Finland summary

I was looking back on my posts in May and realised just how many Finnish, or Finnish inspired, baked goods I made.  Perhaps (obviously?), my favourite would be the cardamom and coffee macarons.  Though give me anything sweet with cardamom and I am a happy girl.

My faithful baking companion, The Great Scandinavian Baking Bookby Beatrice Ojakangas, may be returned to the shelf for now but I am sure she will make an appearance again soon.

In the meantime, here is a quick re-cap of what I made last month during my Finnish baking adventures.  This list surely now includes some of my new favourites.

1. Cardamom macarons with coffee cream
2. Hannatädinkakut :: Aunt Hanna’s Cookies (p138)
3. Karjalanpiirakat:: Karelian Rice Pasties (p272)
4. Mustikkapiiraat :: Blueberry Filled Buns (p237)
5. Omenapiirakka :: Finnish Apple Pie (p240)
6. Pulla :: Finnish Cardamom Bread (p70)

Karelian Rice Pasties

I was lucky to visit Finland last year for a holiday.  It is a magnificant part of the world.  It is outdoorsy, rugged, scenic.  It is a country of contrast.  Extreme bitter terrain in winter.  Lush, fertile surroundings in summer.  It is small but vast.  It is quiet but friendly and warm.  Interestingly, I used to say my partner was full of contradictions.  Being Finnish, I suppose it is an intrinsic trait?

The Finnish landscape and scenery is quite arresting.  We travelled from Helsinki to Turku one day and past some beautiful countryside.  The photos below were taken wandering around Naantali.  For me, the wide open lake and the rich blooms greatly encapsulate southern Finland in the summer time.

These little rice pasties actually remind me of Finland.  For me, the rustic, earthiness make them quintessentially Finnish.  The pasties were actually requested by my partner to include in my Finnish baking month adventures.  He remembers them fondly.  Surprisingly, I never saw them when I was in Finland last year, but they must be popular because Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella also made a mention of them to me.  I am disappointed I did not come across them in my travels.  Admittedly, I think I was preoccupied not only with cardamom flavoured bread and buns, and all the fresh salmon on offer.  (I seriously think I ate salmon for every single meal during my time there.  It was sublime.)

I flicked through my trusty Scandinavian Baking book by Beatrice Ojakangas to find the recipe for these little rice pasties.  If they were popular, there was no question I would find them there.

The pastry was quite easy to make.  It literally mixed together by hand in less than 5 minutes.  The filling is the most time consuming part taking an hour to slowly simmer.  But I hit a snag.  I presume the rice needed to disintegrate, hence the 1 hour simmering time, but I have a bit of a problem.  I cook with gas and even my lowest setting produces a level of bubbling that could not constitute anything close to a simmer.  Never mind, I thought, I will cook it as well as I can.

After some quick assembly, these little pasties were made and baked.  Beatrice suggests serving with boiled eggs, which I actually do remember accompanying quite an amount of food in Finland.

So the verdict from my partner?  One star out of three.  Apparently the pastry was spot on (tick!), but overlapped the filling too much – should have been narrower (cross!), and the filling needed to be more cooked (cross!).  But despite that, they were still quickly consumed.  So all good in my eyes!

 NaantaliNaantali, Finland

 

{ Karelian Rice Pasties } by Beatrice Ojakangas

* Ingredients *

Pastry:
1 cup water
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour

Filling:
1 cup water
3 cups milk
¾ cup rice

Glaze:
1 cup milk, heated to boiling
¼ cup butter

* Directions *

Mix together the water, salt, rye flour and all purpose flour to make a smooth dough.  If necessary, add more water.  Shape the dough into a r0pe about the thickness of your wrist.  Cut into 16 equal portions.  Shape the pieces into flat round cakes and roll out to make a very thin circle about 6 to 8 inches / 15 to 20 cm in diameter.  Set aside.  To prepare the rice filling, combine the water, milk and rice in a heavy saucepan.  Simmer for 1 hour or until rice has absorbed all the liquid.  Taste and add salt and butter.  Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them.  Preheat oven to 550F or 290C.  Fill the centre of each circle with the cooked rice and fold over about ¾ inches or 2cm of the edges, pinching to crimp the edges, and shape an oval or round pie.  Place pies on prepared baking sheets.  Mix the boiling milk and butter to make a glaze.  Brush the pieces with the mixture.  Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.  Brush again with the butter-milk mixture.  Baked until tinged with gold.  Remove from the oven and brush again with the butter-milk mixture.  Serve cooled.  Pasties will soften as they cool.

