Sunrise: 9:22 AM
Sunset: 1:33 PM
Over the next couple of weeks, days are going to get much shorter. This morning, after I went for a sunlit-walk around Nordanå, we potted the julhyacinter [Christmas hyacinths] that we got over the weekend.
Now a few hours later, candles have been lit up. In the tree. On the table. By the windows.
There is mjukt tunnbröd deg [soft flatbread dough] proofing in the kitchen. And a pressful of freshly brewed coffee.
Sunrise: 9:20 AM
Sunset: 1:36 PM
Temperature: – 1.9°C
I made some fudge yesterday. Vanilla fudge, of the old-fashioned kind. And really, I have no idea what it even means – old-fashioned fudge – but I saw it somewhere and liked the sound of it.
Old-fashioned. Perhaps, with more ingredients than your standard condensed milk recipe. Perhaps, it’s the cream and sugar. Or the way it’s left to bubble on the stove to the lightest shade of gold.
In any case, I’m going with it. And the things it pushes us to reminisce about.
We left it to cool on the kitchen counter as we put on boots and wrapped ourself in warm sweaters. The road to Umeå was like a winter dream. Thousands of trees lined the salted asphalt. The bright winter sun warmed the blue hour into a golden one.
Not for long though; by the time we arrived at the Christmas market, it had already started to set. Leaving place to the candle-lights that Swedes seem to be so fond of. I am too, really.
On the way back, we might have picked up a julgran [Christmas tree] and spent the evening decorating it with Christmas songs and glögg. Oh and many vintage glass ornaments. But that’s another story for another time.
Growing up, fudge was always one of those mysteries. You know, the kind of food you’d heard about and yet never tasted. Because, in France, the closest thing we’d ever had was caramels au beurre salé [salted caramels]. Soft and chewy, except for the occasional flake of sea salt. With a smoothness that almost melts on the tongue.
I think I might have had my first bite of fudge in Canada. Right before we went to see the Niagara falls. I remember how the bus pulled by the road. With a fudge stand for only sight. I might be wrong, but we filled a brown paper bag with chunky pieces that lasted us through our entire trip.
There was this vanilla fudge. Slightly brown and with not a seed of vanilla to be seen. But it was my favourite. So I guess, that’s what I meant with the whole “old-fashioned”.
And now, more than ten years later, we’re in the north again. And here in Sweden, fudge appears on every julbord [Christmas table]. The julgodis [Christmas candies] tradition isn’t going anywhere. And perhaps, if I have time, we should go through all of them.
But for now, vanilla fudge. Old-fashioned or not.
I like to use homemade vanilla sugar for this as it gives the fudge an old-fashioned look with it’s many specks of vanilla; and a beautiful flavour.
Homemade vanilla sugar is one of those things I always have in the cupboard. And really, I think you should too. It’s very simple to make. Collect your used vanilla pods as you go (rinse them under warm water if they’ve been infusing cream or other dairy products) and keep them in an open jar for them to dry. When you have around 8-10 pods, bake them at 100°C for 30 minutes to get rid of any leftover moisture, then blitz them with 100g of caster sugar into a thin powder. Transfer to a 1L-jar and add another 700-800g of caster sugar. Close the jar with a lid and shake well. Voilà!
Makes a 20x20cm slab, around 40 pieces.
250 g double cream (whipping cream also works but I’ve found it makes a softer fudge) 300 g caster
75 g homemade vanilla sugar
75 g glucose syrup
75 g unsalted butter
1 heaped tsp of sea salt
300 g good white chocolate, finely chopped
Prepare a 20x20cm tin by oiling it lightly and lining it with baking paper. Set aside.
Place the cream, sugars, glucose syrup, butter, and salt in a pan larger than you’d think you need. Bring to the boil over medium heat, and then whisking at all times, cook the cream to 118°C.
Take the pan off the heat, and beat in the white chocolate using a heat-resistant silicon spatula (or a wooden spoon).
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and allow to cool down completely at room temperature for at least 12 hours.
