Simple pleasures

Tag: blueberries

In My Kitchen, March sweetness

by tableofcolors

I had been desiring something sweet. Shrove Tuesday had been on Tuesday and traditionally in Finland we would enjoy the laskiaspulla along with sledding in the white banks of snow. This year nature has not been following traditions and neither did I as we do not have any snow and really only got a few inches all winter. I found a recipe and video tutorial by Jamie Oliver for his simple sponge cake. I have been a fan of Jamie Oliver for some time. Maybe we have some things in common. We’re about the same age, he’s a dad of four and I’m the mom of six. We’re passionate about food. Perhaps we don’t agree on all political questions but we do agree that kids should be offered healthy meal options at school. Quite often, children are offered highly processed food. In Finland, we are lucky that our school meals are generally fairly healthy and strawberry or chocolate milk is not an option. Actually at our house we had a small episode over hot chocolate. I really don’t have anything against hot chocolate. I love a good cup myself occasionally. To me it becomes a problem when the kids are drinking it every morning and evening and they would regularly fill the cup half way with the powder and the rest of the way with hot water and some milk. It would turn into a thick slurry of hot chocolate. I tried my best to supervise, but they are quick. So we instituted Hot Chocolate Sundays. Every Sunday we make hot chocolate and we make it the real way with milk straight from the farm and occasionally with some whipped cream that had be skimmed off of the milk. Once we even made our own homemade marshmallows and they certainly tasted better than the store bought version. It has become a family ritual that everyone looks forward to and no one even asks for hot chocolate during week anymore.

hot chocolate collageSo this month in my kitchen to satisfy my sweet tooth is Jamie’s simple sponge cake to share.

sponge cake sliceJamie’s Simple Sponge Cake (slightly altered)

250 g/8.8 oz unsalted butter, softened
250 g/8.8 oz sugar
250 g/8.8 oz flour
2 tsp baking powder
vanilla bean
pinch salt
orange zest
4 eggs

2 dl/1 c heavy whipping cream
250 g/8.8 oz marscapone cheese
3 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp orange juice
150 g/5.3 oz lemon curd

powdered sugar

simple sponge CollageMeasure the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and the seeds scraped from one half of a vanilla bean into your stand mixer or food processor. Allow to mix until combined. Add room temperature eggs into the batter one at time, beating strongly after each addition. Line the bottom of the spring form with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the form. Place the cake form into the oven that is heated to 170 C/340 F and bake for 20 minutes. I used a smaller 20 cm/8 inch form for a taller cake and the bake time was about 45 minutes. Bake until a test skewer comes clean. Allow to cool.

sponge cake filling

For the filling, whip the cream and combine with the marscapone cheese. Flavor with sugar and orange juice. I used the juice of one half of an orange. Slice the cake into two so that the bottom is clearly thicker than the top. Spread two-thirds of the lemon curd on the bottom and one-third on the top layer. Next spread the marscapone cream filling on top of the lemon curd. Finally sprinkle the berries on the cream filling. Carefully flip the top of the cake on top of the filling and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

jamie oliver sponge cakeAnd it just so happened that on that day there was a pleasant surprise in the mailbox, the March issue of one of my favorite interior design magazines. So many new ideas and color combinations. Perhaps some ideas will be put into practice. So there I was in my kitchen. Outside the day was somewhat gray but quite spring-like for the beginning of March. Inside there was a freshly made cake, a large cup of hot tea, a new magazine and a moment of peace. Perfect for a name day celebration.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series.


Queen’s Tart

by tableofcolors


The inspiration for this post came from a fellow blogger in Sweden and her tart that she made using blackberries. And my little two year-old Isabella and her love for berries was certainly an inspiration as well. My husband snapped these shots of her enjoying her berries at the cabin this summer.

bellas berries3

It’s a favorite past time of the children in the summer to take a long piece of Timothy-grass and slide raspberries and blueberries on it. After their little excursion they might enjoy them while sitting on the porch. I think the most important part of it is that they are their very own berries. Fresh berries always at their prime. But sadly blueberry season is coming to a close, even though I spotted quite a few on a walk yesterday evening. The recipe below can be easily made with frozen berries.

In Finland, when raspberries and blueberries are mixed and served together for example in jam it is called “Queen’s jam”. And so this tart that originally was a plum tart and has been made using blackberries has been now transformed into Queen’s tart.


Queen’s Tart (from the blog Leya, slightly altered)

Gluten-free version

This tart works great with fine grain gluten-free flour. I made a double batch of the recipe below and made a gluten-free version with 1/3 of the batter and regular with the rest. It turned out great and the difference in flavor was very minimal. When baking with gluten-free flour it is helpful to lower the oven temperature a little since the baked goods tend to get color a little faster.

Blueberries and raspberries so that the bottom of the tart pan is covered with two layers of berries.
1 and 1/2 dl/0.6 c sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp sugar
(1 tbsp potato or corn starch)
1 dl/0.4 c flour (or gluten-free flour)
1 tsp baking powder
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 dl/0.8 c whipped cream

Butter your tart pan. If using frozen berries mix with potato or corn starch and 4 teaspoons of sugar.


Whip the eggs with the 1.5 dl/0.6 cups of sugar until a light foam. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Whip your cream and fold it into the batter. Pour the batter over the berries and bake in the oven at 200 C/390 F for about 20 minutes. The original recipe called for a bake time of about 45 minutes but this is probably due to shape and depth of the tart pan. I used a wide (22 cm/8 and 1/2 inch) and shallow pan. Enjoy with vanilla sauce or ice cream.

queens tart

The World’s Best Pancake

by tableofcolors

In Finland I have come across many recipes that are titled “Maailman Paras Pannukakku” or the “The World’s Best Pancake” and in this case it refers to an oven-raised pancake. I have been searching over the course of the last six months for an oven-raised pancake recipe that could become my “World’s Best Pancake” recipe. I finally found it. And it works perfect with berries.
As I mentioned in a previous post we have quite a few containers left of last year’s berries in the freezer. Last year was also a very good year for the berries and this past Saturday, my husband and his friend and some of the kids spent a few hours in picking. They came back with over 100 liters (over 26 gallons) of blueberries. After cleaning the berries, comes my part in the berry project. (I get the easy part) I place the berries in containers or bags and put them in the freezer.
cleaning berries

This Oven-raised pancake recipe has a little cardamom in it which gives it a wonderful flavor. It also has a mix of barley flour and all-purpose flour. I have also in the absence of barley flour made it with either all wheat or substituted a bit of the barley flour with rye flour. The exact amounts can be found in parantheses below.

Worlds’ Best Oven-Raised Pancake (recipe is a slight variation of the Mylly Paras recipe and the original can be found here.)

1 l/4.2 c milk
4 eggs
3 dl/1.3 c all-purpose flour
2 dl/0.8 c barley flour
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom (I usually put closer to 1 tbsp)
(1 tsp vanilla)
20 g/0.7 oz butter

(For the pancake with rye: 4 dl/1.7 c all-purpose flour and 1 dl/0.4 c rye flour)

Heat your oven to 200 C/390 F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet with sides. The one I use is 40×32 cm/15.7×12.6 inches. Cut the butter into little pieces and drop them on the parchment paper. Place the baking sheet with the parchment paper into the warming oven for a few minutes so that the butter has melted and remove.

Mix all of ingredients together and allow to rest while the oven heats up. Pour the batter on the parchment-paper lined sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes. Enjoy with lots of berries and possibly a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
berries2Previous posts that use berries: Blueberry cheesecake , Mustikkakukko or a Finnish Deep-dish blueberry pie with rye crust , Strawberry Fruit Salad with Lemon and Ginger, smoothies

A Moment in time

by tableofcolors

I often think that time just slips by a little too fast. The summer flowers bloom and then they wither away. This sunflower was a Mother’s day gift. It had a tall thin stem, and to tell you the truth I was a little concerned how it was going to make it. As the air got warmer we planted it outside. The stem became thick and strong and the yellow flower turned its face to the sun. It’s so fun for both the little gift-giver and receiver to run outside and check on its progress. There are more flowers coming.
The kids grow so fast and even our little baby is curious of the world around him. It seems like this past month just sailed by a little too quick. I’ve often thought that the little snapshots that are taken enforce the memories that are in our hearts.
hugo 4 weeks
hugo 4 weeks 3
This past week, a long-time friend came to visit. We have spent countless hours having sleep-overs, creating a secret club with our friends, giggling over our first crushes, going to camp together, and learning about life and growing-up together. We have some snap shots from those times in our albums. We have wide smiles on our narrow child-like faces. We rarely have a chance to meet since we live on different continents, but when we meet up again it feels like we just pick up from where we last left off.

When there is a special occasion, a cake is certainly in order! This cake recipe I received from another long-time friend. It is called the Pätkiskakku since it uses Pätkis, which is a chocolate mint truffle. You may substitute a local mint truffle from your area if the Pätkis truffles are not available. The cake is originally meant to be covered in a chocolate frosting, but I fine-tuned it a bit. Since we have an abundance of berries, I split it and filled it with berries and cream and frosted it with whipping cream. Our little berry-picker arrived just in time and was wondering how he could use his freshly picked blueberries. I suggested that he might decorate the cake, to which he happily obliged.

5 dl/2.1 c flour
3 dl/1.3 c sugar
3 tbsp dark cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar ( I used vanilla extract)
dash of salt
150 g/5.3 oz butter, melted
2 dl/0.85 c plain yoghurt
4 Pätkis mint truffle bars or 12 mint truffles roughly chopped
3 eggs

Butter a 22-23/9 inch cake pan. I floured it with wheat bran to give the cake a nice texture. Mix the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and mint truffles together. I used a microwave for this. Add the plain yoghurt and eggs into the melted butter mixture and whisk until smooth. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until combined. Do not over mix. Bake for 40 minutes at 175C/350F. Remove from oven when a inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to slightly cool and remove from cake pan. Allow to cool completely. I leveled the top of the cake just a bit so that it would lie a little flatter. Whip 3.5 dl/1.5 cups of heavy cream and add sugar to taste. Fill cake with berries and cream leaving 1/3 of the cream for the top. Before frosting with the cream, I spooned a little milk on the top layer to give the cake a little added moisture. This step is optional. Garnish with berries. patkiscake
This would be a splendid cake for a birthday as well…Happy birthday to my Äiti, my brother and Gramma! July is a birthday month in our family!


Tulips of Spring

by tableofcolors

Just a little over a month ago, the mornings were pitch black and I would have lanterns outside burning throughout the day and night. The hours of actual daylight were quite short and it sometimes seemed like it was challenging to take pictures. By the time everything was ready the light would be gone!

Although we have crisp and cold wintery weather, spring is clearly coming. The night has become shorter and when I awake each morning the sun is shining brightly. We have to actually close our miniblinds for the night to get some sleep, this was not the case a few months ago. As I walk downstairs, the light from the large windows softly highlight the tulips on the table. For me they are a symbol of spring and the promise of lengthening days.
cafe latte
Enjoying a latté in the quiet of the house is the perfect way to start a weekend morning. Everything is still and serene. Step outside to get the newspaper and the birds are singing. They have been quiet all winter. And if we got our weekly clean-up done, everything might be neat and tidy for a few hours. It pays to wake up early and enjoy the clean house while it lasts.
One by one they awake and make their way downstairs to find breakfast and a morning hug.

Smoothies (for two)

Gluten free

1 banana
3 dl/1.3 c plain yoghurt
2 dl/0.8 c berries of your choice (raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries, blackberries or strawberries)
a little honey

If you prefer add a handful of spinach, or a tablespoon or ground flax seed or wheat germ to the mix.

Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.

Fruitie (for two)

This recipe is both gluten and dairy free.

1 banana
1,5 dl/0.6 c orange juice
fruit (choose one of the following: 1 pealed and sliced pear, 10 slices of canned mango, 1 peach pealed and sliced, 6 large pieces of pineapple or 10 balls of honey dew or cantaloupe melon)
Blend until smooth and enjoy immediately. Canned fruit can be substituted if fresh is not on hand.



by tableofcolors

When I go through a cook book, flip through a magazine or a newspaper I usually discover three different kinds of recipes. The first kind offers inspiration. The pictures might be incredible and it introduces new dimensions, flavors and ingredients. These recipes do not get written down(since I know I won’t follow it anyways) but the next time I am making supper or baking an element of that inspiration is included.

The second type of recipe does get written down. By the time I serve the actual dish it is nearly indistinguishable. This is where the fun the begins. It involves analyzing the recipe and deciding which characteristics should stand out or be included (sticky, spicy, chewy, crunchy, crispy, luscious). It is somewhat like the rubiks cube game, matching all the right colors to get the flavor desired.

The third genre of recipes, is a rare find. It is followed exactly every time. I only have a handful of these ones. I am going to share one of those recipes with you. Feel free to use it for inspiration and modify it a bit. If you come up with a new version, feel free and share with the rest of us. Maybe you will like it as much as I do.

This Mustikkakukko (or Rättänä as it is called in Eastern Finland) is as Finnish as Apple pie is American. It is a deep-dish blueberry pie with a rye crust. Rye is considered a very Finnish grain. In this dessert it is combined with blueberries that the forests’ are abundant with. I found this recipe in the Helsingin Sanomat about a year ago and use it often, especially in the fall.


