tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Vanha Pappila

by tableofcolors

Hankasalmi Church yard

Hankasalmi Church yard

In nearly every larger town and city  in Finland there is a Lutheran State Church. Somewhere nearby there will be the parsonage. Pappi is the word for minister or pastor and pappila is the parsonage. Vanha means old. These parsonages are not in their current use and have been sold many years ago to private owners. Some of these beauties have been renovated and others are waiting their turn. But once upon a time there was a time of large old manors that also owned large areas of land. The pappila was usually one of the larger manors in the county. They would have hired hands that would live on the land. A male hired hand is called a renki and the female is called a piika. The yard near the main house often formed an open square with housing quarters for the hired hands along one side and a barn and storage sheds along the other side. The town or county pastor was a revered man and could be considered a part of the upper class. In a time before general voting rights the upper classes and pastors had the right to vote.

A few days ago we returned back home from a family trip across Finland. We visited one of our friends that now live in a newer house that is situated next to the vanha pappila built around 1850. As we toured the old house and the quarters of the hired hands we spoke of days gone by. It was not completely impossible for someone born as a renki to move up in society if they for example married the widow of the house. Movement in society was much more difficult than today. What would life have been like? Touring these old buildings it brought back thoughts from the famous Finnish novel, Under the North Star (Täällä Pohjantähden alla) by Väinö Linna. It is a trilogy that tells the story of Finland as it goes through the civil war and gains independence. The father of the main character is a crofter. There is a fierce discussion of the Finnish language in the novel as it has a significant role in the creation of Finnish national identity. The book tells in a very engaging manner the emergence of social movement and the creation of a new type of society and helped me understand some of the political positions that people hold yet still today.  I sincerely recommend the book and as it tells the story from one perspective and once started is difficult to put down.

vanha pappila

vanha pappila

pappilan ovetI suppose the way life unfolds depends quite a bit on the people around you and the family you are born into, but I suppose that is still true to this day. If you were born to a hired hand, your quality of life depended on how fairly you were treated by your superiors. Usually these hired hands had a one year contract with their employers. Then they could in theory move on to try their fortune somewhere else. Many things look good on paper and in theory but when human nature is entered into the picture and the politics that goes with it, even simple things become complicated. On the same land there might have also been renters of the land that would also work a set amount of days for the owner of the land. These crofters were called torppareita. The crofters did have the opportunity to gain a bit of income on their own and were not as dependent of the land owners as the hired hands. Land ownership was quite significant as it meant the right to vote. Finland was one of the first countries to grant equal voting rights to men and women.

rengin tupa--quarters of the hired hands

rengin tupa–quarters of the hired hands

In the rooms of the manor are layers of old wall-paper decorated with decorative roses. In some rooms the strong timber logs are bare. Along the back of the house is a large veranda that was used for entertaining. I can almost imagine the ladies sitting in the shade, sipping their tea and looking out at the peony patch and the lake that is just down the hill.

verrandaThe floors in the house are a bit uneven now, as is the back veranda. This is due to the frost heave and lack of ground frost insulation that is commonly used in construction today in cold climates. Attached to the left side of the main building  next to the kitchen is a pantry. In the hired hands quarters is a large wood burning oven that takes up a one whole corner in the room. It doubled as the bakery for the manor and in the winter provided heat for the hired hands quarters. Similar ovens can be found quite commonly in homes throughout Finland.

mansikka torttuMy friend Sinikka served the most delicious strawberry tart after our tour. I couldn’t help myself and a second slice found its way onto my plate.

 

Sinikka’s Berry Tart — Gluten-free

150 g/5.3 oz softened butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1.5 dl/0.6 c potato or corn starch
1.5 dl/0.6 c gluten-free flour (for example: Sunnuntai brand)
1 tsp baking powder

5 dl/2 c puréed strawberrie (or other berries)
1 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
plus a sprinkle of sugar

Beat the softened butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat well. Mix the dry ingredients and fold into the batter. Pat into a parchment paper lined tart tin. Purée the strawberries and mix in the tablespoon of corn or potato starch plus sugar to taste. Bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 30 minutes. Gluten-free tarts tend remain raw in the middle easily. The parchment paper allows you to easily lift it up slightly from the side to check if it is done. After removing from the oven, sprinkle with sugar. This will prevent the strawberry purée from forming a skin.

playing in the treesplaying on the church yard

Tapas for Brunch

by tableofcolors

Midnight sun

Midnight sun

Brunch has become a habit in our kitchen. It happens every year. And every year I tell myself that maybe this summer we will try hold a schedule. I have been trying to get up on some mornings early to go for a run, a bikeride, a little trip to the flea market or maybe some pilates. I don’t leave the house too early as it is usually already eight o’clock. When I return an hour or two later, as I often have met a friend along the way and ended up chatting for quite some time, the house is still quiet and only a few are at breakfast. June was chilly but July has really warmed up. Maybe it is all the swimming the children do that really tires them out or perhaps it is the light evenings that stretches bedtimes hours later than in the winter.

