Toffee soaked rhubarb and apple crumble

Crumble is in many ways the best dessert ever, for it’s so easy to make and you usually have the necessary stuff for it at home. Most fruits or berries will do, and then you just need butter, flour and sugar in the base recipe (and oats if you fancy a bit of crunch). This is a slightly fancier version, called smulpaj in Swedish, with a toffee sauce in the base and rhubarb mixed in with the apple. It is sweet, sticky and very, very scrumptious. If you’ve planned to spoil someone with dinner this is a good dessert – you can prepare it hours before, and just leave it in the fridge for when you want to bake it. It is of course very unhealthy, but it doesn’t feel too heavy since the apple and rhubarb gives some freshness to it all. Served really hot with ice cream is the best, but this is also nice cold as the toffee gets a bit chewy then.

You need:

  • 2 large sticks of rhubarb
  • 1 large bramley apple
  • 2 decilitres light brown sugar
  • 1 decilitre light sirup
  • 125g sugar, at room temperature
  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 1 decilitre oats
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar

Start by peeling your rhubarb (carefully unpick the thin skin off from bottom and pull it down in slithers) and cut it in smaller bits. Also peel and cut your apple. If you were given an incredibly unnecessary apple peeler for christmas present a few years back, this is the time to get it out.

Set your oven to 220 degrees. Place the fruit in the bottom of an oven-proof dish, and make the crumble through mixing half of the sugar, all the flour, the oats and the butter in a bowl. If the butter is at room temperature you can just tear it off bit by bit into the dough mixture. If it’s still a bit hard then cut into little squares with a knife and rub into the dough mixture until you’ve got a grainy mixture.

Then make the toffee sauce in a pan: melt a small knob of butter, and mix in the sirup together with the rest of the sugar and well as the vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil carefully and then pour it over the apple and rhubarb. Be careful with tasting the toffee – it’s delicious at this stage, but it may also burn your finger terribly (…speaking from experience).

Apple the grainy mixture evenly on top of the toffeed apple and rhubarb, and place in the middle of the oven (at 220 degrees) for about 25 minutes or until the top layer has gone golden and stiffened up a little. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Indulge and await sugar rush.


Advertisements

Classic Swedish herring sandwich (sillamacka på kavring)

As any Swedophile will know, herring beats meatballs for the title of the quintessential Swedish dish. This recipe (if it can even be called that) is a Swedish classic, perhaps the ultimate herring sandwich. There’s a wide selection of spiced herrings in the land of frost and darkness: onion, mustard, tomato, curry, dill, crayfish, garlic… the list goes on. But the simple matjessill is my favourite. It’s both salty and sweet, spiced with cinnamon, sandalwood and allspice, and sometimes I get cravings for it which knows no boundaries. Every time I go to Scandinavian kitchen in Oxford circus I come home with several tins of the stuff, and then I try re-create this sandwich with English sour cream, imported Swedish bread, red onion and chives. Having served it to several people in London, I’m convinced you don’t need to be Swedish to appreciate the complex fresh flavours of this dish. It makes for an excellent starter in the summer. Or in the winter for that matter, it is always delicious.

For the sandwich you need:

  • 1 tin of matjessill (can be bought at IKEA or Scandinavian shops around the UK)
  • Sourcream (all the better if you can get a hold of gräddfil which is the Swedish variant)
  • Red onion, finely chopped
  • Chives, finely chopped
  • 1 slice of dark sweet Swedish bread, kavring. This can be substituted with any sweet, dark rye you can find at Nordic bakery shops or anywhere else for that matter. In desperate times any darkish bread can do (in the picture below I used a walnut rye bread). Just make sure it’s not toast, we’re not dealing with shrimps or crayfish here!
  • Bolied sliced new potatoes, cold (optional)
  • Sliced hard boiled egg, cold (optional)
  • Dark Swedish caviar (optional). This sounds posh but it’s just lumpfish roe. It has a delicate salty flavour to it and looks nice.

Another sillamacka, with light walnut bread and some dark caviar.

The making of this sandwich is very simple. For the base of the sandwich, you need a slice of kavring bread. This is hard to get a hold of outside of Sweden, so you can substitue with with a sweet rye kind, or make your own*. If you want to add potato or egg to make it more filling, you add them first. Spread some red onion on top of these as well as on the plate. Then add a generous dollop of sourcream on top of this, and add three juicy pieces of matjessill on top. Scatter generously with chopped chives.

