All posts by Stef

About Stef

Archaeologist from Germany who is currently living in Helsinki.

Vegan Caramel Sauce

I have been fantasizing about making a Toffee Nut Latte for a while and have been experimenting with creating a vegan whipped cream so I wouldn’t have to buy a ready made one from the store. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as well as planned, so I gave the caramel sauce a try which turned out perfectly!

Vegan Caramel Sauce | 2women2cats |

This caramel sauce is made with coconut oil instead of vegan margarine which lots of recipes seem to use. I also didn’t use any nut butter for it but added some almond milk. If you can’t eat nuts (coconut is not a nut botanically) you can switch to soy milk or a different nut-free milk.

The colour of the sauce and its dark and deep flavour is a result of the coconut sugar I used. If you don’t like the taste of coconut sugar (it’s quite different from plain sugar) you can substitute it with brown cane sugar. The caramel can be used in coffee, hot chocolates or on desserts and ice cream and it will last in the fridge for several weeks (or even longer). If you don’t eat it with a spoon directly from the jar that is!

Vegan Caramel Sauce | 2women2cats |

Ingredients

60 g coconut oil, melted
100 g coconut sugar
100 ml almond (or other) milk
sea salt
ground vanilla

Combine the milk with the sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium until the sugar is dissolved. Add a litte bit of vanilla and salt and whisk in the coconut oil. Let everything simmer on low heat while stirring constantly until the caramel sauce starts to thicken up. When it has reached its desired texture take it off the heat and let it cool down. It will thicken up more once it has cooled. Pour it in a jar and store in the fridge. If you manage not to use it up immediately, it might seperate after a few days, so give it a stir before serving. Enjoy!

Stef

Vegan Caramel Sauce | 2women2cats |

Vegan Caramel Sauce | 2women2cats |

Laskiaispulla – Another Finnish Bun

March came so fast that I didn’t manage to update this blog with another traditonal Finnish recipe – the laskiaispulla. If you love to eat sweets buns and cake, February is your month! In the beginning of February Finland celebrates Runeberg’s Day. On that day the stores and bakeries are filled with Runeberg’s Cakes which are made with almond flour and decorated with raspberry jam in a sugar ring. Then on Shrove Tuesday (Laskiaistiistai) Finnish people eat sweet buns filled with whipped cream, raspberry jam and/or marzipan.

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Laskianen is originally a pre-Christian Finnish tradition where children would go sledding down the hills (sledding events are still done nowadays, mostly by uni students with fancy selfmade sleighs) to predict the crop growth of the coming summer and was later merged with pre-Easter customs. Like with every celebration, certain food traditions are also part of it and that’s why there has been so much old-fashioned baking at our house lately. If you ask me you don’t have to wait for a holiday (or the next February) to enjoy a freshly made laskiaispulla!

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For the basic sweet buns I used this Finnish recipe and converted the amounts into grams because in Finland most baking is done by using deciliters. This gets even more ridiculous in the summertime when you have to decide on how many liters of fresh peas you want to buy from the market (and lets not even talk about buying plums). But back to baking!

When measuring with deciliters it really depends on how firmly you pack the flour and sugar because that might change the weight and will lead to a different result. I would recommend adding a bit more flour if you have the feeling the dough is not firm and springy enough before the rising time.

Ingredients (for ~8 buns)

250 ml full fat milk
1/2 package dry yeast
100 g sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp sea salt
1 small egg
100 g melted butter
500 g plain white flour

pearl sugar for decorating and some milk for brushing the buns

raspberry jam and/or marzipan
200 ml whipping cream

Heat the milk on the stove in a saucepan until it’s lukewarm and dissolve the yeast in it. Add the sugar, salt, cardamom and the egg and give it a little whisk. Slowly mix in around 2/3 of the flour with a spoon or a hand mixer using the dough hooks. Knead in the melted butter and the rest of the flour. Transfer into a big bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm environment until the dough has nearly doubled. It really depends on the temperature and I’d say it would take around 1,5 hours in room temperature. You can also heat up your stove to 50°C, turn it off but leave the oven lamp on and let the dough rise in there for around 45 minutes.

When the dough has risen enough you can roll it into a log and cut it into 8 pieces (or more if you want smaller buns). Roll each piece into a bun and put on a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush some milk on top and decorate with pearl sugar. Let the buns rest another 20 minutes while you heat up the oven to 200°C.

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Bake them for around 12-15 minutes until they are lightly golden. Let them cool down completely before you start filling the buns.

For the filling whip up the cream (add some vanilla and sugar if you like) and set aside. Now you can cut the buns in the middle and and put some raspberry jam or marzipan on the bottom halves. Or both like in my case!

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Pipe the whipped cream on top of the jam/marzipan and carefully put the tops back. Now your buns are ready to be eaten. Enjoy!

Stef

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Easy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

During the wintertime Tiia always has had problems with atopic skin, especially on her hands. Depending on the weather it can be quite tolerable or awful in a few days change. Also she noticed that it gets worse if she has to use hand disinfectant and commercial liquid soap at work (plus stress and lack of sleep is a big factor). A while ago she had bought a quite pricey Dead Sea salt scrub which helped her quite well but didn’t have the best ingredients. Dead Sea salt is full of minerals and great for eczema in cosmetics and baths but of course you don’t have to suffer from atopic skin to enjoy it.

