homemade: almond cardamom scones

 

scones1

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.

homemade

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.

scones3

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.

scones2

Recipe excerpted with kind permission from HomemadeFinnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food by Beatrice Ojakangas.

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toscabakelser & mandelformer

I like almonds. Like, a whole lot. So I get really excited about recipes in The Book that work with almonds. I’m combining two recipes in one post here, because the recipes themselves are quite similar, even though they’re served up in very different ways.

Back in January when I had some friends over for dinner, I baked up some toscabakelser for dessert. Ojakangas explains that traditionally, these are almond tarts (fairly small: think cookie-sized) baked in sandbakelse tins. Scandinavian Americans are more inclined to bake them in a pan and cut them into bars, however, and so that’s how she wrote the recipe. The toscabakelser consists of a tart shell, which is baked on its own first, a gooey almond filling, which is put into the tart shell halfway through the baking process, and then a caramelized almond topping to finish it off. I didn’t snap any photos after we sliced it up into the bars, but I did manage to catch the toscabakelser before and after the caramel-almond topping went on.

They were delicious!

The second recipe was for mandelformer, another almond tart. This time around the recipe is actually written for the sandbakelse tins. The ones I found here in Hungary were a bit larger than what the recipe called for (Ojakangas designates a 2″-3″ diameter; mine were about 4″ across) but these turned out really, really amazing. Unlike the toscabakelser recipe, this one wasn’t accompanied with a recipe for the filling, too, which meant I got to choose what to fill the little tarts with. My boyfriend was visiting, and he reduced some fresh strawberries into a deliciously tart jam filling. The tarts themselves have pulverized almonds in the dough, and they came out quite sweet, so the strawberry filling was the perfect compliment. I’m thrilled with how these came out.

And they’re so pretty.

I will certainly be making both these recipes again.

möndlusnúdar

Every year at Christmas I come back to North Carolina, where I grew up, to spend the holiday with my family. Last year I spent the entire time frantically knitting some last-minute commissions. This year I promised my family I would spend the whole time baking instead. I got started on that promise yesterday!

First up were möndlusnúdar, or Icelandic almond rolls. This is one of the recipes in the book that’s a little bit of a head-scratcher. In Ojakangas’s opening description, she tells us “these sweet yeast rolls are filled with almond paste and cinnamon.” Almond paste and cinnamon? Yum! Totally on board. But, wait – there’s no cinnamon in the recipe. None at all! Which is also totally fine, but why on earth does she claim there’s cinnamon in the filling?

Each recipe in the book gives you an idea of how much the recipe should yield – 3 dozen cookies, 2 loaves, and so on and so forth. Usually, especially in the case of the cookie recipes, my quantities are nowhere near these estimates. For once, with the möndlusnúdar, my quantity was pretty close: the recipe is supposed to yield 30 rolls, and I got 32 out of it.

The hardest thing about this recipe was maneuvering the unbaked rolls into the muffin liners they would be baked in. The recipe requires making the dough, and then making the filling while the dough rises. I used a food processor for the filling, so it was wonderfully smooth and spreadable. You roll out the dough, brush on the filling, and then roll up the dough, as for a jelly roll. Ojakangas instructs you to roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 14″ x 24″, but I found that the “jelly roll” this gave me was far, far too large in diameter to fit into muffin cups. Hence the difficulty in maneuvering the unbaked rolls (I ended up cutting most of them in half). Many of the rolls came out quite large and not a little bit misshapen, but they tasted fine just the same.

While the rolls bake, you make a glaze with powdered sugar, cream, and almond extract, which you brush over the hot rolls once they’re out of the oven (this gets a little bit messy and gooey, but in a good way). Then you top with chopped almonds. The resulting rolls are warm, sweet, gooey, and delicious. They’re a bit like little cinnamon rolls, but with the cinnamon swapped out for almond. I’m definitely a fan, and my family seemed to enjoy them too. It was a great way to kick off the holiday baking!

And for some more Icelandic Christmas fun, why don’t you check out the wikipedia page for the jólasveinarnir, or Yule Lads, Iceland’s thirteen Santas? I think my favorite might be Skyrgámur, the one with an affinity for skyr, Iceland’s thick, tart yogurt.

toscakake

Norwegian caramel-almond Tosca cake. Sound good? It should, because it was delicious.

