Syltgrottor/Thumbprint cookies

I love baking and my kids love baking.

I don’t however always love baking with the kids. Often it can be stressful, messy and chaotic.

But it CAN be enjoyable. What you need is some fool proof easy recipes and you’ll be ready for anything. Well, most things.

I go for recipes that are straightforward and that requires some kind of decorating part later. Kids are particularly ace at this part!

(Unless you’re a perfectionist like me and do find it mildly stressful too. You learn to breathe through it.)

I recently found this recipe in a Swedish magazine and it’s a winner. It’s definitely fool proof and your cookies will always turn out well! Your kids will love making these too, adding the jam and whatnot.

So as part of my Swedish, easy to make, kid friendly recipes, I’m going to kick things off with Syltgrottor (I hear they’re similar to Thumbprint cookies? Can anyone confirm?) .

Syltgrottor are a mixture between a shortbread and a Viennese type biscuit.

This recipe is a winner, and has never let me down.

***The key here is to not overwork the dough and chilling the dough before baking***

• 4 1/2 dl flour

• 1 dl caster sugar

• 1 tsp bakingpowder

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

• 200 g butter (room temp)

For the filling:

Your favourite type of jam. Recently we used Cloudberry and Wild Strawberry jam.

Recipe:

Turn your oven to 200°C. (180c if fan assisted)

Cream your butter and sugar. Once creamed, add your vanilla extract. Mix your dry ingredients in separate bowl.

Now quickly mix the ingredients until it all just comes together. (Don’t overwork the mixture!)

Let your dough rest in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and then pinch off and roll each small piece, (about the size of a walnut), into small balls.

Now place the gently into fairy cake tins. Make a hole in the cookie using your thumb and add your jam. Pop into your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Take the cookies out and let them cool on a cooling rack.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Jessica’s Tiger Cake

I’m obsessed with cake tins. I must have about a dozen already.

I’m prepared for any kind of Cake Tin emergency. You name your party and I bet I have a tin to match.

Some tins are perhaps more obvious than other.

Like my super cute gingerbread man tin and the equally adorable snowman tin. I also have Halloween covered with my Skull and Pumpkin tins.

I also have a Swedish Dala Häst tin, a Crayfish tin, a Darth Vader tin and a Spider man tin.

I also have more “traditional” shaped Socker Kaka cake tins.

Us Swedes do love a Socker kaka. And who can blame us, they’re delicious and easy to make. And goes so well with coffee.

A triple threat type of cake.

A traditional Socker Kaka was one of the first cakes I learned to make.

Speaking of tins, I recently acquired this beauty. How gorgeous?! It’s from the American company Nordic Ware.

But it’s no use having lots of tins if you’re not going to use it so today I tried making a Swedish classic sponge Cake, a Tiger Kaka.

I added some home made hazelnut butter too. We don’t buy the ready made kind… (I’m sure you’ve all seen the super cute banner advert. If not, here you go)

Anyway, adding the hazelnut butter made it even more scrumptious.

Here’s the recipe:

Jessica’s Tiger kaka

4 dl flour

2 1/2 dl caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Dash of vanilla extract

50 g margarine

1 dl milk or single cream

2 tbsp cacao

2 tbsp hazelnut butter

Heat your oven to 160°C (fan assisted)

Butter your cake tin and add the bread crumbs.

Whisk your butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add your eggs, one at a time.

Mix the dry ingredients, add the milk and gently fold into your butter and sugar mixture.

Put a 1/3 of your batter into a bowl. Mix in the cacao.

Add vanilla to the other batter mix.

Put the vanilla batter into your tin. Add the hazelnut butter into little chunks. And finally, pour over your cacao mixture. Using a fork, gently mix the two different batters and nut butter together. It doesn’t have to be precise.

Put your cake in the bottom part of the oven for about 45-60 minutes.

Check with a cake stick, if the batter comes off the stick then it’s done!

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes inside the tin.

Take the cake out of the tin and let it cool on a rack.

Once cooled you can dust some icing on top or just leave it as it is.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns

Holidays are hard work.

