Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grandma Judy's Molasses cookies

Crunchy chewy cookies with a hint of Christmas

Let me tell ya, this is a hell of a cookie. The person that usually bakes these is my grandma Judy. When it comes to making perfectly chewy cookies, she definitely has talent. Today I tried to make molasses cookies just as my grandma makes them, but of course, they never turn out as crispy, thin, chewy nor flavorful as my grandmother's. It could be because of the fact that she uses Crisco (the quite unhealthy, trans fat packed shortening that people use for making kentucky fried chicken) in her cookie batter. But I mean, if that is what it takes to produce the ultimate molasses cookie, then I should perhaps buy myself a big jar of Crisco to bring back home to Sweden. 

3/4 C shortening (crisco) or butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 C sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 C molasses

How to do it:
Cream together the shortening/butter and the sugar. Add the molasses and the egg. Beat the mixture well. Sift together the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, flour and baking soda and then add to the wet mixture. Mix well and chill in the refrigerator. After about an hour, take out the dough and form into 1 inch balls, roll them in granulated sugar and placed on  a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes, 375˚F/190˚C.
If you want them chewy, take them out a little bit earlier and let them cool on the cookie sheet before placing them on a cookie rack.

These cookies with a big glass of milk is the perfect treat on a cold winters day ;) Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mexican Wedding Cakes

A classic Benson family christmas cookie

These cookies have been a family favorite even before I was born. Whenever we are together for Christmas, in Sweden or in the States, we always make sure to bake Mexican Wedding Cakes. The reason why I love them is because they just melt in your mouth. They have the perfect balance of sweet and salty and by using toasted walnuts and pecans, it adds a wonderful flavor and texture to the cookies.

1 C butter
1/2 C confectioners sugar (florsocker)
1 tsp vanilla paste/vanilla sugar
2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C pecans and walnuts 

How to do it
Toast the nuts in the oven (make sure they don´t burn). Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Sift the flour and salt and add to the creame mixture, blending thoroughly. Chop the nuts and add them to the mixture. Mix well and form into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven (325 F/165 C). Bake 15-20 minutes, until delicately brown. Let them cool completely before rolling them in powdered sugar.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saffron buns with gooey vanilla filling

Swedish christmas bread

Believe it or not, but saffron is more expensive than gold. This flavorful red delicacy is definitely not a cheap spice, but the good thing is that you only need small amounts of it when baking or cooking. For a long time it's been a Swedish tradition to use saffron in the baked goods that we usually eat around christmas. Instead of making "kanelbullar" (cinnamon rolls) for fika, we make "lussekatter" (saffron bread). We also use other exotic spices around christmas such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon. To make a batch of outstandingly delicious saffron buns like these, you will need 1,5 grams of saffron. It takes about two days to make these babies, but don´t worry, it will undoubtedly be worth it. Especially if you´ve never tasted anything like this before ;)

1. Preperation-dough (1 day before baking)

1,5 g saffron
650 g cold 2 % milk
900 g all purpose flour
75 g fresh yeast 

Mix the saffron with the milk, and then mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover up and place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours in 4-8˚ C.

2. Dough

175 g butter
175 g sugar
20 g salt
125 g eggs
100 g high fat buttermilk (kesella)
1 tsp ground cardamom 
500 g all purpose flour

Take out the pre-dough from the refrigerator. It should have doubled in size over night. Mix the dough together with all the remaining ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, eggs, cardamom and flour). Work the dough in a kitchen aid for 15-20 minutes on medium speed. When the dough is done it should be elastic and shiny. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 1 hour. 

3. Vanilla filling

200 g butter (room temperature)
110 g sugar
100 g almond paste (mandelmassa)
20 g all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1tbsp real vanilla bean paste or
1-2 tbsp vanilla powder
1 pinch of salt

To make the vanilla filling, just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Make sure it tastes good :)

4. Make the buns

Divide the dough into 2. Take one piece of dough and use a rolling pin to flatten it out (so it becomes a rectangle, about 1 cm thick). Spread half of the filling evenly on half of the rectangle, and then fold over the other half. Cut 1-2 cm wide pieces using a knife. Cut each piece in half, leaving one part of it still attached. Twist both of the ends and form into a nice not. It´s a little tricky, but I usually just wing it and it always turns out good ( it should look a little bit authentic). Do the same with the remaining dough. Place the buns on a non stick baking sheet, cover and let them rise for 1-2 hours in room temperature. Turn the oven on 230˚ C/450˚ F. When the buns are finished rising, brush them with some whisked egg, sprinkle on some sugar (pärlsocker) and put them in the oven. Bake for 12-14  minutes until golden brown. 

Enjoy these baked treats with a cold glass of cold milk, hot cocoa or a cup of traditional "glögg" (spiced warm christmas wine that we traditionally drink around christmas in Sweden). 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A soft Swedish flatbread

It was one of those breads that my sisters and I used to eat as we were growing up. After school we´d all come home and gather around the table to have our afternoon "fika" with fresh bread, butter, cheese, ham and marmalade. It was probably one of the best moments of the day... eating moms freshly homemade bread with the family. 

So, what makes these round Swedish flat breads so special? Well, I can start off by telling you that in the authentic recipe for Hönökaka, there is a combination of 3 spices that is common for a lot of Swedish breads. To some this might seem crazy but the recipe actually calls for 1 tsp of ground fennel, anise and cumin (brödkryddor/breadspices). It gives the bread a unique flavor, and is definitely worth trying if you want to step out of your bread baking comfort zone.

Makes about 12 hönökakor
50 g fresh yeast
100 g butter salted
0,5 litre of 2 % milk
1,5 tsp salt
4 tbs sugar/corn syrup
1 tsp finely ground fennel, anise and cumin
4 dl graham flour/whole wheat flour
6-7 dl of high protein flour (King Arthur)

How to do it:

Start off by melting the butter. Add the milk and warm it until lukewarm (37˚C/ 98˚F). With fresh yeast, you need to crumble it into small bits in a bowl. Add the lukewarm milk and butter to the yeast and mix well. Add the salt, sugar, spices and flour and mix well, either manually or in a bread dough mixer. When the dough starts to release from the sides, but is still a little bit sticky, sprinkle some flour on it, cover it with a towel and put it someplace warm to let it rise for 1-2 hours. When it is done rising it should have doubled in size.

Turn the dough over on a floured surface and kneed it until it has a nice, flexible consistency. Divide it in half and cut each half into 6 pieces. Use a rolling pin to get each piece of dough flattened out until about half an inch thick. When done with this, use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the dough. Otherwise it will fill up with air in the oven. Turn the oven on, about (275˚C/530˚F). Let the flatbreads rise for another hour before cooking in the oven. When I cooked my flatbreads in the oven I used a pizza stone, in order to get the nice golden color on both sides. 3-4 minutes is all it takes to get the flatbread soft on the inside and nice, golden brown on the outside.

Best way to enjoy a Hönökaka is to eat it warm (preferrably fresh out of the oven) with butter on it. The butter melts and the Hönökaka soaks up all the juiciness. It is insanely good :)

Fika (pronounced "fee-ka") is a social institution in Sweden, which most commonly means taking a break with one´s colleagues/familymembers in the afternoon to have coffee/tea with smörgåsar (open faced sandwiches), cookies or kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls).