If you had a chance to read one of my previous posts or my introductory page, by now you know that I have moved to Finland last September. Although I had already visited the country several times and I was totally expecting it, I had to admit it has been a proper shock to the system. Having lived in three different European countries, it amazes me how in an era of globalisation, internet and in which traveling has never been easier, countries that are so (relatively) close to each other can still bear so many cultural and lifestyle differences.
That is not necessarily a problem, don’t get me wrong; it definitely makes things more challenging and interesting. There are things that, as foreigner, I have been struggling with (both in UK and Finland) and I know I will never get used to or take on some of them; but actually, exploring, learning and understanding the richness of your adoptive country’s traditions and culture is the whole point of this “leaving abroad” exercise. Trying to recreate your home country and refusing to embrace the good and the great that the place you live in has to offer not only does not make sense, but it is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness. And it may not come as a surprise to you that the bit of this process that I enjoy the most is learning, and discovering culinary traditions and habits of where I live in.
Despite having this sort of obsession with berries, that I really do not approve of and that normally leads me to “putting my own personal twist” in many of their traditional recipes 😉 , Finland has many great dishes, especially when it comes to baking. But this is my favourite, is the very first Finnish thing that my husband made for me and therefore it had to be the first Finnish item that I posted.
Korvapuusti means literally the “pulling of the ear” that in old fashioned comedies (and sometimes in reality too, I presume) was given to mischievous children. It does not identify the recipe as such, but rather its shape, although the two things are tightly linked. In fact one could fashion them into different shapes and they would still be delicious although they would not really be Korvapuusti anymore. The cinnamon and the cardamom are the flavours that you really cannot get away without, here you would be more easily put in front of a firing squad because your buns do not have enough cinnamon or cardamom than for any other crime. In Italy we are much shier with this kind of spices but after trying these I believe we should be way more daring. The recipe is very simple and although it requires a bit of time for raising and proving, and the shaping is a slightly fiddly process, you’ll be rewarded no matter how dodgy your buns will look like.
I must confess, despite I always say that following the recipe to the T is an essential requirement in pastry and baking, my independent anarchic spirit comes out in these occasions so I also had to make something slightly different. The second type of bun that you see here is made with almond and saffron a combination that I made up myself. I think that the sweet richness of the saffron goes very well with the earthy comforting nuttiness of the almonds and apparently, as I discovered yesterday, a type of almond buns is very traditional in this time of the year just before the beginning of lent they are called laskiaispulla. So, since here for some reason it seems to be very important making the right food at the right time of the year (gingerbread cookies are FORBIDDEN after boxing day), I will just pretend that this is my version and I will still be in keeping with the Finnish calendar 🙂 !
General ingredients for the dough, regardless of the flavouring. This is the basis, you can add to this whatever you fancy:
25g fresh yeast (please use the fresh one if you can, but if not 7g of the dry one will do)
½ tsp of salt
For the cinnamon buns add:
10g ground cardamom
Cinnamon, soft butter and sugar to taste
For the Almond and saffron:
3 bags saffron
50g corn starch
180g almond flour
1 vanilla pod
Warm up the milk just until lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in it and add the cardamom (or the saffron). Either using a manual whisk or an electric one, incorporate the sugar and the egg to the milk mixture. Then start to add the flour (to which you have mixed the salt previously). Keep mixing until you obtain smooth, dense and elastic dough, still soft but one that can be worked with your hands. Towards the end add the melted butter and keep kneading until incorporated.
Cover it and let it to rest in a warm dry place for about 1.5 hour or at least until doubled in volume.
Divide the dough in 3 and roll them it into 3 thin large rectangles.
For the cinnamon, spread a thin layer of butter in the rectangle, cover with cinnamon and sugar. Roll it tightly from the short side to obtain a long tube of dough. Cut slices irregularly to have a sort of triangular shape. Place the slices on a piece of baking paper on the long side of the triangle and with your finger tips push down the short side. The spiral of the roll should appear on both side of the Korvapuusti. Let it prove for another hour at least.
For the almond and saffron, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla, add the mix of almond flour and corn starch, stirring delicately, add the eggs one by one whisking slowly. Prepare the dough in rectangles as above and spread 3-4 table spoons of almond cream. Roll as above and cut in sections, this time regular, to make round shapes. Place them on a sheet of baking paper, lying on the round side to have a wheel shape. Let it prove as above.
When the buns are proved, egg-wash them and sprinkle them with hard sugar granules.