Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent: Christmas Candies

I haven't fully understood why but Christmas means a lot of baking and a candies production. I suppose that the truth is that they don't have panettone and they have to compensate somehow. The candies I mean are often cacao based but, although they could easily be eaten during the rest of the year, they are mainly consumed during the Christmas holidays. Since people here do not have enough to do, they tend to prepare them by themselves involving also the kids. The candies includes toffee, chocolate, marzipan and even butterscotch.

Since I didn't have enough to do (obviously...), I decided to undertake such task, hoping Isabella would want to help (instead, she just ate the sugar) and experiment a bit.

Ginger Butterscotch


  • 100gr butter
  • 4 spoons of cacao
  • 2dl of double cream
  • 3 1/2 dl of sugar
  • 1dl light syrup
  • 2 spoons liquid glucose
  • 2 spoons finely grated ginger

Melt the butter in a pot with a thick bottom. The pot should have a quite large base.
Remove it from the heat and mix slowly the cacao, so that there are no lumps made.
Add the cream, sugar, syrup and the glucose. 

Cook the mix until it reaches the temperature of 120 degrees, or higher if one wants something crunchier. 
I have been trying to do this without a thermometer, but the first attempt was not a successful one. With the help of a thermometer, reaching the right temperature is much easier. It is also true that it might take a while before the mix reaches the right temperature: it seems that for hours nothing happens and then all of a sudden one risks to burn it!

Put some oven paper on a tray or a big pan and pour the batter on it. Let it cool over night or at least for four hours.
Break it in small pieces and enjoy it!

Puff toffee

  • 100gr butter
  • 1dl sugar
  • 1/2 dl syrup
  • 1 spoon cacao
  • 3 spoons flour
  • 3dl puffed rice

Mix all the ingredients but the rice in a pot.

Let it boil while mixing and then lower the temperature and let it cook it more for about 5 minutes. Mix it the whole time.

Add the puffed rice.

Put the batter on a pan where you have been previously putting some oven paper.

Let it cool over night and then divide it in small pieces.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent: the Christmas Tree

For the first time, we have our own Christmas tree! And if the one my family has been having has been always in plastic, this is even a real one. Not only: we went and chop it ourselves (or better, Mattias did, while I was taking care of a whiny Isabella, hating the cold and the snow) at Holmeja Sågverk.
Chopping the tree

Considering the weather conditions, the tree was completely full of snow when we brought it home. We had luckily some old shelf in the basement where we let it get dry before bringing it up and starting the decoration.
Just on Saturday, we had been to Vellingeblomman where we forestalled all the decorations we had in mind.
While Isabella was sleeping, since the tree was dried, we decided to start the work and tell her the morning after that Santa Claus had fixed the Christmas tree for us.
Just some decorations were left out so that she could help as well, and we finally managed to complete the work together today.

The Christmas Tree
Adding lights and few balls

Let's continue...


The complete tree (even with presents)
By night
Hazed pic

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lucia's cats

In this case, we are not talking of real cats, but of buns that are usually baked for Saint Lucia, which occurs the 13th of December.
For the Italians, it will be so strange to read that saffron is used for baking, but, incredibly enough, it actually does work.

Ingredients for 30 buns:

  • 50 gr yeast
  • 150 gr butter
  • 250 gr quark
  • 1 gr saffron
  • 2 dl sugar
  • 5 dl milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs (one for brushing the buns)
  • 1 1/2 dl raisins
  • 960 gr flour
The ingredients

Crumble the yeast in a bowl.
Melt the butter and in the meanwhile, pound the saffron with a little bit of sugar in a mortar. 
Saffron and sugar

Add the saffron to the butter.
Milk, butter and saffron are warming up

Add the milk and keep the temperature around 37 degrees.
Take a little of the mix and add it to the yeast and mix it together. 
Adding a bit of yeast to part of the mix
Then add the rest of the mix, the sugar (a bit at the time), the quark, the salt and the egg. Add also the raisins.
Starting to add all the ingredients together in the mix

Add almost all the flour (a bit at the time) and whisk everything. When the flour has been added, whisk the dough for 10 minutes (if by hand, otherwise 5 minutes).
Adding the flour

The mix is now a recognizable dough
Top the dough with a bit of flour, cover with a cloth and let it yeast for 35-40 minutes.
Take the dough on a workbench where you have been spreading some flour.
Add the remaining flour and make sure that the dough is quite soft.
It is now time to work the dough with the remaining flour
Prepare an oven plate with oven paper and beat the egg.
Start to take small pieces of the dough, roll it and give it the "S" shape. Put 2 raisins in the bun, after laying them on the plate.
Ready to be cooked in the oven!

