Mar
20
2011
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Spring Nutty Cake

Use dried fruit rather than refined sugar to sweeten desserts

As everyone indulges in mounds of cream sandwiched in huge buns consisting primarily of things that really aren’t going to do us much good (white flour and sugar), it’s time to think anew. I know that I am a party-pooper when it comes to the annual semla-fest, a Swedish tradition which is also practiced in other Northern European cultures, which originated in the need to pack in the calories before the 40 days of fasting decreed by the Catholic Church at Lent.

These days most of us do not fast anymore and the on average 4-5 gigantic semla buns that Swedes consume annually are in a continuum with all of the other calorie-rich foods that continue to be consumed on a regular basis. It’s one of those familiar things that provides a short feel-good experience and then leaves you feeling a bit, well, bloated. As you know from this blog, I’m not against cream, I just find that the increasingly wide-spread consumption of foods such as semla, which are no longer limited to the time frame of tradition (that is, you can in fact consume a semla at just about any time of year), is unfortunate. 

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, it’s time for the good news. You don’t have to abstain from a sweet, even with a dollop of cream, to be healthy. Inspired by the many unused packages of dates I received as gifts at Christmas mingles, I decided to see whether these fruits, which have a strong natural sweetness could be used in making something tasty to consume with a cup of tea. Since I always have a wide range of nuts and dried fruits stored away in my kitchen cupboard, I decided to experiment with a few of these to make a cake, without refined flour and sugar.  The result was a divine, light cake with great texture that everyone in the family enjoyed, and all made without the use of refined flour and sugar!

Spring Nutty Cake

200 grams or 7 oz. ecological dates (you can also use figs)
1 dl or 1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup almonds
1 dl or 1/2 cup walnuts
1 dl or 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
6 egg whites
vanilla essence or vanilla sugar

Preheat your oven at 175 C or 347 F and line a baking tin with baking paper. Run the dates through the food processor so that they are chopped very fine. Add nuts and dessicated coconut and process, one deciliter or half  cup at a time. Whip egg whites until stiff , adding vanilla sugar. Gently fold the dried fruit and nut mixture under the egg whites until a batter forms. Empty the batter into the lined baking tin and bake for 45 minutes. The cake should not be baked dry and should retain some moisture inside. If you have that whipped cream craving, don’t hesitate to add a dollop to your slice of spring nutty cake.

Written by Admin in: Cakes,Dried Fruits,Fruits,Nuts,Sweet Food | Tags: , , ,
Dec
30
2010
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New Ways with Bread

New ways with bread

Up in my mountain cabin during the holiday season I certainly long for that slice of whole grain fresh baked bread with my cup of coffee or tea after a round on the cross country skis. The only problem is that, well, I am on holiday and don’t feel like spending energy on kneading dough. I haven’t got a bread mixer up here and although I know that kneading dough can be therapeutic once you get into it, I’m looking for other, less demanding, ways to come up with a great loaf of fresh bread.

Perusing the holiday season magazines, I stumbled upon an idea which I have subsequently tried out and found to work beautifully. It takes time but not a great deal of exertion and produces wonderful, moist bread. This approach to bread baking is one that I call “Stretch and moisten” as opposed to “Knead, knead and rise”.  The lead idea here is that instead of standing kneading for a half an hour and developing sore arms, you stretch out the dough with a moistened hand in half hour intervals. Continually splashing over water during the baking phase completes the process. Here’s how to get a delicious walnut bread that everyone in the family will appreciate.

Walnut Bread (the stretch and moisten way)
makes one loaf

2-3 dl or 1 cup walnuts, broken up into smaller pieces
1 dl or 1/2 cup fine rye flour
5 1/2 dl or 2 1/2 cups white flour
3 tsps dry yeast
1.5 cups cold water
2 tablespoons honey
Salt

Blend the yeast with the water. Add all other ingredients aside from walnuts. Using one hand, blend into a smooth dough. Add walnuts and knead until mixed into the dough. Before leaving the dough to rise for the first half hour, take the whole lump of dough into one hand and, wetting the other hand, draw out from one angle and fold back into the center. Repeat the same action until you have gone around the entire lump of dough. Leave to rise for a half an hour and repeat the same procedure. Do this a total of three times, leaving the bread to rise for a half an hour between each time that you stretch and moisten the dough. Eventually fold over the dough into a loaf and leaf to rise for an hour. Stretch, moisten and fold over the dough one last time, sprinkle with a little extra rye flour and leave to rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the dough on a baking sheet, sprinkle with water and bake 25 minutes, reducing the temperature to 200 C as soon as you place the loaf in the oven. Sprinkle with water two further times during the baking period. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Based on the original recipe by Martin Johansson with some modifications to adjust to cup measurements. If you read Swedish, you’ll definitely want to check out Martin’s blog and his upcoming book, Enklare Bröd, about bread baking.

