Friday, January 16, 2009

Culture Quest

On New Years Eve we had some friends over for all the drinks and food festivity that goes with bringing in the New Year- there were cocktails, cheese platters & dips- but my pride and joy for the evening were the cinnamon and cardamom buns that we made for one of our friends who is from Finland where they are a tradition (Korvapuustit I think?). 
The recipe came from Tessa Kiros' book 'Falling Cloudberries' and they were not only delicious, but so much fun to make with the beautiful cinnamon swirls. We were so proud of them and waited with baited breath to see what our friend thought. I think I nearly cried when they got the Finnish thumbs up- but that might have been all the cocktails!
Our friends have now invited us over for a 'Finnish' dinner tomorrow night, and I can't wait to see what's on the menu! 
In the meantime, and in conjunction with my new found interest in my own heritage, I baked them some traditional Dutch cookies to inspire a cultural exchange of sorts.

Pepernoten- Dutch Christmas Spice Cookies:
Growing up on the North Shore of Sydney, we always had these little spice cookies in a tin in the cupboard. I have always wanted to make them, but up until now have never actually got around to it. I used to love the notes of nutmeg and clove in the gingerbready goodness. The ones we had always came from the supermarket (our Dutch heritage comes from Dad, and in our house Mum always did the cooking - Dutch ginger snaps were just not in her already diverse repertoire). Sometimes we would also have the German version with a hard white outer coating of sugar icing, such perfect and sleek little nubbins, like unspoiled mushroom caps waiting to be cracked.
These little gems are steeped in Dutch Christmas tradition and at our place were almost always kept in a tin decorated with St. Nicolas (Santa Claus)- though as we had them all year, not just at Christmas, I didn't really make the connection until I was older- all I knew was that they were the perfect treat to break into the pantry for.

Pepernoten Ingredients:
Note: Now I found several recipes for these, but this is a version that I have modified until I think it is just right. You can add or subtract spices as they suit you.
  • 150grams self raising flour
  • 80grams brown sugar
  • 90 grams butter (softened and cubed)
  • About 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 3 teaspoons of 'speculaaskruiden' * 
*Note: You can make this yourself with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg (fresh grated is best), cloves, pimento, ginger (ground) and cardamom- I like to do this so that I can tweak the spices myself.

Preheat the oven to 180'C.
Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly, then mix in the butter until it is evenly dispersed. Add enough milk to make a firm dough. Adjust with extra milk or flour if necessary. Form into small balls, place on a lined baking tray and press down to make small disks (or any shape you like).
Bake for 15-20mins or until just firm.
Cool, dust with icing sugar if you like and serve!   
They keep well in an airtight container and are just divine with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

'Eet smakelijk' (Dutch) and 'Hyvaa roukahalua' (Finnish- I think??)

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