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Lussekatter 17 December 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Christmas.
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Due to my travels lately, I missed a very important date leading up to Scandinavian Christmas last Sunday. I did mention it in my Nostalgic Ramblings, but I did not include the recipe for Lussekatter, or Safron Buns that go with Santa Lucia on 13 December. So here goes.

Lussekatter (Safron Buns)


150 g butter
500 ml milk (full cream)
8 g of dry yeast
1 g of safron or 1/2 tsp tumeric
150 g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1300 ml plain flour

egg and raisins for decoration.

– Melt the butter and mix with milk. Make sure the mixture is about 37 C. Tip: it is the right temperature when you can’t feel anything when you dip your little finger in the liquid.
– Add yeast, and stir gently.
– Add sugar, salt and safron (or tumeric). Mix.
– Add flour in large spoonfuls, and stir to combine between spoons. Do not worry about the dough being lumpy, it will become smooth.
– When the dough is fully combined into a smooth mass, cover with a wet tea towel (to prevent drying out the dough) and leave somewhere warm to rise.
– Leave 30 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size.
– Place dough on a benchtop dusted with flour, knead well.
– Make dough into lussekatt shapes.
– Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes.
– Brush with egg, and press raisins into the swirls.
– Bake at 225 C for 15 minutes or until done.
– Serve with hot chocolate.


Gevulde Spekulaas (Filled Speculaas) 5 December 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Happiness, Life, Sinterklaas.
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Today is Sinterklaas. So hereby, I am posting my favourite recipe for a special Sinterklaas treat that I grew up on.

Unfortunately, you will need preparation time for this. As in, a month’s preparation time. And it is labour intensive. But since I do not have all the tools for the recipe with me here in Vietnam, I did not make it this year, and therefore I forgot to tell you a month ago to make the spijs. But here goes the recipe anyways.

Gevulde Spekulaas

Spijs (Almond Paste)

250 g white sugar
250 g almonds
2 eggs
Grated zest from two lemons

– Place the almonds in boiling water so that the skin becomes loose. Peel them. It will be easiest when the water is still hot, you should be able to just press them at one end, and they shoot out of their skin.
– Dry the almonds.
– With an almond grater (or a meat grinder with a very fine grating blade, or even a very sturdy parmigiana grater) grate the almonds in batches. This will take a long time, and lots of elbow grease. My mother used to put the almonds through the grater twice, to make sure the almonds were grated fine enough.
– Tip 1: Do NOT use a kitchen blender, as the cutting blades will release too much of the oil in the almond.
– Tip 2: I find that the grated almond stuff that you can buy in the shops is too mealy and too fine, it needs to keep some of its texture.
– Mix the grated almonds with the sugar, egg and lemon zest.
– Clean a large jar or container really well.
– Tip 3: If using a jam jar, wash it and the lid, then place it open in the oven at 100 C for 20-30 minutes to kill all germs and bacteria.
– Place almond paste in the jar (let it cool first), and place the jar in the fridge.
– Leave for 4-6 weeks to ‘ferment’. The sugar will act like a preservative, but the paste will go much softer and smoother over time.

Gevulde Speculaas:

300 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs speculaas spices (Tip: you can replace this with 1/2 tbs ground cloves, 1/2 tbs ground ginger and 1 tbs cinnamon. It is not quite the same, as the original mix contains 9 spices, but it will do)
150 g brown sugar (use light brown sugar for a lighter colour of speculaas, but dark brown sugar for a rounder taste)
1 tsp salt
150 g cold butter
4 tbs milk
400-500 g almond paste (it will make the speculaas thicker or thinner, to taste. The above recipe will yield 500 g worth, but if you use less, have no fear, because there are plenty other goodies you can make with the left overs. I often make 750 g of spijs when I make it)
1 egg
About 25 peeled almonds, halved (they are naturally two halves within the peel)

– Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large mixing bowl.
– Add the sugar and salt, then spoon through it to roughly combine the ingredients.
– Cut the butter into small squares with a knife. The smaller the pieces, the easier to combine the dough later. Add to the bowl.
– Add the milk.
– Knead the dough by hand until smooth. Tip: If your hands are too hot, the butter will melt, making the dough too liquid. Try to cool your hands down before this step, either by placing them in cold water, or by holding a bag of ice cubes.
– When smooth, cover the dough and place in fridge for at least 1 hour. Tip: When making this in a hot country like Australia in December (summer), you will have to combine it as quickly as possible, but leave it in the fridge for longer. The longer you leave it, the more the spices will infuse, so leaving it overnight will yield better results.
– Preheat oven to 175 C.
– Use a 4-5 cm deep baking tin. Melt some butter, and make a quick swirl with a pastry brush in your baking tin. This is just to stick the paper down, so don’t worry about covering everything.
– Cover the tin with baking paper. Butter it well on the inside.
– Divide the dough in two equal amounts. Leave one in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
– Take 2 pieces of baking paper, and roll the dough out between them. Alternatively, you can roll the dough out on the counter, but make sure you dust it with flour first.
– Roll out to about 3-5 millimetres thick, and into a square piece that will fit in your baking tin.
– Place the first batch of dough on the baking paper, covering the bottom only.
– Place a layer of spijs onto the bottom layer of dough, all the way to the edges of the baking tin. Even it out with a spoon.
– Roll out the second batch of dough to create a lid, and place on top of the spijs.
– Press the almond halves onto the dough, spacing them 3-4 cm apart. They need to be secure, but visible, and equally spaced (important for cutting)
– Brush with egg.
– Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes.
– Let the speculaas cool in the tin. When cool, cut into rhomboids. Tip: cut the speculaas into strips about 3-4 cm wide first, then cut diagonally between the almonds. Tip 2: do not cut the speculaas while still hot, as it will crumble.


