Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States


autumn desserts

Autumn Desserts
Apples, pears, and pumpkin desserts always taste the best in the fall. I’ve often wondered why that is so. Maybe it is because they blend right in with the spicy aromas of turning leaves piqued by the smell of evergreens about to take over the “green scene” for winter. More likely, it is because this is the time of year when tree-ripened apples and pears show up in great variety in the market and pumpkins – well, they fill huge bins just waiting to be selected.
Thinking of autumn desserts, I couldn’t decide between an old-time Finnish favorite – a simple to make, buttery, apple-sugar cake, and pumpkin cheesecake. So I decided to include them both.
But here’s an idea for seckle pears, too. Seckle pears are those tiny little pears that show up for a brief period of time in the fall. Usually locally grown, they are sweet little fruits, no taller than three inches.
I got this idea also in Finland, when a friend served it for dessert. I asked her for the recipe and she just said, “There’s no recipe,” she replied, “you just wash the pears, stand them up in a pan and bake them for about an hour.” What temperature (anything from 325 to 350 degrees F. depending on what else you are roasting. Try that for a no-fuss dessert when you are really busy! When the pears are soft, just sprinkle them with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream flavored with a little crème de menthe, one pear per person.
This next recipe is a simple Finnish one, too, perfect with any of the fresh apples of fall. It was first published in The Finnish Cookbook in 1964.

Makes 12 servings
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
dash salt
3/4 cup light cream or undiluted evaporated milk
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/2 inch
Cinnamon sugar: 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch cake pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together; add the eggs and beat until light. Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the cream mixture alternately with the cream. Mix until batter is smooth and spread into the prepared pan.
Insert the apple slices so that the outer edges of the apple slices are up. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and dry. Serve warm.

Pecan Crusted Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
This needs to chill overnight so that it will cut easily, so plan accordingly.
Makes 16 servings
Pecan Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar.
4 packages (8-ounce) cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 can (15-ounce) pumpkin
1 cup whipping cream or undiluted evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
In a food processor with the steel blade in place, combine the flour, butter and pecans. Process until pecans are finely chopped and blend in the brown sugar. Press mixture evenly over the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set pan on top of a rimmed cookie sheet.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Beat in the eggs, pumpkin, cream, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Pour mixture into the crust in the pan. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a knife inserted just slightly off center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake the cheesecake. Cool on a rack, then chill overnight before cutting into wedges to serve.

Holiday Favorites

Holidays, for many people are laced with a web of memories, and these memories center on “together” times, be they a cookie making session, a coffee party, a family gathering, or just a get-together of friends.
Here, four special friends share their own favorite holiday recipes, each one is connected to family or friends in a special way. I offer, also, my family’s favorite memory.
Kathryn Martin, UMD Chancellor, shares the recipe from her Dutch grandmother. Kathryn writes: “My grandparents, Katrina and John VanZutphen moved to the United States shortly after the First World War, settling first in Kimberly then Little Chute, Wisconsin which was home to a significant number of immigrants from the Netherlands. My grandfather worked in a tannery and my grandmother ran a rooming house, both in an effort to save money to buy their dairy farm in Stanley, Wisconsin. Every Friday my grandmother baked fresh cookies, fresh bread and a variety of kinds of cakes and pies. But only at Christmas time did we have “Grandma Van’s Refrigerator Cookies”. Christmas for me is not complete without my Grandma VanZutphen’s Refrigerator Cookies, both as a recollection of wonderful family events, but also for my memories of helping her and my mother stir the dough and make the cookies.”

Grandma Van’s Refrigerator Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup lard (can substitute Crisco, but do not substitute butter for this)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
5 cups all-purpose flour

Melt the butter and lard together. Add soda to the melted mixture and add the remaining ingredients in the order given. Form dough into sticks, either round or rectangular. (I usually make rectangular blocks about 2 inches high by 2 ½ inches wide). Wrap and chill overnight. Slice 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and bake at 375 degrees F. until light brown. Time depends on how thick the cookies are.

Arlene Coco, restaurant owner, writer, and fellow “foodie” is of Southern heritage She says her mother would always make Jambalaya on Christmas Eve because it fed a crowd and she could keep it warm in the oven to serve when the family came home after Midnight mass.

Louisiana Jambalaya
Serves 12
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
2 cups onions, diced (1 large)
2 cups celery, chopped (2-3 stalks)
1 ½ cups green pepper, chopped (1 large)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced (3 large cloves)
2 pounds of Boneless Chicken Breast, diced
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes in juice
1 Tablespoon Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced thin
3 cups parboiled rice (Uncle Ben’s)
5 cups Chicken stock
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Tabasco to taste

In a large Dutch oven or straight edge saucepan with a lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, green peppers and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add chicken and cook slightly. Add diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce , Cajun seasoning and salt. Simmer 10 minutes more and add sausage and rice.
Stir until well mixed and add 5 cups of chicken stock. Stir again and heat to a boil. When boiling, turn heat to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes.. Add green onions and parsley. Season to taste with Tabasco.