* Making traditional kavring at home takes two days and lots of Swedish ingredients. I found an alternative which I refer to as fake kavring:


Good thing is it only takes one hour to prepare and bake! You need:

  • 1 oven-proof pan for bread loaves
  • Butter and bread crumbs to make it non-stick
  • 3 deciliters sour cream
  • 1 1/2 deciliters dark sirup
  • 1/2 deciliters water
  • 2 deciliters plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 deciliters sifted rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon bicarbonate
  • 1 tablespoon lingonberry jam

Butter and bread the pan for the oven. Put your oven to 180 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the sour cream, sirup, water and lingonberry. Pour into the pan up to 2/3 for a high loaf. Put in at the bottom of the oven for 1 hour until it is a dark golden brown. Let rest and then slice up thinly.


Caramelised almond cake (toscatårta)

Me and my brother had a joint 25 and 30 year old birthday party this weekend and I was responsible for desserts. Panicking over what to make – desserts aren’t my strong side – I decided on toscatårta, because it’s delicious and not too hard to make. Essentially toscatårta is a creamy Swedish sponge cake with a divine topping of caramelised almond. It’s one of my gran’s classics and I’ve finally learnt how to make it. (or, at least this variation of it got her approval, and since she’s known as queen of the cakes in my village, I’m more than pleased with that verdict.)

For the sponge you need:

  • 2 decilitres plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 decilitres white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 decilitre double cream (this is the secret to the creaminess of the sponge)
  • 50 grams butter

For the topping:

  • 50 gram almond flakes
  • 50 grams butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 decilitre sugar 

You also need a round cake tin with detachable sides, and butter and fine bread crumbs to make it non-stick. Start by putting your oven to 175 degrees and butter the tin on the inside (the best way of doing this is through putting a small knob of butter on some kitchen towel and grease it all over). Add fine bread crumbs by pouring some in the middle and then moving the tin around until it is all covered in them. This is the Swedish way of greasing a tin for any cake, but I suppose you could also line the tin with baking paper.

Then melt the butter on the stove and let cool whilst you whisk together the eggs and the sugar for a fluffy mix. You can do this by hand, but your cake rises better if you can fluff it up with an electric whisk.

Fold in the butter, flour, baking powder and cream, and pour the mixture into your greased tin. Put in the oven for 25 minutes whilst you make the almond topping.

Making the almond topping is simple. Just mix the butter, milk, flour, sugar and almonds in a pan on the stove, and let melt slowly whilst the cake is in the oven. The butter should become completely liquid and the sugar should dissolve, but it doesn’t need more heat once that’s done.

Pardon all the instagrammed photos… left my camera in London.

Once the cake has had its 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and apply the topping carefully all over the cake. Just make sure it doesn’t collect in one hole in the middle. Put back into the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping has gone a light golden brown.

Once your beautiful cake is done, the almond should have caramelised at the top, and the sponge gone a light brown at the bottom. Carefully separate the upper edges of the cake from the form with a knife, as they become difficult to separate once the sugar has stiffened. Let rest for a few minutes, and then carefully move the cake from the form to a plate. Decorate with berries and mint, and serve with strong, sweet coffee.


Salted caramel brownies

This recipe comes from a Guardian fashion+food piece, optimistically announcing the time for picnics in British parks. Current gale winds and rainy temperatures sadly suggest otherwise. But this recipe looked amazing, so I made these little beauties inside, in the cold. Completely agreeing with Nigella, I think salted caramel is about the best thing to have come out of chocolate invention… basically, ever. The saltyness and the rich, creamy caramel added with sweet chocolate is just bliss. Even if you think you don’t like mixing sweet and salty, I bet you will enjoy this. And whenever picnic time actually comes along, they will be on top of the list together with sweet white wine, blankets and good books. Just be very, very careful not to overdo the salt, because that will definitely spoil them.

For the caramel, you’ll need:

  • 90 g caster sugar (original recipe says golden caster sugar but that would have involved me buying three different kinds of sugar for this recipe so I just went with normal caster. I think it will taste nuttier and more flavoursome with golden, so go for that if you want to do it proper. But normal caster seemed to work just fine)
  • 60 ml double cream
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 60g unsalted butter, in cubes

For the brownie mix:

  • 200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150 light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 20 g cocoa powder

Start by making the caramel by melting the caster sugar in two tablespoons of water. Stir until it dissolves, but then be careful to let it bubble away and make a sirup completely undisturbed, moving the pan in swirly moves rather than stirring. Do this until it has bubbled together to a thick, golden brown and reduced a bit. Then add the butter, and let melt, then stir in the cream and butter. Let cool at the side.

