Some people I know are naturally drawn to the cultures of the far East, others to the countries of South America. I gravitate towards Scandinavia, in particular Finland, and the reason is fairly ridiculous.
It started in March 2006. A few weeks before, I had moved to Charlotte from Tampa, started a graduate school program, started a new job, and knew one person in the city. One Friday night, I was living it up by sitting in my apartment, doing Economics homework in front of the television. A Conan O’Brien episode where he visited Finland came on, and I laughed repeatedly. So, that’s when I decided to like Finland. Whenever I associate laughter (or donuts) with something, I am forever a fan. At times, I am a simpleton.
February 5th marks the birthday of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. As such, I tried my hand at Runeberg Tarts. Legend (i.e. internet research) has it Runeberg’s wife, Fredrika, baked these little lovelies for him to enjoy at breakfast.
My attempt at Runeberg Tarts resulted in something much less lovely. In hindsight, I suppose they weren’t really all that terrible, but I got caught up in related failures that included spilling coffee-twice, dropping nearly every utensil I wanted to used on the floor, and trying to make sense of recipes that called for sugar measured in ml (I eventually realized the authors probably meant dl). I started to think my icing rings were too thick, but my hand was too shaky to make a nice, thin icing ring. It also didn’t help that I used a mini muffin tin rather than a cylindrical cake mold. Frustrated, I scrapped the originals and frosted them all. My Runeberg Tarts morphed into mini Runeberg Cakes.
An amateur baker at best, it really peeves when I read a blog where the author laments being self taught, then proceeds to post photos of gorgeous, intricate desserts. Becoming a great baker seems near impossible when I read about lovely dishes that came about with seemingly no effort because let me tell you, every ounce of this blog – the baking, the writing, the photography – is still a giant effort. It pains me to post desserts that didn’t turn out the way I envisioned; desserts like these that I consider fails. But I post them because sometimes I could really benefit from reading someone’s “hey, look how much I screwed up” post.
I certainly wanted to give up yesterday, but in the end, I decided I owed it to myself to keep going. I was fortunate enough to realize though I have not yet mastered nearly as much as I had hoped, and perhaps I never will, quitting is the only sure-fire way to ensure I don’t get to where I want to be.
Though these may not look like a traditional Runeberg Tarts, I assure you they taste delicious. I’ve even been asked by my taster to hide them! Though the base for all Runeberg Tarts recipes uses almond of some sort, there are a lot of ways to boost the flavor. I used ground ginger snaps rather than ground almonds in the batter, and I added almond extract as flavor to both the batter and sugar syrup. Other recipes call for additional spices, primarily cinnamon, cardamon, or cloves, and other flavorings, like rum or amaretto.
I used a pastry bag fitted with a tip 230 to fill the tarts with raspberry preserves before topping the muffins. For the large frosting ring seen in this post, I used a round tip 12, though round tips 5 and 3 would probably be better suited to the task. I used leftover frosting I had on hand, but most recipes I came across simply suggested mixing small amounts of water, confectioners’ sugar, and a dash of almond extract for flavor. Have fun experimenting!
- For the Tarts
- ¾ cup flour
- ¼ cup crushed ginger snaps
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 7 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ cup whole milk
- Raspberry Preserves
- White Icing
- For the Syrup
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Whisk together the flour, ginger snaps, and baking powder and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and the almond extract and mix until combined.
- Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until incorporated.
- Spray a mini-muffin tin with vegetable spray and fill muffin cups about ¾ full with the batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin/tart comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for five to 10 minutes, then use a toothpick to poke a few holes in each muffin/tart.
- While the muffins cool, boil ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and 1 teaspoon almond extract.
- Pour the syrup over each muffin/tart and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- If desired fill each muffin/tart with a small amount of raspberry preserves.
- Top each muffin/tart with raspberry preserves and held in place by a ring of white icing.