Waiting for spring

The Easter holidays have started here in Norway – and it is a strange one at that. The weather has been incredibly warm this past month and the snow has melted faster than usual. We have had temperatures up towards and above 20ºC, which is the warmest ever recorded. Easter holidays here normally mean that very many people head towards the mountains, either to cottages or skiing from hut to hut. It also means lots of snow, great tans, oranges, chocolate and good food. Tired, sweaty people who have gone for long ski treks, sitting in front of fireplaces, enjoying the physical tiredness and looking forward to a sauna and a shower, before falling into bed to sleep well before another ski trek the next day.

Unless you have the possibility to head deep into the higher mountains, this is not how Easter will be for most of us this year. Around our cottage there is hardly any snow and the only way to get around is on foot. Yesterday the temperature had dropped and ice had formed during the night, creating beautiful ice patterns and crunchy sounds underfoot. In Oslo spring is well underway, with crocuses and other spring flowers springing forth. Up here however, the greys and browns still dominate, but green patches are gradually pushing through.

We had a lovely walk yesterday in spite of the freezing wind. The wind chill factor was high and it was lovely creeping down into a sheltered warm spot and to smell the earth gradually warming up. Perhaps this little slideshow can show you the treasures we found ….

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Edradour

Yesterday was a dismal day here at the cottage. The fog hung thick around the walls and the newly prepped ski tracks were ruined by rain. There was nothing to tempt us to go outside and it was a challenge to find something to take photographs of.

However, it was a very good excuse to do nothing except snuggle up in a comfy chair and read a good book. In my case “From Plate to Pixel“. I am trying to get better at taking food photographs and found the book both inspiring and full of practical and useful advice. As today is “Fastelaven” (Shrovetide in English – at least that is the best translation I have found) I also wanted to make some buns. This Sunday is the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent and traditionally it is also the last opportunity to eat well before the fast. Fattening yeast buns filled with cream are usually served sometime during the day.

When the children were small we often filled a basket with hot chocolate and buns and carried it off to Ulabrand, to sit there looking out over the sea on a cold and crisp winter’s day.  Buns filled with whipped cream in a basket and walking is not a good combination, so we created our own tradition by inserting a piece of chocolate in the buns. The challenge was to get to Ulabrand whilst the buns were still hot and the chocolate inside meltingly soft.

The recipe has gradually evolved, from using white flour and sugar, to using spelt and raw sugar. Yesterday it dawned on me that chocolate and orange is a lovely combination, so why not include orange zest in the recipe… The smell of baking orange filled the cottage and the buns turned out exceedingly delicious. If you would like to have a go, the recipe follows below.

Now what has all this got to do with Edradour? Nothing, except that a “wee dram” at the close of a mellow day was the perfect ending. In June last year we visited Scotland’s smallest whisky distillery. They only produce two barrels a day and everything is done by hand, including shoveling the malt. We bought a bottle of one of their most smooth whiskies and it is only brought out at very special moments. Yesterday, for some odd reason, was one of those. The ambiance in the cottage, the warm, snug feeling of sitting by the fireplace, with the dog at our feet – everything was the perfect setting for a wee dram.

The day drew to a close, you could nearly hear the angels whispering good night.

Chocolate and orange yeast buns

For 15-16 large buns you will need:

  • 350g cold milk
  • 100g cold butter
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 1tsp dried yeast or a peasized lump of fresh yeast
  • grated rind of one well washed orange
  • 550g sifted spelt (farro) flour and a little extra flour if you think the dough is too loose.
  • 15-16 pieces of good dark chocolate
  • A little flour for shaping the dough
  • 1 egg whisked with a tablespoon of milk for egg wash
  • A little rough cut sugar brown or white for topping

Use a Thermomix or a food processor to incorporate the butter in the flour together with the dried yeast if you’re not using fresh. If you are using fresh yeast dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the orange zest. Tip the flour mixture into the bowl and mix well. Cover, and let stand for 8-10 hours (or overnight) at room temperature. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for a minute or two. You may need to add a little more flour at this stage. Divide the dough into two parts and roll each piece out into a “sausage” which you cut into 7 or 8 pieces. Insert a piece of chocolate in to each and roll into a ball. Place on a baking sheet. (You will probably need two baking sheets.) Let rise under a tea towel for 45 min.

