Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fika and fyriskaka



Last week at the library, I came across a really nice little cookbook called Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall. Both authors are Swedish-Americans; Brones is a writer and Kindvall an illustrator. Are you familiar with the concept of fika? I had heard of it before reading this book, but didn't know much about it. I learned a lot about fika from the book, which discusses the history of the Swedish coffee break, starting with their love of coffee. Did you know that Swedes drink more coffee than anyone else in the world? The book was fascinating; I read it cover to cover as soon as I got it home. It's much more than just a cookbook; it's full of cultural insight, stories and history too.

The word "fika" itself derives from the Swedish word for coffee, kaffe; someone inverted the syllables and created the slang word "faka," which eventually became "fika" (as a language nerd, I really enjoyed learning this). Fika is an important part of life in Sweden, a special part of the day when you sit down and relax with coffee or tea as well as baked goods. Many people observe fika twice a day! Swedes build fika time into their workday, and they also take fika on the go with them, packing thermoses of hot drinks and wrapped baked goods in their travel bags. The baked goods may be sweet or savory: cakes, cookies, scones and breads can all be found at fika time.


The book is filled with simple drawings like this one, depicting a cordial beverage and bullar (buns). Every recipe has a lovely bit of artwork to accompany it. There are also drawings of people sharing fika together, friends and coworkers taking a break from everything for a little while.


I also loved this illustration, which appears on pages separating each section of the book. I really enjoy kitchenware design (you may recall that time I stitched a whole sampler featuring nothing but!), and this simple kind of line drawing is so effective. I'd like a little bit of wallpaper like this, just one wall, maybe. Very eye-catching. The chapters in the book include: the history of Swedish coffee, modern-day fika, the outdoor season (which includes recipes for cordial drinks and jam), holiday celebrations (fancier cakes and cookies), and breads/sandwiches/fika as a lighter snack.


I was drawn to many of the recipes in the book, wanting to try almost everything. Swedish baking uses basic ingredients like butter and eggs, with spices, seeds, dried fruit and nuts for flavor. Caraway seeds, cinnamon and cardamom figure often. I decided to try a recipe called fyriskaka, or apple cake, first. Fyriskaka can be made with other fruits too (click here for a recipe on Johanna Kindvall's website for pear fyriskaka; it's the same recipe which appears in the book, only substituting pears for apples. You can also see more of Johanna's lovely illustrations on her site).


The recipe calls for cardamom, which I needed to prepare. We keep whole cardamom pods on hand for Indian cooking, usually using the pods whole and removing them before serving the dish. I needed the seeds on the inside for the cake recipe, so I opened the pods by crushing them with the back of a heavy knife, removing the tiny seeds inside and then grinding them finely (we have a dedicated Krups coffee grinder just for spices).




The recipe is simple. You melt butter and stir in the ground cardamom. While the butter cools, you peel and slice a few apples, then toss the apples in a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar. For the batter, you mix the melted butter with sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder. The batter is spread in a springform pan with the apple slices arranged on top, and into the oven it goes. I ended up adding about 15 minutes to the recipe's suggested bake time because my cake was still wet in the center at the end of the recipe time.

It was baked nicely after the extra time, but did not rise much. I think it's meant to be a bit more like a tart. That's what mine was like, anyway. It was very tasty. The apples were perfectly spiced and still juicy, while the cake was a bit dense and soft in the center with crisp edges. I think the cardamom was a bit overpowering, though. It may be due to my using freshly-ground seeds, as opposed to pre-ground ones, but I think I would use about half the suggested amount next time. Freshly-ground cardamom can be potent.


In true fika spirit, the Bear and I had our fyriskaka with coffee, which mellowed the cardamom flavor some, so maybe it's meant to be strong, to go with the strong flavors of coffee. Either way, this was a nice recipe to make. I'm really glad I found the book in the library; I'm even considering buying a copy for my cookbook collection, which is saying a lot because I like to keep it rather spare. But the recipes are so interesting and the book itself so attractive, I think it would be a nice one to own eventually. I have a few other recipes in mind to try soon. I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime, if you like Scandinavian culture, definitely give Fika a try; it's a great combination of history, style and everyday life.

