Suomalainen Summer

Hyvää päivää! Today we’re wearing and eating Finland.

Finland bowl

Ok not literally. But isn’t this bowl great? It’s by Sagaform and I got mine at Finnport.

I have Finnish ancestry on my mother’s side and my boyfriend is straight up half Finn. Where we’re from, there’s a lot of Finnish influence, but in Toronto you have to really look for little pockets here and there. We joined the Finnish Cafe last fall and spent a few hours every second week learning the language and eating Finnish specialties like pulla (coffee bread), suola kala (gravlax), and korvapuusti (cinnamon buns) which I made today.

Before we get into the food and clothes though, do you want to know a bit about Finland? I have these decorative plates in my kitchen depicting the exploits of Väinämöinen, the central hero in Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala.

From what I gather, Väinämöinen and the early Finns were proud equestrians and skilled archers.

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There was a lot of wooing back then. And proposals. But mainly wooing.

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Also, you know, watching people drown. That old chestnut.

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Maybe I’d better just get to the food and clothes.

Banana Republic x Marimekko

Earlier this summer, Banana Republic and Marimekko (an iconic Finnish textile design company) partnered for a capsule collection. It was a massive success, evidenced by the fact that by the time I made it up to the Bloor street BR store – only one day after release – they’d sold out of the skirt I wanted. It was a voluminous tea length skirt in Marimekko’s Pienet Kivet print and I’m still pining over it. I called every BR store in Toronto but there were no stock replenishments so I had to settle with trousers in the same print. In the end, I adore the trousers.

This is a bold pant which demands a good heel that can stand up to the print and the cropped length. I’ve kept the look monochromatic here, pairing the trousers with a black pointed-toe heel and a simple boat neck tee. Sharp little details – leather sleeves on the tee, the snakeskin print and gold hardware on the bag – ensure the polka dots feel sophisticated.

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Trousers – Banana Republic x Marimekko

T-shirt – Banana Republic

Bag – Aldo

Heels – Aldo

Korvapuusti (Finnish Cardamon Cinnamon Buns)

Today I busted out Betty (what, your KitchenAid mixer doesn’t have a name?) and put her to work on a classic Finnish recipe of Korvapuusti, which is Finnish for ‘Slapped Ears’.

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Just as I was prepping the yeast for the dough, my boyfriend Kevin and his friends returned from their guys brunch (yes, that’s a thing) and tried to take over my kitchen. To ensure the only ears getting slapped were of the pastry variety, I hustled them out to the balcony with their own yeast, although theirs was a good deal more fermented.

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Two things make Korvapuusti stand out from your run-of-the-mill cinnamon bun. Firstly, a hefty amount of ground cardamom is incorporated right into the dough. If it seems an odd spice choice to you, do not be dissuaded – it’s really delicious and adds a level of complexity to the sweetness of the bun, something that people will like but won’t be able to put their finger on.

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The recipe didn’t call for it, but I added some extra cardamom into the filling for good measure. It also has a good dose of cinnamon.

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The other thing is the shape – instead of boring old perfectly cylindrical rolls, you cut these at 45 degree angles so that you can see the swirl on both sides. This is why they’re called slapped ears!

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This dough is leavened with yeast, so it takes some time prep as it has to rise twice over a few hours.

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You make the time up in the oven however, as they only take 15 minutes to bake. Watch them though – they cook in a hot oven and they can go from golden to burnt in a matter of minutes!

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Drooling yet?

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Now I’m just showing off.

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I won’t pretend that I came up with the recipe for these  – I used a great one from another Finlander and you can find it here. My only advice is to not be shy with the cardamom. Also, they don’t keep for too long and will start to dry out – if that’s an issue, try slicing and toasting them, re-heating them in the oven or even dipping them in french toast batter and frying them. Delicious!

Next week I’ll aim to do some savory dishes and show you guys that I’m not just a one-trick pony! If you like this blog post be sure to follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/FrockAndFig for more updates throughout the week!

x Dana

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Escape to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Last weekend I escaped the city on a long-awaited, much-anticipated and desperately needed girls weekend in wine country. Two of my best girlfriends from my hometown flew down to Toronto and we set off for two nights in Niagara-on-the-Lake while our guys had bachelor weekends (read: stayed home and played video games).

We stayed at the Burke House Inn, a sunny yellow bed & breakfast built in 1826. I would absolutely recommend it for a girls getaway – most B&B’s are set up for couples and we initially had a hard time finding a good deal for three people. We stayed in the ‘Mr. Hughes’ suite which had two rooms with one queen and two twin beds. We were just off of the main street and had our own private entrance and patio – so the midnight stroll back from the Irish pub was short and didn’t disturb our fellow guests.

