250 kilometers on a bike, loads of sea and sun, sleeping in a tent 5 meters from the sea, grilled sausages eaten while sitting on a pier in the sunset, using the ocean as a wine cooler, stunning nature and loads of laughter. Those are some memories that I take with me from my two week vacation at Gotland with my mum. Gotland sits to the east of Sweden in the Baltic sea, a three hour ferry ride away. Extremely popular with tourists in the summer, but a whole other place, I have been told, off season. The nature of Gotland is very beautiful and often dramatic, as the photos below will show.
Being a foodie, I of course savored the regional treats of this island. One notable feature of the Gotlandic landscape is the sheep - loads of them, gracing huge pastures with traditional farm houses. So, lamb is a given to eat while on Gotland. Smoked fish is another "must have". Recently, black truffle has been found on Gotland (more here and here in Swedish). Buying a whole truffle was not feasible neither logistically nor financially, but I did get a jar of sea salt mixed with small pieces of black truffle to use on top of potatoes au gratin, pasta, risotto...
But maybe the most famous Gotlandic dish is a desert: saffranspannkaka (saffron pancake). Now, this dish has very little to do with American pancakes or their Swedish cousins. The Gotlandic saffron pancake is a kind of rice pudding, flavored with almonds. And saffron, of course. Until recently, saffron has been quite cheap here. Less than 2 USD would get you half a gram of saffron, enough for a big batch of traditional Swedish saffron buns for Christmas, or a large pot of saffron infused seafood risotto. But today at the grocery store I was told that there is something wrong with this year's saffron harvest, and the price had increased dramatically, to almost 5 USD for a packet of 0.5 grams. I hesitated whether to buy it, but decided that it was worth it, just to celebrate a lovely time on Gotland.
Traditionally, saffron pancake is served with dewberry jam and lightly whipped cream. If you can't find dewberry jam, blackberry or raspberry works as well.
Saffranspannkaka from Gotland
For the rice porridge:
4 dl water
2 dl round grain rice
½ tsp salt
1-2 tbsp butter
6 dl milk
1 small cinnamon stick
1 dl sugar
50 g almonds, finely chopped
0,5 g saffron
(1 tbsp Amaretto)
(extra milk or cream)
Start by making the rice porridge. Combine water, rice, salt and butter in a large pot. Bring to a boil, and boil with the lid on for ten minutes. Watch closely, this overboils easily! Add milk and the cinnamon stick, stir and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat to the very lowest setting, and let it simmer slowly for about 40-60 minutes, until all the water is gone. Once again, watch for overboiling! Stir once in a while. I have yet to make rice porridge without some of it getting stuck in the bottom of the pot; just stir carefully as not to mix in any "well done" parts. When the porridge is done, let it cool to at least room temperature (this takes a while).
When the porridge has cooled down, set the oven to 175°C. Butter a large pie tin or a rectangular baking dish. Mix the cooled porridge with eggs, sugar, chopped almonds and saffron. A tip to get more flavor out of saffron is to mix it with something alcoholic. I used about 1 tablespoon of Amaretto (almond liqueur) to enhance the almond flavor. Just mix the saffron and the liqueur using a mortar and pestle (bashing the saffron threads also enhances their flavor), and then add it to the batter. If your porridge is very dense, you can add some extra milk or cream to make it more spreadable. Spread the batter into your buttered dish and put in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pancake has a nice light golden brown color. Serve it lukewarm with lightly whipped cream and dewberry jam.
This time we ate it with smoked mackerel, last time it was with grilled chicken. That time we also added some finely chopped leek because we had that at home, but forgot about the mustard. Take away or add what appeals to you, and remember that the measurements aren't that crucial - taste yourself forward. We weighed everything tonight (very chef-y, huh?), but consider this recipe a sketch for your own experiments. The salad can be eaten both warm and cold.
Tasty, but not very photogenic...
700 g new potatoes
40 g gherkins (cornichons)
25 g small capers
115 g crème fraîche
40 g mayonnaise
20 g mustard (we used a type of coarse, sweet Swedish mustard, decrease the amount if you use Dijon)
Fresh or frozen dill, to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cut the potatoes so they are in equal bite sized pieces. No need to peel them if they're new and pretty (I never peel new potatoes). Boil them in salted water until soft. Let them cool slightly while you cut the gherkins in smaller pieces. Mix the potatoes (I leave the peel on) with the gherkins and capers. Carefully mix in he crème fraîche and mayonnaise - you can do this while the potatoes are still warm. Season with mustard, dill, salt and pepper to taste.
