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.

Else’s Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread tastefood Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I have been making saffron bread with my Danish husband since we first met and lived in Geneva, Switzerland.  It’s a charming and delicious tradition passed down from his mother, Else, which celebrates the festival of light during the dark winter solstice, Swedish-style, by forming billowy saffron scented breads into various shapes (lussekatter) and buns. In those early years, before our children were born and since my husband and I lived far from our own families, we made a point of inviting friends who had children, since this holiday isn’t complete without the help of little fingers assisting in shaping and nibbling the dough. While the bread rose, we would take a long walk in the vineyards beneath the Jura mountains overlooking Lake Geneva, before returning to form and bake the breads, which we would enjoy with  a glass of glogg or tea before the fire. Later, we had our own children to help, but we continued to invite our friends to join making Else’s saffron bread, even as we moved from country to country in Europe. No matter where we lived, this was a lovely holiday celebration enjoyed by everyone, no matter their nationality, impossible not to share with our extended family of friends.

This year, we are a half empty nest, with our oldest away at college. We continue the tradition, once again inviting friends of my daughter to help. After all, the more hands the merrier. Needless to say, we’ll also be making an extra batch of Else’s saffron bread when our son arrives home next week – but we couldn’t wait until then.

Else’s Saffron Bread

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes
Makes about 24 buns

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar plus 2/3 cup
2/3 cup unsalted European-style butter
2 cups whole milk
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins, plus extra for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. In a small bowl, crush the saffron and the 1/4 teaspoon sugar with a spoon.

2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the milk, and heat over medium-low heat until warm to the touch (about 110°F).

3. Place the yeast in a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of the warm milk, and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until it foams, 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add the remaining milk and the saffron, the 2/3 cup sugar, and the salt, and stir once or twice to blend. Add 6 1/2 cups flour to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The dough should be sticky but not too wet; add more flour, a little at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Stir in the 1/2 cup raisins and then knead the dough until it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

5. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft-free spot, such as the oven with the pilot light on. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into shapes by grabbing a small handful and, with light hands, roll into a 1/2 inch thick rope. Shape the rope into an “S” shape, or braid 2 ropes together. Place the shapes on a baking tray.

7. Lightly brush the breads with the egg and garnish the folds and corners with a few raisins. (Add the raisins after you glaze the bread to prevent them from burning.)

8. Bake until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve warm with butter.

Spiced Meatballs with Cranberry Compote, Yogurt and Dill

It’s time to get fresh and meaty. I created this recipe for an upcoming class I am teaching at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California on Scandinavian cooking. While traditional Scandinavian cooking may be heavy and meat focused (especially in the winter) it delightfully tips to an abundance of fresh produce in the warmer, brighter summer months. This recipe marries the Nordic climate extremes with a spin on the Swedish meatball, which is traditionally pan-fried and then napped with a warm cream sauce. These ground meat patties are transformed into fun finger food, freshened and brightened with tufts of parsley and dill. The heavy sauce is replaced by crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping  and a sweet-piquant cranberry compote and a dab of yogurt.  Continue reading Spiced Meatballs with Cranberry Compote