It’s also wonderful and magical, especially when you have kids, but it can be stressful and, for some, a sad and lonely time. 

If you have family abroad then Christmas time can make you extremely home sick.

I miss my parents, family and friends, the traditions – like Lucia, but also the Christmas food and all familiar smells.

Cinnamon, cloves, church candles, Star anise, Saffron buns, Julmust, Janssson’s Frestelse, Sill in all different varieties (pickled herring), Julmust, Gingerbread, oranges and clementines.

My parents have been staying with us for a week. They are over visiting the U.K. firstly to watch Jackson perform in his very first Shakespeare play, but also to spend some time with us before Christmas.

For our special Sunday mini Christmas, or “Lill Jul”,  I got to trial a recipe I’ve been dying to try. 

The ultimate Swenglish recipe I suppose – my Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns. 

The first batch came out a bit burned (the oven was too hot), and the second batch I added too much Mince mixture to, but they still tasted nice so I was hopeful.

I made my third batch this morning and they came out beautifully golden, and, I’m happy to say, scrummy to eat. 

Here’s the recipe I used: 

Jessica’s Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns

You’ll need:

A bowl for the dough

Little bowl for the filling mixture

Pot to heat the milk and margarine 

Time: About 2 hours 30 minutes 

Dough

  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 8 dl plain flour 
  • 50 g margarine 
  • 3 dl milk
  • 1/2 dl caster sugar 
  • 1 pinch of salt 

Filling 

  • 50 g margarine 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 dl caster sugar 
  •  4 tbsp Mince Mixture 

Garnish 

  • 1 egg or milk
  •  Pearl sugar 

Make the Dough:

Crumble the yeast and put in a bowl.  Melt the margarine in a pot and add the milk. Warm the milk mixture until 37°C. Now pour some of the mixture over the dough and gently stir until the yeast has dissolved. 

Add the remainder of the milk mixture, sugar, salt and about 6 1/2 dl flour. (You’ll add the rest later when working the dough)

Start working the dough, either by hand or by using a machine. (Start with paddle and change for the hook attachment as you gradually add the flour) 

The dough is ready when it’s silky smooth and not sticking to the sides of the bowl. 

Put a cloth over the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 min.

For the Filling: 

Cream your sugar and cinnamon with the margarine until you get a fine paste.

Once proved, start working your dough again. Add the remaining flour, little by little. Feel your way here; if you add too much flour your cinnamon buns will end up too dry. 

Cut the dough into two. Now roll each piece into a rectangular shape.

Add your cinnamon paste and your mince mixture. 

I added about two tablespoons for each dough.

From the longer side, roll each dough into a cylinder shape. Use a sharp knife to cut 2 cm thick pieces.

Put your cut pieces, either in paper bun cups or straight onto a tray with baking paper. 

Cover your Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns and let them prove for about 20 min. (They should double in size) 

Brush your buns with the whisked egg or milk and sprinkle the pearl sugar on top. 

Bake your buns in a very hot oven (250°C, 200°C for about 8 mins or until golden brown. 

Place on a rack to cool. ENJOY. 

God Jul ❤️ Merry Merry 

Love, Jess

How to make Spooky Halloween Brownies

Being a Swenglish family we have the luxury to mix, amend, borrow and sometimes create a lot of our holidays. We can chose the things we like and make them into our own family tradition. 

For example, we celebrate traditional

Swedish holidays like Lucia and Midsummer, we have a Crayfish party in August, and an annual Eurovision party in May. 

We have a little mini Swedish Christmas on the 24th of December with the Christmas ham and Jansson’s but our Christmas is on the 25th.  

We celebrate Bonfire night, “Mys” on a Friday and generally have a roast every Sunday. 

We join the hordes of other revellers in park on a Bank holiday. (Even if it rains!) 

It made me think though. Other than Easter and a Royal Wedding – what other British holidays are there? 

Anyway. It’s lovely to pick and choose really. The best of both worlds!

We’ve also borrowed from our cousins overseas and have totally embraced Halloween.

The best Halloween I ever experienced was when I lived in Illinois in the nineties, but that’s a story for another day. 

