context

I think it’s possible to take for granted the effects of our surroundings. Sometimes it takes us a little while to put together why it is we’re feeling off. I haven’t been baking very much since I came home from Hungary – I baked a hazelnut cake from The Book in November, which I neglected to blog about, and I’ve made a few attempts at whole grain bread, but by and large, I haven’t been motivated to bake. I haven’t been motivated to spend any time in the kitchen at all. There are many reasons why my attention has been elsewhere, and a few of them were huge life changes, but I’ve realized lately that the kitchen in my apartment is one of the least inspiring kitchens I’ve ever come across; dark and cavelike, almost entirely devoid of charm. Still, the rhubarb in the grocery store this week was too good to pass up, and I baked this strawberry tart again:

strawberryrhubarb

I miss baking, and fortunately, I’ll be moving soon. The new house has a kitchen I’ll absolutely want to hang out in, and I can’t wait. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things and to give this space a little bit more love.

Advertisements

pulla

Oslo, January 2012

A belated happy new year to all of you! I am back in Hungary now, but I welcomed the new year with friends in Copenhagen, which I followed up with a trip to Oslo. Winter has always been my favorite season; I love the cold fresh air and and the quiet calm outside and especially the snow. So when Oslo got its first good snow of the winter while I was there, I was thrilled to death. And then I did what I always do: I baked.

I was fortunate enough to make it to another Sunday evening meal with my friend Camilla and her family up in Bærum while I was in Norway, and her family had been so good to me on my last visit that I wanted to bake them something. I thumbed through The Book and settled on a recipe for cardamom coffeebread, dubbed pulla. Beatrice tells a tale about the name of this particular bread:

“Although this bread is the basic yeast coffeebread of all Scandinavia, the name I give it is Finnish because of my own bias. The Swedes call it vetebröd, Norwegians call it hvetebrød, the Danes call it hvedebrød, and the Icelandics call it hveitibrauð. All of these names mean ‘wheat bread.’
The Finns who settled in the early 1900s in our country brought this recipe with them. At that time the Finnish word for wheat was nisu rather than vehnä, the modern name. (The Finnish language has been ‘Finnicized’ since the early part of this century, and all words that were too ‘Swedish’ such as nisu have been changed to more correct Finnish.) But many American Finns still call this bread ‘nisu,’ and the debates become heated! Where I grew up, however, we called this bread ‘biscuit.’ . . . The name pulla, however, arises from the Swedish bollar, which is translated as ‘bun.’ But pulla is most often shaped into a braided loaf. All very confusing!”

This is a bread with many names.

We added one more name once we got up to Camilla’s family home – her father Fred misheard me when I tried to tell him it was hvetebrød, and he thought I said flettet brød, or “braided bread.” It is perhaps the most apt description of any of the names! It is indeed braided bread.

This is one of my favorite recipes out of the book thus far. It really bats it out of the park, in my opinion. I’ve become really comfortable with yeast doughs in the last few months, and this recipe bakes up into three really lovely soft loaves that you can pull apart with ease (but that hold together quite nicely if you’re trekking around on Oslo’s public transportation system with freshly baked bread in tow, as I was). And the cardamom is the perfect amount. I was happy to have friends to give loaves away to, or else I’d easily have scarfed them all down myself!

I’ll leave you with just a few photos of the trips to Copenhagen and Oslo. I can’t wait to go back.

kermaviili-musikkapiiras

My brother requested a recipe with blueberries, and so I flipped through the book and picked out this pie. The English name for kermaviili-musikkapiiras is “blueberry sour cream pie.” In Finland, it’s made with a special product called kermaviili. Ojakangas describes viili as “a yogurtlike clabbered milk that is much more delicious (to a Finn) than yogurt.” From what I can gather, it’s a bit like sour cream or crème fraîche. As a substitute, she suggests adding lemon juice to heavy cream, which is what I did, but I can’t help but wonder what this pie tastes like when made with actual viili.

The recipe is a rather simple one, with a pleasant (if not amazing) outcome. The pie is tasty, but it’s probably my least favorite of the pies I’ve baked from this book so far. I made a few modifications to the recipe as I went along, as I often do. This time, as I was preparing the cream filling, I spent some extra time whipping it up so that it would thicken a little bit. Ojakangas doesn’t specify how long the filling should be mixed for, and she definitely doesn’t instruct you to whip the filling, but f I hadn’t done this, the blueberries would have sunk right to the bottom and I expect it wouldn’t have set as it baked, either.

The pie looked quite pretty before it went into the oven – much prettier than it looked coming out. But the berries were soft and warm and gooey and the cream filling was tasty and the crust was buttery. It may not be my favorite pie, but it’s hard to go wrong with that, right?

mansikkatorttu

After I lost the photos of that strawberry tart I baked (mentioned here), I decided to bake the whole thing again. Since it was a fairly simple tart/pie recipe, I thought I’d try making it with rhubarb as well after Tyler put in a request for strawberry rhubarb pie. The original pie, made to the recipe’s instructions, was quite delicious. The rhubarb took it to a new level, in my opinion! The original recipe was a little sweet (which is great) but the rhubarb brought in a nice balance in the flavor.


Strawberries and rhubarb, waiting to be made into pie filling.

The recipe for the pie crust is super simple, but I found that both times I made the pie I wished I’d had just a little bit more dough. It seemed on the short side to me.

One other change I made from the written recipe was to bake it for a little bit longer than the 25-30 minutes given in the recipe. The first time I made the pie the crust was still a little bit doughy, but this time around it came out much, much better. It was probably in the oven closer to 35 or 40 minutes.

The great thing about making a recipe more than once is being able to make little changes to your method, so that next time, you always know it’s going to come out even better. I’d call this one a success.

herttaisetrinkilät

According to the recipe, these Finnish cardamom rings are baked for special occasions, such as a baby’s baptism. I had a craft night coming up, so I decided to bake them for that. Monthly craft night’s a special occasion, right? It happens once a month at the lovely Ghost Gallery on Capitol Hill, and this month, there was a lot of knitting (on my part) and lantern-decorating (on most others’) going on. And eating. Which brings me back to the point…

The cardamom rings were fairly easy to make, if a little time consuming. After your dough has risen for the first time you divide it evenly into sections which are rolled out into long wand-like pieces and then twisted together before joining them to make rings. My dough wasn’t quite as stiff as I was anticipating so the pre-baked rings felt a little delicate, but they turned out just fine. They’re subtly sweet – there’s not a lot of sugar in this recipe – which gives them a nice flavor. The small size makes them a little bit more manageable than the klippekrans was at a social gathering, too, which is always a plus. I’ll definitely be making these again.