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Favorite Fika Foods - Scandinavian Coffee Cakes and Breads

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No one takes their coffee breaks more seriously than Scandinavians. Perhaps it's the dark winters, or maybe it's simply an enviable cultural mentality that privileges relaxation.

Whatever the reason, part of the daily ritual, especially in Sweden, is to fika, go out for coffee, every two hours or so. Friends generally meet at a café, where they'll order snacks such as cinnamon rolls (kanelbullar), rusks, and sweet yeasted breads(vetebröd).

Even if you can't manage a long coffee break, trying preparing one of the following fika treats to take in to work. They're guaranteed to lead to a raise ... in spirit!

1. Swedish Apple Cake (Appelkaka)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
Whether served alone as a midday coffee cake or with vanilla sauce (vaniljsås) as a winning dessert, Swedish Apple Cake (appelkaka) is a treat no matter what the occasion.

2. Almond Rusks (Swedish Mandelskorpor)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
Various European and South African nations lay claim to having invented rusks, twice-baked cookies (or, some argue, breads) that can be either sweet or savory. Yet whether called rusks, biscotti, zwieback, or mandelbrot, these internationally revered sweet breads pair perfectly with an afternoon cup of coffee.

3. Cinnamon Rolls (Kanelbullar)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
Flaky and delicate, these unglazed cinnamon rolls are far less sweet than the versions often found in American coffee shops. You won’t miss the extra sugar once you’ve tasted their wonderful combination of cardamom and cinnamon, rolled together in pastry that’s as light as air.

4. Sweet Yeast Bread (Vetebröd)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
There are many, many varieties of sweet yeasted breads in Scandinavia. Very similar to Jewish challah, Scandinavian yeasted sweet breads are flavored with cardamom and are typically formed into braids, wreathes, and pretzel shapes. In addition to the cardamom, recipes may call for raisins, currents, or orange peel to add flavor to this outstanding coffee bread.

5. Cocoa Balls (Chockladbullar)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com

Long a standard in Swedish bakeries, no-bake Cocoa Balls (chockladbullar) acquire their sweetness largely from the coconut or pearl sugar they are rolled in. Treat adult friends to the traditional recipe, flavored with coffee, or substitute orange juice for the coffee to make a caffeine-free treat that will thrill children and adults alike.

6. Mazarin Torte (Mazarintårta)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
This elegant tart combines the crumbly texture of a buttery shortbread crust with a rich, slightly sticky almond paste center. Bake the recipe either in individual tart pans for a snack or in a single pan for a crowd-pleasing addition to your next coffee table.

7. Sandbakkels with Strawberry Cream

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
Baked in 2" fluted tins, Sandbakkelser are rich, buttery small cakes that do double-duty as cookies when served alone or as extra-special tart shells when filled with whipped cream, berries, or a variety of other fillings.

8. Chocolate Sticky Cake (Kladdkaka)

photo ©K. Diehl, licensed to About.com
Sweden's take on the brownie, Chocolate Sticky Cake (kladdkaka) will delight the souls and the taste buds of all chocolate lovers. It's crisp on the outside, but full of rich, gooey, fudgy chocolate ecstasy on the inside. Forgo the coffee with this decadent cake and order milk instead!

9. Saffron Bread (Saffransbröd)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
A type of vetebröd, Saffron Bread gets its marvelous yellow color and distinctive flavor from the addition of powdered saffron and raisins or other dried fruit. The luscious saffron dough is commonly shaped into beautiful "Lucia Buns" (lussekatter) to celebrate the feast of St. Lucia during Advent.

10. Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta)

photo ©Kari Diehl, licensed to About.com
While often found as a fika selection in Stockholm’s cafés, Princess Cake is such a truly royal treat that it is also commonly prepared as a birthday cake or as the pièce de résistance of a formal coffee table. Although it takes time to prepare, it gives credence to the adage that the best things come to those who wait.
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