baking tin

On Saturday morning I slipped out to the outdoor flea market. Sometimes I take some of the children with but as they were all in deep sleep I left by myself. I found this baking tin with very shallow rounded forms and it says, made in England. It was looking quite worn but I think it will still work and it only cost an euro. It is sitting on my counter in my kitchen waiting for me to do a little research. Perhaps there is a traditional pastry that the tin was used for and perhaps someone brought it from England as a souvenir. The gentleman selling it had a whole collection of antiques and old things. I’m quite sure he had not baked with it as he didn’t seem to have answers to my questions. Perhaps one of my dear readers might know the original purpose of the tin?

tapasLast April when I visited my sister in Detroit we visited a tapas restaurant called La Feria. We had grilled portobella with a sauce of parsely, lemon and garlic, mussels in a white wine sauce and a fried eggplant with honey. They were all just perfect in their simplicity with clean and fresh flavors and we both agreed that fried eggplant drizzled with honey tasted similar to French toast. And so in my kitchen this July is fried eggplant.

fried eggplantI would suggest using the graffiti eggplant or Japanese eggplant which are lighter purple in color and have a thinner skin. I used the most common variety, globe eggplant, and the skin was a bit tough chewing. I first cut them into thick sticks, spread them on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt. I let them sit for about fifteen to twenty minutes. The salt help pulls out the excess moisture and will make frying easier.

breading eggplantThe eggplant at La Feria was deep fried but since I don’t have a deep fryer and I didn’t want to have the excess of oil leftover after frying in a sauce pan, I just heavily coated the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil.

Berenjenas Fritas – Fried eggplant

1 eggplant, cut into thick sticks
salt for sprinkling on the egglplants and a dash to mix with the almond meal
1.5 dl/ generous half cup almond meal
olive oil
honey

After the eggplant has been sprinkled with salt and has rested for about fifteen to twenty minutes, gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place the almond meal in a bowl and mix in a dash of salt. Generously pour olive oil into the pan so that coats the whole bottom. Coat each piece of eggplant with the almond meal before placing in the frying pan. Allow to fry to so that it gains a bit color and then turn. You may fry several pieces of eggplant at the same time. In between batches I removed some of the almond meal that was swimming in the oil as it was starting to darken and added a bit of fresh oil. Enjoy for brunch or in the evening after a day of swimming. Serve hot with a drizzle of honey.
swimming in july collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for July. Check out her blog for a great list of blogs from around the world that all invite you into their kitchens.

Making memories

by tableofcolors

On Sunday we drove to the cabin. In Finland everything stops in July and a pilgrimage to the cottages begins. Bureaus and offices are usually open but temporary personnel fill in and most things happen at a sleepy pace if at all. Most paperwork sits and waits until August and the return of the permanent personnel. At first I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of a nation in which everyone vacations at the same time. Vacation and free time is a significant part of the life style here. Common questions asked upon seeing an acqaintance in the summer is about vacation. Have you been on vacation yet. How long was it this year. And if it was under three weeks, you might hear condolences about how short your vacation was. But I have become used to this land of people that all down-shift at the same time and look forward to a slow-paced month where only the absolutely necessary errands are made. All other time is spent enjoying summer even if the weather has not been quite as summer-like as usual.

boat house collage

Finland has over 180,000 lakes. The shores of these lakes are dotted with summer cabins and cottages. Many are the traditional mummonmökki or a small grandmother’s cottage with just a room or two and often do not have running water or electricity. Cottages often have a history and you might find things that are tens of years old and full of stories to be discovered. The toilet paper holder might have be whittled out of wood at the end of the dock on a breezy day, or the matchbox holder might be a from a wood shop class in the city. In the bedroom there is a chest full of old Donald Ducks, some of them as old as your dad. The beds are covered with heavy and well-made spreads that would probably be considered vintage. Then there are the cabins that are large and contemporary and have all the conveniences of city homes. The blueprints might have been made by a well-known architect and the windows have Marimekko curtains. Both of these cabins dot the shores side by side. Some new and some old. One thing they all have in common is the sauna. The sauna is usually in it’s own small building close to the lake. When we visit the cabin, we take a sauna every evening. The sauna is the place to relax and socialize. Sometimes with a group of women we have been in the sauna for two or three hours. In the soft heat of the large sauna, the world has been made a better place and problems solved. Every once in a while we wrap ourselves in towels and sit outside or go for swim before another round of steam in the sauna.

choosing a boatPappa made sailboats out of thick slabs of pine bark. One for each grandchild. Then he made little wood chips that each had a number. Each grandchild drew one chip and had a turn to choose their boat according to the number they had on the chip. The kids all went on the dock to send their boats off to America. A little while later Pappa took the rowboat and gathered each one. They were brought to the city as souvenirs of times spent at the cottage.

