Friday, September 23, 2016

How to cook Swedish Crayfish

The other day, Gustaf asked me if I would go down to the lake and fish crayfish with him.  When Gustaf was small, we would often go down to a creek near where we lived and catch crayfish.  We only ever caught a few at a time, mainly for the fun of catching them, rather than for the eating.  So, when he asked me this, I had visions of sitting for hours trying to catch some pesky crayfish by hand, and I politely declined the pleasure.

So the next day, I was quite surprised when he went to pick up his haul of crayfish.  He had obviously moved on in terms of technique because he had laid out a crayfish cage.  He caught a bucket worth, 44 to be exact, of which he threw 10 back because they were too small.

When he proudly and happily came home with his bucket of crayfish, Farfar sprang into action.  He showed Gustaf how to flavor the boiling water.  He added salt, tasting periodically until it was sufficiently salty.  Farfar whipped out a bag of frozen home grown crown dill, which is the flower of a fully grown dill plant and is traditionally used to flavor boiling water for seafood in Sweden. He threw in a few sugar cubes and then pronounced it ready.

After the water was brought to boil, we threw in the crayfish.  "All at once," admonished Farfar, annoyed when I tried to stop the action to take a picture, "otherwise the water cools and the last crayfish don't die immediately."  The crayfish are boiled for a few minutes and then set out to cool in the cooking water. Two days later, we sat down to eat perfectly salty, sweet crayfish.

Here's roughly how we did it, with a rough estimation of the measurements of sugar and salt that Farfar threw in:

About 1 kilo freshwater crayfish (about 25 to 35, depending on size)
2 teaspoons sugar
about 3 liters water
about 1.5 dl salt
6 to 8 heads crown dill

Take a large pot that will generously hold the crayfish and fill with water.  Add salt until the water is as salty as sea water.  Add sugar and crown dill.  Bring the water to a boil.  Add the crayfish. Put the lid on.  Boil for about 7 to 8 minutes.  Take off the stove and set aside with the lid on.  Leave it to cool.  Put the pot in the refrigerator and leave to sit, preferably overnight.  It can keep a few days like this in the refrigerator.

To eat a crayfish, take a crayfish in one hand.  With your fingers, pry up the bodyshell where it hits the tail.  It will come off, leaving the tail attached to the body and legs.  Put your mouth on the naked body and suck the juices.  Trust me, it tastes good.  Check the shell to see if there is some good "butter" in there and eat it.  Pull the body off off the tail.  Flip the tail over and break the shell and pull the tail meat out.  Eat it.  This is the best part.  If the claws are large, you can break the shell with your teeth and pull out the meat. Repeat.

Eat the crayfish cold.  The traditional accompaniments are a cold glass of schnapps and hard bread with cheese. Skål!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Coconut, Rum and Lime Cake

The flavors of a tropical summer holiday in a cake. Need I say more?

The cake is a dense but fluffy with lots of texture from the shredded coconut.  Although it seems fiddly to do a cake, syrup and frosting, it is actually easy to make. You can eliminate the frosting but do cover the cake in the lime syrup because it creates a more intense lime flavor.

Cake:

225 grams butter, at room temperature
2.5 dl sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 3 limes
3 eggs
4 dl flour
2.5 dl dried flaked coconut + 3 tablespoons for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teapoon salt
2 tablespoons rum

Lime Syrup
juice of 3.5 limes
1/2 dl sugar

Frosting
100 grams butter, at room temperature
100 grams cream cheese
3 dl powdered sugar
2 teaspoons rum
zest of one lime, plus juice of half a lime

Zest 4 limes and squeeze the juice.  Set aside 1/4 of the lime zest for the frosting and a tablespoon of the lime juice.

Turn on the oven to 175C (325F).   Prepare your cake pan by rubbing it with butter.  Throw in 3 tablespoons of shredded coconut and shake the pan so that the coconut evenly covers the bottom and side.  This will both help the cake from sticking to the pan and create a nice crust.  Set aside pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, sugar, vanilla, and rum together until light and fluffy.  Add in the lime zest, flour, salt, and baking powder. Beat carefully until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated but do not overmix. Add in the coconut and stir until it is evenly distributed through batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven from 35 to 45 minutes. The cake will be brown and top and a toothpick will come out clean when it is done.

