I looked down in my basket. Four small Wedgewood Avon cottage dessert bowls, in the deepest shade of blue. A white casserole with a thin blue border and ceramic cracked slightly enough to tell the wonderful story of dinners at an old pine table. An aluminium springform tin, with an opening mechanism I had never seen before; remind me to show you someday. The Phoenix glass sauce boat that I’ve been dreaming about.
Surely that’s enough finds for a day?, I thought. I was wrong.
[heading_right]Surely that’s enough finds for a day?,
I thought. I was wrong. [/heading_right]I ventured to the book section, the one by the far right corner of our local second-hand shop. There are mismatched chairs and thousands of vinyls under the table that stands at the centre of a labyrinth made of bookshelves that have certainly seen steadier days.
And right there, I found these three books. Pages of illustrations and notes about the Swedish wildlife. Pages thatI fell in love with and will soon thumb through. Pages I thought you might like too!
We stepped off the plane only to be wrapped by the intense heat. With miles of sea ahead of us and the mountain in our backs, it dawned on me: this is home. A home away from home perhaps, but I could feel it, one deep breath of warm air after another; sea mist, tarmac, and gasoline.
It had been over two years since our last trip to the south of France. Before we knew it, we’d fallen asleep to the sound of crickets through the shutters we’d left open, and woke up the next day to roosters crowing on the hill across our house.
Just like a good holiday morning should start, we had breakfast under the pergola at the back of the house. Coffee and spelt milk. Baguette with butter and a generous spoon of vibrant melon des Charentes [cantaloupe melon] jam that my grand-mère made (in 2013, according to the label).
Yes, of course, I couldn’t leave without a jar.
If you’re interested, you should know it’s perfectly safe to pack a little over ten jars of jams and pickled mushrooms into your suitcase. Here is how: wrap them with more layers of clingfilm than deemed acceptable, then place them into a zipped plastic bag, and roll them into the thickly knit sweaters you didn’t wear once on your holidays. Cross your fingers and open your suitcase as soon as you get home.
A few hours later.
We drove the car down narrow roads until we almost reached the bottom of the valley. And there stood a terraced field, dry from the sun, with at its top the fullest figuier [fig tree] I had ever seen.
As we walked towards it, the perfume from its leaves left little to wonder about how delectable the fruits would be.
A little over twenty minutes later.
Our skin itched from the sap. And our basket was heavy with plump small figs. Naturally we’d eaten a few as we picked them, and oh my!
Confiture de figues
There is always something magical about making jam, but fig jam has to be one of my favourites. I don’t know if it’s the slight crunch from the seeds, or the deep red colour. Perhaps, it’s just because I can’t eat fig jam without thinking about our childhood, when towards the end of the summer, we’d ride our bicycle to the nearest tree and pick as many figs as we could eat.
The recipe here is for 1kg of figs but don’t hesitate to multiply it according to how much fruit you have around. After we’d eaten a good two kilograms of figs and left another in a ceramic bowl by the sink, we had around 3kg left, which we turned into jam, making around 12 odd sized jars.
For the record, if making big batches, I tend to go for 4-5kg of fruits at a time as I’ve found that if using more, the jam, which will take longer to cook, won’t have such a vibrant colour and flavours due to some of the sugar caramelising.
As with every of my jam recipes, the sugar – granulated, as it contains less impurities, and thus creates less foam to skim – and water get cooked to 110°C before the fruits are added.
This step, which I see as fundamental, has one major impact on the jam cooking time, which makes it not only convenient, but also reduces the time during which the fruits are cooked, maintaining a fresh flavour.
A note on the citric acid: I like to use citric acid powder and not lemon juice, as I’ve found that it keep the fruits’ flavour more intact, however I used lemon juice this time around and was satisfied with the results, although I’ll keep on sticking to my citric acid for the future as it awakens the jam in a way lemon juice doesn’t.
No matter which one you go for, always add it at the end of the cooking process – off the heat.
Confiture de figues
Makes 4 to 6 jars
1 kg granulated sugar
300 g water
1 kg black figs, quartered 40 g lemon juice or 20 g citric acid diluted in 2 tbsp of cold water (read note above)
Sterilise jars by plunging them, along with their lids, in a pan of boiling water for approximately one minute. Then take them out and invert them onto a clean cloth. Allow to cool down, while you get on with the jam.
Place the sugar and water into a large pan. Bring to the boil and cook to 110°C. Add the figs and simmer over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring every now and then until the jam reaches 104°C.
Take off the heat and skim off any scum using a small laddle. Mix in the lemon juice, then using an immersion blender set on the lowest speed, blitz the jam to break off some of the figs.
Immediately pour into the prepared jars. Screw the lid on and allow the jars to cool down completely, upside-down. Store in a cool dry place.
