Nordic Almond Rusks…to go with my reindeer sweater

Nordic Almond Rusks || cityhippyfarmgirl

My mum gave me this book last Christmas, The Nordic Cookbook. It was one of those presents where you unwrap it and have a small excited titter just on running your fingers over the front cover. (Much like the time when she gave me a Figgio plate without knowing what it is was, just knowing that I would like it.)

On reading the book, I wasn’t disappointed. Skimming the pages, and I feel like I’m sitting in some snug Nordic kitchen drinking tea…

…there’s a soft snow gently coming down outside, the kids are calmly playing a board game, while we all wear (similar in pattern) knitted reindeer sweaters. With a tidy plateful of almond bars on the kitchen counter I reach for one to deftly dunk into my steaming mug of tea, I catch a cheeky smile from my loving partner across the subtly decorated effortless styled room…

Ahh, wait. Hang on a sec, seems I got carried away. That last part must have been an IKEA catalogue I’d seen.

Back to the chaos of reality.

The kids are tearing around laser blammering each other, the dog is sinking her puppy teeth into a couch leg once more. Everything is completely mismatched, the autumn weather is unseasonably warm for this time of year (thank you climate change), partner has disappeared under several piles of washing needing somehow to be dried before tomorrow, and tea may yet have to be rewarmed (again) due to distractions and time constraints of drinking it hot within a 15 minute advisable time frame. (Tepid at best on a regular basis.)

Thankfully I’ve been playing with my own Nordic Almond Rusk recipe, and no one has managed to break the Figgio (as yet.)

Nordic almond rusk || cityhippyfarmgirl

Nordic Almond Bars

150g softened butter

150g sugar

150g almond meal

2 tablespoons of honey

2 eggs

300g (2 cups) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp almond aroma * (if you love it, omit if you don’t)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Then give a quick knead on a lightly floured surface.

Divide mixture into three even fat log shaped rolls, lay on a lined baking tray and bake at 200C for approximately 25 minutes. Take logs out, and allow them to cool (this part is important) for about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 180C, then carefully slice on the diagonal with a serrated bread knife, and lay them back on the tray.

Continue to bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until just a light golden. Swapping sides mid way through.

Eating these will guarantee crumbs on any nordic themed reindeer sweaters.

 

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Easy As Biscuits and doing what you can

snack time biscuits || cityhippyfarmgirl

I recently hosted a particularly nasty guest, called virus.

For weeks.

Yes, (too many) weeks.

It seems half the city is currently hosting under similar circumstances and I can tell you, it hasn’t been pretty.

Walking (dragging) our feet to school and it’s like a conga line of Village of the Doomed. Cough, cough, cough, sneeze, and cough from every street corner. It’s not just any cough either. It’s a lung squeezing, lift your feet off the ground kind of cough that leaves you gasping for air and clinging on to the closest adequately secured devise around, (telegraph poles excellent, small rickety fences- not so much.)

We walk, and bleary eyes meet. A slow blink of understanding, and brief head tilt towards each other. We are understood. The healthy ones file past. Determined in their stride, they look joyously towards a hopeful horizon, they have their health, and anything is a possibility. Not us though, eyes are dark, sunken and averted in an effort not to talk to anyone that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Now once all the fluid had partially drained from my head, ears, eyes, lungs. I was left with a small urge to bake. Not a big one mind. It certainly wasn’t going to be a three course dinner extravaganza, with a conveyor belt of baked goods throughout the day in a lead up to dinner.

No. All I set out to do was bake some biscuits. Lunch box stuffing, hollow legs, hunger nags and after dinner top ups kind a biscuits, (cookies if you are in the land of stars and stripes.) They worked out, filled up bellies and I’m now counting on two hands how many times they’ve been made since.

a little snack biscuits || cityhippyfarmgirl

Now during this time of compulsory hosting, it became terrifically clear that…

1/ I was really going to have to take some time out of the kitchen while getting better.

2/ Life would continue on. It seems I need these kind of health shake ups occasionally to remember these things. Those moments of not pushing yourself, instead just doing what I can and when I can.

Yep, pretty simple really.

