Goddess of Cake


Harvest Party
October 14, 2010, 22:43
Filed under: autumn seasonal food, Baking, urban gardening | Tags: , , ,

I recently heard a quote from somebody (thanks, Tanja!) that in every project 1/4 of the money and energy invested in the project should be used to celebrate together. I think that is so true! In the Finnish culture celebration is easily undervalued: we don’t even have a really good word for it. A celebration can be a party or a carnival, but it can also be any kind of a gathering or ritual that values the work done and the people involved. In a celebration we are together, equal and sharing a mutual satisfaction in our community and what was experienced. A celebration turns inward, toward the center, a party turns outward, showing off.  Celebrations create social value and strenghten communities, and make people happy!

A harvest party is of course double important since it also the time to thank the abundance of the earth as well as for human people’s efforts. Being an urban gardener it does sound a bit dodgy to say: thank you Mother Earth. Should I say thank you Sister City instead? But I guess whether rural or urban, it is the same life – force manifesting itself in the beautiful vegetables.

There was a harvest party at the urban garden of Vallila, with grammophone – music, a fleamarket and of course pumpkin soup. A drizzling autumn rain finished the party, but there was just enough time to greet everybody and share the last of the huge marrows and pumpkins. It is wonderful to start gardens on empty lots: the neighbours learn to know each other and a public space becomes meaningful, a hub of interaction between the people of the neighbourhood as well as place to grow local food in a city. Present at the party was also the Editor in Chief of the fanciest foodie magazine in Finland, Glorian ruoka ja viini, since she lives in the neighbourhood.  Today, in the new issue of the magazine they nominate “urban gardening” as the Food Phenomenon of the Year, and my organisation and our projects are specially mentioned. I felt as if I’d been awarded an Oscar! Me, doing the Food Phenomenon of the year? Who would have thought? I was very happy that the culinary aspects of urban gardening are now formally recognised!

To honor that, an apple pie recipe:

Apple Pie with Calvados and Almond

Crust:

3 dl whole wheat flour

125 g vegetable margarine

1tbsp oat milk

1 tbsp sugar

a pinch of salt

On top:

4 dl sliced apple

2 tbsp calvados

cinnamon

Top crust:

100 g marzipan

100 g vegetable margarine

1 tbsp muscovado sugar

1 dl wheat flour

Mix the ingredients for the crust quickly in a bowl. Set the crust in the fridge. Slice the apples, and grate the marzipan, and mix it with the other ingredients of the top crust.  Cover a baking pan with a diameter of 24 cm with the rolled out crust, and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Then bake the crust in a 200°C oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the crust with the apple slices, calvados and cinnamon. Crumble the top crust on top of that. Lower the temperature down to 175ºC and bake the pie in the oven 35 – 40 minutes.

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Building a Clay Oven
September 18, 2010, 23:31
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , , ,

You know, how sometimes magic touches your life? When impossible things turn into reality, without much effort or try. This is what happened to me and a bunch of other people, when we started to build the cob oven Archie. There are hundreds and thousands of cob ovens in the world, but so far there was none in Finland.  By coincidence, or fate, I met Katharina, who wanted to have some good bread, and after that, as they say, the rest is history.

A cob oven is a simple, traditional oven, made of mixed sand and clay. Everyone told us that it is impossible to build an oven like this, at the end of August, in Finland. “It won’t dry, it’s too late in the summer”, “You won’t get a permission”, “there is no such clay for sale”, but somehow, via open platforms, like the Public School Helsinki website, facebook and the generosity of Hub Helsinki, we found enthusiastic people, clay, space, cars, trailers, bricks and a place for our oven, in the area of construcion area of a new urban district. We scavenged the materials,  build it, and named it Archie after the nice arch Daniel made.  And the weather was perfect, and we, individual people, became the Tribe of Clay, the Tribe of Archie. Oh happiness, to build something together, to celebrate together, to share food and laughter.