Sinterklaas en spekulaas 4 December 2009

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Speculaas is another one of those essential parts of tomorrow’s festivities. There are two types which in my eyes are somewhat different. There is thin speculaas, it is shaped into biscuits, and can be plain or covered with shaved almonds. And then there is brokspeculaas, which is chunky and which you have to break into pieces before you eat it.

The latter is my favourite, but the former is easier to make.

Oh, and then there is filled Speculaas which is a completely different kettle of fish. It takes weeks to prepare, but is absolutely heavenly. More on that tomorrow.

But today’s post will be about the tradition of setting your shoe infront of the fire place for Sinterklaas to fill it with goodies and presents. I must have been a naughty child this year, for no goodies or presents have appeared in my shoe, even though I have secetly been singing the Sinterklaas songs. Maybe I am too old, and Black Pete has taken me off the presents list.

There was one thing in particular which I used to love getting in my shoe – chocolate mice. They were always filled with some sort of sugary paste that made your teeth rot. Oh, Sint, won’t you bring me those again.

In the mean time, I will eat the home made Speculaas, drink the hot chocolate, and reminice about being a child. Had this been a score years ago, I would have been too excited to sleep tonight, sneaking in to my brother’s room with tales of horse’s hooves clippeticlopping on the roof.

May many more generations know this incredible tradition.

Schuimpjes (merengue) 3 December 2009

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If you read yesterday’s post, you will have maybe asked yourself – is it true, do they really love sugar enough to mix it with cream and flavour only, then eat it?

Well, my, do I have a treat for you. Without further ado, here is another classic Dutch Sinterklaas treat.

Schuimpjes (lit. little foamies)

Icing sugar

– Clean a bowl and the beaters with vinegar. Why? Because grease is the death of the merengue. It will not stiffen if there is any grease in it.
– Separate the egg white from the yolk. Again, the yolk has grease in it, so make sure there is no leakage.
– Use about 125 grams of icing sugar per egg white.
– Beat the egg white until stiff, then add the sugar slowly while you continue beating. The sugar will help suspend the egg, so it will keep it’s shape.
– The mixture must be stiff enough to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out.
– Place scoops of the mixture on baking paper.
– Place tray in oven. You don’t really bake merengue, you dry it.
– Leave in oven at just under 100 C for 2 hours. If you can, leave the oven door open just a tad.
– Cool. Enjoy!

Borstplaat 2 December 2009

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The Dutch celebrate their Christmas like other countries on 25 December every year. However, this celebration has traditionally been present free (although it is becoming more popular now to receive presents then as well.)

When I was little, we would receive presents on 5 December, to celebrate Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas. So, as my advent calendar entries for the next couple of days, I will focus on the delights that are Sinterklaas goodies.

For the uninitiated, a bit of background may be worthwhile.

The Dutch love their sugar. Therefore, the Christmas treats that I am about to reveal to you must not be indulged by the fainthearted. Because, as you will see, why would you want to interfere with the deliciousness that is sugar by adding other ingredients?

You have been warned.

Borstplaat/ Suikerbeestjes

250 g sugar (cane sugar if available)
5 tbs double cream
2 tbs water
food essence (vanilla, lemon, raspberry), cocoa powder or instant coffee


1. Mix the sugar, water and cream in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil.

2. Boil for 5 minutes. When a drop of the mixture hardens in cold water, the mixture is done. Remove from the heat.

3. Add the taste of choice.

4. Grease the figurines you will be using thoroughly, then pour the mixture into them. Cool.

It is Advent! 1 December 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Christmas, Happiness.
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I love Christmas. And I love baking. I love filling my house with the smells of pine tree, spices, oranges and mouthwatering recepies. I like to decorate the house with candles and ribbons and shiny things.

I will not be at home this year, so a lot of the baking that I normally like to do will not fit into my schedule. So instead I will blog about it! At least I will still feel like it is Christmas, even when there will be no snow, no dark nights with frost descending over valleys of houses with candles in the windows. No last minute Christmas shopping in the freezing cold streets of Oslo.

But by God, there will be Pepperkaker.

