All posts by Johanna

Cult Vinegar and Fresh Pickled Cucumbers

The other day I was in London and met up with Jonathan Brown in Kings Cross to taste vinegar. Even though we never met in real life, it was like meeting an old friend. We met through twitter via our shared interest in Nordic cuisine and mushroom picking several years ago. In 2012 I had the pleasure of drawing mushrooms for Jonathan and his wife Sarah’s wedding. Each mushroom was made into a cute place card to organize the guests during their wedding feast. Jonathan and I also share an interest in sourdough, pickling, and other fermenting things. So when earlier this year I discovered that Jonathan had gone into business to make vinegar I felt it necessary to meet up in person when passing by London.

And o’boy his Cult vinegar rocks!

During a wonderful lunch (mushroom toast with some deep fried squid) Jonathan let me taste about 10 different kinds of his Cult Vinegar collection (several of which you can purchase online). For example; red wine vinegar (perfect in a dressing over sun ripe tomatoes), white wine vinegar (think mustard sauce and Hollandaise), moscatel vinegar (sweet and sharp like a white balsamic vinegar), ruby port vinegar (deliciously sweet and perfect in red meat sauces, waldorf salad dressing or together with blue cheese), sherry vinegar, German Riesling vinegar (perfect in a Fresh Pickled Cucumbers, recipe below), sake (should work beautifully in a dumpling dipping sauce), apple cider vinegar, and champagne vinegar (curiously citrusy and sharp which I liked on the fried squid).

In 2011 Jonathan and Sarah traveled to Burgundy, France to hunt for their wedding wine. In a country side kitchen just outside Beaune they got introduced to a vinaigrier container; a very traditional ceramic vessel that lets natural bacteria in the kitchen turn leftover wine into vinegar. The initial incubation takes about 6 to 8 weeks – once alive it will last forever if topped up with the occasional half glass of wine.

Jonathan quickly got addicted to the living smell of vinegar, so back home in London he started to make his own while playing with the idea of creating a modern version of a traditional French vinaigrier. A few years later after visiting a local ceramic school he connected with ceramicist Billy Lloyd and together they took on the challenge to design a new version. The result is the Cult Ceramics Vinegar Vase which is both beautiful and clever. With it’s hexagon shape and three different colors on the lids (red, white, and yellow) you can easily group several vases together and have different types of vinegar in the making at the same time. The vase comes with a handy “How-to- Guide” booklet and a bottle of a vinegar culture (the “mother”) so you can start your own vinegar production as soon as you have unpacked the vessel.

Back in Brooklyn I have now started my first batch of white wine vinegar. Every time I walk by the vessel I can’t stop myself from lifting the lid to have sniff. I think I’m addictive already!

Here is a classic recipe for pressgurka, Swedish fresh pickled cucumbers. Normally these pickles are made with distilled white vinegar but some German Riesling Cult vinegar will make it extra special. If you don’t have a Riesling vinegar on hand, substitute with Champagne vinegar or a good quality white wine vinegar. Try the pickles with meatballs, gravlax, or on a smörgås (Swedish open-faced sandwich) with cheese.

Swedish Fresh Pickled Cucumbers
(adapted from my recipe in Smörgåsbord)

serves 4 to 6 as a side

1 medium (about 12 ounces, 340 grams) English cucumber
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) German Riesling Cult vinegar + more if needed
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water + more if needed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill or parsley
freshly ground white pepper, for seasoning

Rinse the cucumber in cold water. Slice it with a mandoline, cheese slicer, or potato peeler as thin as you can.

Arrange the slices in a wide colander and sprinkle them with the salt. Toss gently to distribute the salt evenly. Press the cucumbers down with a plate that fits within the colander and place something heavy on top. Let sit for about 30 minutes, at room temperature. (The salt and the heavy weight will help drain the water from the sliced cucumber.)

In the meantime, prepare the pickling liquid. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar water, sugar, and dill. Mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Adjust the acidity with more vinegar or water to your liking.

Remove the weight and the plate and squeeze gently with your hands to remove any excess liquid. Place the cucumbers in a bowl or in a clean glass jar and pour the pickling liquid over them. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

These pickles are best eaten fresh so consume them within a few days. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

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related links

read more about Jonathan and his story here

fungathlon – half marathon with mushroom foraging,
invented and practiced by Jonathan Brown

Cult Ceramics & Cult Vinegar on Instagram

more work by Billy Lloyd

Classic Hollandaise Sauce by Ruhlman

How to make French Vinaigrette by David Lebovitz

Apple Cider Vinegar – kokblog recipe

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Smörgåsbord – My second cookbook

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This week my forthcoming book, Smörgåsbord: The Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats (Ten Speed Press) is on its way to the printer and will hit the bookshelves on September 26. Yay!

