Cold Desserts

What a big month!

I resigned from my job.  Started another.  Prepared for Christmas, our special visitor and all our festive entertaining.  Oh, and somehow managed to squeeze in some Christmas baking in between!

The beginning of the month hailed the end of my job for six years.  I returned to work from maternity leave at the end of August, but quickly started to search out a part-time alternative – as the work-life balance in the Mélanger household lacked the necessary harmony, to say to least!  Fortunately, a few months later, I secured the perfect part-time alternative at a brand new company, and immediately made the switch.

But there was no time to dwell on leaving my old job, as Christmas was fast approaching.  Much to organise and prepare!

I have to say, this year has been one of my best Christmases yet, thanks to my pint-sized minature.

It may technically have been baby Melanger’s second Christmas, but it certainly felt like her first.  With bub only a few months old last year, the day came and went without much fanfare.  This year, however, was bursting with endless shrieks, giggles and laughter at the endless stream of everything ‘new’.

The tree attracted the greatest attention.  There was nonstop pointing and ‘talking’ with lots of fast hand movements.  And there were quite a number of dances in front of the tree, including the odd twirl or two for added effect.  It seems to have made quite an impression!

Our visit from bub’s Ukki, also added much to the festive cheer.  It was such a delight for baby Mélanger to meet her grandfather face-to-face for the first time, and for her Ukki to see her BIG personality first hand.

I also had a lot of fun baking up some new traditions this year.  The Joulutortut and Joulupulla were the firm favourites.  And I have no difficulty visualising baking these goodies up year after year (whilst trialing some new flavours and ideas, too!).  Many thanks again to my friend Celina Laaksonen who was an enthusiastic guide in this month’s menu.

I hope you all enjoyed the selection this month, too?  I may or may not take a little break in January, but I hope to post a new exciting theme again soon.  In the meantime, here is the round up of this month’s recipes.

:: I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday and that 2012 brings much joy and happiness to you all xxx ::

{ Joulutortut :: Finnish Christmas Stars } For some time I have greedily eyed off these tender butter pastries, simply shaped as a festive star, and dotted with a small kiss of sweet prune filling in the centre.  This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and fairly easy to work with.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger{ Read more here…. }


  { Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding & Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Traditionally, this Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!  The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  { Read more here …. }

  { Taatelikakku :: Finnish Christmas date cake } Finland has some light, fragrant and curiously bundt shaped Christmas cakes.  Far different from my Christmas cake memories.  I selected to bake up the taatelikakku, as part of this month’s experiment.  This is a wonderfully light yet moist cake.  The addition of coffee to the mixture adds a lovely depth of flavour against the sweetness of the dates.  And in my opinion, this cake should not be reserved just for Christmas.  It is simply too delicious!  { Read more here….}

  { Joulupulla :: Finnish Christmas buns }  This is really just a basic pulla dough shaped into the special festive shape.  I have made pulla more times than I can remember, and I have ultimated adapted this recipe from a few different sources (Beatrice Ojakangas, the Nordic Bakery Cookbook plus my friend Celina Laaksonen).  My father-in-law mentioned his mother’s pulla was less sweet, but he preferred the extra sugar in this recipe.  So feel free to experiment! { Read more here….}

Blogging has given me the opportunity to meet people from around the world who share a similar passion for baking.

Back in 2010, I received a comment from a girl in Finland – who I later came to find out was a professional baker in Espoo.  The lovely Ms Laaksonen has been a great “penpal” ever since, and also an always enthusiastic guide about baking, in particular Finnish specialities.

She has helped me enormously with oodles of background detail on Christmas baking in Finland, and provided endless tips and ideas for this month’s theme.

During our correspondence on Christmas baking, she happened to mention she adores Finnish Christmas rice pudding (Jouluriisipuuro) with gingerbread (Joulupiparkakut) crumbled on top.

Traditionally, the Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!

The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  I will be whipping out a few more batches of this cookie dough!

{ Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding } Recipe by Anja Hill from The Food & Cooking of Finland

* Ingredients *
90g short grain rice
1.2 litres of milk
Pinch salt
15ml ground cinnamon
200ml double cream
50g caster sugar
25g toasted flaked almonds

* Directions *
Put the rice and milk in a pan and bring to the boil.  Add the salt, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the rice has absorbed most of the milk and is almost tender.  Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.  Add the cinnamon, cream, sugar and almonds to the rice and cook for further 10 minutes, until the rice is tender.

{ Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Recipe by Anja Hill from The Food & Cooking of Finland

* Ingredients *
100ml golden syrup
5ml grated orange rind
5ml ground cinnamon
2.5ml ground pepper
2.5ml ground ginger
2.5ml ground cloves
5ml ground cardamom
10ml baking soda
100ml double cream
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
400g plain flour

* Directions *
Put the syrup, orange rind and spices in a pan and heat generally until warm.  Remove from heat.  Mix the baking soda into the cream. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together until fluffy.  Whisk in the warm spiced syrup, the egg and cream mixture, until well combined. Add the flour and mix together to form a dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 200C.  On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 3mm thickness.  Place a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the dough, then turn the dough over so the paper is underneath.  Using round cutters, cut out the dough, re-rolling as necessary.  Bake for 7-10 minutes until light brown.

A stack of crispy, wafer thin crêpes, drenched in fresh lemon juice and finished with a healthy sprinkling of sugar, can make me feel a bit giddy and happy.

My weakness for this light, paper thin pancake, was singlehandedly created by my mother.  Crêpes would probably have to be her signature dish.

As a child, she would whip up a batch as the ultimate treat.  Systematically she would dole out freshly cooked crêpes to each of us one by one, only to cleverly stock up her share to eat in a single stack at the end.

Her tactic got us every time.  With a big smile on her face, we were defenceless and could only sit and watch, empty plated, as she belatedly enjoyed her share.

Even now, years on, she loves to tease and torment me with her crêpe adventures.  She will purposefully send me text messages when she has either whipped up some crêpe batter, is just about to cook a batch of crêpes, or has just enjoyed a batch of crêpes.  I can picture the grin on her face, and perhaps even a giggle, as she hits ‘send’.

My mother can be terribly cheeky.

So right back at you with this dish!

{ Clementine curd crêpes with seasonal fruits }

I love the combination of strawberries and oranges in this dish, and the tribute to the end of one season and the beginning of another.

* Ingredients *
One recipe basic crêpes
One recipe curd
Seasonal fruits
Greek yoghurt

* Directions *
After preparing a stack of crêpes, set aside.  Prepare the curd. Fill each crêpe with 2-3 tablespoons of curd.  Fold into quarters.  Finish with yoghurt and fruit.

3-4 serves

{ Basic crêpe recipe } recipe by Mélanger’s mother

* Ingredients *
1 cup (150g/5oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
300ml milk

* Directions *
Mix flour and salt together. Make a hollow in the centre and mix in the egg. Gradually add the milk. Once fully mixed, refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Re-mix the batter as there may have been some settling. Fill a 1/4 cup half way, or measure out 2 tablespoons of mixture, and set aside. For each crêpe, melt about a teaspoon of butter/oil in a pan on medium heat. When it commences to smoke, lift the pan from the heat and tip on a 45 degree angle. Pour the prepared measure of mixture off centre into the pan and quickly swirl the mixture by continuing to tilt the pan but moving in a circular motion to distribute the batter evenly across the pan. Return the pan to the heat and cook.  After a few minutes, you will start to see some bubble blister appear on the surface. The underside of the crêpe at this stage is starting to brown. When appropriately golden, flip and cook other side.

Makes approximately 10-12 crêpes.

{ Clementine Curd }

This method seems to break all the rules of making curd, but it is simple, and it works.  In 10 minutes flat you are practically done.  Feel free to use any citrus you prefer.

* Ingredients *
Zest of 1 clementine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup of clementine juice
100g butter
3 egg yolks

* Directions *
In the food processor, mix the sugar and clementine zest until the sugar is well scented.  Place the juice and butter into a small saucepan and heat until butter melted.  Add the scented sugar and egg yolks and whisk over a low heat for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Place the saucepan into an ice bath, continue to whisk for a few minutes until it has cooled.  Transfer to sterilised glass jars and refrigerate until ready to use.


