A Message from Chef Anna

Shrovetide precedes the beginning of Lent–a 40-day Easter fast practiced among the Catholic and the Orthodox Christians. The word Lent originally meant spring season. However, in Finland after the Reformation, fasting is no longer done—we love our amazing food!

Long ago activities included sledding events and, as traditions goes, the farther you sled…the taller your flax would grow and the bigger your vegetables would become. Another bit of traditional Shrovetide festivities included the sauna. The sauna has always been in our Finnish culture. We were told it was very important to be quiet in the sauna, or you could be cursed with hordes of flies and mosquitoes during the next summer! And, finally, there was also a superstition about Shrovetide weather. If the sun is shining on Shrovetide, it will be a good year. If it snows, it will snow every day until Easter.

In current times, Finns generally celebrate two days of this festival. We start with Shrove Sunday and end with Shrove Tuesday. Sunday is often a family day full of activities. Contingent on the weather; people go sledding, ice-skating, cross-country and downhill skiing! Often schools organize a fun Shove Day for students! Older students usually create their own activities…. including, sledding competitions, music, barbequing and general partying in the snow.

– Chef Anna –

Laskiaispulla

Laskiaispulla: King of All Sweet Buns!

Makes 12 Smalls Buns

“During Shrovetide, these irresistible sweet buns are everywhere. Eating two or three at one sitting is not uncommon. Naturally, you need a beverage for these dearly loved buns and Finns drink coffee or hot chocolate—but, anything goes with this treat!”

– Chef Anna –

Ingredients

Buns

  • 50 g (1¾ oz) fresh yeast
  • 200 ml (6¾ fl oz) milk
  • 100 g (3½ oz) butter
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 egg
  • 450 g (1 pound) flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whipped

Almond Filling

  • 4-5 tbs half-and-half
  • 1-2 tbs melted butter
  • grated peel from ½ a lemon
  • 250 g (9 oz) almond paste
  • 1-2 drops bitter almond

OR

  • strawberry jam
  • whipped cream
  • powdered sugar

Directions

To Make the Buns

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a few tbsp of milk. Melt the butter and add the remaining milk. When the milk-butter mixture is lukewarm, add it to the yeast along with the cardamom, sugar and egg. Mix in half the flour and work to a smooth, goopy dough. Let rest for a minute or two, then work in the rest of the flour in batches, kneading (or working with the dough hook in a mixer) until you have a shiny, springy dough. (You probably won’t need all the flour – this is supposed to be a fairly loose dough.) Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 40-60 minutes.

Gently press down the dough, kneading a few times and cut into twelve pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round bun and let rise for another 20 minutes or so on a baking sheet. Brush with lightly whipped egg and bake at 225°C (425°F for about 15 minutes. Place on a rack to cool.

To Make the Filling:

Once the buns are cooled, cut off about a third of the top and set aside. Scrape off a bit of the bottom part. Take the scraped-out filling and mix it with the almond paste (easier if you’ve shredded it), lemon peel, bitter almond and enough butter and cream to form a soft paste. Spread over the bottom of the buns, replace the caps and dust with icing sugar.

If you choose to use strawberry jam (which I prefer) don’t prepare almond paste – fill the bottom parts with jam and pipe whipped cream around the edges of the bun. Top with the caps and dust with icing sugar.

I am so happy to see that the US is experiencing its own kind of Nordic Shrovetide as the Nordic food trend is booming in America! You will find these sweet buns filled with jam and whipped cream from many bakeries around the country–most likely from communities with Scandinavian roots.

Scandinavian chefs are talking about the “New Nordic” as a new concept in food. Translated this means the ability to find luxury in simple things (as Scandinavians are inherently good at this.) This sweet bun is a very good example–It has basic ingredients and relies on doing a lot with very little. Flour, yeast, cardamom, cream and tangy jam are all that is needed to transform this into a fabulous pastry.

I have heard there has been much enthusiasm for these buns at the Fika Café located in the National American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, MN. I will need to check this out this year. Lucky to live in Minneapolis!!

Fika Cafe

Pea Soup

Hernekeitto: Slow Cooked Pea Soup

“Another special Shrovetide food is called Hernekeitto—a slow-cooked pea soup. Typically, pea soup is best when cooked in a giant pot for over 100 people, but this recipe is still delicious when made for smaller groups. It gets its deep flavor from being cooked with smoked pork. One of my traditions is to save some ham from Christmas and when Shrovetide comes each year, I look forward to once again that smoky, hearty soup in my kitchen.”

– Chef Anna –

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) dried green or yellow peas
  • 3-5 l (1-1¼ gallons) water
  • 1 kg (2 pounds) smoked pork shank
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram
  • black pepper
  • hot mustard to taste
  • salt (depending on how salty your meat is)

Directions

This is How it Happens:

Rinse the peas and soak them overnight in plenty of water. Transfer (with the soaking water) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Peel the onions and cut them into chunks. Add the rest of the water and the pork, onions and marjoram and let simmer on a low heat for about two to three hours, until the peas go all mushy and start clouding and thickening the water.

Remove the pork shank from the pot and scrape the meat from the bone. Shred the meat into small pieces and add back in the pot. Season with hot mustard and pepper (and salt to taste).

This is at it’s best made the day before and slowly reheated. It’s served piping hot, with everyone adding more hot mustard and, in our family, garnishing with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche!

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