Mustikkakukko or Deep-dish blueberry pie

250 g/8.8 oz butter
1.5 dl/0.7 c sugar
5 dl/little over 2 c rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 l/4.2 c blueberries
1 1/4 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tblsp potato or corn starch

Combine softened butter and sugar. I prefer to use a stand mixer for this. Mix the rye flour and baking powder. Fold flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture. Let cool in the refrigerator for a bit. Roll out 2/3 of the dough for the bottom crust and place into a greased, deep bowl or pan. Mix the sugar and starch with the blueberries and pour on top of the crust. Roll out the remains of the dough and cover the blueberries. Pinch the sides and bake in the oven at 200C/390 F for about one hour. Serve with icecream or whipping cream.

For a shorter bake time use small tins as shown in the photos. If using fresh berries the bake time is only about 15 minutes. When using frozen berries the bake time is about 25 minutes. Instead of rolling out a cover for every mini kukko, I crumbled a few pieces of dough.

Mini pies before going into the oven.

The term kukko is refers to the rye crust that encloses the baked good. The savory cousin to the sweet blueberry version is a vendace loaf cut and served in slices. Vendance is a very small fish, quite often eaten whole. Sometime in the future I will share the that recipe.

PS. I made a separate page for wedding cakes and other celebrations that can be found in the header. From time to time I will update this page adding stories and photos of cakes to celebrate the milestones.

Picking berries, a national pastime

by tableofcolors

In Finland most people pick berries. If they don’t themselves, then most likely their parents, mother or father-in-law, an aunt or someone in the family does. When we were a newlywed couple, we would receive blueberries, lingonberries, red currants, juice made from black currants and apple sauce from our mother-in-law. They all went into our freezer and throughout the winter months we used these vitamin-rich treats.

In more recent years we have been picking our own berries. Or actually my husband picks our berries and cleans them and I just pour them into containers and freeze them. I get by way too easily.

Our family has two different types of berry picking excursions. One is the nature hike style where we happen to find some berries when we are walking in the woods. The kids use these berries for mustikkamaito, or blueberries eaten with milk and a little sprinkle of sugar.

Mustikkamaito or blueberries eaten with milk and a sprinkle of sugar

Dishes courtesy of Millan Putiikki, Lahti.

The second type is when my husband picks for the freezer. In other words it is not a trip of leisure. The reason why we have divided the berry-picking task in this manner is quite simple. He is fast and I am slow.

I have two theories for why I am so slow. I did not grow up with the berry picking tradition and have been slowly learning during the fast few years. In general, I am a fairly efficient person but there is something about the quiet of the woods that puts me into a meditative state. Maybe it is because I am a Mom of a fairly large family and in constant demand and when there is an occassion that nobody is requiring my service I start to relax causing my fingers to slow their pace.

Cleaning the blueberries is actually a fast procedure. We have purchased an apparatus that is attached to the table with a clamp. It basically is a long Y shaped tube with a funnel on the top. The other branch of the Y shaped tube is attached to the hose of the vacuum cleaner. The berries are poured through the funnel and the vacuum cleaner sucks all of the loose little debris among the blueberries. The cleaned berries fall through into the pail and are ready to be used or frozen.

The recipe below is a take on Blueberry Delight dessert that I would have at church lunches as a kid. This cake is more of a cheesecake and uses fresh or frozen blueberries instead of a canned pie filling. Maybe it is a more old-fashioned version from a time before Cool Whip.

Blueberry cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake

200 g/7 oz graham crackers or (about 12) digestive cookies crushed
50 g/1.8 oz melted butter
4 tbsp sugar

Mix the ingredients and pat firmly into a spring-form (20 cm/8 inches lined) with baking paper.

Cheesecake filling:

400g/14 oz cream cheese
4 eggs
2 dl/0.8 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or sugar

Mix the filling with a whisk or electric mixer until smooth. Pour over the crust and bake at 175 C/350 F for 25 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 150 C/300 F and continue baking for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Blueberry topping

6 dl/2.5 c blueberries fresh or frozen
2 dl/0.8 c water
1 dl/0.4 c gelling sugar

Bring water to a boil. Mixing constantly add the gelling sugar. Take off heat as soon as the sugar mixture bubbles. Pour the berries on top of the cheesecake and spoon the sugar mixture evenly over the berries. Let set in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

Whip 2dl/0.8 cups heavy whipping cream. Garnish with softly whipped cream. Enjoy!