Suzi’s Blog

Cookbook Review: Fika by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall

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It would be an exaggeration, I suppose, to say this book will change your life. It is no exaggeration to say this book will make your life sooooooo much better, each and every day.

Fika is a Swedish word that first appeared in the early 1900s. It’s a riff on “kaffe” the Swedish word, of course, for coffee. Nobody drinks more coffee in the world than the Swedes. I suppose that’s how to spend time watching the snow fall.

But life cannot be all and only coffee, so the Swedes have adopted a tradition of coffee plus sweet nibbles. They down their coffee with a multitude of cookies and cakes. This charming little book is filled with those recipes, both traditional and modern, for cookies, cakes, tortes and more.

Here's the book's supply of classic recipes:

Cinnamon and Cardomom Buns

Cardamom Cake

Orange Almond Slices

Oat Crisp Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Fig Squares

Jam Thrumbprint Cookies

Slilced Chcolate Cookies

Finnish Sticks

Nutmeg Slices

Hazelnut Crisps

It’s actually kind of easy to recognize a Swedish recipe. They are simple and use ingredients that we often bypass: cardamom, oats, figs, hazelnuts. You can call these recipes stark if you wish, for on paper they seem so very direct. That’s actually necessary for the fika tradition calls for a plate of various cookies, not just one. The coffee break here is meant for lingering, and is not a fast food dash. So, you need to prepare several things in one “baking binge” and consequently each treat really has to be quick to knock off.

Often, then, cookies are shaped into logs and sliced or baked brownie-like in a pan. But there is always flavor adornment to provide classy distinction: some pearl sugar on top, a dose of cardamom or other spice, or some flavored ganache.

Take the Chocolate Coffee Squares. The cake is simple: butter, flour, cocoa powder, eggs, milk and sugar. But the ganache is chocolate and butter and cold coffee. And the entire treat is copped with lots of shredded coconut.

The cookies tend to be flat, crisp, and storable. Yes, you’ll find a lovely recipe here for real Swedish Gingersnaps.

Not everything is simple. There is a chapter “Celebrating More Than The Everyday” where you will find a Hazelnut Meringue Torte. A simple cake batter is amplified with chocolate chips and toasted hazelnuts. Then topped with meringue and then baked. Not hard to make, but complex in texture and visual appeal.

I’ll be baking away here and show you the results: the cookies and the cakes. Ah, and Suzi? She’s going to be making the Toasted Rye Buns. You cut the warm rye buns in half, top with sliced apples and cheese, and consume with a smile.

With your coffee, of course. And then a second one.

Fika is a truly lovely book that just may become your constant morning companion.

 

Visionaria Cocktail from Warren Bobrow

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I recently posted review of Whiskey Cocktails by Warren Bobrow. This collection of cocktails gems can only be described as imaginative. I don’t know why Warren says this cocktail is a twist on the Arnold Palmer but he does: their only point of commonality is tea and even here the tea is jasmine and not “regular” tea.

The Arnold Palmer is iced tea and lemonade. No booze! Add some vodka, and you have a John Daly.

To provide a platform for whiskey, the regular tea is replace by jasmine tea. There is Ginger Honey Simple Syrup and some straight lemon juice instead of lemonade. Lots of adjustments but very, very beautiful to see. And to sip.

The ginger syrup is will not be subtle, but it will be delicious. Want to make it even more prominent? Warren suggests adding 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in the recipe below. Feelilng brave? You could use adobo sauce, but go graciously.


Visionaria Cocktail

Yield: one portion

Ingredients:

  • Ice made from strongly brewed jasmine tea
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) Tennessee sipping whiskey
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) lemon juice
  • ½ ounce (15 ml) Ginger Honey Simple Syrup, recipe follows
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) strongly brewed, cooled jasmine tea
  • 1 ounce (30 ml) seltzer water
  • Lemon pinwheels drizzled with a little Ginger Honey Simple Syrup

Preparation:

Add the jasmine tea ice to a tall Collins-style glass, and then add the whiskey. Top the whiskey with the lemon juice, and pour the chilled Ginger Honey Simple Syrup and cooled jasmine tea over the mixture. Finish with the seltzer water, and garnish with the syrupy lemon pinwheel. Then, just kick back and relax.


Ginger Honey Syrup

Yield: 1+ cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped ginger

Preparation:

In a saucepan, mix the water and sugar. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-5 minutes, the longer the more golden.

Add the ginger, stir to mix, and let cool. Refrigerate for up to a month. Strain before using.


Source: Whiskey Cocktails by Warren Bobrow [Fair Winds, 2014]

 

 

Almond-Olive Oil Sable Cookies with Chocolate from Theo Chocolate

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My wife is a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, where the only olive trees are in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, under glass. And her great-grandparents and grandparents emigrated from Poland where, again, any olive trees have to be grown indoors.

Yet Suzi craves olives as if she was living under palm trees with her own personal camel. And if a recipe calls for olive oil, well she has to make that dish, soon.

If the recipe is for a cookie with olive oil, and with chocolate, and with nuts, well, this cookie gets made instantly. We made these cookies the very first weekend we had the wonderful Theo cookbook and even I, a person with Irish and Scottish genes, can appreciate the power of olive oil. And chocolate. Theo is new and comes from the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate Company that now provides exceptional chocolate products across the nation.

I’m posting this on New Year’s Eve. You have celebrating to do, today, tonight, tomorrow. And perhaps football games to watch and you want to nosh and nibble and you may already be fooded out by the holidays, so making big desserts may not be on your agenda. Yet you know you’ll want something sweet and celebratory.

Think olive oil. These sable cookies are a delight. You can eat them day round — oh, trust me, I have — and find enjoyment any time of day. With morning espresso or a midnight shot of brandy, these are the perfect accompaniment to any beverage. Or you can just nibble them on their own.

I know, a sable is a cookie from France made with incomparable French butter to produce incomparable baked goods. The butter is still here but the olive oil makes a contribution. Think globalization.


Almond-Olive Oil Sable Cookies with Chocolate

Yield: around 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 2 ounces Theo 70 percent dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, finely chopped
  • Fleur de sel or other flaked sea salt (such as Jacobsen Salt Co.’s Pure Flake), for sprinkling

Preparation:

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the almond meal, and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add the olive oil, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until completely blended. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar, then add the egg yolk and almond extract and mix on medium speed. Add the dry ingredients and the chocolate and mix on low speed to combine.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a log about 16 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter (the dough will be a little sticky). Spread the almonds out on the surface and gently roll the dough over the nuts, pressing to adhere. Continue rolling and gently pressing until the surface of the log is coated with the nuts. Wrap the log in plastic wrap or parchment paper and carefully transfer it to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. (You can also freeze the dough at this point for later use.)

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place them at least 1 inch apart on the prepared sheets. Top each cookie with a pinch of fleur de sel.

Bake the baking sheets one at a time in the center of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden. Watch them carefully, as they burn easily. Cool the cookies on a wire rack and store them in an airtight container. They will keep for at least 4 days.


Source: Theo Chocolate by Debra Music and Joe Whinney [Sasquatch Books, 2015]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for1/30th second at ISO‑3200