🎄⛄️Farmors Brunkager ⛄️🎄

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Today was my last working day of 2015 (yay!!!!), and tomorrow (the 23rd) is lillejuleaften, as we say in Danish – little Christmas Eve 🙂 For Danes, that’s when the Christmas celebrations really  begin. As in, we start making the food, and things get serious. Serious eating, serious drinking, serious Christmassing.

We’re spending Christmas at my parents’, who just moved house and are living in a maze of opened and unopened boxes. The kitchen came several weeks too late and is still being installed, and the Christmas tree has yet to be decorated (gasp) – so things promise to get a little bit chaotic!

But let’s worry about that tomorrow 🙂 Tonight there’s still time for me to finish my Christmas baking, which I am seriously behind on. But that’s all I have planned for tonight – baking, baking, baking! So Christmas is saved, at least on the cookie front 😉

I made brunkager last year as well and really loved them, but decided to try another recipe this year, for three reasons: whilst most recipes for these little Christmas cookies use dark syrup, last year I used light syrup. Moreover, last year’s recipe produced a very thin and melt-in-your-mouth cookie, which, although delicious, was not the classic brunkage-texture I was after. And finally, the dough was a bit finicky, and this year I’m just not having any of that. I loved them and will definitely make them again, but they were not like a ‘true’ brunkage, which is very thin, but also super crunchy, and very dark, not all that sweet (but just sweet enough).

I wasn’t going to make any this year, but then I stumbled upon a recipe by a favourite Danish dessert-blogger of mine, Anne au Chocolat, in a little e-magazine for a Danish brand, to which she’d contributed a few recipes. I took a screen shot but lost the link, which I guess doesn’t much matter, as long as the recipe is intact 🙂

What prompted me to try it is the fact that it’s super simple and quick. Moreover, ‘farmor’ means grandma, which led me to believe this would indeed produce a very traditional brunkage. And it did 🙂 Thin and crisp, dark  and ‘mollasses-y’ from the syrup, fragrant with cloves and cinnamon and studded with slivers of almond – this is a true brunkage. And really quick to make, which I think is always an plus during the December rush.

The recipe said to bake them for 8-10 minutes, but I ended up burning several batches this way, and finally settled on 5-6 minutes. My oven runs pretty hot, but it’s important not to bake these at too low a heat, or they don’t get as crispy-crunchy as they should. This is not a soft and chewy cookie. As they’re quite dark and fragrant, it’s important that they not bake for too long, they need to bake JUST until they begin to darken – and then, as soon as they’ve crisped up on the baking sheet for a few minutes out of the oven, they should be transferred to a cooling rack. Anyways, they’re quick to make, and taste like Danish Christmas to me 🙂 and my mum loves them, so I had to make them. I’ve included the quantities for cups and ounces below, but this recipe is definitely best to make using kitchen scales, as the conversion from grams doesn’t yield round numbers.

Wishing everyone a happy end of the year and a Merry Christmas, see you in 2016! 😊

❄Farmors brunkager❄
Yield: about 80 little cookies

  • 125 g butter (1.1 stick/0.55 cup), softened
  • 85 g (3 ounces/0.43 cup) sugar
  • 125 g (90 ml/2/5 cup) dark syrup
  • 200 g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) roughly chopped almonds, or store-bought almond slivers

In a big bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and dark syrup. If your butter is soft enough, a hand whisk or spatula should do.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Mix this into the butter mixture with a silicone spatula until just combined, then mix in the almond slivers or chopped almonds (although home-blanched/-chopped almonds will produce a better ‘bite’, I used store-bought ones this time, which are thin slivers, rather than chunky. Next year I might chop up some whole, blanched almonds though, I think, as I like the added texture it lends to the cookies 🙂 ).

The dough will be super sticky. On a lightly floured chopping board, and with floured hands, grab a chunk of the dough and, as swiftly as you can in order to avoid the need for more flour, roll it into a log about 3,5-4 cm (a little over an inch) wide. There shouldn’t be any flour visible. Place a piece of kitchen film on top, and wrap the dough, using the kitchen film to shape it into a nice log, patting the ends somewhat flat. Place on a clean chopping board, and repeat with the rest of the dough. You should have two or three little logs. Place in the fridge over night.

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F.

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Slice the logs thinly, about 2-3 mm, and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes, keeping a close watch on the cookies during the last minute. They should begin to brown along the edges, but be careful to take them out of the oven before they get too dark.

Let them cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

As soon as they cookies have cooled completely, place them in a cookie tin (they get soft quite quickly if you leave them out too long!).

