30/11/2006

Air cookies - Loftkökur

Another cookie recipe my mother always makes for Christmas. These delicious candy cookies are light as air and melt on the tongue. The rising agent, baker's ammonia, unfortunately makes a big stink while the cookies are baking. I've seen these cookies for sale in Denmark, where they are called Rutebiler (Buses).

1 kg icing sugar
3 tsp bakers' ammonia
3 tbs cocoa
3 eggs, beaten

Mix the dry ingredients and beaten eggs and knead well. Run the dough through a cookie press. Use this attachment:

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Each cake should be about 5 cm (2 inches) long. Bake in the center of the oven for 8-10 minutes at 175°C. These cookies are light and airy, with a hollow center.
The unbaked cookies don't need to be big - they will expand in size 3-4 times during the baking.

28/11/2006

A little break from the Christmas recipes: Muffins/cupcakes for every-day use

It seems the line between what counts as a muffin and what as a cupcake is blurry. The dictionary tells me that muffins are sweet breads, leavened with baking powder or baking soda and baked in cup-shaped tins, while cupcakes are cakes leavened and baked in the same way.

I suppose the following – my own recipe – falls somewhere in between the two. It is a cake recipe, but I have added a bread ingredient: whole-wheat flour.

Basic recipe:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
50 g margarine or butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Enough milk to make a thick batter, usually about 2/3 cup

12 paper muffin cups
1 12 muffin baking tray (mine came from Ikea)

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Add egg, milk, vanilla and melted margarine and stir into a thick batter. Put paper muffin forms into the cups in the baking tray and fill each to 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 190°C (180°C if you have a convection oven), for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and a pin stuck in one of them comes out clean. These cakes are moist, delicious and not too sweet, and will keep for several days.

Cooled muffins can be spread with lemon or cocoa icing.

Variations:

Berry muffins:
1 cup berries, may be frozen (I love bilberry muffins, but mixed wild berries are also good in muffins)

Fill each muffin cup to 1/3 full with batter. Divide the berries evenly between the cups and top with the rest of the batter.

White muffins with chocolate chips:
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips, depending on how rich you want the muffins to be.

Fold gently into the batter and prepare as indicated in the basic recipe.

Double chocolate muffins:
Make dough with 3 tbs dark cocoa powder and ½ cup chocolate chips, white, dark or mixed.

Jam muffins:
Fill each muffin cup to 1/3 full with batter. Put a teaspoon of your favourite jam in the centre of each blob of batter and top with the rest of the batter.

Cinnamon muffins:
Mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tsp powdered cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the batter before you bake the muffins.

Cinnamon-raisin muffins:
Add 1/2 cup raisins to the batter and top with cinnamon-sugar before baking.

They taste even better the day after you make them.

27/11/2006

Icelandic Christmas cocktail - Jólabland

This mix is, as far as I know, purely an Icelandic invention. In the first half of this century not many people could afford to buy ale and fizzy drinks, and they were therefore something to be enjoyed at festive occasions, such as Christmas and birthdays. Mixing the drinks together was probably believed to make it even more enjoyable to drink. The taste is sweet, malty and mellow. This is a comforting drink that always makes me think of Christmas.

Take equal measures of an orange flavoured fizzy drink (Fanta will do) and brown ale (Guinness is supposed to be good) and mix together. Be careful to pour the orange drink first, and pour the ale carefully to avoid it getting too frothy. Drink with the Christmas meal. To get an authentic flavour, the orange drink should be the Icelandic Egils Appelsín, and the brown ale Egils Malt. Some people (like my family) like to add some cola, usually Coke.

24/11/2006

Icelandic Christmas bread – Laufabrauð

Fried leaf breads. The top two have patterns made with a leaf-bread cutter, the third is hand cut:

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My father's extended family usually gather together at the beginning of December to make Laufabrauð, spending a whole day kneading, cutting and frying, before sharing a festive meal. There are usually 12-15 of us working together, turning out a couple of hudred of these flat, decorated breads in one day. The bread gets divided evenly between the families, who take it home and store until Christmas.

This year’s gathering is tomorrow, so here is a recipe and I will try to remember to take photos to post.

These deep-fried, thin wheat breads are traditionally cut with intricate decorative patterns, and are mostly eaten at Christmas. The tradition of making Laufabrauð has its roots in the northern part of Iceland, but has spread all over the country. Many bakeries now sell ready-made Laufabrauð, or pre-kneaded and cut dough that only needs decorating and frying, but nothing beats making it at home from scratch. Some people make it with whole-wheat flour or rye flour, and others put caraway seeds in it.

1 kg wheat flour
30 g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
500-600 ml milk, scalded
1 tbs butter/margarine

frying fat (preferably sheep's tallow)
A large cooking pot for frying (should be tall, so as to avoid splattering)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Heat the milk to boiling and melt the butter in it. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. Knead into a ball of dense dough. Roll into sausage shapes and store under a slightly damp cloth (it dries out quickly otherwise). Cut or pinch off portions and flatten with a rolling pin. These breads are traditionally very thin - a good way to tell if the dough is thin enough is to check if you can read the headings (some say the text!) of a newspaper through it. Cut into circular cakes, using a medium sized plate as a guide to ensure even size. If you have to store them un-fried, stack them up with baking paper between the layers, put in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Decorate by cutting out patterns.

A raw leaf-bread, hand-cut:

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Heat the fat in a deep, wide pot. It's ready when it starts to smoke. Prick the cakes with a fork to avoid blistering, and drop into the fat, one at a time, taking care that they do not fold. The cakes will sink as you drop them into the fat. When they resurface, pick up with a handy tool (such as a steak fork) and turn over. They are ready when golden in colour, and it only takes a few seconds to fry each one. Remove from the fat and put on a piece of kitchen paper to drain. It's good to press a plate or something similar on top of the cake as it is put down, to ensure that it will be flat. Stack up and allow to cool. When cool, stack in a cookie tin. Stored in a cool, dry place, leaf bread will keep for months - if you can keep you hands off it!


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Serving Suggestions:
- Serve at Christmas/New Year with traditional hangikjöt (smoked lamb), rjúpa (ptarmigan) or smoked pork.
- Don't bother to re-knead the cuttings - they dry out very quickly. Fry them and eat as a snack. Some people have started making snacks out of leaf bread - cut into strips and fried, they make an excellent change from potato chips/crisps and nachos.
- Try serving the bread with pancake syrup (I have not tried this, but I'm told it's good)

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23/11/2006

If you are a subscriber to Icelandic cooking, recipes and food culture

I'm sorry for the inconvenience and all the reposts, but I am in the process of labelling the posts to make it easier to find recipes by main ingredient, cooking method and other criteria.