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Swedish Pastry 101


Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinammon Bun)

It’s that time of year. Days are darker, the air colder, New Yorkers surlier. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about thriving in harsh weather from Northern Europe, namely Sweden, whose citizens rely on two crucial survival tools to endure their long winters: Coffee and pastries.  In fact, the Swedes take their coffee culture so seriously that they even have a verb for it, fika, an all-encompassing term for the daily ritual of enjoying time with friends and family over coffee and an accompanying treat. Those looking to get in on the fika fun can acquaint themselves with the tradition at several Swedish cafés in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including Konditori, the aptly named coffee shop Fika, and a cafe hidden inside the Swedish Seaman’s Church in Midtown (yes, it’s a real place!).  For an authentic taste of Sweden, try a cup of black brew with one of these classic pastries (or all three) – Kanelbullar (cinnamon bun), Chokladbollar (cocoa balls), and Cardamom bread.

Chokladbollar (Chocolate Balls)

Chokladbollar (Chocolate Balls)

Sweden’s take on the cinnamon roll, Kanelbullar is not drenched in frosting like the Cinnabons of America. Instead, the firm yet moist pastry is sprinkled with cinnamon lending a subtle spice to the heavenly bun and garnished with tiny balls of pearl sugar (that look like salt).  Chocolate lovers may opt for Chokladbollar, cocoa balls that pair coconut flakes with hearty rolled oats and unsweetened cocoa powder — a simple, and dare I say, relatively healthy treat (or so I tell myself while inhaling one).  Swedish children often learn to make chokladbollar at a young age because the recipe requires no baking or complicated appliances—this easy-prep factor may also appeal to New Yorkers afflicted with tiny kitchens or just the cooking challenged at-large.

konditoriCardamom bread, baked in large, aromatic loaves, has been enjoyed by Northern Europeans for generations. A dusting of sugar and stripe of almond filling lend a mild sweetness to each slice, but it’s the unexpected fragrance of cardamom, seldom found in American pastries, that makes this bread distinctly Swedish and worth going out of your way for.  Cardamom bread is traditionally dunked into rich, dark Swedish coffee, which imparts a whole new depth of flavor.  Swedes prefer their coffee sans milk or sugar, and sometimes boil a raw egg with coffee grounds to create a cup of balanced, less acidic egg coffee.  Close your eyes, pastry and dark coffee in hand, and you can almost imagine yourself at a cozy café in Stockholm, snow pattering against the windowpanes, and maybe Alexander Skarsgård is sitting across from you, because, why not?  Winter’s looking better already.


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