Swedish Mazarin Torte with Nectarines (Mazarintårta)

Mazarin Torte with Nectarines IMG_9537

A spider web hangs below the eaves, suspended from various points along a string of patio lights. I can see it glistening in the sun outside my window as I write, trembling in the gentle breeze. Autumn has long been one of my favorite seasons, and this one might go down in my memory as one of the best.

As I creaked my way to the kitchen this morning to start making breakfast, the light of dawn eased me into wakefulness, diffused by a blanket of steel blue fog. By the time the coffee, hot and black, and a steamy shower had loosened up my tight muscles and it was time to leave the house, it was warm enough to head outside with just a light sweater. Now this afternoon the sun shines brightly, reflecting on all those vibrant multicolored leaves. Though the sun sets much earlier now, it’s as though summer won’t quite let us forget the long, radiant days of the months before.

It reminds me of my honeymoon, nine long-short years ago. Married on a clear, sunny day in late September, we boarded a plane headed to Rome the next morning and spent the following days in sun-drenched bliss as we sailed along the Mediterranean. It was autumn, but we never would have known it by the golden glow and warm kiss embracing all our surroundings.

This past week we’ve roasted hot dogs outside, made a cobbler with late-season peaches fresh from the farmer’s market, and baked nectarines into an almond torte. It baffles me that we’re still doing these things in October, a time I typically associate with simmering stews and fragrant braises. The cold will come soon, and with it darker days and the countdown to winter. But in the meantime I’m soaking in all the senses of this transition between seasons.

Mazarin Torte with Nectarines IMG_9531

Mazarin Torte with Nectarines
The classic Swedish Mazarintårta combines a shortbread crust with a luscious alnond filling. Somewhere along the line this recipe has roots in Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, which is–as its title boasts–a great book. It’s one of the first Scandinavian cookbooks I bought back when my grandmother Agny died and I was trying to soothe my aching heart by clinging to our shared heritage. I wrote about Ojakangas’ mazarin torte a few years ago, but I’ve since shaken it up quite a bit, simplifying the preparation and adding fresh fruit. I hope you like the results.

Crust
3/4 cup unsalted butter
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup almond meal/flour

Filling
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup cup almond meal/flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 nectarines, peeled and cut into eights
Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the crust by creaming the butter and sugar, then adding the egg yolks and beating until light. Add flour, salt, and almond meal and mix until stiff. Press the dough into a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, using your hands to create an even later across the bottom and up the sides. Set aside.

To make the filling, beat the eggs and sugar so they become light, then beat in the butter, almond meal, and almond extract. Pour the filling into the crust.

Arrange the nectarine wedges in a circular pattern on top of the filling. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden. Cool, then remove from the pan. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar if you’d like.

Makes 1 torte.

Mazarin Torte with Nectarines IMG_9548

 

Note: Last month I attended a couple of sessions at IFBC, the International Food Bloggers Conference, in Seattle. The organizers offered steep discounts to bloggers for writing about the conference, so you’ll be noticing a few posts that showcase what I learned. For this one, I’d like to thank Shauna James Ahern for her session on professional recipe development. Authenticity is key, she said. Plus, creating recipes that work can be a long, tedious process, but the reward comes when a reader tries a recipe and it works. She’s right. I’ve been hearing from some of you lately about your success with the recipes here on the blog, and I have to say that each time you write, I get a little spring in my step.

The focus of this blog–the connection between food, family, and heritage–is very dear to me. I created the blog five years ago as a way to share my experiences as I explored my Norwegian heritage. My grandmother had just died and I was finding comfort in all things Scandinavian. Through this blog I have discovered a community of people who also share a love of Nordic food, and I’ve seen how food can bring people together. Occasionally the recipes are my own, but more often–as is the case with this Mazarin torte–they’re inspired by or adapted from other Scandinavian cooks. I might give them my own touch, as with the nectarines in this torte, or I’ll add my own experiences to the instructions, but often I’m simply another step in a long line of cooks sharing the coziness and hospitality of Scandinavian food with the world. I had no idea when I started this blog that I would find such richness in exploring a cuisine I had grown up eating but had seldom cooked. It’s been a gift to me, and I hope that the authenticity is apparent. I hope, too, that the recipes and stories here provide warmth and fond memories for you as they do for me.