Summer dinner: Potato salad, smoked mackerel with various peppers, lovely Swedish organic tomatoes.
We recently discovered a bread called Zopf, the first time we made it was as a crayfish bread (slightly unorthodox, both as Zopf and as cray fish bread, but good), and it didn't take long before we decided to try it in its own right. Since then it's become one of our favorite breads. It just tastes wonderful, somewhere between bread and cake (it's a fairly sweet bread), and as anyone who's been to Sweden will have noticed, most bread here is somewhat sweet. It might of course be the fact that you've baked your own bread that adds a little something extra to the taste (a hint of pride maybe?), but I think it has more to do with the fact that this is a truly delicious bread. The recipe we use is from Jan Hedh's Bröd (Bread).
So, to make two loafs you need:
20 g Yeast
10 g Honey
250 g Milk (=2½ dl – you gotta love the metric system!)
750 g Flour
75 g Sugar
75 g Butter
8 g Salt
Egg (1) and Salt (2 pinches) to brush with
Start by making a pre-dough: dissolve the yeast and honey in the milk. Incorporate 250 g of the flour, cover with plastic and let it sit for 30 minutes. The honey is (I guess) mostly yeast food, and I've used agave nectar instead. I guess it would work just as well with syrup or something similar.
Add the rest of the flour, sugar and egg to the pre-dough. Kneed on low speed for 3 minutes. Add butter and work it for another 5 minutes. Add the salt and work it for another 10 minutes, this time on higher speed (I usually go for speed 2 out of 3). Let the dough rest in a lightly oiled plastic box for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll them into firm buns. Let them rest for 5 minutes under a baking cloth. Roll each bun into about ½ meter strings and braid them two-by-two (I'll get you some pix of this next time, promise!). Lay the two loafs on a parchment covered baking sheet and brush them with whipped egg and salt. Let them rise to double size (60-75 minutes). Brush one more and bake them in 220°C for 5 minutes, lower to 190°C and bake them for another 30 minutes. Let them cool on a grid.
They keep well in the freezer.
This month's Daring Bakers challenge was done in the very last minute - on the day of the reveal (i.e. today). Fortunately, the challenge this month wasn't too time-consuming:
The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.Yum! Both these cookies are versions of store-bought cookies, Mallows and Peppridge Farm's Milano Cookies. I've never had Mallows, but we both like Milanos. The challenge said that we could do both cookies, or chose just one recipe. Due to lack of time time we had to limit ourselves to one of the recipes, and chose the easiest one, the Milans. I was really looking forward to making my own marshallows, but alas, that has to wait for another time.
The Milan cookies were easy to make (and the batter was delicious!). We halved the recipe and omitted the vanilla extract as that is hard to find in Sweden (we get vanilla sugar and whole vanilla pods/beans, but normal grocery stores don't sell extract). We also didn't find any lemon extract, only "lemon aroma" which is oil-based, so we reduced the amount to one teaspoon.
The Milans turned out great - they are light and delicate, and taste very close to the original. Thanks Nicole for a tasty challenge!
Here's the recipe for the Milan cookies - for the recipe for chocolate covered marshmallow cookies, go to the Daring Kitchen recipe archive or to the Food Network.
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.
Previously completed challenges:
February 2009: Chocolate Valentino
March 2009: Lasagne of Emiglia-Romana
April 2009: Cheesecake
May 2009: Strudel
June 2009: Bakewell Tart...er...pudding
Ever since learning about a restaurant in Chicago called Alinea, I've dreamed about eating there. And ever since finding the blog Alinea At Home, I've wanted to make something from Alinea in my home. So you can only imagine my excitement when the host of the July Daring Cooks challenge, Sketchy of Sketchy's Kitchen, announced that we were to make Skate, traditional flavours powdered from page 230 of the Alinea cookbook!
For those of you not familiar with Alinea, an explanation may be in order. The highly acclaimed Alinea restaurant is the creation of the incredibly talented chef Grant Achatz (who's just five years older than me, sigh). Achatz has taken a hypermodern approach to cooking, in what is sometimes referred to as molecular gastronomy (our host Sketchy has some great posts on the subject of MG as well).
