Ska vi fika?

Sweden! Land of Vikings, ABBA, and delicious baked goods. Honestly, have you seen all their biscuits? What about the cakes? And the cinnamon buns? HAVE YOU SEEN THE CINNAMON BUNS? Recently, I promised to bake for my group at university, and I decided to try my hand at kanelbullar, the traditional Swedish cinnamon buns.

The Scandinavians take their coffee breaks very seriously – in Swedish, the word for sitting down and having a coffee together is fika. You know, this word always makes me giggle like a teenager, because it sounds like the German word ficken – you can Google that, or just use your imagination…!

In my first year of university, I was lucky enough to live with a beautiful little Swede called Malin, who introduced me to the idea that fika is not just “going for a coffee”, it includes some kind of sweet treat and most probably some fresh gossip. If you want to investigate further, the website Try Swedish has a nice little article. They also have lots of other fun information if you’re fascinated by all things Scandinavian.

As for this recipe, it comes from a book that I got in IKEA called, surprisingly enough, Fika. I love this book! I got it about a year ago and in Germany, so I’ve no idea if they still have it in store – but there are some copies available on Amazon. And honestly, there seem to be millions of Scandinavian cookery books floating around at the moment, and they all look pretty great. Do you have any yourself? Have you got any favourite recipes? I’d love to hear about them!

This book is beautiful and has wonderful pictures on the ingredients pages, like this one:

And talking of ingredients…

For the pastry:

2 42g cubes of fresh yeast (I couldn’t find this, so I used dried yeast following this conversion table)
500ml milk
1kg wheat flour
200g softened butter
170g sugar
2 fresh eggs (free range or organic, please)1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom (I skipped this because I bought the pods and then found out you can’t grind cardamom by hand with a pestle and mortar… so unless you have a spice grinder, buy it ready-ground!)

For the filling:

100g marzipan
100g softened butter
100g sugar
2.5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons water
1 fresh egg
1 pinch of salt
You can also decorate these with some chunky sugar crystals if you can find them

This recipe makes around forty (that’s right, forty) cinnamon buns, so make sure you’ve cleared plenty of space in the kitchen. It also takes a long time because the dough has to proof twice, so be warned.

First off, you need to warm up the milk and dissolve the yeast in it (in a big bowl, preferably). I did this in stages, warming half a cup of milk at a time (for a minute or so in the microwave). It took some stirring, tutting, and muttering under my breath before it would all dissolve, but keep faith, it will happen eventually.

Then sieve in the flour and mix them, trying not to bash the dough around too much. It will be quite dry still at this stage.

Now for the rest of the dough ingredients – put them all in! Now the dough needs kneading. The recipe says to use the dough hook on your mixer. I don’t have that, so I decided to knead by hand, which honestly I don’t really know how to do. The dough is really sticky, so you need a floured surface, and I just tried to squeeze and stretch and generally move it about. You are aiming for something “smooth”, which I think I managed after about 12 minutes or so. My hands were so so covered in dough. Don’t think there’s any way to avoid that.

Put the dough back into a bowl, chuck a tea towel over it, and leave it for thirty minutes to proof. It should double in size according to the book, although my dough definitely didn’t. Any master bakers know why that might be?

Anyway, lest you think you have time to relax, let’s get cracking on the filling. In a smaller bowl, rub all the ingredients together with your hands. They should combine pretty easily, and you may just want to eat it with a spoon. Resist!

Once the dough has proofed, reflour your surface, hands, and rolling pin, and take a deep breath. Give it a knead for good measure, then divide it into two. Roll each half out into a big rectangle. Try and get it reasonably thin and even, then spread out the cinnamon filling with a knife or the back of a spoon.

Roll it up! You’ll have two big rolls, and you need to cut them into slices. The recipe says 2-3 centimetres across, but this is what I did, and some of them ended up pretty huge – I’d go for 1-2cm. Please report back to me!

These should be looking a bit like cinnamon rolls now. Line a baking tray (or probably a few baking trays) with baking paper, and set out the rolls. Leave some space for them to spread. They should be swirl side up, if you see what I’m saying. Cover them with tea towels and leave them for another twenty minutes to half an hour.

Get the oven on at 250°C, and it should have warmed up by the time the cinnamon buns are ready. Again mine, er, didn’t. In fact, I don’t think they got any bigger at all? Anyone have any suggestions as to why that might be?