Easy Lingonberry-Poached Pears

Lingonberry Poached Pears

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. We don’t actually eat that much dessert in my family. You’d probably think otherwise when looking at the recipe archives and scrolling through old posts. But although I bake a lot, most of the cookies, cakes, and tarts end up going into other people’s mouths. That said, the occasional dessert can be a satisfying end to a meal, especially if it’s made with fresh fruit–like the lingonberry-poached pears I’m sharing with you today.

Lingonberries are as much a part of Scandinavian pancakes and desserts as cranberries are to Thanksgiving meals here in the United States. The flavor of the Nordic berries is similar, too, though the tiny spheres contain a tart juiciness all their own.

This past weekend as I slowly simmered pear halves in a lingonberry poaching liquid spiced with cinnamon, a warming fragrance of fruit and spice filled my kitchen. It struck me how satisfying something so simple (just three ingredients, not including water!) can be. After the pears had softened, I set them aside to cool while I reduced the liquid into a lingonberry-studded syrup to pour over the top. The finished dessert was a refreshing, not-too-sweet end to an otherwise heavy meal.

Lingonberry Poached Pears with Cream

Lingonberry-Poached Pears
Though it’s possible to find frozen lingonberries at some specialty stores, it’s usually easier to purchase lingonberry preserves. Last spring someone asked me where to find the preserves, so I opened up the discussion on my Facebook page–just click here to read the comments and join the conversation.

2 pears
1 cups lingonberry preserves
1 cups water
1 cinnamon stick

Peel the pears and halve them lengthwise, leaving the stems intact. Remove the cores. Set aside.

Place lingonberry preserves, water, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears snuggly in a single layer and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and add the pears, adjusting heat as necessary to keep the liquid just barely at a gentle simmer. Cook until the pears are tender when pricked in an inconspicuous point but still hold their shape, about 20 minutes. Remove the pears and set aside. Bring the liquid back to a boil and continue to cook until it thickens to a syrup, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate the the pears and syrup until completely chilled. (At this point you can even leave them overnight.)

To serve, place each pear in a dish and spoon a little of the syrup over and around it. If you wish, you can pour a little vanilla cream sauce into the hollow of each pear, but the dessert is equally good without it.

Serves 2-4.

Fyrstekake, an All-Time Favorite Norwegian Dessert

Fyrstekake Slice on Plate with Crumbs

I have the feeling that when I look back at this summer in the coming years, this time will be defined by food and family. Between cooking for the family, developing recipes for an article I can’t wait to tell you about, and testing recipes for a gifted cook who recently landed her first cookbook deal, I’ve been spending a lot of time walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store and whipping up drinks, dinners, and desserts in my kitchen. Never mind that the weather in Seattle has been full of sun, sun, sun!

Even though I have to be disciplined and make myself get outside and enjoy the sun at times, this has been a special summer, and one that confirms my belief that food is one of the most effective ways to bring people together.

In celebration of those special times we spend in the kitchen with those we love, connecting over a shared task and sitting down later to enjoy it together, I would like to share a recipe for fyrstekake, a classic Norwegian tart flavored richly with almond. Growing up eating it with my mom frequently, it remains one of my favorite Scandinavian desserts to this day.

Fyrstekake and Coffee

Fyrstekake Slice Horizontal

Fyrstekake is also known as Royal Cake or Prince’s Cake. Though it calls for only a handful of ingredients, the results are decadent and somewhat regal in their simplicity. As a classic dessert, it makes sense that many variations exist. Some are spiced with cardamom and other flavors, and some let the almond shine. This particular recipe resembles the one I grew up eating, and I love the soft, almost-toothsome texture of the filling with the crisp cookie-like crust.

Enjoy!

Signature for Blog

Fystekake and Coffee Spread

Norwegian Fyrstekake
Adapted from Norwegian Cakes and Cookies by Sverre Sætre, this recipe gets its rich flavor mostly from the ground almonds, but also from the slightest touch of almond extract that I added. If you enjoy marzipan candy, you’ll love this dessert.