While the cake is baking, make the lime syrup.  Take the juice of 3.5 limes and add 1/2 dl sugar into a small pot.  Put on the stove and bring the lime juice to boiling.  Take the pot off the stove and set it aside to cool.

When the cake is out of the oven, take a fork or toothpick and poke holes all over the top.  Spoon over the lime syrup, trying to cover the cake evenly.  Set the cake aside to cool.

When the cake is cool, make the frosting.  Whip the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl.  Add in about a third of the powdered sugar, the rum, and about half of the lime juice.  Whip together and add in the rest of the sugar.   The frosting should lighten in color and get very fluffy.  If you wish the frosting to be stiff (if you want to pipe it onto the cake and have it hold its shape), then you will need to add more sugar.  I like it looser and I just spoon it on top of the cake.  Adjust the lime juice and to your liking, remembering that the more liquid you add, the looser the consistency of the frosting.

Unmold the cake and put it on a serving plate.  Smooth the frosting over the top of the cake only, letting the sides of the cake show.

Store leftover cake in the refrigerator.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Plättar (Little Swedish Pancakes)

Earlier this year I discovered an iron pan with seven round shallow depressions in my father-in-law's cupboard, a plättjärn.  I love old fashioned Swedish cooking, so I immediately started looking up recipes for little pancakes.  Of course, my beloved Mannerström came up trumps.  He had a perfect recipe.  
These little pancakes are extremely tender and delicate, with a lovely slightly crispy exterior.  Do cook these on a cast iron pan.  If you try to cook them on a regular pan, the pan will not get hot enough to make the lovely exterior.  



In Sweden, these would be dessert, not breakfast.  I like them for both dessert and breakfast.  My friend Aiai and I made these pancakes this summer and the kids lined up.  They are served with whipped cream and jam.

Serves 3 to 4

3 eggs
1.5 dl flour
2 dl cream
1 dl water
50 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt


Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove.  Set aside to cool.  In a medium bowl, beat the 3 eggs.  Add the flour and sitr until mixed.  Add the cream water, sugar and salt and stir until you have a smooth batter.  Add the butter and stir until the butter is fully incorporated into the batter.

Heat a cast iron pan on medium heat, preferably a Swedish plättjärn.  Melt a little butter onto the pan and pour in enough batter to just fill the pancake depressions.  Alternatively, you can make little pancakes using about a tablespoon of batter.  Cook until golden brown and then flip and cook on the other side.  Serve with jam and whipped cream.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Falkenberg Cakes (Falkenbergare)


There is an amazing bakery called Stålbloms down near my summer house on the west coast of Sweden.  All of their cakes are gorgeous and delicious.  Their Princess Cake is divine. They make the best Semlor that I have ever tasted, a cardamom flavored bun that is filled with marzipan and whipped cream and only served during the Spring.  It always amazes me that this bakery, in a little town in the countryside, rivals the best bakeries in Stockholm.

While all of their cakes are memorable, there is one that I dream about. It is an unassuming plain little cake topped with a glaze and sprinkling of candied orange peel.  Even if I am tempted by one of the more glorious looking cakes to eat for my fika, which I love to take in their pretty garden, I buy one of these to take home with me and eat slowly while gazing out at the sea.
They call these cakes Falkenbergare, after the name of the town Falkenberg, where Stålbloms was founded.  These cakes are sticky and dense, almost custardy.  They are rich but not cloying.  The combination of almond and orange is delectable.  I have googled the name of this cake several times and I have kept an eye out for these cakes at every bakery that I visit.  But I have never found a mention of them on the internet or seen them at any other bakery.

