Hapanleipä – Finnish Sour Rye Bread

Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Bread

This is my bread of choice for the most god-awful stinky cheeses I can get my hands on. It’s probably not a traditional use for it but it works for me. This rough and crispy flatbread is perfect for slathering with the funkiest of room temperature washed rind cheeses. I haven’t tried the stinkiest cheese as determined by a computerized electronic nose, but I’m sure it will also pair well with this 100% rye bread.

So what’s the deal with the shape? Supposedly breads are baked in the western regions of Finland only a couple of times a year. Hundreds of these breads would be baked at the same time and hung on poles right under the ceilings. The acidity from the use of a wild yeast starter and its inherent dryness help preserve the breads until the next oven firing.

I painstakingly recreated such poles as I imagined it in the ceiling of a Finnish kitchen. Not included in the photo are four tomato cans used as rests for the wooden dowel.

View Hapanleipä - Finnish Sour Rye Bread formula »

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Swiss Meringue with Raspberries and Almonds

Swiss Meringue Cookies with Raspberries and Almonds

I’ve never made any form of whipped egg white dessert before but these Swiss meringue cookies surprisingly came out as good as I could hope for. The scent of raspberries permeated the cookie and the slivered almonds added a nice textural contrast to the crisp meringue. The low and slow baking temperature also concentrated the flavor of the embedded raspberries, resulting in a tangy red spot of syrupy jam.

There are three major categories in meringue development. Generally speaking with the point of view of a meringue neophyte, the main difference between the three methods lies in the amount of heat applied to the ingredients:

  • French Meringue
    No heat applied to the ingredients.
  • Swiss Meringue
    Gentle heat applied to the combined egg whites and sugar, usually over a bain-marie or double boiler.
  • Italian Meringue
    Sugar and water are heated to the firm ball stage (246ºF/119ºC to 250ºF/121ºC), creating a hot syrup. The hot syrup is then slowly added to the egg whites right at the beginning of whipping.

In any case, a whole lot of intimacy with my Oxo whisk is required regardless of the method. I’ve never wanted a Kitchenaid more in my life.

View Swiss Meringue with Raspberries and Almonds recipe »

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Indonesian Nutmeg Tea Cookies – Kue Kering

Indonesian Nutmeg Tea Cookies - Kue Kering

Somehow I ended up bringing home more nutmeg than I can realistically use in a lifetime. I get way too excited when visiting Middle Eastern and Indian groceries and end up buying spices cheap and in bulk. Five pounds of turmeric for the price charged at Whole Foods for a thimble-full? Why the hell not. My silicone spatulas are perpetually stained a peculiar shade of yellow from all the dals and curries I’ve been making, but I’m not complaining. I just need to use it all up somehow before these spices turn into pantry sawdust, which incidentally means that Alzheimer’s disease is the least of my worries for now.

It’s a completely different story with nutmeg because it’s not a good idea to ingest it in large amounts. Aside from easily overpowering anything, it usually takes a backseat to other ingredients for good reason — it has trace amounts of hallucinogens, giving you one more thing to worry about come mandatory testing day.

Since you’re just dying to use this spice already, here’s a rare recipe that uses nutmeg as a main ingredient. A little goes a long way and a batch of 64 bite-sized cookies calls for an amount barely more than a pinch. It makes all the difference in elevating this basic cookie dough into something much more interesting.

View Indonesian Nutmeg Tea Cookies - Kue Kering recipe »

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Rosemary Potato Bread

Panmarino - Italian Rosemary Potato Bread

Having good bread and olive oil is always a comforting way to start a meal. This Italian loaf baked with rosemary and mashed potatoes is my idea of the perfect dipping bread. Each of the three elements, the bread itself, the rosemary, and the potatoes, have a natural affinity with olive oil. Combining everything in one bite makes the little extra effort in preparing it worthwhile.

View Rosemary Potato Bread recipe »

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Steamed Peaches with Honey Dates

Steamed Peaches with Honey Dates

This deceptively simple steamed dessert has only three ingredients — peaches, dates, and brown sugar. I wasn’t too excited about it at first because I like peaches raw and I’m not too fond of dates. Since I was steaming chicken for dinner and had some fresh peaches on hand anyway, I figured that I might as well pick up a handful of dates, barely remembering this recipe.

While sweating it out in my nifty aluminum steamer, the peaches predictably released a wonderful aroma. The results, however, far exceeded my expectations. The brown sugar melded nicely with the peaches, releasing its juices and creating a fragrant syrup. Plumping up through osmosis, the dates absorbed the peach nectar and transformed from a wrinkled cloying drupe to something I’m craving for right this moment.

View Steamed Peaches with Honey Dates recipe »

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