Entries tagged with “Finnish Christmas baking”.

I love a good plan.  My life is full of them . . . and lists and spreadsheets and to-do’s.

So when a spanner is thrown into my planning works, I have a tendency to get a little jumpy and anxious when things are in jeopardy.

My plan this Christmas was to trial run a few Finnish Christmas treats (to surprise my Finnish father-in-law, who was visiting baby Mélanger for the first time), then bake a few favourites on Christmas Eve (THE day to celebrate Christmas in Finland).

Good news is I successfully completed all my trial runs.

Bad news is on the morning of Christmas Eve, we blew a fuse and knocked out all the electricity in the house.

Not only did we have two fridge/freezers plus a deep freeze FULL of food, but more importantly, we had no oven!

Whilst Mr Mélanger and his father were out off to stock up on ice (if we needed to transfer food from the fridges), I was aimlessly staring at the kitchen completely puzzled how I was going to complete my festive baking tasks.

No electricity also means no internet, and no way to look up the name of an electrician.  So after a few “phone a friend” calls to my mum and sister-in-law, we manage to gather a big list of electricians in the area.  With luck, we finally managed to contact someone who not only answered their phone on Christmas Eve, but actually turned up to the house at the stated time.

In the end, we were about 6 hours behind schedule, and with a deck full of company arriving in only a few short hours, I did manage to whip up a batch of Joulupulla for my father-in-law for our well deserved afternoon coffee break.  The smell of the bread baking immediately brought back memories for him, and he eagerly taste tested these almost straight out of the oven.

For my trial batch (the images shown here), in addition to the traditional cardamom flavoured Joulupulla, I also created a saffron flavoured bun as a little nod to the old Swedish influences in Finland.

{ 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!

* Ingredients *
250ml whole milk
7g active dry yeast
85g caster sugar
3g salt
7g ground cardamom (or to taste)
1 egg, beaten
450g-500g plain flour
75g butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, beaten to glaze
Sultanas/raisins to decorate

* Directions *
Warm milk in a small saucepan until it comes to the boil, then allow to cool until it reaches about 45C.  In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk.  Add one teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast foams.  To the yeast, stir in the remaining sugar, salt, cardamom, egg and enough flour to make a batter (about 150-200g).  Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add half of the remaining flour and beat well.  Add the melted butter and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff (you may not need all the flour).  Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Knead the dough until smooth and satiny.  Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top.  Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled. About 1 hour.  Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 12 parts weighing about 80g each. Roll each piece into a 15cm strand. Then, with a sharp knife split both ends one third of the way towards the centre.  Then curl up each of the ends.  Place the buns onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.  Brush each bun with egg wash and dot with raisins/sultanas in the curled ends.  Bake at 180C for 15-18 minutes. Check occasionally — because the bottom can brown easily.

Makes 12 buns

:: Yeastspotting ::
I am submitting this Joulupulla to Yeastspotting.

It was only a few short weeks ago, whilst enjoying a weekend luncheon (and a delicious bite of quiche!) with my sister and her family, that I remarked how much I love pastry.  My sister simply nodded in agreement.  A nod that conveys many years of recognition and understanding.  No words needed to be uttered.

It is then very surprising that it has taken me so long to bake one of the stars of the Finnish Christmas table.  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.  The recipe has long been bookmarked with a clear yellow post-it-note in my copy of Beatrice Ojakangas’, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.

Beatrice explains that when these prune-filled stars are baked and served, it signals the beginning of the Christmas holidays.  Apparently the day after Christmas is a day for visiting and comparing the quality of the stars from one household to the next.  Everyone has their own favourite recipe, varying from a flaky puff pastry, to a rich and tender butter pastry.

This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and surprisingly, in the humidity and the heat that is Brisbane this time of year, fairly easy to work with.  A trial run before our Christmas guest arrives, proved very successful.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger.  I will definitely be baking a fresh batch of Joulutortut to surprise my father-in-law on his visit!

{ Joulutortut  :: Finnish Christmas Stars } Recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

* Ingredients *
2 cups pitted prunes
Water to cover
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 cup softened butter
Beaten egg, for glaze

* Directions *
Cover the prunes with water and simmer slowly until very soft.  Puree and add the lemon juice and sugar.  Cool.

For the pastry, mix the flour and baking powder. Stir into the whipped cream and knead in the softened butter.  Shape dough into a ball and chill overnight.

On a floured board, roll out pastry to 1/4 inch or 6mm thickness. Fold dough into third, folding first one third over the centre, then the opposite third over the centre.  Roll out to seal the layers.  Turn dough and fold again into thirds, making the dough into a perfect square.  Roll out, retaining the square shape, to make an 18 inch or 45 cm square.  Cut into 3 inch or 7.5 cm squares.  With a sharp knife, make cuts from the corners towards the centre of the squares about half way along.  Place a spoonful of the prune filling onto the centre of each square. Shape into pinwheel stars by lifting every other split corner towards the centre onto the filling.  Cover baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F / 200C.  Place filled stars onto the baking sheets, and brush with the glaze. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 36