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The cookies keep for several weeks in a cookie tin, if not eaten 🙂

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🌲⛄Thumbprint Cookies and Jødekager⛄🌲

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I wasn’t completely ready for it to be Christmas this year, to be honest. I feel as though the past year just whizzed by, and wasn’t it just Christmas 2014? But then the last week of November rolled around, and I started to feel the tingle of anticipation creeping up on me. Last weekend we decorated my flat, and I bought a ridiculous amount of fairy lights.

So my Christmas excitement is once more alive and well, and I’m not even going to apologise for the explosion of snowflakes, Christmas trees, candy cane hearts, and snow men on this page. The fairy lights are up and the baking has begun.

Although I’m generally very much against fussy recipes, for some reason most of the Christmas cookie recipes I grew up with, and HAVE to make each year because I love them, are all a bit finicky. But a few weeks back I stumbled across the easiest, and no less delicious for it, Christmas cookie recipe. It’s even versatile. It’s most definitely going to be part of the annual Christmas cookie baking bonanza, and I may or may not have eaten a few dozen of them already.

These super moorish little thumbprint cookies are kind of like a shortbread cookie, but a little lighter (because of the baking soda), tender and crunchy at the same time, with a lovely little jammy centre 🙂 I used raspberry jam, and it was perfect, these cookies definitely need a slightly sour, or tart, sort of jam I think. I’m also going to try apricot, and maybe also some lemon curd. I think these would be killer with homemade lemon curd.

The first time I made this cookie dough I only made the thumbprint cookies, but the texture of the cookie made me think the dough would also be perfect for Danish jødekager (‘jødekager’, which translates as Jewish cakes, purportedly got their name because they resembled a type of cookie/biscuit that was traditionally sold in Jewish bakeries and shops in Copenhagen a few hundred years back), a crispy little cookie with cinnamon sugar and chopped almonds on top. I make these every year, each time using a different recipe because I can never find one I’m completely satisfied with. Until now, that is 🙂 I made some last year that I thought were perfectly lovely, but these are so much better, and so much quicker to make since there’s no faffing about with rolling pins and cookie cutters (even if I LOVE my cookie cutters – and my friend recently gave me a dinosaur-shaped one that I have yet to use!). I brought them to the office glühwein (or ‘gløgg’, in Danish) party this Thursday, and they all disappeared even though the table was almost completely covered in Christmas goodies, and I ended up taking about half of the thumbprint cookies back home with me (not a problem, they have now vanished). I think these would also make for really lovely snickerdoodles, were they to be rolled entirely in cinnamon sugar, and flattened slightly less than you would to make the jødekage-variation.

To make the jødekager, follow the instructions beneath the thumbrint cookie recipe. To make both, use half of the dough for the thumbprint cookies, and half for the jødekager (or however you want to split it, should you want to make both variations).

❄Thumbprint Christmas Cookies❄
Adapted slightly from Epicurious – makes about 4 dozen little cookies

  • 225 (1 cup/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 310 g (2 1/2 cups) flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 cup/120 ml jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together on medium until nice and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, beating for another minute or so.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda (I don’t always have the patience for sifting, and whisking the ingredients together with a hand whisk usually means it’s ok to skip this step).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a silicone spatula until everything is just combined. I use my hands to press it together at the end.

Ideally, cover the dough and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. I didn’t do this for the first batch though, and they were fine.

Roll little 1½ cm / ½-inch balls of dough between your hands, and distribute evenly on a non-stick baking tray, leaving at least a few cm between the cookies. Don’t make them too big, as they will expand slightly, and the bigger they are, the more they’ll spread out. You want it somewhere around the size of an unshelled hazelnut, if that makes sense! The original recipe calls for them to be a little bit bigger, about twice the size of mine, but I prefer them smaller, as I find that the bigger ones expand too much and make for a less satisfying cookie-to-jam ratio.

Press a nice, deep indentation into each cookie – I find it easiest to use my pinkie or ring finger, holding the cookie steady between the thumb and index fingers with one hand, and pressing down into the cookie with the pinkie finger of the other hand, giving it a little wiggle to gently expand the hole. Scoop about 1/4 tsp of jam into each ‘thumbprint’, just enough so that it peaks out from the indentation.

Bake for about 10 minutes at 175°C/350°F, taking them out when the edges begin to brown a bit. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While one baking sheet is cooling, roll more little cookies out, place them onto a second baking sheet, make the thumbprint/fill with jam, and bake. Repeat this rotation about 4-5 times, until you run out of dough, each time letting the baking sheet cool before you place the fresh batch of unbaked cookies on it.

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Dust lightly with icing sugar, if desired 🙂 keep the cookies in a cookie tin, separated by layers of baking parchment.

Jødekager

  • One/one half portion of the cookie dough above
  • Cinnamon sugar (I just mix unprocessed cane sugar with ground cinnamon in a cup, I don’t really measure!)
  • 25 g whole almonds, blanched and chopped roughly

Blanch the almonds: pour boiling water over them in a small bowl, cover them, and leave them for about 10 minutes, whilst the skins loosen. Then pour out the hot water, and squeeze the almonds out of their skins. Chop chop chop them up roughly.

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Shape the cookie dough into little balls, about the size of an unshelled hazelnut/1-1½ cm in diameter. Place them on an ungreased, non-slip cookie sheet. Press the cookies flat with the ball of your hand, so they’re about 2-3 mm thick. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top in a sort of stripe through the middle, then press a few bits of almond on top. Bake for about 9 minutes 175°C/350°F, until they only just begin to brown around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The thumbprint cookies keep for a bit more than a week, but are best the first two days, after which they tend to get a bit stale and the jam loses it’s glossy sparkle. I’m thinking I may try to make them thinner, and coat the thumbprint in egg wash next time, this might allow for the cookies to keep for a bit longer without going stale (the thickness of the cookie, along with the moistness of the jam means that the cookie loses it’s ‘crunch’ after a few days).

I suspect the jødekager keep for much longer, since they’re crispier and don’t have the jam moistness ‘issue’. But I will report back 🙂

FYI – this dough is actually best used at room temperature, or it ‘cracks’ around the edges when you smush it down. If your dough is fridge-cold and you don’t have time to let it sit, I would roll it out into a log, and cut it as finely as possible, with a sharp, thin knife (for the jødekager, that is, for the thumbprint cookies it’s not a huge problem as you don’t need to flatten them quite as much). The dough will keep in the fridge for several days, but is easiest to work with on the day it’s made (and since it’s so quick to make, this isn’t really an issue, in my mind 🙂 ).

I’m also thinking of making these with nutella or something similar. Or maybe a dark chocolate variety, although they’d lack the chewiness of the jam, once cooked. Ooh, and I also think a tart cherry jam would be really lovely with these!

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Havuçlu Kek (Turkish Carrot Cake)

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This Sunday I made two different carrot cakes, 1) because I was curious to try out this recipe, and 2) because I’d grated too many carrots for the one I had initially decided to make, which was already in the oven, and so it seemed meant to be that I should bake this particular cake right this instant.

Please excuse the lack of pictures – I managed to gobble up all of the cake but for one little tinfoil-wrapped piece, which I hurriedly took a picture of before eating it for breakfast a few days ago. This is different to any carrot cake I’ve tried, more a cinnamon-spice cake really, than a classic carrot cake. It’s super moist but somehow less ‘wet’ than most, containing about half the amount of grated carrots than other carrot cakes, sweet and subtle and perfectly studded with roughly chopped walnuts. It’s my favourite carrot cake to date, and that’s saying a lot, as it’s hard to go wrong with any carrot cake, in my opinion. While I don’t think any carrot cake really needs frosting to begin with (I know that this may come as a shock to most of the die-hard classic cream cheese frosting fans out there, but I am not one of them!), this cake is somehow even more unassuming than other carrot cakes, and is just perfect as is – no muss, no fuss, and no frosting. Just perfectly moist cake with cinnamon and walnuts, and a hint of grated carrot. I even ended up bringing all of the carrot cupcakes with lemon-orange frosting I’d just made to work with me the next day to give to my colleagues, although they were perfectly delicious, because I only want to eat this one right now. It also seems completely perfect for this time of year, red and yellow leaves on the trees and ground, and brisk autumn winds and all 🙂 the same way spiced cider and big, woolly scarves do.

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Long story short, I’ll certainly be making this again 🙂 and most probably not just in autumn.

Havuçlu kek (Turkish carrot cake)
Adapted slightly from Hayriye’s Turkish Food and Recipes

  • 3 eggs
  • 300 g sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer)
  • 250 g (2 cups) flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (I used 1 whole tsp because the salt I have is fleur de sel, but if you’re using fine table salt, then I suggest cutting the amount to 1/2-2/3 tsp)
  • Grated zest of one half to one whole lemon, depending on how big your lemon is. If in doubt, go for half (I didn’t have any oranges, but I will try adding orange zest as well, next time I bake this) (*I’ve now tried adding the zest of one orange as well, and while I don’t think it makes a huge difference in taste, it certainly doesn’t hurt!)
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot (240 ml)
  • 100 g (1 cup) roughly chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale and foamy. Add the oil, and mix well. Add in the grated carrots, lemon/orange zest and chopped walnuts. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, then fold this into the wet ingredients.