Last weekend, we baked perhaps 70 pizzas at the Dodo urban harvest party and Katharina organized an art workshop with baking rieska, Finnish flat bread (check out her blog on food related art happenings in Helsinki!). The oven works like a dream, and somehow, after the magical building process a good flow continued in my life.  All kinds of gifts were shovered on me, from jars of mint on my windowsill to phonecalls from just the right people, and even some much more substantial things…  but isn’t it strange, how sometimes it is so difficult to accept these gifts from the universe? You just don’t believe you could be worth the abundance and good luck fate is throwing on your way, and so you just block the flow with your own unwillingness to accept and let go with it.

But anyhow, now in my life there is a lovely group of new friends and the most wonderful wood oven at just a 15 minute bikeride away! Urban gardens and an oven, what next? Be ware, Helsinki, we are going to change you for good!

Woodfired Cob Oven Pizza with Beetroot and Walnut Pesto

Start by building an oven… well, I’m kidding but it really isn’t so difficult! Very good, detailed instructions can be found at the Clay Oven.  And if you want to use the oven Archie in Helsinki, you can find more information on our blog Stadin uuni on how to make a reservation. We hope that the oven will birth a whole new culture of urban social baking events, so feel free to contact us!

My vegan pizza was made using a sourdough starter and some nice vegetables that were a product of urban farming.  Here in Finland pizzas are always suffocated with cheese, but in Italy where they originate, there is a lot of delicious pizza baked without cheese.

Pizza – sourdough (makes 3 – 4 pizzas)

1/2 dl sourdough starter

2 dl lukewarm water

enough flour to make a porridge – like mix

Mix the ingredients in a bowl and cover with a cloth. Wait until the following day. The flour you are using should have at least 12% protein in it. I used extra fine wheat flour, but also other types of protein – rich wheat flours could be used.

The next day

5 – 6 dl flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp olive oil

Mix the flour, salt and olive oil into the dough, and knead it for a few minutes.  Let the dough rise for an hour or two. If possible, at least once this time fold down the dough and let it rise again since that enhances the rising.

Tomato sauce

1 can of crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp muscovado sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

dried basil, thyme and oregano a tablespoon each

1 clove garlic

1 mild red chili bean

Mix the ingredients in small cooking pot, and let simmer on low heat at least 15 minutes.

Pizza Toppings:

Walnut pesto (50 g lightly toasted walnuts, 1 tbsp of olive oil and water each, salt to taste, all mixed with a hand held blender)

Thinly sliced eggplant (cut beforehand and salted in order to get rid of bitter liquid)

Thinly sliced beetroot

Thinly sliced red onion

Finely chopped red mild chilli bean

Olive oil

Fleur de Sel

For topping: fresh basil/ arugula

Fire your oven until very hot (300 ºC about), remove the coals to the sides to make room for your pizza. You can either use a lot of flour or baking parchment to be able to move the pizza from the pizza peel. Roll out the pizza dough, very thinly, and spread the tomato paste and other fillings on it. Insert the pizza in the oven, and bake for a few minutes until it looks done, and the edges are puffed. Decorate the pizza with fresh arugula or basil. Devour while still hot!



A Day as a Princess
June 30, 2010, 23:02
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , ,

As a mature feminist I should probably think that princesses are a remnant of patriarchal society that should by now be thrown away with other rubbish. Well, in a way I do. But still, when there is an actual, real, royal – blooded, beautiful princess getting married in the neighbouring country, I must admit that  something in me is evoked. We  Finnish people are so sensible and not at all prone to unnecessary, costly silliness like a royal family, so I guess we can be a little bit delighted for what happens next door, in Sweden?

Recently, I have been very brave and done lots of things that have felt immensely difficult. So I decided to reward myself and bake a cake! And spend a couple of days only doing only silly things with my girlfriends. So we watched Princess Victoria’s and Daniel’s wedding and drank strawberry – sparkling wine, eating a cake that in Finland is called a princess cake.  Partly because in honor of the actual princess and partly to remind myself of some princess – like virtues. A Real Princess, the mythical, archetypal creature of fairytales, is never angry, never mean to other people, and always in possession of her power and her beauty. And there is always the happy ever – after to her story. In real life, the princesses get eating disorders and have unfaithful boyfriends, and I guess the only true happy end awaiting us all is the peaceful grave. But still, there is always enough reason to spent a day dreaming princess dreams, with a piece of cake, and congratulate yourself for a work well done.

