Simple pleasures

Tag: gingerbread cookies

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!


Christmas is coming in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

On top of our wood buring oven is a pile of chocolate advent calendars and each morning the children open another window in the calendar and savor their piece of chocolate. Our two-year old had shaken his calendar at the store with so much vigor that most of his chocolates have dropped out of their allocated spots and are sitting at the bottom of the calendar causing it to bulge. He just wouldn’t give it up and insisted on holding it all the way to the register. I didn’t feel like arguing over such a minor detail. In the end, it probably does not really matter to him if the chocolates are not all in their places as long as he gets one everyday. It is countdown to Christmas, and everyday the children ask if we will be putting up a new decoration or Christmas light or perhaps do a little Christmas baking.

making christmas ornamentsThis year we decide to make ornaments out of salt dough for the teachers. First of all, almost all kids love playing with dough and so this was the perfect way to let them become involved. Our two-year old sat at the table perfectly entertained for probably an hour shaping his own piece of dough. Other than a bit of effort, these ornaments are easy on the pocketbook and you can let your imagination run.

Salt dough

3 dl/1 and 1/3 c flour
1 dl/ 1/2 c salt
1.5 dl/ 3/4 c water

Mix all the ingredients and allow to rest for a bit wrapped under cling film. Gently sprinkle the counter top with flour and using a rolling pin an cookie cutters make different shapes. We used clean letter stamps for the words and a dinner knife to cut around them. Remember to make a hole through which a piece of string or twine may be later pulled through for hanging.

Bake at 100 C/210 F for a couple of hours. A couple of days later we painted ours white with acrylic paint that had been thinned with a bit of water. Spray paint might be even easier for an even and thin coat of paint.

The idea for these came from a Finnish women’s magazine Kotivinkki, but the original Finnish recipe that I used can be found here. The internet is full of salt dough recipes, some that have a bit of oil and some that do not. I noticed that best results are had when the oven is not too hot.

christmas ornaments made with salt dough

christmas ornaments made with salt dough 2During the past few months we have had a facebook group in the Kouvola area that organizes that local food producers are able to sell their products directly to the consumer, similar to a farmer’s market. It takes place about twice a month. So far we have tried out an ostrich egg, which really peaked the interest of the children. The past time I bought different kinds of flour from a local mill with the intention to do a bit of holiday baking.

raussilan myllyn jauhotpiparitalkoot making gingerbreadHere is the recipe for my classic gingerbread cookies. Next time I will share a recipe for rye gingerbread cookies that have a bit of almond flour in them. Definitely delicious!

I would like to share a bit of the sounds of my kitchen. Yesterday was the 150th birthday of the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. The other week we visited a Jean Sibelius recital put on by young music students. The children and youth were all dressed in the time period and represented children of Jean Sibelius and their various cousins. Their teacher played the part of Aino Sibelius, wife of Jean and told little historical stories along with photos and between each bit one of the children would perform a short piece by Sibelius.


terveisiä ainolasta

And what was even better was that the children have started recognizing the music of Sibelius when it is played on the radio. They might come up and say, “I think this is Sibelius.” The following piece is one of their favorites.

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts every month. Be sure to drop by her blog for a reference list of bloggers all around the world and their kitchens.


My kitchen is filled with anticipation

by tableofcolors

December and snow has arrived. That means that there is a sense of waiting and electricity in the air. The little people are waiting for the right moment to bake gingerbread, to sew their teachers’ little gifts, hang up the stockings, make pinwheel prune tarts, and open their advent calendars each morning. This past Sunday we lit the first advent candle. Christmas is coming.
2013-12-01 11.01.09-2
Along with the first advent, the kitchen is filled with Christmas music. “Hoosianna” is traditionally sung during the first advent in Finland in both churches and schools. Below is a recording from the Tampere State Church.
I’m not so keen on the shopping frenzy that starts in December and so we did ours in November before the crowds arrived. Now there are only little things to find and those excursions can be quite relaxing since there is no long list in hand and perhaps there might be a minute to stop in a coffee shop. There is a silence outside as so many of the birds have flown south and ones that remained will start their concert again in the spring. This peace I would like to achieve in the kitchen as well; one of everyday tasks sprinkled with little special projects such as these gingerbread trees.
gingerbread trees2
In my kitchen is the cutest mushroom made by my daughter and it brings a little holiday color.
fly agaric 2
Now that winter has arrived it is time to start using all of those berries that we picked last summer. One evening we had french toast with a strawberry sauce. The key to the strawberry sauce is to make the sauce first using a good quality berry juice and potato starch (cornstarch may be used as well) and right when the sauce has been removed from the heat the slightly thawed or frozen berries are added. They will slowly thaw out in the hot sauce while keeping their shape and vitamins.
french toast 3
French Toast

