Kanilterta (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

May 8, 2020

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Today I would like to share this Icelandic recipe for Kanilterta with you. This delicious treat boasts four layers of cinnamon spiced buttery cake separated by sweet vanilla whipped cream & topped with silky decadent chocolate. I even bet you have all the ingredients necessary to make it in your pantry right now.

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Oh, and I also want to tell you all about our visit to Iceland for an amazing Ice Cave adventure back in February 2018.

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Now I know when folks are planning a get away in February they might be dreaming of a sunny Caribbean island or something. Iceland might not be the country that comes to mind. However, anyone who knows me, or has read my blog at all knows the Husband and I are not beach people at all. We much prefer the colder climes and absolutely love Iceland at anytime of the year. We had taken a trip to Scotland to go to Up Helly Aa– Europe’s largest Viking fire festival, which takes place at the end of January. So we decided to take advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover offer. You see, if you fly to any of their destinations you can add an up to a 7 day stopover in Iceland at no charge! So it was a no brainer for us. We actually ended up spending one night in Iceland on the way to Scotland and then spent an additional 6 nights on the way back to Virginia.

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And in addition to Icelander’s fantastic Stopover offer, on certain flights they also offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat.

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You should keep in mind that it is per seat. So if you bid $200 and there are two of you on the ticket, then you have actually bid $400. And this is per segment of the flight. So if you have a roundtrip flight, you would be bidding on the flight over as well as the flight back. If your bid is not accepted, nothing changes with your original ticket. You still have the same seats. However if your bid is accepted, you will find yourself in Saga Class. We made a bid and it was accepted!

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Our flight arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am and we were not headed on to Scotland until 7 am the next morning. So we chose to stay close to the airport rather than to travel into Reykjavik. Tired after our overnight flight, we checked into the Silica Hotel at the famous Blue Lagoon.

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The Blue Lagoon is located near the town of Grindavik and is only about a 15 – 20 minute drive from the airport. The Silica Hotel is only about a 3 minute drive, or a short stroll through the beautiful green moss covered lava fields, from the Blue Lagoon. Needless to say, we arrived well before our check-in time, but were able to take advantage of their abundant breakfast buffet while we waited for our room. Since the hotel was not very busy, being February and all, they were able to get us into our room a bit early.

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View from our room at The Silica Hotel

After some shut eye, we took a stroll over to the Blue Lagoon

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Strolling through the lava fields

to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Lava Restaurant.

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We did not spend any time in the actual lagoon at the Blue Lagoon on this trip. We have several times in the past and truly enjoy it and do recommend it, even if it is a bit touristy. There is a reason why folks love it! And I should mention that when you book a room at the Silica Hotel, premium entrance to the Blue Lagoon is included. That is really quite a perk, especially in the summer time. The Blue Lagoon has become so popular at this point, it is unlikely that you could gain entrance without booking in advance. But there is also even another perk to staying at the Silica Hotel – they have their own private lagoon for folks staying with them! How awesome is that!!!

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Now there isn’t a swim up bar, like there is in the main Blue Lagoon, however you can place a drink order with one of the Silica employees and they will deliver it to you while you soak in the Silica Lagoon. The Husband and I loved this little private oasis. Not crowded at all, very quiet. We spent quite a while relaxing and unwinding here on the first night of our trip!

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After all of our adventures in Scotland, we arrived back in Iceland and taxied into Reykjavik. We had been dreaming of visiting an Ice Cave for sometime and February was the perfect time to go on an Ice Cave adventure. You see, it needs to be cold to safely visit an Ice Cave, so most of these tours take place from October – March. February was just perfect! So I booked a two day tour, which would take us and a small number of other guests (no more than 8) out along the South Coast, stopping to visit Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss Waterfalls, the Reynisfjara Black Sand beach, and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Then we would spend the night at the tour group’s cottage, have a traditional Icelandic dinner and enjoy the Northern Lights if possible. The second day we would visit the Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, go to an Ice Cave and then be back in Reykjavik by around 21:00 – 22:00. Two full days without a doubt! Even though we had seen a lot of the South Coast, we were happy to see it again. And even happier to sit back and let some other folks do the driving. On the day our tour began it was raining. And I don’t mean just a little drizzly, just spitting a bit…I mean all out, cats and dogs, RAINING! Sure, it will let up soon I thought…HA! If anything it intensified throughout the day! But we didn’t let it stop us! We had all our waterproof gear at the ready.

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Drenched at Seljalandfoss.

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Soggy at Skógafoss

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Soaked before the Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

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Drowned at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

 

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We arrived in a big water-logged heap at the cottage, which was quite charming and thankfully warm.

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The tour company had prepared a lovely Icelandic lamb dinner for us. But first they wanted us to try an Icelandic national delicacy – Hákarl, which translates to rotten or putrefied shark. Yup, you read that right. You see Greenlands shark meat is actually poisonous when fresh due to its high levels of urea and trimethylamine oxide. However after it is buried in sand and pressed down by stones, hung to dry for weeks and then cured for a month or so more, it is just fine! Usually eating a bit is followed quickly by taking a shot of Brennivín – an Icelandic liquor also known as Black Death. The Husband is allergic to seafood, so he got a pass on the putrefied shark and merely concentrate on the shots of Death. Lucky me, I got to sample both. Hmmmm… Rotten Shark & Black Death…what could go wrong?

So how did it taste? Well, the smell was worse than the taste. The taste wasn’t great, but probably not the worst thing ever, though I certainly have not found myself craving either. Needless to say, the Northern Lights did not make an appearance that night. Or if they did , the heavy cloud cover and pouring rain obscured them. But, good news, when we woke in the morning the rain had decided to move on. It was cold and windy, but all things considered and knowing what it was like just the day before, not too bad for February in Iceland. We ate breakfast and then set out for the day. First stop, Diamond Beach & Jökulsárlón.

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And finally, the time had arrived! We met up with some local ice cave guides, boarded their modified 4X4 and set off on a very bumpy ride towards Vatnajokull to explore an ice cave!

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Ice caves in Iceland are formed from beneath by the canals of water which run under the glaciers. In the summer these caves are often filled with water and impassible, but with the coming of cold water they freeze and voila – ICE CAVE! Incredibly otherworldly and stunningly beautiful – I’ll just let my pictures do the talking:

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We not only got to see a traditional ice cave, but after a short walk across the glacier, we got to see a convertible type of ice cave – you know…one with the roof off. Really, it was more like a fissure in the glacier. Also, incredibly beautiful.

