Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pulla and Another Year Gone...

I make Christmas Pulla not because I want to be more Finnish (although that would be cool if possible) nor because I think I can match my mother-in-law in the kitchen (because we all know I can't) but because it is a little reminder to my boys that although their mother moved to Finland two years ago (maybe longer) we can bake a small reminder of her. Christmas was never really Christmas unless Leena had delicious pulla, warm from the oven, to dip in coffee that was constantly brewing in her coffee pot. We all knew it was Christmas the moment we walked through the door because the smell of pulla baking is one of my favorite smells of all time. It makes me think of home, of being loved, and of a very close family.

2009 has slowly crept by, although at times it seemed to fly, and so many good moments were had. I'm sure there were not so good moments, but I try to focus on the positive. Yes, the prison I worked at closed, but a door of opportunity was opened for me in Central Office. Yes, we were furloughed on several occasions (let's hope 2010 does not bring any more furlough days...) but at least that was time I got to spend with my family. Many of those we love have passed but to me they have gone on to bigger and better places.

I hope that this year brings more wonders and more hopes and even more friendships and I truly hope everyone has a wonderful New Years Eve and Day....

Christmas Saffron Pulla (my Mother-In-Law, Leena's Recipe)

1/2 liter milk (conversions can be found online :) )
1 envelope dry yeast
2 eggs
2 dl sugar (2/10 liter)
1 Tbsp cardemom
1 Tsp salt
1 kg flour (about 2 pounds, 15-16 dl)
200 grams butter (3 1/2 sticks)
1 gram saffron (1/2 tsp)

-make sure all ingredients are at room temperature
-warm the milk to about 100 F in the microwave
-melt butter, cool to room temperature
-mix yeast in the warm milk until dissolved
-mix in sugar, salt, eggs, and spices
-add the flour, first mixing with a wooden fork, then when the batter gets thick, knead with your hand.
-add the melted butter and keep kneading until the batter is springy and comes off your hand and the edges of the bowl - your hands may stay messy :)
-cover the bowl with a cloth and let stand in a warm, draftless place until it rises to about twice the original size (you should be using a big bowl)
-after it has risen, carefully dump the dough on a well-floured table and knead just enough to get the big air bubbles out, about seven turns.
-let the dough sit covered on the table about five minutes, then make into different shapes (use flour, it will keep it off the the table and your hands)
-let the pullas rise on the cookie sheets covered in a warm place, then brush with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar (if you can find the chunky sugar, use that, otherwise regular sugar works fine)
-bake at 425 F for about ten minutes (if not brownish in color, bake a bit longer)
-cool, covered with a cloth, and enjoy!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cake Balls! A Hit and a New Tradition!

I'd like to thank my friend Kim, who not only gave me the idea for such wonderful treats, but pointed me in the right direction on how to made these delicacies.... This was not my recipe, nor my idea, but I made these little treats my own by doing what I know how to do while making candies (which I LOVE doing....but which requires much time, a commodity I do not have much of these days) So I hope you enjoy this little treat.....especially since they're rather simple and you can be so creative whilst making these little bites of heaven!

Cake Balls:

- 1 Cake Mix (any flavor - I used Dark Chocolate)
- 1 Tub of Frosting (any flavor - I used Caramel frosting)
- 30 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe called for those melting chocolate thingies...I don't like those, so I used real chocolate chips.....hint: when melting these, add a little vegetable shorting to make smoother)

1. Bake the cake according to the box
2. Wait for cake to cool, then crumble into small pieces...
3. Add the tub of frosting to the crumbled cake (you're going to need a large bowl for this )
4. Combine the frosting and cake until completely combined and smooth, you should not be able to see the frosting separate from the takes a while and using 2 forks really helps with this step.
5. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet (I used aluminum foil on the cookie sheets...made it easier to peel them off - I would have used wax paper if I had any) - hint: use an icecream scoop to get the same size balls... (mine are medium-sized....these can be made into large balls or small :) )
6. Once placed on the baking sheet, place in the freezer for at least an hour to harden (I kept mine in the freezer for a few hours due to being at Thomas' shop...which did not harm no, if they stay longer in the freezer it won't damage them.)
7. My double boiler equals a sauce pan w/ water set to boiling (once boiling and chocolate begins to melt, add the shortening and combine, and turn the heat down to med-high or medium) with my kitchen aid bowl from the mixer sitting on top :)
8. Melt chocolate, once melted take a skewer or anything else pointy and pick up each ball and dip into the chocolate until coated....
8. Once coated and before the chocolate cools add any topping you like....I used coffee grounds, coconut shavings, and chopped pecans.....
9. Once you have finished dipping them, place them back on the cookie sheet and back in the freezer to set them.....this only takes minutes......then TADA! You are finished...and they look delicious!!!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Decade of Life (Definitely the Sweetness of Mine)

I still can not believe that the fruit of my loins is going to be ten years old in two weeks. He is almost a decade! Wow! My once powerless, mouldable child is quickly growing into an independent, self-sufficient (er, at least he likes to think so), free-thinking child. A decade ago I wasn't even fully grown and now this living being that grew inside my womb and emerged into the world the size of a moose (yes, this is what they called him at the hospital) is getting ever closer the size of an actual moose, at least in height.

I know, I know, the teenage years are just around the corner and this is when I get to find out just how much I've pissed off God (ha! only kidding), but for now I'd like to focus on the present. I'd like to focus on the fact that my child is one of the most interesting people I've ever been lucky enough to meet and I'm sure if you've ever met you you totally understand what I mean. My child reaching the decade mark is enough of an amazement for me.

My child was born at the end of the millenium, December 15, 1999 to be exact and I figure he prefered to be the last in a millenium, rather than the first. How amazing is it going to be when he's 80 years old (yes, that will make me ancient, but I plan on living at least until I'm 115) and he gets to tell people he was born at the closing of such an awesome period of time? I mean, I still remember being amazed at the old people who were born at the end of the 1800s and that they were still alive...and maybe it was just me, but I was definitely awed by the amount of life they were able to live.

This year we may not 'party like it's 1999' but we will party like it's 2009 and celebrate my son's first decade on this planet. He has requested fried chicken, mashed potatos, and green beans and of course there will be cake!!! What is a birthday party without a cake? And what is this blog without something sweet being posted....(and yes, I will be posting the recipe because more than likely it will be one made from keep your eyes open..) Not only will I be celebrating my son's birthday, but I will be celebrating my own growth during that decade and how I went from a very immature, naive, selfish person to what I have become today. I'm not saying I'm not immature, or naive, or selfish, but I like to think that at least those aspects of my character have mellowed out some and that I've become a better person because of my son.

So yes, I am the proud mama of an almost ten-year old boy who will one day grow up and take over the world!!!! (and if you've ever met him you probably think he is capable of such a feat!)