The Alinea At Home blog is the creation of the awesome Carol Blymire, who's cooking her way through the Alinea cookbook. She's a talented home cook, and a very funny writer. She has previously done the same with the French Laundry cookbook (ah, The French Laundry, another place I would do a lot to get to eat at...) at French Laundry at Home. Both blogs are highly recommended (the French Laundry one is no longer active, but do read through the archives) – I love how Carol shows that you can actually make stuff from those very intimidating cookbooks, and not only use them as food porn on your coffeetable.
I remember reading Carol's post about Skate, traditional flavors powdered and thinking that hey, that sounds really interesting and highly doable. Well here we are – thanks to Sketchy and the Daring Cooks I have actually made the dish!
So, this dish contains a few elements. First skate, poached in beurre monté. The fish is served on top of green beans, also cooked in beurre monté, and thin slices of banana. But the real interesting part of this dish is the powders. One cilantro/parsley powder, one lemon powder, one capers/onion powder and one “brown butter” powder.
The challenge stated that we didn't have to make these exact powders – as long as we got the techniques we could use our own creativity. We decided to keep the flavors of the original recipe, but skipped the capers/onion powder since hearing that some people had problems making that.
Since skate is hard to get hold of, and not eco-friendly at all, we were also allowed to substitute the fish. Flounder or cod was recommended. I went to the best fish monger in Uppsala, Hambergs, and explained to them what I was going to do (let me tell you, they were definitely intrigued!). After hearing the recommended substitutions, the guy told me that those three fishes – skate, flounder and cod – are completely different in flavor and character, and instead recommended that I should use saithe, but not thin fillets but instead the thick back of the fish.
But now I'm actually getting ahead of myself, because two days earlier we had gotten started on the lemon and the cilantro/parsley powder. They are of course easiest made in a food dehydrator, but that's one kitchen device we don't have and don't really have the space nor economy to purchase. They can also be made using a microwave oven, but we don't have one of those either. So we had to turn on the oven (real low).
Brown butter powder in the making; parsley-cilantro powder;
lemon zest in home-made drying device; a dried twig of parsley; lemon powder.
Remember my nifty lifting devices for the Daring Bakers' April cheesecake challenge? Now it was Markus' turn to play engineer with parchment paper, scissors and string. He built a sort of... cradle, I guess you could call it, to use for drying the lemon zest. The idea was to allow for better air circulation - some other Daring Cooks said to use perforated cookie sheets for drying, but we don't have any of those so this would hopefully work as well. The lemon cradle was tied up under a wire rack using pieces of string. We also decided to dry the parsley and cilantro in a similar manner, by hanging them in bouquets from the wire rack. The recipe was very unclear on whether the cilantro should be blanched like the parsley, but we decided to give it a dip in boiling water as well. After chilling the herb bouquets, they were tied up next to the lemon cradle and the whole deal went into the oven.
The Alinea At Home blog had given us some ideas on how long time the dehydrating process would take: approximately an hour and a half for the herbs, and twice that time for the lemon. After an hour, we checked on the herbs, and decided to abort the bouquet drying experiment. The bouquets were simply holding too much water. So we cut them down, placed a piece of parchment paper on top of the wire rack and spread the herbs out. Back into the oven it went...
After two hours and twenty minutes, we turned off the oven and left the powders-to-be in the cooling oven overnight. I was a bit nervous the next morning, but both the herbs and the lemon had dried beautifully. The only thing was that we hadn't cut the stalks off the herbs after the bouquet experiment, and the cilantro was all tangled up, which gave us some extra work later...
Fast forward two days: time to get cooking! A coffee grinder was recommended for making the powders, but we only have one and didn't want to risk coffee flavored lemon or cilantro flavored coffee. So instead we used Jamie Oliver's flavor shaker, which worked quite well. After a lot of sifting to get rid of the stalks of the cilantro, we had beautiful green – but a bit weird smelling – cilantro and parsley powder. The lemon zest also got bashed up and mixed with half a vitamin C tablet – definitely the first time I have used that in cooking!
Parsley-cilantro powder (not completely stalk free) and lemon powder with extra zing!
Next up was the “brown butter” powder. Spray dried cream powder was impossible to find, so we had to substitute dried skim milk powder. It seemed to work as well, and was mixed with the pulverized dried banana. But maybe we misunderstood the recipe, or maybe dried cream powder has a very different density than dried milk powder, because we made a third of the recipe (=100 g milk powder) and we have now got a ton of the “brown butter” powder sitting in our cupboard. We didn't skimp when putting it on the fish, but there's no way we were supposed to use all that powder! Any ideas on what we can use it for?