The book is a celebration of the Swedish tradition Smörgåsbord which is a festive buffet with dishes like cured herring, gravlax, cold cuts, pickles, salads, and meatballs. This table with its well balanced flavors of sweet, sour, and salt is an excellent display of Nordic cuisine.

As the word Smörgåsbord is composed of two words; smörgås (open-faced-sandwich) and bord (table), the dishes are always served with several different types of bread, butter, and cheese. A smörgåsbord is most often set up in a separate room and the table can sometimes be several meters long and consist of over 100 dishes.
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At a time when we have too many things on our minds, it’s hard to find the time to prepare a whole smörgåsbord. The intention of this book is to inspire you to make smaller portions as festive starters or individual smörgås bites. Every dish in the book includes pairing suggestions so you can easily create your own personal smörgåsbord spreads. The dishes can be as simple as deviled eggs, or more ambitious with freshly baked rye bread paired with hot smoked salmon, homemade pickles, and marinated mustard seeds.

Thanks to my editor Kaitlin Ketchum for believing in this project. It’s always a pleasure to work with you and everyone at Ten Speed Press.

If you like, you can already now pre-order the book in several bookstores online: Random House, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Amazon (US), and Amazon (UK). The book is also listed at the Swedish bookstores Bokus and Adlibris.

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related links

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break (my first book)

Smörgåsbord chapter pattern on fabric at Spoonflower

 

Celebrating Fat Tuesday with Semlor

2017-semlor_2017-5February is traditionally the month I would go from one bakery to another to hunt down the best semlor in town. But since moving abroad that task has been put on hold.

Semlor, also called fettisbullar, is a cardamom bun filled with almond paste and heavy whipped cream. Comfortingly delicious. Traditionally they should be eaten on Fat Tuesday before lent, but Swedes start having them as soon as they finished their Christmas’ ginger cookies and keep enjoying them until it’s time for Easter candy.

From a distance, I have noticed that in the last few years this wonderful almond paste filled cardamom bun has started to come in different varieties and flavors. Sometimes even in different shapes. As much as I love chocolateprincess cake, or licorice I think my favorite always will be the traditional combination of cardamom, almond paste and hand whipped cream.

This year, Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Paczki Day or Pancake Day) falls on Tuesday, February 28. So its time to get the ingredients ready and start baking.
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Semlor
recipe from Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break 
by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

makes: about 12 to 16 buns

for the buns
7 tablespoons (3.5 oz, 100 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (240 ml) milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs
1/4 cup (1.75 oz, 50 g) sugar
3½ cups (1.12 lb, 495 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed

filling
2 cups (10 oz, 285 g) blanched almonds
¼ cup (1.75 oz, 50 g) sugar
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) milk

to finish
½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) heavy whipped cream
powdered sugar

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add in the milk. Heat until the liquid is warm to the touch (about 110ºF/43°C). In a cup, dissolve the yeast in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the warm liquid. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form on top.

In a large bowl, whisk together one of the eggs with the sugar. Pour in the butter and milk mixture including the yeast. Stir until well blended.

Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Work the dough until well combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured flat surface, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. The dough should feel moist so try not to add more flour to the dough (which could result in dry buns).

Place dough in a bowl, cover with a dampened tea towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

On a flat surface, divide dough into 12 to 16 equal pieces and roll each into individual rounds. Place them with 2 inches (2.5 cm) apart on a greased baking sheet (or line with a silicon baking mat). Cover with a dry tea towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. (To test when they are ready to bake, poke your finger gently into one of the buns; the indent should slowly spring back, about 3 seconds).

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

When you are ready to bake, beat the last egg with a fork and brush each round all over the top. Bake until the tops of the buns are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the buns from the oven and transfer to the counter. Cover with a tea towel and let cool completely.

To make the almond paste, in a food processor grind the almonds until finely ground. Add in the sugar and almond extract and pulse until mixture sticks together.

With a knife, cut a “lid” off the top of each bun. Scoop out a portion of the inside and place the crumbs together with the almond paste in a large bowl. Mix it well together and add as much milk as needed to create a thick and smooth filling.

Fill each bun with the filling, followed by some whipped cream. Top with the “lid” and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Brew some coffee and serve immediately.

Note: Semlor doesn’t store well, so if you are not planning to eat them all in one go, I suggest you only prepare as many as you need. Freeze the rest of the buns as soon they are cool.

