a slim volume, it’s chock full of recipes and stories. It’s written in Ojakangas’s trademark straightforward style, which befits her own life story of growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota. If when you hear “food memoir” you’re expecting something in line with Molly Wizenburg’s A Homemade Life, keep an open mind with this book, which is nothing like that. The book is divided into two halves, which more or less correspond with Ojakangas’s childhood and youth, up through her college years (part 1) and her life after marriage (part 2). The “chapters” are small (many are only 2-3 pages), especially in the first half of the book. While I appreciated the glimpse of a childhood and an upbringing so completely unlike my own provided by part 1, I have to admit I enjoyed part 2 the most – this is the half of the book containing Beatrice’s stories of writing for Sunset Magazine, writing her cookbooks, spending a year in Finland, and meeting and working with both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. She truly has led a fascinating life.
Peppered throughout these anecdote-like chapters are, of course, recipes. They are definitely not purely Nordic, but again, the diversity of recipes is a strength. I flagged a few as I read that I wanted to try out, and the publisher has very kindly agreed to let me share my favorite here: almond cardamom scones. These are easy-peasy drop scones, and the secret to really getting these right is using freshly ground cardamom. Grinding the cardamom seeds is the most labor intensive part, but the fragrance and the aroma just can’t be matched by the pre-ground stuff. You’ll find the recipe below.
Almond Cardamom Scones
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon sugar, to sprinkle over the top of the scones
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Lightly grease a large cookie sheet or cover with parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking powder, cardamom, sugar, and almonds in a large bowl.
Grate the frozen butter onto the flour mixture.
Mix the eggs and 1/2 cup of the yogurt in a small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and blend quickly, just until a dough forms. (Add a bit more yogurt or buttermilk if needed.)
Using an ice cream scoop, place in mounds of dough on the cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Sprinkle tops with the sugar.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes until light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
Recipe excerpted with kind permission from Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food by Beatrice Ojakangas.