After the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas it was time to just sit down and enjoy watching the children, sampling a few holiday goodies both with the kids and a few after the house is quiet and they have gone to sleep. I even had a chance to start a book on the 26th and since it really engaged the reader I finished it the next day, spending half of the day in my pyjamas. But it was just what I needed. I felt a pleasant tiredness come over me, like a sense of deep relaxation. The next night I slept so soundly.
In Finland Santa Claus or Joulupukki visits homes on Christmas Eve. There is electric excitement in the air when a loud knock is heard! We all sing the traditional “Joulupukki” song with which we welcome him into our home. Since we have a few American traditions in our Christmas, Santa visits again after the children are sleeping and leaves a few little things in their stockings.
Since Joulupukki is quite elderly and his eyesight is a bit poor, our little elves (tonttu) are eager helpers.
After the excitement of Joulupukki and the gifts are unwrapped we enjoy some Christmas treats as a family. A bit of a calm comes into the evening, everyone is busy trying out their new toys and pyjamas. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is having coffee and treats in the candle light at midnight.
One of the most traditional Finnish Christmas treats is the Prune tart. It originally was made in the half moon shape and later the star shape become popular. During the holiday season the little tarts can be found in all of the cafés and coffee shops, stores and bakeries. Homemade prune tarts beat them all when it comes to flavor. That is why it pays to put a little effort into making them. My Mother is from Finland and one of my childhood memories is of her making these tarts every Christmas.
Originally a puff pastry is used. I found this recipe a few years ago and have it scribbled on a piece of paper. I unfortunately did not write down where it originated. It uses butter and and quark. If you do not have quark readily available you may use sour cream or Greek yoghurt as a substitute. The quark gives the dough an interesting flavor which is not overly strong.
Butter puff pastry with quark (Rahkavoitaikina)
250g /8.8 oz butter cut into small cubes
1 tsp baking powder
4 dl/1.7 cups flour
250 g/8.8 g quark
prune jam or apple jam
Mix the cubed butter, flour and baking powder so that if forms a crumbly mixture. Add in the quark and quickly mix. Do not overwork the dough. The dough will be a bit lumpy and uneven at this point. Place the dough into a plastic bag and place into the refrigerator for several hours or until the next day.
The next day, sprinkle the counter top with flour and place the dough on the flour. Roll out the dough, folding it into thirds and rerolling it. Repeat at least four times. Place back into the bag and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Take one half of the dough and roll it out so that it is about 3mm (0.12 inches) thick. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter cut the sheet of pastry into a rectangular shape as seen below. Cut the sheet into even squares. In order to get the star shape cut the dough with your pastry wheel as shown by the dotted lines.
In the middle of each square place a teaspoon of prune jam. Lift every other pointed edge bringing it to the middle. After the star shape is reached gently press the middle with your index finger to insure that the dough stick and does not undo in the oven.