Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vanilla cookie rings

With only 6 days left until Christmas Eve I'm beginning to feel a bit nostalgic and in light of this mood I put on the best Christmas music ever and began baking the ultimate Danish Christmas cookies: vanilla cookie rings. It's a classic and this was my first time making them.

This recipe was one I got watching a Danish pastry chefs program called "The Sweet Life" and I'd love to share it with all of you. It's really simple and makes the most wonderful crisp and delicious cookies you could dream of.

1-1½ vanilla pod
200 grams soft butter
180 grams sugar (I used cane sugar but you can also use the regular kind)
1 egg
250 grams all purpose flour
75 grams almonds, grounded very finely almost into almond "flour"

Split the vanilla pod right down the middle and scrape out the seeds with your knife. Mash the seeds and a bit of the sugar together so that the seeds separate better.

Put the vanilla into a bowl and mix it together with the rest of the sugar and the soft butter. Stir in the egg and finish off by adding the almond "flour" and the all purpose flour to the mix.

Put the dough into a piping bag mad out of fabric with a star tulle in it and pipe out rings with a diameter of appox. 5 centimetres.

Bake the rings in a preheated oven at 200C (400F) until they are light golden (about 10-14 minutes, but keep an eye on them)

Let the cookies cool of on a rack and keep them in a tight fitting container.

Bon appetit and have a great time making these...

Monday, December 13, 2010

13th of December - Lucia Day

Today we celebrate Lucia Day in Denmark. This is the day where school children across the country participate in a Lucia Day Procession and bake Lucia bread.

According to legend Lucia was an Italian saint and after she had converted to Christianity, she brought food to her fellow believers. They had to hide from the pagan authorities in underground burial chambers. Lucia placed candles in a wreath on her head so she could carry the food in her hands. The heathen authorities arrested her and she suffered martyrdom on the 13th of December.

The custom of Lucia processions are relatively new and dates from 1928 and originated from Sweden. Maybe my friend Carina, who has just moved to Sweden, could tell a bit more about the Swedish traditions surrounding the celebration of Lucia Day.

In Denmark Lucia is a part of the Christmas celebration even though the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other and the Lucia Day Procession takes place at almost every school,  care home or library and the children participating are dressed in white coats carrying a lit candle between their hands and are lead by the Lucia bride who carries the wreth of candles on her head just like Lucia.

Today I have marked the occasion by baking Lucia bread and of course I'm going to share my lovely recipe with you...

Lucia Bread (makes 12 rolls)

75 grams butter
150 ml milk
25 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon saffron (or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, which I used)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
400 grams all purpose flour

Brushing: 1 whisked egg

Decoration:  raisins

Melt the butter in a pot and add in the milk. Transfer the liquid to a bowl and making sure that it isn't too hot (stick in your little finger, if you're not burned but the liquid is lukewarm, it's ready) crumble in the yeast and let it dissolve. Mix together the saffron (or cardamom) and sugar and stir it into the liquid followed by the rest of the ingredients. Mix the dough together with a spoon and when it's firm cover the bowl with a lid and let it rise somewhere warm  for about half an hour.

Let out the dough onto a flour dusted table top and knead the dough. Split the dough into 12 pieces roll them into sausages and  shape them into an "S". Place them onto a baking sheet and let them rise for another 15 minutes. Brush the rolls with the whisked egg and decorate with rasins.

Bake the roll in the preheated oven at about 225C (437F) for 10-12 minutes until they are golden.

Bon appetit...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Leftovers turned into a feast!

On Monday we had pork loin with crackling for dinner and I had some leftovers from that delicious meal I couldn't bear to chuck - it's still good food and a huge waist of money if it just goes to the bin. I then decided to make hash with the leftover pork loin and potatoes and made a fried egg to go along side it. 

It's been so long since I've made this dish and it brought back fond childhood memories of "fastfood" for the busy days at our house and it made me think about how much food we chuck on average in each household, just because we don't want leftovers or haven't got the imagination to turn it into a whole different meal. Sometimes all it takes is actually just a bit of spice or a splash of taco sauce and we're good to go... 

The foremost expert on "turn over meals" as she calls them is Rachael Ray - an American cook, making everyday, easy and delicious food. She has published a whole lot of cookbooks and has her own talk/food show in America - I used to watch her shows whenever I could and it was broadcasted on a network I could see here in Denmark and I really love and admire her passion for food. She's probably the American equivalent to Britain's Nigella Lawson, whom I also really like because she has a whole different way of portraying cooking and food. Anyway both Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson will be revisited at some point on this blog, it's just a matter of time...

Back to my turnover meal then...

Hash with pork loin, potatoes and fried egg
For 1 serving you'll need:

Leftover pork loin 
Leftover cooked potatoes
1 organic egg
A nub of butter

Ketchup (I prefer Beauvais tomato ketchup)

Melt the butter in a frying pan and cut the pork loin into cubes. Add the cubes into the pan and add in the cubed potatoes as well. Cook the whole lot for about 5 minutes. Either heat up another smaller frying pan and add in some butter or push the potatoes and pork loin a side to make room for frying the egg. Break an egg into the pan. Let it get all crisp around the edges and then you'll know it's done.

I served the egg up on a piece of  buttered danish rye bread and had the hash on the side with loads of ketchup..

Bon appetit...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pork loin with crackling and sugar glazed potatoes

This dish is not a Christmas dish as such but some Danes have pork loin with crackling on Christmas Eve along side goose or duck roast - my father says it's not really Christmas unless he gets his pork loin with crackling as well. I think it's a survival from olden times when money were tight and large families only could afford one goose or duck and then had pork loin with crackling along side with lots of potatoes and gravy.