We then made the beurre monté - the poaching liquid for both the beans and the fish. Poaching the beans and fish was problem free. Then it was time for plating: Markus swirled the powders in a hurricane pattern (he's the artistic one). Besides the powders we put three thin slices of banana, on top of that a heap of beans in delicious buttery sauce, and then the fish on top of that. And then over the fish, the brown butter powder.
Swirling, swirling towards the future!
(Loads of bonus points if you catch that reference!)
And then, after all that work: time to eat. I'll tell you right away that it was worth it! This was such an interesting flavor and mouth-sensation experience. The parts on their own was not sensational, but together, all the flavors just burst in your mouth and worked in perfect harmony. Markus found himself getting more brown butter powder to put on the fish (but there's still no way we were supposed to use all that powder!) and while we were eating we found ourselves saying stuff like “cool!” and “this is weird, but really delicious!”. A lot of people said that they found the powders overbearing on their own, but we found ourselves using our fingers - and more slices of banana - to get up the last specks of powder from our plates. There was something about the earthy herb flavor, the sweet yet fresh citrus taste and the tangling sensation of the vitamin C tablet that was quite irresistible!
I have no idea how this dish would be at Alinea. By omitting the onion/caper powder and substituting the fish (and not being professional chefs with professional equipment), we've probably steered far from how Achatz has envisaged the dish. But it was still damn good, and and I don't think Achatz would make any gagging noises about our interpretation of his creation.
Thank you so much Sketchy! This was such a great experience: a definite challenge both in terms of technique, presentation and flavors. And as an extra bonus, I have now convinced Markus that we need to buy the Alinea cookbook. Now for that trip to Chicago...
For the recipe, go to Sketchy's Kitchen or the Daring Kitchen recipe archive. There you can also see the other Daring Cooks' creations.
Wine pairing: We had this dish with a Grüner Veltiner: Leth (Austria, 2008). This fresh wine worked really well with the dish. For Swedes, it has number 4200 at Systembolaget.
Previously completed challenges:
May 2009: Zuni's Ricotta Gnocchi
June 2009: Chinese dumplings (part one and two)
Since 666 is the number of the beast, 777 (and 555 as well) have to be the neighbor of the beast. Being a bit of a geek, I decided to have tea with Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light and Ruler of Lower Heck to celebrate. I'm so glad I'm not sharing slow-corporate-cubicle-death with Dilbert, but then again, slaving away in academia for peanuts isn't all it's cranked up to be either... :-)
Due to a recent, not yet blogged about, food event we discovered that you can actually grind banana chips and use them in cooking. As so often happens to us of late, we started wondering if there might be a way to use this knowledge to pervert macarons, and it turns out there is! This one, like the snickerons, is based on already available candy. At least in Sweden we have these banana shaped thingies (about as big as my pinkie), tasting like banana marshmallows covered in chocolate, called “skumbananer”, which means foam bananas. Now, the easy way to make these would be to make chocolate macaron shells and some banana flavored filling, but then we wouldn't use the banana chips, so we did it the other way around instead! Granted, macaron shells made of banana chips is a bit experimental, but since we decided to blog about it, it either turned out fine, or spectacularly failed. Either way it's worth reading the rest of the post, right? :-)
So, for the shells, we decided to substitute some of the almonds for banana chips, it ended up being about 70 % of the almonds that were substituted, giving a recipe along these lines:
200 g Confectioner's Sugar
100 g Egg whites
30 g Sugar
30 g Almonds
70 g Banana chips
Scold and grind the almonds, grind the banana chips, and mix the two in a large bowl with the confectioner's sugar. Whip the egg whites and sugar into a light meringue (soft peaks), and fold it all together. Don't over work it! Use a plain tip pastry bag to make small rounds on parchment covered baking sheets and let them sit for at least 30 minutes before baking at 175°C for 7 minutes.
Let the shells cool before prying them off the baking sheets.
Now, having made the macaron shells is really only half the story, but I wont give you any recipe for chocolate creme here, just use whatever you like. Any ganache will work like a charm. Jenny made a plain dark chocolate one (cream and dark chocolate, period) for me to fill these ones with. As you can see from the pictures, it's a bit runny, but will probably stiffen up after one more day in the fridge.
So far so good, now for the $10k question: will it fly? Certainly not, but metaphorically speaking it might make you take off if you're really into that whole foam banana taste. It's really weird, but the banana chips make the shells more airy and lighter, like foam. I know we sort of had this in mind, but we didn't really expect it to work this well... ah well, you take the good with the rest! Fingers crossed they'll even make it through the freezer. Which they did (I'm writing this post anachronistically, the beauties in the pictures have actually been frozen and then thawed)!