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We rented bicycles from Zoom Leisure on the Saturday and headed out into the countryside for some wine tasting. A few of our faves:

Pondview Estate’s  Harmony White – An easy-drinking blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. There’s a bottle in my fridge right now but not for long!

Frogpond Farm’s Organic Grape Juice – Made with organic Vidal grapes, a very grown-up grape juice that hits the tongue like honey but doesn’t have a lingering sweetness.

Lailey Vinyard’s 2012 Vidal Select Late Harvest – Picked after the 15 of November but not while frozen, so it’s sweet but not as cloying as an ice wine.

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Apart from the wine tours, we enjoyed juicy roadside Niagara peaches, a beautiful bike ride up the Niagara parkway, a creepy ghost tour and way more ice cream than we needed.

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We had a few great meals (and one not-so-great meal), but by far the most delicious was the custom cheese plate we had made at Cheese Secrets. On the recommendation of our innkeeper, and after a long morning of bicycling and wine tasting (so arduous!), we visited these extraordinary cheesemongers. We told them what we liked and how much we wanted to spend, and they set to work creating a custom plate with generous slices of Niagara Gold, Sauvagine and Bleu Ermite cheeses along with charcuterie, dried fruit and nuts. To complete the meal we grabbed a freshly baked baguette (still hot!), a box of crackers and a bottle of Inniskillin’s Niagara Estate Series Late Harvest Riesling. The only downside was that we had to be extra careful walking back to the inn – strangers on the street kept trying to steal the tray and inviting themselves back to our place!

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Cheeseplate

For such a small town, Niagara-on-the-Lake punches above it’s weight in a lot of areas – wine, fruit, houses, history, and not least of all, frozen desserts. You could get a cone at every second door on the main street, including an outpost of PEI’s Cow’s Creamery, but the best was Il Gelato Di Carlotta – Lateria. I’m still dreaming about their pistachio gelato, which is from Milan and made with nuts from Sicily. We didn’t try any of their gorgeous handcrafted biscotti ice cream sandwiches but they’re on my list for my next visit.

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We left in the Sunday morning sunshine with slight headaches from doing ‘Sociables’ (raising glasses of Glenmorangie and Guiness to Irish music) the night prior. Luckily we were equipped with caffeine from Balzac’s for the ride home. I tried their Parisian Mist, a blend of French Breakfast tea with steamed milk and vanilla – sort of an elevated London Fog.

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That’s it! Next week’s post will have more frocks, promise.

x Dana

The first frock & fig

For the Frock & Fig’s inaugural post, I’m going literal with a proper tea dress and a black mission fig and peach crostata. Don’t worry though, this blog won’t be all flounces and  Ficus carica – I’ve been known to don a pair of trousers and cook a steak too.

The Frock

I celebrated a friend’s birthday last weekend with dinner at Grano up near Davisville. It was a gorgeous evening and we had the private dining courtyard in the back to ourselves, where we ate alfresco in the warm summer air. I’d planned to wear a new bright blue form fitting Zara dress but the weather was so warm I changed my mind at the last minute and went with this breezy little number. This sundress is so comfortable and versatile – I’ve worn it to a wedding and even to work smartened up with a cardigan and belt. The only real accessory it needs is a tan though, so I kept it simple here with fine gold jewelry and flat sandals.

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Dress – Modcloth

Bag – Aldo

Sunnies – Dolce & Gabbana

Black Mission Fig & Peach and Pluot Crostatas

My boss and I had a lunch meeting at Balzac’s this week and we walked back to the office through the St. Lawrence Market. She bought some black mission figs and sent me home with a half dozen. I’ve been dreaming about Forno Cultura’s beautiful crostatas which are baked in a long fluted rectangular pan, so you can slice off a tidy little tranche at a time. I’d recently picked up such a pan from Williams Sonoma and decided to try it out using the figs as well as some Ontario peaches and pluots which are at the height of their season.

I started out by mixing the pie crust and chilling the dough – you can use any recipe, I like Crisco‘s as it’s straightforward (and on the box!). I put my mixing bowl, wire whip mixing attachment and granite rolling pin in the freezer before starting – this will help make your pastry flaky. Then I went to work thinly slicing the peaches and figs.

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Next I mixed up a half cup of sugar, one tbsp cornstarch, one tsp cardamom, one tsp lemon juice, and the zest of half a lemon. I added this to the peaches (not the figs – they’re too fragile) and let them macerate about 15 mins while I prepared the crust.

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I rolled out the dough, slipped it into the pan and layered in the peaches and figs. I made a fancy top crust using pie crust cutters from Williams Sonoma – see similar ones here – and glazed it with egg yolk and sugar.

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40 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F and I had a beautiful golden crostata.

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I had some extra dough and peaches so I threw together a rustic version as well.

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I also made one with pluots, omitting the cardamom but adding some fresh thyme.

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Enjoy!

x Dana