Apple Pie

A while ago I saw the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic.  I apologise to all the people around me at the cinema when I constantly burst into laughter at the Finnish references.  As my partner is half Finnish, I seemed to find it all quite amusing for some reason.  The central character of the movie is asked why she uses Finland for all her excuses?  She replies, “because no one ever checks up on Finland”.

Comedic opportunities aside, I found that reference interesting.  As I have been fortunate to visit this beautiful part of the world, I suppose in a way Finland is one of the best kept secrets around.  (See some pictures from Suomenlinna Island below!)

And because I am inherently interested in baking, perhaps it would follow that Finnish baked goods are also some of the best kept secrets around?  Given that, this month I will endeavour to investigate traditional Finnish baked goods.

I recently baked Pulla.  Next up?  Omenapiirakka … or Finnish apple pie.  We are right in the middle of prime apple picking season so a perfect time for this pie.

I must say up front, you need to try this pie.  The best part for me was how easy the pastry was to make.  And even better than that, how delicious it was.  I actually made the pastry a day ahead and was able to quickly roll out, top with apple and then bake in less than 45 minutes.

To keep it simple, I served with a light dusting of icing sugar and some rich vanilla ice cream to complement the gooey caramelised apple centre of the pie. 

I asked my partner if he had eaten Omenapiirakka when living in Finland.  He had not.  But he swiftly gave me a list of things he remembered from Finland as well as his mummo’s – grandmother’s – baking.  (Kiitoksia kauhean paljon!)

Okay, pressure on now.

{ Omenapiirakka } by Beatrice Ojakangas
Finnish apple pie with cream crust

* Ingredients *

Pastry:
2 ¼ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup heavy cream

Filling:
4 tart apples, pared, cored and sliced
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze:
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

* Directions *

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the cream and mix to make a soft dough. Chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425F or 220C.  Grease and dust a baking sheet lightly with flour.  Turn dough out onto the centre of the sheet and roll out to make a 12 inch / 30 cm square.

Combine the apples, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon.  Arrange the apples in rows over the crust, leaving about 1 ½ inches or 4 cm empty at the edges.  Turn edges up over the filling and seal the corners.  Beat egg with milk to make a glaze and brush edge.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden.

Island

 Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, Heksinki

helsinki

When I want a hint of Scandinavia in my baking, I reach for my Great Scandinavian Baking bible by Beatrice Ojakangas for some inspiration.

I attempted my first Finnish bread a couple of years ago.  It was a nerve-racking event as it was ultimately going to be tasted by someone whose mummo (Finnish grandmother), was an all round cooking star.  Needless to say, the pressure was on.

I heard about a tasty cardamom flavoured bread called Pulla.  Naturally, I had to research this thing called ‘Pulla’ within an inch of its life.  Fortunately, in my efforts, I stumbled across Beatrice Ojakangas.  After my first Pulla attempt when I was told the bread tasted, “just like my mummo used to make”, I knew I had picked the right recipe (thanks, Beatrice!).  Now Pulla is made with some regularity at home.  It certainly is worth the time.

pulla

Here is my adapted recipe of Finnish Pulla.

{ Finnish Pulla }

Makes three small braided loaves

* Ingredients *

1 cup (250ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3.5 g active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (or to taste)
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 cups plain flour
1/4 cup (62.5g) butter, melted and cooled

1 egg, beaten
Almond slices, toasted

* Directions *

. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add one teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast foams.
2. Warm milk in a small saucepan until it reaches about 45 degrees then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
3. To the yeast, stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups).
4. Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of the flour and beat well. Add the melted butter and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff (you may not need all 5 cups).
5. Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6. Knead the dough until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
7. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled. About 1 hour.
8. Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 30 cm strand. Braid 3 strands into a loaf. Lift the loaves onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.
9. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with almond slices along the centre of the braids.
10. Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom can brown easily.
11. When cooled, drizzle with icing.  Try an orange, coffee or plain icing.  All delicious complements to the cardamom, I promise!