French toast is a great way to use up day old bread. We happened to have some slightly dried out bread on hand and a freezer full of berries which became in turn the inspiration for supper of French toast and berry sauce.

half loaf of sliced light bread (a whole grain variety may be used)
5 dl/2 c milk
2 eggs
1 generous tbsp brown sugar
dash of salt
butter or oil for frying

Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon together. Heat the frying pan or griddle and use a little oil or butter according to your preference. Dip the slices of bread in the milk mixture and allow to soak for a bit. Fry on the hot pan so that both sides are a nice brown color.

Berry sauce

This recipe works with any berries that you may have on hand. If using a more tart berry just increase the amount of sugar.

1 liter/4 c good quality berry juice
sugar to taste
5 dl/2 c frozen or fresh berries
4 tbsp potato starch
1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c water

Bring the juice to boil, adding sugar if needed. Dissolve the potato starch (or corn starch, follow amounts on package) into the water. Whisking constantly, add the potato starch water mixture to the boiling juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and remove from the heat as soon as it bubbles once. Add the berries and set aside for a few minutes allowing the berries to thaw out. A sprinkle of sugar will prevent a “skin” from forming on the surface.

Serve with the French toast or just on its own.

This snowman is not in my kitchen but I could not resist, so cute it is.
2013-12-01 11.43.15-2This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam Lime Cordial.

A celebration at home

by tableofcolors

This past Sunday we had the baptism for our little Hugo. We have always held our baptisms at home and it is a fairly small, intimate affair with family members and close friends. I really enjoy organizing the celebration for the small baby, even though the baby has not an inkling of the color coordinated napkins, ribbons or macarons. Really those things are not the essence of the celebration but just something that I enjoy and find pleasing to the eye.
We had balmy weather, perfect for being outside and running barefoot on the lawn. Although I appreciate all seasons, my favorite season is summer. I love the warm days, the spring greens of early summer and the deeper greens of late summer. I chose green ribbons for our summer baby’s baptismal gown. The previous weekend I went to the local flea market on Saturday morning with a couple of our girls and the baby. I felt like I had found a treasure when I found some glass bottles for only an euro. Right away I could envision the flowers that they might hold and perhaps sometimes later, juice and a straw.
flowers outside
EllenkakkujaOrganizing the baptism involves the whole family. Everyone helps in their own way depending on their age and capabilities. Some helped with the baking, others helped pick the sprigs of blueberry and tall grasses and everyone helped clean and organize the house.

Sugar cookies

We had a mix of sugar cut-outs and traditional gingerbread cookies that were in a variety of shapes and decorated using dark and white chocolate and nonpareils. The gingerbread recipe can be found here.The recipe below is one I have received from my sister a few years ago that I have altered a bit.

6 dl/2 and 1/2 c flour
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
115 g/1/2 c butter
2.4 dl/1 c sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
1.2 dl/ 1/2 c sour cream (I have also used greek yoghurt)

Beat the softened, room temperature butter with the sugar until fluffy and light in color. If using a stand mixer use the paddle attachment. Add the eggs in one at a time and beat at high speed until they incorporated into the cookie dough. Next add in the sour cream and almond or vanilla extract. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and fold into the dough. Allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Roll the dough on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Bake at 175 C/350 F for a few minutes so that they have just a little color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Easily the day slips by and it is nice to have a few savory items on the menu. One of them is this Broccoli salad. It has become one of my new favorite salads. The recipe to the salad I found from the great REMcooks blog.

broccoli salad I tried it out and it tasted absolutely fantastic and all of my taste testers agreed with me. Not to mention that it fit the color scheme as well, a definite bonus! Other than two tiny alterations to the original recipe, I followed the recipe quite closely. I used dried cranberries instead of dried cherries just because they were not readily available here and I did not blanch the broccoli as the original recipe suggested. Either way it works fine.