This year we’re in Tenerife, Spain on holiday over Halloween and so it has been a very different experience. 

Believe Hotel Halloween Entertainment Schedule

The hotel we’re staying in have gone full out, with tons of decorations and dress up opportunities and lots of different activities everyday so the kids (and grownups) will get the full Halloween experience! 

Apparently their Casa del Terror is meant to be be really scary…. We’ll send Brooks to trial and review it on Wednesday.  

For me, one of the awesome parts of Halloween is all the fun Halloween theme food you can serve – and eat! 

Before we left England the kids and I made some spooky brownies. They’re super easy to make and so tasty. Kids and grownup alike will love these!  

This is the recipe we used…

You’ll need:

2 bowls 

1 microwave safe bowl

Small pan

20 square tin 

Baking parchment 

Edible eyes (sugar craft) 

4 large eggs

250g unsalted butter

200g good quality cocoa powder

300g caster sugar 

300g flour 

Pinch of salt 

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder 

50g white chocolate and 50g dark  chocolate

Marshmallows (we used the extra big fluffy kind and used about 5) 

  1. Preheat you oven to 175°. We used a 20cm square tin for this. (It depends on the consistency you’re after. If you use a smaller tin your batter will be more gooey, if using a bigger tin, the batter will be crispy). Add some baking parchment to stop it from sticking to the bottom.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your white and dark chocolate into chunks. You’ll use these later once the brownie isbaked. 
  3. Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. 
  4. In a different bowl mix together eggs and sugar. Once mixed, fold in the dry ingredients adding the flour and baking powder last.  
  5. Tip you batter into the tin and spread out evenly.
  6. Add you white and dark chocolate chunks to the batter.
  7. Put your mixture into the oven and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. 
  8. Let your brownies cool.
  9. Once cooled, put your marshmallow into a microwave safe bowl and melt for about 30 seconds a go. You want it really sticky and gooey.
  10. Take your marshmallow mess and this is the tricky sticky part.
  11. Word of advice: You’ll have to work fast with this one as the mixture will cool and harden quickly. Dip your fingers into the marshmallow mixture and carefully pull strings over the brownie, effectively making a web like patter. Keep adding more and more marshmallow strings. 
  12. Add your edible eyes 
  13. Now it’s ready to be served whole as a cake, or cut into individual squares.


How to make Jansson’s Frestelse

Christmas is less than 10 weeks away.

We’re in Christmas prep mode in our house. (Yeah, no. Mainly me. I am in prep mode. Kids and husband are blissfully unaware)

I’ve bought most of the presents, planned the advent calendar, what decorations to make and use, drinks and food menus and the colour scheme on the tree. 

With age I’ve come to realise that I may just be a teeny tiny bit OCD when it comes to Christmas and especially when it comes to decorating the tree… 

But I digress. 

So you may have noticed that I like food. 

I like discussing food, watching programmes of people like Nigella and Gordon making it, looking at pictures of food, food competition programmes, cooking myself but also eating it. 

For me, food plays a major role in making Christmas magical. 

And for a Swede living in the UK, Swedish Christmas food become extra important. It’s nostalgia, cosy, familiar… it’s Yule. 

I order my Swedish Christmas food from Totally Swedish and the Swedish Shop on Ocado online every year. 

There has to be a Christmas Ham, Julmust (a special soft drink), meatballs, prinskorv (mini sausages), my Swedish Sticky Ribs and Jansson.

Heck. I’d even go so far as to say I’d try making ”Dopp i grytan”, just to feel extra Christmassy. 

(Even though, like Lena in Svensson, Svensson I know that no one would eat from the pot anyway) 

For those of you who haven’t tried it Janssson’s Frestelse is a traditional Swedish Potato Gratin dish. But tastier.

Since I want to avoid any disasters on the actual day, I trial the food in the weeks leading up to on Christmas Eve and Day. (The Swedes celebrate on the 24th – more on that in another post!).

This week I’ve made Janssson’s Frestelse and I’d like to share my recipe with you. 

