St. John’s or Juhannus

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In Finland the celebration of St. John’s is also a celebration of midsummer. The cities become deserted as people flee to their summer cottages to spend time with family and friends. Food and drink is in abundance.

The ideal summer cottage is on a lake with a sauna. Birch trees line the yard creating some shade. It is easy to lose track of time since it is light day or night. There are no strict bedtimes for kids and they enjoy the lack of a schedule. This image is familiar from tourist magazines but I do think that people actually strive for this ideal to create a balance to the long dark winter.

In the US, paid vacations are fairly minimal in comparison to Finnish standards. The idea that an entire population is on vacation for a month after St. John’s was an adjustment for me. Employees receive “vacation money” in June to help cover the costs of vacation. Since moving here I have gotten used to planning my vacation for July and I really cannot object. Note: remember to take care of any current business before St. John’s. Most bureaus do not function properly during this month.

One mid-summer our family ventured into Helsinki to go visit the zoo. The zoo was populated by the tourists and us. It was an especially memorable trip for the whole family. The male lion gave us a display of his majestic greatness. The roar made us happy that there were strong metal bars between us.

This year I was lucky to spend St. John’s day with some of my siblings. The weekend included a trip to the beach, making food on the grill, enjoying saunas, and laughing until my cheeks hurt.

Recipe for Raspberry Brownie Trifles:

For the trifles you will need the following the ingredients: Brownies cut into small chunks (uses half a pan of the recipe below), 4 dl or 1 3/4 c whipping cream and 200 g or 7 oz. cream cheese combined, sugar to taste. Raspberries and brownie crumbs. Yield 15 servings.

Place about 4 to 5 brownie chunks on the bottom of the cup, spoon a large dollop of the whipped cream-cream cheese mixture as the next layer. Let trifles set in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Garnish with raspberries and a few brownie crumbs. Enjoy with coffee!

The brownie recipe is adapted from a Pirkka magazine recipe 5/2009:
100 g or 3.5 oz dark chocolate
50 g or 1,75 oz butter
2 eggs
1 dl sugar or slightly under 1/2 c sugar
1/2 dl or 1/4 c dark cocoa

1.5 dl or 3/4 c flour
1 tl or tsp of vanilla extract (vanilla sugar maybe also used)
dash of salt

In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate until a smooth mixture forms. Remove from heat. Whip eggs and sugar until it is a firm foam. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cocoa, and salt. Take turns folding small parts of the dry ingredients and melted butter/chocolate mixture into the egg batter. Pour into a lined spring pan 26cm (approx. 10 inches) and bake at a 175 C or 350 F for about 10 minutes. Don’t overbake. Place the extra brownies into the freezer for later use.

This brownie recipe is intended to be used as a base for cakes and not by itself. It makes a great base for chocolate or fresh berry mousse-style cakes.

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