3 crowns fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 1 to 1-1/2 lb)
1.2 dl/1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1.2 dl/1/2 cup celery, small dice
0.8 dl/1/3 cup raisins
0.8 dl/1/3 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
2.4 dl/1 cup almond slivers, toasted
0.8 dl/1/3 cup mayonnaise
1.6 dl/2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp wildflower honey
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
170 g/6 oz chorizo, cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt

Chop up the broccoli, red onion and celery and mixed them together. You may toast your almonds on the pan quickly before frying the chorizo or in the oven. Next I fried the chorizo and tossed them in with the broccoli. Then combine the remaining ingredients: raisin, cherries (cranberries), mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt. Pour over the salad and mix until combined.


In my next post I will share a few more recipes from the baptism menu.


Broccoli Salad
Garden Fresh Salad with Feta
Oven-toasted baguette slices with a rosmary honey-butter

Sugar cut-out cookies
Gingerbread cookies
Kiwi white chocolate cake
Macarons with a ganache and pistachio filling
Turtle brownies
Princess torte

A holiday dessert

by tableofcolors

Today was a bit busy! A few errands in the morning and gift wrapping and the last bunch of cards and packages made it to the post office. Our school girls had “evening school” which is a tradition at their school on the day they have their Christmas program. They also have a bake sale and a café to raise funds for field trips and school equipment. Parents are welcomed to bake and I had promised to do so. Our little snowflake princess just happens to be so quick! I had cookies cooling on racks when one of the girls came and informed that she had taken a stack of cookies and had taken one bite out of each! Back to baking! Fortunately I hadn’t used up all of the dough, so round two was quite quick!

After getting the cookies made and packaged and girls sent to school (we joined them later in the evening) I had a few minutes of down time since the rest of the bunch entertained themselves. I decided to make our holiday dessert which is so easy that it only takes a few minutes if you have all the ingredients on hand. The freezer does the rest of the work and they are ready to go when the holidays arrive. These would also be perfect for a holiday party. In Finnish they are called jäädyke and the closest word to it that I could find is sorbet. But sorbet does not quite describe them accurately. These individual jäädyke desserts which I made with gingerbread and lingonberries, (may substituted with another type of tart berry) work well after a heavy meal because they are intended to be fairly small in size.

Joulujäädyke or Christmas sorbet

Joulujäädyke or Christmas sorbet

Joulujäädyke or Christmas sorbet, serves 10

0,5 l/generous 2 cups heavy cream
350 g/12.3 oz Turkish or Greek yoghurt
5 gingerbread cookies, crushed (If your cookies are very thin, you may want to use 7 cookies)
150 g/5.3 oz lingonberries or other tart berries(preferably frozen)
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c sugar
paper cups

Lingonberries and gingerbread

Lingonberries and gingerbread

Crush the gingerbread and set aside. Place the berries and sugar into a bowl. Using a wand mixer or food processor pulse a few times so that they are partially crushed. Whip the cream. Fold in the yoghurt and divide mixture by placing half into another bowl. Fold the gingerbread crumbs into 1/2 of the cream-yoghurt mixture. Add sugar to achieve the preferred sweetness.
gingerbread cream
Into the other half, fold in the lingonberries.
lingonberry cream
Fill each paper cup with a large spoonful of gingerbread mixture and with an equal amount of the lingonberry mixture. My paper cups were about two-thirds full.


Place filled cups into the freezer. Take out of the freezer about 20-30 minutes before serving. Run the cups upside down quickly under hot water and press the bottom of the cup to release the sorbet. Drizzle with caramel sauce. (caramel recipe here) Enjoy!

Happy Birthday to my Grampa! (see previous posts by my Grampa here and here)

Happy Father’s Day

by tableofcolors

Tomorrow is Father’s day in Finland and I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce the great father of our five children. Over the years it has been wonderful to watch him grow into fatherhood. Every parent grows into parenthood at their own pace. There are the rewarding moments and sometimes mistakes are made. I think the most important part of that process is being able to say to your child that I made a wrong decision in haste. I really don’t think it undermines a parents authority. It’s really all about showing your children problem solving skills and accepting your imperfection without letting it get you down. It is all right to try again. Each child is a separate little person with their own personality waiting to shine in their own way. Finding that way for them to shine is the reward for a parent. I have enjoyed having you, the Father to our children, by my side to help discover what makes each of our unique children shine.