Set your oven to 225ºC. Brush the egg wash on the buns and drizzle some sugar on top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. Keep an eye on them the last few minutes. You don’t want them getting too brown.

Serve warm with a cup of hot chocolate. Enjoy!

PS: I am thinking of replacing the milk with orange juice next time. I think they may become even more delicious.

PS for Thermomix owners: You may wonder why I don’t use the TM to knead the dough. This dough is a little sticky and I find it more of a hassle to scrape out the dough to let it rise in another bowl, than to mix it quickly by hand.

White candy floss on spindles of dark brown stretching towards the sky

After three weeks of pretty intense work, both at our jobs and at the farm we took the weekend off and escaped to the cottage. Project “move to the farm” requires so much planning, organizing and just plain old elbow grease. Every where we turn there is something that needs doing. Most of this is fun, but when deadlines have to be met at work and the timeframe for ordering things for the project is slim, life can be a little too challenging.

It was really lovely to get away and although the weather forecast wasn’t too good, the weather never matters at the cottage. We take what we get and enjoy every minute, whether we are stuck indoors or can get outside for some skiing or a walk.

During Friday night it snowed quite a bit it and we woke up to a grey day, with masses of snow blanketing everything within its reach. The clouds hung low letting stray snowflakes float down intermittently. The fairly high humidity ensured that the snow stuck to the trees. The trees looked as if someone had spun them in candy floss and stuck the spindles in the ground.

I so love the contrast of the white against the dark brown tree trunks and branches. The wind had also whipped snow against the trunks and the frosting was everywhere. I am so grateful to have picked up the camera again after years of not using it as much. The camera opens up my creativity and makes me see things I previously would have passed by or ignored.

Can you see the beauty of this grey day?

I went skiing, nobody had gone before me and the going was pretty heavy in 20-30 cm deep snow. Stopping for a pause, the only sound I could hear was the quick thumping of my heart. There was no other sound to be heard, nothing moved – all was still – and the vista of the snow, the trees and the mountains in the distance was achingly beautiful. I just stood there, waited for my heart to be still and in that stillness became part of the nature surrounding me.

PS: I struggle with finding the right white balance setting for snow. If anyone out there can help me with some guidelines, I would be very grateful for some help!

Happy birthday 2012!

A new day and a new year is on the verge of breaking forth. The light of the rising sun casts a pink mother of pearl glow on the hills and furrows, the high points and the valleys, the ridges and the deep ravines of the coming days. The glow of new possibilities and challenges, of fresh beginnings and new friendships, of happy days and sorrow meets my curious mind.

2011 has been put to rest. The weave of its cloth has been at times as silky smooth as the bark of a young birch tree, at other times rough and craggy as the furrowed skin of the old fir standing alone in its mighty wisdom acquired over many years. The warm glow of many happy days is the canvas on which more details are painted. Purple are the mellow days, when life was not quite as expected and sadness infiltrated its weave. Black are the days when unexpected sorrow came down without mercy, not just once, but twice. The trunk of this sorrow has gradually turned into a filigree of slimmer branches upon which to hang happier memories of lovely moments, fond remembrances and pictures of loved ones  gone forever.

2012 – I greet you with open arms. I am curious, yet a little fearful of what you will bring. May I have the strength, the wisdom and the health to weave another yard of the cloth of my life into a beautiful tapestry. One which I can look back on when my days come to a close, knowing that I have made the most of my time here on earth, given what I was able to give and lived and loved in the life of my dreams.

Our Christmas and a recipe for “krumkaker”

 

Carolines art work!.jpg
Unfortunately it has been ages since I’ve been able to post. As for most of us, pre
-Christmas life has been very busy, but now we are settled in at our mountain cottage – ready to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Breads and cakes have been baked, shopping has been done, presents are P1020300.jpgwrapped, the tree is installed in the sitting room with lights on – waiting to be decorated this evening, whilst enjoying a mug of Christmas “gløgg”. The cured ham is slow cooking at 85ºC and the smells are beginning to waft through the cottage.

Christmas at this cottage is lovely. I really want to show you what it is like, so here are some pictures from last year

 

Christmas Eve morning we always serve a Christmas wreath with raisins and nuts. I set the dough the night before, roll it out in the morning and serve it freshly baked with hot chocolate.

