Fika Runt Stockholm – A Map!

You probably already know that Swedes loves their coffee. And they love to fika.

Which got me thinking that, there should be a map to all the popular, or in some cases only, cafes in Stockholm.

I took the SL’s tunnelbanan’s karta (metro map), removed all the stations, and inserted cafes. Surprisingly, it was a lot harder than I expected. There were tons of cafes in innerstaden (central city), but once you hit the förort (suburb), it becomes a coffee desert.

What I would love to do is have your input for coffee shops at the missing stations. I will be taking comments here until March 15th. Then I will update the map and repost it.

BTW, right-click on the map to open it as a full image.
fika runt stockholm

And yes, it means I’m alive!

xoxo

Something Hot, Something Sweet, Something Salty, Something Black – Lakritsfestivalen 2013

This year’s Lakritsfestivalen is right around the corner. After stuffing myself sill last year, I wanted to pass the torch on to someone who loves licorice but hates to admit it. Let me introduce you to Maja, a veritable Swedish girl, who is a fantastic cook and licorice expert. She will be blogging about the festival before and after. Yea, I gave her the dirty work of eating candy and talking to strangers.

It’s this time of year again, Swedish licorice time! The licorice festival is around the corner and what’s a better way to celebrate that than to have a little licorice tasting session with a few friends?

The licorice festival committee was kind enough to mail a bunch of licorice to try. Our tasting panel consisted of: Ms. Licorice-lover, Mr. Licorice-hater, Mr. Only-sweet-licorice, Ms. I-eat-everything, Mr. salt-licorice-lover and Ms. I-don’t-want-to-admit- it-but-I-like-it.
lakrits
Let the tasting begin!

After stuffing our face with häxstänger (witch poles), firetrucks, chocolate covered licorice, salt covered licorice, licorice covered licorice (for real!) and all that deliciousness, we found three favorites!

Pingvinstång salta hallon(Penguin pole salt Raspberry) from Tom’s– Everybody that grew up on Fifty Fifty licorice/raspberry lollipop knows what great friends licorice and raspberry make. And you won’t be disappointed. It is a great taste of licorice. Don’t be alarmed with the salt in the name; it is not that salty. Even Mr. Only-sweet-licorice liked it.

Firetrucks from Van Slooten- This is something for the tough guy or girl! I’m not that tough. This is extreme hot pepper licorice, (it even says so on the bag).

They are chewy with a hot liquid filling. It has a strong licorice taste and the strong pepper taste lingers in your mouth long enough for you to pick up piece number two! If you love the strong licorice taste, you will love these!!

Gammeldags lakritsmarmeladgodis  (old-fashioned licorice marmalade candy) from Ryfors konfektyr – This reminds me of grandma. You could really taste the old-fashion feel. It is a soft candy, which many like but not me.

Gammeldags is sweet because it is a marmalade candy, but you will be surprised how rich is the licorice flavor. And this is one of those candies that you either love it or hate it. We decided we loved it. And you know grandma always knows best!  

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And don’t worry, if now after reading this have a sudden craving for licorice, make sure you go to the licorice festival this Saturday or Sunday April 21-22 at Anexet in Stockholm to try all the different licorice. I’m sure your cravings will be satisfied.

Close Encounters of a Semlor Dough

Yesterday, being fettisdagen, I decided to make my own semlor. They were quite successful last year and I was thinking this time I could perfect them.

I didn’t really perfect them as much as gave the dough {deg} CPR and life support. It was near total disaster.

I’m pretty scared of yeast based recipes and semlor are no different. Many Swedish recipes call for fresh yeast while in the US, many recipes call for active dry yeast. And many recipes don’t even specify if fresh yeast or dry yeast should be used.

The many options from Kronjäst

There is evidently a very very big different.

Very big.

Since I didn’t have any kronjäst at home, I figured I could use some of the packages of active dry yeast I picked up in the US.

I know fresh to active dry yeast is not a 1 to 1 conversion. In fact, this site does a great job of giving you idea of the conversion. The problem is that for 50 grams fresh yeast, you can use anywhere from 2.5 to 10 teaspoons of active dry yeast in a recipe depending on the amount of sugar.

That last part, “the amount of sugar” screwed me up.

Because, I added in seven teaspoons of yeast and turned my dough into a rock.

A rock deg!

NEJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ!

I KILLED THE DOUGH AND THE SWEDE IS GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK WITHOUT SEMLOR!

Breathe. breathe. breathe.

There is a way to ressuscitante a yeast filled dough: sugar. Lots of sugar. I feed the dough another 200ml of sugar and 100ml of milk.

Fifteen minutes later, with flour in my hair, and dough stuck to my arms, the dough softened up.

Relieved, I put him to rest to rise and sure enough an hour it was beautiful.

