June 30, 2013

Easy Apple Tart with Vanilla Custard

We finally had some sun after a few days of rain and it was really warm sitting on the balcony soaking up the rays. A quick and easy apple tart with thick vanilla custard was a perfect afternoon treat for this Sunday. I don't remember making such an easy version of this classic favourite before; just mixing the ingredients in a bowl (no electric beaters or other special equipment needed) and laying apple slices on top. I always serve these types of cakes with vanilla custard (as we do in Finland), but you could substitute with good vanilla ice cream.

Easy Apple Tart with Vanilla Custard
(Recipe adapted from Kotivinkki)

230g plain flour
170g (raw) caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pure ground vanilla
100g butter, melted
200ml sour cream

3 apples, cored and sliced
 cinnamon, to taste

Vanilla Custard

250ml milk 
1 egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon potato flour*
1 tablespoon (raw) caster sugar
1/4  teaspoon pure ground vanilla

* potato starch is sold as potato flour in Australia.

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and grease a pie dish (25cm).

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and vanilla in a bowl. Add melted, cooled butter and sour cream and stir until smooth. Spread on the bottom and sides of the dish (wet spoon works well for this). 

3. Top the base with apple slices and sprinkle with cinnamon (and extra sugar if you wish).

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly before serving.

5. For the custard, add all ingredients to a saucepan and whisk well to combine. Place on medium heat, then whisk continuously until the mixture thickens. Take off the heat and serve warm with the apple tart.

June 23, 2013

Juhannuksen raparperipiirakka - Midsummer's Rhubarb Tart

Finland and other Nordic countries are celebrating Juhannus (Midsummer) this weekend. Although we are in the middle of winter here in Sydney, I felt like making a special treat for the occasion. This rhubarb tart felt quite indulgent, but perfect for a rainy winter's day. Of course it wouldn't be out of place in a summery Finland either.

The recipe reminded me of 'Mamma's Berry Tart', another old favourite of mine, but the base in this rhubarb version was quite different. I used thick Greek yoghurt for the filling and that worked well. The sourness of rhubarb balances the sweet crust.

Juhlimme juhannusta täällä talvisessa Sydneyssä raparperipiirakan voimin. Takana on aika raskas työviikko sairasteluineen, joten piirakkaherkku tuli tarpeeseen. Jatkan viikonloppua viltteihin kääriytyneenä, kirjoja lueskellen ja kuumaa mehua juoden. Ihanaa juhannusta sinne Suomeen!

Midsummer's Rhubarb Tart
(Recipe adapted from Kotiliesi)

150g butter
125g caster sugar
1 egg
50ml water
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder

250g rhubarb pieces
40g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g thick Greek yoghurt, strained
1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and grease a pie dish (25cm). 

2. Beat soft butter and sugar in a bowl. Add egg, water and flour mixture. Stir well to combine. Spread the mixture on the bottom and the sides of the dish.

3. Spread rhubarb pieces on the bottom of the base and sprinkle sugar on top. Whisk eggs and yoghurt in a bowl, flavour with vanilla. Spread this mixture evenly on top of the rhubarb. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling has set. Leave to cool before serving. You could serve this with vanilla ice cream, but I think it was sweet enough on its own.

Other Midsummer treats : Crepe cake  

June 20, 2013

Vegetarian Quiche

I realise I've posted a number of vegetarian quiche recipes over the years, but since I always use a slightly different recipe, I like to add them here as a reminder to myself. This time I made a slightly healthier crust and added a mushroom, zucchini, spinach and cherry tomato filling. Using halloumi instead of cheddar gave the quiche a nice flavour and texture.

Vegetarian Quiche


250g wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
60ml vegetable oil
125ml cold water


oil, for frying
about 250g mixed mushrooms (button, oyster, shitake), sliced
2 zucchinis, sliced
150g baby spinach
dried oregano, to taste
tamari, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder*
black pepper, to taste
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved

125g halloumi cheese, grated
3 eggs
200ml full cream milk

* I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Vegan Bouillon Powder (Reduced Salt)

1. Preheat the oven to 175C. 

2. Grease a pie dish (25cm) and set aside. Combine flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add oil and water and stir to combine. Knead to make a smooth dough, transfer the dough into the pie dish and spread evenly on the bottom and the sides of the dish. Prick with a fork and bake for about 10 minutes.

3. In the mean time, prepare the filling. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan, add sliced mushrooms and zucchinis and cook for a couple of minutes. Season with oregano, tamari, vegetable stock powder and pepper. Add spinach and cook for a further few minutes until all the vegetables are tender. 

4. Remove the crust from the oven, add the filling and scatter the tomatoes on top. Spread the cheese evenly on top of the filling. Break the eggs in a small bowl and whisk in milk. Pour the mixture evenly on top of the filling. Continue to bake for about 40 minutes or until the quiche seems set and the top has browned.

June 14, 2013

Synttärileivokset - Birthday Cakes

We celebrated husband's birthday today with these little cakes. A simple Swiss roll filled with raspberry and apple jam, topped with vanilla flavoured cream and fresh strawberries. Perfect treat to end an unforgettable day.

