Yule Stars ‒ Joulutortut

Yule stars or Christmas tarts are one of those things every Finn gets fed up during December. I tried to search the origin of them, but it turned out surprisingly difficult. Some writers say they originated in England which is funny because I haven't heard these would be known outside Finland. I assume we're talking about some tarts resembling them but not exactly like them. The first written recipe we know is by a Swedish cook Cajsa Warg in her book Hjelpreda i hushållningen för unga fruentimber, printed in 1755, but for my knowledge, Swedes of today don't know them either. Anyway, judging from the ingredients alone, these are probably one of those things that became popular in the 19th century among noblemen and which regular folk just couldn't even dream to afford.

This year there was a small public outrage when the public broadcasting company of Sweden (the country which Finns have a very complicated love-hate relationship with) claimed them swastikas. Nothing wrong with Sun symbols during the biggest Sun festive of course, but unfortunately it was more like Nazi symbols. This of course assured their popularity among younger Finns with a bad sense of humour like me. In our this years solstice bring-dish party there was little else than Yule starts to eat.

At least that gave me a change to compare self-made tarts and those with store-bought dough. The store-bought ones win in flakiness and fluffiness but of course, lose miserably in taste category. Making the dough yourself does take a little work though, so it's understandable why modern Finns most often cut corners here. The key words to success are coldness and layers. My personal secret ingredient is booze which boils away in the oven, leaving things crunchier than plain old water. It's not essential but if you don't want the extra taste, you can use good quality, odorless vodka.

- 1 l wheat flour
- 500 g margarine
- about 2 dl cold water
(- 2 tbsp brandy or vodka)

- 300 g plum jam (or apple marmalade)

Measure the flour into a large bowl. Place the margarine on it, cold. Start chopping the margarine with a knife until the pieces are about the size of a pea. Drizzle the brandy on the crumble as well as about 1 dl of cold water. Mix with a spatula. Keep adding water a spoonful at a time until you manage to get it mixed. Even quickly by hand and move the resulting clump into a cold place for half an hour.

Place the dough on parchment paper. Roll it flat and thin. Fold one third from the left on the centre and one third from the right on the centre. You should now have a three-layered dough. Turn it 45 degrees an roll again. Repeat this process a few times. Move into a cold place for half an hour.

Now roll the dough one more time and cut into squares. If you're going for the traditional star shape, make cuts from all corners towards the middle. Portion a good spoonful of jam on the middle. Fold the left side of each corner in the middle. Press a little so they won't open up in the oven. If you're afraid your so-called friends will mistake you for a neonazi, try a flower shape instead. I got three baking shields or 27 stars from this amount.

Bake in 225 °C until the edges start to acquire some colour ‒ that's about ten minutes. For a "snowy" effect, dust with powdered sugar.

Nutritional values / 1 star / 50 g:
energy 203 kcal
fat 14 g
protein 3 g
carbohydrates 16 g
fiber 1 g

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