The Little Book of Fika

Great news! My latest book The Little Book of Fika is now available. No time is better than now for a little comfort and simplicity, and the Swedes have your back on this matter with their tradition of Fika.

Swedish Fika - The Little Book of Fika

“Fika” is the Swedish tradition of taking a break in the day, at least once, with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s the point. Fika is a moment to stop and take a breath, connect with friends and co-workers, or simply be with yourself in the moment – accompanied by a steaming cup of coffee, and a little bite of something sweet or even savory. Splendidly egalitarian and understated (as Swedes do so well), everyone can do it. The key is, well, doing it, and this little book will help you do just that. Filled with inspirational tips, a little history, and 20 sweet and savory recipes to accompany a refreshing beverage, this book is designed to bring a little happiness into your day, Swedish-style.  So go ahead and fika – you deserve it.

Very Lemony Lemon Bars

Bring a ray of sunshine to your plate with these bright and puckery lemon bars:

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

‘Tis the season for lemons. Late winter offers up bushels of citrus, which transform into light and lovely desserts, such as these lemon bars. Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate.

The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony, packing a wallop of tartness with just enough sugar, but not so sweet that it’s cloying. Picture a zingy, sweet and tart filling rippled with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. The final touch is a smidge of sea salt, which keeps the sweetness in check and allows the pucker-y lemon to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Baking Favorites: Lemon Shortbread Bars

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

If I had to name a favorite baking ingredient, it would be a lemon, and, in my opinion, the best way to show off its citrusy sweet-tart flavor is a lemon bar. These tiny (or not so tiny) squares are all about the citrus. A buttery shortbread crust anchors a squidgy thick wedge of puckery filling, simply topped with dusting of sugar. A pinch of sea salt is a nice finishing touch, balancing the sweetness and letting the lemon shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for lemon – and sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

almond choc chip tastefood

I apologize if this messes with any diet resolutions, but here’s to a little balance and wishing you all a delicious new year with a bundle of sweetness, a dose of nuttiness, and pinch of salt.

Almond butter does wondrous things to this chocolate chunk cookie. It’s not as pronounced in flavor as peanut butter which, in my opinion, can overwhelm a cookie. Almond butter is mellower, adding a rich, golden background to the dough with a hint of roasted nuts. A dusting of sea salt is an extra touch – optional but highly recommended. A little salt makes everything taste better – even sweets – especially when chocolate is involved.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted creamy almond butter (not raw)
7 ounces chopped dark chocolate
Sea salt flakes for garnish, optional

1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the almond butter and mix until smooth.
3. Dump the flour  into the mixing bowl and mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated without over-mixing. Stir in the chocolate, including all of the little pieces and dusty bits (they will melt into the batter). Refrigerate the batter for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes to each cookie, if desired. Bake until light golden, 12 to 14 minutes.
5. Slide the parchment and cookies on a rack to cool. The cookies will continue to firm up while cooling.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

raspberry almond bars tastefood

Almond flour, almonds, and oats confer in a dense and spiced streusel, sandwiching an intense raspberry filling, while debatably nudging these bars into the kind-of-sort-of healthy department…oh, who am I kidding. Whether you call these raspberry bars indulgent or healthy(ish), they should be a must-have on your holiday cookie to-do list.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Makes 16 (2-inch) square bars.

Crust and Topping:
1 cup almond flour (meal)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Filling:
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

2. Combine the almond meal, flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine, 1 to 2 times. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a bowl, add the almonds and set aside for the topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes.

3. Place the preserves, raspberries, and liqueur, if using, in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving some pieces intact. Spread the raspberries over the crust. Sprinkle the topping over the filling.

4. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

 

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

coconut macaron tastefood

Happy Passover: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

The bane of my childhood candy experience was a Mounds Bar. I just didn’t get it. I would bite into the promising chocolate nugget, which would immediately give way to a chewy, shredded, nutty interior, that, in my opinion, had no rightful place in a chocolate bar. It was clearly the texture that I did not like. I was mystified by my friends who bought super-sized packages of Almond Joys to scarf down when we were at the movies. Every halloween when my brothers and I would pile our loot in the middle of the kitchen table, gloating and eyeing trade-ups, my chocolate covered coconut bars were the first to offer up with no regrets. Sadly, my brothers were not so keen on coconut either, so the negotiating could get ugly.

As a parent, it baffled me that my children loved coconut. But as chief cookie baker, I stepped up to the plate and used coconut more and more freely in bars, cakes, and cookies. And, you know what? I, too, developed a fondness for this tropical “nut”, appreciating its flaky fresh and nutty interruption in a sea of sugar. I guess you could say I grew up.

I eat coconut now – unforced – and prefer it paired with dark chocolate. Sometimes I make macaroons, a jumble of coconut bound together with egg white and condensed milk. Yes, the milk is icky-sweet, but it seems to yield the best juicy-soft interior, which is what prevents dryness and distinguishes a great macaroon. I’ve followed a recipe from Ina Garten from time to time, but switch out some of the sweetened coconut with unsweetened, which I find reduces excessive cloyness. Oh, and I always dunk them in dark chocolate, of course – which has a magnificent grounding effect on, well, everything.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 24

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces dark (70%) chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 350°F (180° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the milk, coconut, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to blend.
Beat the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form and then fold into the coconut.

Drop heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of coconut on the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack. Dip one half of each macaroon in the melted chocolate and transfer to a board or platter lined with parchment. Refrigerate until set.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate. Picture a zingy sweet-tart filling rippling with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt adorning the top keeps all sweetness in check, allowing the puckery citrus to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.