My indomitable and beloved members of TFD Nation – I HAVE RETURNED! After just arriving home from an intensive two week trip to My beloved Nordics (preceded by several miserable weeks with My first case of Covid HELL) it has been a less than ideal time for the Generalissimo to keep up with posting. Due to the continued presence of My long Covid symptoms (aka brain fog), and the fact there is virtually no attributable history for today’s recipe of joulutorttu – this will be a short post.
Whilst making My way throughout the Northernmost parts of the world (on missions both secret and profound), I had the opportunity to witness the start of the Holiday season in Helsinki. There, these delightful star-shaped cookies / pastries had once again made their cyclic and anticipated return to the bakeries of the land (and even more quickly into the stomachs of the hungry)! I speak of the Finnish pastry delicacy known as joulutorttu (you-loo-torToo) – a cherished favorite of Finns of every age and status!
A joulutorttu (Finnish lit. “Yule tart”, Swedish: jultårta; sometimes known as tähtitorttu “star tart”) is an acclaimed Finnish Christmas pastry enjoyed throughout the country in the waning light leading up to the Winter Solstice. It is traditionally made from puff pastry in the shape of a star or pinwheel and filled with prune jam and often dusted with icing sugar. Other versions of the pastry use more of a classic pastry dough as opposed to puff pastry – I have opted for this version in My recipe.
The pastries can be in other shapes and apple or other fruit-based fillings can be used in place of the prune jam – an alternative I have heartily endorsed in My upmarket version of this classic delicacy involving a mixture of berries and a lick of alcohol to further differentiate this recipe as one best enjoyed by adults. Joulutorttus are mostly made in Finland, but are also eaten in Sweden (predominately in the Northern part of the country).
This is both a very Finnish and a very old pastry, although no one actually truly knows the true origins of joulutorttu – but everyone eats them during Christmas time in Finland. The first mentions of joulutorttu dates back to the 18th century and they mysteriously appeared via culinary osmosis throughout the country thereafter, as is the fate of so many easy and delicious recipes like this one.
Traditionally you eat these with coffee after every meal during the Christmas season – in 2020, a company that sells premade dough for these Yuletide treats estimated that the average Finn eats about 18 pieces of joulutorttu each year (a statistic I heartily approve of, btw!) – and that is JUST for the ones that aren’t homemade! The true number is probably double or even triple that!
There are two – and only two – approved ways to eat joulutorttu:
First option – eat them right away, when they are hot. Here, you take a big bite and promptly burn your mouth and lips with 9th Circle of Hell-level boiling hot plum marmalade – which sticks to your entire gullet like Finnish napalm. Proceed to try to cool your mouth with your extra-hot coffee and burn even more.
Or, you can wait for the pastries to cool down and then proceed to eat one “ear” at a time and leave the center part for the last. I – sanely – prefer the latter method, though a Finn with true sisu would dare to go for the former!
The classic dough for joulutorttu always involves some form of dairy product to add richness to the cookie – I choose to use quark cheese (found in many supermarkets these days and the correct ingredient for this recipe) or you can use whole milk ricotta cheese. I have also deviated slightly from the classic dough recipe by adding a healthy jolt of freshly-ground cardamom seeds to the dough – this is a classic Nordic flavor but is not normally found in these pastries – omit if you so prefer. I don’t.
The filling is where my true heterodoxy manifests – with no disrespect to the classic prune filling, I am simply not a huge fan of it. I instead made a respectful nod to My favorite cookies of yore, the jam thumbprint – and came up with a mix of raspberry jam and lingonberry jam filling with a splash of vanilla extract and a small amount of Chambord raspberry liqueur. While not traditional in the least – the filling IS delicious and has passed muster with several of My Finnish friends in recipe testing!
My Citizens, as I struggle through these long Covid symptoms I ask for both your understanding and largesse as I make My way back to full and complete health! I would recommend enjoying these after a hearty meal of Finnish meatballs with cut cognac sauce and perhaps alongside a delicious Runeberg’s Torte (and of course, a coffee!)
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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