After the whole ordeal, the buns turned out really well and the almond paste was the best ever.

My finished product:

Oh, and did I mention I completely forgot the baking powder? I did. Facepalm.

Lessons to learn:
Five teaspoons of active dry yeast is plenty for semlordeg.
Forgetting baking powder is a dumb thing to do.
When in crisis with too much yeast, add sugar (yeast needs sugar to eat).

Happy semlor eating everyone!

Happy Semlordag, Fettisdag, and Mardi Gras

Oh yes, today is one of those marvelous days in Sweden when we celebrate a day dedicated to a dessert. What country in the world has a cinnamon roll day, a waffle day, and a semla day?

Sweden rocks when it comes to sweets and treats.

Last year, my girlfriends and I did the dirty deed of eating lots of semlor from bakeries around Stockholm so you didn’t have to. It was a real tragedy. Semlor, champagne, cheese, life is hard.

If you are in Stockholm make sure you check out our Best of Semlor list. Swedes buy enough semlor today to feed half the country. It is an awesome day so don’t miss it.

Not in Stockholm? Comment below with your favorite bakery for semlor and I will create a post for the best semlor in Sweden.

For the bakers and adventurous type, check out my semlor recipe. There is nothing more delicious than homemade semlor with your favorite filling.

Now it’s time for me to bake a batch and get The Swede his filling of semlor for the year.

Happy baking!

Swedish Christmas Guide 2012

December is here! And that means, Christmas, S:t Lucia festivities, and food. Lots of food. Oh and lots of decoration.

Over the years I write a couple articles about Christmas in Sweden and after sometime, the posts get all mixed up together.

To make it easier for you all to find the right post about Christmas, I put together a list of links from over the years.

NK & Hamngatan in Stockholm at Christmastime

Culture
Om Anders braskar, skall julen slaskar – Will it snow on Christmas? The age-long question is answered if snow falls on November 30.

Difference between Swedish & American Christmases – Trying to explain how your Christmas is different than from across the pond? This post should help you with the little details in each of the traditions.

Epiphany – The 13th day after Christmas. We get a day off.

Christmas holidays – A list of holidays and days off throughout the Christmas season.

 
Food

Glögg & Lussebullar Recipes – Swedish and American version on making those delicious little saffron buns. To satisfy your thirst, make your own glögg, mulled wine. It is a lot easier than you think!

Julbord Foods – Want to know what you will eat at Julbord with the in-laws or your company? I made three versions for the Julbord guide translated from Swedish to English. The article, a two page Julbord printer-friendly guide, and a three page large font guide. Print it and share it with your family or coworkers! {If you do share with your office mates, please don’t remove the Lost in Stockholm name.}

Swedish Christmas Foods – Dishes to make at home for your family julbord.
 
Decoration
Nordiska Kompaniet {NK}’s Christmas Display – If you love seeing the shops light up their windows for Christmas, then don’t miss out at NK, Sweden’s most well known department store.

Christmas Photos – A lot of pretty photos to help you oooo and ahhh.

Christmas Decoration – Christmas stars, advent candles, we can’t forgot the decorations! The biggest conundrum: when to put the tree up?

 
Christmas in the Nordic Region
Christmas in Iceland – A guest post written by Tinna. Want to know what the Yule lads are doing? Read her post and perhaps mix in a little spirit from The North Pole.

Stockholms Bästa Kanelbullar {Best Cinnamon Buns in Stockholm}

Kanelbullensdag {cinnamon bun day} is tomorrow. Founded in 1999 by Hembakningsrådets to celebrate its own 40th anniversary, the cinnamon roll became the symbol of delicious homemade bread.

Swedish kanelbullar differ from American cinnamon rolls in that the Swedish versions are bready, not very sweet, flavored with cardamon and cinnamon, and sprinkled with pearl sugar. They are usually baked as individual pieces.

American cinnamon rolls are baked together, the rolls rise next to each and stick. They have a brown sugar and cinnamon filling and are topped with icing, buttercream, or cream cheese frosting. Think of Cinnabon on less crack for the typical American version.

Thanks to friends on Twitter, I went to four bakeries in Stockholm that claim to have the best kanelbullar in Stockholm.

Porbjórn and I tasted each one and reviewed them. The top bullar were nearly a tie and really up to personal preference of gooey, yeasty, cinnamony, enough cardamom, and fluffiness.

All the bullar are worth tasting and hail from different districts in the city. Go outside, smell the yeasty goodness, and eat a bulle. For a fika, for breakfast, or just because, you should eat one.

Vetekatten

One of the classic bakeries of Stockholm known for their semlor, afternoon tea, and funky tables and chairs, Vetekatten doesn’t disappoint. The bullar were soft, gooey, and cinnamon-y (that is now a word).

