Kneaded at Solstice, More Bread, More Poetry

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It’s solstice day once again, but with two twists, as it were. Twist #1: the personal challenges are up this year, and several traditions, among them baking bread, may be off the plate. I don’t know yet. However, on schedule for this afternoon is another “kneaded” activity — a massage. I’m thinking this will help slow things down for today, enough for me to consider kneading it forward with a fresh batch of cardamom bread, and therefore I will legitimize this annual post.

Twist #2: I learned, through DNA testing, that I have Finnish genes, further legitimizing my annual activity. Doubly necessary to get it done. Here’s the post:

Time to post my winter solstice poem about my annual solstice day activity: baking Finnish pulla (cardamom) bread. In year’s past, I’d been troubled my a non-working recipe and I thought long and hard about giving her a go this year. I was saved by last year’s post on this topic, which reminded me I’d found a working recipe! So – I will do it and update last year’s photo (at right) if everything works out.* Still – there’s always the poetry, right? Here it is:

Solstice

I reach for the spice jar
and pour out a dozen cardamom pods to grind
down to a scented jumble.

I fold in the flour, then knead, raise and braid my bread, 
sprinkling an ornament of sugar and almonds on the twisted loaves. 
The musky ginger lingers on my warm hands; 
sweet yeasty secrets are released by the heat of my stove.

Outside, everything lies encased in frozen pods, in ice, 
waiting quietly for the other solstice to crack open 
the living powder the world is made of:
my own powder — could I as easily know? I 
put away my mortar and pestle. 

The long night arrives at the season’s juncture 
and the full spectrum shines elsewhere, 
I turn away and snap off the yard light, 
leaving buried, dark and cold,
the wind-junked souvenirs of December. 


*Correct chemistry & recipe – sorry this isn’t much of a baking blog, but I thought I’d post this anyway.

1.5 c milk
.5 c sugar
.5 c butter
1t salt
2pkgs yeast
.5 c warm water
6-7 c all purpose flour
1t cardamom
1 large egg

for glazing – additional egg, 1T water, and slivered almonds – .5 c

heat milk, sugar, butter and salt in med sauce pan – butter doesn’t have to melt. cool to 115 degrees and pour in mixer bowl. sprinkle yeast over warm water in small bowl and let stand for 5 mins or until yeast dissolved. Add yeast to milk mixture and add 3 c flour and cardamom. beat med speed for 3 mins. beat in egg. By hand, stir in 3 to 4 c flour or enough to make soft dough. Kneed by hand 8 to 10 mins. Note: I’ve used the mixer for this in the past but mixer tends to over mix.

Let rise in greased bowl, covered loosely, for an hour until doubled. Punch down and place on floured surface. Cut in half and divide each half into thirds. Stretch each third into 15inch ropes and braid three together for each of the two loaves. Loaves should be approx 10 inches. Let rise for another 30 mins.

Brush with a mixture of beaten egg and 1 T water. Sprinkle w/sugar and sliced almonds. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 mins – internal temp to read 185 degrees or higher. Cool 30 mins then enjoy!

*The 2013 batch turned out fine, but we were eating it before I had a chance to take a photo!

Solstice = Bread and Poetry

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It’s solstice day once again! Time to post my winter solstice poem about my annual solstice day activity: baking Finnish pulla (cardamom) bread. In year’s past, I’d been troubled my a non-working recipe and I thought long and hard about giving her a go this year. I was saved by last year’s post on this topic, which reminded me I’d found a working recipe! So – I will do it and update last year’s photo (at right) if everything works out.* Still – there’s always the poetry, right? Here it is:

Solstice

I reach for the spice jar
and pour out a dozen cardamom pods to grind
down to a scented jumble.

I fold in the flour, then knead, raise and braid my bread, 
sprinkling an ornament of sugar and almonds on the twisted loaves. 
The musky ginger lingers on my warm hands; 
sweet yeasty secrets are released by the heat of my stove.

Outside, everything lies encased in frozen pods, in ice, 
waiting quietly for the other solstice to crack open 
the living powder the world is made of:
my own powder — could I as easily know? I 
put away my mortar and pestle. 

The long night arrives at the season’s juncture 
and the full spectrum shines elsewhere, 
I turn away and snap off the yard light, 
leaving buried, dark and cold,
the wind-junked souvenirs of December. 


*Correct chemistry & recipe – sorry this isn’t much of a baking blog, but I thought I’d post this anyway.

1.5 c milk
.5 c sugar
.5 c butter
1t salt
2pkgs yeast
.5 c warm water
6-7 c all purpose flour
1t cardamom
1 large egg

for glazing – additional egg, 1T water, and slivered almonds – .5 c

heat milk, sugar, butter and salt in med sauce pan – butter doesn’t have to melt. cool to 115 degrees and pour in mixer bowl. sprinkle yeast over warm water in small bowl and let stand for 5 mins or until yeast dissolved. Add yeast to milk mixture and add 3 c flour and cardamom. beat med speed for 3 mins. beat in egg. By hand, stir in 3 to 4 c flour or enough to make soft dough. Kneed by hand 8 to 10 mins. Note: I’ve used the mixer for this in the past but mixer tends to over mix.

Let rise in greased bowl, covered loosely, for an hour until doubled. Punch down and place on floured surface. Cut in half and divide each half into thirds. Stretch each third into 15inch ropes and braid three together for each of the two loaves. Loaves should be approx 10 inches. Let rise for another 30 mins.

Brush with a mixture of beaten egg and 1 T water. Sprinkle w/sugar and sliced almonds. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 mins – internal temp to read 185 degrees or higher. Cool 30 mins then enjoy!