Vegan Princess Cake

A princess cake is usually a quite an ordinary sponge cake, filled with vanilla custard, raspberries and covered with a layer of green marzipan. Mine was a little different, because I used strawberries and pink marzipan for the ultimate princess – effect. The custard or pudding I made of oat milk and starch.

The Cake

4,5 dl all – purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

0,5 tsp baking soda

a good dash of vanilla

2 dl brown sugar

1 tbsp apple vinegar

0,5 dl canola oil

4 lingonberry cider

Mix first the dry ingredients and then add the vinegar, oil and the cider. Mix quickly with a spoon, until the batter is fairly even, and pour into a round cake tin, 24 cm in diameter. Bake in 175 °C  30 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Lingonberry cider gives the cake a lovely reddish hue, but you can as well use another kind of cider. Let the cake cool down before filling it. Meanwhile, make the custard:

The Custard

3,5 + 0,5  dl oat milk

a good dash of vanilla powder

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp potato starch

First, mix the vanilla powder and sugar with 3,5 dl of oat milk, and bring the it to the  boil in a small cooking pot. Mix the potato starch with the remaining 0,5 dl oat milk, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the starch – liquid, carefully whisking. Then bring the oat milk to boil again, without mixing. Don’t cook, but remove the pot from the heat right when you see the first bubble.

Filling and Decorating

2 dl whippable oat cream

150 g pink marzipan

1 dl oat milk for moistening

2 dl strawberries, mashed

Whip up the oat cream, and blend it together with the custard. Cut the cake into to halves, and moisten it with oat milk. Fill the cake with mashed strawberries and half of the custard, and finally cover the whole cake with a layer of remaining custard mixture.  Roll the marzipan into a flat round layer, bigger than the cake,  with a rolling pin. Using a sheet of baking parchment under the marzipan might help, as well as sprinkling the sheet with powdered sugar.  Lift the marzipan – layer carefully on top of  the cake, and cut off the extra at the “hem” of the cake.  Decorate with real roses and sprinkled powdered sugar.



A Plant’s Soul
May 9, 2010, 21:08
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , , ,

Even more than sunny spring days, I enjoy those overcast days with a slowly drizzling spring rain. Does it mean that I have a plants’ soul?

The Finnish year – cycle is structured between the two inactive seasons:  the winter and the summer. After the long, dark lull of the winter the spring is a rushed burst of energy: in just a few short weeks the nature is turned from bare potential to a full blooming fertile beauty.  Each week you hear a new migrant bird, and the amount of light increases day by day, until the darkness is just a memory, easily forgotten. And then you reach summer, the lovely, lazy season of free time, when nothing much happens,  and the greatest newsline is a trout – bitten toe.

For a delicate mind spring can be depressing too, since it sets you face to face with the inevitability of all life: whether you catch the big rolling wheel or not, life will go on, with or without you.  Spring is usually rich with deadlines, whether at work or full moons for planting things or enjoying the newly reborn nature. The elder will  bloom only a day (did you collect the flowers for a juice? ) and the sprouting wild vegetables will turn bitter in couple of weeks (did you make the pesto?). The spring rolls on, and meanwhile you might struggle with a pollen allergy, unfixed bike and the continuous daylight that doesn’t let you sleep, and as the only thought have the idea of the summer holiday somewhere ahead, if you just manage a little bit longer.

Green Sandwich Cake

Springtime is also time of festivities of all sorts, and the Finnish traditional delicacy for a graduation party or other family festivity is a sandwich cake, which is a savoury cake made of a bread loaf (!). My friends insisted on having one at their house – warming party.

What happened was that on the Eve of First of May, which is a night of great many parties in Finland, I emptied my handbag on my doorstep at 3 am and figured that I’d left my keys inside. The cake was supposed to be ready the following day.  I ended up spending the night elsewhere, and in  the morning found a big kitchen full of jamming, singing and guitar – playing people. And even if the brunch was rather meagre, only one third of a shop bought pound cake, the music was such soul food that I just couldn’t leave the soaring voices and harmonies of the morning of First of May. So in the end  the sandwich cake was assembled of things that I found in my cupboard, in a haste.  But everyone loved it.

Ingredients:

a loaf of bread, and 5 dl oat milk.

Green Pea Paste – for Icing

250 frozen green peas

1 tl grated horse radish

1 dl canola oil

1,5 dl sunflower seeds

3 tbsp lime juice

salt to taste

I threw the peas quickly to boiling water, strained them and blended everything with a hand held blender.

Pesto Rosso – for Filling

2 dl sun dried tomatoes in oil + the oil

1/2 dl sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

I blended everything to a paste with a blender.

Lemongrass Mayo Paste – for Filling

1/2 dl lemongrass mayo (Plamil)

1/2  dl vegetable margarine

1 apple

salt to taste

I blended everything to a paste.

For a sandwich cake you need a tin – baked loaf of bread, and it should not be fresh, but dried out a bit.  Cut off all the crusts, and slice the bread diagonally into three layers. My loaf was too long to fit in my cake container, so a cut into half and made a square – shaped cake by putting the halves next to each other. Then I filled the cake, and moistened it using oat milk. I used about 5 dl of oat milk for moistening. It is good to start a day before, and let the cake stay in the fridge overnight.  The following day put on the icing and the other decorations.  My “icing” was a paste made of peas, and it turned out very well, sticky and not runny at all (must be the proteins in peas).

I decorated the cake with lime slices, very thin slices of radish, red peppercorns and pinches of black vegan caviar.

Sea – Buckthorn Chocolate Bites

This is another one of those let’s just bake something with whatever ingredients there happen to be at hand – kind of thing.  The sea –  buckthorns grow quite close to where I’m living and were a result of urban foraging last autumn (me and my Australian guest, in almost total darkness).  Sea – buckthorn is extremely rich in vitamin C, and a very challenging berry to pick because of the nasty thorns in the bushes.  It is also very, very sauer, almost bitter in taste, and does need a bit of sugar to be truly delicious.

4,5 dl flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tl bourbon vanilla powder

1 dl cocoa powder

2 dl sugar

100 g dark chocolate, chopped

0,5 dl oil

4 dl oat milk

1 tl vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the oat milk, oil and vinegar. Pour the batter into a greased and floured oven pan, size 20 cm x 15 cm. Bake in 200 °C about 4o minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool, and decorate with

Sea Buckthorn Icing

2 dl powdered sugar

1 dl frozen, thawed sea – buckthorn berries

Grind the berries through a sieve, to get rid of the seeds, and then mix the remaining paste with powdered sugar.  Sprinkle on top of the chocolate cake. I also used some silver cake pearls for a finishing touch.



Red Thoughts on Valentine’s Day
February 13, 2010, 19:42
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , , ,

An open heart is something to I’d like to wish everyone, open to hold the world, open for freedom and commitment both. No sweet Valentine’s gifts from me, no junk to show that I care. Since I don’t, at least about any businesspeople getting rich with people’s earnest needs to be loved and cared for.  Or maybe I’m just bitter since the only Valentine’s Day greeting that I can count on comes from dear Maman? But a pair of lovely yellow mittens, knitted with guaranteed love to protect my hands is not bad at all, maybe enough to turn my hardened heart a bit soft on Valentine’s Day… So suddenly I found myself thinking about red food, and about a pretty red cake, and maybe a pink smoothie to go with it.

