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.


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