Wednesday, February 25

Laissez les bons temps rouler!


Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone! I know, I'm kind of late with this Mardi Gras post, I had two perfectly good weeks to write about it but I didn't. Still, surely it'll all be forgiven when you read what I baked yesterday, no?  But first let's talk some more about Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras in the United States mostly, even though it is celebrated in many other countries as well. Actually I refuse to leave this world before I've seen the Mardi Gras in Venice.

While Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) isn't celebrated all over the United States, many regions and cities have different kinds of Mardi Gras celebrations from balls to King cake parties. Mardi Gras is a French Catholic tradition and was brought in North America by the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Babtiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century. In most places the Mardi Gras season starts on Twelfth night (January 6) and ends on Mardi Gras day. Celebrations are especially concentrated for the last two weeks and the weather permitting, there's at least one parade every day for those two weeks. The biggest parades take place on the last five days of the season.

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What did I bake then, you ask? What does Baking have to do with Mardi Gras? A King Cake, that's what I baked. A king's cake is a traditional treat eaten the whole Mardi Gras season, starting from the first week in January. King Cake parties are being held for the whole season up until this very day when the lent begins. The King cakes appeared after 1872 when Rex Krewe selected the traditional Mardi Gras colours, purple, green and gold. They each have a deeper meaning to them: purple represents justice, green faith and gold power. There are at least two things you can recognize a King Cake from. Firstly, it's sprinkled with purple, green and gold sugar and secondly, there's a small plastic baby or a red bean inside. The tradition is that whoever gets the piece with the baby or the bean inside will be the King or the Queen of the day, lucky for the following year and has to buy or bake the King cake the next year.

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This cake was exceptionally hazardous for me. I almost broke two kitchen machines, couldn't find sugar with the right colours, rolled the dough a little too thin, made such a Hueg mess in the kitchen that I've never seen worse in this house and all sorts of things like that. But it was all worth it, the cake is So delicious. So delicious in fact, that it's almost gone already.

Even though Mardi Gras is already over for this year, here's the recipe I used without the slight variations I made so you can maybe make the cake next year. At first I was a bit puzzled with this recipe, but eventually everything turned out just fine.

King Cake Recipe Originally from NOLA Cuisine

For the Brioche:

1 Envelope Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp Warm Water (115 degree F)
1 tsp Iodized Salt
2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk
2 tsp Orange Zest, minced
2 Cups All Purpose Flour, sifted
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Eggs, beaten
1 1/4 sticks cold Unslated Butter, cut into very small dice
1 Egg beaten and 2 Tbsp water, for the eggwash
1 plastic baby trinket

Dissolve the yeast in the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, let stand until frothy.
Dissolve the salt, sugar, orange zest and milk in a small bowl. When dissolved combine the milk mixture with the yeast mixture. Mix the cinnamon with the flour.
With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, then gradually add the flour, until all is incorporated. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough is formed. A little more flour may be necessary. With the motor running, incorporate the butter into the dough, a little at a time but rather quickly so that it doesn’t heat up and melt.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour in a warm spot.
When the dough has doubled in bulk punch it down, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll the dough out to a 6 x 18 inch rectangle. Spead the Pecan filling (recipe below) out in the middle of the rectangle along the whole length, leaving about 1 1/2 inch on each side. Place the baby trinket somewhere with the filling. Fold the length of the dough over the filling and roll up tightly, leaving the seam side down. Turn the roll into a circle, seam side down and put one end inside of the other to hide the seam, and seal the circle. Place the cake on a baking sheet and let rise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Brush all over with the egg wash, then place the king cake into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

When the cake cools, brush with some of the glaze (recipe below) thinned out with more cold water. This will help the sugars adhere. Decorate the cake with the colored sugars and drizzle some of the thicker glaze onto the cake.

Place on a large round serving plate and decorate with Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and whatever else that you like.

For the Pecan filling:

1 Cup Pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1 pinch of salt
4 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup

Combine all of the ingredients together.

For the glaze

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Bourbon
Water (enough to make a paste that can be drizzled)

Combine the sugar and bourbon, whisk in enough water to make a glaze that can be drizzled.

Wednesday, February 18

The worst pies in London

Hey wow, hear this, world: I'm done with high school! Oh, yes I know, there are still some minor examination thingies to be done like, oh I don't know, French and Finnish and religion, but at least I have no courses left. No loong, endless hours in the chemistry class, nor in the Finnish classes or any freaking other class. Hehe, kinda nice feeling. At least now that I haven't still quite understood I'm out soon for real.

So, last Thursday we had penkkarit in school, the day which officially starts the lukuloma and ends the shcool work for the majority. The whole day was So much fun, triple the amount I had thought it would be. Everybody was dressed up as someone or something as was only right. Unna and I decided to go as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett and I must say I'm quite proud of how the costumes turned out.


This is us, Unna on the left and me on the right. Picture taken by someone with Unna's camera in school.

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Mrs. Lovett, me, again. In the same old place by the living room window where the light is best. Picture taken by me myself.

I wonder if I should put more photos from the penkkarit here, mainly from the costumes, but I don't really have anyone's permission. Oh well. Say if you'd prefer not to see yourself here, dear ladies and gentlemen, and I'll take your pictures right off. Unfortunately quite a lot of the pictures I had taken are so bad in quality that I won't bother to put them here at all. All these pictures are taken by me.

