|Happy New Year 2013!|
|Kallahti, Helsinki - roads diverging in a yellow field|
I look back on the last 12 months, and time has absolutely flown by. I wonder when the month changed from February to June and from August to October. Yes, it often seemed that one month would end and another would be half gone before I noticed. The days fly by faster and faster, and then, somehow, it's New Year's Eve again, and we glance back at the blurry memory of the year just gone, wish those around us "All the best for the new year", may or may not make a few resolutions for how we'll improve our health, lose weight, increase fitness, learn something new, travel more, be more patient, spend more time with people we care about, do a little more self-reflection, live in the moment, and Slow Down.
I speak to myself as much as to anyone when I say this: there is no time like the present for living a life full of the things you love. That in itself requires that you sacrifice something, and that "something" is different for everyone, whether it be time, money, someone's approval, our own comfort zone.
|Just before the snow|
Our own comfort zone. Ah yes. "Ships are safer in the harbor, " William G.T. Shedd said, "But that is not what ships are made for." I strongly believe that we do not live our fullest lives nor is progress ever made because we sit back accepting what is in front of us if it does not make us happy. Man does not fly in the air from one country to the next because of complacency for what is. We do not have universal suffrage (i.e. the right for everyone to vote) in democratic nations because of complacency or reluctance to deal with what is uncomfortable. No new ground was ever charted in science or education or literature or sports or politics or food or technology or medicine or anything else due to complacency or the reluctance to do the hard thing.
|Window in the Finnish National Museum / Suomen Kansamuseo|
|Wild Strawberries on a straw - a traditional way to gather them in the Finnish countryside|
And because change is something that moves us out of our comfort zone so that we can grow, here is some comfort food to enjoy as you get started. It's from the Åland Islands (Ahvenamaa) - an archipelago off the coast of Finland home to a good number of freedom-loving Swedish-speaking Finns. According to Wikipedia: " By law, Åland is politically neutral and entirely demilitarized, and residents are exempt from conscription to the Finnish Defence Forces. The islands were granted extensive autonomy by the Parliament of Finland in the Acto of the Autonomy of Åland of 1920, which was later replaced by new legislation by the same name in 1951 and 1991. Åland remains exclusively Swedish-speaking by law. "
In other words, it's an archipelago full of people who are doing what they want. And the bread? The bread goes with pretty much anything. I like it with Borscht Soup, spread with a soft goat cheese or with a thin layer of butter.
While the bread bakes, tell me - how are you going to spend your year?
|Saaristoleipä / Archipelago Bread|
Saaristoleipä / Archipelago Bread
slightly modified from Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink, who owns a bakery in London where she sells Finnish food to lucky London fans. As Miisa says, this bread is traditionally made with buttermilk and hops, but she's simplified the recipe, making it really simple to follow and absolutely delicious.
500 ml / 2 cups lukewarm milk
7 g / 1.5 teaspoons dried yeast
100 ml / 1/2 cup natural/plain yogurt / quark
150 ml / 3/4 cup golden syrup or mild honey
150 g / 2/3 cup barley flour
150 g / 2/3 cup oatmeal
250 g / 1 cup + 2 tablespoons wholemeal rye flour
250 g/ 1 cup + 2 tablespoons wholemeal bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Put the milk in a large mixing bowl with the yeast and whisk until the yeast has dissolved. Add the yogurt or quark and whisk to combine. Fold in the rest of the ingredients. You don't have to knead the dough; just mix it well to create a soft and sticky mixture.
Grease two loaf pans with butter or oil and line the bottom with parchment paper, or alternatively, dust with flour. Divide the mixture between the two pans, filling them only halfway, as the dough will rise. Dip a spoon into hot water and use the back of it to press the mixture slightly down into the pans. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave it to prove/rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 170°C / 325°F.
Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the glaze:
In a small bowl, combine until blended:
1 tablespoon golden syrup / honey
50 ml / 2.5 tablespoons hot water
After 1 hour of the baking time remove the loaves from the oven, brush with some of the glaze over the tops and return to the oven for another 45 minutes or until dark brown. Mine took likely less than 45 minutes, but ovens are different so take a look at after about 30 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the oven and tip them out of the pans onto a wire rack. Brush a little more glaze over them and leave them to cool for one hour. Eat either warm or cold. The bread will keep in an airtight container for several days. It also freezes exceptionally well.
Makes 2 loaves.