23 comments:

  1. Love the idea of stopping twice a day for Fika. I am a big fan of a Thermos and baked goods, take them out with us every weekend. And I like the thought of buns, I think I might try and make some soon, everyone likes a bun. The apple cake looks delicious, very Swedish I think. Would you believe that I just came across the term fika for the first time less than three hours ago?! There's a word for that, when you haven't heard of something before and then it pops up several times. Can't remember it, maybe you know? Does it begin with a B? Oh, my terrible memory. Anyway, lovely to learn a little about it. Off to find some good bun recipes now. CJ xx

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  2. It sounds fascinating, Jennifer. Your cake does look good! Yum! :o)

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  3. I do like a bit of fika and now want some fyriskaka! Thankyou for sharing šŸ˜€
    Jillxo

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  4. oh how fun!!!! I will have to look for that cookbook! I lived in the Southern province of Sweden at a small English speaking school when I was 20 for about 5.5 months and we all LOVED fika!! There's a coffee store called Fika in NYC on 6th Ave in Manhattan; I have not gone to it but smile often when I see it! I love getting Swedish food at IKEA because of my time there! Thanks so much for the review! You wrote it so well and that apple tart looks so delicious and beautiful!!!

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  5. Jennifer, you've done it again. You paint pictures with words as you write. I want to run to my local library and get that book...right now! And I started Weight Watchers last week. It would be a VERY bad idea. :-) I do like the concept tough and also the one of hygge. Have a wonderful lovely evening my friend.
    Blessings, Betsy

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  6. What an interesting post. You always find such fun things to discuss and it's so fun to read your posts. Thanks for posting about the website too -- I'm off to explore!

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  7. What fun! The book sounds interesting and I love their thoughts on taking a coffee break. Your fyriskaka is beautiful!

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  8. I really enjoyed learning something new! And I must say your tart looks spectacular and sounds delicious. You're so good at trying new recipes. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  9. Apple Crisp is in my oven as I am typing to you :) Thanks for another great post, Jennifer. I loved every part of it...and me thinks you have a hidden career in sales because I really want a copy of this book, too, and to bake and stitch and blog as beautifully as you do! xx

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  10. The apple cake looks delicious and I think that fika is a wonderful idea. xx

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  11. The apple cake really does look tasty and the way you have described the book really has made me want to take a look. It is now on my list for my next visit to the library.

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  12. Mmm, that looks so good and the spicing with cardamom sounds intriguing to my taste buds. I make something similar when my apple harvest is in full swing which my children used to call "apple pudding cake". (Now CJ, is that word beginning with 'B' synchronicity?) Looking forward already to my Fika break on this beautifully frosty morning.

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  13. Oh wow, we have Fika and didn't even know it! HB and I love our 'second breakfast' of coffee and toast, mid-morning, and then another tea/coffee with another carb late afternoon. So naughty are we. That apple cake sounds so darn good I'll have to try one myself. Thank you for an interesting insight into Swedish life.

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  14. I had never heard of pika before reading your blog post. What a lovely concept! It's a bit like the food/drink version of hygge.

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  15. What a fab-looking cookbook. We do fika regularly in our house - any excuse for coffee and buns! David has been perfecting kanellangd recently which also uses fresh ground cardemom and is amazing. I hope you get your very own copy of the book. Have a super weekend, Jennifer. Sam x

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  16. That's a really pretty and impressive-looking dessert! I only discovered cardamom in the last few years and really love it. I made some Swedish Cardamom Bread with it and it was fantastic. New recipe books and something a little different to bake is always fun...at least for me!

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  17. What a perfect little book, I love having those discoveries. The apple cake is beautiful!

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  18. This looks delicious and the book was a find! It reminds me of some of the priceless treasures that I have found in libraries or online over the years of older books :)

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  19. Your cake looks wonderful! I actually own that book, but I am embarrassed to say that I haven't read it yet. Your post makes me want to fika right now. You write beautifully and I enjoy your blog very much

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  20. off to look at my library for that book - love the design of it and the cake looks delicious too!

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  21. That tart looks beautiful.
    I had never heard of the term fika so thanks for sharing, always great to learn something new.
    From all our travelling if it's one thing I have noticed and am even envious of is how relaxed most European countries are, especially the Danes and the Swedes. And best of all it is an act encouraged by their government. When in Denmark we were told the people get 5 weeks paid vacation days per year.

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  22. Once again I find myself wishing I was Scandinavian - they're so civilised! I eat a lot of cake and drink a lot of coffee - I reckon I'd fit right in. :-) That book looks great, I'd definitely enjoy reading and cooking from it. X

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  23. I gave this lovely book to a friend last year formher birthday, but seeing it again here has reminded me how gorgeous it is! I liked the illustrations too, they were very pretty and evocative x

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