Beat the egg with the salt and water and brush it onto the buns before they go into the oven. They’ll take about seven minutes, so make sure you watch them like a hawk.

Smaklig måltid!

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Raspberry and Orange Polenta Cake

At risk of you thinking that Waitrose is my only recipe source, I’m going to share another of their sweet treats with you today – a raspberry and orange polenta cake.

The great think about this is that it’s gluten free, but doesn’t have any nightmare ingredients that you either can’t find, or have to hand over a fortune for: polenta and ground almonds take over from flour, and do a very good job. Of course, most of us can happily chow down on wheat and rye without a second thought about gluten, myself included, but people with an intolerance or coeliac disease have to watch out.

One of my friends, Tom, has to avoid this particular protein composite, so when I heard he and his fiancée were visiting, I thought it was about time to crack out this recipe. His brother also joined us, and I think together we made a crack baking team.

And you know what? It’s delicious. Easily the best cake I’ve had in a long time. The texture is great, the raspberry and orange strike a great balance between sweet and sour… just try it.

Jen and Josh on orange duty

200g margarine
300g golden caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g polenta
200g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder (check that you pick a gluten-free variety!)
Finely grated zest and juice of two oranges
165g raspberries
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional, but not really)

1. Get the oven on! 160°C (320 Fahrenheit) and line a tin – the recipe card recommends a 23cm Springform cake tin

2. Whisk the margarine and 200g of the sugar (not the whole lot!) until the mixture is creamy. Then it’s time to beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Unless you’re us and forget, in which case do it in a panic right before the cake goes in the oven.

3. Add in the polenta, ground almonds, baking powder and orange zest and mix, mix, mix. Around now it will start to smell incredible. Stir in the raspberries (carefully, or you’ll end up with mush). Spoon the whole lot into the tin, and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Now it goes into the oven for about fifty minutes, until it’s firm and golden brown.

Tom the master mixer
The batter is pretty delicious too

4. When you have about fifteen minutes of cooking time left, start simmering the orange juice and the other 100g sugar. Give it a stir now and then and make sure the sugar isn’t sticking to the pan and burning. It will thicken up into a syrup. Once you’ve taken it off the heat, you can stir in the not-really-optional liqueur. This syrup has a really unusual flavour – it’s kind of like marmalade! But nice, I promise.

Me supervising the syrup

5. Once the cake is out of the oven, make a few little holes in it with a skewer and pour over the syrup

6. Let it cool before you eat it. Be strong.

Carrot and sultana scones

Scones are pretty great. And do you know what else I like? Carrot cake. So when I saw this recipe for carrot and sultana scones, I knew I was onto a winner. Do supermarkets give out recipe cards in your country? They do in England (and presumably the rest of the UK?). This one came from Waitrose, which is a pretty fancy place, with correspondingly fancy recipes.

And they’re nice! The carrot taste isn’t overwhelming, but it gives the scones a kind of springy texture that I liked a lot. And I love a good plump sultana. We had them with spread and raspberry jam – delicious! If only the sun had been a little more enthusiastic, it might have been a beautiful British summer experience. So without further ado – the recipe! 225g plain flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 50g olive oil spread 30g golden caster sugar100g carrots, coarsely grated and squeezed to remove excess juice 50g sultanas 125ml skimmed milk, plus extra for brushing 1 teaspoon vanilla extract The recipe also suggests 25g pumpkin seeds, but I didn’t think that would go with the carrots at all – if you try it, let me know how it was!

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C or gas mark six. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then use your fingers to rub in the olive oil spread – it will all come together, just check the spread is distributed evenly.
  2. Stir in the carrots and sultanas and, if you’re more adventurous than me, the pumpkin seeds. Make a little well in the centre and pour in the milk and vanilla extract.
  3. Fold it all together! The recipe says the dough will be firm, which mine… wasn’t. I added some extra flour at this stage
  4. If you’re neat, do as the recipe says, and pat the dough out to a thickness of 2cm and use a 6cm cutter. Obviously I just grabbed chunks of the dough and patted them into shape
  5. Brush the tops with milk, get ’em on a non-stick baking tray, and put them in the oven for 15-18 minutes.

Voilà! Please do let me know if you decide to give them ago – I’d love to know how they turned out for you.