Glistening Crystals

We don’t have snow here in southern Finland yet but the weather has turned and since the ground was still quite wet after our misty season of gray days and rains, the crisp freezing temperatures changed the landscape. Everything acquired a coating of crystals that glisten and dance in the sunlight. The night had been a colder one with clear skies and when I was driving home last night I could see the stars in the night sky. And when morning greeted us with sunshine it could be called an energizing experience. What was somewhat of a dull, brown and gray landscape just two days ago turned into winter wonderland without the snow. Even the kids got up eagerly this morning even though it was still almost as dark as the night and Erik asked me, “How deep is it outside?” thinking the frost was snow.

ice crystals
The snow is yet to come but now the puddles have a covering of ice that crackle and crunch when walking on them. I still like to walk over the frozen puddles and they remind me of grade school days and walking to the bus stop in the early morning. There was something so satisfying about those frozen puddles and the noise they made.
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Something else that I remember doing as a kid was poring over ads that came with the Sunday paper. I remember seeing ads for fondue sets and there was something so intriguing about fondue. Maybe it was because I loved cheese and especially melted and stringy cheese. A couple of years ago we received from my sister and her husband a little fondue set for Christmas and it has been great. I can get my kids to eat just about anything if they are allowed to used the fondue spears and dip it in a cheese sauce. I often will make a herb and onion encrusted focaccia and nobody complains about the “green stuff”. If you happen to have any picky eaters at your house, a fondue set might do the trick.

Fondue just seemed like the perfect thing to have on a day that is crisp and cold. We did get our share of fresh air and exercise as we brought our four-year old to his day circle. He went on his bike and I walked and ran along side him with the double jogger and the two little ones inside. All of the cold, crisp air whets the appetite.
fondue2
This time I made mini garlic focaccia with a whole grain bread flour that has a mixture of cracked wheat, wheat flour and rye flour. You could make your own mix of flours or buy different kind of whole grain mix available at your local store. We cut the rolls into cubes making them easy to dip.

Whole grain garlic focaccia

5 dl/little over 2 cups of warm water
1 block (50 g) of fresh yeast or 1 sachet of dry yeast (almost 4 tsps)
1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp sea salt
10-11 dl/4 and 1/2 c whole grain flour mix
1/4 dl/1/8 c olive oil

On top:
about 6 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
black pepper
sea salt flakes

Place the water, yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix until combined and add half of the flour. Knead until combined and continue adding flour. Knead well. This dough can be a little sticky. Add the oil last and allow to rise until double in size. To save with the clean up, I do not pour the dough on the table, rather I did the whole process in the bowl. After the dough has risen, punch is down and take small handful and place them evenly spaced onto a lined baking sheet.
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Make an indentation with two fingers on each roll and place a half teaspoon of minced garlic in each indentation. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and sea salt flakes. Allow to rise and then bake in the oven for about 12 minutes at 225 C/430 F or until golden brown.
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garlic focaccia

Cheese fondue

50 g/1.8 oz butter
3 heaping tbsp flour
5 dl/generous 2 cups milk
100 g/ 3.5 oz shredded cheese (I use a mix of a strong cheese (ie. gruyére) and a milder cheese (ie. Oltermanni, Havarti or Muenster)
salt
black pepper
dash of white pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

melted butter with flour
Melt the butter with the flour in a sauce pan and allow it to bubble for a minute. Do not let it brown. Whisk in the milk and cook until it has become thick. Add the salt, pepper and white pepper to it. Take of the heat and add the grated cheese to it and mix. Add the balsamic vinegar and heat if needed. Serve with chunks of garlic focaccia.

fondue

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27 Comments

    1. Thank you Sheryl! I’m one of those people that shiver a lot when the weather gets cold and so I have been practicing the art of dressing warm and finding some of the little delights of the dark season to make it seem more pleasant. 🙂

  1. I’m sure you will have snow soon enough and I imagine in Finland it’s quite a lot of the beautiful white stuff. Your fondue is just the perfect antidote to the cold weather. I haven’t made fondue in a long time and your post made me remember how much I love it. The bread is hearty and dipped in the wonderful melty cheese it’s heavenly.

  2. What beautiful photos, you really capture the meaning of frost. And that bread… I just might make that today, seeing as it’s cold out and I’m home with a sick child.

    1. Thank you Anne! I did a little research and Maldon sea salt has an interesting story behind it as a family company that started operation in the 1880s. It would certainly be interesting to visit your corner of the world sometime!

  3. Lovely evocative post. I can almost hear those cracking puddles. Fondue! I haven’t had it for yeeeears, and I can’t believe my 2 boys haven’t experienced a fondue night yet. Thanks for the reminder. I grew up on fondue made by my Dutch dad. It was absolutely loaded with wine. I’m sure the alcohol had well and truly evaporated, but I remember the smell being overwhelming. I’m pinning yours to try instead!

    1. Thank you Kenley! Fondue is a fairly new acquaintance with me as well…even though I had dreamed about it as a kid 🙂 We received the set two years ago and since then we have fondue for supper every once in a while, much to the delight of the family.

  4. A very lovely post. Your focaccia sounds wonderful with the minced garlic on top, as well as olive oil. I imagine using gruyére is the perfect choice for the fondue. And your photographs are gorgeous.

  5. Love those early wintry days where frost makes everything glisten. Would that be all to our Winters. You focaccia and cheese fondue sound wonderful. And you dreamt of fondue as a child? Perfect.

    1. I’m sure my kids would love to have fondue once a week! 🙂 Maybe I should do some research and see what all can be done with it. It’s a great way to get them to try new things.

  6. OOO Fondue,
    My mother would make this. I have never made fondue …. Might have to try that next. Maybe a few friends over the next time it snows here in Santa Fe , NM . Love the pictures.

    My mother is Finnish, my sister went to Finland with our Grandmother in the 1970’s. I never was able to go. So the wintery pictures and the architecture of your kitchen and home with your children gives me a idea of the land of my ancestors.

    Thanks,

    1. Hi Kat!

      So glad to give you little glimpse of Finland. I sure hope you have a chance to come here yourself and explore the cities and countryside and visit relatives. The summer here is beautiful as is the winter (especially if the sun shines 🙂 )
      All the best, Laila

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