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The birds sit outside the window, feeding and watching us.
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A month or so before Christmas I bake my version of  English Christmas cake, with all kinds nuts and dried fruits. The cakes are marinated with brandy and make lovely presents.

 

Red tulips and small branches from the fir trees outside add to the Christmas spirit.

 

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Hopefully the snow that came down last weekend will remain. At the moment the weather has turned milder, so it really is touch and go.

 

Traditionally in our house we always serve “krumkaker” with cloudberries and whipped cream for dessert. These are very thin cakes rolled into cones made from a thin batter which is baked in a special appliance. You also need a cone shaped wooden form to roll the cake around. I doubt many of my foreign readers will indulge in one of these, but it may interest you any how to see what the appliance looks like. The challenge is to get the cakes thin enough, but with my very own adapted recipe I usually am successful. The cakes should be golden brown and slightly lacy at the edges.

I have included my recipe below and with these pictures and the recipe
I wish you all a lovely and peaceful Christmas and everything you hope for in 2012!

Krumkaker

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  • 125 g melted butter
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g strong flour
  • 125 g Maisena flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 ml cold water
  • 50 ml brandy (Or any other alcohol you may have at hand. This year I had forgotten the brandy at home, so I used Pims instead. It didn’t seem to make a difference.)

Whip sugar and eggs until the mixture is foamy and light. Add the flours and blend well. Add in water and brandy. Let the mixture stand for at least 1 hour. Pour one table spoon or so into the hot krumkake appliance for about a minute, depending on the heat setting. The cakes should be light brown. Quickly roll them up into a cone with the cone shaper. Place on a rack to cool.

These are lovely served with cloudberries, other berries or ice cream. Merry Christmas!

 

Morning has broken …

This is the sunrise I woke up to this morning. Mornings are getting later and later and this scene did not show up until about 9 am. I am at our cottage, trying to catch up on Christmas preparations, as well as work that should have been done ages ago.

It’s freezing outside. Not so much due to the degrees, about -1ºC, but the wind chill factor really hits hard, as the wind coming down from the north is fast and furious. It seems to be wanting to take revenge on the mild weather we have had throughout October and November. The mildest weather during these months in fact for many, many years.

A few minutes later the sun shone through the trees:

I can see all this from my bed and it wasn’t hard to potter out to the kitchen, make a cappuccino and pick up two of Heidi’s Millet Muffins which I made yesterday. However, as  spelt grains agree with me more than normal wheat, and I dislike measuring sticky things in cups I have tweaked the recipe slightly. Also I am the lucky owner of a Thermomix, so if you own one you can follow the directions below. If not, you can find the directions in Heidi’s downloadable PDF brochure.

No - I didn't make them in this pan. They just fit well!

Millet Muffins with spelt flour
(makes 12 fairly large muffins or 16 smaller ones. Perhaps the muffin cups I normally get here in Norway are smaller than the ones you get in the US.)

  • 280 g fine ground whole meal spelt flour
  • 60 g raw millet
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 225 g plain yoghurt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten (I used 3 smallish ones)
  • 110 g barely melted unsalted butter
  • 170 g honey
  • Grated zest and 2 tbs juice from 1 lemon

Directions for making this in a Thermomix:
Preheat the oven to 205ºC. Melt the butter in the TM 40 sec/100ºC/speed 4. Place yoghurt, eggs, honey, lemon zest, baking powder and baking soda in TM and mix briefly at speed 4-5. Put millet, flour and lemon juice in the TM and mix at speed 5 or 6 until you see that the batter is blended. Normally about 20-30 secs. Do not over mix.  Pour batter into the muffin cups to just below the rim. Bake in top third of the oven for about 15 minutes until the tops are browned and beginning to crack. Cool them for about 5 minutes before turning them out on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy them warm as they are or with a pat of butter and some jam.

If you have never tried any of Heidi’s recipes, do explore her website and look out for her books, especially if you are a vegetarian. But even those who aren’t, find her food different, exciting and delicious.

Guess who had a nice half hour in bed with the muffins and the cappuccino, comfy under her duvet, busily planning her day and making lists? Enjoy your day, make the muffins and you too can have them for breakfast tomorrow. Can you possibly have a better start for a lovely day?

PS: See what nature made during the night. Isn’t it beautiful?