Being not keen at all on artificial colourings and such I went for dear old beetroot in search of a red hue (did you know that beetroot can be used to make a home made lip gloss?). My previous experiences with beetroot baking had not been so very splendid, so a retake was in order.  But alas, after baking my oh – so – pretty pink batter  I found out that the insides of my reddish beetroot cupcakes were a shade of a bright yellow! Yellow is the colour of envy and jealousy, versus red as the colour of love and passion.  Perhaps not the message you should convey on Valentine’s Day…

Beetroot Cupcakes with Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread

16 pieces

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl sugar

1 beetroot

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp egg replacer (optional)

1 tsp vanilla powder

1 tsp ginger powder

1/2 dl shredded coconut, toasted on a dry pan

1 dl oil

2 dl oat cream

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp strawberry vinegar

The Icing

120 g hazelnuts

1 dl coconut oil

1 dl powdered sugar

1 dl cocoa powder

a dash of vanilla

a pinch of salt

I wanted the beetroot to be as finely grated as possible, so I used my funky juicer from the 70’s.  I juiced the beetroot, and combined the juice and the left over beetroot pulp, which resulted about 1 dl of beetroot mush.  I mixed this mush with the rest of the wet ingredients.  Then I combined in bowl the dry ingredients, and added the wet. I poured the batter into muffin forms and baked the cupcakes about 20 minutes in a 200°C oven.

The icing is kind of a homemade Nutella. I made it by first grinding the hazelnuts in a food processor until powdered, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. I put this to the fridge to cool and harden a bit, though it is a bit tricky to handle if it is too cool, especially if you want to pipe it.  If it is too warm,  it will be runny and cannot be piped either.

Red Berry Smoothie

This is an obvious recipe, but maybe worth remembering that in the long run it maybe healthier for your heart than chocolates (would dear Maman say).

1 mango

1 dl frozen red currants

1/2 dl cashews, soaked overnight

1 dl oat milk

1 tsp lucuma

1 tsp maca

Blend all the ingredients!



Winter Adventure
January 26, 2010, 11:33
Filed under: Baking | Tags: , , ,

I went skiing the the other day. I took my skiis, walked past the cars, shops, trams, people and the hustle and bustle of the city, until I arrived on the seashore. The sea has frozen over thickly in these past cold weeks.  It was a strange foggy day: the world had become a monochrome in black and greyish white. The snow was white, the sky was white and the frosty treetops were half hidden by white mist.  Skiing in that vast flat expanse of whiteness made me feel like inside a glass of milk (well, vegan milk..). Then the sun started to set, and everything got a lovely pink sheen.

I skied past the island that is my secret place for summer evening swims. It has a dodgy old pier and there is hardly anyone there but for some sheep, so it is nice and private. It looked so different now with the snowy trees!  It was easy to forget that the city was breathing right behind my back. I was the only moving,  colourful, rustling little presence on the vast expance of white ice.

For I while, I played with the idea that I was brave Mr. Amundsen skiing towards the South Pole,  though the fact that it was only – 15ºC didn’t quite match my fantasy.  Also, I lacked a pack of gorgeous blue -eyed huskies and a sleigh. Is my notion of antarctic exploration perhaps slightly over – romanticised?  Anyhow,  any explorer knows that the rations are very important for endurance. I bet Mr. Amundsen did not have as nice rations as I did: freshly baked scones and hot herbal tea!

Pear and Ginger Scones

I’ve never baked scones in my life before. I found a recipe in everybody likes sandwiches, which is a beautiful Canadian blog. I modified it a little. I also learned from the internet that it is important that the margarine and the milk are cold, in order to avoid the baking powder to start to work too early. You should also try to keep the kneading of the dough to the minimum.  I used fresh grated ginger in these scones, but the surprising thing about fresh ginger and baked goods is that somehow the taste just disappears in the oven. So if you like ginger, feel free to add some.

1 dl  shredded coconut

2 dl all purpose flour

1 dl graham flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

3 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder

1 ripe pear, diced

1/2 dl dried cranberries

1 tsp ground cardamom

50 g vegetable margarine

2 dl oat milk + 1 tsp for topping

2 tsp  demerara sugar for topping

I toasted the coconut on a dry pan, in order to enhance the flavour. It burns easily, so watch out! Then I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in the margarine and mixed with my fingers until I got a crumbly mixture, and folded in the diced pear and cranberries.  Then I blended in the oat milk. I patted the ready dough onto a lightly floured surface, so that it was about 3 cm thick and cut round shapes using a form. You could use a glass etc. or just cut triangles.