For the crust:

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 egg

For the filling:

1 3/4 cups slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/4 cup whipping cream

For topping:

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water

To make the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter in a food processor until crumbly (alternately, cut ingredients together by hand). Add the egg and continue to process until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and cover it well, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Grease an eight- or nine-inch tart pan with removable base. Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Place in the tart pan and work it in evenly in the crease and up the sides. Put the crust–and the remaining dough–back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees.

Whirl the almonds in the food processor until fine, then add the sugar and pulse some more until combined. Melt the butter in a small bowl and pour it into the almond and sugar, along with the egg yolk, egg, and whipping cream. Process to blend, and then pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface. Working quickly so that it doesn’t warm up too much and become difficult to work with, cut the dough into thin strips and arrange in a lattice or crisscross pattern on the top of the filling.

Mix the remaining egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush this over the top of the cake.

Bake approximately 40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan, until golden. Cool, then remove tart from pan.

Serves 8-12.

Fyrstekake and Slice

 

Nordic Blueberry Tart with Rye

Rye and Blueberry Tart with Berries

June 25, 3:45 p.m. – The velvety smell of melted butter mingling with oozing blueberries permeates my kitchen right now as a rye and berry tart bakes. The aroma lures me from the sofa where I am opening a new book I am eager to read. I set the book down and walk over to the oven, opening the door and beholding what I see inside. The crust, made from organic all-purpose flour mixed with dark rye flour, has turned a golden brown. The sour cream-based filling has puffed up, transforming from a thin coating at the bottom of the shell into a plump, luscious filling that cradles the glistening purple berries. In just a few minutes, the tart will be ready to remove from the oven. I will set it down on a wire rack and wait, resisting the urge to slide a knife through the hot filling and take a bite while it is still warm. Such is the discipline of a baker. The pastry still warm from the oven is one of the greatest temptations. Waiting must sometimes be accompanied by diversions. So I will return to the sofa, pick up my book, and begin to read.

Blueberries

Rye and Blueberry Tart

Nordic Blueberry Tart with Rye
This attractive and delicious tart, adapted (barely) from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, features a crust made from a combination of all-purpose flour and dark rye flour. The proportions mentioned below come from the original recipe and produce results that are sure to please. Since I enjoy the taste of rye, I’ll try increasing the amount of rye flour next time and might even try substituting the all-purpose flour with some other types.

For the crust:

6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
10 ounces blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable base. Prepare the crust by beating butter and sugar until well mixed, then gradually beating in the egg. Add the flours and baking powder and mix to create a dough. Press the dough into the tart pan, evenly covering the bottom and sides.

Make the filling by mixing together the sour cream, heavy cream, egg, sugar, and almond extract, then pour into the crust. Evenly distribute the blueberries over the filling and bake until the filling has set and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Blueberries

Tart Dough Ingredients

Pouring Filling into Shell

Filling Tart with Blueberries

Rye and Blueberry Tart

Tart with Berries

The Essence of Spring in Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb Soup for Spring

When I cook with rhubarb I’m struck by the color–that ballerina-pink to magenta ombré effect married with salmon and the faintest hint of green. Then there’s the scent, the almost citrus, grassy notes smelling like the essence of a spring garden in the moments after the rain.

Rhubarb Soup with Yogurt Ice Cream Horizontal

I wonder if there are many foods more associative of spring in our childhood memories than this unusual plant. The thought of it conjures up sunny days in my grandparents’ backyard garden, where the rhubarb–at least as I remember it–seemed as large as a prehistoric turtle. Guarding the steps down to the raspberry patch, the plant silently waited as we passed by to comb through rows of bushes for berries at the peak of perfection.

These days I take every opportunity like to cook with rhubarb. Roasted with vanilla bean and wine. Cooked and strained for a syrup to add to tequila. Simmered until its fibrous stalks soften and become a delicately-textured base for rabarbrafromasj, rhubarb fromage.

The desserts made with rhubarb are some of the best that come out of my kitchen. The latest one–rabarbrasuppe, rhubarb soup–is no exception. Simmered with vanilla bean, the rhubarb releases all of its flavor and vivid color into the water, which, when strained, becomes a clear pink soup. Scattered pieces of baked rhubarb and a scoop of homemade yogurt ice cream complete the simple yet elegant dessert.