2women2cats: Diy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

I wouldn’t recommend using a scrub if your skin is already damaged so much that it has open wounds. For Tiia the scrub has prevented the skin to get that to that stage and she didn’t find the peeling effect too harsh on her skin. I bought a whole kilo of unprocessed Dead Sea salt at the eco market for around 10€. Way cheaper than the store bought ready made scrubs! You’ll mostly find the pure salt labeled as bath salt since it’s not edible. A kilo is a lot so I’d recommend also using it for the bathtub, if you have one, or for a relaxing foot or hand bath.

2women2cats: Diy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

Ingredients

Pure Dead Sea salt
Cold pressed oil of your choice – in this case I used sesame and macadamia

The salt is quite coarse (probably differs depending on the brand) so you need to break it down in a food processor first. You don’t want the peeling to be too harsh, so make sure the salt is quite small. I didn’t add any amounts because the recipe is really simple and you can start out making only a small batch to test it or a big jar.

2women2cats: Diy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

The only other thing you need to add to the scrub is oil. Whereas store bought peelings often use the cheapest processed oils, I would recommend using cold pressed oils only. Best would be if you already have experience in which oil your skin likes and which not. Sesame is a really great and mild oil that I also use for my face, while macadamia is a bit heavier and therefore I only added a small amount of.

Mix the salt with one or two oils of your choice in a bowl. Make sure everything is covered properly and there is a small layer of oil on top of the mixture. Then transfer into a jar or tin and your scrub is ready to use! You can keep it for a long time since there aren’t any perishable ingredients in it. Selfmade scrubs are also a great gift!

Stef

2women2cats: Diy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

2women2cats: Diy Dead Sea Salt Scrub

Saaristolaisleipä – A Traditional Finnish Bread

I have been making our own bread for quite a while. If I have enough time on my hands I usually make sourdough bread but it is not as failproof as normal yeast dough and really time consuming. For a few weeks now I have tried to master an Estonian sourdough rye bread but I keep on failing miserably. I can tell you that nothing is worse than having to throw a fresh loaf into the trash!

I decided to have a break from Estonian bread making, so next on my agenda was a traditional Finnish bread – saaristolaisleipä. Often translated as Islander or Archipelago bread, it consists of rye and wheat flour with rye malt and dark syrup. The malt gives the bread the dark look that is typical for this bread and the syrup a soft and sticky consistency and a slight sweet flavour. And the best thing: it isn’t a sourdough bread and therefore easier to make (at least for me).

Saaristolaisleipä - A traditional Finnish Bread

The recipe I used was originally for three breads but in case I would fail again I only made two. I also converted the measurements into grams since Finnish recipes mostly use deciliters for measuring and it tends to confuse people too much.

Ingredients

665 ml buttermilk, 2,5% fat
50 g fresh yeast
200 ml dark bread syrup (contains malt) or other dark syrup/treacle
150 g malt flour (I used rye malt)
60 g spelt bran (or wheat/rye bran)
130 g rye flour
400 g wheat flour
3/4 tbsp sea salt

For the glaze

1tbsp dark syrup
3 tbsp water

Spices (optional)

bread spices like coriander, fennel, cumin 
hemp seeds

Take a saucepan and heat the buttermilk on the stove until it’s lukewarm. Crumble the yeast into it and let is dissolve slightly, then add the syrup.

In a big bowl mix all the dry ingredients (including spices if you like) and then slowly add the buttermilk/yeast mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. You don’t have to mix it for long but make sure everything is properly incorporated. The dough will be quite liquid, unlike wheat dough. Cover with a towel and let it rise for around 1,5 hours in room or above room temperature. I put it on our bathroom floor which has floorheating. Make sure to check the dough every once in a while because how fast it will rise depends a lot on the temperature and also texture of the dough. The dough is ready when it has doubled in size.

Make sure to preheat the oven to 175°C before the rising time is up. Grease two loaf tins with butter and divide the dough into two parts. Distribute it equally between the tins and smooth out with wet hands. You can then add hemp seeds on top of the breads if you like. Bake them on the lowest rack for 2 hours. Spray a bit of water into the oven or keep a little bowl with water underneath the breads to keep them moist. Depending on your oven you might need to cover them with tinfoil after an hour to prevent the top from burning.

For the sticky glaze mix the syrup with the water and brush the breads with it 15 – 30 minutes before they are done. When the time is up, take the breads out of the tins immediately and brush the rest of the syrupy water on them. Then wrap each in parchment paper and wrap firmly with two towels. Let them  cool down like this completely or best overnight so they are well rested in the morning. Now it is time to taste your bread! Enjoy!

Stef

Saaristolaisleipä - A traditional Finnish Bread

Saaristolaisleipä - A traditional Finnish Bread

Saaristolaisleipä - A traditional Finnish Bread

 

Happy Runeberg’s Day!

On 5th of February Finland celebrates Runeberg day, the birthday of national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg who lived in the 19th century. Although he wrote in Swedish, part of his most popular work became the National Anthem of Finland. It is said that his wife, who was a writer herself, invented the Runeberg cake which her husband loved to eat for breakfast. The pastry is flavoured with almonds, cardamom and is topped with raspberry jam in the middle of a sugar ring. Traditionally it is eaten on Runeberg’s birthday.

2women2cats: Runeberg Cake (Finnish pastry)

Tiia usually makes Runeberg’s cakes herself but this week was so busy that she didn’t quite have the time for it so far. Fortunately Kanniston Leipomo, a bakery nearby, sells freshly made ones, so I got two pieces for the afternoon. On the weekend she’ll hopefully get around to make some of her own and put the recipe on the blog, so everybody who is not able to buy these great pastries in their country can make their own.

Happy Runeberg’s Day or hyvää Runebergin päivää!

Stef