Prepare for the brownies by lining a tin with butter and baking paper, and put the oven to 190 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter. I did this in the microwave, together, but letting it in for 20 second stints and then stirring before continuing. Towards the end the butter is so hot that it melts the last of the chocolate outside of the microwave, and you are therefore safe from burning it by mistake. Then beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until they’ve turned fluffy. You can do this by hand (as I did) but it is best done by a electric whisk. It is quite tough on your arms by hand.

When this is done, sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, add the salt, and then fold in the melted chocolate and butter. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, and dot it with spoonfuls of salted caramel. Then add the second half of the mix, and top off with more sated caramel. You can stir through the whole thing with a spon or something to make sure the caramel swirl reaches all round the cake. But be very careful not to mix too much, of course, for the joy lies in the contrast.

Put this into the oven, and, depending on how deep or wide your dish is let it stay in there for 40 mins to 1 hour. Mine took an hour because it’s a deep dish, but I also think I left it in a little bit too long. It should be only almost firm in the middle when you take it out, so don’t worry if it looks a little wobbly.

Once you’ve let it rest and cool down, cut it into about 18 brownie-sized bits. If you feel like being overly lush, and of course you do, serve with some whipped cream (for what else are you going to do with the rest of the double cream you used to make them…?)


Lunchbox extravaganza pt. 3: Swedish pizza rolls (Pizzabullar)

London has been miserably rainy lately, but it feels like we might finally be moving towards picnic time! So I’m going to attempt (but hopelessly fail) to revise stuff for exams in parks whilst stuffing my face with nibbles and pretend it’s already summer. Pizzabullar are perfect for this: uncomplicated, unsophisticated food from the 90s. When I was about 7 and a half, we’d eat them on days out in the forest with school (or my friends would; they always had way cooler snacks than I did). My friend Natalie’s mum used to make her these and I was really very jealous. They aren’t particularly healthy, or cheap but lovely nonetheless so they are getting a blog post dedicated to them. The technique of making them is identical to that of Kanelbullar, you just change the dough slightly and the stuff that goes in it. You can mix content around wildly, but the classic involves smoked ham, cheese, tomato sauce and oregano. I added finely chopped and fried mushrooms with fresh thyme to mine.

For the dough you need:

  • 12-14 deciliters plain flour
  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 5 deciliters milk
  • 1 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 200 g smoked ham (cooked is also alright and can be found cheaply in many basics ranges in the supermarkets)
  • 300 g cheese (grated or sliced)
  • 1 tube of tomato puree
  • 7 finely chopped mushrooms
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Rub the yeast into small pieces in a bowl, heat up the milk and butter together on the stove and pour it into the bowl to dissolve the yeast when it’s finger-warm. Mix in 9 deciliters of flour, the salt and the baking powder, and stir until you have a dough. Knead it for a while, adding only so much flour you need to keep it from sticking to your hands too badly. Leave the dough to rest in the bowl under a kitchen towel for 40 minutes. If you haven’t baked with fresh yeast before, it will shock you how much it grows:

After 40 minutes, wake it up by kneading it and adding more flour as you go (but be careful not to overdo it, you only want as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking). Split the dough in two, and roll out one half on a floured surface. Roll it into a sausage and then shape it into a rectangular piece, roughly 25×40 cm. Spread tomato puree smoothly on top of it like a pizza, and then top off with the cheese/ham/mushroom mix.

Roll it up and cut into 12 pieces

Place with the cut side up on a baking tray with baking paper underneath, brush the top and all sides with a whisked egg and place some grated cheese on top.

Bake in an oven at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they have browned. Done!

If your pizza buns go a bit stale after a few days (although they keep rather well because of the cheese melting into the dough and sort of preserving them) you can cut them up into small pieces and put in the oven for 15 minutes for little luxury crutons. It looks a bit weird but they taste lovely on soup.

Kanelbulle and pizzabulle, socialising.


White chocolate ricciarelli

Perhaps these ought to be called bastard or fake ricciarelli, if they can be called ricciarelli at all. Real ricciarelli are meant to be this beautiful, and not have white chocolate anywhere near them. Perhaps think of this as the rural cousin of the ricciarelli, with a weird accent, ugly dress and too much make-up. The white chocolate adds an almost buttery base to the fresh and sweet almond crispness of the biscuit, and they are perfect snack size for your afternoon coffee. They are also quick and easy to make!