Turn on the oven to 225 degrees and let the buns yeast for another 35-40 minutes and when done, brush them with the egg.

Bake them for 8-10 minutes. Let them cool down covered by a cloth.
Enjoy with some glögg :-)

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nativity Scene

Clearly, this year we are putting a lot of efforts on the Christmas preparations. Afterall, this is the first Christmas we are spending in our own home and we want to make it very special!
Some things need to come from the Italian tradition. It can't just be a "Swedish" Christmas!

Something that I have been missing for many years (here, that is) is a Nativity Scene. Also because it has been very hard to find it. Shops sell all sort of Christmas decorations, but nothing that resembles any mystical aspect of Christmas. It is not surprising considering that here it is almost more important to celebrate watching a specific cartoon of Donald Duck on Christmas Eve, although one should of course remember that the root of this festivity is pagan.

Enough with blabbing!
Today we went to Vellinge Blomman and walk on the Tomtestigen covering the 5000m2 of whatever one wants to wish for Christmas, including...a Nativity Scene! First, one with standard dimensions and 3 real donkeys and a sheep (where did the cow go?) and then the leftovers of a nice collections of items for making your own Nativity Scene.

Lambs and kings
Warming up some food
Maria and Joseph waiting for baby Jesus

The nativity scene
Will this survive Godzilla?

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Uhm, what is this for?

Photo #1

Photo #2
I bet only the Swedes can recognize what is this for...let's not spoil it yet!

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent: put together an adventljusstake

Traditionally, in my family, we have been starting to put up the Christmas decorations the 8th of December. The 8th of December is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Maria and hence celebrated in the Catholic Church: in Italy, this results in a day of vacation.
Such tradition doesn't exist in the Protestant world and in Sweden, everything starts with the first Sunday of Advent, which was today, this year (of course, this would not be valid for the Ambrosian Catholic as I am, since we have six weeks of advent ;-)).
In particular, today is so important for the Swedes, that most of them remember that they can go to church and then they spend the rest of the day drinking glögg (warm spiced wine) and eating typical Christmas buns/cookies/etc (and then, they continue until Chrismas!).
The First of Advent is also the designated day to get out the adventljusstake (in this case a candlestick with four candles) and lit the first candle.

We have never had such thing. But, this year we decided to have one and we made one that required some small amount of handcrafting.
The "ingredients"
We bought a little tray, a red white dotted ribbon, four numbers carved in a metal blade, pine cones (yes, we are too lazy to go and take them in the woods) and some moss.
A first step forward
Very quickly, I dressed the candles with the numbers, placed them in the tray and surrounded them with the moss.
Painting pine cones
In the meanwhile, we took some white color and paint the pine cones to get a more "winter time" look.
Playing with the gluegun
While they were drying, we decorated the tray with the ribbon. This was a bit hard, because it actually required to people to work together. One using the glue gun, the other one holding the ribbon all around the tray.
With the ribbon!
Once the pine cones were dried, I placed them and obtained what we had in mind (and copied from some "inspirational shop").
The final result
Afterall, it was not that complicated at all and the effect is quite beautiful :-) 
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Sunday, November 17, 2013


In our garden there are many birds flying around. Some are cuter than others. We definitely do not appreciate the pigeons (they leave "memories" everywhere and they often collide with the windows o.O), but the Great Tit (Parus Major!!!!!) is very beautiful to see, especially when the small birds take the first "flying steps" out of their nest in the oldest apple tree we have.

Hoping that the cats will let some birds be in peace, we have taken two birdhouses that we got as present and finally hang them somewhere "safe" (in our eyes and hopes).

A traditional birdhouse
The first birdhouse is handmade and made by Pico and Romeo "second parents", who take care of them when we are often away. It has a classical shape and it is very robust. In fact, it survived without problems the big storm that happened few weeks back.

Birdhouse from Åhlens
A more detailed picture
This is more of an experiment since it looks more decorative than real one, however, it has the cleaning door and other details that makes one think it is actually to be used.
We have put it in a very protected place, under the roof of the tool shed and we are crossing our finger, it will survive and some smaller bird will like it.

According to different sources, it seems that the best time of the year to put them on is autumn/november, so that they can get a nice "patina" and get properly aired out.
Let's see if during the spring we will get some tenants!
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