Easy As Biscuits

200g melted butter

100g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

50g sunflower seeds

200g rolled oats

handful of sultanas

handful of chocolate buttons

150g wholemeal spelt flour

1 beaten egg

Add all ingredients together, mix it up and roll into balls with slightly dampened hands, (stops it sticking.) Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes.

Store in airtight container and eat with enthusiasm, (and try not to cough.)

Top 10 eco friendly ways to say I love you

10 eco friendly ways to say I love you || cityhippyfarmgirl

I was sent an email a little while ago, asking whether I would like to spruik some Valentines Day products. Although I generally feel lucky to even be asked, I did feel they hadn’t thoroughly researched their target market particularly well.

Stuffed small toys, toting love hearts, smiling bear faces and large ‘made in China’ tags, has never been my thing. Ever. It seems unlikely that’s going to change any time soon. In my eyes it also seemed unlikely that a space with the name cityhippyfarmgirl would be likely to encourage the purchase of said items, but it’s true, you don’t know unless you ask.

I did however say a polite no, and instead thought about some alternative ways to say I love you, for the most heart filled day of the year.

thinking green on valentines day || cityhippyfarmgirl

Top 10 eco friendly ways to say I love you

1/ A big beautiful bunch of kale, rosemary or any other seasonal greenery you might have in season. A bunch of red roses it isn’t- it’s better, way better!

2/ Rediscover the lost art of whispered sweet nothings.

3/ Bread. If you thought the heady combination of flour, water and salt wasn’t romantic, you haven’t thought about it in the right fashion. Soft and pillowy, rounded shaping and hot, HOT oven. (See, your loved one will be lusting after your rolls in no time.)

4/ Lingerie- If impressive underwear is your thing, take the time to research it and make it ethically made.

5/ Switch that bunch of flowers for a pot plant. Indoor, outdoor it doesn’t matter. Even if your green thumb is frequently the colour of squid ink black, a potted plant will last far longer than a bunch of flowers ever would.

succulent valentines day gift || cityhippyfarmgirl

6/ Poetry. No texting, no spell check, just a pen and some paper.

7/ Heirloom vegetable seeds, now stay with me. This is long time love. The kind where together you get to sprout those little seeds to become seedlings, and then watch them cared for, nurtured and loved as they grow, and grow. Ready to be plucked and eaten, preferably over an intimate candle lit dinner for two.

8/ A lovely bottle of organic or biodynamic local wine.

9/ A picnic. You don’t have to be a young couple to enjoy a late afternoon picnic on a grassy hill top. While couples with young kids, don’t quite get to do the gaze into each others eyes so much, kids do generally run off and leave you alone for 2.5 minutes longer than they would if you were eating dinner at home. That’s two and half minutes you could be gazing lovingly into each others eyes, or perhaps a quick pash before the kids run back and trample sand through the sandwiches again.

10/ And finally. Nothing says I love you quite like butter and sugar does, (well in this household anyway.) I have posted these biscuits before, but here is the slightly tweaked simple recipe again.)

coconut strawberry heart || cityhippyfarmgirl

Coconut Strawberry Hearts

250g softened butter

1 cup (220g) sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

3 1/2 cups (525g) plain flour

strawberry jam

Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer until pale. Add vanilla and egg, then mix through rest of ingredients. Lightly knead biscuit dough – if mixture looks slightly too dry, knead with dampened hands. Roll biscuit dough between two sheets of baking paper to about 5mm –  Pop into the fridge for an hour or so until firm, and cut out into shapes. If the dough comes back to room temperature while you are still cutting, being tricky to handle, just pop it back into the fridge for a bit.

Bake at 170C for approximately 15-20 mins, until a very light golden colour. Allow to cool and then add half a teaspoon of strawberry jam in between the two biscuits.

finding the spirit

speculaas- cityhippyfarmgirl

Nothing says it’s nearly Christmas time, quite like belting out Wham’s Last Christmas at the top of your lungs. While big hair, eighties clothing and a snowy white landscape aren’t really necessary this year; an enthusiasm for all things just a teeny bit cheesy are. With three little people grinning from ear to ear for encouragement, I plan to quietly soak all that Christmassy spirit well and truly up.

