Aunt Hannas Cookies

When I brought dessert out at my house the other week, my mother remarked, “I really do not know where you got that baking thing from”.  She was talking specifically about my passion (read: obsession) for baking.  I often reflect on this.  I frequently read stories about people who were ‘baking and cooking inspired’ by the profession or interests of their parents and family.  A chef whose parents were in the restaurant business.  A chef who had a string of chefs in the family.  Or an elite cook who grew up around a mother that prepared elaborate meals and desserts.  People who had many wonderful food memories in their home growing up.

My interest in baking was not directly inspired by my parents.  On the outside looking in, we led quite unremarkable lives.  Quiet.  Reserved.  Conservative.  There was no sophisticated cooking, baking or entertaining.  There was no real exposure to the love and passion of food at home.  But there was one thing.  An unspoken drive to always strive for more.  Strive for something better.  Strive to be the best you could possibly be.  That is the inspiration from my family.  So even though I was not fortunate to grow up learning about baking at a young age, my parents encouraged me to keep learning.  Those who know me, know I constantly juggle multiple things in the quest to learn.  The reality is, a seemingly unremarkable family actually has produced (hopefully?) some fairly remarkable people – i.e. me and my sister.

I have never considered myself creative.  I always considered myself a numbers girl.  Give me some calculus or statistics and I am completely in my comfort zone.  I originally studied biochemistry at university, then switched to business and marketing.  More recently, I studied economics.  I feel like I cannot stop learning something new.  As my partner says to me, “you never want to miss out!”  And that is true.  I certainly do try to give many things a go.  But when it comes to anything creative, I have previously steered away from the challenge.  Reluctant to take it on believing I was not up to the task.  But now I think differently.

My mother is quite a crafty person (in more ways than one!) and even now in retirement she has multiple projects on the go.  Patchwork.  Cross-stitch.  Embroidery.  Knitting.  Sewing.  Needlepoint.  Seriously.  All at once.  Constantly.  Oh, and no shortcuts either in any of her projects.  She is a ball of energy and I do not know how she does it.  In fact, my sister and I have “craft day” with mum once a month to (belatedly) learn some of the tricks of the trade.  My mother was a young child in London during WW2, and also lived through the aftermath of momentous scarcity.  During that period, you were resourceful. You never threw anything out.  You fixed.  You created. I want to learn that, too.

I used to joke that my (older) sister, managed all the creative genes from our parents. She is an artist.  Period.  She draws, she paints, she designs.  In fact, you may believe I am quite subjective on the topic when I say she is one of the best illustrators in Australia.  (Actually, she is.)

They both inspire me greatly.

So the reality is I do find inspiration from my family, but not in the obvious ways.  And for me, baking is my way to offer something back.  To share.  To experience.  To give.  My life may not resemble how I grew up, but the connection is firmly there.  And that is a comforting feeling.  I thank my parents for instilling in me a healthy dose of curiosity and desire to always achieve more.

These cookies are for you.

{ Aunt Hanna’s Cookies } by Beatrice Ojakangas

These simple and quick cookies are a Finnish favourite at holiday time.  They are apparently very popular, and according to Beatrice, can be found in supermarkets across Finland all year round.  One taste, and I was a big fan.  They are light and buttery but not too rich.  The little bite size makes them perfect for a little treat during the day.  I also think they make lovely homemade gifts, too!

* Ingredients *

½ cup softened butter
½ cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup cream

* Directions *

Cover baking sheets with parchment and preheated almond oven to 350F or 180C.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until blended.  Mix the flour with the baking powder and add to the butter mixture a little at a time.  Blend in the cream until a stiff dough forms.  Chill if necessary.  Using 1 teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll into small balls.  Place on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes or until very light golden and set.