I didn’t mean to be gone for so long; from the winter solstice to the summer one. Yes, now a few days shy of midsommar, half a year has gone.
Can we pretend that winter is barely over?
In many ways it is. At least for us in the North. Snow has creeped into our sky way into June, and it’s only been a couple of weeks since the birches’ foliage flourished into the lush mantle that now covers every forest. We celebrated the first summer rain a few days ago; and sometimes, I can’t help but wonder how something so mundane can cause such thrill, if it wasn’t for the fact that we almost skipped spring this year, or that our winters are most silent, with the world around us resonating in a felted echo.
I come to you today with a Swedish summer classic: kavring. A soft, slightly sweet bread, traditionally eaten over Midsommar with sill [pickled herring] or gravlax, and even for Easter and Christmas. Yes, in Sweden, the holiday table stays rather unchanged throughout the annual festivities, with only slight variations, like a stronger focus on meat (köttbullar [meat balls], game, julskinka [Christmas ham]) for Christmas, while Easter and Midsummer are all about herring.
I would love to delve into kavring‘s origin and history, but then I would probably have to wait for a year or two before I’d be able to share this recipe with you. One that I’ve worked on for the past few weeks as we changed the menu at the café.
A good starting point, however, is the etymology, which I find especially helpful when it comes to the Nordic countries, where different languages and cultures have inextricably intertwined over the past centuries.
From Svensk etymologisk ordbok, Elof Hellquist (1922)
In E. Hellquist’s 1922 Swedish etymology dictionary (Svensk etymologisk ordbok), the origin of the word kavring is a complex one, dating from the early 1500 with the Russian kovríga that became the Danish kavring, which the Swedes embraced with a minor orthographical variation until recent times: kafring.
“Kavring (in the southern Sweden folk dialect), a sort of twice-baked sourdough rye bread or an oven-dried loaf. Kafring, in early modern Swedish, dated from 1544, possibly originating from Norwegian, while the word kavring was first encountered in the early 16th century in the Danish language from the Russian kovríga, a round bread, literally ring or circle in old Russian.”
ー Svensk etymologisk ordbok, Elof Hellquist (1922)
The etymology tells us more than the origin of the word itself, it tells us the story of a bread that travelled through the Nordic countries. Originally a crisp rye bread (which it still is in Norway), kavring then morphed into the soft, sweet and fragrant loaf in the late 1800, mostly in southern Sweden according to Å. Campbell’s The Swedish bread (Det svenska brödet, 1950), a wonderful read that gives an insight into the cultural contrasts in pre-industrial Sweden through bread traditions in its regions.
While I’m not surprised to see two spellings that eventually became one, I find it interesting to note that the Norwegian-originated spelling kafring was used in Swedish as late as 1915, like in this issue of the Idun newspaper where “Folket stegade till drängstugan för att öppna sina byttor och korgar och förtära sin enkla måltid, surmjölk, kafring och smör.” The people hurried towards the workman’s hut to open their boxes and baskets before consuming their simple meal made of sour milk, kavring and butter.
While extremely easy to make, this recipe necessitates a few ingredients specific to the Nordic countries, namely: rågsikt [sifted rye], brödsirap [bread syrup], and filmjölk [sour milk].
However, I can only think that these can be substituted as follows.
Rågsikt is a blend of plain flour and sifted rye flour, usually 60% plain flour and 40% rye flour.
Brödsirap is a mix of 80% molasses and 20% malt syrup, with a little salt thrown in. The closest I could think of is to mix 40% golden syrup, 40% black treacle and 20% malt extract.
Back when I lived in London, my favourite malt extract came from Hollands and Barretts, a small jar with a mustard yellow label.
Filmjölk, a cultured milk that is usually eaten for breakfast or mellanmål [literally “a medium meal”, snacks], can be replaced by cultured buttermilk, kefir, or even a runny yoghurt, unsweetened of course.
I’ll write both recipes down, in case you live as close to the polar circle as we do. If you try the “Anglicised” recipe, please let me know how it turns out <3
For the spices I decided stayed close to the classic trio of fennel, caraway and anis, only leaving the anis out, although I've seen recipes that call for cloves, ground ginger and even bitter orange zest, so it would be interesting to experiment with different flavours. I'm thinking an orange and lingon limpa [loaf] would be wonderful on our Christmas table.
Also, my recipe makes two loaves, because trust me, you’ll want to have one on your counter and one well-wrapped in clingfilm in your fridge where it will keep for up to two weeks.
A few ways to eat kavring in the morning: butter and thinly sliced cheese (comté is a favourite). Butter and a seven-minute boiled egg. Butter and orange marmalade. Butter. You get it!
