Laskiainen, Shrovetide, is a mid winter sliding festival in Finland, but it marked originally the beginning of the 40-day long Easter fast, practiced among the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians. Fasting was both spiritual and physical purification and meditation, while meat, milk, eggs, cheese, butter and other dairy products were forbidden to eat. Shrovetide was the last change to enjoy those no-no- foods, therefore it was also one of the most delicious feasts. It was also in its own way Carnival,change to have fun!
Sauna is related in all the Finnish events, Shrovetide makes no exception. In olden days it was not advisable to talk much in the Shrovetide- sauna, or flies and mosquitos would bother you in the summer to come. Also, if men were the first ones to take a sauna, that would predict bull-calfs, but if women were faster, the cows of the household would give birth to cow-calfs. If a family took a Shrovetide-sauna early in the evening, it was guaranteed that they’d never be late from work or in a hurry for the whole year.
Sliding down the snow covered hills has been fun for the whole family, already in olden days. Good luck and a good harvest was most likely to follow you if you shouted at the top of your lungs while tobogganing “long flax, fine hemps and turnips of the size of a plate!” In the old agrarian days a whole village would attend tobogganing event, it was believed that the further your sled would slide, the taller the flax and the bigger the turnips would grow that year. This year in Austria we are not doing any sliding because all the snow on s gone already!
Nowadays Shrovetide is more of a secular festival season, a time to spend a day outdoors with friends and family and, of course, to enjoy special Shrovetide-dishes. Sliding day is celebrated 7 weeks before Easter, usually in February, when the spring sun shows up for the first time after too many dark winter months. Finns welcome the spring joyfully, with a wide smile on their faces. On Shrove Tuesday, kindergarten- and school- children are taken to spend the day slidinng, ice skating or downhill skiing. Cities and many organizations arrange outdoor winter carnivals. It a great fun, when adults became kids again in the sliding hill. The treat, laskiaispulla, Shrovetide bun or brioche, crowns the day in the most delicious fashion.
Shrovetide bun or brioche is filled with whipped cream, strawberry jam or almond paste which is bit similar to marsipan. Heated discussions which oneis the right and the best,take place among the family members. Here is my recipe for this wonderful baked goodie!
This is what you will need:
- 5 dl milk
- 2 dl sugar
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 50 g yeast
- about 1 kg Spelt flour,fine
- 200 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- Warm up the milk to 42 °C (to activate the dry yeast), mix sugar, salt and cardamom.
- Lightly beat the egg and divide it in two portions (save the other to wash the buns before baking). Add one portion to the milk mixture, beating carefully.
- Mix the dry yeast to part of the flour (about 1-2 dl ) and start pouring to the liquids, whisking to incorporate.
- Add slowly the remaining flour (more or less, depending on the dough consistency. Too much flour and the buns will be hard). At last, add the melted butter.
- Knead until dough is uniform, smooth and soft.
- Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp teacloth. Leave in a warm spot for about 40 minutes until the dough has doubled its size.
- When raised enough, remove the dough from the bowl, knead it on a flour-dusted surface, “punching it down” (removes the gas formed during the fermentation). Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces.
- Roll the pieces to form balls and place them on baking sheets (I use parchment paper). Let the little buns rise again covered in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 225 °C ( I bake in 220°C)
- Brush the buns with egg and sprinkle sugar flakes on top or sliced almonds (optional).
- Bake in center of oven for 10-15 minutes (till golden brown), remove and let cool on a rack.
To assemble the Laskiaispulla:
Cut the tops of the buns (a “lid”) and using a spoon scoop a bit from inside the bun. Fill the cavity with a spoonful of jam, the crumbs and top with the whipped cream. Close with the “lid”. Dust with icing sugar if desired.