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And the great news is that new caves form every year, so you could likely go again and again and it would always be different!

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Alas, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. We stopped for a short look see at Svínafellsjökull (the glacier where the scenes from North of the Wall in Game of Thrones were filmed), but then got right on the road.

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I had been monitoring the weather on my phone throughout the day and was worried about a storm that was moving in. Sure enough, the weather soon turned bad. We thought rain was a problem, but not so much. What we ended up with on the way back to the city was much worse – very windy and driving snow. There was little visibility, multiple cars had gone off the road and driving was treacherous!

When we finally arrived in Hveragerði at the foot of the Hellisheidi Mountain Pass, the one that we needed to take to get back into Reykjavik…yeah, that one…we found that it was impassable and closed.

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We sat and waited to see if a plow might make it across the mountain somehow, but after about an hour and some consulting with other stuck tour drivers as well as the police, we realized that we were going to have to go around. Yeah….go around a mountain! Thus turning what should have been about a 40 minute drive over the pass into a 2 hour + blizzard driving odyssey! But I gotta give it to our driver. He was awesome. Calm and confident. We finally showed up back in the city around 2 am! Let me tell you, that was the point where we were really glad we weren’t the ones doing the driving, but rather were in the expert hands of a driver who was experienced driving in Iceland’s tricky, ever-changing winter weather. Although this two day Ice Cave trip turned out a little different than we might have imagined, we ended up having a fantastic time and quite an adventure!

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The rest of our time in Iceland we spent relaxing in Reykjavik. We stayed in an AirBnB which was in a great location and had a lovely view.

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We went shopping and wandered about town

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took in the street art

stopped for coffee at Reykjavik Roasters,

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visited our favorite restaurants like Íslenski Barinn and Snaps,

enjoyed a kanilsnúðar or two from Brauð & Co.

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and stopped by our favorite bars

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and of course, ate a hot dog or two or so…

 We were lucky that the Winter Lights Festival was taking place while we were there. This festival is an annual February event in Reykjavik which celebrates both the Winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. Every night during the festival various buildings throughout the city have light installations. You can get a map and stroll through the city to see them all.

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And we got even more snow, which made me a very, very happy camper. So yeah, February is a great time to visit Iceland! To see all the action as it happened, take a look at this video:

But oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you about his Kanilterta. This traditional Icelandic cake was often baked around the Christmas holidays and served with hot chocolate on Christmas Day. However, in recent years it has lost some of its popularity, being seen as rather old fashioned. Old fashioned it may be, and perhaps not very polished or fancy looking, but it is truly delicious!

IMG_0019I know I’ve told you before that the Husband doesn’t really like sweet desserts. Well, he absolutely LOVED this cake. Has asked for multiple slices!

IMG_0109The layers are more like a cookie or soft shortbread than a traditional layer cake. They are incredibly buttery and decadent. The vanilla whipped cream between the layers serves to light each bite.IMG_0024The top layer of silky dark chocolate is absolutely amazing. Where has this cake been all of my life?!!

 

IMG_0135Wonderfully rich and buttery with warm cinnamon and chocolate notes, this Kanilterta is absolutely irresistible! It is welcome all year round in our house. Once you give it a whirl, I’ll bet you’ll be hooked too!IMG_0029

 

Kanilterta - (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

  • Servings: 12- 14 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly modified from: Þjóðlegt með kaffinu

Ingredients:

  • 260 grams salted butter
  • 350 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 dl  (400 ml or 13.5 oz) cream
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 75 grams dark chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cinnamon together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

Butter four to six 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment. Divide the dough equally between the pans and spread it out into an even layer. Or, if you do not have the round pans, you can draw 4 – 6 circles measuring 8″ in diameter on parchment paper and bake on a cookie sheet.

Bake each layer for 12 -15 minutes or until set. I baked four layers. If you are making six layers, the baking time will likely be closer to 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Whip cream until it starts to thicken. Add confectioners sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture evenly between each layer of the cake, leaving the top layer bare.

Place layered cake in refrigerator or freezer briefly while you prepare chocolate for the top layer. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.

Once chocolate has cooled to room temperature, spread chocolate over the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy!

Kanilterta brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Kanilterta:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

8″ Round non-stick cake pan

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.

Links for Planning your vacation in February in Iceland:

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Accommodation: 

Silica Hotel at Blue Lagoon: Lovely hotel with its own private lagoon for guests. Extensive breakfast buffet and very close to Keflavik Airport as well as (of course) the Blue Lagoon.

Once in Reykjavik, we stayed in an AirBnB on this visit. Planet Apartments were the folks who managed the unit we stayed in. They have several lovely apartments with great views of the sea. Very friendly & helpful folks to work with.

Car Rental – We did not actually rent a car this time, but relied on taxis. When we do rent a car, here is the company we love:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!

Tours: So visiting an Ice Cave was a lot of fun. We definitely recommend it. I did want to take this time though to impart some advice. Visiting an ice cave is weather dependent in a couple of ways. First of all you need to visit between the months of November – March, when the weather is cold enough that the caves are more stable. Second of all, weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Tours are often cancelled in the winter, so you need to try to remain flexible and go into it knowing your tour might be cancelled due to the weather. That being said, you have to consider how you will be getting to the ice cave. Some of the best caves are located in Vatnjökull, which is about a 5+ hour drive from Reykjavik. You could drive yourself out that way to meet up with a tour – a lot leave from Jökulsárlón. However, keep in mind you will be driving in Iceland during the Winter, so you might end up having to deal with less than favorable to downright dangerous winter driving conditions.  Rather than driving yourself, you could book a tour which leaves from Reykjavik and let a local do the driving, like we did. A word of caution here – although they do offer day tours out to Jökulsárlón, I do not recommend them. You will spend at least 10 hours driving – so that is a long day in a car. And keep in mind, the days have less daylight hours at this time of year, so most of it will be in the dark. I think a two or three day tour is a better option. I bet you think that the two day Ice Cave & South Shore tour that we took looked like a lot of fun. It really was and I would have recommended the tour company that we used with out hesitation. The problem is that they sadly ended up going bankrupt in 2019. However, I know a lot of other tour groups out there do similar tours to this one. Which brings me to my actual recommendation here: I Heart Reykjavik! If you are familiar with my past recommendations for Iceland, you will be familiar with this company. We have gone on a couple of walking tours of Reykjavik with them which were fantastic! It was as if you had a local friend there who was able to give you the inside tip on the best restaurants, pubs and shops while telling you all about the city. And I also follow their blog, which offers just a ton of useful advice and tips for your visit.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. They can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Here is a link to an excellent, informative blog post I Heart Reykjavik wrote about visiting Ice Caves just last year. They can help you find the best tried & tested company to take you on an Ice Cave Adventure, according to your individual needs.