I wasn’t going to though, well not yet anyway. It all seemed a little too early still.

However, last years advent calendar was hung, and the boys were keen for the Christmas sticks to be draped and decorated. Pre-school carols were seeping in and had a funny way of sticking in my head all day. I also couldn’t avoid the fact that everyone else was well and truly already on the Christmas wagon.

What pushed Last Christmas on to replay was the very real thought of my little people becoming big people. No longer finding it quite as exciting to decorate some fallen sticks with some brightly coloured baubles and their bunk beds with draped silvery tinsel. The excitement of seeing what might be in the advent calander in the early morning, and the planning of all the things they would do, once the Christmas holidays began. I know that contagious excitement will someday fade, as their limbs get longer and their childhood thoughts and ideas change.

So while their little dancing legs are eager, their air guitars await and theres a willingness to sing all songs Christmassy, then so will I.

And I’ll love every second of it.*

 * In the spirit of Christmas, so will all my neighbours. It’s a well known fact that Last Christmas should never be played quietly; and living in a small city apartment, well playing something with Christmas enthusiasm means everyone gets to enjoy it as well. Now THAT’S the spirit of Christmas.

****************

speculaas-cityhippyfarmgirl

For added Christmassy goodness, I’ve been making speculaas again. It’s been two years since the intermittent light swearing incident over the little wooden windmill and, this year I thought I’d try my luck again. Alas, still not to a standard I like, so no windmills again this year. However, the dough I’ve tweaked a little and it’s still a happy biscuit to eat.

Perfect for a little dunking, munching or sending of small parcels off to the neighbours.

Speculaas #2

150g cubed cold butter

150g brown sugar

300g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamon

2 tbls cold water

Pulse all ingredients except the cold water, until resembles bread crumbs. Turn out to a board, add the water and give a quick knead to bring it all together. You are a after a smooth dough consistency. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper and pop into the fridge to firm up (or roll into a log and freeze for a later date.) Cut out shapes and bake at 180 for 15-20 minutes.

a heaving black mass and sour cream chive scones

 cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

I watched the heaving black mass for a minute. Shuddered a little and averted my eyes, hoping I’d imagined it as I slowly turned back.

Alas, no. There they still were, running the chive gauntlet, acting all busy like. Busy with what you say? Sucking the life out of my chives it seems.

My tiny potted permaculture garden had been doing reasonably well, condsidering all the growing conditions. At a distance everything looked pretty healthy and well tended. Up close, it was a little different though. The mint was munched, the lemon balm looked a touch fried and the chives well…were a black heaving mass. A black heaving mass of which I wanted no part of.

I noticed them, I observed them, I squished them between my fingers, I thinned the chive cluster out a little, I squirted high powered water on them. They seemed to love every second of their well tended honeymoon and bred like bloody aphids. I watched a little more, the ants below ‘farmed’ them, making sure they were ok, feeling loved and nurtured. No more, I muttered, it’s you or me… and quite frankly, well it really has to be you.

I pulled them all out, bar a few sad loners that the aphids weren’t partying on yet. My perfectly balanced permaculture pot was now looking a little unbalanced. But at least the black heaving mass was disrupted and I could once again think about eating chives without wrinkling my nose and furrowing my brow.

sour cream and chive scones

Sour cream and Chive Scones

250g sour cream

250mls water

one large handful of finely chopped chives, (optional black aphids)

1 tsp salt

whisk these ingredients together in a large bowl and then add

2.5-3 cups self raising flour (375-450g)*

mix through with a butter knife

tip out on to a lightly floured bench top and knead quickly with finger tips, pulling it together to a light dough.

Cut shapes, onto a tray and bake at 220 for approximately 20 minutes (depends on their thickness.)

a boy and some biscuits

cityhippyfarmgirl cityhippyfarmgirl cityhippyfarmgirlcityhippyfarmgirl

Mostly the small boy doesn’t like a camera pointed at him.

Mostly he runs in the opposite direction to the apparatus that is making him stay still for a full 30 seconds. He might miss out on something. Something important.

Mostly.

Then some days he just pops up. Just like that. A wriggle under the table and tahdahhh! 