This summer, I was excited to notice that they had a cookbook for sale.  I eagerly looked through it to see if they had published a recipe for my beloved cake...and YES!  So, now I can have these wonderful cakes any time I like, and so can you.  Here is the recipe, slightly modified from the original:

Makes about 15 cakes

Cake:
250 grams butter at room temperature
500 grams marzipan (mandelmassa)*
1 tablespoon potato flour or cornstarch
5 eggs

Glaze:
About 4 dl powdered sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice of about half an orange
Candied orange peel, to garnish


Preheat the oven to 190C (375F). Butter a muffin pan or other small cake forms. Grate the marzipan to make it easier to incorporate into the butter. Put the marzipan and butter into a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer until it is well mixed and creamy.

Add in the potato flour (or cornstarch) and the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each egg is well incorporated. The batter will become lighter and fluffy with each additional egg, but still be very thick.

Divide the cake batter into the muffin tin or forms, filling each form almost full. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Take the cakes out of the oven and let cool.



While the cakes bake, you can make the glaze.  Put the powdered sugar in a bowl with the orange zest.  Add in some orange juice, a few drops at a time and stir until the glaze feels thick enough to spread easily but not so thin as to be drippy.

When the cakes are cool, unmold them and top each cake with a spoonful of the glaze and spread the glaze around the top.  Sprinkle some candied orange peel on top of each cake.  Eat reflectively and slowly, preferably while staring out at the sea.


* This cake calls for a marzipan that is 50/50 sugar and almonds.  In Sweden, this mixture is called mandelmassa or almond paste.  Marzipan in Sweden is more sugar than almonds about 60/40.



Friday, August 05, 2016

Kladdkaka “Sticky Cake”

This cake is a Swedish classic and it can be found in most cafés, is served frequently for dessert at parties, and a quick version can be found in the freezer section of the grocery store.  It is very similar to an American brownie in texture, being slightly sticky in the center.  Like a brownie, it can easily be overcooked, in which case it will be a more ordinary chocolate cake, still delicious, but not a kladdkaka!  This version is from Lelia Lindholm, a Swedish baker, whose cookbook is one of my favorites. It is a simple recipe and is the best version of this cake that I have tasted.

It is so simple, that have relinquished the baking of this cake to my son Oscar.  Oscar and his friend Konrad whipped up the batch in these photos and had a great time doing it.

50 grams butter
½ deciliter cooking oil
2 eggs
2 deciliters sugar
1 deciliter granulated brown sugar (raw sugar)
2.5 deciliters flour
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla (or vanilla sugar)
1 pinch salt
50 grams dark chocolate  (use a good eating chocolate here)

Get into all the nooks and crannies when buttering the pan.
Put the butter in a bowl and melt it in the microwave, usually about one minute.  When the butter is melted, mix with the cooking oil, and set aside
In another bowl, beat the eggs, and two types of sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Stir in the butter and oil mixture.  Add the flour, baking powder,cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and stir the batter until well incorporated.

This recipe makes one cake but the boys doubled it.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan.  Chop the dark chocolate into small pieces and sprinkle over the cake batter.

Bake the cake for about 30 minutes.  When testing the cake, it should be still sticky in the center.  The cake will puff up, but then as it cools it will fall in the middle.  This is totally normal, so don't freak out.


Serve with whipped cream.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Juniper Smoked Scallops

This seems to be the summer when I write about Fäviken, the famous restaurant near Åre in Sweden, even though my one meal there was a couple of years ago.  I just posted the recipe for a meadowsweet cordial that was inspired by Fäviken, and now this. Among the many memorable dishes were the fattest scallops that I have ever seen, served in its shell.  The waitor informed us that they were fresh from Norway, which is less than 50km away.  The next summer after we ate at Fäviken, there were fresh scallops in their shells at the fishmonger.  They were expensive, but we had to try to recreate this dish, or to be more precise, Peter had to recreate the dish, grilling and seafood being part of his manly terrain.