Destinations:

Seljalandfoss – A beautiful waterfall located just off of Route 1 on the South Coast. If the weather is good and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can walk behind this waterfall.

Skógafoss – Another beautiful waterfall located just off of Route1 on the South Coast. Due to the amount of spray from the falls, if the sun is out you will likely see a rainbow in front of it.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach– Famous picturesque black sand beach located near the village of Vík. Please be careful at this beach. The waves and rip currents are quite powerful. There are sneaker waves which can seemingly come out of nowhere and travel much further up the beach than expected, knocking you off your feet and potentially pulling you out to the freezing sea. Never turn your back to the waves. Unfortunately there have been several fatalities at this beach.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Stunning canyon located near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in South Iceland. In Season 8 of Game of Thrones you can see the Dragons fly through this snow covered canyon. The vegetation in the canyon suffered from the amount of tourists and it was closed until June 2019, to allow it to recover.

Svínafellsjökull– An outlet glacier of Vatnajökull located in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Game of Thrones filmed many of season 7’s North of the Wall scenes here.

Jökulsárlón – is a large lake which was formed by a glacier (glacial lagoon). It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean.

Diamond Beach A black sand beach near Jökulsárlón often peppered with icebergs which have calved from the glacier, traveled out to the ocean and then washed back up on the beach.

Restaurant/Bars:

Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.

Kaldi Bar Fun & hip Bar featuring beers from the Kaldi Brewery

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (Kormakur’s and Skjöldur’s alehouse) – Or just plain Ölstofan –house brew Brío is not to be missed!

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!

Reykjavik Roasters– Best coffee & vibe. Love the cinnamon scones!

Brauð & Company– Bakes my most favorite in the world kanilsnúðar!

Snaps Bistro– Laid back, French style bistro, serving up delicious cocktails and amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinners. A favorite with locals and tourists a like.

Misc:

Þjóðlegt með kaffinu – Besides being a Facebook page, there is also a cookbook penned by Jón Símonía Bjarnadóttir & Gudfinna Hreidarsdóttir. It is available in English, Danish & German. You can purchase it when you visit Iceland or contact them at icelandiccakes@google.com

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!

 

 


German Rolls

December 5, 2019

IMG_0569Today I’d like to kick off the holiday cookie season by bringing you the recipe for a very unique cookie – The German Roll. Only slightly sweet, coated with a dusting of walnuts, this little delicacy is almost more bread-like than any cookie I’ve nibbled before. I was introduced to them by one of my best friends, John Richards.

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John was my “Man of Honor” when I married.

John’s grandmother would make these every year for Christmas. It was love at first bite for me! Each year I would send some of my Christmas cookies to Ohio with John when he went home for the holidays and then he would return with some of these elusive German Rolls for me.

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These cookies, pictured with the blue linens, were actually made by John’s Gramma in 2012.

I’ve never found their like. I have googled “German Rolls, German Christmas Cookies,” you name it, to no avail. Totally mysterious! I really wanted to get the recipe, so I asked John if his family would be willing to share. He was sure that they would, though he cautioned me that he thought the recipe might be somewhat difficult to recreate. You know, it was once of those recipes that had been passed down for years. One that the family matriarch had mastered; one that they could literally nail in their sleep. But to an outsider, it was full of inaccurate measurements like “a tablespoon” which didn’t mean the standardized tablespoon, but a particular wooden spoon that their husband had carved for them when they first married. And truly subjective instructions like “just mix it up until the dough looks right”. So, although we loved these cookies, we were a bit intimidated and took no action, but kept the idea of making them on the back burner.

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It has been several years now since we lost Cecilia Batya,  John’s Gramma. Today is actually the anniversary of her passing. You might have assumed she was German, you know what with the cookies being called “German Rolls”, but no. Cecilia, born Cecelia Smocer, was from Slovakia.

Cecelia picking flowers similar to those in her wedding veil

She immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of nine and settled into a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. There she met and married Joseph Batya.

Cecelia and Joseph just before they were married

They had six children,

The family

The Batya Clan

followed by a dozen or so grandchildren and many great and great-great grandchildren by the time she passed at the age of 98 years. Cecelia learned the recipe from her mother, Bubbha. It is thought that she may have gotten the recipe from one of the German women in their local church, St. Hedwig. From what we hear, many folks in the town requested that Cecelia and her mother bake these cookies not only for Christmas but also for weddings and other celebrations.

Cecelia and Bubbha

Cecilia brought this recipe with her as the family migrated further west into Cleveland after the coal mines closed. She taught her three daughters Marguerite, Antoinette and Kathy how to make these German Rolls along with many other of the traditional Slovak dishes like Kolache and Bobalki.

The three sisters in Cleveland

John & his sister Heather have now taken on the Christmas cookie making mantle for the Batya clan and were determined to make German Rolls this year. Their Aunt Antoinette had written the recipe down for me several years ago, so we all got together one afternoon to give it a whirl. Now what I will say is this is a strange recipe! It taught me quite a lot! First of all, we had to find cake yeast. Apparently many stores only stock it around Christmas time and we knew that this recipe might take several times to master, so our efforts had begun in early November. No cake yeast in sight. Literally a cake yeast free zone. So I got busy trying to figure out the conversion so that I could use dry yeast. Scalding the milk was the next thing that I pondered. I was under the impression that when an old time recipe contained this step that it wasn’t really necessary. I thought that it was done in the days before pasteurization to make sure there wasn’t any bacteria present. Turns out, that when making a yeast bread, scalding the milk is actually an important step. The whey protein in milk can weaken gluten and prevent the dough from rising properly. Scalding the milk deactivates the protein so this doesn’t happen. It makes the milk a better food source for the yeast, so you get a quicker rise and fluffier product. The dough is smoother and retains moisture much better.

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And then, just when you think the rest of the recipe would be straight forward, you are instructed to wrap the cookie dough in a cheese cloth, submerge it in water and wait for it to float. What! I have never come across this in any other recipe. So I looked around online to see if I could find anything about this proofing method. I was able to find this reference from a book by Andrew Whitly entitled “Bread Matters”. He states that “an original method of judging proof is given in a famous Russian Cookbook and household manual from the 1860’s called “A Gift to Young Housewives” by Elena Molohkovets.” She wrote:

“After molding the dough made with fine flour, you may put the loaves in a bucket of water (the temperature of a river in summer) where they will lie on the bottom until they are fully proofed. When they float to the surface, put them straight into the oven…..Incidentally if you are proofing bread on the table, you can put a small test piece of dough into cold water; when it rises to the surface, you can put all your loaves into the oven.”