setting the boats off collage

Our Erik decided that fish soup is now his favorite food. It even passed up macaroni and that is quite an accomplishment. Mummo made fish soup on one of the days while we were at the cabin. After returning home our refrigerator was completely empty except for a jar of relish, some eggs and some apricot marmelade. I ventured to the store and decided to indulge Erik and make a soup with rainbow trout. The store was full of fresh local produce. I had a hard time limiting myself. I would have liked to bring it all home.

vegetablesSoup made with salmon or rainbow trout is a very traditional dish in the nordic countries. Many grow their own dill and I really think that the fresh dill is the perfect match with the fish. I tried to keep my version fairly simple, as often at the cabin the selection of seasonings might be not be as large. Many towns have little outdoor markets once or twice a week and larger cities have them daily, and so fresh produce is readily available during the summer.

rainbow trout soup 1

Rainbow Trout Soup

knob of butter
onions, three small spring onions or one large onion finely sliced into rings
3 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
2 small turnips, peeled and cut into cubes
600 g/21 oz peeled waxy potatoes, (I used new potatoes)
generous 1 liter/ 1 quart of water
black pepper
white pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
sea salt
small bunch of chives, finely chopped
handful of fresh dill
1 kg/ 2 lbs filé of Rainbow trout or salmon
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c heavy cream

Place the peeled and chopped vegetables, except for the potatoes into a heavy bottomed pot with the knob of butter and turn to medium heat. Allow to sauté until just slightly tender. Add water, potatoes, black and white pepper, mustard powder, lemon juice and salt. Allow to simmer at very low heat until the potatoes are tender. While the soup is cooking, remove the skin from the fish and any pin bones that might be remaining. Cut the fish into small bite-size cubes.
rainbow troutOnce the potatoes are tender, add the salmon, cream, fresh dill and chives. Allow the soup to come to boil. Check the flavor and adjust salt and seasoning if needed. Serve with a dark rye bread.

rainbow trout soup 2

canoeing on the lakerocking the dock

Grampa’s Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

by tableofcolors

In Finland the winter is supposed to be snowy and cold. Summers are supposed to full of summer scents (mosquitoes) and birch trees swaying in the wind. It may not always be so hot but it usually is warm. It seems as if the weather is a bit confused. Last winter the American Midwest got an abundance of snow and it seemed that it got all of ours as well. Yesterday I had to pull on my wool socks. Last week it rained sleet here and snowed in northern Finland. Although it didn’t quite match the weather, my first peony bloomed last week in the sleet.

jumping hurdles with hobby horses

The good thing when the weather turns sour is that gives an opportunity to do all of the chores waiting around the house. There is one thing I have learned while in Finland. When the sun shines drop everything else and run outside. It might shine for the next day or perhaps for three weeks if we’re lucky, but one can never know ahead of time! But now the sun had decided on my behalf that the house needed to be cleaned. I definitely agreed that it was in dire need of attention. I had been feeling a bit under the weather and it showed. The windows were full of fingerprints and the walls full of smudges. There were dust bunnies in the corners and laundry all over the place. And so I started.

The children would ocassionally complain that there is nothing to do! To which I would reply that it is completely normal that life is boring at times. I had recently read an article of a well-known Finnish psychologist Jari Sinkkonen, who stated that it is healthy that children experience boredom at times. It is those times that induce them to become creative and practice creative and unstructured play. As a result of their boredom, the kids came up with the most interesting obstacle course of hurdles for hobby horses using kitchen string and soft drink bottles.

Grampa's blueberry muffins 3

In the midst of these partially gray days, I found a surprise in my inbox. I received an email from my Grampa and his Blueberry Sourcream Muffins. They were wonderfully delicious and easy. Our Isabella had two and started helping herself to a third while she still had just little bite left of the second. I think she was rather intrigued with the tulip-shaped paper forms. I used a full-fat sour cream, as the batter has no other source of fat. With a little fat, the muffins store really quite well for a couple of days, if you haven’t eaten them before then.

muffin batter

Grampa’s Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

1 egg, beaten
2.2 dl/1 c (225 g/ 8 oz)sour cream
2 dl/just under 1 c sugar (160 g/5.5 oz)
4 dl/1 and 3/4 c flour (200g /7 oz) flour
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2.2 dl/1 c (90 g/ 3 oz) roughly chopped walnuts
4.5 dl/2 c (200 g/7.5 oz)blueberries, fresh or frozen

Combine egg, sour cream and sugar. Mix the dry ingredients and combine with the flour mixture. Fold in the berries and nuts. Drop into well sprayed muffin tin or paper forms. Bakes at 200 C/ 400 F for 20 minutes or until a golden brown and a test skewer comes out clean.