I’ve decided to call him Hunter, since that is his passion. I must admit that even though I am the official author of this blog and do write each post, he has been nearly as involved. Coming up with many great ideas and letting me know if the swans or the cranes are on the fields next to our house or stopping the car quick because the light was “just perfect” for a shot.


The kids have been bringing home cards and little gifts that they have made at school for Father’s day. They are all put away in our little secret place to await Sunday morning when Mom and the kids creep downstairs to make breakfast and coffee for Dad. We try to be extra quiet. 🙂 Then we all creep upstairs to our room where he is sleeping, or at least pretends to. We sing him a song to wake him up and then he gets to finally look at the all of the cards and little packages and enjoys breakfast in bed. The kids truly enjoy this ritual. They have no trouble waking up on this particular morning.

Some of the kids were asking to make gingerbread cookies. They are our first batch for this holiday season. Since Hunter is huge fan of gingerbread I thought that this could double-up as baking for Father’s day. We follow a recipe that is from a cook book from Hunter’s childhood. It has become my favorite. (Tule Mukaan, Leivomme Anni-Helenan kanssa)


2 dl/0.8 cups molasses
2 dl/0.8 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cloves
(I only put in half of the spices above)
250 g/8.8 oz butter
2 eggs
10 dl /4.2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

I usually make a double batch and freeze half. As the holiday season progresses and suprise company show up, the dough is ready to roll out after thawing for a little while.

Bring the molasses, sugar and spices to a boil. Take off heat and add the butter to the hot sugar mixture, mixing meanwhile. Allow to cool a bit.
Next mix in the eggs one at a time. Add the baking soda to the flour and mix it into the warm sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate until the next day. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 7-10 minutes. Since I used the convection oven and I like a lighter cookie, my bake time was only 4 minutes. Remember if using the convection oven to decrease degrees to 180 C/360 F.

Little helpers

Cut-out cookies

The little taste tester

Our little one-and-a-half year-old pumpkin assumed the role of master taste tester. She made a few “rock-shaped” cookies and ate the rest of her dough, which kept her happy and occupied.

Gingerbread cookies

Cookie jar

There is a reason for the ribbon around the cookies, other than it makes them look cute. I can be fairly certain that those cookies will remain untouched until Sunday. Mom is trying to be smarter than the kids.

Traditional filled cakes are not Hunter’s favorite and so I decided to make cream puffs with a lemon-flavored cream filling. After making them, I just popped them in the freezer. There they will stay safe and not get eaten. They are very fast to thaw. I will take them out before making breakfast and they should be ready to go by the time we head upstairs with the kids.

The recipe is from an old book, The American Peoples Cookbook, published in 1956. The introduction tells that the book was the result of a recipe contest that was organized by the Peoples Book Club and Sears Readers Club. The result was a book 600 pages long full of recipes, some simple and some a little more intricate.

Cream Puffs

Bring 1 cup/2.4 dl water to a boil. Add 1/2 cups/110 g butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and one cup of flour beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides and forms a smooth ball. Remove from heat. Quickly beat in eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until thick and smooth.

Dough after the addition of eggs

Cream puffs before baking

Using spoons drop dollops of dough onto a lined pan. Bake at 450 F/230C for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 F/175C and bake for another additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.

Lemon flavored cream filling

3.3 dl/1.4 cups heavy whipping cream
1.2 dl/ 1/2 cups lemon curd

Whip cream and fold in the lemon curd. Fill cooled cream puffs and refrigerate or freeze for later use. Enjoy with coffee.

Filled cream puffs

Part of keeping the family is happy is taking care of our relationship. We have opportunity to take off for a few days next week, just the two of us. I’ll try to post some photos of the landscape and nature from northern Sweden. Hunter has been there numerous times, but it is a first for me. Let’s hope for a little sunshine and clear skies.

Happy Father’s day to all of the special Fathers near and far! Hope your day is a special one!