Remove the vanilla fudge from the pan and place onto a chopping board. Cut into 3x3cm cubes, using a large knife. If you’re into sharper edges (I’m not, at least at home), wipe your knife clean in between each slices.
A story about honey biscuit-slices, Christmas nook and the first advent Sunday
Sunrise: 8:57 AM
Sunset: 1:51 PM
Things haven’t evolved much since the days of my childhood Christmases. The tree gets decorated early. Biscuits get baked. So does my mom’s pain d’épices. Some years, Aïda and I will attempt to make marrons glacés [candied chestnuts], which is never a success since most of the chestnuts get eaten before they burst with syrup at the end of the fourteen-day candying process; but who could blame us? My dad will sing us the songs he wrote. And some presents get opened too early, on a champagne-induced can’t-wait feeling. And then, there was always the wishes Aïda and I made on Christmas eve for a snowy morning that – as the history now revealed – never came.
This year hasn’t been so different. Only that new traditions have come along too. Every window glows with an adventsstjärna [an advent star] and adventsljusstake [advent candles]. And on many balconies, a grann [spruce] can be seen, sparkling with lights and candles.
Our kitchen smells of saffron and cinnamon. And I’ve been baking småkakor [biscuits] almost every day. Today, our first advent candle got lit up. Oh and I managed to loose almost every picture I had taken over the past week or so.
If the next few recipes come with only one or two pictures, you’ll know why :)
The snow that fell so heavily a weekend or so ago has now turned into ice after the occasional rain was followed by a day made of wool hats, moose-skin mittens and -15°C.
Much to my regret; for the sake of both a mesmerising cotton-like world and the ease of walking around.
On the latter point, after a much-feared sliding accident on the pavement, Kalle got me some crampons, which resonate into the empty streets – of the 5am kind – as I walk to work.
But I heard it might snow tomorrow night. To wishes; near and far!
I first came across snittar a few months ago, when I started working at the café. In Sweden, you’ll find snittar flavoured with just about anything, but two of the most popular ones are chokladsnittar and kolasnittar [caramel biscuits].
And just like it’s been really hard to find recipe sources on the many Swedish blogs I’ve been reading, it’s just as complicated with recipe names. Many times, snittar will just be called kakor, although they’re the same thing.
But really, I fell in love with how snittar reflects how the biscuits get sliced after being baked. Something I had never seen before, and that is amazing for a number of reasons that can’t match how easy these little biscuits are to dip in a cup of tea or coffee.
Priorities are in order in Sweden!
Honungssnittar are a favourite memory of many Swedish grown-ups. My friend Suss told me how she used to eat them straight from the freezer – when the edges are super-crisp and the centre still chewy – as a child.
To make these honungssnittar here I simply replaced the golden syrup used in kolakakor with creamy honey.
The resulting biscuit is soft and delicately fragrant. With edges crunchy just so.
It’s important to cut the biscuits straight out from the oven and they will harden quite a lot during the cooling.
I had taken some pictures of the rolling/baking/cutting process, but as I’ve told you above, they’re well gone now; it is, however, super simple. The dough gets rolled into logs. And flattened into 1cm-tick rectangles, straight on the baking tray. And right after baking, the long strips get cut into “diamond” slices. I always use a metal dough-scraper, although a large knife will work too as long as you’re careful enough not to damage your baking tray.
I hope you’ll give these a go! And let me know what you think of the Swedish snittar process! I’m smitten :)
makes 16-20 biscuits
200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature 170 g caster sugar
80 g creamy honey
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp sea salt
270 g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a tray with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar, honey, vanilla sugar and salt for a few minutes, until well combined.
In the meantime, mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter and work until it just starts to form a dough.
Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a 30cm-long log. Repeat with the other half.
Place the logs onto the prepared baking tray, spacing them as much as possible as the dough will spread quite a lot during baking.
Flatten each log with the palm of your hand to a 1cm-tick rectangle. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light-golden-brown.
As soon as the biscuits come out from the oven, cut into slices using a dough-scraper or a large knife (in which case, be careful not to damage your baking tray).
Allow the biscuits to cool down completely on the tray before moving to an air-tight container.