Cream crackers; or, No more shopping 

Pehr Edvin Svinhufvud (1861-1944) was the first head of state of independent Finland, and its third president. Before Finland’s independence he spoke so strongly against oppressive Russian policies in Finland that he was imprisoned in Siberia, and after independence he helped put down a right-wing rebellion by going on the radio and telling everyone to stop fooling around and go home.

But this blog post isn’t about him – it’s about his wife, Ellen. Ellen Svinhufvud (1869-1953). Being from a bourgeois 19th century family she was educated in all the necessary arts of running a household, and proceeded to do just that for her politician husband and growing family, be it in the presidential residence or the house in Kotkanniemi that the couple retired to after P.E.’s stint as president.

Ellen Svinhufvud never wrote a cookbook. What she did, though, was collect recipes – don’t we all? The Svinhufvud museum in Kotkanniemi has three notebooks with over 800 handwritten recipes. From those 800, editors Sirkka-Liisa Lehtinen and Sirkka Svinhufvud chose a selection for a book called “Ellen Svinhufvud” and published it in 2009. It’s from that work that I have picked today’s recipe – cream crackers.

  • “200 grams butter 
  • 600 grams fine wheat flour 
  • 400 grams potato flour 
  • 3 dl cream 
  • (1 dl sugar)
  • 4 eggyolks 
  • 2 tsp baking soda 

Rub the butter well and add the other ingredients. Wheat flour is added last, as much as is needed. Roll to a thin sheet immediately. Bake immediately.”

For once I kept in mind that whole “people used to bake for a lot more people”-thing, and used only half of the ingredients. I also left out the sugar since it seemed to be optional in the recipe and I wanted the crackers for a cheese platter.

The recipe is pretty straightforward, just work your ingredients together. Do use real butter, the flavour will be much better. The recipe emphasizes swiftness because if your butter gets too soft the dough will become sticky and difficult to work with. So, quickly knead everything into a dough, adding wheat flour until your dough has a good consistency and doesn’t stick to your hands very much. I found that the potato flour made for a very smooth dough that was pleasant to work with. 

Roll your dough out into an even sheet. You can use a cookie cutter to take out crackers, or you can do what I did and just cut the whole sheet of dough into squares. Bake in about 175 degrees C until the crackers are a good colour, about 10 minutes. I left mine quite soft.

They were tasty. So tasty, in fact, that when I served them to some guests they all got eaten so fast that I was left with only a handful of offcuts to photograph. That’ll teach me to take photos before serving. These crackers are so easy to make that I’m going to make a bold claim and say there’s no point bying cream crackers from the shop – these are vastly superior.