Janssson’s frestelse is traditionally made of potatoes, onions, *pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream. 

For my version, I’ve added some shallots as I think it really complements the dish.

You will need: 

  • 1 1/2 kg potatoes – the waxy kind (Maris Piper or King Edward)
  • 2 big yellow onions and 1 shallot onion
  • Proper butter (for frying and to dollop on top of gratin before cooking)”
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tin sprats (à 100 g)
  • 4 dl double cream
  • 2 dl milk
  • Plenty of breadcrumbs to cover the dish (about 2 tbls)
  • Sugar (for caramelising the onions) 
  • Deep oven dish, smothered in butter
  • Pot to boil your double cream and milk 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 160˚C. (fan assisted) 

Peel the onions, shallots and potatoes. Slice the onion thinly, chop the shallots very fine and fry them in the butter. Add the sugar to caramelise. Add a pinch of cinnamon.

Cut the potatoes into thin strips

Potato on a board
Sliced potato

Take out your sprats and lay them to one side. Take the juices and put into a bowl. You will mix in the sprat juices with the milk and cream later on. 

Now layer your onions, potatoes and sprat fillets in a deep dish – sort of like you would a lasagne. 

Start and end with a layer of potato. 

Milk and cream summering

Heat your milk and double creme on a gentle heat on your stove. Let it simmer for a minute then take away from the heat. Mix in the sprat juices. 

Pour the liquid over your potato and onion dish. Add the breadcrumbs over the top and add small knobs of butter on top. The butter will bring some extra crunch and tastiness to the dish. 

Bake in the lower part of your oven for about an 1 hour, 1 1/2. 

Janssons Frestelse

The potatoes should be soft, the milky cream should be reduced and the top a lovely light brow colour.

(If you find that your dish is getting too dark then put some foil on top to stop it from burning.)

Sprats

*if you’re not a fish fan, then you can leave this item out, but as the sprats and its juices gives the dish its saltiness you’d have to balance the dish well when seasoning 

Enjoy!

It takes a Village

This is a still from a film Brooks worked on recently called Cold Hands.

It’s written and directed by Mac Carr, shot in beautiful Falmouth, Cornwall. 

Brooks’ portrayal in the film really is stunning, and I hope you get a chance to see it. I’m a little biased, of course, but it really is a fantastic film. 

Being cast in films and TV projects means that sometimes he has to be away filming for lengths of time – either in the UK or abroad.

His jobs are often fun, sometimes crazy and intense, at times weird and unexpected. 

He can tell you all about that time he arrived in the Ukraine on a grey winter’s day to film an advert and he was picked up at the airport by a proper James Bond caricature villain. 

This man was huge. A good 2 meters and 2m wide. (Okay. No. But he was huge) 

He was standing in the arrivals foyer with a note that said Brooks in large letters. Brooks walked up to him and said cheerfully that he was Brooks. The man didn’t respond, but rather looked at him in complete silence. Then he simply gestured for Brooks to start walking. 

The James Bond villain walked him, in silence, to the car park where he gestured for Brooks to get in the back of a huge black Mercedes (- villain). 

There was a bullet proofed window between him and the driver (- villain) and the man drove him, in silence, all the way to the centre of the town to a manicure salon (er… – villain?) and then later the hotel.  (- villain).  Again, all in silence. 

Brooks rang me so many times that night. To make sure the kids and I were okay of course. 

Although we’re obviously overjoyed when he gets a job, because it’s his passion in life and he works so hard, it’s tough when he goes away, not only from a logistical point of view. 

Anyone with kids will tell you that it’s not an easy feat to look after kids on your own and three of them? 

Well, let me tell you – it’s a completely different ball game altogether. 

It’s the Big League people. 

This house runs a military camp. 

Everything is ready and set out the night before. 

The kids know the drill. When daddy is away, they must help mummy more at home.  When daddy is away, mummy turns into a drill sergeant. 

The food for the week is prepped and ready. The school bags are ready for school, their water bottles, packed lunches done, books, after school and club stuff sorted, tennis lessons, guitar and piano lessons, Taekwondo, football and swimming and Lord knows what else – all of it has to be ready and organised.  Mine and the kids’ clothes are ready and laid out ready for the week. We arrange play dates, we head to the library and go to the park after school.

