In my kitchen in the bleak mid-winter

My kitchen is still full of the remnants of Christmas and New Years. The tree in Finland is traditionally taken down after epiphany and so it will be up for a few more days, perhaps a week. When we put the tree up, our Hugo, who is now a year and a half was in awe and WOW and Hieno (nice) became his new words. In January there are still little angels in my kitchen that that fly like fairies across the house and ocassionally giggle very loud and have a sparkle in the corner of their eyes as they jump off the high stool and do many tricks with considerable grace but not necessarily very angel-like in manner. How I love their company.

angel black and whiteIn my kitchen this month I have been spending some time looking through old photographs and reading and rereading emails from my Grampa. The photographs are treasures and when I spend time in the kitchen cooking or putting away dishes it offers the perfect moment of my very own that no one can really steal, to let the mind and imagination soar back into a different era. How I wished as a kid that it might have been possible to travel in time. I suppose back then I had very romantic notions of the olden days. I have sometimes wondered how I would have actually managed, now that I am used to all of the modern conveniences of life and society.


Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906
Anderson Store in Minneapolis circa 1906

Like most immigrant groups, the Finns created their own Finntowns in communities. Minneapolis had one of the larger Finnish populations. What was new to me was that many of the Finns that arrived were looking to homestead land in Cokato, which is about 50 miles West of Minneapolis and used Minneapolis as their big city. This took place in the 1860 to 1880s and if I remember correctly some of the Wuollets had also settled in the Cokato area. The pattern of life that was created was that the men would come into the city to work in brick-yards, sawmills and carpenters as well as other jobs and then return home in regular intervals. After the 1880s many of the children of the homesteaders moved and settled permanently in the city. I referenced the History of Finnish Community pages and it mentioned the grocery of Isaac Anderson on 238 Humboldt Avenue. The picture above is of the shop and was taken in 1906. My great-grandmother is the baby in the arms of great-great-grandma Ida Anderson.

Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson
Wedding portrait of Isaac and Ida Anderson

There is an interesting story behind the sirname of Anderson. When Isaac and his brother John Kauvosaari emigrated from Finland the official at the port of entrance asked for their name. They replied with their names and I am assuming that the Finnish name of Kauvosaari was quite difficult to the non-Finnish tongue. The official next asked what their father’s name was and when they replied, Antti Kauvosaari the official gave them a new last name of Anderson.

Humboldt Avenue 238 Minneapolis Anderson store
Anderson store at an earlier date
Inside the Anderson store
Inside the Anderson store

I’m not quite sure exactly the kind of butter-nut bread that they might have been selling, but just a few days ago when we had ice-skating weather I was making a whole-grain bread with spelt and buckwheat. I rolled the dough into a quarter of an inch thick sheet and then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pecans and dried sour cherries. It tasted wonderful after all of the rich holiday foods and the fresh air and tag that was taking place on the ice.


pähkinäleipäplaying tag

Whole-grain bread with sour cherries and pecans
3 dl/1 and 1/4 c warm water
1/2 block of fresh yeast (25 g) or 1/2 sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 dl/ 1/2 c spelt flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c buckwheat flour
about 5 dl/generous 2 c whole-grain bread flour with cracked wheat (8% fiber content)
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c olive oil

bread with sour cherries, pecans, spelt  and buckwheat
Mix the yeast in with the luke warm water. I usually have my fresh yeast frozen as I buy it in bulk and that way there is always some on hand and it doesn’t grow old. I learned the trick from my mother-in-law. I just add the frozen block to the warm water and let it sit for about 5-7 minutes and then add in the honey, salt, buckwheat flour and spelt flour. I used my stand mixer freeing up my hands and allowed for it to knead on the lowest setting. It is better to allow the flours to absorb as much of the water as possible, so haste is not encouraged when adding the flour. Add in little by little the whole grain bread flour. The dough should be soft and may be a little sticky. Allow the stand mixer to knead thoroughly or alternatively you may knead by hand. Add in the oil. If the dough seems much too sticky, add more flour to your liking. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Spray a bread tin with a non-stick spray and warm the oven to 200 C/390 F. Once the dough has risen, sprinkle the counter with flour and tip the dough on top. Gently roll the dough out and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the pecans and dried sour cherries. Roll up the dough forming a log and place into the bread tin. Allow to rise once again and back for about 20 or 25 minutes or so that the bottom of the bread has a nice color and sounds a bit hollow when knocked with your knuckle. Enjoy toasted with butter and maybe even a drizzle of honey. Perfect after skating fare.

angel wingsThis post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series. Check out her blog for links into the kitchens of bloggers from around the world.


  1. Wonderful story and photo’s. I love looking at historical photo’s and hearing about the history of individuals and families. My family name was also changed at Ellis Island. If the person processing the individual could’n’t say/pronounce or simply didn’t like the name they changed it. We have family with different spelling because they came into the US at different times or with different persons processing them. The bread looks delicious, did you just use spelt and buckwheat? You mention whole wheat but there is no amount. Love whole grain breads with fruit and nuts.