First, a note of clarification: Ojakangas spells this recipe Toscakage in her book, but as this would actually be the Danish spelling and she calls it a Norwegian cake, I’ll use the more Norwegian Toscakake instead. I am sure this recipe exists in Denmark and Sweden as well, but each country spells it differently (the Swedes would use Toscakaka). Minor differences, but they do exist. With that aside, on to the cake!

I was invited to a friend’s for dinner yesterday and I found myself searching The Great Scandinavian Baking Book for something relatively quick and easy to prepare for a dessert. I normally wouldn’t go to the cake section for this, but I was flipping through and happened to spot the Toscakake. Relatively short list of ingredients, not a lot of prep time, simple to make. It was a winner.

There are essentially two parts to making this cake: baking the cake and putting together the topping. The cake part itself came out fairly light and spongy, a little bit like angel food cake. The second part was pretty straightforward, too: browing some sliced almonds and then adding sugar and cream to make an almondy, caramel-ly topping to slather over the cake. I popped the whole thing in the oven for a few more minutes so that the topping could harden a little bit and turn a nice golden-brown color.

The end result is perhaps not the prettiest cake in the world, but a fairly simple and quick cake to make from scratch. I’d say it’s appropriate for special occasions just as much as it makes a nice coffee cake. And on Sunday mornings, like this morning was, it makes a pretty delicious breakfast.

mazarinkakor

These are billed as “Swedish chocolate-frosted almond bars,” and they live up to their name! I never tire of recipes with almond in them, and this one was a fairly simple one involving a base/crust, an almond filling, and a chocolate drizzle on top. Ojakangas recommends using a 13 x 9 inch rectangular pan, but my Hungarian kitchen is still somewhat lacking, so I used what I had on hand – a round baking dish, probably closer to 10 or 11 inches in diameter. Whether or not this had an effect on the end result, it’s hard to say, but I would like to try this recipe again in a pan more like the one Ojakangas uses. The bars were definitely delicious, but the base came out more crumbly and the filling more gooey than I expected. I’ll probably try it out for my family at Christmas – my parents’ kitchen is sure to have the size pan the recipe calls for!

mandelflarn (igjen)

Back in March I baked a Finnish strawberry tart out of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book for my friend Phil’s birthday and managed to lose my photos of it. Between the frustration of losing photos and getting caught up in my last quarter of grad school, I didn’t bake for awhile. But now school is finished and the summertime has brought on picnics and dinners with friends galore, and I actually have time and incentive to bake again! I opted to get myself back into it by repeating one of my favorite recipes, the mandelflarn, or Norwegian almond cookies first featured here. You can rest assured I’ll give the strawberry tart another go, because it was quite delicious and it’s a great recipe for summer.

I baked the mandelflarn along with some good old chocolate chip cookies, which we served with vanilla ice cream. It made for a nice light dessert for a backyard dinner with friends.

Rest assured: you’ll be seeing more from me this summer! I’ve got lots of recipes bookmarked to try out. And since this is a repeat recipe, I thought I might share something else with you. While this video doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Scandinavian baking, it does have to do with baking, and it’s quite beautiful to boot. Check it out below:

beet cake from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.

mandelflarn

After the enormous klippekrans and the pastry-like herttaisetrinkilät, I decided I wanted to go for a cookie this time for something a little quicker and easier. Cookies don’t need yeast, they don’t require waiting around for dough to rise, and they’re small and manageable (not to mention tasty). I picked out the mandelflarn, which are Norwegian almond cookies, because they sounded delicious and looked simple.

I was happy to discover that they are quite simple indeed – the book describes them as spreading out “thin and crisp as they bake, with pale centers and crisp, golden edges.” The only thing that caught me off guard was that I had no idea just how much these cookies flattened out in the oven. I’d say the diameters of mine increased by about 2-3 inches, and they only started around 3 inches across. Alarmed at first, I worried I’d made some huge mistake in the rather short list of instructions, and had to do a Google image search. Thankfully, the internet soothed my fears by providing pages of photos of flat, crisp looking cookies, just like the ones I had baking in the oven. I waited until the edges began to brown before removing them.

After the cookies have baked, you have the option of cooling them flat or over a foil-covered dowel or other cylinder to give them a U-shape. I opted to try a few of the rounded ones and let the rest cool flat. I think I prefer the look of the cookies flat – but they taste great either way!