Category Archives: sweet

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

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.

How to make Puff Pastry

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I have a confession, I love puff pastry! This buttery and flaky pastry works equally well with sweet or savory dishes. And luckily it’s not that hard to make yourself. A little time consuming, yes. But you can definitely do it and it will surely impress your guests! In between folds you can take care of laundry, read a book, organise your pantry or go for a run. You can also do some other cooking experiment or have a friend over for wine.  So roll up your sleeves and get ready to roll.

Puff Pastry
about 1¼ lb (560 grams) puff pastry

1 ¾ cups (8.75 ounces, 250 grams) all-purpose flour (extra if needed)
½ cup (130 ml) ice water
14 tablespoons (7 ounces, 200 grams) unsalted butter
½ to 1 teaspoon salt, optional

Place all-purpose flour directly onto a flat surface, preferably a cold material such as a stone or stainless steel countertop. Cut 3.5 tablespoons (1.75 ounces, 50 grams) of the butter in smaller pieces and pinch the butter into the flour until you have a coarse crumb. Don’t over work, you should still have bits of butter in there. Make a well in the crumbly dough and poor in the ice cold water. Work together quickly and form a rough ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

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Shape the remaining butter, 10.5 tablespoons (5.25 ounces, 150 grams) into an approximately 5 inch (about 13 cm) square block. Wrap in plastic foil and refrigerate.

Assembly
Cut a deep cross in the dough ball. Fold every corner out and roll the dough with a rolling pin to an approximately 8 inch (20 cm) square. Place the butter block diagonally on top of the dough. Fold every corner into the middle (without stretching), like folding an envelope. Pinch the seams together slightly.

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1st – 2nd fold
Turn the package up side down. Dust a little flour on both sides and roll it out carefully to approximately 12 inch (about 30 cm) square. Make a three fold (like folding a letter, see diagram). Flatten the fold slightly and fold a 2nd time the other way. Cover the dough and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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3rd – 4th fold
Roll the dough to approximately a 13 inch (33 cm) square. Make one 3 fold one way and another 3 fold the other way. Let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5th – 6th fold
Repeat as in 3rd – 4th fold.
Let the dough rest again for 30 minutes before using. If using it later, freeze in a well wrapped freezing bag, whole or in pieces with wax paper in between.

tips
* keep all ingredients cold
* don’t overwork the dough
* if your kitchen is very hot you will need to rest the dough in the fridge between every fold.
* if you feel that the dough starts to get too warm, refrigerate immediately
* before baking shaped pastries let them rest for 15 minutes on a cold baking sheet before baking them in the oven, it will keep the shape better

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suggested things to do with puff pastry

Caramelized Apple Tarte by Clotilde Dusoulier
Palmiers by London Eats
Peach Tarts with Goat Cheese & Honey by Some the Wiser
Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tarts) by My Dear Kitchen in Helsinki
Butternut Squash and Pecorino Tart by Karen Biton-Cohen @ The Kitchn
Almost a Pissalasiere by La Tartine Gourmande

 

Celebrating with Cardamom Buns

Today (October 4) is the kanelbullens dag (Cinnamon Bun Day) in Sweden. Swedes call these type of buns Vetebullar (wheat buns) which refers to the sweet yeast dough that can be baked plain or filled with different types of fillings such as cinnamon, almond paste, vanilla or cardamom. In my opinion, kardemummabullen (the cardamom bun) is the queen of Vetebullar and I think she (and the others) deserves to be celebrated on this day too.

Another good reason to bake these buns is that just a few days ago my book Fika turned 6 months old. The book is doing really well so I’m extra thrilled having some buns with you today.

To make it even more festive I have added some ground almonds to the cardamom filling. I also topping the buns with cardamom sugar, which made these buns super cardamom rich. If you want to minimize the sugar intake, you can top the buns with slivered almonds.

Happy bun day!

Kardemummabullar (Cardamom Buns)
Adapted from the recipe in the book Fika – The Art of Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

makes 30 buns

dough
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (360 milliliters) milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4½ cups (1 3/8 pounds, 638 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces, 50 grams) natural cane sugar
1½ teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed with mortar & pestle
¼ teaspoon salt

filling
½ cup (2½ ounces, 70 grams) blanched almonds
7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) natural cane sugar
4 teaspoons whole cardamom seeds, crushed with mortar & pestle

topping
cardamom sugar:
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cardamom powder.
or slivered almonds
1 egg, beaten

Prepare the dough: Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the milk. Heat until it’s warm to the touch (about 110°F/43°C). In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 3 tablespoons of the butter & milk mixture. Mix and let sit for a few minutes until bubbles form.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt. Add the yeast along with the remaining butter & milk. Work together with a dough whisk or with your hands until you can shape the dough into a ball. Transfer dough to your countertop and knead for about 3 – 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough should feel moist. If the dough feels sticky, add a little bit more flour. You can check if you are done kneading by making a slice into the dough with a sharp knife. If you see even small air bubbles throughout, you are done. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm and draft-free place until almost double in size, about 1 hour.

Grease a baking sheet or place medium paper liners on the sheet.

For the filling, grind the blanched almonds in a food processor together with the sugar until just slightly coarse. Add the butter in small portions at the time. Lastly, add the crushed cardamom. Mix until an even spreadable paste.


