Mince pies

Mince pies are not part of my native culture, and I didn’t like them for a long time after moving to London, but since I started making these (to keep my husband happy) I have grown to like them. I think this recipe is a really good mince pie recipe. Making the mince requires you to be somewhat organized, as you want to leave it for a few weeks, before using it for the actual pies.

Mince
225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped/grated
110g sultanas
60g currants
60g dried cranberries
175g raisins
110g mixed candied peel
4 tbsp dark rum, whiskey or brandy
25g finely chopped blanched almonds
1 large orange, finely grated zest and juice
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
110g shredded suet
175g dark muscovado sugar

Rum butter
125g butter, room temperature
50g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp dark rum, whisky or brandy

Pastry
450g plain flour
180g butter, chilled and diced
50g lard, chilled and diced
finely grated zest of  1 orange
5-6 tbsp orange juice

Mince
1. Combine all mince ingredients apart from the muscovado and suet. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 45 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has plumped up, the apples have broken down and excess liquid has evaporated.

2. Set aside to cool, then mix in the muscovado and suet. For adults version, I also tend to add some more alcohol at this stage (3 tbsp), as the cooking has burned all alcohol off.

3. Put in sterilized jars, and mature for 3-4 weeks.

Rum butter
Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then gradually beat in the rum, and set aside in the fridge.

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Pastry
1. Put the flour, butter and lard, as well as a pinch of salt, into a food processor. Whizz briefly until it looks like breadcrumbs.

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2. Add the orange zest and juice, and whizz again.

3. Turn onto floured surface, and knead briefly, until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.

The pies
1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F.

2. Grease the baking tins with butter. Roll the dough to about 5mm thickness. I tend to cut out circles with two glasses. The bigger one for the ‘body’ of the pies, and the smaller for the lids of the pies. Place the bigger circles in the greased baking tins, forming the bottom and sides of the pie. fill with the mince mixture, and put a teaspoon of the rum butter on top. Then place the lid over, pressing the edges together with the edges of the other dough.

3. Make few punctures with a sharp knife, and brush with beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes.

Cappuccino cake

My husband would like me to bake more, so I’ve been making cakes a bit more than I normally do. I’ve been trying to be creative, and make a variety of styles. Last time it was fruity pineapple cake (click here for recipe), this time it’s a cappuccino cake with a mild coffee flavor.

