Tired of looking for excuses to have something sweet? Come to Sweden where you can use a magic word ‘fika’ that will make the world stop and sweet treats appear on the table in front of you.
Fika is a deep rooted ritual a bit similar to British afternoon tea tradition, when people sit down and socialise over a cup of hot drink and some small snacks. The difference is that Swedes can have fika a few times a day. In fact, they are even officially entitled to have regular fika breaks at work.
Swedes generally prefer coffee over tea and on contrary to three-tiered serving tray loaded with a few different types of morsels that is common in Britain, they only have a small bite – a bun, a slice of cake or a cookie. However, when it comes to the selection of traditional fika treats, the variety to choose from seems endless.
Here is just a short list of highly common fika pastries that can be savoured during a coffee break, but if you know these, you won’t get lost in a bakery or a café when visiting Sweden.
Small pastries made of ground almonds were named after Italian lieutenant Mazarin, who loved food and helped spreading food culture from Italy to France. With its oblong shape, moist texture and almond taste mazarin has a close resemblance to French friand. The difference between the two is that mazarin has got a thin crust from the outside and ground almond filling inside, while friand is baked without an outer crust and is much taller. Mazarins can be plain, with white icing or crystal sugar sprinkled over the top, but you can find more creative variations baked with blueberries or lingonberries.
Small logs, filled with cookie crumb, arak, butter and cocoa mix, covered in a layer of green or pink marzipan and both ends dipped in chocolate. Sometimes the filling may contain raspberry jam or oats. Swedes call them vacuum cleaners, since the shape looks like an old fashioned cleaning device.
Love heart shaped shortbread pastries dusted with icing sugar are filled with aromatic vanilla custard. The pastry shell is very thin and fragile, so they break apart very easily and are not the best for take aways, so sit down and enjoy one right there in a bakery. Vanilla hearts simply melt in your mouth and are perfect companions to coffee.
Traditional Swedish buns can come in a variety of shapes. The most simple shape is a scroll, but sometimes the buns remind of a rosetta or an intricate knot. Butter and sugar mixture that is used to spread on the dough before shaping them into buns is a secret of their taste. Cinnamon or ground cardamom is used for adding the aroma that you simply can’t resist when you step into a bakery. They are the best while still warm.
Almond biscuits made of almond paste and egg white at the bottom, topped up with chocolate mousse and coated with a thin crunchy layer of chocolate. Sometimes you can come across a zesty lemon version of these biscuits with white mousse filling and lemon flavoured white chocolate coating on top.
If you are a fan of shortbread cookies, these are for you. Not only you get a buttery cookie, but also a dent (or a cave) filled with with fragrant raspberry jam. If the jam was home made and the pastries were not baked in the oven for too long to the point where the jam turns into a hard lump, hallongrottas are mouth watering treats.
Golf ball sized unbaked sweets are close relatives of world-reknowned rum balls. They are made of oatmeal, sugar, butter, cocoa and sometimes small amount of coffee or Arak. Chocolate balls are traditionally covered in desiccated coconut and Arak balls – in chocolate sprinkles. They can also be called Kokosboll (coconut ball) or Havreboll (oatmeal ball).
Thin wafer at the bottom serves as a base for a mound of mousse, which is coated in chocolate. The most common version of cream bun is plain chocolate or chocolate sprinkled with shredded coconut, but in some bakeries that are more serious about Gräddbulle you can find some interesting variations flavoured with chili, orange or even Swedish candy polkagris.
Semla are traditional lent buns, but Swedes like them so much that they make them starting from New Years and finishing around Easter time. The top of soft cardamom spiced bun is cut off, the bun is filled with marzipan paste and whipped cream and then the lid of the bun is placed back. You can get the variations of Semla where almond paste and whipped cream are blended together.
Reminding of letter S in shape Lussekatter or ‘Lucia’s cats’ are another seasonal specialty in Sweden. The buns are traditionally served on December 15 – St.Lucia day and are popular throughout Christmas season. They are easy to bake at home, but you can find them in almost every Swedish bakery in December. Saffron is an essential ingredient which gives the buns yellow colour and a distinctive taste.
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