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M A R C H

It’s March!  This month, I’m excited for more daylight.  I’ve also been reminiscing about my trip to Scandinavia, which was exactly one year ago.  Here are some of my favorite things this month:

T H E   E D I T

Right now, everything I’m buying is to make life easier and add pops of color.  As always, I’m trying to find new ways to stay organized and keep things simple.  I want to pick up this bronzer from Milk because I don’t need a brush to apply it.  I’m hoping this AirPod case will make them easier to find in my backpack.  

As a devoted Ikea patron, I can’t believe it took me so long to get a Poäng chair.  I didn’t think it would be as comfortable as it is, but I’m basically falling asleep in it right now.  The cantilevered chair has been in production for over 40 years, and now I see why.  I also love this set of drawers I am using to organize my art supplies. 

Terracotta has been catching my eye lately, like this Baggu tote, which can fold up and be easily packed.  This Margaret Howell scarf is also a good touch of color.  I want a pair of these blue light filtering glasses.  I realize I spend a lot of time looking at screens and should probably try and do something to keep my eyes safer. 

AirPods Case, Scarf, Baggu Tote, Nail Polish, Bronzer, The Nordic Baking Book,  Blue Light Glasses, Poäng Chair, Drawer Unit

B O O K   C L U B 

The Nordic Baking Book - Magnus Nilsson researched, wrote, and photographed this tome of Nordic baking tradition, tracing breads to their local grains and traditions.  The massive book covers everything from pastries served with coffee to regional breads.  One detail I found interesting is that in Sweden it’s considered polite to have at least seven different types of cookies to offer guests.  There are 450 recipes in the book, but the gorgeous photography alone makes it worth flipping through.  

 

Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives - Jane Brox writes about silence as a tool of liberation and oppression, of how it serves as a way to reflect but also to torture.  She contrasts the experiences of silence in monasteries with the experience of silence in prisons.  I’m really interested in society and justice, and I’m curious to hear about this piece of that equation. 

 

F I E L D   T R I P

Bread in Pittsburgh

We’ve been making a point to spend our Saturdays trying out local bakeries.  I feel so lucky to live close to so many great places.  Rob says, "you can can tell the quality of a neighborhood by the quantity of its local bakeries." Here are the favorites so far: 

  1. Five-Points Artisan Bakeshop (Point Breeze) -  What I love about Five-Points is how friendly-neighborhood it feels.  Most people walk up and and are greeted by name.  The multigrain sourdough has a wonderfully moist crumb.  The bakery’s focus on quality shows in the product.  
  2. La Gourmandine (Lawrenceville & Hazelwood) - Run by a French couple, La Gourmandie is très authentique.  They sell the best baguette in the city by far, with a crust that is crunchy but not break-your-teeth crunchy. The pain au chocolat (actually all the pastries) are absolutely perfect.  
  3. Allegro Hearth (Squirrel Hill) - Allegro offers inspired flavored breads (blueberry corn! Walnut raisin!) and tons of vegan options.  They also sell pies, quick breads, and desserts.  I was delighted by their selection of cheese.  We picked up the Levain and a bag of challah rolls that were perfectly soft and buttery. 

In The Kitchen

Cardamom Swirl Bread 

*Adapted from a recipe in Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahnemann 

My favorite thing from my trip to Sweden last year was the incredible tradition of Fika.  Fika is like a coffee break but is focused on slowing down rather than speeding up.  It’s about taking a moment to enjoy the company of a friend, a cup of coffee, and (most importantly) a sweet treat.  My favorite pastry was the kardemummabullar (in English, cardamom bun). Unlike a traditional cinnamon roll, which is rolled and sliced and looks like a snail’s shell, the cardamom buns are cut in strips and wrapped into something resembling a ball of yarn.  This formation disperses the cardamom filling generously throughout the bun.  

My aim in creating this cardamom bread was to make something like the cardamom bun, but in a loaf, so it could be easily served in slices.  It also seemed easier than forming all those yarn balls.  

This recipe can be made as a cinnamon bread instead of cardamom: just sub out the cardamom for cinnamon in the dough, filling, and topping, swap the granulated sugar for light brown sugar in the filling, and omit the orange zest.  


Ingredients

Dough 

2 1/4 tsp. Active dry yeast (should be one packet, but measure it just in case) 
1 c. Milk, warmed (about 110 degrees) 
1 Egg
425 g. All-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups) 
50 g. Sugar (1/4 cup)
1 tsp. Cardamom
1/4 tsp. Salt 
75 g. Softened butter, cut into pieces 

Filling 
100 g. Butter, softened (7 tbl.)
75 g. Sugar (1/3 c.) 
2 tsp. Cardamom 
1 tbl. Orange zest 

Topping
2 tbl sugar 
1 tsp. Cardamom 

Method


Add the warmed milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add the yeast and whisk just to break up the yeast a little.  Let the mixture stand for about five minutes until the yeast starts to activate (it will look a little foamy).  Add the egg and whisk to incorporate.  Switch the whisk attachment for the dough hook.  Add the flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt and mix on medium until the dough starts to form. Add the butter a few pieces at a time and turn the mixer up to high.  Let the mixer knead the dough for about 8 minutes.  The dough will be smooth and all pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Scrape the dough off the hook, cover the bowl, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours to rise.  

Make the filling by mixing butter, sugar, cardamom, and zest in a bowl until the mixture is the consistency of cake frosting.  It should be soft and easily spreadable.  Leave it at room temperature.  

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 9 x 16.  Spread the filling on the dough in an even layer.  Fold it in fourths -- think of folding a letter, but with one more fold. It should be about the size of the loaf pan.   The dough is really soft and stretchy, so work quickly to avoid stretching it out too much.  Cut the folded dough into thirds length-wise.  Braid the strips, tuck the ends under, and plop it into a pan. 


Sprinkle the dough with with the cardamom-sugar mix.  Bake at 350° F for 45-55 minutes.  Test with an instant-read thermometer; the internal temperature should be around 200° F.  Let it cool before turning it out of the pan.


 

Helpful Tools: 

Bench Scraper, Loaf Pan, Instant Read Thermometer, Scale 


 

Copyright © 2019 Inge Moran, All rights reserved.


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