The batter may be stored in the fridge.
making muffins collage Some of the windows have been washed, walls wiped, floors mopped and laundry gathered. Today as I look out the sun came out and warmed the air a bit and the birches are in their summer glory just across the gravel road and the flower seeds and bulbs I planted this spring are coming up.

Perhaps summer is on its way afterall!

Grampa Jim’s other recipes: Almond Braid, Fresh Fruit Tart , Steam Pudding, Gramma Reeni’s Rhubarb Tart, Cranberry Cake, Cranberry Scones and Banana Cream Pie

Little Islands at High Seas

by tableofcolors

A few weeks ago, right after schools were out my husband went on a trip with six other hunters. The male Common Eider or Haahka in Finnish, were migrating back to the south as the females remain in the north to take care of the young. The males leave as soon as the the ducklings have hatched. The females and their young will migrate at the end of September or in October. The Common Eider is a rather large sea duck that breeds in the Artic or northern temperate regions. So these photos are my husband’s and I suggested that perhaps next year I might come along and be their photographer. The scenery is quite beautiful and untouched. The rock islands with their round forms are shaped by the sea and the Ice Age. They protude out of the Baltic Sea. The men had the most perfect weather. Some years I have heard, it has not been so and the coast guard has been needed to escort on the way back home.

sea marker on the balticOn the island is a tiny white brick cottage and a large sea marker that looks like light house. A little way aways is another small island that has another sea marker. Together, these two markers showed the way in past days for sailors, as on one side of the islands there is a deep passageway and on the other side it is rocky and shallow. white cottage baltic seaThe only problem with me coming along is that the small white cottage was already at full capacity with seven gentlemen. I might have to take a tent with so that we would all fit but I promise to not bother their hunting during the days.

hunting at sea 2On their trip the men made soup using the Common Eider and some wild chives that could be found growing amongst the rocks. What a sturdy plant to survive such harsh conditions. I’m sure it tasted wonderful after being out in the wind and sun for the day.

haahkakeitto ja villi ruohosipuliLast weekend, my husband suggested that he make a stew with the Common Eider. I don’t mind letting others having a turn in the kitchen. Sometimes it is nice to eat a meal made by someone else. Everyone loved it. The children had sleepover guests that day and even they helped themselves to seconds. Children do not feign being impressed. They usually give the straight truth, either in their expressions and sometimes verbally. There is a trick when cooking the Common Eider. It needs to be boiled in a pot a water for fifteen minutes three times, pouring the water out each time and replacing with fresh water. The fat of the bird has an unpleasant flavor. After this has been done the flavor of the meat is wonderful. The recipe below is an traditional recipe used by the people living on the islands and Finnish coastline. Antti did make slight alterations with the herbs and spices he used but otherwise he followed the recipe quite closely. The original recipe in Finnish can be found here.

 

Common Eider Stew, to be served with boiled potatoes

Two Common Eider breasts
water
butter
salt
pepper
curry, according to taste
NoMU Spanish spice mix (paprika, chili, sugar, black pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, garlic,cloves)
carrots
onions
parsley
chives
cream

The original recipe says to boil the meat in water for fifteen minutes two times, pouring out the water after the time is up and replacing with fresh water. The third time the water may remain and the meat is simmered at low heat for three hours. Skim of any foam that forms. After the meat has simmered for three hours and the foam has been removed the meat may be removed from the bones. The broth can be saved for later use. Cut the meat into chunks.
In another sauce pan, brown the meat adding herbs, vegetables and spices. The stew is ready once the vegetables have gently softened, about fifteen minutes. Add cream if desired but do not let it come quite to a boil. Remove from heat and serve with potatoes.
common eider stewNow it is midsummers here in Finland and the other nordic countries. Not only is it a religious holiday to remember John the Baptist but is also a time of spending time with family. I remember one friend telling me of her childhood memories. At midsummer, her and her siblings would row across the lake as the sun was low in the horizon at their cabin. Everything had been cleaned, even the sauna which is traditionally cleaned for midsummers or Juhannus. Small birch trees brought from the forest roots and all are planted in pots and placed on both sides of the doorway. It is also a time of old tales, traditions and a few superstitions. There is an old tale that says if young girls gather seven flowers of different kinds and place them under their pillow they will see in their dreams who their spouse to come is. I suppose it might work with just as much success for boys as well if they care to try.

rock formationsHappy Midsummers!