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related links

Whole Wheat Semlor by Anna Brones @ Food52

Polish Paczki (Doughnuts) by Barbara Rolek at Spruce

Mardi Gras recipes in New York Times

22 New Orleans Classics to Celebrate Mardi Gras  – SAVEUR

Semolina Pancakes – kokblog recipe

Paris-Brest
(just because they remind me of semlor)

more Semlor

and

French Crepes
and the La Chandeleur tradition (February 2)
by Clotilde Dusoulier

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Pssst the drawing on the top is available as a print here.

my second cookbook

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I’m finally ready to tell you, I’m working on my second book. It will be, like the first one, an illustrated cookbook with recipes and stories inspired by my Swedish roots.  But instead of being on the sweet side I will be sharing savory treats. Right now I don’t want to reveal more about the subject, but stay tune I will share more details soon.

It all started about one year ago when I sat down over a fika with my dear editor Kaitlin Ketchum to discuss some initial ideas for a potential book.  The meeting was followed by a few weeks of intensive thinking, drawing, writing and cooking while looking over a walnut orchard in Chico, California. The final proposal ended up in a contract and was followed by an extensive amount of recipe tweaking, research and writing. And when I couldn’t lift more pots or fit another bread in my belly, I sat down to draw.

I’m now working closely with the Ten Speed Press team to get all the pieces in place. Later this Spring it will be off to the printer and the book is scheduled to be published by Ten Speed Press, September 26, 2017.

Some other exciting news is that Fika has been translated and published in both Chinese and Korean. And the book is about to be translated to Simplified Chinese. Hurrah!

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Related links

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break
by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

Behind the Scene of Fika
more about my first book

Fika on National TV in Korea
(in Korean)

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Joulutorttu – Finnish Christmas Tarts

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My grandmother was phenomenal in the art of making puff pastry, so good that she made several batches every year that she portioned out to everyone in the family, neighbors and near by acquaintances that took the advantage of her skill. I’m sure she loved it and occasionally she tried to pass her technique along but to my knowledge nobody really understood how she did it with such grace and no fuss.

Every Christmas as long as I can remember my grandmother and later my mother have been treating me with Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tarts). Joulutorttu are pinwheel shapes puff pastries filled with prune jam dusted with powdered sugar. Traditionally the tarts are shaped like fig. 2 in the diagram but they can be shaped as simple as a classic Danish (fig 1).

Well, last year I figured it was about time for me to learn the art of puff pastry and obviously much of it get shaped into joulutorttu. My version here is filled with jam where the prunes is simply cooked with just port. I’m sure my grandmother would have liked my progress, especially if shared with a strong cup of tea and a game of canasta.  

Both jam and puff pastry can be made beforehand so you can assemble just as many as you want and need all through the holiday.

Happy holiday everyone.

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Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Torts)
makes about 14

1 batch of puff pastry

prune jam
1 cup (about 200 grams) pitted prunes, cut in half
½ cup (120 milliliters) sweet Marsala wine (or port)

to finish
1 egg, beaten
powdered sugar

Cut the prunes in quarters and soak them in port for 1 to 2 hours. The prunes should become soft.

In a small pot, cook the prunes with the port on medium low heat until thick and the fruit has fallen apart, about 10 minutes. Add more wine (or water) if the jam seems too dry. Let cool slightly before placing the jam into a food processor. Pulse until smooth and thick.

Leftover jam can be stored in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. This jam is also awesome on on toast together with cheese.

Preheat oven 425°F (220°C).

Roll out portions of puff pastry until just over 1/8 inch (approximately 0.5 centimeter) thick. Cut out 3 by 3 inch (8 by 8 centimeters) squares, place a spoonful of jam on each square. Shape each square by cutting each corner, like in fig. 2 or shape them as shown in fig. 1. Brush corners with a little water before closing the shape.

Brush each tart with the egg and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve slightly warm, dusted with powdered sugar, with heavy whipped cream.

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Links to other traditional Nordic holiday baking:

Joulutorttu with a ricotta puff pastry – by Peggy Saas

London Eats Joulutorttu

Ginger Spice Cake by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

Glögg – Swedish Mulled Wine

How to host a glögg party by Madame Fromage

Pepparkakor with diagram on how to build a gingerbread house
recipe & text by Anna Brones  – diagram & illustrations by Johanna Kindvall

Lussebullar by Anna Brones (illustrated by Johanna Kindvall)

Scalded Rye Bread with Raisins – kokblog recipe

More Swedish holiday baking in the Fika book.