Have you heard of Beatrice Ojakangas (oh-ja-kahn-gahs)? From a Finnish immigrant family on both her mother and father's side, she grew up in Minnesota and developed a great knowledge of Finnish and Scandanavian cooking and baking. My first introduction to her was through a cookbook she wrote called The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. As I am of Danish descent, and someone who loves to bake, I ordered it when I first discovered it. I've shared her Danish Walnut Wreath Bread and her Danish Almond Wreath Cookies recipes from that book. Both recipes turned out great!
Imagine my surprise when a representative of the University of Minnesota Press contacted me last month to see if I wanted to receive an advance copy of Beatrice Ojakangas' newest book, Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food. Heck, Ja, I would!
Homemade is not just a cookbook (almost all chapters include a recipe), it is more of a memoir of the lives of her family and herself. It details her Finnish grandmother's heartbreaking but stoic immigration to America, a disastrous fire and growing up in a large Finnish family on a small farm in northern Minnesota where they learned to make do with what they had. Perseverance is the underlying family thread and undoubtedly the reason for the rise of her culinary career. She writes about becoming an entrepreneur at an early age, making her own clothing (some of the fabric did come from fancy feed sacks) and becoming a 4-H State Fair winner and a Pillsbury Bake-Off prize winner at a young age. She became food editor at Sunset Magazine and also wrote for Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Gardens and many more magazines. After writing her Great Scandinavian Baking Book, she was invited to appear with Julia Child on "Baking with Julia", and also appeared on Martha Stewart's television show as well. Including her new Homemade, Beatrice Ojakangas has now written 30 cookbooks!
The Danish pastry braid that you see in the photos above is one of the first recipes I bookmarked when I received my copy of Homemade. It was in that chapter where I learned that she had been on television with Julia Child. What luck when I decided to look on YouTube for that episode and found it! You can watch it here. Beatrice seems to be a warm and lovely person in her interaction with Julia.
I'm so happy I found her quick Danish pastry recipe which is so delicious and easy to make! You just need to prepare the dough a day before you want to use it. I found it wonderful to work with and the results are Oh My Good! The smell of the cardamom in the sweet pastry will make you feel like you're in a Scandinavian Coffee Shop.
Not only did I made a braid with the dough, using her pastry cream recipe and some raspberry jam, but I also made some small individual pastries using pastry cream and homemade apricot jam which she makes in the episode with Julia. Any fruit or nut filling you like would be delicious! Do you see those little dots of sugar? That's Swedish Pearl Sugar! I've never used it before but it gives a very authentic look and taste to the pastries.
From Finnish Rye and Cardamom Bread to Cream of Morel Soup and Stroganoff Burgers, Homemade is a warm-hearted and wonderful journey of a book. I very much enjoyed reading about Beatrice Ojakangas, the life and history of her family, and her rise to culinary greatness through her Finnish-rooted perseverance. Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food is now available for purchase!
Note: It was brought to my attention that I had forgotten to add the 1/4 cup of sugar to the recipe by a thoughtful reader. In the video of Beatrice with Julia Child, she almost forgot to add it too! The recipe has been updated to reflect that change. I apologize for any inconvenience.
Danish Pastries with Beatrice Ojankagas' Quick Pastry Dough
Adapted from Homemade by Beatrice Ojakangas
Note: These would taste great with a fall-inspired filling such as apple. Click Here for a great apple filling.
1/4 warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional but delicious! (I found cardamom pods at Penzeys which I opened and ground the seeds myself)
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into 8 pieces each
Apricot Filling (Recipe Follows)
Berry Filling (Recipe Follows)
Pastry Cream (Recipe Follows)
Sliced Almonds for Garnish
Swedish Pearl Sugar for Garnish (can be found in some groceries stores or here).
Optional Glaze: Mix 2-3 teaspoons of cream or milk with ½ cup sifted powdered sugar. Place in zipper bag and cut off a small corner and pipe over warm pastries. (I did not use a glaze).
To Make the Dough (You must start the dough 1 day ahead of baking):
Add warm water to a large bowl and add yeast. Whisk to blend. Dissolve for 5 minutes and then add milk, egg and salt. Whisk until well combined.
Add the flour to a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and salt and butter and pulse about 8 times until butter is about the size of small beans.
Add the flour/butter mixture to the liquid mixture and blend with a rubber spatula just until flour is moistened. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, dust the top of the dough with flour and turn out onto floured surface. Pat down with your palm and then roll out into a circle (rolling from center outward). Fold the outer corners inward like an envelope with a bench scraper, making a rectangle, and pat down with palm again. Dust bottom and top and roll again into another rectangle. Fold long ends toward center again in thirds as an envelope and roll out into a rectangle. Using bench scraper fold into thirds again from long ends and roll in into another rectangle. Fold into thirds again, using bench scraper. Pat down and cut in half. (Dough can be tightly wrapped and frozen at this point, if desired).
Wrap dough halves individually in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and refrigerate again for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
For Braided Pastry:
Preheat oven to 400F
Take out one-half of refrigerated dough and and pound down with fist or pound with rolling pin to soften. Roll to 16 x 10 inches on floured surface. Place a piece of parchment under the rectangle. Cut diagonal strips (about a 45 degree angle) along each edge approximately ¾”-1” wide and about 1/3 of the way into dough on each side. Brush the cut strips with egg white. Place a layer of jam down the middle between the cuts, then add a layer of pastry cream. Fold strips over each other like lacing up a shoe. Brush the top of the dough with egg white and sprinkle with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.
Transfer on parchment to baking sheet. Cover loosely with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. If desired, you may glaze the pastries with the option glaze now.
For individual pastries:
Take out one-half of dough and roll out on a floured surface into a 10 x 20 rectangle. Measure first then cut into eight 5” squares by making one cut lengthwise and then cut into four squares on each side.
Place a rounded tablespoon of fruit filling in the center of each square of dough and then add a rounded tablespoon of pastry cream on top. Brush all edges with beaten egg white. Bring up corners and twist the top into a top-knot. (The video clip above will show other shapes that can be made). Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with sliced almonds and pearl sugar or coarse sugar.
Allow to rest covered loosely with plastic wrap for about 15-30 minutes or until slightly puffed.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden.
If desired, while warm, frost with glaze.
Makes about 1-1/3 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup of dried apricots, packed
1 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
½ tsp almond extract
Add the sugar, apricots and water to a microwave safe bowl. Mix thoroughly and place in microwave for 10 minutes, stopping to stir 2-3 times, to keep sugar mixed well. Place mixture in food processor and puree.
Add the lemon juice and almond extract and stir together.
Place in covered container/jar and refrigerate until ready to use. May also use on toast.
Fresh Berry Filling (or you may use a pre-made filling such as Solo brand pastry filling)
1 cup each raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, mashed down to make 2 cups
1 cup sugar
1 T lemon juice
Add sugar to mashed berries and mix well. Microwave for 18 minutes, stir 2-3 times during cooking.
Cool, add the lemon juice.
Microwave Pastry Cream:
1 cup whole milk or light cream
1-1/2 T cornstarch
2 T sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk (save egg white for sealing edges of pastry)
Place cream, cornstarch and sugar into a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Stir well to dissolve cornstarch and sugar. Place in microwave and cook for 1 minute increments, stirring each time, until it begins to thicken. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, in small bowl place egg yolk and vanilla and stir to combine.
Temper egg yolk mixture with a little hot cream mixture and stir quickly so the egg does not curdle. Add the egg back into the cream mixture and stir well. Place back in microwave for another 30 seconds to complete cooking the egg. Whisk. Add another 20-30 seconds, if needed, to thicken more.
Allow to cool and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.