Weird right!!! But we did it and achieved flotation! Here is the photographic proof of the proofing!

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Success! From what I understand, if the dough doesn’t float, you are done for. Mission accomplished!

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We were quite happy with these little gems. And having made them ourselves, appreciated them all the more. I’m telling you, a German Roll (or two or so…) is absolute perfection with a nice cup of tea.

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So were these cookies exactly like Cecilia’s? Well they were very close. I don’t doubt that she was smiling down on us with great amusement as we tried to fill her cookie baking shoes, which of course, can not ever be done. Cecilia was such an amazing woman. The true matriarch of the Batya clan and very much beloved, she cemented the family together. We won’t see her like again. By recording her recipe for these German Rolls we have been able to capture some sweet memories and a tradition will continue to endure for new generations to come. We think Cecilia would definitely approve!

Cecelia toasting us all (1)

Cheers!

 

***If anyone out there reading this is familiar with these cookies – I would love to hear from you! Please leave me a comment.

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German Rolls

  • Servings: full batch 68 - 72 cookies, half batch 34 -36
  • Difficulty: moderate. yeast rise involved. will teach you new techniques!
  • Print

recipe from: The Batya Clan

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Crisco
  • 1 Cup scalded milk (heated to 180° F)
  • 1 ounce of Cake yeast (10.5 grams or 3 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp of dry yeast)
  • 6 Cups all-purpose flour ( add up to 1 additional cup as needed)
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the coating:

  • 4 Cups ground nuts (walnuts are traditional, but pecans or whatever you prefer)
  • 3/4 Cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with Parchment paper or lightly grease it.

Place four cups of the nuts of your choice in a food processor and pulse a few times until ground. Add 3/4 cup sugar and pulse to combine. Place in bowl and set aside.

Scald milk by heating to 180° F. Scalding deactivates the whey protein found in milk. This protein can weaken gluten and prevent the dough from rising properly. Allow milk to cool to lukewarm (between 98° – 105° F). Add yeast to milk and stir to dissolve.

Mix flour and crisco together, as you would do for pie dough. You can do this by hand, or in a food processor. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. If dough seems too rich, add up to one cup of flour to firm it up.

Add yeast mixture and beaten eggs to flour mixture. Mix well, until a smooth dough is achieved. No serious kneading is necessary. Again, this can be done by hand, or in a stand mixer.

Fill a large dough rising bucket or Dutch oven or bowl half-full of cool water.

Form dough into a large ball and place in the center of a cheesecloth (or you can use a flour sack kitchen towel). Twist the ends of the cloth loosely around the ball and place it in the water. Add more water to almost cover dough ball.

Soak the dough in water until it becomes boyant, about 1 1/2 hours but no longer.

When ready, put hand under dough ball and undo the cloth, letting the water drain a bit. Flip dough gently onto a large platter.

Drop hearty tablespoons of dough (I used a Tablespoon (size#40) cookie dough scoop – link below- so that all the cookies are uniform) onto the nut/sugar mixture. The dough will likely be sticky, but if you coat it a bit before rolling a shaping,and use a light touch, it works pretty well.

Roll into approximate 8″ strand. Tie it into a loose single loop knot, leaving enough dough (about 2″ at each end) to wrap around the strand one wore time. bring one end around and down through the center and the other end around and up through the center.

Transfer the German Rolls to a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15- 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy!

***I’m told by the Batya clan that these cookies freeze well!

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for German Rolls

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop

Cheesecloth


Holiday Leftover Pies!

November 28, 2016

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Who out there has leftovers? I bet one or two of you do if your Thanksgiving feasts looked anything like ours did. Well boy oh boy do I have an awesome recipe for you today… Holiday Leftover Pies! Now I will admit, this might be a bit of a replay on my part, but I got the idea from those delicious Pirozhki’s that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. Pirozhkis are little Russian yeast buns which have been stuffed with ground beef, leeks and cheddar. Quite yummy as you can imagine. So I was thinking about them. Well, them and the fact that the Husband loves the day-after Thanksgiving sandwich. You know – the Thanksgiving dinner -turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy – squished between two slices of bread. Yeah, well he loves it…quite possibly more than he likes the original Thanksgiving Day feast. So, combining the two thoughts, I stuffed these little Thanksgiving Pirozhkis with leftover turkey and all the trimmings, baked ’em up and let me tell you…They were Awesome! Dare I say even better than the sandwich version.

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And the fact that you are working with a filling that has spent at least one day in the fridge is a big benefit as well. I mean cutting off a slice of gravy to add to the filling rather than working with a hot liquid version when stuffing dough is a far superior experience. Just take a few moments to dice up any meat into bite sized cubes and the rest is easy-peasy. The total amount of filling, whatever leftovers you might have on hand, should be about 2 – 2 1/2 Tablespoons per bun. And I will say that when you pinch the folded over dough together to seal the bun, don’t hold back! Give it quite a pinch or use a fork like you would in making a pie crust to ensure that the bun edges stick together and don’t pop open in the oven. But if they do, no worries. I assure you, it won’t effect the taste one little bit!

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These Day-After Leftover Pies will be a tradition after every holiday feast from this day forward, I can assure you. We’re already thinking ahead to Christmas when we’ll have leftover prime rib, mushrooms, mashed potatoes and gravy. Drool, drool, drool! So I just had to share this with everyone. If you’ve already gobbled down all your Thanksgiving leftovers, keep these in mind for Christmas. You, and whomever you decide to share with, will be delighted!

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Holiday Leftover Pies

  • Servings: 16 pies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Holiday Leftover Pie dough recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups (17 oz /482 grams) All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./28 grams) Vermont Cheese Powder (don’t have cheese powder? you can substitute grated parmesan or leave it out altogether.)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./113grams) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 oz./57grams) soft unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./113grams) warm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (7/8 oz./25grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

For the filling:

  • Whatever leftovers you have, such as: diced turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy & cranberry sauce

Directions:

To make the dough: Combine all the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a soft, smooth dough forms.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow to rest for about 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces; if you have a scale they’ll weigh about 2 ounces each. 

Shape the pieces into balls, and place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about an inch between them. 

Cover the dough balls, and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.