When the dough has finished rising, take half of the dough and place it on a flat surface. Roll it out with a rolling pin to an 11 x 17 inch (28 x 43 cm) rectangle. Spread half of the filling on top of the rolled-out dough so that it covers the whole area (see diagram). Grab one of the edge of one of the long sides, fold it over so it meets the other side (like folding a paper on the middle, see illustrated diagram above). Slice the folded dough into 15 equal stripes. Stretch & twist every stripe and swirl them up to a nice bun (see video). Place each of them on a the greased baking sheet or in a paper liner. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel and let rise for about 45 – 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 435°F (225°C).

When the buns have risen and you are ready to bake the buns, brush every bun with beaten egg and sprinkle each with cardamom sugar .

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with a tea towel to cool. Serve freshly baked or freeze when they are completely cooled.

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related links

 Kanelbullar (Cinnamon Buns) – kokblog recipe

• More bun shapes and a sneak peek into my kitchen over at Pantry Confidential

How to twist Cinnamon Buns by Brontë Aurell, ScandiKitchen café. Video by Ryland Peters & Small

• want more?  Check out –> Fika – The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. The cookbook is all illustrated by me, Johanna Kindvall and the recipes are created and developed together with Anna Brones. Published by Ten Speed Press. You can get the book here (see more shopping links in the left sidebar).

 

Red Gooseberry Jam with Thyme

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Every morning my husband walks out and pick handfuls of red & black currants, strawberries, raspberries or red gooseberries. He cooks the berries slightly into a sauce together with cardamon & cinnamon and serves it together with his oatmeal. Unfortunately I’m not a porridge girl so I just simply have it with some Swedish traditional filmjölk.

Gooseberries are one of our favorites. When really deep red and totally soft and ripe they taste a little like grapes. Last week I picked the ones we had left and made some jam.

Red Gooseberry Jam with Thyme

2 cups red gooseberries
a bunch of fresh thyme, cleaned and striped from branches
½ – ¾ cup (100 – 150 grams) natural cane sugar*

Clean the gooseberries and remove the top and tail. Place the gooseberries together with the sugar and thyme in a medium sized pan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until your desired thickness has been reached (between 15 – 30 minutes).

To check the consistency, take a spoonful of jam onto a chilled saucer, leave to cool for a minute or so before run your finger through it. It’s ready if the jam wrinkles up. If not, let it cook for another few minutes before testing again.

When ready, remove the jam from the heat and pour into a clean sterilized jar. Screw on the lid and turn the jar upside down to create a vacuum. Let cool completely.

Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to a month. If you want to store it longer, place the jam in the freezer.

The jam is nice on top of aged cheese and toast.

* I recommend to start with the lower amount and add more sugar if you want a sweeter jam.

Related recipes

Sofi’s Caramelized Rhubarb Jam
Pear Marmalade (and the boy who poisoned a whole scout camp)
Canning How To – Prepping & Sealing Jars – by Amy Pennington
Rosemary Flavored Plum Jam – by Ilva Beretta
Orange Blossom Jam – by Anissa Helou
Cherry compotê – by Rachel Alice Roddy

 

 

Fika: Cardamom Biscuits

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A couple of years ago I had the honor to have lunch with Russell at London Eats here in Brooklyn. It felt like we had known each other for years. Like me, he is very much into baking. And he does it pretty well. In December he has the wonderful tradition of baking 12 cakes and cookies, which he share on his blog. As Russell lived in Sweden for a while, you can also find some Scandinavian pastries on his site as well.

The other day I baked Cardamom Biscuits based on one of Russell’s recipes. But don’t confuse this kind of biscuit with a typical American biscuit. In UK a biscuit is a sweet or savory small cracker (or cookie) while in US a biscuit is like a small soft scone. In Sweden you call it kex.

The recipe is based on Russell’s recipe for Abernethy biscuits. Instead of using Caraway seeds, which is the tradition for this kind of biscuit, I used cardamom as the flavor. The result was fantastic. It really is a perfect snappy biscuit that works beautifully together with a strong cup of tea, coffee or a glass of milk.

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Cardamom Biscuits
(about  40)

Adapted from  Russell’s (London Eats’) Abernethy biscuits

240 grams (little more than 1 2/3 cup) all purpose flour + extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
85 grams (3 ounces) butter
85 grams (3 ounces, little more than 1/3 cup) caster sugar
2 teaspoons whole cardamom, crushed
one egg
one tablespoon milk

Mix together flour and baking powder in a bowl. With your fingertips rub in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal (a little like breadcrumbs as Russell describes it).  Mix in the sugar and the crushed cardamom.

Beat the egg in a small bowl and add it together with the milk to the flour mixture. Work the dough together with your hands until you can shape it into soft ball.  If the dough feel too sticky or too dry, add more flour or milk.  Wrap the ball in plastic wrap. Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (355ºF). Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

On a floured flat surface roll half the dough thinly (less than 1/2 cm thick, about 1/8 inch). Cut out rounds with a small glass. Place them on the prepared cookie sheet and make neat patterns with a wood skewer. Repeat until all dough is all used up.

Bake the biscuits for about 10 – 15 minutes. The should have a nice color. Watch them carefully so they don’t get too dark. You may need to turn the baking sheet once to get an even color.

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also check out my other fika related recipes here.