*The 2013 batch turned out fine, but we were eating it before I had a chance to take a photo!

The Perfect Solstice Recipe for Bread and Poetry

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A few days late, I’m posting my winter solstice poem about my annual solstice day activity: baking Finnish pulla (cardamom) bread. While I did bake some on solstice day, there were issues and – honestly – I’d had issues for years with the recipe I’d been using (from a famous Scandinavian cookbook author’s recipe). After searching high and low, I adjusted my recipe

(borrowing the chemistry* from a julekake recipe and ‘tweaking’ it) and finally have arrived at a working recipe! Yay!

Solstice 


I reach for the spice jar
and pour out a dozen cardamom pods to grind
down to a scented jumble.

I fold in the flour, then knead, raise and braid my bread, 
sprinkling an ornament of sugar and almonds on the twisted loaves. 
The musky ginger lingers on my warm hands; 
sweet yeasty secrets are released by the heat of my stove.

Outside, everything lies encased in frozen pods, in ice, 
waiting quietly for the other solstice to crack open 
the living powder the world is made of:
my own powder — could I as easily know? I 
put away my mortar and pestle. 

The long night arrives at the season’s juncture 
and the full spectrum shines elsewhere, 
I turn away and snap off the yard light, 
leaving buried, dark and cold,
the wind-junked souvenirs of December. 


*Correct chemistry & recipe – sorry this isn’t much of a baking blog, but I thought I’d post this anyway.

1.5 c milk
.5 c sugar
.5 c butter
1t salt
2pkgs yeast
.5 c warm water
6-7 c all purpose flour
1t cardamom
1 large egg

for glazing – additional egg, 1T water, and slivered almonds – .5 c

heat milk, sugar, butter and salt in med sauce pan – butter doesn’t have to melt. cool to 115 degrees and pour in mixer bowl. sprinkle yeast over warm water in small bowl and let stand for 5 mins or until yeast dissolved. Add yeast to milk mixture and add 3 c flour and cardamom. beat med speed for 3 mins. beat in egg. By hand, stir in 3 to 4 c flour or enough to make soft dough. Kneed by hand 8 to 10 mins. Note: I’ve used the mixer for this in the past but mixer tends to over mix.

Let rise in greased bowl, covered loosely, for an hour until doubled. Punch down and place on floured surface. Cut in half and divide each half into thirds. Stretch each third into 15inch ropes and braid three together for each of the two loaves. Loaves should be approx 10 inches. Let rise for another 30 mins.

Brush with a mixture of beaten egg and 1 T water. Sprinkle w/sugar and sliced almonds. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 mins – internal temp to read 185 degrees or higher. Cool 30 mins then enjoy!

Why Do I Love You?

Yes, you. You don’t really exist, you’re just this guy I dreamt up one day a few years ago.

Still, I’m in love and I can’t stop thinking about you.

I’d caught a glimpse of you on a trip. You were a businessman and I was a tourist who’d just left the place where you lived. I was on my way home, and saw your photo in a magazine someone left in the seat-pocket on the plane.

That’s where the idea of you first came into my head. From a picture of a stranger in a Finnish business magazine. I couldn’t tell from the photo’s caption whether you were a banker or a cop or an insurance agent. I couldn’t read a single word in the entire magazine. But you seemed familiar to me, and I certainly wanted to get to know you better.

You looked so typical of what I’d seen of men your age (mid 40’s) in Helsinki. Aging, former hockey player. Graying blond hair, cut short, unruly chunks like dirty melting snow drifts flattened against your head. Firm, flat, high brow, as if frozen from the cold, long, and very dark winters your people endure. The fairest, almost invisible eyebrows, not more than a faint pair of lines above your eyes. An afterthought.

Your face looked a bit beaten, tired, the hangover that never quite wore off, the effect of alternating too much caffeine with too much alcohol, one to combat the other, both necessary to sustain you through the arctic nights, and to celebrate the short, brilliant summers. You were not a stunningly handsome man by any means. Still, you were remarkable for one, unique, memorable trait.

There in your eyes was the unmistakable look of “sisu,” that peculiarly Finnish character trait.

I had learned of your people’s history during my visit to Helsinki, of the long struggles during the past century, the hunger, the invasions, and your resistance against the Nazis. And therefore I learned about sisu.

Spending time in your country, prowling through the museums, walking through the streets, and visiting such places as the island fortress Suomenlinna  gave me a working knowledge of sisu: that dogged, stubborn persistence of people who are capable of facing down death itself.

So when I saw your picture, I couldn’t help but to fall immediately in love. It was the sisu in you that brought you to life.

Sisu takes one look at the romantic ideal of the brave hero—with his good, strong boots and his loaded gun—and says, “Try being brave without the boots and the gun, then you will understand what sisu is.”

Sisu is illusive, mysterious to one not born into its reality. That mystery intrigued me enough that I wrote you first into a story (never published), and then in a book, Washed Up. And now a second is also in the works.

I’ve Americanized you, the fictional you, whom I named Arvo Thorson. This is how I translate you into my reality.  You see, I live in a place where many from your country immigrated during that time when there was so much war and famine in your part of the world. It was easy to see what drew your people from Finland to Minnesota: the Finnish coastline is an exact replica of the Lake Superior shoreline that borders the northeastern part of my state. The Finnish countryside looks exactly like central and northern Minnesota’s lake-filled forest-lands. You left home and came home.

The fictionalized American version of you is the descendant of Finnish immigrants, though that part of your history still dwells in my mind, and has not yet made it to the pages I’ve written.

Perhaps your heritage will be played out in subsequent books. Or not. We’ll have to wait for that mystery to be solved.