Friday, December 26, 2008

Finnish Biscuit

Known as Pulla, Cardamom Bread or Finnish Biscuit - it's always rich and tasty with coffee.  My grandmother always bought it from a woman who made it in her home. Makinen, Minnesota is like that - everyone shares their talent, whether it is making Finnish Biscuit or sharing your table for coffee. 

Since Finnish heritage is so important to my grandparents, I wanted to try making my own Finnish Biscuit. I tested 3 different toppings - and found the simplest was my favorite. Below is the recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas's "The Finnish Cookbook."

1 pkg yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to room temp
1 cup (or less) sugar
1 tsp salt
7-8 cardamom pods seeded (1 tsp ground)
4 eggs beaten 
8-9 cups flour
1/2 cup melted butter

Dissolve the yeast in water. Add milk, sugar, salt cardamon, and enough flour to make a batter (2-3 cups).  Beat the dough until smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of flour and beat well. Add the butter. The dough should be smooth and glossy. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough.  

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and let rest for 15 minutes. Then knead until smooth and satiny.  Place in a lightly greased bowl and set in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 1 hour.)  Punch down dough, and let rise again until not quite doubled (about 3o minutes). 

Turn out dough unto a floured surface and divide into 3 parts (this is where a kitchen scale comes in handy!)  Divide each part into 3 more - and roll each piece into long rolls. The strands should match each other in length. Braid three strands together - pinching the ends at the beginning and end to keep in place. Place braids onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet and let rest for about 20 minutes. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake in hot oven (400 degrees) for 25-30 minutes.

Don't overbake - it will dry out the loaves! 
Loaf #1: raw sugar (large crystals) sprinkled on after egg wash, before baking.
Loaf #2: egg wash only (personaly favorite)
Loaf #3: egg wash, then brushed with coffee after baking and sprinkled with bakers sugar. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Auntie Linda's Date Krispie Balls

They only come out at Christmas time- and they always elicit requests for the recipe. They are pretty forgiving - but do require quick hands and constant attention during the cooking of the date mixture. So - set aside a little time and pull in the troops to help you roll the finished product. This is one recipe you'll want to keep.

Auntie Linda's Date Krispie Balls
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups sugar (can mix in some brown sugar with the white)
1 lb dates (chopped)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
6 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
topping: crushed walnuts, sweetened coconut, pwd sugar

Melt and allow to cool: 1 cup butter
Beat well: 2 eggs, add 2 cups sugar and 1 lb dates
Add this to the cooled butter and cook mixture over medium heat for 15-20 minutes unitl it thickens. Stir constantly. Mixture will turn amber when getting close to finished.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla and salt.
IN a large bowl combine 6 cups Rice Krispies/nuts and mix well. Allow to cool for 5 minutes (or less if you can handle it). Grease hands and roll into balls (or use a small scoop if you have it.) Size of walnuts. Roll balls in topping. Place on parchment paper to cool.

Makes 6-7 doz. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Butter Sandwich Cookies

This last weekend was the perfect time to start the cookie baking! I spent Sunday afternoon with my mother-in-law - she is a pro at sugar cookies with detailed decorations. I made my favorite: Butter Jam Sandwich Cookies. The only sad part is that you are essentially using 2 cookies to make one. So, make sure you roll these really thin - and watch the baking time. If you are able to get them thin enough, your baking time can be as short as 6 minutes. It's not a bad idea to have a test run with only a few cookies on the sheet. Also, I didn't take the time to rechill the dough everytime - and it was OK. If these were the only cookies on a plate - I'd take the time. However, they are going to be on a plate with about 10 other varieties - and they will still hold their own!

Sarah’s Butter Sandwich Cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Parchment Paper
Assorted decorations (such as powdered sugar, icing, colored sugar crystals, and edible glitter)2/3 cup preserves (such as apricot, seedless raspberry, or seedless blackberry)

Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl to blend well. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in milk, lemon peel, and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and beat until blended. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let soften slightly before rolling out.)

Roll out each dough disk between sheets of parchment (or waxed) paper to 14x11-inch rectangle, occasionally lifting parchment paper to smooth out wrinkles. Refrigerate dough on baking sheets, still between sheets of parchment paper, until cold and firm, about 30 minutes. Place 1 dough piece on work surface. Peel off top sheet of parchment paper. Press same parchment paper gently back onto dough. Turn dough over (still between parchment paper sheets). Peel off top sheet of parchment paper and discard.

Using 2 1/4-inch scalloped round cutter and with dough still on parchment paper bottom, cut out cookies. Using 1- to 1 1/4-inch scalloped round cutter, cut out center from half of cookies. Gather dough centers and excess dough around cutouts; shape excess dough into disk and chill. Slide parchment paper with cutouts onto baking sheet and chill. Repeat with remaining dough disk, cutting out rounds, cutting centers from half of rounds to make top rings, and gathering and chilling excess dough. Roll out excess dough between sheets of parchment paper, making more cookie bottoms and top rings. Repeat rolling and cutting until all of dough is used.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using metal spatula to lift cutouts from waxed paper, transfer cookie bottoms to 1 prepared sheet and top rings to second sheet, spacing slightly apart (cookies spread very little). Sprinkle some top rings with colored sugar crystals (or leave plain to decorate later). Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until pale golden, about 8 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks; cool completely.

Arrange cookie bottoms on work surface. Spread each with 1 teaspoon preserves. Sift powdered sugar over plain cookie rings or decorate with icing and sugar crystals or edible glitter as desired. Press 1 top ring onto each prepared cookie bottom. (Cookies can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of parchment paper in refrigerator.)