Makes 2 loaves
Kavring with Swedish ingredients 25 g fennel seeds
25 g caraway seeds
500 g rågsikt
360 g plain flour
20 g bicarbonate soda
20 g salt
275 g brödsirap
1200 g filmjölk
coarse rye flour, to sprinkle
Kavring with English ingredients 25 g fennel seeds
25 g caraway seeds
660 g plain flour
200 g rye flour
20 g bicarbonate soda
24 g salt
110 g treacle
110 g golden syrup
55 g malt extract
1200 g filmjölk subsitute (read more above)
coarse rye flour, to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C. Butter and line two 1.5L loaf tins with baking paper.
Crush the seeds in a mortar and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, crushed seeds, bicarbonate and salt. Whisk together to combine. In another bowl, mix the syrup(s) and filmjölk; pour over the flour mixture and mix using a silicon spatula until barely smooth.
Divide between the two prepared tins and generously sprinkle with coarse rye flour.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1h30, at which point the core temperature of the loaf should read 96-98°C.
Allow to cool down in its tin for 10 minutes, then unmould onto a rack and leave to cool down completely to room temperature. Wrap in clingfilm.
The loaves will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for a month or two, although the latter tends to make the crumb slightly drier.
I’m writing this on the first day of winter as defined by the astronomical calendar. In my heart, though, winter started early morning, on the second of November. That day, we walked through the old town; snow on the ground, snow twirling down, snow on the roofs. We were completely alone and really, I couldn’t not believe the beauty before my eyes.
Today, a little under two month later, days have stopped getting shorter and on Sunday, we’ll be sitting at the foot of our Christmas tree, opening the presents we wrapped a few days ago in brown paper and red ribbons.
There is a gorgeous wicker basket too. One that came all the way from London, not unlike the best care package I’ve ever gotten.
[heading_right]And mostly, there is something so wonderful and comforting about the thought of opening it on Christmas morning to the sound of wrapping paper and Christmas carols.[/heading_right]
Yes, we were lucky enough to receive a beautiful hamper from Harrods. The one we chose was made in collaboration with Cartwright & Butler, which products I’ve always loved both for their inspired packaging and deliciously old-fashioned recipes.
It was the first time I ever got a Christmas hamper. And really, after peeking through this one with my eyes full of stars, I intend on making it a new tradition in our home. Very much like a Christmas concentrate, this hamper feels like the only thing we need for the perfect Christmas day along with the people we love. There is coffee and tea, and even hot chocolate pearls. Biscuits and cakes, and more preserves than you can count on your fingers. And mostly, there is something so wonderful and comforting about the thought of opening it on Christmas morning to the sound of wrapping paper and Christmas carols.
We’d make a pot of coffee and eat a slice of fruit cake for breakfast, with the innocence of two children who like to play make-believe. Perhaps we’d fall asleep, lulled by the soft sound of snow against our windows. And when we’d wake up, it would already be dark outside, and our vintage baubles would twinkle under the tree’s blinking lights.
We’d open the fridge to a bottle of Champagne, a block of Västerbottensost [Västerbotten cheese], crème fraiche and löjrom [Kalix roe]. And before we’d know it, we’d have the most glorious dinner: cheese on tomato thins with a dollop of chilli chutney, marmalade on toast (because, really, is there anything better than breakfast for dinner?), cheese wafers topped with crème fraiche and roe, and of course, one too many chocolate oat crumble. And maybe even a caramel waffle or two.
Yes, it all sounds like a dream, but unlike many others, this one will get true; in the way only shooting star wishes do. A dream I am resolved to have on repeat for the Christmases to come.
You’ll find a detailed description of the hamper we chose here, although I do believe it is now out of stock. And more Harrods Christmas hampers here.
I wish you all the warmest Christmas. Lots of love, Fanny.
Disclaimer: This hamper was offered to me by Harrods for review; I was not compensated in any other way nor asked to write this post. I chose to tell you about it on my blog because I genuinely fell in love with it and would happily recommend it to friends.
Traditionally eaten for Santa Lucia on the thirteenth of December, lussekatter – also called lussebullar – have a nebulous history. One that’s laced with Christianity and paganism, German and viking heritage.
In fact, even the origin of the Lucia celebrations is quite elusive.
[heading_right]Lussi, an evil figure roamed the land along with her lussiferda, a horde of trolls and goblins.[/heading_right]
Lussinatta once coincided with the Winter solstice back in the 1300s when Europe still used the Julian calendar. During that night, the longest of the year, it was said that animals could talk and supernatural events could occur; Lussi, an evil figure (that holds many similarities with the german Perchta or the italian Befana) roamed the land along with her lussiferda, a horde of trolls and goblins, punishing naughty children and casting dark magic. People, forced to remain secluded, would eat and drink in an attempt to fight the darkness.