It has been a month of new flavours in the Mélanger kitchen.

Enjoying the fruit of an avocado in a sweet ice cream dessert.  Experimenting with glutinous rice flour and homemade red bean paste in a mochi cake.  Combining a water roux bread making method and the flavour of pandan in a popular ‘Rotiboy’ inspired bun.  And ditching the typical heavy “British influenced” pudding (a common craving for me!) for a light and refreshing Asian inspired tapioca pudding.

I hope you enjoyed my Asian inspired assortment.  But next month will take us in a completely new direction.  All I will say now is, I hope you will be tickled pink with the idea.  I know I am.

In the meantime, here is a round up of this month’s recipes!

  { Avocado ‘milkshake’ ice cream & sesame brittle } For quite some time I have wanted to incorporate avocado into a sweet dessert.   I was inspired by the avocado milkshake, apparently one of the most popular drinks in Southeast Asia, in Pichet Ong’s, The Sweet Spot.  This ice cream is sinfully sweet, yet surprisingly, pairs well with the sweet nuttiness of a crisp sesame brittle.


{ Green tea and red bean mochi slice } This slice is ridiciously simple.  But even better than that, it is delicious.  One taste, and I practically slapped myself for taking so long in whipping up this mochi slice.  It has a delightful hint of sweetness offset by the earthly flavour of the green tea.  And the sprinkling of red bean paste added a surprise texture with each mouthful.


  { Pandan ‘Rotiboy’ Mexican Buns } It was quite shameful to admit I had never tasted the flavour of pandan.  So enter these soft and fluffy on the inside, and crunchy and sweet on the outside buns.  The best bit it uses a gelatinised dough method (water roux starter).  There really is nothing to it, and it truly does produce an unrivalled softness.  If you have never used this method of bread making before, I urge you to try.  Soon!

  { Coconut lime tapioca pudding with chilli salt green mango fritters } I paired a zesty green mango with this pudding.  I stuck with the tradition of serving the green mango with salt and chilli by sprinking a healthy dose on the fritters once cooked.  The inherent sweetness of the pudding (from the coconut milk as well as the lime syrup), is the perfect balance to counter the spicy, salty flavour of the fritter.

Okay, sure, all right.  I know this theme has showcased only a very small sampling of recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook, but hopefully as you have all since rushed out to claim a precious copy of your very own, you are continuing your own sampling at home?

I do have to admit, as much as I adore all things Ladurée (and oh how I do!), my baking enjoyment comes from being somewhat more fluid in the kitchen.  Being a little experimental – and not being worried if my plans do not always come of.  I find it harder to follow a selection of recipes strictly from one book.  Hmmmm, not sure what that says about me?

In saying that though, my very-greatly-loved-copy of this cookbook sits with a sticky note on practically every second page.  So needless to say this sweet Ladurée journey will certainly not be my last.  Those sticky notes will be tackled, all in good time.  But just not all at once.

Until then, here is a round up of my small, but well loved selection of adapted recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook.


{ Ladurée :: Orange flower & almond kugelhopf } I had high expectations of this recipe (and every recipe in this treasure of a book, in fact), but my expectations were blown away.  This kugelhopf recipe is simply superb.  But I am not surprised.  It is Ladurée, after all, no?  { Read more here … }


{ Ladurée :: Hot chocolate & vanilla marshmallows } When there is a chill in the air, is there really anything more comforting that nursing a mug of warm chocolate (really should be called chocolate sauce), and some bitesized cubes of homemade vanilla marshmallow.  I think not!  { Read more here … }


{ Ladurée :: Hazelnut and chocolate macarons } These Ladurée inspired macarons were sensational.  Every element exaggerated.  The shell was excessively delicate and fragile and gave away to a thick and beautifully chewy centre.  This flavour is not in the Ladurée book but is a tribute to one of my favourite things in life.  Nutella.  { Read more here … }


{ Ladurée :: Brandy rice pudding } Sultanas have been soaked in brandy to add a depth of flavour to this simple rice pudding.  With or without the brandy addition, the pudding is very rich — hence the small serving size.  As such, it seems such a delicate dessert, even though it is a very straightforward recipe.  { Read more here … }

Who would have thought that the unassuming art of baking would be the trigger of much discovery with my husband?   To uncover his likes and, more interestingly, his dislikes.