Spring Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb Soup (Rabarbrasuppe) with Yogurt Ice Cream
Despite the various steps, this recipe–adapted from The Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnemann–is rather simple. Since it is to be served cold, each step can be prepared in advanced, leaving only assembly for serving time.

For the soup:

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sugar

For the baked rhubarb:

2 rhubarb stalks
1/4 cup sugar

For the ice cream:

1 3/4 cups low-fat yogurt
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Several hours before serving, prepare the soup by placing the 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb pieces in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean down the middle with the tip of a knife and scrape out the seeds, adding both the seeds and the pod to the saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, resisting the urge to stir (you don’t want to break up the rhubarb, which you’ll soon strain out and discard).

Pour the soup through a sieve and return to a clean saucepan, adding sugar and bringing back to a boil just to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

While the soup is chilling, prepare the baked rhubarb and the ice cream. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and toss the rhubarb with sugar in an baking dish and placing it in the oven until it’s tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the ice cream while the rest of the dessert cools. Beat the yogurt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then gently fold it into the yogurt. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer instructions; depending on the machine, this should take about 20 minutes. If needed, transfer to the freezer for a little while to firm it up further.

To serve, divide the chilled soup between four wide, shallow bowls. Scatter the roasted rhubarb pieces around and place a scoop of ice cream in the center.

Serves 4.

The Norwegian Dessert Known as Troll Cream (Trollkrem)

Krumkaker and Troll Cream

If you follow Outside Oslo on Facebook or Instagram, then you probably know I’ve been planning to tell you about trollkrem, a traditional Norwegian dessert that translates to troll cream. Perhaps the best explanation that I can come up with about the name is the dessert’s almost-mythical properties.

Consisting of a mere two ingredients that barely form a pool in the bottom of a mixing bowl, the dessert transforms in a matter of minutes to a silky, creamy cloud. Egg whites mingle with lingonberry preserves as the mixer rapidly whisks them together, fluffing up the egg whites with air. The result is a featherweight pale pink puff.

Troll Cream Ingredients

Troll Cream in Progress

One of the things I love about having a Facebook page for Outside Oslo is the additional communication it fosters about Scandinavian food. When I made my first batch of troll cream, I was unsure that I was getting the whole picture as I opened book after book and searched the internet to try to find out the proper uses for it. With a texture and consistency far too ethereal for the dessert to stand on its own, it seemed to need a base, something to act as a foundation. I turned to you on Facebook and discovered not only a range of uses for trollkrem, but also how enthusiastic many of you are about Norwegian food. And that made me very, very happy.

From you I learned to put trollkrem in krumkaker (pictured here)–perhaps in the shape of cups rather than cones–and garnish it with mint. You also suggested filling sandbakkelse with trollkrem or using it to top pancakes. Growing up in a Norwegian-American family, krumkaker were always part of the holiday cookie trays, but we always ate them plain. Filled with trollkrem, the delicate cookies require just as much care in eating so that they don’t crumble all over, but the experience is much different, more akin to eating an ice cream cone. I’m still trying to find the perfect krumkaker recipe to share with you here, and when I do I’ll also try making them in the shape of cups, which cookbook author Astrid Karlsen Scott recommends.

If you don’t already follow Outside Oslo, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so today and join the conversation about Scandinavian food. You can subscribe via email or RSS, plus follow the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for trollkrem.

Trollkrem med KrumkakerTroll Cream (Trollkrem)

This particular technique is adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking by Astrid Karlsen Scott. If you have access to fresh lingonberries, you can use those instead of the preserves, adding some sugar to the recipe. If you’re concerned about raw egg whites, apparently it can be made with meringue powder as well, according to The Everything Nordic Cookbook, which has such a recipe. Scott suggests serving this in a crystal dessert bowl garnished with fresh lingonberries and mint leaves or in krumkakeskåler–krumkaker in the shape of cups.

2 egg whites
1/4 cup lingonberry preserves

Place the egg whites and lingonberry preserves in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at high speed until the ingredients expand, quadrupling their volume. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Serves 4.