It has become an annual ritual of summer for us to eat these scallops, whenever we can get scallops on the shell at the market, which is not that often.  I had thought about putting it on my blog, but cleaning the scallops is time consuming and a bit much for your average cook, and, in fact, I have never done it, only watched Peter.  This year, Gustaf requested these scallops for his birthday dinner.  We were unable to get the scallops on the shell, so we decided to try make the dish using frozen scallops.  The result was splendid, cheaper, and so so easy.  Now, Faiviken's version, as I recall, was delicate, with just a smidge of butter, and a whisper of smoke.  Peter's version is more. More butter, more smoke.  And I think it is even better than the original.

The dish just requires three ingredients: scallops, butter, and juniper.  Somehow, when the scallops meet the butter and both are infused with the aromatic smoke from the juniper, the results are much much greater than you would believe.  The buttery juices are delectable and must be soaked up in lots of crusty bread or a spoon, if you are greedy.

This recipe is more of a method than an exact science.

Gather an armful of juniper.  This is a common plant, so you probably have a juniper tree growing near you somewhere.  You can identify them by their blueish purple berries which can be picked and used to flavor wild game dishes, a commong flavoring here in Sweden.

Allow 2 to 3 large scallops per person, for a starter, more if you are serving these as your main course.  You can use fresh or frozen, the largest that you can find.  I found mine at the local ICA store in the frozen section, about 30 scallops in one bag.  If you are in the USA, Costco has excellent frozen scallops and I recomend those unless you have a really good trusted fishmonger.

Light an outdoor grill with charcoal.  While the coals are heating, you can prepare the scallops. Get ready copious amounts of butter.

Find a cast iron pan or something that will take the heat of a grill and has some edges to capture the juice. We used a Swedish pancake pan, which has convenient depressions. On a cast iron pan, arrange large splodges of butter--more than you think necessary.  Then double that amount.  Lay the mussels on top of the butter.

When the grill is hot, throw the juniper onto it.  It will start smoking immediately. Alot of smoke. Put the rack down and then put the pan with the mussels on top.  Put the lid on the grill.  Let the mussels cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and slightly bubbling. The mussels will taken on some color from the smoke.


Serve immediately, spooning the juices over the scallops with lots of crusty bread to soak up the flavored buttery juices.  Don't be shy about dipping your bread into any juices that might remain in the pan.  Try not to fight over it.






Monday, August 01, 2016

Rhubarb and Red Currant Pie with a Lattice Crust

My son Gustaf is a big pie lover.  He loves it so much that he has pie every year for his birthday instead of cake. Rhubarb is one of his favorites, which is lucky since it is in season during his birthday.  At our summer house, I have planted a rhubarb on a sunny hillside where it basically grows without any care from me.  Every now and then I think about weeding it and then usually decide to do something else.  Depending on the kind of rhubarb you have, the pie filling can turn out to be a greenish shade.  To tip the filling over to red, it is traditional to add strawberries.  This year, I decided to add red currants, which I have in the garden.  This turned out to be an inspired choice because the red currants do not overpower the rhubarb flavor and they give a spectacular color. They also contain a lot of pectin which helps the filling set.

Because I made this as a birthday pie, I decided to use a lattice crust, to give it an extra special feeling.  I think you will agree, that the lattice looks gorgeous with the red fruit filling peeking through.  It is actually very easy to make a lattice crust with this method, which I show in photographs, although of course it does take more time.  I got this method from the amazing Pie by Ken Haedrick.  I highly reccomend this book if you are interested in pie.


Classic all butter pie crust 
(2 crusts)
3 cups flour (350 grams)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks/225 grams) cold butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup (8 tablespoons) cold water

With a food processor:
Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse several times to mix.  Add half of the butter to the mixture and pulse 6 or so times.  Fluff up the mixture with a fork, making sure to get all around the sides.  Add the rest of the butter and pulse again about 6 times.  Fluff with a fork again.  Add about half of the water and pulse 6 times.  Fluff again.  Add the final half of the water and pulse 6 times.  When it is ready, it will be starting to form some clumps.  Don’t let it completely form a big ball, because you will over process it.  You want the butter to be in tiny pieces, not completely amalgamated.  It is the process of the butter melting and steam forming in the dough that makes the pie dough flakey.
Turn the dough out into a big bowl and knead once or twice, just so the dough comes together in a big ball.  Divide the mixture into two even sized balls.  Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, flattening them out while you wrap.  Put the balls in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  You can also freeze the dough now, if you want to save it for a later use. 