And to celebrate the start of December, here is my essential recepy for the month: Really easy Pepperkaker (translated from Norwegian for the inaugural cooking class tonight)



150 g butter
100 ml syrup or molasses
200 ml sugar
100 ml cream
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
450 g plain flour
Icing sugar and lemon juice for decorating.


1. Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Heat until all the sugar is disolved. Cool.

2. When cooled down a little, add the cream. Combine.

3. Add the flour, spices and baking powder, and stir until a smooth mixture.

4. Cover the mixture and place in the fridge overnight. This is important to let the spices infuse the dough, and for the butter to harden.

5. Sprinkle some flour on the benchtop and a rolling pin. Roll out some of the dough to about 2-3 mm thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Try to be economical, as you don’t want to have to roll out the dough too often, due to the extra flour being added every time you do. Note: if you wish to hang the cookies in the Christmas tree, cut out a hole before baking that you can thread a ribbon through.

6. Place the cookies on baking paper on a baking tray. Bake at 175 degrees celcius for 10 minutes.

7. Cool.

8. Decorate with icing sugar.




Brownies 7 September 2009

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Brownies with Milk

Brownies with Milk


For the first 16 years of my life, I never had brownies. In Norway, they bake lots of cakes, especially chocolate cake, but they tend to not make brownies. Then a friend of mine made a batch, and I have been trying to make them ever since, with varying success. Until this recepy was sent to me.

225g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbs cocoa powder
1/3 cup flower
1/2 chopped nuts (optional)

175 C, 20-25 min

-Melt butter and chocolate in a pan. Set aside to cool.
-Line and grease a baking pan. Preheat oven.
-Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Do not hesitate to whisk some more.
-Add vanilla and salt while still whisking.
-Sift cocoa and flour into the bowl, gently fold it through the batter. Make sure this is done gently to not lose the fluffy texture.
-Gently pour the chocolate mixture into the batter and again fold carefully. Add the nuts if you are using them at this stage.
-Pour everything into the baking pan, spread evenly to the edges, smooth with a spatula.
-Bake 10 min, rotate the pan, then bake for another 10. When a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, the brownies are done.

TIP: for my last batch, I doubled the recepy, then cooked it 10min, rotate, 10min, rotate, 15min. It gives you higher brownies, with lots of chocolatty goodness. I did not use nuts.

DO NOT OVERCOOK, they just become hard and dry if you do.

Enjoy the chocolatty goodness.

Banana Muffins 10 August 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Life.

Tip of the day:

When making banana, walnut and choc-chip muffins yesterday, I noticed that my recepy mentions that the riper the banana, the better. Yet no where did it mention my little trick: frozen bananas.

In fact, I love ripe bananas. I love the taste and texture of a perfectly yellow banana. But not long after purchasing bananas, they tend to go brown. The browner they get, the less likely I am to eat them (sort of like the left overs in the fridge, the ones I am not so sure about whether they are in fact off, so I leave them in the fridge until they definitely are, and then I dispose of them).

So, I have started a new practice since I arrived in hot climates. When a banana goes borderline brown, and I know I am unlikely to ever want to eat it anymore, I chuck it, skin and all, in the freezer.

And that way, whenever I feel like making banana muffins or banana bread, I have deliciously ripe bananas available all the time. Unfrozen, they go limp and feel a little unsavoury in your hands, so try to handle them as little as possible. But in baked goods, they are to die for.

Carrot Cake 29 June 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Happiness, Life.
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I was left with half a stick of cream cheese in my fridge recently, and as I am not a stickler for cream cheese, I decided it was high time to make a carrot cake.

Now, if you have ever been abroad, you will know that certain ingredients that you are used to from home are either unavailable or prohibitly expensive. Luckily, I have contacts here – and useful ones at that. So in searching for icing sugar, I was told that to buy it from the local “Western” shop would cost me an arm and a leg. Luckily, I had recently managed to purchase something close to 8 kilos of normal sugar (due to me not finding the first batch, and thereby thinking I had used it all), so, by putting about a kilo of ‘normal’ sugar in the food processor, I ended up with a kilo of something very close to icing sugar.  It is still slightly more grainy than icing sugar should be, but then again, sometimes you just make due.

Another great little trick I have picked up from reading blogs is that you can actually replace some of the oil required in oily recepies like carrot cake with apple sauce.  Being Dutch, I have an affinity to apple sauce as a vegetable next to my meat and three veg, and I tend to always have some in my fridge. And although I found that the apple sauce was quite overpowering in the perfume of the cake as it baked, it was unnoticable after the cake came out of the oven.

I sliced the cake in half to add an extra layer of cream cheese icing in the middle (something greatly appreciated by my lovely taste tester) and I also added chopped walnuts to the batter for the extra crunch.

And even through the icing was slightly more crystaline than I would have preferred, the cake came out magnificently well.  Well enough, in fact, for me to neglect to take a photo before devouring it completely…

So I guess I will have to try again some other time.