Simple pleasures

Tag: finnish christmas

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.
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

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.


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
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.
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.

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