Baked under the Midnight Sun

by tableofcolors

Midsummer is almost here in just a week. The nights are quite light and it is so easy to loose track of time since the kids are not in school. It seems perfectly logical to start washing windows at ten o’clock in the evening as the sun is not telling us to go to bed. Even the children who usually are in bed around eight thirty during the winter are having a hard time settling down. As I write, I can hear the older ones organizing their room after the little ones had visited and turned nearly everything upside down. You probably know how it goes. First there is silence as the little ones are in bliss playing with all of the marvelous treasures that girls of ten and thirteen might have in their room. Chapstick is a favorite! Then there is a loud exclamation and a complaint as they are found out. Next of course, the little ones come to Mama for consolation as their own treasures don’t seem half as interesting! Fortunately their disappointment does not last too long.

rhubarb stalksThe other evening we went rumaging in our rhubarb patch. It was the first time that it could actually be called a patch. Last year we planted the seedlings and it had grown nicely but I hardly dared to pick any last summer. The stalks are thin and we had several flowers that I picked off as is recommended and carried the bouquet inside. It was quite pretty in an untraditional way.

rhubarb flower

I ended up making two versions of this Upside-down Rhubarb cake. The first version had rye flour in it. I didn’t quite get the proportions perfect yet and so it turned out drier than what I was looking for. Version two turned out perfect. Since our babysitter is wheat-free I tried making it so that she could also have a piece. The second version is gluten-free and I used a mix of almond flour and gluten-free flour. If you do not need to make a gluten-free version you may substitute the gluten-free flour with regular flour. I think this recipe will go on my favorite gluten-free recipe list.

chopped rhubarbIt seems as if rhubarb and my blog anniversary go hand-in-hand. Two years ago I started my blog. One of my first posts was on a rhubarb tart that had a brown sugar meringue. A year ago, my Grampa Jim shared a family recipe for a rhubarb tart from my Great-Grandma Reeni. It is still one of my favorite recipes to date. The recipe below received its inspiration last Sunday. We were visiting friends and Maija served a very delicious rhubarb tart. As we had coffee she suggested that I make a version that uses maybe some wholegrain types of flour and perhaps chopped nuts for texture and flavor. This is my version.

rhubarb upside down cakeYou might be able to tell from the lighting in the photo that it is well past ten p.m. It is more than likely closer to eleven pm and the house was finally quiet. And so we enjoyed a piece of rhubarb upside down cake with ice cream and tea. The cake is a bit of a plain-jane, but incredibly delicious!

 

Upside down Rhubarb Cake–Gluten-free

23×23 cm/9″x9″ pan or a round tart pan
50 g butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c/ 85 g brown sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
50 g/2 oz roughly chopped walnuts
5 dl/2 c chopped rhubarb

Place the butter in the tart or cake pan and place in the heated oven for about five minutes or until melted. Remove and mix in the brown sugar, cardamom, rhubarb and walnuts. Set aside for a minute while making the cake batter.

Cake batter

125 g/4.4 oz softened butter
1 dl/ 1/2 c / 90 g sugar
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c / 50 g brown sugar
2 eggs
2 dl /1 c / 90 g almond flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c / 50 g gluten-free flour
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 dl/ slightly less than 1/2 c milk

Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. An eletric mixer will work just as well. Add in one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix the dry ingredients together. Alternating, fold in the dry ingredients and milk into the batter. Pour the batter over the rhubarb place into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 170 C/340 F. If using a fan oven, reduce the temperature to 160 C /320 F.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or maybe a little whipped cream.

Today is also Angie’s Fiesta Friday blogging get-together. Often I have not been able to participate as our schedules have not matched up but today it worked out. And so, I am bringing my rhubarb cake baked under the midnight sun. The people of the nordic countries do not sleep during the summer months. Come autumn, the early evenings are quite inviting. Check out her blog, The Novice Gardener, for a collection of recipes.

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The Smell of Flowers in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Gone are the dark November days and the bitter cold of winter, summer has arrived. Everywhere I go there is the perfume of wild flowers that line the roads. The purple or pink Lupine are now in full bloom making the roadside ditches vibrant with color. This is the time to pick a bouquet of flowers; everyday if you wish.

gathering lupine

Soon we will celebrate birthdays as my oldest and my youngest are born when the Lupine blooms. And so in my kitchen is a bouquet of flowers and their smiling faces.

Silvia and Hugowildflowers 2On Mother’s Day I received a foodie gift from my husband. It was a little package that included all of the ingredients to make a batch of raw chocolate. Now that school is out and bedtimes are a bit more vague and mornings are a little more relaxed, I decided to try out my kit. making raw chocolateThe kit included goji berries, a little bottle of agave syrup, some cold-pressed coconut oil, and a package that included cold-pressed cocoa butter, lucuma powder, raw cocoa powder, maca powder, and Kalahari salt from South Africa. The Lucuma powder is a new ingredient for me and after doing a little research I found out it contains beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium and protein. The Lucuma powder is also used as a natural sweetener as its flavor is similar to Maple. Maca powder is made from the Maca root and is also considered a super food and contains a complex of vitamin B, Calcium, Magnesium and vitamin C.

