When less is more: baking the Swedish way

    by Vanessa Algotsson
    (excerpted from the March 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine) 

    “Less is more.”  Famous words I highly suspect were first uttered by a Swede. From their famously understated, classic furniture designs to the clean lines of their ever-current fashions, the Swedes are masters of making a big statement without making a lot of noise. The ideal of what minimalism is all about. Style and taste reign supreme in “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” as Sweden is called, and it comes through even in the cooking. Swedes may be known for great design, but they’re also known as phenomenal bakers. And thanks to the golden rule of simplicity, pretty much anyone—even the fledgling baker—can create a delicious Swedish dessert.

    To get to the bottom of their love of baking, there’s one word you’ve got to learn: Fika. That’s the word that sums up Swedish coffee culture. Spend just one day in the country and you’ll come to see how important a short break for fika is. Whether it’s for just a short 15 minutes or stretched longer, stop what you’re doing and enjoy a strong cup of coffee and a pastry. Repeat once or twice throughout the day. No, seriously. Even at work, Swedes take breaks for fika (in addition to lunch). Now you can pretty much count on the coffee being strong. I’ve heard Swedes equate American coffee to “brown water.”

    But the pastry—well, that depends. You always need a sweet with your coffee, but what’s the occasion? How hungry are you? I’ve chosen three classics for three appetites (three levels of sweet-tooth): a cookie, a sweet yeast pastry and a cake. Baking always requires that you put aside a certain amount of time (to let the dough rise or to sit in the oven), but none of these recipes will require a degree from culinary school.

    Get some recipes to try out for yourself when you pick up the March 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine.