Goddess of Cake

Climate Change Wonderings

This weekend I did some catering for Ilmasto.org, which is a Finnish website about climate change. It is a great source of information on different aspects of the catastrophic change that will soon be part of everyone’s life (yes, I mean you too!). In English you can find reliable information at IPCC or at Hadley Centre, which is the leading British research center for climate change.

Food is also one factor in climate change. A recent study by World Watch Institute shows that the methane emissions of livestock might actually present a half of all the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the human civilization (carbon dioxide is basically the cause for climate change, though I assume everyone knows this by now!). This means that transition to a vegan diet might actually be an even faster way to cut down the emissions than moving to non – fossil fuels. There is a certain hope with these results though: starting to eat a vegetable based diet would actually be a fairly easy thing to do to prevent climate change, and something we could do as individuals. If we just did it!

So if I’m cooking for a climate change – related project, of course I would like my food be as low – carb (meaning carbon dioxide, not carbohydrates) as possible. But when I go to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, how could I possible remember all the complicated information that I’ve heard? I really wish there was an obligatory certification system of food that would somehow tell you how climate friendly the things that you’re about to buy really are. I know vegan is always better than meat or dairy, but there are so many things to take into account: Is is better to buy frozen berries that are locally grown instead of Spanish seasonal fruit? I know tomatoes grown in Finnish hothouses have a heavy ecological backpack, but how do they compare to tomatoes grown in the Netherlands? How can I be certain that the soy products that I buy haven’t been grown in ex- rainforest?

Well, finally I didn’t go for totally local options with the food that I made, but vegan it was anyhow. I made a tofu – mushroom quiche and some raw food desserts, which is something I’ve wanted to explore a long time.

Tofu – Mushroom Quiche

The Crust

125 g vegetable margarine or oil

4,5 dl graham flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 dl cold water

The Filling:

1,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl oat cream

2 tsp egg replacer

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp marjoram

a pinch of black pepper

1/3 of a red onion, thinly sliced

100 g smoked firm tofu, cut into cubes

10 champion mushrooms, sliced

a few cherry tomatoes

a few basil leaves

olive oil

I made the crust by kneading the margarine and the flour into a crumbly mixture, and then added water. Then I patted the crust into pie dish.

For the filling I mixed the soy yogurt, oat cream and egg replacer, and seasoned the mixture with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and marjoram. Then I poured it on the crust, and added the sliced onion, mushrooms, tofu, cherry tomatoes and finally the basil leaves. Then I drizzled the whole thing with olive oil. I baked the quiche in the oven in 200ºC about 40 minutes.

The thing why I absolutely wanted to have tomatoes in this quiche is because sometimes with cooked food all the colours are so dull and brownish that adding even a little bit of red will make the dish much more interesting and appetizing.

Raw Chocolate and Orange Truffles

about 25 pieces

1 l dates

3 dl oat flakes

2 dl pecan nuts

1 dl coconut oil

2 tsp cinnamon

1dl raw cocoa powder

1dl maple syrup or honey (is maple syrup raw?)

the zest of an organic orange

I used the  cutting blade of a food processor to chop up the nuts and dates finely, then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients by hand. I formed small balls of them and powdered them with cocoa powder. It might be a good idea to soak the dates for a couple of hours, if you don’t own a powerful mixer. Though since I tried both ways, I think the taste is nicer if you don’t soak them.

Raw Raspberry Treats

about 25 pieces

1 l cashew nuts

3 dl raspberries (frozen)

2 dl grated coconut

1 dl maple syrup or honey

1 tsp vanilla powder

1 dl coconut oil

I chopped the cashews with the cutting blade of a food processor, until they were completely pulverized, then I added the rest of the ingredients and made a paste, using a hand held blender. Then I put the paste to the freezer for 10 minutes or so, in order to make it stiffen a bit. Then I formed small balls out of it and rolled them in grated coconut, and finally decorated them with a bit of freeze dried berry powder.

Baking with Ronja
November 16, 2009, 21:09
Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Baking | Tags: ,

What to do, when both the economic and winter depression hit you hard, at the same time? Economic depression so that your employer tells you that you are now needed ten hours less in a week, and winter depression so that you only want to sleep and eat unhealthy things.  But the situation is not hopeless , because then you have a good chance to  invite your four-year old  god child for a  baking therapy session! This is what I did, and it cheered me up immensely.

Baking is so therapeutic! I can easily massage any kind of worries into a dough, and as I’ve noticed, generally the doughs don’t take it ill at all, but only become fuller and more dense. So I guess a bread dough doesn’t give a damn about human worries. And also, when the finished product emerges from the oven, it makes me feel like the Ultimate Creatrix, and that’s  also the reason why I call myself Goddess of Cake, not because I would be splendidly good at baking cakes… actually, with cakes I’ve had more desperate moments than with any other food that I’ve ever made.

Anyway, we had a lovely afternoon,  Ronja, her mother and me. Ronja insisted on bread rolls with carrot, and me on chocolate – cashew muffins, so we baked both, ate  some and took the rest to my neighbour. The bread rolls were fluffy and delicious, the muffins well risen and rich in chocolate, so supposedly they were high in all that stuff that is so good for sunlight – deprived people (tryptofan?).

ronja baking

hands in dough

ronja baking2

me and ronja

ronja and bread roll

Since I know that you my readers are all familiar with the recipes of both carrot bread rolls and chocolate muffins, I thought to share here another baking therapy – recipe. I used to bake a lot of bread a few years ago,  I guess enough to write a whole book on all my adventures in the amazing Sourdough Land. I even used to have a hundred year old rye – bread sourdough starter (leaven) that originated somewhere in Archangel, Russia, but these days it has sadly passed away in lack of TLC (though its sisters continue existence with some of my friends).

So first a few basic tips to good bread:

– If you use yeast, don’t use it very much, but instead let your dough rise for longer time, to ensure more flavour.

– Use fresh flour! If you can grind your own, do it! At least here you can get your flour ground in an organic shop.

– When the dough is rising, put it to a nice warm spot and cover with a lid, not with a kitchen towel, to protect the dough from drying.

– If you are not using a Kitchen Aid or other machinery to knead your dough, you are in for a work – out! Knead it until you sweat and your hands tremble, but at least for 10 minutes. The kneading very important for the density of the dough, and without it the gluten won’t work properly.

– There should always be enough salt in bread dough, because it helps with the consistency a great deal. Good amount is 20g/1 kg of flour.

lingonberry bread

Lingonberry Bread

This bread recipe is adapted from one of my all time favourite cook books, “Tillfällen att njuta en liten smula” by Therese Wikström from Danmark.

3 breads

Starter dough:

250 g whole wheat flour

3 g yeast

1 1/2 l water

Mix these ingredients and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Then add:

20 g yeast

4 dl water

500g whole spelt flour

420 g whole wheat flour

60 g honey

200 g lingonberries

40g olive oil

20 g salt

Knead the dough for 12  minutes, before adding the lingonberries, and then fold them in and let the dough rise for one and half hours, before you shape the loaves. Let the loaves rise on a baking sheet for one hour, in place that is protected from draft.  Bake 30 – 40 minutes in a 200°C oven.  The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you knock the bottom.

Mushroom Hunting

Two weeks or so ago I went to the countryside in search of some local food with a couple of friends. In the woods we did find lots and lots of funnel chanterelles (Cantharellus tubaeformis) and lingonberries. Picking these mushrooms is very rewarding: first you don’t see them, but then you spot one and suddenly realise they are simply everywhere… Picking lingonberries can be meditative, or boring in other words, but anyway it’s nice to stumble on branches and get your gumboots sucked inside wet moss in the wet forest, in  slowly drizzling rain. We also dug up the last root vegetables from the garden and used them and the results of our foraging for a gorgeous meal.



In the woods we encountered a guy carrying a gun, who was in a moose hunting party. It did occur to me that eating a wild moose might be so much more locavorean*  than buying some vegan soy products that might have destroyed half a rainforest. I’m generally not against killing, since in my opinion dying is part of the natural world, and an essential part of how the ecosystem works. At least the animals in the wild have had an opportunity to a dignified life, which can of course not be said about those poor creatures who only exist to serve our needs for animal products.

country tripping

On our way home we also met a woman from a neighboring house, who had a few cows, a horse and a herd of sixty sheep. She told us that when she shears all those sheep and sends the wool to a spinnery, she will either get 120 euros for it, or 4 kg of ready-made wool yarn, which really is nothing at all. So keeping all those animals is just a hobby for her. She was a really shining person, you could see the happiness those animals were giving her, and they way she treated them was loving and respectful. But it is still sad that in order to make any other kind of profit than just happiness she’d have to do her farming in a much more unsustainable way. What could be the solution to this? My dream is that our food could be provided in the ways we experienced on our weekend trip:  with foraging, hunting and  small-scale farming. What I don’t know is whether this would be effective enough to feed us all on this planet. Probably not, but I still wish it could be possible.

At home we made the all time favourite: oven roasted veggies and funnel chanterelle sauce, with lingonberry mush. I know everyone knows how to make roasted veggies, but it’s such a nice winter time dish that I’ll write about it, just in case you had forgotten the whole idea in this raw food craze that seems to prevail these days. I originally learned the concept of oven roasted vegetables from a cook book by Saara Törmä, called Keittokomero ja huone, which is a great source of simple, affordable, yet delicious recipes. It’s totally out of print these days, sadly, and of course only available in Finnish.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

3 carrots

1 parsnip

2 beetroots

2 onions

2 potatoes

a piece of root celery

a piece of swede

6 garlic cloves

The Dressing

3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

black pepper

1 tbsp dried herbs: thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, choose your favourite ones

Chop the veggies roughly. There is no need to peel the potatoes, just clean them well. Peel the garlic cloves, and pour everything onto an oven plate. Mix the ingredients for the dressing, and drizzle over the veggies. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes in 200 ºC.

mushroom sauce and oven grated veggies

There was also a cake for Vappu’s birthday the following day. The cake was a vegan chocolate cake, filled with grated apple, lingonberries and frosted with soy cream. It was decorated with lingonberries found in the forest and ancient liquorice found in the cupboard. Very simple, suitable for a country trip.


Basic Vegan Chocolate Cake

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl cocoa powder

2  dl sugar

2 tsp baking powder

0,5 tsp baking soda

2 tsp egg replacer

1 tsp chocolate flavouring

3 dl oat milk or other non – dairy

1 tsp vinegar

2 dl canola oil

Vegan cakes are easy to make: mix the dry ingredients and the sugar. It is a good idea to use a sieve with the cocoa powder.  Then mix the vinegar with the milk and add to the batter. As the last ingredient add the oil. Avoid mixing too much! Then pour the batter to a springform pan, 24 cm in diameter, and bake in the oven in 180 °C about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool thoroughly before cutting the layers and filling it.  And remember: a cake should always be filled the day before  serving!

* a locavore is a person who tries to eat as much local food as possible

Samhain in the Country
November 5, 2009, 10:12
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

It is said that on Samhain the spirits of the dead come back close to our lives. In the agrarian society this time of the year was the end of a harvesting cycle, and the beginning of a new year. I feel like that too, now is for me the time to sow seeds that will sprout in the spring, to dream and envision. We don’t celebrate Halloween in Finland, but on the 31st of October people will remember their passed away family members by bringing candles to the graveyard. Samhain is also a good time to make amends with one’s past, and this is exactly what I did last weekend in the country, with a bunch of cynical, exhausted anti – nuclear activists who had been fighting a nearly impossible cause up in Lapland.

pumpkin lantern

The old moldy house was filled with wood heated warmth and beautiful, dreadlocked, patch – decorated people, some really slow food was made, the slimy – benched sauna was heated up. It was freezing, the grasses were covered in frost and the full moon was circled with a halo. Some people burned things in the bonfire that they wanted to get rid of, or felt that deserved a dignified end (like other people’s love letters they found somewhere). I didn’t bring anything. Though, I had a feeling I was standing in the in-between with the crowding spirits, unsure of my next step. But I guess many of us there felt it: something had come to a close, some era was over. But when a door closes, another one opens up.

bonfire 2

But what do the activists eat at a Samhain party? They eat food that they grew themselves, inefficiently, organically, just next to the doorstep. They eat some vegan cookies somebody brought. They eat food that is lovingly foraged from the dumpsters of the local shops, with a hunter – gatherers joy at every interesting find. They eat food that is prepared on a self – made wood stove. They eat from a shared plate, to save dishwashing water that has to be carried from the well. They eat like hungry people, savouring the food, when it’s finally ready after a long and complicated cooking process, which involves several not very well concentrated people

Sorry, no recipes this time (I am trying to get my relationship with food straightened out a bit).