To my upmost surprise, I have been firmly told he does not like marshmallow.  If I ever get a baking request, it often is for some of the most simple and unfussy treats such as chocolate chip cookies, brownies or apple pie.  And finally, he is well and truly addicted to pulla – easily devouring an entire loaf by himself in a couple of days.

And the surprises keep coming!

My socks were blown off when I was blankly told my husband had never eaten homemade rice pudding.  What?  Really?  (Between you and me, I quietly think he has repressed a childhood dessert memory or two.  I mean seriously?  Rice pudding?  It is a staple, particularly for children, no?  How could he not have eaten it?)

So, I thought what better way to introduce this humble dessert to my husband, than with the sure-to-be-delicious Ladurée recipe.  Though, this rice pudding is definitely not child friendly.  To spice things up, I decided to soak the sultanas in brandy before folding into the final rice mixture.

With or without the brandy addition, the pudding is very rich — hence the small serving size.  As such, it seems such a delicate dessert, even though it is a very straightforward recipe.

{ Brandied rice pudding } adapted from Ladurée Sucre cookbook

* Ingredients *
60g sultanas (or golden raisins)
50g Arborio rice
600ml milk
Pinch of fleur de sel
35g sugar
2 egg yolks
30g butter

* Directions *
Soak the sultanas in brandy.  Separately, bring a saucepan of water to a boil and cook rice for 1 minute, then drain.  In another saucepan, heat the milk and salt to a boil.  Add rice and sugar.  Cook on a low heat for 20 minutes until the rice has absorbed a large portion of liquid.  In a bowl, place the egg yolks.  Pour a little of the rice into the egg and mix vigorously.  Pour back into the remaining rice mixture in the saucepan.  Drain the raisins and add to the mixture along with the butter.  Stir to combine.  Allow the mixture to reach a boil, and then remove from the head.  Pour the pudding into a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool.  Once cooled, refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Serve cold.

How could sweet, creamy layers of cake soaked in liqueur and topped with seasonal fruit and homemade custard be considered insignificant or frivolous?  But trifle it is.  But trifle it is not.

Perhaps it was the incongruity of the word association that threw me led me to experiment.  Or perhaps it was simply the preparation process.  With my components ready for assembly, I noticed how I had sliced up my chocolate loaf.  Like bread.  Slices of bread that were ready to make a sandwich.  So I mused, why not use slices of cake to make a sandwich?  A trifle sandwich.

And the rest, as they say, ….

It was all a bit of fun, but to be honest I do like my puddings a trifle more traditional.  But really, it only comes down to the assembly.  Same ingredients.  Different construction.

Less traditionally sandwiched, or classically layered in a serving dish, the combination of chocolate and orange were hard to beat.  The orange was injected through a delicate glazing of Grand Marnier over the cake, a caramelised orange sauce, plus fresh oranges.  The richness of the cake, the only chocolate offering, was sufficient to complement this orange trifecta.

I did take some liberty in the ingredients.  The more traditional vanilla sponge was swapped for a deliciously rich, chocolate pound cake.  But I think, if you want to celebrate a dessert, as exemplary of British desserts as the trifle, I think you can include your own twists.

{ Chocolate & orange trifle }

If you prefer the more classic styling of a trifle, simply follow the directions below.

* Ingredients *
Chocolate pound cake, recipe below
Grand Marnier
Caramelised oranges, recipe below
Vanilla custard, recipe below
Whipped cream, optional

* Directions *
Slice the chocolate pound cake and layer the bottom of glass serving bowl.  Brush over the Grand Marnier so it soaks into the cake.  Top with the caramelised oranges.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Top the cake and oranges with the vanilla custard.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, top with whipped cream.  Alternatively, you can create multiple layers of cake, orange and custard.  Just simply refrigerate as appropriate at each stage.

