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.