I usually make this dish in the fall because it's a quit heavy meal and I don't think it that great to eat in the spring or summertime but it tastes delicious! 

Pork loin with crackling and sugar glazed potatoes with gravy

For 2 servings you'll need:

1 kilo pork loin (with scored crackling)
Salt and pepper

Heat up the oven to 220C (450F) and leave a dish of water in the bottom of the oven while heating it up. Take the pork loin out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking, rub it in salt and pepper and leave it in an oven prof dish until the oven is hot enough. Put the pork loin into the oven and let it roast for 15 minutes. 
When the time's up remove the dish of water and pour about 200 ml water over the pork loin. Turn down the heat to 200C (400F) and roast the pork loin for about 45 minutes. Moisten the pork loin once in a while so you get that really crisp crackling. When the roasting time is done, take the pork loin out of the oven and leave it to rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board before carving it.

Sugar glazed potatoes:
1 jar of potatoes (ready cooked and peeled)
250 grams sugar
50 grams butter

Pour the sugar into a frying pan and heat it up. When the sugar starts to caramelize add in the butter and let it mix together. Drain the potatoes and pour them into the pan. Be careful, the caramel is really hot and when adding in the potatoes the caramel can spatter. Fold the potatoes into the caramel so they get all covered and glazed. Turn down the heat after 5 minutes and let the potatoes cook for another 5 minutes before turning off the stove. 

Pork loin gravy:
15 grams butter
1 tablespoons all purpose flour
left over fluid from the pork loin
salt and pepper
milk, double cream or beef broth
gravy browning

Heat up the butter in a sauce pan but don't let it brown. Add in the flour and whisk it together. Add in the the leftover fluid from the pork loin and give it a good whisk before adding in milk until the sauce has the consistency that suits your taste. Bring it to a boil, season with salt and pepper and finish it off with a bit of gravy browning just to give it a good colour.

Serve this delicious gravy along side the pork loin with crackling, crisps, sugar glazed potatoes and pickled cucumbers.
Bon appetit...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Swedish chocolate cookies and Crispy cookie circles

These cookies are some of the traditional Christmas cookies my family have been making for as long as I can remember for the holidays and I really want to share these with you. I have some fond memories of helping out in the kitchen at Christmas along side my mum and grandmother and I really miss that as I've gotten older. I try to bring along some of their traditions and for me it just wouldn't be Christmas without.
Christmas is for me the time for remembering those who are near to us and loved ones who have passed away and these cookies help me to do that this time of year. So here we go...

Swedish chocolate cookies (cookies on the left)
300 grams all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
200 grams cold butter
1 egg

1 egg white
Danish pearl sugar
Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and crumble it into the flour. Use the egg to make the dough stick together - it will be quit soft. Roll the dough into 6 bars with about 1½ centimetre girth and as long as your baking sheet allows them to be.

Put the bars onto the baking sheet and lightly press them flat with your palms. Brush them with egg white and sprinkle pearl sugar on top. Bake the bars in the oven at 175C (347F) for about 10 minutes.
When the bars are done cut them into diagonal cookies while they are still hot (can be done with a pizza wheel) and leave them on the baking sheet to cool of before putting them into a container.

Crispy cookie circles (cookies on the right)
250 grams cold butter
250 grams all purpose flour
50 ml double cream

1 egg

Danish pearl sugar

Cut the butter into small pieces an crumble it into the flour. Add in the cream to make the dough stick together but you mustn't knead it. Put the dough in the fridge for about ½ hour. 
Roll out the dough onto a heavily flour dusted tabletop and cut out the cookies with either two glasses or round cookie cutters making the circles about 1 cm wide.

Place the cookies onto a baking sheet and brush the cookies very carefully with the egg (whisked together) and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake the cookies in the upper half of the oven at 200C (400F) for about 8 minutes or till they are golden.
Be cautious when removing the cookies from the baking sheet they will crumble or break apart very easily. Put them carefully into a container when they are completely cooled off. 

Bon appetit and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

1st of December and Christmas food

Finally it's December and I can stick my hands into all the wonderful Christmas recipes I have collected over time... cookies, cakes, roasts, puddings, and so on - I'm going to fill this blog with all kinds of delicious (to my taste) things that I associate with the holidays and Danish traditions.
Tonight there was a dish on the menu which I regard as a Danish Christmas tradition: Black pudding.. I grew up eating home made black pudding at my grandparents' farm and for as long as I can remember was a part of the traditional Christmas lunch my grandmother served on the 23rd of December every year when she was still alive. It was served as a starter followed by patty shells with peas, carrots and ham cooked in some kind of a thin white sauce, marinated herring with curry salad, shrimp and eggs with caviar (the cheap kind) and finishing off with loads of different kinds of cheeses and crackers. After this fabulous meal it was time to go into the neighbouring plantation (which was a part of my grandfathers land) to pick up our Christmas tree. When we got back from this trip my grandmother had already set the table again with Christmas goodies, coffee, glögg and hot cocoa.... This was for me the start of the count down for the 24th of December and Christmas Eve...

I don't make my own black pudding like my grandmother - it's too much of a fuss when I haven't got the same access to the ingredients as she had - it was for her a matter of making the most of their raw materials from the farm where as I just go to the supermarket and pick up a pre-made black pudding - when I want a real treat I go to the butcher's shop and pick up a real quality black pudding, but that's expensive and doesn't happen often.

This is how I prepare and serve out black pudding:

I take out the pudding of the packaging and slice it into rather thick slices

I fill up the skillet with the pudding slices and fry them till they go black and crisp on the outside but still have a soft core.

Pile up the black pudding slices on a plate and serve it with a side of sugar and/or syrup
Bon appetit...

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