And as the years went by in the pre-Christian Norden, farmers started to celebrate the return of the light and the tradition of a goddess of lights took roots in the pagan folklore.
It was also the start of festivities of some kind – not to say Christmas, although it is believed that both Christian and heathen traditions started to blend from the 1100s . In fact the very origins of the word jul [Christmas] are blurry, with one occurrence dating back to Harald Hårfager who might have said: “Dricka jul!” [drink Christmas!].
During these celebrations, pig would get slaughtered, both for the gods and for the feast.
The tradition of a feast and offerings is documented in Erland Hofsten’s unpublished manuscript Beskrifning öfwer Wermeland, dating from the early 1700s. And although no further narrative is given, Hofsten believed in a pagan provenance.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first printed description comes a few decades later in 1773 through Erik Fernows’ Beskrifning öfwer Wärmeland: “Man skall den dagen wara uppe at äta bittida om ottan, hos somlige tör ock et litet rus slinka med på köpet. Sedan lägger man sig at sofwa, och därpå ätes ny frukost. Hos Bönderne kallas detta ‘äta Lussebete’, men hos de förnämare ‘fira Luciäottan’.” And now if you please excuse my poor translation/paraphrase (Swedish is hard enough without having to deal with old Swedish): On that day, we should be up early (otta is an old Swedish word akin to night, but really means the time of the day when the night becomes the morning, around 4-5am) to eat, and for some, a shot of snaps would go down. Then we’d lay on the sofa and would later eat another breakfast. Amongst the farmers this would be known as to “eat Lussi’s bait”, but for the more affluents it was called a “Lucia morning celebration”.
One that spread from Värmland to Västergotland where C. Fr. Nyman encountered the custom for the first time, as described in his unpublished 1764 manuscript: “Rätt som jag låg i min bästa sömn, hördes en Vocalmusique utan för min dörr, hvaraf jag väcktes. Strax derpå inträdde först ett hvit-klädt fruntimmer med gördel om lifvet, liksom en vinge på hvardera axeln, stora itända ljus i hwar sin stora silfversljusstake, som sattes på bordet, och strax derpå kom en annan med ett litet dukadt bord, försedt med allehanda kräseliga, äteliga och våtvaror, som nedsattes mitt för sängarna… det är Lussebete .” That morning he was awaken by songs coming from outside his door. He then proceeded to meet a white-clad lady wearing wings and holding a large silver candlestick, which she placed on the table. And soon after another lady came in carrying a small table lined with cloth and full of food and drinks, which she laid in between the beds. In his story, C. Fr. Nyman, calls it Lussi’s bait, reinforcing not only the heathen terms of the celebration, but also hinting about the origin of the lussekatter.
It is noted in Nordisk familjebok 1912 that it was common to bake a peculiar bread shaped as a L and called “dövelskatt” [the devil’s tax] in south-western Sweden: “I sydvästra Sverige bakas till L. ett särskildt kultbröd, kalladt ‘dövelskatt'”.
And with different spellings like the Dutch duyvelskat, or the more common Lussebette, it’s hard not to think how the word we all thought meant Lucia’s cats was actually intended to be an offering to Lussi in exchange for her mercy. Or as it’s described in this interview of Anna Freij that the buns were tinted bright yellow with saffron to scare the devil away.
With the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, Lucia no longer coincided with the winter solstice, but the customs of December 13th being the longest night of the year remained strong in the farming community throughout the centuries and up to the 1700s.
And it’s suspected that as Christianity grew in the north, the church tried to associate the pagan tradition with Santa Lucia, mostly based on phonetics and etymology (latin lux: light).
And just like that, the customs of eating saffron bread, something that was once reserved to the higher classes of southern Sweden, started to spread amongst rural Sweden, where wheat buns would be brushed with a saffron-infused syrup; with each province having their own distinctive shaped bun.
I hope that what was intended to be “just a recipe” five or so hours ago, brought some insight into this wonderful tradition, which like many others is a complex maze of cultural and historical layers tangled into each-other like morning hair.
Lussekatter Come early November, every supermarket launches their annual production of lussekatter, which I suspect are loved by many.
As soon as you step in, the sweet scent of saffron gives away the trolleyful of golden buns waiting to be wrapped in small plastic bags. I have never tasted one from the shop, but from what I’m told they tend to be on the dry side.
My lussekatter, although certainly not authentic as their supermarket counterpart, are a dream to work with, to eat warm from the oven, or toasted the next day, to soak in an egg whisked with a dash of cream, milk, and sugar, and then pan-fried until golden, not unlike a French Swedish-toast.