{ Caramelised Oranges } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
3 oranges
1/4 sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

* Directions *
Segment the oranges and set aside in a bowl.  Bring sugar and orange juice to the boil in a small saucepan until the mixture starts to darken.  Add Grand Marnier and remove from heat.  Pour syrup over the prepared oranges and set aside to cool.

{ Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake } recipe by Sur La Table’s, The Art & Soul of Baking

* Ingredients *
1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/1/4 cups (8-3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon water, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) unsifted unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup (4 ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and position an oven rack in the centre.  Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray and fit it with parchment paper to extend up both long sides to the top of the pan.

Cream the butter and sugar:  Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium-high until light – almost white- in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results.  Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.

Add the eggs: In the small bowl, stir together the water and espresso powder until smooth.  Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat to blend.  With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next.  About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then continue adding the eggs.  Scrape down the bowl again.

Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk to blend.  With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; repeat, then finish with flour mixture.  Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand if necessary.

Bake the cake:  Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.  When cool, remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

{ Vanilla Custard } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
¾ cup milk
¾ cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

* Directions *
Prepare a bowl filled with ice and top the ice with another clean bowl.  Put to the side together with a fine sieve.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  Set aside.  Gently heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan until small bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from the heat, and add ½ cup of the mixture to the eggs whisking together immediately.  When blended, add the egg mixture back to the milk over a low to medium heat.  Keep whisking as the mixture starts to thicken.  Be careful not to overheat the mixture or the eggs will curdle.  For accuracy, measure the temperature and remove from the heat when you reach 80C /176F.  Without delay, pour the hot custard through the sieve into the prepare bowl.  The ice will help cool down the custard and ensure it does not overheat.  Allow to cool, and then refrigerate.
Makes 1 ½ cups

The idea of having an ulterior motive sounds so clandestine.  So underhanded.  But I must admit, my research into Finnish desserts this month was just that.

Naturally, I am fascinated in Mr Melanger’s Finnish ancestry.  Not only because his makeup and personality is very much predisposed by that background, but it impacts me directly, too.  Well, when I use his last name it does at least.  It is always an amusing scenario where I am faced by a quizzical stare and an immediate request of, “how do you spell that?”

Who you are is shaped by so many influences.  For me, it is important to appreciate, celebrate and understand those very persuasions.

Growing up a first generation Australian, alongside parents and a sister that migrated from England, afforded me a reasonably unique identity.  Not only the extensive British influence of my immediate and past family ties, but the custom and tradition of my new country of birth.  This blend has made me who I am.

I want to follow the role that my parents played in sharing their heritage with me.  I want to play an active role in sharing everything relevant with baby Mélanger … who is on the way!

Baby Mélanger, with their inherent Finnglish connections, will learn about their lineage, no question.  Finland.  England.  And naturally, Australia, of course.

In preparation of the big (or hopefully little) arrival of baby Mélanger in September, I will continue to research, learn and experiment with my baking and cooking.

In the meantime, here is a roundup of the Finnish desserts created this month, plus some other delicious Finnish treats that I am sure will now become even more popular in the Mélanger soon-to-be-expanded home.

{ Mustikkapiirakka :: Blueberry Tart } This simple, rustic style tart is a snap to make and a treat to share.  The blueberries piled high look as inviting as they are delicious.  The simplicity of the tart is the winning secret.  Fresh berries sweetened ever so slightly with a sprinkling of sugar, and topped on an easy to prepare, flaky pastry.  Perfect for any time of year.  { Read more here … }

{ Sekahedelmäkeitto :: Mixed fruit soup } The warm, aromatic aroma of the cinnamon is so alluring and while you are heating the sugary syrup.  Your whole kitchen will permeate with this sweet-spicy smell.  The gentle cooking produces fruit that is both sweet and deliciously soft.  It is equally tasty by itself, or made even more special by the addition of cream, or served alongside creamed rice.  { Read more here … }

