Tuesday, 7 July 2009

On the Art of Doing Nothing

Hooray, hoo-ray it's a holi-holiday!:) I cannot help it, the old Boney M -song has been playing in my mind these past few days. :) I am on VACATION!! For four whole weeks!

The Rules of Vacation are:
1. Put your planner somewhere where you cannot see it. (If after four weeks you do not remember where it is, you have had a really good vacation!)
2. Do not make any plans.
3. Do things you enjoy doing.
4. Carpe diem!

This far I have followed the rules to the point, and I am planning... ups, no plans...I mean, I am going to continue to do so. I have been reading an excellent book (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters), doing some fun cooking and baking, playing some tennis, and in general doing nothing special. I had dance practise today, but for the next three weeks, I will also have vacation from dancing. For the next two weeks, to be exact, I hope to continue on these lines, doing nothing special. Isn't that a lovely thing to look forward to! No plans, nothing you have to do, nowhere you have to go! Bliss!:)

Free from my usually crazy schedule I spent yesterday evening baking something I had wanted to try to do myself for some time now. I baked Alexander pastries, or rather Cinnamonda's version of them. Alexander pastry, or Aleksanterinleivos in Finnish, is a rectangular pastry with two, thin layers of cake, raspberry jam in between the layers, and pink sugar icing. It is the first pastry in Finland ever to be named after someone, in this case Russian Emperor Alexander I, who in 1809 also became the first Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Finland. He was supposed to visit Helsinki in 1818, and the pastry was created in his honour. In the end he visited Helsinki a year later. By the way, our main shopping street here in Helsinki is also named after him. But back to the pastry! It is still a very popular pastry here, available all around in cafes and pastry shops, and pastry counters in most food stores. It is also a very sweet pastry, perfect for someone with not only one sweet tooth but a whole set of sweet teeth! Even yours truly cannot eat many Alexanders in a row, and I have been known to wolf half a litre of ice cream or a large chocolate bar in no time!

I used my baking these pastries as a way to work towards finally emptying the freezer (I'm almost there now!) and instead of raspberry jam, which I did not have, I made some apple purée using up the frozen apple slices I had in the freezer. Also, I only had very little pink icing sugar left, so I opted for using white and making a marble effect with the little pink sugar I did have. I used 400 g white and 75 g pink icing sugar, but that was too much, therefor I have reduced the amounts for the recipe. If you want to bake traditional Alexander pastries use raspberry jam instead of apple purée and pink icing sugar only (or colour you sugar pink). One way to colour the sugar is with raspberries as in this more complicated recipe I found in the Nordic Recipe Archive.

Alexander Pastries

Makes 10

For the pastry:
200 g soft butter (or margarine)
1 dl sugar
1 egg
4 dl wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:
About 2 apples, sliced
Some sugar (according to your taste)

For the icing:
300 g white icing sugar
50 g pink icing sugar
ca. 1 dl water (or water mixed with some lemon juice)

Let's start with the filling:

1. Put the apple slices into a small pan. Add some sugar.
2. Cook the slices in their own juices until they are very soft.
3. Smash the slices with a spoon.
4. To make the purée finer pour the smashed slices into a food processor and pulse twice, that should be enough, and voilà, we have purée!
5. Let cool before use.

Then let's move on to the pastry:

1. In a bowl mix butter and sugar with your fingertips.
2. Add the egg. Mix some more.
3. Mix the flour and baking powder together in another bowl.
4. Shift the flour/baking powder mixture into the batter and mix quickly.
5. Cover with cling film and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile heat the oven to 175 Centigrade.
7. After half an hour take the batter out and spread it evenly onto a baking paper covered baking pan. The easiest way to spread the batter is to cover it with some cling film and then use a rolling pin. It should end up thin, only about 1/2 centimetres thick.
8. Bake in 175 C for about 15 minutes.
9. Let cool completely.
10. Cut the pastry into two halves.
11. Spread apple purée onto one half. Lift the other half on top.

Now is time to prepare the icing:

1. Pour the white icing sugar into a large bowl. Add some water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix, until you have a pourable, but not too runny, icing. Do the same with the pink sugar. With the pink sugar, you will need very little water, so be careful. It might be wise to use a teaspoon, when adding water to the pink sugar.
2. Pour the white icing on top of the pastry, covering the top completely. Using a piping bag make a pattern of crossing lines on the white icing. Using a fork draw a zig zag pattern on the pink lines to make them more marblelike.
3. Let the icing harden overnight.

(First thing:)) next morning:

1. Using a sharp knife cut the sides of the pastry, so that you get clean, straight, icing-free sides. (And some nice extra pieces of pastry for the cook i.e. yourself ;))
2. Cut the big pastry into 10 little pastries.
3. Brew yourself a nice cuppa tea. Put one Alexander (or maybe two) on a plate next to your tea, and...
3. En-JOY!

As I have been hopping back and forth between food and book blogs these past few days, I thought to share with my food blogging friends this info I found about The Spice of Life Challenge. It is a reading challenge that encourages participants to read books about food, be them cookbooks, nonfiction or fiction. Maybe some of you would like to join the challenge. It surely sounds like fun.


5 Star Foodie said...

I didn't know about Alexander pastries - definitely have to try to make these! Have a great vacation, I'm off to one as well :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great! I love to do "nothing"!

Those pastries look delicious and very pretty!



Chef Fresco said...

Beautiful creation! Hope you have a nice vacation!

Cynthia said...

Your vacation rules are spot on!

Tiina said...

Have a lovely vacation, 5 Star Foodie!

Doing nothing every once in a while is essential, isn't it, Rosa? :)

Thanks, Chef Fresco & thank you for visiting my blog!

Hehe, Cynthia! Yes they are, aren't they? I'm trying very hard to follow them.:)


Ana Powell said...

Hi Tiina
Wishing you a great holiday.
Wow, beautiful pastries, I thought they were Mr Kipling. They are really perfect. Congratulations on your blog.
I am taking back to England your lovely Alexander Pastries.
Take care x

Tiina said...

Welcome to my blog, Ana & thank you so much for your kind words!


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Yes, doing nothing IS essential too!!!

Have a great week!



Tiina said...

Thanks, Rosa! Have a great week, you, too!


Vera said...

So pretty and delicious slices!
Have a wonderful vacation, Tina!

Terri B. said...

I hope you are having a wonderful vacation! Your food blog is every bit as nice as your book blog. The pictures and description of these pastries are making me want something a little bit sweet!

Tiina said...

Thank you, Vera! This far my vacation has been great! :)

Thanks for your kind words, Terri! Something sweet every once in a while is how I like it. :)