The recipe itself is a simple enriched dough that some would be tempted to call a pain au lait [milk bread]. As with any rich dough, I recommend using a stand-mixer, althought it’s definitely possible to make them by hand, simply follow the instructions given on that post.
A note on the saffron:
If you don’t have any ground saffron, simply bring the milk to the boil and soak/infuse the saffron threads in it for at least 30 minutes. You will have to wait for the milk to be completely cooled down before using in the recipe.
Edit 13/12/2018: Nowadays, I always tend to dissolve the saffron in a tablespoon or so of rum. I find it brings out the flavour even more!
Makes around 20 buns.
For the raisins
a handful of raisins
For the dough
250 g unsalted butter
600 g strong flour
75 g caster sugar
18 g fresh yeast
0.5 g (one envelope) ground saffron (read note above)
7.5 g sea salt
375 g whole milk
Soak the raisins in boiling water and set aside to cool down. This can be done up to three days ahead, in which case, keep the soaked raisins in the fridge.
Slice the butter into thin 2-3mm thick slices. Set aside until needed.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the dough-hook, place the flour, sugar, yeast, saffron and salt. Add the milk and mix on medium speed for around 10 minutes or until the dough detaches from the sides of the bowl and feels smooth, elastic and barely tacky. If you take a small piece of dough, you should be able to stretch it into a very thin membrane.
Add the butter, one small piece at a time continuously until all the butter is in – and knead it in for a further 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a large bowl, and clingfilm to the touch. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 12.
Line three baking trays with paper and set aside.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in 50-55g pieces and cover loosely with clingfilm.
Take one piece and roll into a thin snake, approximately 30cm long, then form an S shape, curling both ends into a spiral. Place onto the prepared baking trays, making sure to give the buns plenty of space. And repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover with clingfilm and leave to proof until doubled in size, around 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 20°C/fan 180°C.
Brush the top of the buns with the egg wash and press two raisins into each bun.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden-brown. Allow to cool down slightly.
This Swedish pepparkakor recipe isn’t one that comes with many traditions. It was in fact created on the very first weekend of advent earlier this month after days of formula research and calculations.
We had just brought upstairs two cardboard boxes labelled hastily JUL 2015 [Christmas 2015] from our förråd [storage] and there were candles lighting our house to the most beautiful shade of gold; the sharp and intense smell of resin diffusing through every room, like a morning promenade through the forest.
I had just unpacked a small pink plastic basket, filled to the rim with pepparkaksformar [cookie cutters] that I’d found last summer at a garage sale at one of the houses we’d cycle by every morning.
After a quick run under warm soapy water, I left them to dry over my favourite torchon [kitchen cloth], the light grey one with nid d’abeilles [honeycomb] fabric.
Later that night, we used them to cut through the dough we’d made the night before. And as I pressed each and everyone of them through the softly spiced pepparkaksdeg, I couldn’t help but think about the many Christmases these cutters had known. And just like that, a tradition-less recipe actually perpetuated one that I suspect lasted many decades and created a new tradition for us to hold over the coming years.
Here is to the next first of advent!
I chose to make the lighter kind* of pepparkakor, one of many really. In some houses, the dough calls for whipping cream or baking powder. Muscovado sugar and treacle syrup. A pinch of cinnamon and a fat tablespoon of ground ginger.
That day, I made the pepparkakor that I’d knew I’d love. Light and crisp with just enough bite to hold well when dipped in a cup of coffee – something I can only warmly recommend.
I might try, next time I make a batch, to replace the caster sugar with light muscovado sugar or even brun farinsocker, a sugar that we have here in Sweden, and which is almost halfway between dark and light muscovado sugars; if you choose that road, you could most definitely substitute the caster sugar in the recipe below with 125 g dark muscovado and 100 g light muscovado.
I will also perhaps replace the golden syrup for chestnut honey, as a reminiscence of my childhood pain d’épices (which I also need to tell you about).
* Nowhere as light as they appear to be in the pictures I took here. Yes, I am still in dire need of figuring out this whole winter lighting thing.
Makes around 100 small biscuits.
75 g water
105 g golden syrup
225 g caster sugar (read note above)
175 g unsalted butter
1 heaped tbsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp ground cloves
480 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
Bring the water, syrup, and sugar to the boil in a small pan. Off the heat, add the butter and spices, and allow to cool down to around 30-35°C.
In a bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate and salt.
When the syrup has cooled down enough, slowly pour over the flour, and mix with a silicone spatula until a loose dough comes together.
Place the dough onto a large piece of clingfilm, and flatten it into a square using the palm of your hand. Cover tightly with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to a month.
When you’re ready to bake your pepparkakor, take out your dough from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C.
On a slighty floured surface, roll the dough to 3-4mm thick and cut out into the desired shapes. If you wish to hang your pepparkakor, make sure to cut a small hole before baking them.
Arrange them onto baking trays lined with baking paper, and do not to mix the larger biscuits with the small ones as they won’t bake evenly.
Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the pepparkakor, or until the edges start to turn golden brown.
When cooled down, decorate with royal icing if you wish, and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
More Christmas adventures in the north of Sweden on Instagram: #fannysjul <3
[heading_right]Saffran, pepparkakor, lingon och mandel.[/heading_right]
If you sat on the windowsill, here with me – yes, right now – you’d see many things around us. The stars and advent candles, fluttering in every house. The snow, covering roofs till the horizon and further.
In my kitchen – and I suspect many others – saffran, pepparkakor, lingon och mandel [saffron, gingerbread, lingon berries and almonds] pervade the air in the way only they can. And we’d watch bullar rise under the yellow glow of the oven lamp, spitting butter and oozing with marzipan just so.
Yes, it’s time to start baking with saffron, although I might have possibly started a couple of weeks ago.
And if you’d ever ask me, I’d possibly urge you to start too; most likely with my absolute favourite buns: saffransbullar med mandelmassa.
We have stars glowing by our windows. And snow when we look over the roofs of Skellefteå.
We have a batch of saffron, almond and orange biscotti in the oven. And one of pepparkaksdeg [gingerbread biscuit dough] in the making: there is cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves infusing in water, along with butter too of course! And soon the dough will come together.
We have two cups of glögg on the table. With almonds and raisins just so.
Yes, a little earlier today, I unwrapped each of the wonderful little cups that I had excessively wrapped in newspaper a few months ago after we had found them at a loppis [garage sale] in Dalarna over the summer.
I remember that day; still early in the morning, we stumbled across the largest collection of Duralex tableware outside of my grand-mère’s house. It was at the small green house that stands on Orsa’s centre square, where we’d ventured on the promise of a gammaldagsmarknad [olden day market]. Of the excursion, these cups and many others are the only things that followed us; like a reminder of a past I find myself recollecting more and more often. And just like the ones I grew up with, I now hope to grow older with them too.
Everytime I come around here, a whole season has gone by.
There was summer and its endless hours in the kitchen that I now call home. But before we knew it, the time for semester [holidays] came. And went.
Two weeks in our stuga [cabin] in the middle of the woods; and I still stand by my words when I say Åsen is my dream place. A dream that – this time – we shared with my family who traveled the three-thousand kilometres between us.
We picked blåbär [blueberries] and lingon; and my father – who’d never been this up north ever before – spent a day teaching me where to find mushrooms in the Swedish forests, reminiscing the mornings we’d busied up in the lower Alps more than twenty years ago now. We picked mostly giroles, but also ceps and chanterelles, although it was still a little early in the season for the latter.
We visited the small factory where the dalahäst we cherish so much are made, a short twenty minute drive from the stuga, in the heart of Dalarna. My mother bought more horses that she could – literally – handle; and the picture I took on my phone will always be a favourite memory of mine.
We baked traditional Swedish snittar and drömmar [biscuits] that now also have a strong following in a little house of the south of France.
Then came the golden days – that I must admit, I almost wrote as “goldays”, perhaps I am onto something – of autumn.
Long walks by the river to the sound of the wind through birch branches so tall it makes you dizzy. And no matter what, I will always be in love with the peculiar colour of a sun setting through these trees that are now a part of my universe.
There is the smell of rain. And dead leaves too. And of pumpkin roasting in the oven, just so. There is the first frost, which I had predicted to the day. Yes, to the day! And the rönnbär [Rowan berries] we picked and candied; a jar that will probably be forgotten at the back of the fridge for another few weeks before it makes an appearance on our table.
And rather unexpectedly, there was winter too.
The day after we’d moved to our new flat. The view of Skellefteå rooftops from our bed; one minute black as coal, the next covered in a thick mantle of snow. A snow that lasted for a week, even though back then, we did not know that just yet.
The following Sunday, we pulled the suspenders of our warm overalls up and wrapped ourselves in wool. A morning in the snow, and an afternoon by the kitchen stove. And somewhere in the middle, kladdkaka and wine were involved.
My Swedish kladdkaka recipe This is not a recipe I had planned to share with you, although it’s one that followed us through the seasons.
Served with barely whipped cream and freshly picked berries in the summer; roasted pears and vanilla ice-cream in the autumn, and now made in a cardboard box kitchen as we were unpacking the things we love enough to have taken along on the ride that took us here to the north of Sweden.
Yes, this kladdkaka recipe is just that. An everyday wonder; whipped up in less then ten minutes, it can be as fancy or as casual as you want it to be.
And today, I thought I’d test the halogen builders site light Kalle bought last year for me to be able to take pictures through our long winter. And that perhaps, you’d appreciate to have your Sunday fika sorted out for the weekend ahead.
In case you still have your doubts, you should know Sam’s – 3 year-old – stance on the subject: “De är jättekladdiga!” [They are very sticky*].
* A good thing since kladdkaka literally means “sticky cake”, although I have a feeling chewy would be more of an appropriate translation.
My Swedish kladdkaka recipe
Makes one 22cm cake, serving 8-10.
125 g unsalted butter
250 g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
90 g plain flour
40 g cocoa powder
5 g sea salt
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Butter and line a 22cm tin with baking paper.
Melt the butter in a pan set over medium heat.
Off the heat, add the sugars and allow the mixture to cool down slightly for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt, and mix until just smooth.
Pour the batter in the prepared tin, and bake for 25 minutes, or until domed and cracked on top. Allow to cool down completely before serving.
We went for a walk today. And for once, I remembered to take my camera along. Our official purpose was to pick rönnbär [rowan berries], but really, I just wanted to wrap myself in a golden hour that comes everyday a bit sooner.
We walked by the river. And crossed the dam that seems more of a waterfall at the moment, as water gets released before the snow comes.
Every step we took over the bridge left traces in the frost. The first that lasts until the afternoon; only in the shadow of course, but still enough to warm my heart for a winter that I’ve longed after for weeks now.
Yes, winter, you may come now.
When we came home, coffee was promptly made and we picked through our small harvest. I have rönnbärsgele [rowan berry jelly] and syltade rönnbär [confit rowan berries] in mind, so hopefully I’ll share these with you soon.
I’ve been thinking about this cake ever since my mum emailed me earlier this week, asking for a good recipe for cake aux fruits confits.
Growing up, cake aux fruits confits was always the last one left on a birthday dessert table. Slices of dry cake, studded with always too little candied cherries, of the bright-red kind, which if you’d asked me twenty years ago were the best part about this loaf cake.
Of course, my dad who’s always been fond of the store-bought kind (same goes for madeleines, go figure!), would heavily disagree. But to be completely honest, as I read my mum’s email, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that good and cake aux fruits confits don’t really go hand in hand. A thought that I’d soon learn how to let go.
As any new recipe I work on, I make a mental list of the things I want and do not want in the finished product.
Here I was trying to go as far away as possible from the fruit cakes I used to make when I first moved to London. Rich with dark brown sugar, many raisins and manier currants, and loaded with so much candied fruits you’d wonder where the cake batter had gone.
What I wanted was a moist sponge with a slightly dense crumb and deeper flavours, studded with plump raisins and delicate candied fruits. A light-golden crust, made soft with ground almonds on the batter and a generous wash of tea-infused sugar syrup on the warm loaf.
I made the cake this morning, as water was boiling for the first of many French-press-fuls of coffee. And I liked it so much that I thought you might too. Et pour toi aussi Maman <3
I had to leave out the candied fruits, because I didn’t have any at home, and really, I’m pretty certain that the Swedes are wise enough to leave them out from their supermarkets’ shelves; yes, I truly think I haven’t spotted any since we moved here, not that I’ve been restlessly looking for fruits confits.
It made for a wonderful almond and raisin tea cake, but if you’re after a cake aux fruits confits, you could most definitely replace some of the raisins with candied fruits, as noted in the recipe below.
Almond and raisin tea cake
Makes one loaf
100 g raisins
1 Breakfast tea bag
125 g butter, soft
70 g light brown sugar
50 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
100 g plain flour
80 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
120 g raisins or candied fruits (see note above)
A hour before staring, soak the raisins in boiling water – enough to cover them completely. Add the tea bag and set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (for a fan-assisted oven). Butter and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Drain the raisins, pressing well to get rid of any excess liquid, and making sure to save the soaking liquid, which we’ll later use to make a syrup to brush the warm loaf with.
Cream the butter and sugars for 5-6 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another bowl, mix the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and raisins (or candied fruits, if using).
Pour over the butter mixture and fold gently using a wooden spoon or spatula, until smooth. Finally fold in the soaked raisins and pour the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C, then reduce the temperature to 160°C and bake for a further 30-35 minutes, or until the sponge feels springy to the touch.
In the meantime, weigh out 100 g of the soaking syrup into a small pan and add 70 g of caster sugar. Bring to the boil. When the cake is baked, immediately brush the syrup on top of the warm loaf.
Allow to cool down completely and unmould.
This cake will keep for days at room temperature,well-wrapped in clingfilm.