Ready your leftovers. Don’t reheat them, leave them cold. They will be much easier to work with.Chop any large pieces of meat into a smaller dice.

Shape each ball into a flattened round about 5″ in diameter, brush the surface with some of the egg/water wash, and place 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each round. 

Pull the dough over the filling, pinching two opposite edges together tightly, to seal in the filling; it should look like a dumpling. 

Place the buns on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover the buns, and allow them to rise for 1 hour, or until puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time preheat the oven to 400°F.

Brush the buns with the remaining egg wash. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. It’s OK if some of the seams have come undone and the filling is visible; they can be prettier that way!

Remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Store any leftover buns in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Holiday Leftover Pies brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful Links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Holiday Leftover Pies:

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

Norpro 2 Tablespoon Cookie Scoop

SAF Instant Yeast

Vermont Cheese Powder

 


Christmas in Vermont Bread

January 16, 2015

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So wooo-wheee! That’s it!! The holidays are over!!! Now please don’t take my obvious joy at that statement as a hint that perhaps I have a bit of a  “grinchy” attitude towards Christmas.

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I don’t…for the most part anyway, though I feel a disclaimer should pop up here saying something like ” Mood subject to change a the drop of a hat”. There are a lot of things about the holidays that I enjoy, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t a whole heck of a lot of work. So I do admit when they are finally done and dusted, I am definitely relieved as well as somewhat delighted. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this past Christmas and whipped up some delicious treats. As usual, before everything was in a full frenzied Christmas whirl, I swore that I would take the time to get pictures of all of the delicacies that I made. And as usual, guess what? Things got hectic and heated and as if you hadn’t guessed from my sudden disappearance from the blog-a-shpere around mid-December, yeah, I didn’t really get any photos….Except….Of one of my favourite new recipes this year, Christmas in Vermont Bread. I love, love, LOVE this bread. The fact that I snapped photos of it are nothing short of a Christmas miracle in itself, so I just had to share it with you, even though Christmas is indeed gone. (I might be doing one of those jumping up and down hands waving about over  the head silent cheers right now.)

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This bread was very easy to make and looks pretty impressive if I do say so myself. It is a soft and tender sweet yeast bread which has a scrumptious ribbon of pecan and maple sugar running through the middle as well as generously sprinkled over the top.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, there is also an addictive maple sugar glaze drizzled liberally over the top. Great to gobble down toasted (the bread, not yourself…though the festive holiday season has been known to involve a bit of tipple or two…) with lashings of butter, or to take to a holiday get together or even give as a gift! As I mentioned, it is easy to make with one caveat. It does call for Maple Sugar, which might be difficult for you to find. King Arthur Flour sells it on their site or you could always order from Amazon. Or you could always just substitute brown sugar. (I really like the Maple flavour though, so you might want to plan ahead and procure the true blue maple stuff) Bottom line is this bread is amazing! It will be a Christmas tradition around here without a doubt. But I should mention, it would also be lovely to have at Thanksgiving. I think all of its warm maple and pecan flavours certainly evoke a Fall-time, Thanksgiving -y vibe. Heck, who am I kidding. I’m sure the next time you check in with me I’ll have a loaf of “Easter in Vermont Bread” or “Height of Summer” in Vermont Bread. It is that good, there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyed year round. Unless you’re concerned about being able to zip your britches up I suppose. I don’t know, maybe skinny jeans are over-rated. Stretchy yoga pants are quite fashionable now a days. But I digress….I guess what I’m saying is that this Christmas in Vermont Bread is worth a little indulgence. You should give it a try, no matter what time of year. I guarantee you will be hooked!

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Christmas in Vermont Bread

  • Servings: 16 -18 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk (reserve the white)

 For the Filling and topping:

  • 1/2 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup pecan meal or almond flour, or very finely ground pecans or almonds
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

For the Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup glazing sugar or confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Melt the butter in the milk, and let cool to lukewarm (98° – 105°F). Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead them—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—until you have a very soft, shiny, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

To make the filling: Stir together all of the filling ingredients until they form coarse crumbs. Set them aside.

Grease a large tube pan. (make it a large one – lots of ovenspring here). Scoop about half of the dough into the greased pan. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the filling atop the dough. Top with the remaining dough.

Beat the reserved egg white till foamy. Brush over the dough, and sprinkle with the remaining filling/topping. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours, or till puffy.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool while you make the glaze. Mix the glaze ingredients together and heat them, in a saucepan or in the microwave, till the sugar dissolves. Place the loaf on a serving plate and drizzle with the warm glaze. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

Enjoy!

Christmas in Vermont Bread brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Smoky Bacon Cream Biscuit Dressing

December 5, 2014

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Smoky Bacon Cream Biscuit Dressing. That’s right, what I’m talking about is a dressing in which Cream Biscuits are used in place of the run of the mill bread crumbs (croutons). You know, those decadent little gems I just mentioned in my last post? Although they are absolutely delicious on their own, truth be told I baked that batch up solely to use in this dressing.

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Now I might have had to have taken up a shotgun to stand guard over them for the two days leading up to Thanksgiving, but it was worth my vigilance to be able to make this essential Holiday dressing! ( By the way – Does anyone else have an issue with the term “dressing”. I really want to call this “stuffing”, but as I understand it, unless you actually stuff it into the bird, it is not stuffing. If it is cooked in a separate dish, it is dressing. Doesn’t sound right to me and I guess no one mentioned it to those folks over at Stove Top. 🙂 )

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Now the Cream Biscuits aren’t the only fantastic thing about this dressing.  As you might have guessed from the title, there is also a bunch (1 lbs. worth) of crispy smoky bacon thrown into the mix. Along with some lovely mushrooms and fresh herbs. So savory, so moist… It is, without a doubt, the best dressing I have ever tasted.

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At this point, I don’t know what the husband would do were we to have a Thanksgiving without it. Then I got to thinking, dressing isn’t only served at Thanksgiving and this dressing would certainly be welcome at any holiday meal (or any meal full stop for that matter). There are a lot of folks out there that serve turkey or goose for their Christmas Feast, so I thought I should go ahead and share this tasty recipe. Not to mention, Thanksgiving will surely turn up again next year and  you will be ready to go. I assure you, no matter when you happen to make this Smoky Bacon Cream Biscuit stuffing dressing, it will steal the show!

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Smoky Bacon Cream Biscuit Dressing

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

  • Twelve 4-inch cream biscuits, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 lb. smoky bacon
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 oz. white button mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups chicken stock

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.

