Goddess of Cake

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!

Comfort Food with Zucchini
August 6, 2009, 10:04
Filed under: Baking, Cooking | Tags: , , , ,

Do you know the feeling: nothing is no good, life is boring, no one likes you (least the significant person) and indeed, your not – at – all – fascinating garden appears to be overflowing with stupid zucchini! I bet at least some of you ladies out there know what I’m talking about here… So beriddled with this cursed bad vibe and heaps of zucchini, I decided to make some comfort food for myself. Keeping in mind that chocolate and carbohydrates should do the trick, I made some pasta with a sauce with almond paste and a chocolate zucchini cake, using a recipe that used to be my favourite once. The cake did not turn out very well, since it was not sweet enough, and the pasta was way too salty. Buhuhuhuuu!!

Pasta with Zucchini and Almond

1 zucchini

1 onion

1 clove garlic

1/2 dl almond butter

2 tbsp lemon juice


oil for frying

2 dl whole wheat pasta

3 liter water for cooking

I chopped the onion and garlic, and fried them on a frying pan for a couple of minutes. Then I added the sliced zucchini. I fried this until the zucchini looked more or less limp. Then I added the almond butter, the lemon juice and salt, and kept stirring it a couple of minutes on medium heat. Meanwhile, I had also boiled the pasta in salted water and drained it in a colander. Some people say that the cooking water for pasta should be as salty as the mediterranean sea, but tin this dish I definetely overdid the amount of salt. At last I mixed the pasta and the sauce, and decorated the dish with a few marigold petals.

zucchini almond pasta

Zucchini and Chocolate Cake

6 dl all purpose flour

4 dl grated zucchini

2,5 dl sugar

1,5 dl cocoa powder

1 dl chopped hazelnuts

2 dl canola oil

2 tsp baking soda

1,5 tsp baking powder

2 tsp egg replacer

1 tbsp potato starch

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

3 – 4 dl soy milk (depends a bit on the zucchini how much liquid you need)

1 tsp white vinegar

This is easy: if you have already chopped up your hazelnuts and grated your zucchini, then you just need to mix the dry ingredients, and after that add the milk, vinegar and oil. Mix thoroughly but don’t overdo it. The batter should have the consistency of a very thick pancake mix. Pour the batter into a greased, floured cake tin (about 24cm in diameter) and bake in a 180°C oven for about 45 – 60 minutes. The vinegar is in the recipe, because it helps the raising agent (baking soda) function better. Don’t ask me what’s the actual chemical reaction, since I don’t know, but I’m sure there are lots of people who can explain it splendidly. One explanation I found here.

And also, the amount of sugar should be right in this recipe, I added some when writing it down, since the cake that I made really was not sweet enough for my sweet tooth. I don’t know why the recipe was not so good this time, since I’ve really baked a lot with it, even made a wedding cake with the recipe! But I am suspecting the type of muscovado sugar I was using, since it really is not that sweet. Check also out the zucchini and chocolate cake Sara from Innocent Primate made.

zucchini chocolate cake

A Guerilla Gardener’s Dinner

This is a light dinner I made for my cousin Vappu and my friend Aino who were coming over for sauna some time ago. Some of the ingredients came from this gorgeous guerilla garden project that I’ve been doing with the environmental organisation Dodo. Our garden is on a piece of unused land, between new and old railroad tracks, only a couple of kilometres from the city center of Helsinki. We have made two big containers for the soil out of recycled wood and used old coffee bean bags and car tyres to grow veggies in. So far our piece of reclaimed land has not been disturbed guerilla gardening

by any authorities and the veggies are growing beautifully. A week and a half ago there was a lot of lettuce, dill, mint, mangold and the first big zucchini ready to be harvested! I used the dill for a potato salad, the mangold and mint for mangold leaf rolls and made a nice lemony marinade for my half of the zucchini. There is some more information on our project in Globaali Piknik (in Finnish though).

Potato Salad with Dill and Radishes

2 litres new potatoes

7 radishes

1/2 dl capers

1 dl green peas

1 apple

a handful of fresh dill

The Dressing

1 dl olive oil

2 tbsp white balsamico vinegar

2 tbsp mustard

salt, sugar and black pepper

First I scrubbed the potatoes and cooked them in lightly salted water about ten minutes, until they were done. With new potatoes you should really use them fresh from the ground, because then you can actully scrub off all the peels, which didn’t happen now since my potatoes had been standing too long in the fridge. Then I allowed the potatoes to cool, chopped the other ingredients and made the dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar, mustard and spices together. Then I chopped the potatoes and assembled the salad. With potato salad it’s quite important to let it wait for a while before serving. I think potato salad is always good, but I this combination with salty capers, crunchy radishes and sweet apple is definetely my favourite at the moment.

potato salad1

Mangold Leaf Rolls

3,5 dl whole spelt kernels

2 dl tomato paste

1 dl olive oil

1 red onion

a handful of mint


about 12 mangold leaves

Mangold or chard is spinach – like vegetable, with big leaves ideal for making rolls.This time I used in the filling wholemangold spelt kernels, but actually risotto spelt or any other “sticky” grain would be better, since it is easier to assemble the rolls if the filling sticks together.

First I soaked the spelt kernels a few hours, and then cooked them in water about an hour, until they were done. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, the onion and the mint finely chopped and blended the filling well.

flatten with knifeThe mangold leaves I prepared by cutting off the extra stem and flattening the rest of it with the edge of big knife, beacuse then it is easier to bend the leaf.

Then I placed about a tablespoon of the filling at the other end of the leaf, folded over the sides and rolled a nice tight roll of it. The ready rolls I put on an oven plate and drizzled them with olive oil. I baked them in the oven in 200 °C about 20 minutes, until they were brownish.

mangold rolls2

Marinated Zucchini with Lemon

Half a zucchini (or one smaller one)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, juice and zest


1 tsp brown sugar

I cut the zucchini first into half moon shaped pieces, then I fried it quickly on a really hot frying pan in a generous amount of oil, until it was a bit speckled with brown. Then I squeezed the lemon and grated the zest, and mixed it with a bit of salt and sugar, and poured it together with the zucchini pieces. Then I let it cool down for about an hour before serving. The idea with this dish is that it should be extremely tangy, so use enough lemon!

marinated zucchini