Monday, December 7, 2009

Baking with my Grandmother

Sean and I took a trip back "home" to Sweden for the week of Thanksgiving. It was a short visit, but wonderful nonetheless. It sure feels like we spent a lot of time on our behinds in the airplane. We stayed the entire time with my paternal grandparents, "Farmor" (Grandmother) and "Farfar" (Grandfather), in their home near Arboga, Sweden.

I've written about this place before on my blog - it's the place where I spent my summers while young, and I have so many good memories of playing here with my parents, my brother and my cousins.

My favorite forest. So deep, dark and mysterious....

When I need to think of a place where I feel calm, at peace and utterly at home - the forest near this place is what I imagine. It is surrounded by tall pinetrees, with a floor of wet white moss, grey moss, granite boulders, blueberry bushes and lingon berry bushes. There is moose, fox, rabbit, all kinds of forest birds and lately also lynx (we saw tracks!).

My grandmother and I had decided in advance to have some baking sessions together, since we rarely get to bake for Christmas together. Being that the sun sets at 3pm in Sweden this time of year, we had plenty of indoors time for baking. Our first baking adventure was a basic Swedish cinnamon roll, but we added saffron (traditional Swedish Christmas baking spice), almond paste and raisins. Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups melted butter plus 1/3 cup melted butter for filling
1 cup sugar

2 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp saffron

1 tsp. salt
2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
8-9 cups all purpose or bread flour

2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Almond Paste
1 egg plus 2 Tbsp. water, lightly beaten together into an egg wash

Pearl sugar (or crushed sugar cubes)

Melt the butter and add milk, heat it until it reaches body temperature roughly - use your (clean!) finger to test. You can do this in the microwave as well (but my grandparents don't have one!).

Add to a bowl with the sugar, salt, cardamom and saffron. Stir in the yeast.
Add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is firm and p
ulls away from the side of your mixing bowl. We use human power and a wooden spoon, but you can use a mixer with a dough hook as well.

Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch down the dough, then remove from bowl. On a floured counter, knead dough lightly until smooth and shiny. Use a knife to split the dough into two halves.

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular(ish) shape. No thinner than 1/4 inch.
Adding raisins.

Adding shredded almond paste.

Brush with melted butter, add raisins and then shred almond paste over the entire dough.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and some more sugar ( 1 tbsp or so) if you want. Raisins are optional too!
You can also top with sliced almonds.

Roll the rectangle from the top (long side) until you make a long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into slices about 1 inch wide. Place each slice into paper cups on a baking sheet.

Time to sleep for a little while!

Cover with a dishtowel and let them rise for another 45 minutes.

Behind the new electric stove is the old woodfire oven.
It's been sealed shut but the space remains, and at Christmas my grandmother fills it with small santas and gnomes.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Brush with egg/water mixture and sprinkle with pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes.

Bake for 7 minutes until medium golden brown.

Stay tuned for some more baking with my Farmor. Next we made gingersnaps. :-)