tasting raw chocolateWhenever I make something, especially if it involves chocolate, there is a line of eager taste-testers. Sometimes I try to show the “shhh” sign to the first one to realize the opportunity so that it does not become a mass occasion. Usually the effort is futile and so we take out the spoons and give everyone one scrape from the bowl to be fair. But today the line did not form as most of the kids were outside playing and Isabella was able to have the bowl to herself.

lazy summer daysBasically the process was simple. Without opening the jar of coconut oil, melt the oil in a hot water bath. Pour the melted coconut oil into a metal bowl and mix in the agave syrup. Next mix in the package with the cocoa powder and butter. Mix with a whisk over the hot water bath until melted and smooth. Add in the goji berries if desired. Pour into small forms and place into the refrigerator to set until firm. They have a slightly grainy texture that is typical to raw chocolate. Delicious with an afternoon cup of coffee.

raw chocolate with goji berryIn my kitchen and in my heart are memories from my recent trip. I brought back some of my Dad’s dried sour dough starter and have been making his bread. It tastes just like home.

bread collage2USA 2014 collageThis post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series for June. Check out her blog for a collection of posts from kitchens around the world.

Searching for the Skyline

by tableofcolors

It was a rainy and gray day. Mummu had agreed to take care of the children. As much as I love my children, it’s a fairly rare occasion to have the afternoon just to yourself. So this was a treat. Our mission was to find the city skyline. As my time in Minneapolis was coming to an end we could not put off our adventure even if the weather was not promising. We were not going to let a few raindrops deter us.

rain in golden valleySince it was raining we had the skyline to ourselves except for one jogger that showed us a thumbs up as he passed by. My brother had suggested that the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge adjacent to the Mill Ruins Park and St. Anthony Falls might be the place to go. It was the perfect place to go. We ran along the bridge to keep ourselves warm as we didn’t have rain coats on. But it was definitely worth it. After jogging for a bit in our heels we were not cold, not one bit.

minneapolis skylineFrom this perspective the skyline was a sandy color just like the rocks that line the Mississippi River. I had usually seen the skyline from the other side which is much more blue in tone of color. This is historically the place of the competitive large flour mills that are still important to this day. On the left, if you look very closely is a building that nearly demolished from an explosion. It is the home of the Mill City Museum that tells of the history of the mills including General Mills, Pillsbury and Washburn Crosby (WCCO). Flour mills have a high risk for dust explosion due to the high amounts of flour dust suspended in the air in an enclosed space. On May 2nd 1878, a giant explosion took place at the Minneapolis Washburn A Mill, killing fourteen workers. Today mills are equiped by highly efficient vacuum powered ventilation system to decrease the amount of dust particles suspended in the air.

After our jog we were dripping wet and went looking for a place to dry off a bit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Milja suggested the Open Book Cafe which is also a center for the literary and book arts. The girl at the counter asked us if we had been “out there”. We smiled. Yes, we had been “out there” as it probably was quite obvious. The building was older and many of the original surfaces have been uncovered. We shared a Seven layer bar. It tasted delicious after running in the rain.

open book minneapolis collageI must say that I just loved the wood floor and the large windows letting in natural light and the staircase was quite majestic in a contemporary way. The nooks and crannies made the raw tile walls seem cozy. I think I might have to revisit someday just for the atmosphere. It was so quiet and serene and at one point there was a class of children that came in for a school field trip.

open book cafe collage 2Because of the Seven layer bars that we had, I had to try recreate it at home. That was the reason I brought back some butterscotch chips. If you do not have them available you may definitely use white chocolate as a substitute.

seven layer barsThe inspiration for this recipe was found from Chow.com. I did end up changing the amounts somewhat but the basic idea is still the same. Layers of nuts, chocolate, coconut, a cookie crumb crust and drizzled with condensed milk. It certainly is not a healthy treat, but if you cut them up small enough perhaps one small square won’t do too much harm. They freeze extremely well and I have some in my freezer waiting for a special occasion or for just an everyday tea break.

Seven layer bars AKA Magic bars
16 graham crackers or 14 Digestive cookies, crushed
113 g/ 1 stick/ 8 tbsp unsalted butter cut into four pieces
dash of salt
3.5 dl/1.5 c shredded coconut
3.5 dl/1.5 c your choice of a mix of dark chocolate, butterscotch and white chocolate chips or chunks
140-150 g/ about 5 oz of coarsely chopped walnuts and pecans (alternatively almonds can be used or a combination of the three)
1 can (397 g/14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk

butterscotch chips and chocolate
Heat the oven to 170 C/350 F and line a 23×33 cm/9×13 inch pan with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Crush the graham crackers or Digestive cookies. Place the butter in the pan and place it in the oven for about 5-8 minutes or until melted. Remove from oven and tilt so that is spreads evenly. Add the crushed cookies and mix in with the butter. Spread it until it forms an even crust. Next sprinkle the cookie crumb crust with the coconut. After the coconut sprinkle on your choice of chocolate and butterscotch chips. Next add the coursely chopped nuts. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
condensed milk
magic bars

stone arch bridge minneapolis
The skyline was beautiful on that gray, rainy day and the light was perfect for pictures.