Spread the biscuits out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.

Cook the bacon until crisp, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Chop or crumble into 1″ pieces.

Pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, mushrooms, parsley, sage and thyme and cook until the celery is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the bacon to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the biscuits and 4 cups of the stock and stir gently to combine. (try not to break up the biscuit chunks) Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes or so and then add more stock if you think it looks too dry.

Transfer the dressing to a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the dressing is lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.

Enjoy!

Smoky Bacon Cream Biscuit Dressing brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Heavenly West Virginia Dinner Rolls

November 28, 2014

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I have a confession to make. I love bread. I LOVE it. When I did that South Beach Diet a few years ago and bread was completely out of the question, I thought I might die. I guess that is when I figured out South Beach was not really sustainable in my world. Nope. In my world there is a lot of fresh baked bread, preferably slathered in lovely salty butter.

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I guess I’ll have to hit the gym a little longer to make sure that in my world I can still get my britches buttoned. But if that’s what it takes to chow down on bread, then so be it. And these little dinner rolls that I’m about to talk about, well they are definitely worth undertaking a few extra revs in the gym. Moist, tender and slightly sweet, they are my go-to roll for all dinners. I probably should have let you know about these before Thanksgiving, but hey –  Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner!

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You may wonder why I call them West Virginia Rolls. Well, I originally came across this recipe when I was looking for Pepperoni Roll recipe. The husband and I love to visit West Virginia every chance we get. Especially the town of Fayetteville, which I’ve told you all about in previous blogs. Pepperoni Rolls, soft white yeast roll which are stuffed with pepperoni, cheese and possibly some peppers, are like the State food of West Virginia. You can find them everywhere from bakeries to gas stations. I wanted to recreate them at home and found an absolutely to die for recipe on Martha Miller’s blog. Her recipe yielded up some truly Heavenly Pepperoni Rolls. The bread called for in that recipe, which was from Martha’s grandmother Yie’s dinner roll recipe, is the same bread used in these rolls. I called them Yie’s Rolls for a while, but everyone around here thought I was saying “yeast rolls” and they were wondering which yeast rolls I meant. Now, when I say West Virginia Rolls, everyone knows exactly what I mean and starts drooling immediately!

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I used to be intimidated by any recipe that had yeast in it. I was sure it was just too difficult to pull off. Now I know that baking with yeast is not really difficult at all, though it can be a bit persnickity, so it helps if you have a few tools on hand. You definitely need a good thermometer which will give you a fast read. And the type of yeast you use is important. Personally I love the SAF Instant Yeast I keep a canister of it in the freezer at all times. And a dough rising bucket is also nice to have. You could probably get by without these tools, but having them makes things go much more smoothly. So now you’re ready to make some lovely yeast dinner rolls. These flavourful little gems are easy to make, though I will admit they are a bit time-consuming with two separate rise times, so make sure you have plenty of time set aside for them on baking day. Now don’t get discouraged. I know you’re thinking “there is no way I have time for all that nonsense especially around the holidays.” But here is a great secret I am happy to pass along to you. Sometime prior to the big dinner you have planned, when you have some free time on your hands (yeah right, huh?) you can make a bunch of these rolls up and par-bake them. So that means you just bake them for 7 minutes, take them out of the oven to cool and then freeze them in heavy ziplock freezer bags. (They will keep in the freezer for several months.) Then, when the day of the big dinner arrives, you simply take them out of the freezer and pop them frozen right onto the baking tray and bake at 375° F for about 8 -10 minutes. And voila! Lovely dinner rolls, fresh from the oven, melt in your mouth, golden brown and irresistible. You will be amazed how quickly these little devils disappear from your table!

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Heavenly West Virginia Dinner Rolls

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy - but time consuming
  • Print

recipe from: Martha J Miller

Note: This recipe makes a lot of rolls! My stand mixer is not even big enough to handle the full recipe. I usually make 1/2 of the recipe which yields about 18 -20 rolls.

Ingredients:

For the bread:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 packages instant yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons – a yeast packet contains 2 1/4 tsp. yeast)
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110°F)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 9-10 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until just before it comes to a boil (heat to about 190 – 195° F). Do not let the milk boil. In a small bowl, combine the warm milk, oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and let the mixture cool to lukewarm (98°F).

Meanwhile, in the bowl of stand mixer combine the two packages of yeast, sugar and warm cup of water. Stir gently with a fork to break up any clumps and let stand 5 minutes or until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the lukewarm milk mixture into the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine.

On low speed, begin to slowly add the flour, one cup at a time until a loose dough forms. There is no precise measurement for the flour as it will vary depending on your individual environment’s humidity, elevation, etc. but it will be somewhere between 9 to 10 cups. The finished dough will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl, be slightly sticky and slack, but still hold together well.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead, incorporating more flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and the counter top. Knead by hand for 6 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Or you can just switch to your dough hook and let the mixer knead it for about 6 – 8 minutes. To test if the dough is ready, gently poke your finger into the dough and if the indentation remains but slowly comes back, you have kneaded long enough. Place dough in a rising bucket or if you don’t have one, a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place in a warm draft-free place and let rise until dough doubles, about 2 hours.

After the first rise, gently remove the dough and knead lightly 2 or 3 times on a floured surface to remove any large air pockets. Next, divide the dough into 2 ounce pieces preferably using a kitchen scale. If you do not own a kitchen scale the dough should divide out into roughly 3 dozen small pieces and once shaped, be about 1-1.5 inches in diameter.

Shape dough pieces into rolls by pinching two opposite sides of the dough and then pinching together the other two sides to form a ball.

Place shaped rolls on greased sheet pans with enough room for them to rise without touching and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, approximately 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly beat one large egg with a splash of water and paint egg wash gently over each roll. Bake rolls for 12-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool finished rolls on a rack and re-warm before serving.

To par-bake the rolls simply remove the partially cooked rolls after 7 minutes, let cool, and freeze in heavy duty plastic bags. To finish, place frozen rolls on a greased sheet pan and cook at 375°F for 8-10 minutes. Frozen par-baked rolls will keep in your freezer for several months.

Enjoy!

Heavenly West Virginia Dinner Rolls brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 

 


Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails) & Iceland in December

January 8, 2013

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Happy New Year Everyone! The busy holiday season is finally over and I guess everyone is starting to get back into their old routines. Our holiday season was made particularly hectic due to our decision to go on a spur of the moment trip to Iceland. We had always wanted to visit Iceland and had briefly looked into flights, hotels etc., but it had always been a bit on the pricey side. When we arrived back from our October Ireland trip, I had read an article which claimed that this winter, visitors to Iceland would be much more likely to see the Northern Lights due to the current cycle of increased solar flare activity. That’s when I checked flights on a lark and found that not only were flights cheaper, but all of the hotels seemed to be running off-season special rates. I must admit, a few times I did think “Who the heck goes to Iceland in December?! Are we nuts?!”