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Pour the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured bundt cake tin, and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin, then carefully cut around the edges with a very thin knife, to loosen it from the sides of the tin. Turn the cake out onto a plate, and enjoy 🙂

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Keeps well for several days wrapped in tin foil.

 

Zucchini and Cinnamon Muffins

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Tomorrow, I have to get up at 5:30 in order to catch a bus. Which causes me no small amount of distress… So I made these zucchini muffins from smitten kitchen, to distract myself from thinking too much about it, and to sweeten the bitterness from having to get up at the buttcrack of dawn.

These are the best. They’re cinnamony and wholesome, I usually keep a bunch in the freezer as they freeze really well and make an awesome breakfast or afternoon snack.

Yield: about 30-32 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup / 235 ml olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cups / 350 g sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (finely or not so finely shredded, whatever you prefer, I do sort of half super finely/half less finely)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups / 375 g flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup / 55 g chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 180˚C / 350˚F. Line all the muffin tins you’ve got.

Beat together the eggs in a large bowl, then add the oil and sugar, followed by the vanilla and the grated zucchini.

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Mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, as well as the chopped walnuts. Stir into the wet ingredients, making sure there are no little pockets of flour left, but not over-stirring.

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Fill the muffin tins about two thirds each, and bake for about 20 minutes until the muffins are lightly golden on top and a tooth pick comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack. If not to be eaten that day or the next, put in freezer bags in little batches, and freeze. The frozen muffins take a few hours to defrost, but stay nice and moist.

Swedish Cardamom Cake (Skærgårdskage)

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Ok. So I’ve been thinking for a while about joining the hordes of baking and cooking blogs here on the interwebs, and always thought, nah, that’s dumb Marie, who’s even gonna read it. But then I thought, why the heck not – I love reading other people’s recipes online, and I certainly bake often enough. Why not share my exploits too.

So – here’s my first recipe: a super simple Swedish spiced cake that I am obsessed with, with fragrant cardamom and cinnamon. Cardamom and cinnamon are very popular in Scandinavian baking, both in breads and cakes, whether together or on their own. I was given the recipe over a year ago, by the mum of a girl I was giving French lessons to at the time. She made the cake while we were studying French verbs (…), and after our lesson I was served a warm slice fresh from the oven, and had a small out of body experience. She’d gotten the recipe from a magazine years before, and made me a photocopy of the magazine cut-out.

I dream about this cake. It’s so good with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. SO good. When warm out of the oven it has a really light crumb, and when cooled, it’s very moist and slightly sticky. It keeps really well, too. AND it’s easy to make! Aaanyways, here’s the recipe:

You will need:

  • 175 g butter
  • 225 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 275 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250 ml buttermilk

Plus:

  • 75 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, melt the butter slightly in the microwave (or just leave it to soften at room temperature, if you’re more organised than I am). Whisk the sugar into the butter, then add the vanilla extract, as well as the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each egg (a hand whisk will do just fine).

Mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add half of this to the butter and sugar mixture, then half of the butter milk, the rest of the flour mixture, and finally the remaining butter milk.

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Pour the batter into a buttered springform tin, about 22 cm in diameter.

Mix the sugar, cardamom and cinnamon together, and sprinkle the mixture all over the  top of the unbaked cake. Then, with the handle of a wooden spoon, swirl the sugar-and-spice mixture into the batter, sort of making figure 8’s with the handle of the spoon. You should still be able to see streaks of batter, it shouldn’t be completely mixed together, but don’t ‘under-swirl’, as this leaves a too crunchy, too spicy layer on top of the baked cake (I accidentally under-swirled once, and while still good, the cardamom can be a bit too much this way – much better to have gloops of the sugar-and-spice mixture spread throughout the cake).

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Bake in the middle of the oven at 175 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 4, for about 50 minutes to an hour, until a tooth pick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, if you can, while you revel in the smell that has filled your kitchen, as well as the rest of your apartment. Maybe brew some fresh coffee.

P.s.: Also makes for an excellent breakfast! The cardamom almost adds a savoury touch, which in my mind makes it a perfectly legitimate breakfast food.

P.p.s.: Opening the oven to check on the cake halfway through baking will make your hair smell AWESOME.