Just a note on pronunciation of the title: it's obviously a contraction of Bananarama (a band which is incidentally as old as Jenny, alluding to the flavors involved) and macarons, but how should it be pronounced? There's two possibilities: bananarama-carons or bananara-macarons, and I personally prefer the first one. Don't know what “carons” are, but this way they at least taste good!
We've been making a lot of ice cream ever since I got an ice cream maker for my 28th birthday. The rhubarb one was a big hit (that was pre-blogging), and so was Markus' black cherry ice cream, oh and the apple one served with caramel sauce. Sorry, getting lost in ice cream memories here.... But a few days ago we made the best one so far. It's a simple vanilla ice cream, but sometimes the simple really is the most delicious.
This is how vanilla ice cream is supposed to taste! Made with real vanilla. Did you know that fake vanilla - synthetic vanillin - that is used in cheap ice cream (well not only cheap actually, the "exclusive" brands also use it) is made from rotted wood? A real vanilla bean costs 20 kronor here (less than 3 dollars). So worth it.
It's strawberry season, and because of the heat wave the price of beautiful deep red Swedish strawberries have plumetted, and what's better than home made vanilla ice cream and fresh sun soaked strawberries? Well, this evening I decided to do something different and make a nectarine-passion fruit compote, to be served warm with the ice cream. Delicious! The idea comes from my friend Sara who served something similar as desert on our latest book circle meeting.
So, here's our best ice cream recipe to date. The inspiration comes, as so often, from our pastry guru Jan Hedh. Note that the ice cream takes two days to make, and that you need an ice cream maker. The compote recipe is further down.
The best vanilla ice cream
1 vanilla bean
2½ dl cream
2½ dl milk
25 g agave nectar (you can also use honey or glucose)
120 g egg yolks (about 6)
125 g sugar
Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds and the rest of the vanilla bean together with cream, milk and agave nectar in a pot.
Whip the egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture is light and airy.
Bring the cream and milk to a boil. Add it to the egg-sugar mixture, and mix well. Pour everything back into the pot and heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture holds 85°C.*
Strain the mixture into a bowl, and cool it quickly in an ice water bath. Cover with plastic film and put in the fridge overnight.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn for 30-45 minutes. Enjoy!
* If you don't have a thermometer, you can do the "rose test": dip a large wooden spoon into the mixture. Lift it up and blow carefully on the back of the spoon. If the mixture forms "wrinkles" in a rose-like pattern, it has reached the correct temperature.
Compote of nectarine and passion fruit
1 large nectarine (or 2 small ones, peaches works as well)
2 passion fruits
2 tsp butter
1½ tbsp agave nectar (can be substituted with honey)
Melt the butter over low heat. When it's sizzling, add the nectarine and the passion fruit. Add agave nectar. Let it bubble slowly for a minute or two. Serve over vanilla ice cream.
We're having a heat wave in Sweden at the moment, and spending time in the kitchen hasn't been too appealing, apart from opening the fridge to get fresh strawberries. Or one of these cookies!
I found them at Munchkin Munchies, a fellow Daring Baker. They're perfect for summer since they are super quick, require no baking, and are made from stuff you probably already have in the kitchen (well, okay, maybe not too many Swedes have peanut butter at home). It's not a sophisticated "grown-up" cookie, but one you sneak out in the kitchen to munch down together with a glass of cold milk. Peanut butter, cocoa, the caramel-taste of butter and sugar, and crunchy oats - yum!
Sue of Munchkin Munchies tells us it's an old family recipe. Sue has framed the recipe that her mom wrote down for her, and has it framed, hanging in the kitchen. I think that's very sweet!
Cocoa Oatmeal Cookies
From Munchkin Munchies
In a mixing bowl put:
3 cups oats
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla (I left this out since we didn't have any)
Pinch of salt
In a saucepan put:
½ cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa (Sue says she and her mom uses Nestlé Quik. I used quite dark organic cacao powder which gives a more intense and less sweet chocolate flavour)
½ cup of milk
Bring the mixture in the saucepan to a full rolling bowl, and boil for one minute and ten seconds. Too little boiling makes it too gooey, too much makes it too firm. Immediately pour the hot mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper (Sue's instructions) or into small paper cups (that's how I did it). Refrigerate until firm.
I halved the recipe and got 12 cookies.