Cake aux raisins ou Cake aux fruits confits
Pour un cake
100 g raisins secs
1 sachet de thé anglais
125 g beurre, mou
70 g vergeoise blonde
50 g sucre
1 càc sucre vanillé
100 g farine T55
80 g amandes en poudre
1 càc levure chimique
120 g raisins secs ou fruits confits
Un heure avant de commencer, placer les raisins secs dans un bol supportant la chaleur et verser de l’eau bouillante pour les recouvrir. Ajouter le sachet de thé et laisser infuser pendant 1 heure.
Préchauffer le four à 180°C (pour un four ventilé). Beurrer un moule à cake et le recouvrir de papier cuisson.
Egoutter les raisins en prenant soin de bien les presser afin d’extraire un maximum d’eau. Réserver l’eau de trempage qui servira par la suite à imbiber le cake.
Battre le beurre avec les sucres pendant 5-6 minutes. Ajouter les oeufs, un à un, en battant environ une minute après chaque oeuf.
Dans un bol, mélanger la farine, poudre d’amandes, levure chimique et fruits confits (ou la seconde pesée de raisins secs pour un cake aux raisins). Verser sur le beurre et incorporer la farine à l’appareil en utilisant une cuillère ou spatule jusqu’à obtention d’une pâte bien lisse.
Finalement, ajouter les raisins secs préalablement égouttés et mélanger brièvement.
Verser l’appareil dans le moule à cake beurré.
Cuire 10 minutes, puis abaisser la température à 160°C et poursuivre la cuisson pendant environ 30-35 minutes.
Pendant ce temps, verser 100 g du liquide de trempage des raisins dans une petite casserole et ajouter 70 g de sucre. Porter à ébullition et réserver.
Une fois cuit, imbiber le cake encore chaud à l’aide d’un pinceau. Laisser refroidir complètement, puis démouler.
Ce cake se conserve très bien à température ambiante, enveloppé dans du papier film.
Let me tell you the story of yesterday. Or rather, of yesterday afternoon.
We stopped at the gas station. Two French hot-dogs and bad cups of coffee later we turned right on the old road towards Kusmark. It had only been a couple of weeks since our last trip and yet, the never-ending sun turned the fields into a thousand shades of green. There is the blue-green of the conifers, and the vibrant tarnished-gold of sunrays through the birch leaves.
A wonderful forest made of apple trees and lilac, bursting and blooming, not unlike a kaleidoscope.
And just like the road, Svante’s garden had become a wonderful forest made of apple trees and lilac, bursting and blooming, not unlike a kaleidoscope.
I took my shoes off as I stepped out from the car and ran to the rhubarb plants, wondering how big they would have grown.
And if it’s anything to go by I’d say that it must have been much warmer this year than last, as they reached a good twenty centimeter above my head.
We picked and trimmed. And picked again.
Two bushes gave us a little over twenty kilograms, perhaps even thirty. All while we left the last plant – the one by the mountain of chopped wood, drying for the winter – mostly untouched.
This is the aftermath. A beautiful mess, of some sort. The bigger-than-I’d-ever-seen leaves went into the compost, and the stalks – at times green, at times red – were washed under ice-cold water, and stuffed into plastic bags.
There is something about it that I can’t quite pinpoint. Most likely one of these cliché childhood memories of my grand-parents potager [vegetable patch] in Fouras.
And just like a forever-carousel of happy recollections, neatly-arranged jars of confiture de rhubarbe [rhubarb jam] and silent wishes, here is my not-so-official June* rhubarb list.
1.Dipping peeled rhubarb stalks in sugar, just like K. told me about a few years ago, on one of the many summer nights we spend on the south bank. 2. Cooking rababersaft [rhubarb cordial], which everyone here freezes in small water bottles to bring a bit of summer throughout the winter days. 3. Maybe, making a batch of rabarberbullar [rhubarb buns]. 4. And an upside-down rhubarb cake. 5. I’ve been looking forward to trying Tartine bakery’s galette dough; and really, I think a rhubarb galette needs to happen. 6. Baking my favourite cake: a soft vanilla sponge with bits of chopped rhubarb and a swirl of rhubarb jam, little pockets of cheesecake and a heavy handful of streusel sprinkled over its top. 7. Of course, rhubarb jam. Not a year should go without. 8. I’ve been dreaming of creating a simple ice-cream recipe – with no special sugars (hejdå dextrose and atomised glucose) and no stabilisers (with perhaps, cornflour or gelatin as a thickener). And given the state of my fridge-turned-rhubarb-storage, I might have to start with rhubarb creamsicle ice-cream. TBC. 9. Thick sliced of brioches, French-toasted just so, with a generous spoonful of rhubarb compote. 10.What’s your favourite rhubarb recipe? How do you deal with your bountiful plants?
* June because living in the north of Sweden means just that: rhubarb in June. Enough said 🙂