For the recipe, which is based on this Swedish post, you need:

  • 250 g almond flour
  • The peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 150 g sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 drop of bitter almond extract
  • 100 g white chocolate

Start by mixing the almond flour and half of the sugar in a bowl. In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites into a foam , then add the other half of the sugar, whisking along until you have a shiny kind of meringue base. Carefully add the lemon, almond-sugar mix and almond extract. You’ll get a sticky mix, which you can shape into little rounds or whichever shape you prefer (these are the quick and dirty sort of ricciarelli after all). Put them into the oven at 160 degrees for no more than 10 minutes, and keep a careful eye when they bake as they easily dry up. Take them out of the oven and let them cool whilst you melt the chocolate in a water bath. Dip the bottoms in the chocolate (or smear it on if that’s easier), and then let them rest on a sheet of baking paper. If you’re the restless kind, you can hurry up the stiffening of the chocolate through putting them in the freezer.

Enjoy a handful of them with your afternoon coffee.


Traditional New York style cheesecake with wild raspberries

One of my favourite things about Sweden is going foraging. But since foraging season has barely started, this past month back in Sweden I’ve had to go foraging in the freezer box instead (where last seasons foraging finds are kept) which then led to this mix of traditional New York-style baked cheesecake and wild raspberries. If you’ve ever tried wild raspberries you will know that they are incredibly different from commercially grown ones, and have one of the most floral and sweet yet full-bodied flavours of the forest (indeed so strong that my mum won’t eat them because she finds them over-powering). So they really add something to a voluptuous and creamy New York cheesecake. But you can, of course, melt any berries you like on top of this cake, it will still taste divine. Just be prepared – this cake doesn’t take up much of your time, but it takes a long time to make, and it HAS to be given its time in the fridge or you will be sorely disappointed.

I kind of followed Nigella’s recipe for this cake, and for the base, you’ll need:

  • 250 g digestive biscuits (guess it’s meant to be Graham crackers but they’re impossible to get a hold of in Sweden)
  • 150 butter (melted)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
For the filling:
  • 3 1/2 dl sugar (225 g)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 600 g cream cheese
  • 6 eggs yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 heaped teaspoons vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 ml full fat cream
  • 150 ml sour cream (I used Swedish gräddfil, it worked just as well)
  • the zest and peel of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
For the topping
  • Wild raspberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/1 tbsp cornflour
.
+ Patience. The cake is best the day after you made it. A springform will be helpful, but I made it in a clay one.
.
Start by crushing the digestive biscuits and mixing them with the sugar and butter. This is probably done easiest by using a food processor, but you can also crush the biscuits by hand (I did). It just takes some time. Then add it to the bottom of the form you are using (pre-greased with butter), and press it out evenly and hard. Put in the fridge to rest for an hour. When the base has been in the fridge for a while, put the sugar and cornflour together, then mix in the cream cheese. Don’t be fooled by my whisk below, at this early stage you’re better helped by something spatula-like (as I quickly discovered…).

After this is mixed together, add the cream, the sour cream, the egg yolks and the lemon zest & peel. Stir constantly whilst mixing these things together. Put your oven to 170 degrees.
.
In a separate bowl, with a separate whisk (this is important or the eggs whites will react to the traces of other ingredients), whisk together the egg whites with that half teaspoon of salt. You need your whites to turn into stiff peaks, which takes a while since there is no sugar in this mix. Whisk, whisk, whisk until it look something like the thing below. You may also, as below, need some assistance in doing this, for it really does tire out you arms (I was up sawing birchwood on the morning of making this cake, and that seemed easier somehow…) .
.
.
Then, very gently, fold in the egg whites into the cream cheese mix.
.
.
Take out your base from the fridge, and fill it with the cream cheese mix. Smooth off the top with a spatula or something else flat.
 .
 .
Bake in the oven for about one hour or a bit more, depending on your oven and the tin you are using. Mine ended up being a little over-baked in the edges so for beauty-reasons I cut off some of the upper ends before applying the melted berries. Once your cake has turned golden at the top, yet hasn’t settled properly in the middle, turn the oven off and leave your cake in there for another two hours without opening. Then open the oven and leave the cake in there for another hour with the door open. Towards the end of that hour, melt your berries on the stove with the sugar until they are all half-crushed. Then stir in the the cornflour, and when it is time to finally take the cake out of the oven, apply the melted berries evenly at the top, and put into your fridge to set for a few hours. Note that it REALLY needs a few hours in there or it won’t be smooth.
.
It takes some time, but in the end you will have something as smooth, dreamy and beautiful as this to look at, and most importantly, to eat! And it’s really, really worth the trouble.
.