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There were so many good costumes this year. These were absolutely some of the best. I can't possibly understand how they were able to paint the exact copies of these, they look so alike with the real ones! Rasvaton maito was perhaps my favourite of these. I'd tell you who the gals in the boxes are, but I have to confess, I can't remember their names. But the cacao girl is Sonja.

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Some more in the same theme. The picture sucks big time, but it's the only one with Mrs. purkkpussi. Amazing work, I must say.

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This one was also so brilliant. And oh, the perfume girl is the other half of our French course, Kristiina. I'm the other half, mind you. Yes, it's just the two of us this year.

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Let me introduce you, Ernesto Che Guevara. This was my absolute favourite of all the costumes (outcluding my dear Mr. Todd, of course). No wonder there was some fifteen photos of him in my camera. The boy inside the costume is Samir.

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This speaks for itself.

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We had quite many group costumes this year which was great. Mario, Luigi and Peach.

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And last but not least, a mushroom from Mario. I love this picture because of his lower lip and what ever is happening to it.

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This picture is from jatkot, from Kaarleholvi. While others were dancing upstairs, I was downstairs, taking photos. Well okay, not quite but almost, at least. I didn't take but a few photos, the lightning was so bad it would've been no use to try take more. Nevertheless, the building was very old and beautiful, a very nice place to spend time in. I liked it a lot.

That was that, then. Random news as follows.

-Last weekend I was invited to two parties and I baked for both, but for some reason didn't take any pictures. Shame, really, I'm sure that Tall and creamy cheesecake and lime syrup would've been very American.

-Some days ago I was bored out of my skin since a certain someone is in Sweden till Thursday, but then I accidentally happened to find the Minimalist in the New York Times' site. I find Mark Bittman quite amusing, even though I was a bit suspicious at first. He's so entertaining in fact that I almost forgot to go to sleep! I would've liked to put a video clip here but don't know how, so you'll just have to imagine.

- One epic fail and one great tragedy: I was so sure I had lost my phone for good yesterday since I couldn't find it anywhere. After of a long and desperate search and giving up eventually, turned out it had hid itself under the newspaper on the living room table. Then yesterday I was washing the dishes and accidentally dropped my favourite glass pan on my right foot. Neither one was lucky, the pan broke and my foot swelled and bled the whole evening without me even noticing it. I do now, it hurts. A lot.

-You wouldn't believe how cold it has been this week. -22 C. I'm glad I'm soon leaving for somewhere a bit warmer HEY I HAVEN'T EVEN TOLD YOU. I think it's now safe enough to tell you without Murphy hearing. Knock on wood, still. I'm not only leaving school this year but also this country. Where? Guess.


See you in France, says the adventuring cook.

Tuesday, February 3

Food from the States: Florida Keys

Ladies and Gentlemen, gather around! Today, ooh, today the time has come and I've got something to show you, something more than a mere risotto recipe. Today is the day when the very first food related series in this humble blog of mine will start. Yes, that's right! And the series will be called

    Food from the States

Wow, it has quite a nice ring to it, doesn't it? So, the series will be about different foods and dishes from different states or regions in America. I've never really been to the States, I know, but the thing is that I will find out what kind of dishes they eat all around the States and make the dishes myself and then maybe later on in the future I will get to taste the authentic versions of them while traveling, at least that's what I hope. But while that's maaany years away, this series is about to start right now.

The topic today and the first place will be The Florida Keys. It was quite hard to find out practically anything about Florida Keys' gastronomy, but being an archipelago, they eat a Lot of seafood there. They also have quite a lot of special plants and animals there that can be found only rarely elsewhere on the earth. I've also read that they have a rich drinking culture, surely you all have heard of Mojitos?

Also, some people say that chickens run all around as there is a wild chicken population on the islands. I personally wouldn't know yet.

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I'm quite sure it's pretty safe to say that Key Lime pie must be the most known and the widest spread local dessert. To make a completely authentic Key lime pie, one should use key limes, of course, but since everybody can't have such specialities, regular limes go just as well. Key limes are a bit smaller than regular Persian limes and yellow in colour. Their taste is also a little sweeter than the limes we know.

I've made a Key lime pie now twice and both times it has been an absolutely stunning dessert. One of my dear friends, Mert, came by the last time I baked this pie and he thought it was so good it made his jaw tickle. That can't be a bad sign!

I've used two different recipes in the making of this pie, here's the one I used the last time I made it. Traditionally the pie is yellow, but I put some food colouring in it. Also in the traditional version there is a meringue topping included, but I prefer my pie without it. It's so nice to decorate with the lemon slices, all the fun would be taken away if there was a meringue topping.

Key Lime Pie

16 graham crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cube (1/4 lb) margarine or butter, melted


4 large or extra large egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (approximately 12 Key limes)
2 teaspoons grated lime peel, green portion only

Mix the ingredients and press them into a 9" pie plate.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 10 - 12 minutes until lightly browned. Place on a rack to cool.

Pie Filling
Use an electric mixer and beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn to a light yellow, don't over mix. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk.  Turn speed to low and gradually mix in half of the lime juice. Once the juice is incorporated add the other half of the juice and the zest, continue to mix until blended (just a few seconds).   Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350F for 12 minutes to set the yolks.


I'm sorry for the lack of pictures, I wish there was more to show you but they are all so similar that it'd bother me to put more than one of them here. But I do very warmly recommend making this pie, it was simple as heck. Maybe a bit on the pricey side I'd say, but it's nothing. You'll understand when you've had the first spoonful.