tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: finnish christmas

Christmas comes whether you are ready or not

by tableofcolors

Four days before Christmas the children were all home and full of anticipation and excitement. It was the kind of excitement that warms your heart and makes you want to pull your hair out of your head, all at the same time. I remember when I was that age, and here I was thirty years later creating Christmas for my family. But it four days before Christmas Eve according to the advent calendar and I had not done any Christmas baking or food preparation. Actually I didn’t really start until the day of.

My husband had started though. He butchered, cured and roasted our ham. I had work related things that needed to be completed so that I could take a few complete days off. And then there was the Christmas cleaning. I know that there really is no requirement to clean cupboards for Christmas, afterall no one spends the holidays in the cupboards, but there were a few things that I really wanted to get done. Some of the things had been waiting for months to be done. Christmas is just a natural deadline and I was happy that we got a few things accomplished. I wanted to visit a couple of elderly ladies a few days before, that have a special place in my heart. And you know what, we got everything done and had plenty to eat even if we didn’t start until the day of. But I can’t take all of the credit as everyone helped out and some of kids are getting so old that I can delegate them tasks and trust that they get them done in a thorough manner.

gingerbread-for-breakfast-collage

I knew that Christmas Eve would be long day and full of new and old tradition. I decided that I would eat my breakfast in peace before starting. As I took out a jar of freshly made apple and raisin compote to eat with plain yoghurt, received as a gift from a friend, our three year-old Hugo requested a gingerbread cookie. I gave my permission. It was Christmas.

We had our traditional rice porridge with prune sauce for lunch. Dinner would not be until quite late.

christmas-eve

At best we had fourteen around the table. I think that is one of the most delightful things that we all look forward to, Christmas guests. The children start asking in September if we have invited our guests and if they might have replied. And they remember to ask me often. With such a large crowd, making a larger quantities is the best decision. This means that there will be leftovers to be used for future meals. In Finland, Christmas is celebrated for three days. Christmas Eve is the highlight with Christmas sauna sometime during the day, dinner and Santa Claus. And in our family we serve Christmas coffee late in the evening. Children are able to stay up and play with their new toys and put on their new pajamas. The following days follow a similar pattern but are more relaxed. It is very typical in our family to serve coffee and treats at nine or ten o’clock in the evening. On the morning of the 26th, we still had about a liter of left over rice porridge. I decided that it would be the perfect base for a persimon and orange pudding. Perhaps this new tradition will be something to do again next year.

persimon-and-orange-rice-pudding

Rice pudding with Persimon and Orange

1 liter / 2 pints cold rice porridge (See below for the rice porridge recipe using a slow cooker)

5 dl/1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla sugar

2-3 tbsp agave or to taste

1 ripe persimon, peeled and cubed

1-2 orange, peeled and cubed

Whip the cream until a stiff foam is formed. Fold in the cold rice porridge. Flavor with the vanilla sugar and agave. Mix in the cubed persiom and orange, saving a few to use as garnish.

Slow cooker Rice porridge

This makes a large quantity, enough for eight generous servings. If preferred you half the quantity.

5 dl/2 c pearl rice

2,5 liters/2,5 quarts of water

3 dl /1 1/4 c heavy cream

2-3 tsp salt

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray. This makes for easier clean-up. Place the rice in the pot and pour the water over it. Set the slow cooker on low for 2.5-3 hours. It is done when the rice is tender and there is just a bit of water remaining. It should not be dry in any case. The rice will continue to absorb water even after the cook time is complete. Add the cream and season with salt. It is ready to serve immediately if you wish or you may adjust the setting so that the pot just keeps the food warm and serve within a couple of hours.

rice-pudding

Earlier in December I tried a dairy-free chia pudding that could be made as an alternative festive dessert or snack. Don’t you love the little glass bowls I found on an facebook fleamarket from a local gal. The set of two bowls cost only a euro and they have been in use everyday! The kids love to use them if they wake up before anyone else for a “fancy breakfast”.

chia-pudding

Chia pudding

0,6 dl/ 1/4 c chia seeds

1 can (4 dl/2 c) coconut milk

4 dl/2 c water

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp agave syrup

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl or glass jar. Cover and place in the refrigerator over night. Enjoy the next day with a garnish of ripe persimon and walnuts.