The Easiest Dessert

Yogurt, Fruit, and Ginger Cookies

The art of cooking simply has always been difficult for me.

I can still remember the first meal I planned for my new husband and myself after we got back from our Italian honeymoon in 2005. Upon returning to our new apartment, which I hadn’t even begun to settle into amidst all the wedding preparation, I flipped through cookbooks and found two recipes that sounded like they would be perfect for a fall weeknight dinner: Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and Butternut Squash and Sage Pasta.

Little did I realize at the time that such a dinner would require advance planning, with each individual recipe taking plenty of time to prepare and cook. Yet in the flurry of returning to work as a morning news writer and producer (a job that required me to leave for work when my husband was going to bed at night) and adjusting to a new life with a new husband in a new apartment, I hadn’t even thought to shop for ingredients in advance.

I quickly learned that if I was going to plan the meals in our household—something I had been looking forward to—I had to get to work. However, I couldn’t help but add an elaborate touch to my weekly meal planning, getting bogged down with complex recipes and scheduling recipes too rigidly.

These days meal planning is much more relaxed. I’ve found that as long as we have a protein and a vegetable on hand, we can create something delicious using our imaginations and drawing from our cooking knowledge. Plus, having established a repertoire of tried-and-true recipes along with an intimate knowledge of many cookbooks, I can choose a few seasonally-appropriate meals over the course of the week and shop for whatever ingredients we don’t already have in our pantry or refrigerator.

Such progress served me well last week when I was having my sister-in-law over for dinner while my husband was away on a business trip. I had two requirements as I considered the meal: It had to be simple and quick to prepare, and it had to be delicious. I remembered a recipe that I had discovered years ago in an Italian cooking magazine—penne all’arrabbiata. Requiring no more than a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes in the kitchen including prep, it was perfect. Dessert was its sister in simplicity: Fresh berries served over honey-sweetened yogurt with ginger cookies.

Honeyed Yogurt with Berries and Ginger Cookies
An Outside Oslo original

3 ounces plain Greek yogurt (please use 2% or higher here–the nonfat version just doesn’t do the recipe justice)
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 ounces fresh raspberries
2 ginger cookies

Stir Greek yogurt and honey together in a bowl, adding more honey as needed to suit your tastes. (Don’t add too much–you should still be able to taste the tang of the yogurt.) Divide between bowls and arrange raspberries on top, garnishing with cookies on the side.

Serves 1, but can easily be multiplied.

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The Delightful Simplicity of Strawberry Compote

One of the great strengths of Nordic cuisine is the simplicity that guides it. Built upon readily available foods at the peak of their flavor, recipes need not be complicated to be brilliant.

Take strawberry compote for example. While I was trying to figure out what to do with three pounds worth of late-season strawberries I picked up the other day, I discovered a recipe in Authentic Norwegian Cooking that instructed the home cook to do little more than cook the berries in water with some sugar and potato starch flour, and to serve the compote with cream. The author noted that the result was heavenly.

Though I took pleasure in the hands-on work of hulling and quartering the strawberries in preparation for cooking, as I stirred the boiling mixture and watched the water leach the color from the strawberries I questioned whether I would ever be sharing this recipe with you. Prematurely disappointed, I kept at it, stirring constantly as the mixture boiled, reducing the liquid and thickening the compote slightly. I spooned a little into a bowl for myself and drizzled a touch of cream on top, and suddenly I understood what the author meant when she called it heavenly. I poured some more into a bowl for the sake of photographing the end result for you here, and I happily ate it while it was still warm. The fruit is slightly sweet, with a little tang remaining, which is complemented by the richness of the cream.

Strawberry CompoteStrawberry Compote (Jordbærkompott)
Adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking

I know it’s late in the season, but if you can get your hands on some perfectly ripe strawberries while they’re still available, treat yourself to this simple dessert. It’s easy to prepare, and will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Just reheat it and pour cold whipping cream on top prior to serving.

4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons potato starch flour
1/4 cup sugar
Water
3 cups boiling water
Whipping cream, for serving

Combine strawberries and sugar in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Return to a boil and then let simmer until berries are cooked through. Mix potato starch flour in a little water to dissolve, then add to the berries. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook, stirring regularly, until the compote has thickened. Let cool slightly, then pour into bowls and drizzle with whipping cream.