    1. I just love history and I often realize that in the end, people haven’t really changed much even if loads of technology and other conveniences have been created. Thanks for pointing out the missing amount….it was 1am by the time I had the post written. It is added in now. I used three different flours: spelt, buckwheat and a whole grain flour that was a mixture of different flours and grains. For example it had cracked wheat in it. The fiber content if fairly high with 8g/100 g. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. Thank you so much for this glimpse into your family heritage. You are so lucky to have those photos! My paternal grandfather came to Ellis Island but the family name was not changed until later, due to him being a musician and wanting to work both Union and nonUnion jobs. He adopted a new name for certain purposes and the new one ‘stuck’. My maternal grandparents had a small grocery store in rural southern Ohio, but as far as I know, no photos exist. My Mum has described it to me a number of times so that I can almost draw it. Happy New Year Laila.

    1. Yes, I feel very lucky…and those photos are only a beginning. There is quite a few of them that I am hoping to share during 2015. What an interesting story about your paternal grandfather and his name. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

  3. How wonderful for you to have such historic family photos, and your grandfather’s letters to remind you of the stories. It must be fascinating exploring such treasure. I love the story about the name change – I’m fascinated with the origin of surnames in general.
    The bread looks delicious, too.

    1. You said it exactly how it is…and I know that there are many other families that have experienced the sudden name change at the post of entry. It was a completely different mindset back then….I don’t think it is very common to have your name changed today in the same fashion.

  4. Yes it would be wonderful if we could travel back in time. Love the old photos and the story and of course your bread with pecans and cherries. Happy New Year 🙂

  5. What a great story, I just love learning about family history. I was wondering about the butter nut bread too!!
    Your bread sounds delicious. I love making no knead bread and experimenting with different flours but haven’t used spelt or buckwheat so I think you have inspired me to go and get some!
    Warm regards,

    1. Maybe I’ll have to ask around about the butter-nut bread. I have been using a lot of spelt lately and my general rule of thumb is to substitute about 1/3 of the flour with spelt. That way the dough is still easy to work with.

  6. Great family history. It is wonderful that you are keeping it alive for you children. Oh, and I love those angel wings! In Britain there is a superstition that the Christmas decorations (including, of course, the tree) must be taken down on or before Epiphany. I wonder if there is a connection with Scandinavian traditions here. Bread looks great and I really like the addition of buckwheat flour. Will need to bookmark this to try. Happy New Year!

    1. I googled Finnish Christmas traditions and I found that traditionally Christmas was wrapped up on Epiphany with the last Christmas food eaten from the freezer and the Christmas tree put away. This was in the city. In the country Christmas was not put away until January 13th. Quite a lengthy Christmas season. 🙂 But I must point out that traditionally in Finland the Christmas tree is not brought inside until Christmas Eve…but we have broken this tradition every year 😉

  7. What lovely photos and charming stories to begin the New Year! The thought of angels flying like fairies around your kitchen, complete with giggles and high jumps, brightens my morning. Happy New Year.

  8. This was really lovely Laila. A little history lesson and beautiful, evocative photos of your family. I really learnt something today! And the top photo is really stunning x

  9. Beautiful, fascinating post, Laila! So much history in America for your Finnish ancestors – how wonderful for you to come full circle and now be living in Finland! Your photos are always so joyous – is there anything better than iceskating and a kitchen full of angels? 🙂

    1. Yes, life is indeed fascinating to think that now I am living here where they all left from looking for a better life. Of course the conditions that they left from have changed drastically. Looking forward to delving deeper into the old photos of the family and the stories that they hold.

  10. What a lovely story! And that bread sounds so delicious – I love that you are using a mix of whole grain flours in there, and look forward to trying this!

  11. Your stories all the time are full of magic. I read all your posts like a fairy tales. It looks like real angels live in you house.
    The previous generation of your family lived in US. How come you are in Finland.
    I am surprised with the quality of the pictures from the past. They are excellent. And the Angel and skating pictures are awesome.

    1. Oh thank you, Alexander for your compliments! Merci! I was quite interested in Finland due to the family connection and then when I came to Finland to study, the traditional thing happened…I met my future husband…and so that is why I am here. 🙂 I have to agree with you the pictures from the past are wonderful! And I have many more pictures in my files lined up waiting for their turn.

  12. Beautiful old photos.I enjoyed reading about the Finnish migration to the USA. Soing family history is a little like time travel. The name swap thing happened here in Australia too. Many Greek family names were switched by customs officials on arrival. The sweet bread looks lovely.

  13. Your old photos are excellent, it is so awesome hearing about stories of your past family! That history is so intriguing, oh to be able to go back in time and hear it from the mouths of ancestors!
    Or perhaps you could entice them to the present with your delicious bread?

    Choc Chip Uru

  14. A few years ago I started hanging old photographs of family serving food or cooking on my kitchen walls. My grandfather baking bread in the Army, my grandmother in her kitchen in Hungary – I can totally identify with spending time in the kitchen in the comfort of history. Love it! Since I’m up to my ears in snow here in Cleveland, OH I think your bread might be on my list of things to do this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes if I tackle it!