joulupukki

Happy Holidays to all of you, my dear readers.

seven-lovelies

 

 

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The sparkle in the eyes of children

by tableofcolors

Christmas at home

Photo by LAAVU, Kaija E. Wuollet

Can’t you just feel the anticipation in the faces of the children in the photo above? It was finally the day that they had been waiting for months and a mark that spring would arrive after the darkness as the Winter Solstice, which was on December 22nd this year had been passed. I’m not sure if they had actually been called to the table yet, but they couldn’t really help themselves. Afterall, Joulupukki or Santa Claus magically knows when we have eaten our dinner, and will not arrive before that time. Little did they know, that Joulupukki was actually sitting at the table with us, eating dinner.

Hugo waiting for dinnerSitting on santa's lap joulupukkiThe days before Christmas are often so full of things to do that it seems to me, that the Mother’s Christmas begins after the presents are unwrapped and everyone is playing or admiring their new things. But without the waiting and the anticipation, the pleasure of Christmas or the relaxation that can be almost felt in the air, be so great.

ruispipareitaBefore Christmas I promised a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that I tried for the first time this year. Their flavor was delicious, and the cookie was a bit softer than the traditional gingerbread and chewy. The dough is bit more tricky than the traditional version and it needed quite a bit of flour when rolling out. This year I also made a traditional batch of dough, as gingerbread cookie baking is something that the children always enjoy, and the regular version of the dough is easier for little hands to handle.

gingerbread cookie baking
Rye Gingerbread Cookies

200 g/ 7 oz butter
2 dl/ 1 c molasses or cane sugar syrup
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cloves
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp allspice
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
2 eggs
3 1/2 dl/ 1 and 1/2 c rye flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 dl/1 c almond flour/meal
5 dl/just over 2 c flour
dash salt

This recipe is originally from the Finnish food blog Kaikki äitini reseptit. I have changed it a bit to make it easier on the baker.

Put the molasses, sugar and spices into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to bubble for a few minutes so that the sugar begins to melt. Remove from heat and add in the cold butter, stirring it every once in while until completely melted and combined. Add in the eggs one by one and stir until incorporated. Add the baking soda and salt to the rye flour and combine with the molasses mixture. Next add in the almond meal and finally the flour. Mix until it forms an even cookie dough. It will be very sticky at this time. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

When rolling out the cookie dough, I recommend that the dough is rolled out twice. It allows for more wheat flour to be absorbed into the dough and that way the cookies do not spread too much on the cookie sheet. These cookies will spread a bit more than traditional gingerbread, but only a bit more if rolled out twice.

Bake for about 4-6 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

rye gingerbread

Hoping your Christmas season was peaceful and a Happy New Year 2016!

Laatikko or Casserole

by tableofcolors

Epiphany has traditionally been a time to eat a second Christmas dinner. Sometimes it may be a bit of a varied version but it is a good time to pull out things in the freezer that did not get eaten the first time around. Last Sunday we had asked some friends to come over for dinner. I had a couple carrot and rutabaga casseroles left in the freezer. To tell you the truth, they actually tasted better last weekend than they did at Christmas. Carrot and Rutabaga casseroles are a very traditional part of the Finnish Christmas meal. I emailed my Mom to ask if I could share her recipe since I think that she makes the best ones and she gave me permission. These casseroles are perfect in the winter as a side dish.
porkkanalaatikko
The carrot casserole above is before going into the oven. The casserole on the botton right has not been sprinkled with bread crumbs.

Carrot Casserole Porkkanalaatikko

1.5 dl/0.63 cups pearl rice
1/2 l/generous 2 cups water
1/2 l/generous 2 cups milk
1/2 kg/17 oz carrots
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 eggs (beaten)
1 dl/1/2 c fine bread crumbs
butter

Boil the water and add rice. Cook for about 7-10 minutes and add milk. Allow to simmer for another 40 minutes. A double boiler is wonderful for this stage so that the rice porridge does not burn. While the rice porridge is cooking, peel and chop the carrots. Cook them in salted water until tender. Drain the water from the carrots and purée. Add the salt, brown sugar and eggs to the carrots and stir until smooth. Add the carrot mixture to the rice porridge and mix. Pour into greased tins. Sprinkle generously with the bread crumbs and make indentations with a spoon. Cut butter into little cubes and press them into every other indentation. If you would like to save them for future use, freeze them at this stage. Bake them at 160C/325F for 1 to 2 hours(depending on the depth of your casserole tins). If your casseroles are frozen give them at least a day in the fridge to defrost before baking.