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But I’ve got to tell you, it is fantastic!. We LOVED it! Actually, I probably should tell you it’s dreadful, cause we are definitely going back and I don’t want to let too many folks in on the secret. Sure, it is chilly, though not awfully so. It hovers right around freezing but the temperatures are often accompanied and shall we say enhanced by ever-present, kicking winds. There is also not a great deal of daylight. Although you will find 24 hours of daylight if you visit in July, in December it got light around 10:45 a.m. and was dark again around 4 p.m. Such limited daylight definitely forced us to plan out what we wanted to do during  the day and get to doing it before it was dark again. And we did get in quite a few adventures. We went horseback riding at Hestheimar Horse Farm.

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Icelandic Horses were initially introduced to the country by Norwegian Viking settlers and the breed has remained pure for about 1000 years. These sturdy and hardy horses are very friendly and personable. They have an extra gait called a tölt which is essentially a fast walk. Tölting is a pleasure! Very smooth, much more comfortable for the rider than a trot.

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Super Jeep next to a crater created when Eyafjallajökull volcano erupted a couple of years ago.

We went on a Super Jeep tour of Þórsmörk (Thor’s Forest) with South Iceland Adventure Company (Thanks so much to Magnus, our guide) and saw waterfalls, and hiked through gorges, mountain passes and around on a glacier.

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Inside a glacial ice formation.

We chilled out at the Blue Lagoon. Not the one from the 80’s with Brooke Shields, but a surreal geothermal pool and Spa located in a lava field in Grindavík about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. No description from me will do it justice. It really is other worldly. But let me just say… imagine a huge hot tub in the middle of a lava field with a swim up to wine/beer bar located in the center. Are you getting the picture?

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We went Snowmobiling with Mountaineers of Iceland on Langjökull glacier, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Very exciting, but even with the copious layers of thermals I was wearing, it was the absolute coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life! Though what would you expect, we were traipsing about on a huge slab of ice!

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We stayed at Hotel Rangá. This gorgeous, cozy hotel, which is located out in the country (hence no light pollution), about two hours from Reykjavik, caters to folks hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights and will give you a wake up call should you desire if the elusive lights do make an appearance. (seems like they mostly show up around midnight to 2 a.m.) We were actually lucky enough to see the Aurora put on a great show.

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Northern Lights and a meteor from the Geminid meteor shower which was happening on the same night!

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What is the food like you might ask. As you can imagine, the seafood is really outstanding! My husband, who is allergic to seafood, was not left wanting. There were plenty of non-seafood options available for him to choose from. One of his favourite meals of the trip was reindeer meatballs. All that being said, one of the most popular “restaurants” in Reykjavik, really isn’t a restaurant at all. It is a hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu which has been selling hot dogs or pylsur to Icelanders and tourists alike since 1935. Apparently Icelanders LOVE hot dogs and claim that theirs are the best in the world. Indeed, The Guardian designated Bæjarins Beztu as the “best hot dog stand in Europe”. Of course we made a beeline for the place as soon as we arrived in the city (as well as paying it a couple more visits while we were there). We weren’t disappointed! They serve some excellent hot dogs. These dogs have lamb added to the usual pork and beef and are smothered with ketchup, mustard, raw onion, crispy onion and a spicy remoulade. Delicious!

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We are already planning our trip back this year and yup, in December! I’m sure at this point you are wondering if we are ever going to talk about the Kanilsnúðar recipe I’ve dangled so temptingly before you. So I’ll get right to it. Icelanders are really into Christmas. Christmas music plays non-stop. All the houses are completely decked out with lights. Everywhere we went, shops, bars, you name it, had Christmas cookies out for all to enjoy. I think I first tasted a Kanilsnúðar at the Heistheimar riding stables. It reminded me of a Snickerdoodle, but better, much more exotic and with a fun shape. Then I was able to find a bag of these darling little snails, the first of many bags consumed on the trip, in a local market and my obsession began.

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Once I got home, I looked about online and was able to find a couple of recipes. The one I really wanted to make called for the ingredient “Hartshorn” which I had never heard of. Further internet research revealed that Hartshorn is a rather old-fashioned leavener also known as Baker’s Ammonia. It is supposed to make baked goods rise higher than baking powder and make them extra crispy. I read that it was available in most Scandinavian shops. These establishments are a bit thin on the ground in Virginia, so I checked the King Arthur Flour site and sure enough they had it, so I placed my order. (If you would like to make these cookies without the Hartshorn, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the 1/2 teaspoon Hartshorn called for. This is said to yield similar results, but I did not try it.) For those of you who do manage to procure some Hartshorn, don’t freak out when you mix the cookie dough up. It will have quite a whiff of ammonia about it, but it goes away once baking is complete. I was quite happy with my little “cinnamon snails”.

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They are great with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or as an afternoon snack. My husband likes them because they are not overly sweet, a quality which he seems to prefer in a cookie. I’m sure they have secured a permanent place in our Christmas cookie repertoire because they will always be a pleasant reminder of our dreamy first trip to Iceland.

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Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails)

recipe adapted from: Jo’s Icelandic Recipes

yield: approx. 12  cookies

Ingredients:

  • 175 grams flour
  • 100 grams  unsalted butter  plus 1 Tablespoon salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp hartshorn powder (baker’s ammonia) * or 1/2 tsp. baking powder and baking soda
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 1 egg
  • healthy pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon (or extra if you’re really into cinnamon)

Directions:

Mix cinnamon and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Place flour and hartshorn, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse to mix. Cut cold butter into 1″ cubes and scatter over  the flour mixture. Pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse little pebbles. Remove flour/butter mixture from food processor and place in bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and knead mixture until it just comes together to form dough. Pat dough into square shape and wrap with plastic wrap.

Place wrapped dough in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Flatten the dough quite thin and roll out evenly. Try to keep it an approximately square or rectangular shape.

Brush dough with melted butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over top of dough.

Roll the dough up into a roll, then slice into approx. 1 cm thick slices.

Arrange slices on a cookie sheet and bake at about 200°C (392 ° F) until golden brown.

Enjoy!

