Christmas 2015 and rum cakes aka “Vana Tallinn” cakes

I love the Christmas time. Once the decorations go up after continuous nagging from children, everything feels brighter and more festive.

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And tidy rooms are the bonus as all the Collins family comes for our annual Christmas meal. I cooked 10 kg turkey from the Court Farm Butchers, my favorite place to buy meat, and of course all the trimmings to go with it. There was 17 of us – 5 families of Collins’s and the dog and 2 cats, most living souls we had together for the Christmas ever. 🙂 We even managed to get us all to stay still for the family photo.

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I love this one best as I was trying to crab Lonni, who was chasing the cannon ball – yes, that was the present, my husband gave it to his dad. I love how relaxed everyone is and have a good laugh – this describes best our get together – laid back, laugh, food, wine, games.

I baked lot’s of gingerbreads.

Gingerbreads

I made the blood sausages  very first time with my new Kenwood.

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and made quite a few “rum cakes” over the Christmas. The Rum cakes or “Vana Tallinn cakes have been real hit not only among Estonians and I have been asked recipe for the countless times so here it is. I must say I don’t follow the recipe for making them, so I’ll try to estimate quantities here.

Rum Cakes with White Chocolate filling

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First you need a sponge. Originally those cakes were made in bakeries from the sponge leftovers to avoid a waste, but at home you hardly have any spare sponge so I will give my fool proof sponge recipe, which I got from my favorite Estonian cake makers Olga blog.

4 eggs

2dl sugar

1dl boiling water

3dl plain flour

1tsp baking powder

Put the eggs in the bowl with sugar and beat it 10 minutes until it’s almost tripled in size. I have until now (before I got my fantastic Kenwood) used hand mixer, while using my  another hand for the Facebook. 🙂

Before the 10 minutes are over I switch on the kettle and boil the water. I measure it to the measuring jug and then slowly add to the egg mixture while still beating it.

Mix the flour and the baking powder together and sift it to the egg mixture.

Fold carefully it with the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to up, until there is no lumps.

Line the baking tin with the baking paper – for cakes I use 24 cm diameter tin, but as  the shape is not important on this instance you can use any tin really.

Poor the mixture to the tin and bake on gas mark 5 for 30 minutes.

The sponge is ready, when the inserted skewer comes out clean. If the cake starts to get dark too quickly, cover it with baking paper.

Take it out from the oven and leave it cool for bit and then turn it to the cooling rack, remove the lining paper and leave it cool completely.

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1 sponge

3-5 sp cacao powder

rum or “Vana Tallinn” (it’s Estonian liqueur, which everyone gives as a present but most people don’t like to drink but I use it lots in my cooking replacing brandy or rum) or any other liqueur which has more than 30% alcohol or if you prefer non alcoholic ones use the rum essence instead, quantity depends of your taste

150-200g soured cream

100g white chocolate

150g cream cheese

For making rum cakes, crumble the sponge in to the bowl and take a little out for rolling cakes in it later.

Add cacao powder, I like it darker so I’ll add 4 or more spoonful’s but you can use less of it.

Now add the soured cream, start adding about 100 grams and mix it with your hand squeezing mixture together

Add the alcohol or essence, here you need to do quite a bit of tasting to make it, how you like it, but not too much or you don’t have anything left for the balls 🙂

If you achieved desired taste you might need to add more soured cream to get the consistency suitable for the rolling the balls.

Now, I’m using scale to get all the balls same size – 30g for small bite, 40 g bit bigger and 50g for the proper sized one, but if you not fussed just take the mixture with the spoon and roll the balls with your palms.

Roll them on the saved crumbs.

Then I’m using the scissors to make the lines, cut softly on 3 angles and then press down with your dumb on the middle of the ball so it becomes like a flower shape ball.

For the white chocolate and cream cheese filling. melt the white chocolate in the sauce pan or in the microwave. If it’s too hot , let it cool a bit. Then mix it with the cream cheese.

If the mixture becomes too runny leave it to the fridge for a while.

Now pipe the filling to the middle of the cakes and decorate as desired.

Start to prepare for new sponge as those cakes don’t last long.

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Burglary, Photography by Külli Sparre, butternut squash, apple, stilton soup and hot buttered rum

I’m back writing here over a long time. I have never been a “proper” blogger, but when I tried to take off beginning of this year, we were burgled, all our tech was taken. It was unpleasant experience, a very inconvenient situation. Most of our past 5 year history was in my laptop.

Yes, I’m one of those careless people, who can’t be bothered with the back ups and saving copies of the photos and other important documents somewhere else. I’m just pure lazy- see, I just said it.

We lived quite a few month without laptops and IPads. There was no point to replace them as we didn’t have any insurance that it wouldn’t happen again. You get used to not having the computer at home and it leaves more time for the housework. I could still spend time in social media on my phone and send few important e-mails from the work.

Having our stuff stolen, wasn’t worse part of the burglary. It made me feel unsecure. Someone just walked in to our house, touched things, which belonged to us, talked to my dog, who thought that those people came to play with her and  probably greeted them very happily. I’m glad that nobody from my family came home, when they were at it, who knows, what could’ve happened. I’ll try to see the bright side  – nobody got hurt and you can always replace things. We have secured our house now. It’s all very sad as we live in a lovely village and you don’t expect this happen to you.

Since then so much have changed, but I write about it some another time.

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I came across with Kulli Sparre photography few years ago. She was one of the winners of the Sony World Photography Awards in 2014.

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She used to be a professional ballet dancer until she discovered photography.

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Her photos are dream like and usually feature beautiful women in gracious poses, which is probably influenced by her past career as a dancer.

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See more of her work in her webpage www.sparrek.org

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This summer I got some postcards from Estonia with her work and now those have a place in my wall (Please ignore dirty windows 🙂 )

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I do love autumn, especially if it’s not raining, but I hate the fact that days get shorter. To cheer myself up, I cooked lovely warming soup for a lunch. Recipe from Waitrose magazine.

Butternut squash, apple and stilton soup.

Serves 4-6 people

1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into chunks, seeds reserved

2 cox apples, quartered and cored

1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp. olive oil

20 g unsalted butter

2 leeks, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

500 ml vegetable or chicken stock

200 ml crème fraiche

100 g stilton, crumbled

1-2 tbsp. milk

2 red chillies

butternutsquashsoup

 1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ gas mark 5. Prepare the butternut squash and apple and put on the baking tray with 1 tbsp. oil and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven about 1/2 hour, until tender

2. Meanwhile melt the butter in the saucepan with 1 tbsp of oil and add the leeks and celery. Cook on very low heat about 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft but not browned.

3. Add squash, apple and stock to the saucepan and simmer about 2-3 minutes.  Then blend until smooth adding water to get desired consistency. Season.

4. In a small bowl mix the crème fraiche and stilton, loosen with the milk until drizzling consistency.

6. Pour boiling water over the reserved seeds and leave to stand for 2 minutes. Drain and dry on the kitchen paper. Fry the seeds on the 1 tbsp olive oil. until golden, about 1 minute. Add sliced chilli and fry another 2 minutes.

7. Serve the hot soup with a spoonful of stilton sauce and sprinkle over the chilli and seeds topping.

This soup really warms you up and makes autumn more bearable. If this not enough try

Hot buttered Rum

 1.  Poor generous amount of rum to the glass, amount depends how much you need cheering up

 2. Add some Angostura Bitter

3. Add 1 tsp melted butter

4. Put star anise, few cloves and cinnamon stick in the glass and fill with hot water

5. Add lemon and sprinkle with little caster sugar

Wrap yourself up in the blanket and enjoy!
hotbutteredum