I baked the scones in 200°C 15 minutes. Ideally, the scones should be devoured fresh from the oven plate, or at least eaten the same day. Wrap them into a shawl if you want to bring them with you out to arctic environments. I was pleasantly surprised with my scones: I always thought that scones are somehow dry and boring, but at least these ones were moist and tasty.



Lucia’s Saffron Buns
December 22, 2009, 23:05
Filed under: Baking, winter seasonal food | Tags: , , , ,

Picture by Juha Pentikäinen

The 13th of December is the day of Saint Lucia, the only saint that is commonly recognised in Finland and Sweden. Our countries are very Lutheran, which is sparse, strict, no nonsense – path of reformist Christianity. So we don’t know anything of  dramatic saints with their terrifying life – stories, and our churches are quiet places with simple furnishings. But then, why did we take Lucia, an unknown Sicilian saint, to be so dear to us and be part of the Advent celebrations leading Christmas?

Lucia’s Day is widely celebrated in Sweden and in the Swedish speaking part of Finland. Usually a young maiden from the local community is chosen to represent her, looks are not important, but she should have a beautiful voice to sing with. Then she appears on streets and marketplaces, in schools, in old people’s homes, clad in white, wearing a crown of candles and singing the Lucia Song. Often she will bring some “glögi”, a Finnish Christmas drink and some gingerbread to people. Hardly anyone remembers her actual story (I recall she refused to marry because she wanted to lead a Christian life in chastity, and suffered a martyr death because of that) , she is simply the bringer of light in the darkest time of the year. Somehow I think she subconsciously reminds us of the ancient, powerful Nordic goddesses, when she stands there, brave, shining and solitary, crowned with living fire.

What is my personal relationship to Lucia then? When I was five years old and in the Kindergarten, I was not chosen to be Lucia, but instead got to be Virgin Mary in the Christmas play. But who would be comforted by a meek Mary that silently bends her head and accepts her faith, when there was a chance to be Lucia, who fights for her beliefs and leads the glorious procession? I was so bitter! As an adult I actually got to be the Lucia of my school, when I studied weaving in a swedish – speaking small town. I guess it is also slowly dawning to me that somebody who looks strong and solitary from the outside, might feel lonely and isolated inside.

These kind of saffron buns are in Sweden connected with Lucia, but in my childhood home they were simply baked before each Christmas, to be served with other Christmas delicacies. I must admit that I had to consult the internet in order to remember all the different forms they were baked in, but you can use your imagination! All kind of twirls and spirals is the idea. You should reserve about one and half hours to bake this.

Saffron Christmas Buns

About 25 pieces

2,5 water

25 g yeast

2 g saffron

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1,25 dl sugar

7 – 8 dl wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

100 g vegetable margarine, vegan butter or oil

The water should  be about 36 °C warm so that it doesn’t feel cold or hot when you try with your finger. Dilute the yeast to the water, and add the saffron and sugar and mix. Add some of the flour and then the salt. Continue adding flour until the dough has a nice dense consistency, feels heavy to the hand and doesn’t stick to the edges of the bowl. Then add the margarine or oil. The dough should stay quite soft, so don’t knead too much!

Let the dough rise covered in a nice warm spot, until it’s doubled up in size. It takes half an hour or so. Then cut it up to small pieces, and roll it into several bars that are about the thickness of your finger. Then make all kinds of fun twirly shapes, and decorate  with raisins.

Put your buns on an oven plate and let them rise for an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Then bake them in the oven in 225ºC for 10 – 15 minutes, until they are nicely golden brown. Melt some margarine or use a bit of oil to spread on the buns to make them look pretty. And yes, the raisins tend to always pop out, so try to press them firmly into the bun.

Usually these kind of buns are made with eggs and butter, and for the vegan version to succeed, it is important to not use too much flour in the dough, and to be patient enough to allow it to rise properly.

Here is what Tricia wrote about Lucia and Saffron Buns, and a non – vegan recipe for it.