What are you doing mama?…and what’s THIS?

 Oh, and I want to be in your picture.

The longing. The hunger. The puppy dog eyes.

Disappearing only once a biscuit was firmly in hand.

Back to what ever mischief was interrupted before.

****************

These truly were just slapped together, but as four out of five of our family members really enjoyed them I thought I would put them up. As they are super healthy and easy.

No butter, no eggs, no processed sugar, no nuts.

Honey Chia Biscuits

2 cups of whole rolled oats

4 tablespoons of chia

4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

4 tablespoons of water

5 dessert spoons of honey*

Add water and chia together, (a gel type mass should appear pretty quickly- this helps it bind it together.) Add the rest of the ingredients with an extra 2 or so tablespoons of water and mix well. Put aside for ten or so minutes, letting the water soak in. Squish them into balls and squash them done flat on to a tray.

180C for about 20 minutes and then I turned the oven off, leaving them in.

Eat with enthusiasm and regularity.

*(swap to maple syrup if you want to vegan it up.)

man biscuits

cityhippyfarmgirl Yesterday Mr Chocolate had a day that involved scaling 12 foot walls, crawling through electrical currents, jumping into iced water and moving through incredibly small muddy spaces- Twenty kilometres of that kind of fun.

While I certainly don’t think of this as a boys only event, (as I would like to give it a crack one day)  I do think the testosterone would have been running freely as he was teamed up with a group of four others who eat words like competition for breakfast.

To even out the manliness of the group, kilos of mud they were going to be carrying in the pockets, and the general ‘extreme-ness’ of the day. I made the girliest biscuits I could think of… jusssst in case they were hungry.

Man Biscuits

250g softened butter

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

4 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

450g (3 cups) plain flour

Beat softened butter and sugar together until creamy looking. Add vanilla and eggs, beat until mixed well. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Roll out mixture between two sheets of baking paper to about 1cm thickness with a rolling pin. Pop the dough sheets in to the fridge until hardens completely.

Once hardened, take the sheets out, remove baking paper and cut your shapes. Lay them on a lined baking tray. Bake at 180C for approximately 15-20 minutes.

Icinging sugar and beetroot juice for the top

chocolate vanilla layer biscuits

Biscuits are handy.

They can sidetrack a hungry belly that is calling out for food.

They can quieten a noisy Monkey.

You can eat them with one hand.

They can give a subtle little sugar hit, when the search is on.

You can balance one on your nose… if you felt so inclined.

And most importantly they are really easy to make.

Chocolate Vanilla Layer Biscuits, my current favourites.

Chocolate Vanilla Layer Biscuits

250g softened butter

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

4 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

450g (3 cups) plain flour

2 1/2 tbls cocoa

Beat softened butter and sugar together until creamy looking. Add vanilla and eggs, beat until mixed well. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Divide the mixture in half, and add the cocoa to one of the halves. Mix it in well. Roll out mixtures seperately, between two sheets of baking paper to about 1cm thickness with a rolling pin. Pop the dough sheets in to the fridge until hardens completely.

Once hardened, take the sheets out, remove baking paper and line the two doughs on top of each other. With a sharp knife, cut through the two layers, about an inch in width. Place strips on top of remaining dough and cut again, making sure it’s the same size. Once you have the four layers, cut strips into approximately 1 cm sized thickness. Lay them on a lined baking tray, and keep going with the rest of the dough.

Bake at 180C for approximately 25 minutes.

(This recipe makes quite a few biscuits… but it does depend on how much of the dough you eat raw.)

biscuits, cookies and things to nibble

I hadn’t realised I had baked quite so many biscuits over bloggin’ time…

Custard Biscuits

Gingerbread Men

Anzac Biscuits

Lemon Vanilla Stars

Coconut Jam Drops

Everyday Chocolate Mint Biscuits

honey biscuits

Chewy Coconut Biscuits

speculaas

Chocolate Honey Biscuits

Parmesan Crackers

super easy chocolate chip biscuits

Passionfruit Shortbread

Kettles boiled… anyone want to join me for afternoon tea?

