Wednesday, May 20, 2015


In November of 2010 I shared a recipe for a comet-shaped butter cookie called a Straussburger (here). This recipe came from the 2008 English translation of the classic Swedish cookbook Sju Sorters Kakor or, in English, “Seven Kinds of Cake”. Swedes love the simple act of coming together during the day for coffee and conversation and a considerate host offers up at least seven kinds of cakes and cookies. Since 1945 home bakers have turned to Sju Sorters Kakor for recipes to help fill their cake and cookie trays. If this Swedish practice of slowing down and enjoying coffee and something to eat appeals to you, then I recommend Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. While Sju Sorters Kakor focuses on recipes, Fika explores the very Swedish act of taking a respite with coffee (or tea or some other beverage) and a snack.

Brones and Kindvall divide Fika into an introduction and five chapters: (1) a history of Swedish coffee; (2) modern-day fika; (3) the outdoor season; (4) celebrating more than the everyday; and (5) bread, sandwiches, and fika as a snack. So what exactly is a Swedish fika? Fika, which Swedes use as both a verb and a noun, essentially means “to drink coffee”. But as parsed by Brones and Kindvall, fika means more than just taking a break with a drink and snack. Fika changes depending upon its context. It might be a simple cup of tea and biscuit on a trip, a celebratory treat, or an opportunity to catch up with a friend.

Each of Fika’s chapters contains between 8 to 10 uniquely Swedish recipes to make and then enjoy whilst you fikastund (the moment you have fika). The majority of the book’s recipes lean toward baked goods, mostly sweet but some savory. Boy, do these treats sound appealing! Brones and Kindvall include recipes for kladdkaka, a flour-less sticky chocolate cake; kinuskikaka, a sweet caramel cake that originated in Finland; and semlor, Swedish cream buns most often associated with pre-Lenten Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) celebration.  Fika also contains recipes for jams and even beverages, such as rabarbersaft (rhubarb cordial), flädersaft (elderflower cordial) and glögg (Swedish mulled wine).

With so many tempting options, I had a hard time deciding what to bake first! I went with the hasselnötsflarn (hazelnut crisps) because they look dead simple to make and because, well…I’m a sucker for small, crisp cookies. The key to the recipe lies in making sure the baked crisp is golden brown—the authors’ say “dark golden brown”—around the edges. I didn’t push my first batch quite this far and the cookies, although sweet and delicious, weren’t quite crisp enough. The second batch turned out fine. The recipe makes about 30 cookies.

¼ cup (2 ounces, 57 grams) unsalted butter

¾ cup (3.75 ounces, 106 grams) raw hazelnuts

1 egg

½ cup (3.5 ounces, 99 grams) natural cane sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until almost finely ground.
In a bowl, whisk the egg until frothy, then stir in the sugar and vanilla. Pour in the slightly cooled butter and mix together until well blended. Add the hazelnuts and stir until an even batter forms.
Spoon the batter by 1-teaspoon drops onto the baking sheet, leaving 2-inches (5 centimeters) between each cookie. If you make then slightly larger, just be sure to flatten them with your fingertips so that they bake to an even crisp.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until dark golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet until they are hard, them carefully transfer them to the counter.
When fully cooled, store in an airtight container to keep the cookies crisp.
Some notes and thoughts. I followed the weights given and everything when smoothly. (You have to love a cookbook recipe that calls for 99 grams of sugar—not 100 grams, not 98 grams, but 99 grams of sugar.) I skinned the hazelnuts (just because) and added just a bit of sugar before pulsing the nuts in a food processor (to avoid making a nut butter). All told, hasselnötsflarn are very easy to make from Fika’s clear recipe.
Fika, published by Ten Speed Press, is a neat little book done extremely well. I particularly like Johanna Kindvall’s lovely illustrations and kudos to Betsy Stromberg for her handsome book design. I look forward to pulling Fika off the shelf whenever I have a fikasugen (fika craving).