Serves 5-6.

I’m keeping my promise

Yesterday I promised to share the recipes for Swedish cheesecake and Swedish apple pie with you. Today as I eat a slice of leftover cheesecake for breakfast, it seems like the perfect time to keep my promise and post a recipe for this delightfully delicate dessert. (The apple pie recipe won’t be far behind.)

But first I need you to purge any preconceived notions of cheesecake from your head. This is not the rich, dense, crumb-crusted concoction you’ll find on most American menus. Using ricotta instead of cream cheese, and baked in a loaf pan with no crust, the Swedish cheesecake is airy yet creamy, and dotted with the gentle crunch of finely-chopped almonds. With only two tablespoons of sugar, it’s not overly sweet, and lends itself perfectly to some sweetened whipped cream and cherries (or your favorite berries).

I served this dessert for a group of moms who came to my house with their babies yesterday. Just a few months ago we were in the early stages of motherhood, trying to figure out with each others’ support how to get our newborns to go to sleep at night and learning to cope with the sleep deprivation and new schedules. Now we all seem like pros as we let our babies play together while we enjoy tea and dessert together and talk about the newest adventure in parenting–starting solids–as well as our hopes and dreams as women. It was such a treat to welcome these friends and their babies into my home yesterday and  to treat them to some Scandinavian-inspired hospitality.

Now I’d like to extend a little bit of that to you, with this recipe that I do hope you’ll try.

Swedish Cheesecake (Ostkaka)
Adapted from The Swedish Table by Helene Henderson

If I haven’t already convinced you to try this recipe, let me tell you two other wonderful things about it: It can be made in a matter of minutes, and can be prepared a couple of days in advance. Don’t skip the fruit and whipped cream–they’re crucial to this dessert.

2 eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped fine (a food processor works great for this)
15 oz whole-milk ricotta (I could only find part-skim at my grocery store, and that worked fine)
2 tablespoons sugar
A generous amount of cherries or berries
Sweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 1 1/2-quart bread loaf pan. Now you’re ready to whip this dessert together in a pinch! Whisk the eggs, flour, and half-and-half together in a large bowl, then add almonds, ricotta, and sugar, and stir well to combine. Pour it into the pan and bake it for one hour. Chill for up to a couple of days, and then serve with sweetened whipped cream and a generous spoonful of berries.

Serves 6.

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Norwegian apple soup

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here at my house. Birds are chirping outside and I hear the quiet hum of the computer and refrigerator, but all is still. I’m still in my pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee, and I have a baby all bundled up in the softest little blanket you can imagine. If that’s not cozy, I don’t know what is.

Before the day starts, I want to take a moment to share a recipe with you. I made this dessert soup on a winter evening when my parents were over for dinner, and then I forgot to post it for you.

The beautiful thing about this soup is that you can serve it warm or chilled. Imagine sitting at the candlelit dinner table on a winter evening, content and relaxed after a hearty meal. Conversation is pleasant, no one is in a hurry, and while it’s raining or snowing outside, you’re warmed by the fireplace crackling in the living room and by luscious spoonfuls of hot apple soup. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to spend a winter evening? Or, in the late summer when apple season is just beginning, you could serve this soup cold at an outdoor afternoon lunch with the first apples of the season. Either way, this simple dessert is the perfect way to showcase the dependable apple.

Norwegian Apple Soup (Eplesuppe)
Adapted from Authentic Norwegian Cooking

2/3 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon (or a few dashes of ground cinnamon)
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch flour
5 apples, peeled, sliced, and cored
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Butter cookies, for serving (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add apples and cinnamon and cook until the apples are tender but still holding their shape. Remove the cinnamon stick, if using, and discard. Reserve one quarter of the apple slices and puree the rest in a food processor, then add the puree back in the saucepan. Mix potato flour and a little water in a small bowl to make a thin paste, and then add to the soup in a thin stream, stirring to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in the reserved apple slices and the lemon juice. Allow to cool with the lid on. Serve warm or chilled, with butter cookies and whipped cream if desired.

Serves 4-5.

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