lanttulaatikko

Rutabaga casserole Lanttulaatikko

2 rutabaga
1/2 l/generous 2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1.5 dl/0.63 cups fine bread crumbs
2 dl/ 0.85 c milk
2 tbsp molasses
1 egg (beaten)
1/3 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp butter melted

1/dl/1/2 c fine bread crumbs to sprinkle on the casserole
and little butter cubes for the indentations

Peel the rutabaga and cut into wedges. Cook until tender. Purée until smooth and add the bread crumbs. In a separate bowl mix the egg, milk, melted butter, ginger and white pepper. Mix the milk mixture into the puréed rutabaga. Spoon into greased baking tins. Bake at 160C/325F for 1-1.5 hours or until golden brown. The bake time is dependent on the depth of your casserole dish.

The calm after the excitement

by tableofcolors

After the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas it was time to just sit down and enjoy watching the children, sampling a few holiday goodies both with the kids and a few after the house is quiet and they have gone to sleep. I even had a chance to start a book on the 26th and since it really engaged the reader I finished it the next day, spending half of the day in my pyjamas. But it was just what I needed. I felt a pleasant tiredness come over me, like a sense of deep relaxation. The next night I slept so soundly.
little ones
santa
In Finland Santa Claus or Joulupukki visits homes on Christmas Eve. There is electric excitement in the air when a loud knock is heard! We all sing the traditional “Joulupukki” song with which we welcome him into our home. Since we have a few American traditions in our Christmas, Santa visits again after the children are sleeping and leaves a few little things in their stockings.
santas helpers
Since Joulupukki is quite elderly and his eyesight is a bit poor, our little elves (tonttu) are eager helpers.
presents
After the excitement of Joulupukki and the gifts are unwrapped we enjoy some Christmas treats as a family. A bit of a calm comes into the evening, everyone is busy trying out their new toys and pyjamas. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is having coffee and treats in the candle light at midnight.
christmas goodies
christmas goodies2
One of the most traditional Finnish Christmas treats is the Prune tart. It originally was made in the half moon shape and later the star shape become popular. During the holiday season the little tarts can be found in all of the cafés and coffee shops, stores and bakeries. Homemade prune tarts beat them all when it comes to flavor. That is why it pays to put a little effort into making them. My Mother is from Finland and one of my childhood memories is of her making these tarts every Christmas.
prune tarts
Originally a puff pastry is used. I found this recipe a few years ago and have it scribbled on a piece of paper. I unfortunately did not write down where it originated. It uses butter and and quark. If you do not have quark readily available you may use sour cream or Greek yoghurt as a substitute. The quark gives the dough an interesting flavor which is not overly strong.

Butter puff pastry with quark (Rahkavoitaikina)
250g /8.8 oz butter cut into small cubes
1 tsp baking powder
4 dl/1.7 cups flour
250 g/8.8 g quark

prune jam or apple jam

Mix the cubed butter, flour and baking powder so that if forms a crumbly mixture. Add in the quark and quickly mix. Do not overwork the dough. The dough will be a bit lumpy and uneven at this point. Place the dough into a plastic bag and place into the refrigerator for several hours or until the next day.

The next day, sprinkle the counter top with flour and place the dough on the flour. Roll out the dough, folding it into thirds and rerolling it. Repeat at least four times. Place back into the bag and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Take one half of the dough and roll it out so that it is about 3mm (0.12 inches) thick. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter cut the sheet of pastry into a rectangular shape as seen below. Cut the sheet into even squares. In order to get the star shape cut the dough with your pastry wheel as shown by the dotted lines.
img003

In the middle of each square place a teaspoon of prune jam. Lift every other pointed edge bringing it to the middle. After the star shape is reached gently press the middle with your index finger to insure that the dough stick and does not undo in the oven.

Bake in the oven until a light golden brown at 225 C/440F
The prune tarts freezes well.
prune tart 2