5 tbsp strong coffee
175g butter
175g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
~~~~~
400g double cream
50-75g dark chocolate (I use 85%)

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating into the mixture. If the mixture ‘curdles’ during this process, add a spoonful of the flour.

2. Mix the flour and baking powder together. Once all the eggs have been beaten into the butter – sugar mixture and it’s again fluffy, start adding the flour. When you have only little flour left, add the coffee, followed by the remaining flour. After the flour has been added and completely mixed, you don’t want to overdo the mixing.

3. Preheat the oven to 175°C / 345°F. Line a baking tin with non-stick baking paper (unless you’re using a silicone one), and pour the cake mixture in. Bake for about 45 minutes.

4. Once baked, take out of the oven. I tend to check the cake is baked through by using a metal knitting pin. When you pull it out, if it’s clean the cake is done, if some batter has got stuck to it it’s not done yet.

5. Lift the cake and the baking paper out of the tin and let the cake cool on a rack.

6. Remove the baking paper and cut the cooled cake into three layers.

7. On each layer, put some whipped cream and grated dark chocolate. Then put another layer on and repeat.

Pineapple and almond cake

I had added a whole pineapple on our food shopping delivery, thinking I would use it for a fruit salad. My husband, however, set me on a different kind of challenge when he asked if I could make a pineapple cake, pineapple granita and a pineapple ice-cream (yes, all from the one fruit!). The juicy pineapple makes this cake very moist and wonderful, and it’s very fluffy and light. I added some Amaretto for a super moist result. The amount I’ve used only gives a slight taste, if you want to make a boozy cake add more.

250g butter
2 dl caster sugar
4 eggs
4 1/2 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 dl chopped almond
1/2 pineapple (about 3-4 dl once chopped to small pieces)
3 tbsp Amaretto (optional)

1. Prepare the pineapple, and chop to small pieces. Measure the dry ingredients together.

2. Whisk the butter and sugar together on high speed, until fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, one by one, whisking thoroughly on high speed.

4. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the pineapple pieces.

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5. Pour the mixture into your baking tin. I use a silicone one, so I don’t need to butter it, however if you use a non-silicone one you may want to butter and coat it with flour first.

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6. Bake in a preheated oven 170°C / 340°F for 1 hour.

7. If using the Amaretto, once out of the oven let cool for 10 minutes. Prick the cake all over with a needle, and pour the liquid all over the cake. Wait for about 30-60 minutes before serving.

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Munkit (doughnuts)

1st of May is a national holiday called Vappu in Finland,  and the evening before sees some heavy celebrations. There are some traditional foods associated with Vappu too, from nakit (frankfurther, or hot dog, sausages), potato salad (click here for my recipe) and drink called sima, to deep fried sweet thing called tippaleipä as well as munkit (doughnuts). Munkit, of course, are not eaten only at Vappu, but all year round. You can fill them with jam after they’ve been fried, however both my husband and I prefer unfilled ones so I don’t fill my munkit.

basic pulla dough (click here for basic pulla recipe)
2 litres of vegetable oil
caster sugar

1. Follow the pulla recipe to make your basic dough. When making doughnuts, make your buns a little bit smaller than when baking in the oven, because they may be left uncooked in the middle otherwise. Let the individual buns rise for about half an hour.

2. Heat the oil in a pan to 180°C / 355°F. Place the buns in the oil in small batches (about 4 at a time). Once the undersides have browned, turn them around.

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3. Drain on a kitchen tissue. Once the oil has drained and the doughnuts aren’t wet anymore (but still warm), roll in the sugar.

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Rhubarb and strawberry tart

I’m more of a savory than a sweet kind of cook. I was inspired to make this sweet tart by the British Pie week, that’s been trending on Twitter. Before you get too confused though, the Finnish name for this kind of thing is a ‘pie’, which is why I thought of making it, before properly considering that in fact it’s more of a tart. I would however say pies and tarts are cousins, and I think this is a good enough entry to the pie week from me.  It’s very easy and simple to make, and you can easily change the filling ingredients to your taste.

Pastry
150g butter
1 dl sugar
1 egg
2 dl plain flour
2 dl porridge oats
2 tsp baking powder
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Filling
200g rhubarb (about 4 stalks, depending on size)
300g strawberries
1 tbsp sugar
2 dl crème fraiche
1 egg

1. Mix all the pastry ingredients together. Spread the mixture at the bottom and sides of your dish.

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2. Chop the rhubarb and strawberries into small pieces. Pour over the pastry, to fill the tart / pie. Sprinkle the sugar on top.

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3. Mix the egg with the crème fraiche. Pour the mixture over the strawberries and rhubarb.

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4. Heat the oven to 200°C / 390°F. Place the tart into the preheated oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

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Carrot cake I

I have two recipes for carrot cake that I use. As both of them are nice, my dilemma was which one to post. I’ve decided that I will post one as I, and next time I’m making carrot cake I’ll make the other recipe as II.

200g carrots
2 eggs
1 1/2 dl caster sugar
1/2 dl chopped hazelnuts
2 1/2 dl self raising flour
1 dl oat bran
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1 dl olive oil
1 dl buttermilk

1. Peel and finely grate the carrots.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until foamy, fluffy texture, then carefully add the dry ingredients.

4. Add the carrots and all the other remaining ingredients.

5. Pour the cake batter on a flat based cake tin (If you use a tin, you may want to butter it first. I use a silicon cake mold, which doesn’t require buttering). The batter will appear very runny at this stage, but will be nice and fluffy once cooked.

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6. Bake in the low part of a preheated oven 170°C / 340°F for about 50 minutes.

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Laskiaispulla (Shrove Tuesday bun)

I know Shrove Tuesday is usually called  Pancake Day. One of these years I’ll make pancakes on this day for my husband, however at the moment he’s still getting the Finnish version – buns filled with jam and whipped cream.

5 dl milk
2 saches of quick action dried yeast or 50g fresh yeast (I used dried)
1 egg, plus one more for brushing
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 dl caster sugar
1 tbsp coarsely ground cardamom
1 kg wheat flour (400g plain flour / 400g strong white bread flour / 200g self-raising flour)
200g butter, melted

1. Measure 900g of the flour in your mixing bowl. I use food processor for mixing the dough, but if you’re mixing by hand use a large wooden fork, as it’s important to get air in the dough mixture. Save the remaining flour until later. I have to confess I found the perfect mix of flours by accident. I have normally mixed plain and strong white flour half and half, but run out just a little bit, so had to finish with self raising, which turned out to be the best situation.

2. Heat the milk until lukewarm. Add the yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add slightly beaten egg.

3. Pour the liquid mixture to the mixing bowl with the flour in, whilst mixing.

4. Knead for 5 minutes, then start pouring in, little by little, the melted butter. At this stage, it’s a good idea to add spoons of the remaining flour, to help the butter to be incorporated with the rest of the dough. Knead for another 5 minutes. During this time, if the dough keeps sticking to the bowl or is too soft, add some more flour until it doesn’t stick anymore.

5. Cover the bowl with cling film and a cloth,  and place the bowl in a sink with hot water in. Leave to rise for an hour.

6. I then knead the dough again in the food processor for 30 seconds (or alternatively, you can of course do this by hand too).

7. Make into balls. Cover the individual buns with cling film and a cloth, and let them rise for 30 minutes.

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8. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F.

9. Brush the buns with egg, then cook for about 10 minutes.

10. Once cooled, cut as many buns as you’re wanting to prepare as Laskiaispulla, half, so that you have bottom and top halves. Put some whipped cream on both halves. Add jam on the bottom half, the place the top half on top. The buns will be presented in this way, however when you eat them you probably want to eat each half separately.