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.
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.
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.
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
about 6 cloves of garlic, minced
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.
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.
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)
dash of white pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
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.