Minnehaha Falls

by tableofcolors

There is something about returning back to where you grew up. It feels safe as somethings seem to never change. The sound of the concrete Highway 100 with it’s rhythmic thump-thump, thump-thump as the car travels over the regular interval of cracks. Of course there are many things that do change as life goes on. People grow up and move away and the little kids you used to babysit are having babies of their own and the neighbor kids are off to college. I feel as if I haven’t changed, but in reality I’m sure I have as our environment and life shapes us in many ways sometimes unnoticable to ourselves as it has become so obvious. Maybe some parts of Highway 100 have been paved with asphalt after years of wear and tear and perhaps there are sections that do not produce the thump-thump noise that always seemed to lull me to sleep after returning home from Gramma’s and Grampa’s when we were little. And even if we did not sleep when we turned on our road, we pretended to, so that we could be carried in. It felt so safe.

Minnehaha fallsOften when I come  visit Minnesota in the spring, the season is quite far along. This year the winter had been harsh and there was still some snow and ice at the Minnehaha Falls. I have perhaps visited the falls as a little kid but did not have an clear memory of them. I did clearly remember celebrating Gramma’s fiftieth birthday in a parkway just a little further downstream. We drove through some of the old beautiful neighborhoods and past Gramma’s and Grampa’s old house. I had been just a little girl when the concrete steps had been poured and my foot prints are still there on Morgan Avenue.

Minnehaha and Hiawatha from Longfellows epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha

Minnehaha and Hiawatha from Longfellow’s epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha

One memory I have from childhood was when Grampa went to Paris. I have always loved traveling and I was pretty excited to see all of the pictures from the Bakery, Pastery, Chocolate, and Confectionary Trade show. It’s one of the leading events of it’s kind in the world and I just checked that the next one will be held in 2016. Wouldn’t that be fun! I rember that after that trip some new items started appearing at the Wuollet Bakery. One of them was the Fougasse which is typically associated with the Provence area of France(according to Wikipedia) and is similar to the focaccia. It really is quite simple but it is so pretty that it would make a nice housewarming gift if wrapped in some parchment paper and a ribbon. There are probably as many recipes for it as there are bakers. I found some inspiration from the BBC’s Good Food site and my version is below.

fougasseFougasse
Dough
15 g fresh yeast/ 1/2 oz (7 g dried yeast/1/4 oz dried yeast)
500 g/17.6 oz bread flour (about 8.5 dl/3.5 c)
2 tsp salt
tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
400 ml/ 1 and 2/3 c warm water

Toppings
generous 1 dl/1/2 c olive oil
two handfuls of fresh parsley
4-5 sprigs of rosemary
little freshly ground black pepper
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes (finger salt)

proved fougasse dough
There are two ways to combining the yeast with the dough. It can be crumbled in with the flour or it can be added to the water, mixing until it dissolves. I personally prefer dissolving it in the water. Add in the salt and sugar. Mix with your hand or a wooden spoon. I used the dough hook on my stand mixer. After the dough has been mixed it will be quite soft and sticky. Flour your counter top and tip the dough onto the table. Knead so that you stretch it out away from you and fold over in half towards yourself and push with the heel of the your hand. Continue kneading and adding a little bit of flour at times if it feels too sticky. All flour is not created equal and some flour depending on how they have been stored might have less moisture content and will absorb more moisture in the baking process. As a general rule of thumb, I usually don’t add in all of the flour at the same time but with this recipe it probably is safe to do so. I had to add quite a bit of extra flour during the kneading process.

Once kneaded place back in the bowl and cover with a tea towl and allow to prove for about one hour. After the hour, tip the dough back on the floured counter and divide into two. Roll each piece of dough into a large rectangular shape. Place each bread onto a lined baking sheet that has about one glug of olive oil on it. Using a sharp knife, cut a diagonal slit in the middle with three additional small diagonal slits on each side to represent a leaf. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs, black pepper and sea salt flakes. Bake at 220 C/425 F for about 13 minutes.
fougasse ready for the oven

Since this fougasse is brushed with olive oil, it really needs no butter and can be eaten as is. It is a great all-year-round type of bread. In the summer it is perfect with salads and in the winter it goes well with soups.
eating fougasse

photo by Jim Wuollet

photo by Jim Wuollet

This post is part of Angie’s Fiesta Friday Challenge # 1 which needed to included a recipe that used both yeast and herbs. As I was looking through some of the previous participants I noticed that Angie herself had entered a Fougasse. So there are now two with similar recipes. For a collection of herb and yeast inspired recipes follow the link above.
”Fiesta