Tea or Coffee?

speculating on speculaas and speculoos

chewed dog ears...or windmills if you squint really hard

I was supposed to make these last year, but that didn’t happen. This year it is though. The tasty spiced biscuits generally eaten for the Feast of Saint Nicolas, (Dec 5th or 6th- depending on whether you come from Belgium or the Netherlands) that taste rather good dunked into your beverage of choice.

SBS’s Feast magazine has had two recipes for them recently (September and December issues) and both varying slightly with their quantities and ingredients. I stuck with the simpler version and then have since tweaked it to suit me more. These are a really great biscuit to roll up and keep in the freezer, to be cooked at a moments notice. Give as gifts, and also a good excuse to go find yourself a speculoos plank. Yes indeed, a speculoos plank. Even the name is enticing and it’s one of those funky little wooden moulds to pop your biscuits in before baking.

The thought had entered my head, and there wasn’t a whole lot of persuading of that thought, that it wasn’t something I really needed. An investment in my future I rationalised. I’ll be making loads of these down the track. I’ll start a new tradition of making them every 6th of December for the family and for many years of Christmas presents to come.

See, of course it makes sense to buy one from Belgium for a friend to bring back with her on her travels in several weeks time.

That was almost the case and then I found out there is a little online Dutch store, that has them and can post straight away. Being an Australian based company this was going to be a whole lot quicker, (bought on Friday night, arrived on Monday morning- thank you Australia Post.)

So now what to do with my cute little wooden windmill mould?

Everything I had read on the internet said these were a bit of a pest to use initially when they were still new. One site helpfully suggested some ‘light swearing’ might be useful. On trying the mould out, I would suggest intermittent heavy swearing wouldn’t go astray either. I had made the dough quite a few times, I was happy with the taste and the way they could easily be cut from a log, baked and eaten. They were an easy biscuit to make in that form. Using the mould however…

First, it was new,so I needed to grubby is up a bit. Using rice flour to line it certainly helps and after quite some time of working out what works best accompanied with multiple pursing of lips, eyebrow frowns, and the odd whispered intermittent heavy swear word. It worked.

Hooray! Biscuit dough back in the fridge to firm up again and then baked. I did it, speculaas have been conquered.

Baked for 15-20 minutes until golden and then out they come. Speculaas not conquered.

They look different to the un-moulded ones. All that fiddling with the mould before they get baked  has caused the butter within to melt a bit, despite firming them up again before baking it, the dough has changed the consistency some what. How do I get them in without that small amount of melty action? The distinct windmill print looks a little more like a chewed dog ear now.

So I kept playing and fiddling, using a knife instead of my fingers to get the dough in and moulded around. The final verdict? The biscuit dough recipe is tasty, easy, and praticle. It works really well for rolled and cut circles, or simply rolled out and cut with a regular biscuit cutter.

I don’t think it’s the right recipe for the mould however, (unless you are happy with the chewed dog ear look, which in that case is fine.)

So I’ll keep playing and tweaking. In the mean time, at least I have something to nibble on while I do so.

Speculaas

adapted from SBS Feast Magazine recipe- Dec edition

250g (1 2/3 cup) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g brown sugar

50g muscavado sugar

50g pecans

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cloves

150g cold cubed butter

2 tbls cold water

Process all dry ingredients until mixed well. Then add butter and process again until it resembles bread crumbs. Mixture into a bowl and add 1-2 tbls of cold water. Give it a quick knead, bringing the mixture together to form a smooth round ball, divide into two logs. Wrap in plastic and into the fridge until it firms up, (over night is good, to let that spices infuse properly.) Or roll into log forms, and pop in the freezer for later use.*

For baking, cut rounds off on to a tray and bake….

OR

If you have a mould. Cut small rounds off and press the mixture into a rice flour dusted wooden mould. Fiddle with it until you work out the best method to get them out and then let me know how you can do all this and not let the butter in the dough change consistency.*

Thanks!

* Or simple roll mixture out and use regular biscuit cutters to get a shape that you like.

* They are still perfectly acceptable to be eaten, dunked and given away as gifts in this way.

An extra thought– I think the flour to butter ratio needs to be changed a little for using the mould properly… maybe. I’ll keep tweaking anyway and see what I come up with.