hasselnotskaka

If you like hazelnuts, this one’s a good way to go. This Swedish filbert cake was simple and delicious, and not too sweet. I baked it for my partner’s birthday in November and we liked it so much that I baked it for Thanksgiving, too. It works nicely as an after-dinner dessert but I think it works well as a coffee cake, too. I recommend pairing it with a cup of good black coffee and a healthy dose of Scandinavian travel planning.

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.

chokladkaka

This post is a bit belated! But as I’m baking a new cake this weekend, it seemed the perfect opportunity to finally write this post and turn it into A Weekend of Cake.

I’ve made this recipe twice, both times in the spring. Chokladkaka is a Swedish chocolate pound cake – a really fantastic chocolate cake when you want something that’s light and not too rich. I made my first with my friend Alex when she was visiting – we lined the pan with butter but forgot to line it with crumbs, so the outside ended up a bit burnt (though the inside was still delicious). The second time, I made it for a dinner with some friends, and remembered not to skip this step! Vanilla wafers aren’t terribly easy to find in Hungary, though, so I wound up lining it with flour (which worked passably well).

I served it up with whipped cream and strawberries the first time, and the second time went for vanilla ice cream and strawberries – both worked very well. I love chocolate cake, and I love that this is a chocolate cake I can eat without feeling like I’ll get a stomachache.

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.

stockholm

The beginning of a new semester in Hungary has brought my baking to a standstill for the time being, but I have a holiday weekend coming up and there are certainly more baking posts on the way! In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few photos from my quick trip up to Stockholm a few weekends ago. Sweden was lovely and I can’t wait to visit it again!

I grabbed a tin of pepparkakor at the airport on the way home, but they didn’t last too long (before I ate them all). Even though I think of pepparkakor as more of a Christmas thing, it’s inspired me to hopefully try my hand at my own sometime soon…

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.

pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma

Iceland is a tiny country with a lot of mystique that happens to be really, really good at marketing itself. They have totally embraced the Internet and social media as a marketing tool and I’m incredibly fond of the results: through a series of accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, and so on, Iceland makes you want to be its friend. Take the flagship site:

www.icelandwantstobeyourfriend.com

Iceland wants to be your friend. Personifying a tiny island in the north Atlantic with an epic history and an equally epic and beautiful topography? It’s total genius. I encourage you to check out that site as well as many of the spin-offs, such as isanicelandicvolcanoerupting.comeverysinglewordinicelandic.com, or perhaps my favorite, visiticelandinaflyingmachine.com.

Through this family of websites, I discovered a how-to video for Icelandic pancakes, or pönnukökur. Aside from being totally adorable (I wish Margrét was my grandmother), it’s useful, too: the pancakes are delicious. If you watch the video (below), you’ll hear Margrét tell you that pönnukökur are frequently made on Christmas. While flipping through The Great Scandinavian Baking Book this week, I discovered that the book has its own recipe for pönnukökur! I decided to make them for brunch today to test out this new-to-me recipe, and my family was fully in support of this plan.

The recipes are slightly different, and so the results were slightly different as well: the recipe found in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book isn’t as sweet as the one in the video, and so they’re less dessert-like, but this worked out well for a brunch. We still served them with whipped cream (með þeyttum rjóma) and powdered sugar, though. They were delicious, and I think I’ll definitely make them again. If you’d like to try your hand at pönnukökur, here’s that video I talked about:

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Gleðileg jól to all of you who celebrate Christmas! I hope it’s a warm and happy one.