{ Åland Pancake } If you enjoy the baked custardy taste of the Far Breton, the quintessential flan from Brittany, you will love the Åland Pancake.  It is creamy, dense and very smooth  – and just perfect with a dollop of lingonberry jam, a staple in this region of the world.  { Read more here … }

{ Rahkatorttu :: Karelian Cheese Torte } Vary the recipe as your tastes please.  Include raisins or fruit into the filling.  Use cream or butter to make the cheese even more rich.  Vary the cheese with cream cheese or cottage cheese if you cannot find quark.  Either way, it will be easy, simple yet flavourful – particularly when served with a healthy dollop of cloudberry jam!   { Read more here … }

{ Omenapiirakka :: Finnish Apple Pie } You need to try this pie.  The best part for me was how easy the pastry was to make.  And even better than that, how delicious it was.  I actually made the pastry a day ahead and was able to quickly roll out, top with apple and then bake in less than 45 minutes.  To keep it simple, I served with a light dusting of icing sugar and some rich vanilla ice cream to complement the gooey caramelised apple centre of the pie.  { Read more here … }

{ Karjalanpiirakat :: Karelian Rice Pasties } The pastry was quite easy to make.  It literally mixed together by hand in less than 5 minutes.  The filling is the most time consuming part taking an hour to slowly simmer.  But well worth the time.  Try with a boiled eggs topping, for the most perfect of snacks.   { Read more here … }

{ Hannatädinkakut :: Aunt Hanna’s Cookies } These simple and quick cookies are a Finnish favourite at holiday time.  They are apparently very popular, and according to Beatrice Ojakangas, can be found in supermarkets across Finland all year round.  One taste, and I was a big fan.  They are light and buttery but not too rich.  The little bite size makes them perfect for a little treat during the day.  I also think they make lovely homemade gifts, too!  { Read more here … }

{ Cardamom macarons with coffee cream} My tribute to Finland.  The Finns are reported to be the largest coffee drinkers in the world.  Cardamom is a very common spice used in Finnish (and Scandinavian) baking.  I love the flavours of both so put together this combination.  And let me just say, I am in macaron heaven.  { Read more here … }

{ Pulla :: Finnish cardamom bread } Pulla was the first item I baked for my (now) husband.  After much searching for the perfect recipe, I took the plunge with my Beatrice Ojakangas baking bible.  When I was told the bread tasted, “just like my mummo used to make”, I knew I had chosen well.   { Read more here … }

{ Mustikkapiiraat :: Blueberry filled buns } These buns are a snap to make and smell wonderful coming out of the oven.  You may clap your hands in delight (as I did) when seeing the gooey berry drizzle running down the side of a bun or two.  It will be hard to wait for them to cool slightly so you can devour them.  { Read more here … }

While researching Finnish desserts for this month, I reflected on ‘Tropical Fruit’ month.  I was reminded how lucky I am here in Australia to have an abundance of locally produced fresh fruit available to me.  All year round.  No exceptions.

Unless it is your preference, there really is no need to create a dish with ingredients that are preserved, dried, or cured.  No reason the ingredients cannot be fresh.

Fruit soups are a popular part of the dessert table in Finland.  During the summer months they would be made with an abundance of fresh, wild berries.  In the winter, with fruits that have been preserved for those darker (and much cooler!) months.

I came across a variety of mixed fruit soup recipes that incorporated a selection of some of my favourite dried fruits.  Apricots, prunes, pears and apples.  I have always been fond of dried fruit, even though the fresh variety has always been on hand.

This dessert is incredibly simple to make – and well worth the minimal steps required for the taste and scent alone.  The warm, aromatic aroma of the cinnamon is so alluring and while you are heating the sugary syrup, your whole kitchen will permeate with this sweet-spicy smell.  The gentle cooking produces fruit that is both sweet and deliciously soft.  It is equally tasty by itself, or made even more special by the addition of cream, or served along side some creamed rice.