Ponyride

by tableofcolors

Ponyride started in an abandoned building but today the building and initiative is teeming with life. It is located in a previously abandoned building in Corktown, Detroit. On one exterior wall, volunteer graffiti artists have decorated it with color. The main entrance right off the street is rather unassuming but the stories within are everything but, and so I thought to share some of the efforts that are taking place. I think it brings a new perspective to constrast with the story told in the media. There is no denying that Detroit has had a hard time. There are telltale signs everywhere. But I think success is really measured in their resilience. I think Ponyride is one such success story that I hope investors notice. It is creating new fortunes out of misfortune.

ponyride graffitiPonyride is the brainchild of Phil Cooley, Kate Bordine and my sister Kaija E. Wuollet. It basically is an effort to provide a place for socially conscious entrepreneurs to practice their craft and give back to the community. Their mission:

Ponyride nurtures collaboration using shared resources, knowledge, and ideas to cultivate opportunities created by the strengths and crises of Detroit. Participants serve Detroit communities by sharing their craft and expertise.

Each business offers six hours of education or classes to the community per month. In return their rents are kept at a very low rate. To me it seems like they are finding the rough diamonds and and making them shine.

ponyride studioOn the second floor above the dance and yoga studio is an open area with a kitchen off to the side. The Empowerment Plan resides here. They hire homeless women from shelters to sew coats that turn into self-heating and waterproof sleeping bags. These coats have been handed out to the homeless and also delivered internationally in places of crisis. It started with one woman, Veronika Scott and at the time of my visit the initiative employed fourteen women, giving them an opportunity to work and regain their independence after living on the streets. It made me stop to think what it would be like to live on the streets. It might feel like an imprisonment of sorts. I would not be able to buy French lentils, espresso or dark 85% chocolate, Nike shoes or a Rose bike.  Really it is not at all about those specific ingredients or things but rather the option to choose to buy for our families the things they need and provide a home or the option to be without.  The women I met were so positive and I wish them all well. I hope they all regain their independence to choose.

empowerment plan collageOn the same floor, down through a narrow hallway opens up to another larger space. It is a co-working space that can be shared by different businesses and initiatives. There were a couple that sparked my interest. One such organization is edibleWOW. They produce a quarterly magazine highlighting local food. I met Robb Harper who is one of the publishers of the magazine and so very friendly. EdibleWOW has been coordinating a hydroponic education program at elementary schools to teach students how to grow herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers year round in soil-less conditions. Perhaps these children will continue the tradition of urban gardening.

Co-working space and Robb Harper, publisher of EdibleWOW

Co-working space and Robb Harper, publisher of EdibleWOW

Another initiative that uses the Co-working space is Detroit Soup which is a non-profit organization that provides micro-grants for local creative projects. It works in the following manner. Soup dinners are hosted around the city. For five dollars participants receive soup, salad, bread and a vote. During the dinner participants hear four, four minute long presentations about possible initiatives. Each presenter may answer four questions from the audience. In the end, the audience votes and the initiative to receive the most votes goes home with the money to carry out their project.

Anthology Coffee, the science of making perfect coffee

Anthology Coffee, the science of making perfect coffee

It is not so uncommon to hear of disagreements in a work place. I am not disillusioned to believe that there are no bumps in the road at Ponyride but there is a sense of collaboration. Perhaps it is because of the hardships that almost everyone has experienced in some way that petty things are put aside.

Detroit Denim, creating custom made denim jeans and products from delvedge denim

Detroit Denim, creating custom made denim jeans and products from selvedge denim

What an inspiring day it was. If I was to go again, it would be nice to bring a cake to share. I would set it down on the stone counter in the kitchen right next to the Empowerment Plan. If there are lots of people there on that particular day we would just cut the cake in slightly thinner slices so everyone could have a taste. If only a few are there we could slice it into slightly thicker pieces.

The recipe below I found on NancyCreative’s blog. The sweet potatoe pound cake turned out to be deliciously soft and with a dollop of whipped cream it reminded me of Thanksgiving, thankfulness and sharing with our close ones. Really the perfect cake to take to Ponyride.

 

Sweet Potato Pound Cake by NancyCreative

adapted from Taste of Home

225 g/8 oz/1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3.5 dl/1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 dl/1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, well-packed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 dl/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
7 dl/3 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes (if using canned, you’ll need a 40-ounce can)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Orange Glaze

3.5 dl/1 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 heaping tbsp of chopped pecans, for garnish
sweet potato poundcake batterBake the sweet potato in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until it is soft. Set aside to cool. Once cool remove the skin and mash with a fork.

Cream the softened butter and sugars until it is light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Alternately fold in the dry ingredients and mashed sweet potato. Pour into a greased 10 inch/25 cm bundt pan and bake at 175 C/350 F for about 55-60 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake has cooled make the glaze by mixing the ingredients together and drizzling it over the cake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

sweet potato pound cake

 

Detroit Series: A Bankrupt City, Corktown

 

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