By hand:
If you do not have a word processor, you can do it by hand.  After adding the butter and shortening, use your fingers to smear the butter into the flour.  After a bit, you will find the mixture resembling a coarse crumble.  Try to work it quickly so that the butter doesn’t melt and don’t overwork the dough.  It should not be smooth and even, but have little blotches of butter in it. Add the water and mix the dough, kneading it a few times, just enough so that the dough holds together and can form a ball. Divide the mixture into two even sized balls.  Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, flattening them out while you wrap.  Put the balls in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  You can also freeze the dough now, if you want to save it for a later use. 

Rolling the crust:
Take the ball of dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you want to use it to let it warm up a little bit. On a floured pastry cloth or floured piece of wax paper, roll out one of the pieces of dough, large enough to fit your pie pan.  Because the dough is cold, it will have a tendency to crack, so don't roll with too much pressure at the beginning.  If the dough is not yet malleable enough to roll, just leave out for another 10 minutes and try again.

Roll the dough over your rolling pin and lift it onto your pan.  Smooth the dough out into the pan, leaving the excess dough hanging over the edge of the pan.  Stick the prepared crust into the freezer while you prepare the filling.  Freezing the crust helps it from getting soggy in the beginning of the baking and also helps to protect the crust when you are putting the filling.

Rhubarg and Red Currant Filling:
about 700 grams of rhubarb (3 to 4 large stalks)
about 150 grams red currants (about a cup)
about 325 grams sugar (1 1/2 cup)
a teaspoon ground cardamum
a teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
5 tablespoons flour


Cut the rhubarb in half lengthwise or in quarters if the stalk is very thick.  Chop into dice about one centimeter wide.  Pour into a large bowl.  Add the red currants, sugar, salt and spices.  Stir until all the fruit is covered evenly with the sugar mixture.  Taste a piece of fruit. If you think it is too sour, add a bit more sugar.  Add in the flour and stir again until the flour is evenly mixed in.


Preparing the pie:
Preheat the oven to 400F(200C).  Take the crust out of the freezer and pour in the filling.

Roll out the second crust and slice into 8 even strips, about 2.5 to 3 cm wide. These will form your lattice.









1) Lay the longest strip in the center of the pie and then arrange two shorter pieces on either side, for a total of five strips.  In this picture, I forgot the middle strip and had to move my strips over to get a fifth strip in, which you will see in the next picture.




2) Pull back the two strips on either side of the center to a bit more than half way.  Lay another long strip in the center, perpendicular.  Fold the two strips back down.










3) Fold back the center strip about a third of the way and the two outside strips, and lay another strip down, perpendicular.  Fold the three strips back.  You have finished half the pie.









4) Now do the same on the other side.  Fold back the center strips and two outside strips.  Lay the last strip down and fold the three strips back.  You are done with your lattice!  Take a second to admire your work.


5) Now, trim the strips and the first crust so that there is an even overlay of about 3 cm.  Fold and roll the crust outside, tucking it underneath the bottom crust, leaving a ridge of about a cm. Crimp the crust with your fingers, or use a fork to make a pattern.  Your pie is done!

If you want to gild the lily, you can brush the crust with a beaten egg, or a bit of cream so that it will bake up shiny and nice.  I had a bit of cream in the fridge, so that is what I used.  You can be happy with that, or you can sprinkle some sugar or nuts over the crust.  I was going to use rock sugar but I didn't have any at hand, so I decided upon some sliced almonds.


Put the pie in the oven and turn down the heat to 375F (190C).  Bake for 40 minutes  and then turn the pie around 180 degrees.  Bake for a further half an hour or until the filling is bubbling thickly in the center of the pie.  It can take up to an hour and a half in total, depending on your oven. Check to make sure it is not getting too brown on the crust, if so, shield it with a piece of tinfoil.  

Let cool, ideally for a few hours so that the filling has time to thicken.  Serve with vanilla icecream.