Lise Lunge Larson, was born and raised in southern Norway, and brings her tradition of food and story telling to Duluth. For many Norwegians, Ribbe, Pork Rib Roast with red sweet cabbage (surkal), mashed potatoes, gravy and green peas is the traditional Christmas meal. Its status is a little like that of the Thanksgiving turkey for Americans. In other words, it’s just not Christmas without it. The fact that the roast should be seasoned and refrigerated for 1 to 3 days makes it very handy for the cook to get a large part of the meal preparation done ahead. And, the cabbage is best made a day ahead of time, too.

Norwegian Pork Rib Roast, “Ribbe”
Serves 6

One 4 pound pork rib roast with the rind and fat. The bones need to be cut every 2-3 inches by the butcher.
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
½ -1 cup water

If you managed to get the pork rib with the rind, place it fat side up and with a very sharp knife, cut through the rind and fat in a crosshatch pattern with 1 inch diamond shaped squares. Rub the meat all over with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 or 3 days.
Preheat oven to 400degrees F. Place the meat fat side up in a roasting pan. Bring the water to boil and pour over the meat. Cover with aluminum foil and place the roasting pan in the middle of the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the roast from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, remove foil, and place the roast on a wire rack inside the roasting pan. Return to oven, this time in the lower third.
Roast for about 1 hour, basting if needed to keep it moist. It’s a little difficult to say exactly when the ribbe is done as it will depend on how thick the piece is. Use a thermometer to check for internal temperatures.
If you managed to get the ribbe with the fat and rind, move it to the middle of the oven when it is done and turn up the heat to 400-425 and roast for about 20 more minutes, checking it frequently. You want to turn the crackling crisp without burning the roast. When the rind is brown and the squares have started to separate, it’s ready.
Cut the meat into 2-rib sections and serve with mashed potatoes, gravy made from the drippings, green peas and a sweet and sour red cabbage (surkal) dish for a colorful and festive meal.


1 head of red cabbage
2 apples
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. caraway
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or more to taste
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
2 tablespoons maple syrup or more to taste.

Finely slice cabbage into thin, long strips. Slice apples into sections and layer the cabbage and the apples in a heavy bottomed pot with the caraway, salt, and maple syrup. Pour the water and the vinegar over and bring to a boil. Stir to mix and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for at least one hour, till cabbage is completely tender. Add currant jelly and adjust the sweet and sour ratio to taste.
This dish is actually best when made one day ahead of time and is the perfect accompaniment to ribbe.

The talk at the Continental hair solon often centers on food, and when I mentioned this gathering of recipes for this story, Chuck immediately offered Bill’s recipe for Cranberry Pudding. This favorite of theirs was first served to them at a friend’s home, who shared it with Bill who makes it every holiday season without fail. The recipe, he thought came from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. Bill, however, always makes this steamed pudding in a metal loaf pan rather than a tube-type pan that is commonly used.

Steamed Cranberry Pudding
Serves 10 to 12
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
1/2 cup light or dark molasses
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly grease a 2-quart metal pan. Pick over the cranberries, wash and drain.
Sift together the flour and salt; dredge cranberries in the flour mixture. Dissolve soda in the boiling water and add the molasses. Stir and allow to foam up.
Add molasses mixture to the flour and cranberry mixture. Mix until well blended. Spoon into the prepared pan and cover with a double layer of foil. Fasten with a heavy elastic band or string.
Place into a deep saucepan and fill with water up to about half the way up the side of the pudding pan. Cover and place over high heat. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Remove from water and allow to cool. When ready to serve, invert onto a serving plate. Cut into 1/2 inch slices.
To make the sauce, mix together the sugar, butter and cream. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add vanilla and pour over individual slices of the pudding.

I think my brothers and sisters would agree that Mom’s Raspberry Sauce is our number one Christmas food memory.
Back when our parents lived on Rose road, they had a huge raspberry patch. Every summer they froze ice cream buckets full of these beautiful, juicy, berries. Mom would use them to make Raspberry Sauce for Christmas Eve dessert.
On Christmas Eve we packed into their little house – there must have been a hundred of us, or so it seemed. The buffet was potluck and varied in offerings from hamburger casseroles to wild rice salads, fruit salads, a variety of Christmas breads and cookies.
What we all looked forward to, though, was the Raspberry Sauce Mom made from her frozen berries, and served out of a huge punch bowl. The sauce was a clear red pudding, which she usually thickened with tapioca. Cornstarch would have made it cloudy. We spooned the sauce into clear glass cups or clear plastic glasses and plopped a dollop of whipped cream on top. Even the babies loved this dessert!
Today, without the advantage of having buckets of home-grown raspberries, I make the sauce using raspberries from the supermarket and cranberry raspberry juice.

Mom’s Raspberry Sauce
Makes about 16 servings
2 quarts frozen unsweetened raspberries
2 quarts raspberry cranberry juice
1 cup minute tapiocas
Sugar to taste
Sweetened whipped cream for serving
In a large 6 to 8 quart pot, combine the berries, juice and tapioca. Let stand for at least 15 minutes. Then, place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring at first occasionally, but when the sauce comes to a boil, stir vigorously until it is smooth and thickened. Taste and add sugar.
Cover and set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken even more when it is cold.
Serve with sweetened whipped cream for dessert.

Mini Indulgences

Often when we eat out, we share a dessert (one dessert, 4 forks). So I thought, this being the season for indulgent desserts it would be fun to work out some favorites out in mini versions. Desserts like crème brulee, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate mousse and truffles. Upscale restaurants and fancy day spas serve them in miniature 2 to 3-ounce sizes (or in the amount that a shot glass will hold).
The trick to making these at home is to be creative in finding little-enough dishes. Mini pies are simple – you can use miniature muffin cups. Chocolate mousse is easily served in one-ounce shot glasses (but you need to find spoons small enough to dig into them). Mini crème brulee posed a bit of a problem until I hit upon the idea of using porcelain or metal butter cups, although votive light holders might also be a choice. You just need to be sure that whatever you use can withstand the heat of the oven and the heat of a blowtorch.

Chocolate Espresso Mousse
For mini mousses, shot glasses work well here whether glass or ceramic. Chocolate covered coffee beans are sold in coffee shops (like Starbucks), or in the coffee section of the supermarket. Remember to locate demitasse or similar little spoons for serving.
Makes 12 mini (1-ounce) desserts
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
12 chocolate covered coffee beans
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cream and ground espresso. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes or until cream is hot. Strain cream into another microwave-safe container to remove any little bits of ground coffee and add the chocolate sugar and instant coffee granules. Pour into 12 shot glasses. Chill for 3 hours or until firm. Top each with a chocolate covered coffee bean.

Mini Pecan Pies
Bake these pies in miniature muffin tins.
Makes 24
4 ounces (1/2 of an 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
3/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans, chopped to 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
In the food processor with the steel blade in place, combine cream cheese and butter. Process until blended. Add the flour and process until flour is worked into the mixture. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Place one piece of dough into each of 24 miniature muffin pan cups. Press dough onto bottom and up the sides of the edges to form shells.
In a small bowl, mix the egg, brown sugar, vanilla and pecans. Spoon mixture into the muffin cups, dividing the mixture evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes, run knife around the edges of each to remove from pans. Put chocolate chips into a heavy-duty plastic bag. Set sealed bag into hot water to melt the chocolate. Snip a very small hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle over the pies.

Mini Crème Brulee
Very easy to put together. My first batch I cooked in tiny demitasse cups, filling them by half. Then, after calling around I found 2-ounce little metal cups from a restaurant supply that cost only 49 cents each and they worked well, too. This is an easy recipe to put together. I used a dozen of them for one batch. A regular blow torch is handy for melting the sugar on top.
Makes 12 1-1/2 to 2-ounce desserts
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, preferably super fine or baker’s sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
about 1/2 cup light brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Whisk the cream and egg yolks together until perfectly blended. Put through a fine strainer to remove little lumps from the egg yolks. Mix in the sugar and vanilla. Pour into 12 two-ounce cups and place in a large baking pan. Pour about 1 inch of boiling water into the baking pan. Bake for 35 to 55 minutes, then check for doneness by inserting a knife into the center of one and if it comes out clean, they’re done. Be careful not to overcook or, like a custard, the crèmes will separate.
Remove from the baking pan and set on a counter to cool. Chill at least 3 hours before serving.
Before serving, spread a thin layer of brown sugar on top of each to cover completely.
Now, with a blow torch, melt the layer of brown sugar. The point is that you need to caramelize the sugar that will melt and then harden. Theoretically, you can do this under the broiler, but I have more luck with a blow torch.

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
8 ounces milk chocolate, or 1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Put chocolate into a large glass bowl and microwave on HIGH 30 seconds at a time until chocolate is almost completely melted. Stir in peanut butter and cool to room temperature. Whip cream until stiff and fold into the mixture. Refrigerate until firm.
Scoop chilled mixture into 1-inch balls. Mix powdered sugar and cocoa powder and roll the truffles in the mixture. Place into miniature bon bon cups and refrigerate to store.
Makes 3 dozen.