Birthday Cakes
(makes about 10 individual cakes)

3 large or 4 small eggs
85g (raw) caster sugar
30g plain flour
35g potato flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder

150-200g raspberries
1 apple, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons (raw) caster sugar

300ml cream
pure ground vanilla
1 tablespoon (raw) caster sugar

fresh strawberries

*In Australia, potato starch is sold as potato flour. Available at Coles and most speciality stores. 

1. Preheat the oven to 225C and line a cookie tray (15cm x 10cm) with baking paper.

2. Beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Combine dry ingredients and gently add them through a sieve. Fold to combine. Pour the batter onto the tray and bake for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown.

3. Place a clean sheet of baking paper on the kitchen bench and sprinkle the paper with sugar. Turn the baked cake onto the paper and peel off the paper. 

4. Combine raspberries, apple and sugar and sieve to get rid of excess liquid. Spread the jam onto the cake, then roll tightly (using the paper) leaving the seam underneath. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or two. 

5. Flavour the cream with vanilla and sugar and whip to soft peaks. Cut the roll to pieces and top each piece with cream and strawberries. Serve immediately. The roll can be frozen (filled, not topped).

June 08, 2013

Ruisleipäset - Small Rye Bread

To be honest, I get quite fed up with the bread selection at the supermarkets and most bakeries here in Australia. It's mostly sliced bread (toast) or white bread rolls and loafs that is on offer. There are wholemeal varieties available, but I am not too fond of the taste of commercial bread. It often has a distinctive flavour (raising agent, perhaps) and it doesn't have the proper bread texture I am used to. Any rye bread available tends to be the German type, which is often quite dense.

Hence, every now and again, I resort to baking my own rye bread. Fortunately most health food stores in Sydney carry rye flour and you may be able to buy fresh yeast from some smaller bakeries. I do prefer fresh yeast, but dry yeast works ok too.

The bread I made this time is very simple and reminds me of the rye bread I had in Finland. It is mostly rye, but has some wheat flour mixed in for a softer texture. Treacle (dark syrup) and salt are the only flavouring it needs. Served with a slice of cheese or melted butter, it was a much needed hearty breakfast on a slow Saturday morning.

Small Rye Bread
(Makes about 20)
(Recipe adapted from here)

500ml warm water (42C)
220g rye flour
10g dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon treacle (dark syrup)
165g rye flour (+50g)
130g plain wheat flour

1. Mix the yeast with flour, then stir with water. Leave, covered, for half an hour.

2. Add salt and treacle and add the flour, stirring continuously. Turn the dough to a floured surface and lightly knead to form a soft dough. You may need to incorporate an extra 50g flour here. Divide the dough into equal sized pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Transfer the portions to baking sheets lined with baking paper. Flatten each ball to a disk, about 2 cm thick, and prick with a fork. Cover the sheets with clean tea towels and leave to rise well. 

3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Sprinkle the bread with little water just before baking. Bake the breads for about 10 minutes or until the base has browned and sounds 'hollow' when tapped. Cool on a wire rack, covered with a tea towel, before serving.

June 02, 2013

Kerroskiisseli - Vanilla and Berry Kissel

It took me years of living in Australia to realise something about Finnish desserts: they are generally not very sweet. Take our traditional birthday cake, for instance. It is not covered in sheets of sugary fondant and most of the sweetness actually comes from the fruit the cake is filled and topped with. Even our beloved mocha slice (Finnish equivalent to a brownie) isn't overly sweet and the most well-known Finnish treat of them all, korvapuusti, would probably be classified as bread in some countries.

Then there is kiisseli (kissel, a jelly-like pudding), one of the most versatile every-day desserts served all over Finland. Kiisseli is almost like a sweet soup, but thicker. It has a jelly-like consistency, but it's not as thick as jelly, just somewhere in between. You can use pretty much any fruit or berry (dried, frozen or fresh) you happen to have at hand; frozen berries, apples, oranges, rhubarb, you name it. There is even a chocolate version which is like a light and guilt-free version of chocolate mousse. You can have kissel as a warm soup or a cool dessert, which ever you prefer. This is the dessert to make when you're too lazy to go to the store or bake, and you will most likely have all the ingredients already at home.

This rainy day called for a kerroskiisseli (layered kissel): thick vanilla flavoured milk kissel topped with slightly sour raspberry and blueberry kissel. It was the perfect quick treat to whip up.

(serves 2-4)

Milk Kissel

600ml milk (organic, full cream)
35g potato flour*
2 tablespoons raw caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure ground vanilla or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence 

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens, do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Berry Kissel

200-300g frozen berries
600ml water
3 tablespoons raw caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure ground vanilla

100ml cold water
2 1/2 tablespoons potato flour*

1. Bring 400ml water, berries, sugar and vanilla to boil. Add rest of the water to cool down the mixture. 

2. Mix water and potato flour in a separate jug. Whisk this mixture with the rest of the ingredients and turn off the heat. Leave to cool before serving. 

3. Layer the cooled down kissel in a glass or a bowl and serve.

* In Australia potato starch is sold as potato flour. It is available at most speciality stores, but also at Coles (look for it at the health foods department).