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Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Biscotti

January 3, 2012

I actually did it! I managed to make Biscotti all on my own! And not any old Biscotti, this Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Biscotti rocks! It is far and away, the best Biscotti I have ever eaten! My friend John originally turned me on to Biscotti by bringing me Whole Food’s Cranberry Pistachio version, telling me “This stuff is fantastic! You should try it.” Well, truth be told, although I was thankful he was so thoughtful, I wasn’t thrilled with idea of the biscotti. Every Biscotti I had eaten up until that point had been very dry, like chewing sawdust, with very little flavour. Furthermore, it was often so hard that I just knew it had a high probability of cracking every tooth I had it my head! So, the Whole Food Biscotti got pushed aside for a few days. But John had been so enthusiastic about them, I decided to give them a try. Armed with a cup of coffee to lessen the likely hood of a sudden trip to the dentist, I tentatively dunked and then tasted. John was right! These Biscotti were fantastic! Fast forward to about a month ago, I happened to see Giada De Laurentis making Biscotti on the Food Network. She made it look very easy, so I gave it a whirl.

The only thing I changed in her recipe is that she dipped her Cranberry, Pistachio Biscotti in melted White Chocolate and then sprinkled them with red and green sanding sugar to give them a real Holiday feel. I decided to simply add some white chocolate chips to the mix and skip the dipping. I thought that the red cranberries and green pistachios give it all the Holiday cheer it needed. (and I might be a bit lazy…) The results? These Biscotti put the Whole Foods version to shame. They are full of flavour, you can really taste the cranberries, and have an awesome texture, crunchy yet still moist.

My husband happened to pop into the kitchen just after I had taken my first bite to find me literally dancing about. Being somewhat leery of Biscotti himself, for the same reasons I had been, he was a bit hesitant to try them. But watching my happy dance, he couldn’t resist and now is a Biscotti fan himself! He loved them. He loved them so much he is asking me to make an Apricot Dark Chocolate version which I am planning to do later this week. Even our dog loves them, so much he can recognize the sound of the Biscotti container opening and will immediately run to the kitchen. (Not that we spoil our dog by giving him people food…) So, I guess I’m saying, don’t put up with that brick bat hard, tasteless, cardboardy store-bought Biscotti any longer, make some for yourself and see how delicious it can truly be!

Cranberry Pistachio and White Chocolate Biscotti

recipe from Giada De Laurentis via the Food Network

yield: about 15 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios, cranberries and white chocolate.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Enjoy!


Toffee Almond Sandies

December 28, 2011

O.k., O.k……I’m sure you are all sick to death of cookies by this point. I know I went way overboard on the cookie making front, I say staring at a tower of cookies in tins and bags, which if it were to fall would surely crush me. If you suddenly hear no more from me, at least you’ll know what it was that likely did me in! I guess the way it got so out of control is that I have certain cookies that I like to bake every Christmas. But every year I see some new cookie recipes that look fantastic. I can’t not make the old favourites, so I just keep adding more and more to the list. This year I came across this Toffee Almond Sandie recipe on one of my new favourite blogs Once Upon A Chef, I and just must share it with everyone it was so scrumptious! I know I’ve mentioned this blog before. Jennifer, a professionally trained chef and the author of this blog, was my source for the Roasted Green Beans with Garlic, Pine Nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano which I blogged about back in November. I served that dish as a side on Thanksgiving and loved it so much that I just rolled it out again for Christmas Dinner! I’ve also made several other dishes from her blog and they have all been just to die for! I am now a loyal follower, I assure you. So if you haven’t yet, take a peek at her site!

Back to the cookies. These little Toffee Almond Sandies were such a big hit and are forever added to my growing favourite Christmas Cookies (or any other time of year for that matter!). They look fairly plain, kind of rustic and home-y, but oh my stars, when you take one bite, you’ll be hooked. They are crunchy from the sparkly sugar-coating ( I used Demerara sugar), crispy and nutty from the chopped almonds, a bit chewy from the lovely toffee bits(I used Heath toffee chips-found in your grocer’s aisle along with the chocolate chips) and all of the delicious bits mentioned above are nestled in among a delicious sweet shortbread. Quite a pleasant surprize!

Really stellar I must say. Don’t wait until next Christmas to try these out. Serve them for New Year’s Eve. Bet they’d go great with some Champagne!

Toffee Almond Sandies

recipe from Once Upon a Chef

yield: 9 dozen cookies (I halved it!)

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups chopped almonds
  • 6 oz (about 1 heaping cup) English toffee bits*
  • Additional sugar

Directions:

Set racks in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a medium bowl; mix well.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and Confectioners’ sugar until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula, then add oil, eggs and almond extract; mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix slowly to combine. Stir in almonds and toffee bits.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, then place about 2″ apart on prepared baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through cooking, for 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy!


Biscoff Crunch White Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 22, 2011

Alright…I know your first questions are “What is Biscoff?” “Is that a spelling error?” No it isn’t. Biscoff are delicious cookies originally made by the Lotus Bakery in Belgium in 1932. Overseas they are referred to as Speculoos Biscuits (Biscuit=cookie in European speak) These cookies are really delicious and have a caramelized cinnamony taste. You may have eaten one if you’ve flown anywhere recently, because many airlines have been serving them as a snack since 1984. Now they are being sold in the United States. I have seen them in my local Giant and Safeway stores. You can check out the Biscoff website to find out which grocery chain sells them in your state, or there is always good old Amazon if you can’t seem to find them anywhere. And believe me, you should try to find them. They are fabulous all on their own, especially with a nice cup of tea or coffee. But when they are crunched up in a cookie with white chocolate chips, they will just put you over the moon! These cookies really are that fantastic! Just so you know, you will need two sleeves of these cookies to make this recipe, so when you find them, stock up! Santa may be getting one or two Biscoff Crunch White Chocolate Chip Cookies, if he is lucky. We might just gobble them all up before Christmas Eve. I’m sure you noticed my pup lurking around in the background of my pics! It will definitely be touch and go. I’ll keep you posted…

Biscoff Crunch White Chocolate Chip Cookies

recipe from Picky Palate

yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 20 finely ground Biscoff Cookies
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 20 crushed Biscoff Cookies (coarsely chopped for an added crunch)
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

In a stand or electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add eggs then vanilla until well combined.

In a large bowl add the flour, ground Biscoff Cookies, baking soda and salt. Mix to combine then slowly add to wet ingredients until just combined. Add coarsely chopped Biscoff cookies and white chips until just combined.

With a medium cookies scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Enjoy!


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