The Christmas season is almost here. It is nearly pitch dark here at quarter after four in the afternoon and across the fields and on the road there is just the lighest dusting of snow barely making the gravel look white. The other Saturday after the sun had set, my friend Kaisa Peni released her second recording, called Ihme for the Christmas season. Ihme could be translated as Miracle or Wonder. Click on the youtube link below and pretend to be with us at the recital as you read this blog post and perhaps you will feel the peace of Christmas.
I have found it to be the perfect music to play early in the morning as I have lit a few candles and go uptairs to wake up the sleepyheads for school. I am nearly as much of a sleepyhead. Maybe I am not really a morning person even though for years I really liked to believe that I was.
As I listen to the music, the house is peaceful for once and I have a fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Maybe it is anticipation. This is what Christmas is supposed to feel like: a gentle, relaxed atmosphere in the soft light of candles with your loved ones.
Kaisa is accompanied on the recording with baritone Elja Puukko, her daughter Jatta and her friend Sanni. Ilia Kalioujnov-Salminen is the very talented pianist. In addition to traditional Christmas music, Ilia has composed and Kaisa has written the words to two new original pieces. I think they just might be my favorites as I found myself humming the melody as I was doing things around the house.
For the event I made pumpkin squares with a gingerbread mousse filling and a gluten-free no-bake cake. Usually when baking for an occasion, I try to make the gluten-free option complimentary in flavors so that no one needs to feel left out. As we were celebrating a Christmas recording I thought the pumpkin and gingerbread flavors would have both a traditional Christmas flavor as something a bit different usually not found here as pumpkin is not very common. On the recording there is a bit of an international flair as well. There are two songs sung in Russian and one in English. You may remember if you have followed the blog for some time that a year ago Kaisa published her first recording Rauha. A year ago I made Sacher squares with homemade apple jam made with locally sourced apples.
makes 45 5×5 cm squares
For the pumpkin squares and gluten-free cake, I used the purée of one small pumpkin. It comes out to about a total of 3 dl or 1 and 1/3 cups of purée.
For the pumpkin sponge cake I used the recipe by Joy of baking which I tweeked a bit. Here is the link to the tutorial video, but below are the amounts and the recipe.
For the 45 servings I made three sheets of the pumpkin sponge. Two of them were layered with the filling in between and the third was cut in half, filled and then layered.
The recipe below is for one sheet of pumpkin sponge
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c (95 g/3.4 oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 dl/generous 1/2 c (150 g/5.3 oz) sugar
1/2 dl/1/3 c (50 g/1.8 oz) brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c (150 g/5.3 oz) pumpkin purée
Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper. Lightly butter it or spray with a non-stick spray.
Place the room temperature eggs and sugars into a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until light and fluffy. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a separate including the flour, baking powder, soda, spices and salt. Mix the vanilla extract with the pumpkin purée. Click here for a recipe on how to make your own pumpkin purée.
Fold in the dry ingredients into the egg batter. Last fold in the pumpkin purée. Pour the batter on the lined baking sheet and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 8 minutes.
Once golden brown and springs back to the touch remove from the oven and let cool just slightly. Take another sheet of parchment paper and place on the table. Sprinkle with sugar. Now flip the baked sponge cake onto the sugar so that the top is on the sugar. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake (that is now facing to the top). It pays to do this step while the cake is still warm as the parchment paper is so much easier to remove. The sprinkled sugar assures that the cake does not stick to the other sheet of paper.
Filling for 45 servings
1 liter of cream
24 small gingerbread cookies crushed (90 g/3 oz)
5 gelatin leaves
800 g/28 oz quark or a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1 dl/ 1/2 c (105 g/3.7 oz) packed brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c (85 g/3 oz) sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of following: ginger, cloves and nutmeg
Place the gelatin leaves in a bowl of cool water. Let soak according to the package instructions. Bring some water to a boil and set aside. Crush the gingerbread cookies. Whip the cream and fold in the quark. Next fold in the cookies and check for taste. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and place into a very small bowl or dish. Pour a little bit of the boiling water over the gelatin leaves and mix until dissolved. Fold in the gelatin by pouring it in a stream and constantly stirring.
Spread the filling on the cake and place other sheet cake on top.
Cover the cake with cling film and place into the fridge while the ganache is being prepared. You may also let the cake rest overnight.
I have noticed that working with white chocolate is a bit more tricky than dark chocolate. The cake nearly absorbed the first batch of ganache. I would suggest sealing the cake with a very thin layer of apricot jam.
2 dl/ 0.8 c heavy whipping cream
340 g/12 oz white chocolate
Pour the cream into a bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute or so that it boils. Roughly the chop the chocolate up. Remove the boiled cream from the microwave and mix in the white chocolate. Stir until a smooth consistency.
Pour the white chocolate over the cake. Melt a few squares of dark chocolate in a separate bowl. Form a piping tube out of parchment paper and pour the melted dark chocolate into. Make thin stripes all along the cake. Using a knife, pull the tip of it through the stripes, alternating the direction every other time.
I have a confession to make. I have been writing this post now for about five days, trying to find those little fuzzy-tummy candle-lit moments. Those moments have not come by nearly as often as I would like. First there is a simple explanation. My husband has been away recently on business, meaning that I am running the household. Originally I had been planning to write my blog after the house is quiet and with everyone asleep. No such thing. My two youngest are night owls by nature and keep me entertained until the minute I go to bed. And since I have started writing this post, the landscape has turned into a wonderful winter wonderland that just invites us all outside.
The night of the recording debut, I also served a gluten-free no-bake pumpkin cake that turned out delicious. I think it would work perfect for Thanksgiving as would these pumpkin squares above. So instead of working on this post for a week, I saved the cake for my next post. I am planning on posting the new recipe in the next few days. Hope everyone has a wonderful week and Happy Thanksgiving!