{ Sekahedelmäkeitto :: Mixed fruit soup }

I have seen a few recipes including a variety of different dried fruits, a few different ratios of sugar to water, and a few different cooking techniques.  This version is my variation on the Sekahedelmäkeitto.

If you know of the Sekahedelmäkeitto, I would love to hear about the technique you use.

* Ingredients *
150g / 5oz of mixed dried fruits (I used prunes, apples, pears and apricots)
2 cups of water
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons potato flour / starch
Double thick cream, optional

* Directions *
Into a saucepan, add the fruit, water and sugar.  Set aside for 4 hours, or preferably overnight.  Add the cinnamon and gently bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick and fruit to a separate bowl.  Mix the potato flour with an equal portion of water to form a paste.  Bring the sugary syrup again to the boil, and slowly add in the potato flour.  Whisk well and continuously until well combined and the mixture has thickened.  Set aside and allow to cool.  Once cool, combine the syrup with a selection of fruit in a bowl or glass of choice.  Serve with a dollop of cream, or with rice pudding.

Serves 2

This month, I injected a few traditional savoury ingredients into typical sweet dishes.  As a conservative baker, I challenged myself to take some classic recipes and twist them to introduce some unusual flavour combinations — I was curious how far I would experiment with solid, timeless dishes.

Tried and true recipes such as apple pie, chocolate mousse, shortbread, and crème brûlée were given a flavour make-over.  Enter rosemary, fennel, Chinese five spice, and coriander that featured in the line up this month.

Want more savoury flavours?  How about basil, thyme, pepper and salt?  These usually savoury ingredients were the focus of a citrus tart, chocolate brownie, gingerbread cookie, and caramel chocolate cupcake showcased previously on Mélanger.

Here is the round up for the month. I hope you enjoyed your own experiments in the baking kitchen!

{ Coriander spiced apple pie } Although cinnamon and apple go hand in hand, a temporary substitution made for a surprisingly delicious flavor combination.  The nutty, spicy and rather citrusy flavour of ground coriander pairs unpredictably well with apple in these modest little pies.  { read more here … }

{ Chinese five spice chocolate mousse } For me, there is nothing like chocolate to soothe an unsettled soul.  In this case, a Chinese five spice chocolate mousse.  Inspired by a Belinda Jeffery rich chocolate cake showcasing the same spice these little aromatic pots were a delicious spin on the usual.  { read more here … }

{ Fennel & olive oil shortbread } The rich, sandy texture of the shortbread is preserved despite the variations.  The fennel flavour is prominent as soon as you take a bite.  The olive oil flavour comes through at the end.  It is subtle, but there.  This shortbread sure does lend itself well to different flavours. { read more here … }

{ Rosemary & orange crème brûlée } Rosemary was infused into the cream before making the basic custard for the brûlée.  The zest of one orange was also folded into the final mixture.  The injection of a less traditionally sweet flavour balanced the incredibly rich brûlée.  The end result was a typical creamy brûlée, with subtle suggestions of pine and some zing.  { read more here … }

{ Lime-Basil Tart } The traditional citrus tart is given a twist with the addition of fresh basil.  The fragrance from the basil is subtle but brings out the zesty overtones of the limes.  These flavours pair especially well with a basic sweet tart pastry.  { read more here … }

{ Thyme Brownie } This is the ultimate brownie recipe.  The end result is chewy with the right about of ‘bite’.  The slight variation with the thyme was subtle.  It produced a slightly earthy aroma to the rich, chocolately flavor of the brownie.  If you are a fan of a brownie that is not too cakey, and not too fudgey, this is a must try for you.  { read more here … }

{ Pfeffernussen } Pfeffernussen means ‘pepper nut’ in German.  This cookie features pepper (but no nuts!), and a range of spices such as cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and cloves.  The light sugary coating of the cookie complements the peppery flavour deliciously. They are incredibly airy and light, and have a beautiful peppery flavour.   { read more here … }

{ Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes } The salted caramel harmoniously melds with the rich chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.  Lightly sprinkled to finish, the grey flakes look misleadingly innocent.  When you savour the taste, the flavour faintly lingers urging you to immediately go back for more.  { read more here … }

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