Sounds fun yes, but it’s exhausting. 

If you’re on your own you don’t really get a break either. My kids have never been great sleepers and so they tend to be up a few times every night. 

I also sometimes get a bit scared. It’s a big house and I’m forever grateful for my dog’s presence – just in case. 

Gorgeous Friends

It also reminds me how lucky I am to have the best of friends.  My friends will offer to give the kids a ride to and back from school, have them over for play dates – you name it. 

Especially if you’re an immigrant like myself and my family are miles and miles away. My in laws are incredibly supportive as well, and will always help when Brooks is away. 

There’s a saying isn’t there. It takes a village and never was a truer word spoken. 

Separation Anxiety and Why We Need More Coffee

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I can see the light…

I can still hear him. It’s almost inaudible, but there.  He’s softly humming to himself. 

I hold my breath. I can feel sweat running down my brow. I exhale slowly and try ignore it. 

I extend my foot. Very slowly I set the foot down on the floor. 

A floorboard creaks loudly and I freeze to the spot.

The humming has stopped. 

He is listening. 

I shift my weight somewhat and press my body next to the wall. If I can just move out of the room fast enough he won’t detect me. 

I take another step and there’s no sound. I exhale slowly.  I can see the light coming from the other room. Two more steps and I’ll be out of here. 

I take another step and suddenly my knees croak. It sounds like someone just broke off a branch off an old Oak tree.  Thank you Age. 

Suddenly I see a dummy flung across the room. This is not a good sign. I peek around the corner.

Night lamp

He is definitely awake. He is listening and he is NOT happy. 

I know what must be done. I don’t like it as the risk of getting spotted are extremely high. I lie down flat on the floor and army crawl over to the dummy. With the dummy safely in my hand, I crawl over to the cot and deposit the dummy inside the cot.  I look up tentatively. He’s taken the bait. 

It seems he has settled back. There is hope yet.  For now. 

I stay lying down for what seems like hours. I can’t hear a thing apart from my own heartbeat.  

I crawl back to the door and slowly get up to my knees first, then to standing. 

I decide to risk it and take another step. I’m so close, I’m in the light, I’m standing at the opening. 

The new episode of Bodyguard is lined up and ready on catch up downstairs. 

That’s when it starts. First, a kind of anxious and low key sound that progressively moves into full blown screaming… 

The baby is up and the baby wants Mama. 

Recognise the scenario? 

Separation anxiety in children is a BEAST. They never tell you that in your NCT classes do they?

SLEEP THIEF

My youngest is 11 months and have for the past month or so been going through a tough phase of separation anxiety. No one but Mum will do.

I can leave him for a few minutes with someone else, but after a while he will look around for Mum and cry. Nighttime is a real killer.

I know it’s anxiety, rather than say hunger or thirst, as he will stop crying as soon as I pick him up or soothe him.

So what do you do? You ride it out. 

There’s nothing for it. Cuddle baby, soothe and comfort baby. Soon she/he will understand that Mum (or Dad) has to go away for a little while but they always come back.  

I know the books that say “let baby cry out” and all that. If that’s how you want to approach it then by no means do so. No judgement.  But it’s not for me. I’ve found with all my kids that patience and perseverance do the trick. 

It doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride though. My brain feel like porridge. I’m tired and short tempered. I feel about 200 years old. My god, I’m so, so tired. 

How long can you actually function on zero sleep but huge quantities of tea and coffee? Has there been a study on this? If not, there should be. 

But the truth is – these days fly by so fast. Blink your eyes and they’ll be teenagers begging you to stay out of their room. 

Babies be like.

My oldest is 9 and he doesn’t need me in the same way anymore. Although I welcome the maturity and independence in him, I do also miss hearing those little feet tiptoeing into our room and snuggling up to us in bed. 

So for now, I’ll have to keep my Ninja moves nimble and ready for action and up my coffee consumption. 

Richard Madden will have to wait.