    1. What a good idea to hang those special photos in your kitchen. I have been thinking that maybe I might put some of the old pictures somewhere in the house…perhaps a collage in the office 🙂 Hope the bread works out for you! We have been getting snow here as well.

  15. It’s so lovely that you have completed the circle by coming back to Finland. I am sure some of the Andersons would have been very homesick at times, and, perhaps, dreamt of returning home to better times. Speaking of circles I like your idea of rolling out the dough and then rolling it up like a Swiss roll.

    1. I can imagine that they were very homesick…letters took weeks and even if a trip was made it was about two weeks on the boat. I feel so fortunate for the virtual world as the it seems as if the distances between are so much shorter.

      1. I agree. I don’t know how I would have managed these last 10 years without virtual contact with my family. My Skype is on 20/24 hours a day so we can message each other any time, and we do.

  16. I just did a google search of Isak Kauvosaari Anderson and your blog came up. What a wonderful surprise to find the pictures and story. I’m happy to say we are cousins–second cousins once removed probably. Your great-grandmother must have been Aggie. My grandmother was her younger sister Ellen. I live in Boston and was thinking of my Finnish ancestors as we endured feet of snow the last couple days.

    I did some research a while back and discovered that Isaac/Isak was born in Ylitornio: far, far north at the Arctic Circle. The Torne River separates it from Sweden. Because until 1809 Finland was part of Sweden, most of the Finns there also had Swedish names–Ylitornio in Finland/ Övertorneå in Sweden was the same town before 1809. And as you write, Antti is Finnish for Anders, (Andrew in English). So Anderson was quite logical.

    Grandma Ellen had some papers which say that he actually emigrated from far northern Norway, where a community of Finns called “Kvens” live. I guess it was common for poor Finns (from Sweden and Finland) to relocate there. In his US citizenship papers he acknowledged that he had renounced his allegiance to the King of Norway (which at the time was also and mainly the King of Sweden). Ida was born in Raahe also far north (but not quite so far) on the west coast. It is a pretty town of wooden houses in the region of Finland (Ostrobothnia) that supplied the largest number of emigrants. You probably know all of this already, but it’s interesting to put it all in one place.

    I remember hearing my grandmother’s wonderful stories of Elma, too. She was likewise independent-minded, becoming a chiropractor, and always looked up to her older sister. Thank you for your blog and the Wuollet recipes!

    1. Hello Mathew, Long time no see. Except for the blizzard how are you. Your genealogy is correct. The Wuollet ancestors emigrated through Norway, but I did not know that the Kauvosaari brothers did also. Did Auntie Ellen have that document?

      Would be interesting to hear more from you.
      Cousin Jim

      1. Hi Jim, What a delight hearing from you. It made my snowy day. We are shoveling out here in Boston–but schools were closed for a third day today. More snow is expected on Friday. There’s no place to put it all. Grandma Ellen did have her father’s immigration and naturalization papers, among other things (not sure of Ida’s). We discovered them a few years back. Interesting that the Wuollets also came via Norway. I guess lots did. Were the Wuollets from the extreme far north, too? I was just looking at a map. It is a daunting thought. We took a family trip to Sweden and Finland last fall, but Ylitornio and Raahe are so very far from Stockholm and Helsinki so we didn’t get there.

        After George died in 2008 my mom remarried in 2011. She’s not sure if the papers are at her new house or at the old, where my brothers still live. She will look for them, as I didn’t see them over Christmas with other documents. I can share a scan if we find it. I *think* I remember seeing a marriage certificate for Isaac and Ida, too. It stood out because they were married in a Norwegian or Swedish church, not Finnish. But maybe I read that in a history that Rosie was working on, which we have a copy of–she had interviewed Grandma for it a lot, since she was the last surviving daughter for a long while.

        I was in MN for a week just after Christmas. We had a delicious Wuollet Princess Torte at dinner–the best of both worlds, celebrating Dad’s family and my mom’s Swedish heritage. It’s my favorite dessert. I studied Swedish in college at Gustavus and am still decent with it, but I’m afraid I can’t speak Finnish as yet. I got by with English and Swedish when in Finland.

        My great thanks to Laila for her gorgeous blog, recipes, and bringing back these wonderful family stories. Isaac and Ida really were like Abraham and Sarah, the father and mother of many families and nations. Such a joy.

        Cousin Matthew

      2. Hello to you both,
        How nice to follow your exchange. I have visited the city of Raahe and the Tornio area as well. I have plans of exploring the history behind the actual immigration in the near future. What a journey they had to America and certainly a different one in comparison to travel today. They left behind one life and traveled thousands of miles to start a completely new one. And the mail and connections with the old country were much more scarce. So glad you happened upon the blog and I really appreciate you sharing all that you know. If you ever visit Finland again, let me know!

        All the best,

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