Written by Admin in: Bread,Nuts,Walnuts | Tags: ,
Dec
22
2010
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Healthy Nordic Alternatives for your Holiday Season Table

Don't let Christmas weigh you down!

It’s Christmas again and with this a time when your healthy kitchen could take a nose-dive. But not here at Julie’s Kitchen! With all due respect to saffron buns and Christmas ham, we really do need to start to think along different lines. Christmas mingles in Sweden usually offer up gingerbread biscuits, hot spiced wine and a host of other delicacies which unfortunately often include an overdose of refined flour and sugar. Yet the Scandinavian traditions of Christmas also offer unique opportunities for healthy eating that will leave your digestive system feeling light and bright. So here are a few suggestions of healthy Scandinavian elements to think about introducing into your Christmas that will also make your Christmas smorgåsbord or mingle especially interesting.

Starter Ideas

Focus on crisp breads with different types of smoked fish toppings. Make a luxurious pate using your favorite smoked or preserved fish topping by pureeing the cooked or smoked fish with olive or canola oil, a twist of lemon, salt and pepper. Combine in a food processor, adjusting ingredients to give you just the right consistency. Sardine is a fish that is hard to beat in pate.

Experiment with sour, vitamin C rich berries such as cranberries or rowanberries as a tangy topping for crisp bread combinations.  Place small bowls of berries in between the crispbread and toppings. Try not to sweeten too much – just a sprinkling of sugar and a bit of cinnamon will do it.

Main Dish Ideas

Make vegetables the focus! What could be better than a steaming platter of honey-baked grilled root vegetables accompanied by some festive tossed kale? For the root vegetables (beets, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and more): peel and cut into large chunks, toss in olive oil and rosemary or bay leaf, and a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 200c or 390 F for 40 minutes. 10 minutes before the end of the baking drizzle over a bit of honey. For the kale: Chop roughly and saute for a few minutes in olive or canola with onions, golden raisins, salt and pepper. The kale should keep some of its firmness. Serve the vegetable dishes with some Turkish or Greek yogurt (not Scandinavian but it’s a great topping!).

Dessert Ideas

That’s simple! Lay out clementines, mandarins and oranges in generous bowls interspersed with small bowls of walnuts. If you want to provide an extra special touch to the walnuts, melt some good quality dark chocolate and bathe the walnuts in it. Place spoonfuls of chocolate walnuts on baking paper and allow to harden in the refrigerator.

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Check The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook and Paavo’s Bytes for many other great suggestions for your holiday season table!

Apr
28
2009
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Black Currant Cake

Black Currants

Black Currants

As the black currant bushes around my town home and out on my island begin to sprout the first aromatic leaves, I realize that it is time to use up my frozen berries from last year’s harvest. Black currant is regarded by many nutritionists as a wonderfood due to its high antioxidant content (meaning that they offer protection against free radicals which can damage cells and cause disease). The only question is how can you use them aside from in the standard, albeit wonderful, jam pot? Black currants have a strong flavor and can be more difficult to figure out how to use in bakes, etc.

Recently I discovered a recipe for a black currant cake in one of my cookbooks, but I had to hesitate. Mounds of sugar, butter and white flour were required in order to produce this delicious-looking black currant creation. I summoned my courage and decided to make the cake with alterations. The result was divine and everyone liked it without exception.

Here we go:

Black Currant Cake

For the cake:

3 eggs
2.5 dl or 1 cup raw sugar
3 dl or 1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
For the topping:

4 dl or 1.5-2 cups black currants (frozen or fresh)
50 g or 2 oz butter cut into thin slabs
2 dl or 1 cup slivered almonds
0.5 dl or 1/4 cup raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 175 C or 347 F. Grease a regular-sized pie dish. Blend the eggs and sugar until creamy. Add the flour and remain cake base ingredients. Blend. Pour into the pie dish.

Scatter the black currants evenly across the top of the cake base. Follow with a layer of nuts. Scatter the sugar across the top and finally distribute the slabs of butter evenly.  Bake approximately 30-35 minutes. The cake should not be entirely firm and retain some moisture in the middle.

Allow to cool and enjoy in small pieces with tea or coffee. Remember that quantity and physical activity are key in being able to enjoy your desserts well!

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