Vetekatten’s kanelbullar are baked in muffin tins and wrapped in waxed paper. Opening one is like opening a little present, just for you.

Rating: 4 stars
 
Saturnus

For making the largest bullar ever, Saturnus doesn’t deliver on the freshness. Too often do the buns become dry and hard after sitting on the counter the entire day waiting for a customer to eat them. When they’re fresh and hot, they are delicious, otherwise not.

Rating: 2 stars
 
Lisa’s Cafe

Tucked away in SoFo, is a tiny little cafe reminiscing of the past years. Lisa’s cafe is a family owned business and you may meet Lisa or the hilarious grandson. Their kanelbullar are weaved, like soft pretzels, so you can tear off a little piece for every bite.

Their bullar are soft, sweet, and cinnamon-y. If they out too long though, the edges become hard but the inside gets soft, offering a veritable pretzel experience.

Lisa’s Cafe boasts that it has the best bullar in the city. And we agree. They are the best!

Rating: 4 stars
 
Gunnarssons
One of the oldest bakeries in the city, Gunnarssons lies along the hustle and bustle of Götgatan in Södermalm. From 16hr onwards, you can expert it to be a zoo and on a day like today, mass chaos.

Gunnarssons overall has good fresh bread, cakes, treats, and cookies. Recently it seems their over-popularity is contributing to uneven results. Sometimes I get an amazing kanelbullar, sometimes not. The bullar can have too much cardamom at times, but if cardamom is your thing, then you’ll be happy.

Rating: 3 stars

If you can avoid the bullar from grocery stores, 7-Eleven, and Pressbyrån (not that they’re bad, just not amazing), then you will get a great bulle.

And no, most cafes don’t discount for kanelbullendags as I naïvely thought when I celebrated my first one in Sweden.

If you have a recipe that you want to share, post it below, I only know American style bulle.

Chanterelle Picking in Sweden

It’s that time of year, when the leaves are giving way to fall breezes and the wind is picking up.

But before winter comes to Sweden, there’s one very special things Swedes do; pick chanterelles {kantareller}.

From July to late September, the forests of Sweden are full of golden, delicious little mushrooms. Fry them in butter, throw them in a sauce, eat them straight, there’s noting better than fresh, hand picked chanterelles. Except for maybe blackberries.

I haven’t gone out to pick mushrooms since for one, we’re carless in Stockholm and two, we don’t have a ‘spot.’ Instead, I asked my girlfriend, M, for tips on picking mushrooms.

Tips on picking Chanterelles
1. Have kids with you, or short people. Seriously! You don’t have to stand like a hunchback the whole time you’re picking.

2. Chanterelles are found in group on the forest floor. If you find one, stop! You are going to find a lot more where you are.

3. Don’t reveal your chantarelle place to anyone! If you need to bring an outsider, blindfold them so they can’t find their way back. We take our chanterelle hunting seriously.

4. Make sure you pick the right ones. Watch out for the false chanterelle and jack-o-lantern. The former is edible but not tasty, the latter is a light poison and will give you a stomach ache for a couple days.

Jack-o-lanterns grow clumped together at the base of trees while chanterelles grow as individual mushrooms on the forest floor. Plus, jack-o-lanterns are bioluminescent, that is they glow in the dark.

A bunch of jack-o-lantern mushrooms. Photo by Hathaway’s Virtual Trail.

5. If you find yourself picking chanterelles by some other mushroom pickers in the same area, walk the other way. If you steal someone else’s mushroom place they will hit you, or something like that. It’s strictly forbidden to poach onto someone else’s area.

6. Study your mushrooms. There are other really good mushrooms other than chanterelles that you can pick. Stolt fjällskivling {parasol mushroom} is huge and very tasty.

A parasol mushroom. This one was 30cm in diameter! {Photo by A}

7. Clean them as you pick, preferably with a mushroom knife with a little brush on the end. Or, hire someone to clean the mushroom for you, it’s not fun to clean when you have picked 5+ kg. Hey kids, wanna clean?

8. Use a scissor to pick the mushroom. This leaves the root in the ground for more chanterelles to grow. And leave the area you hunt undisturbed. Nature’s beautiful, don’t turn it into a dump.

9. Don’t pick the small ones, leave them for other pickers to pick when they are fully grown, or, cover them with branches and come back a week or two later and pick them yourself.

10. Once you are back home, fry some up right away in butter, add some salt and eat them on bread or just as they are.

Bargaining at Hötorgets Market

I love going to Hötorget’s fruit and flower market. It’s located in the big square near Stockholm central station on the side of Sergel Torgs. Hötorget is filled with small stalls with men, usually Arab and hilarious, selling strawberries, asparagus, and the latest bouquet of roses.

The open air market is my favorite spot because you can buy in-season fresh produce for cheap. Sometimes you can buy at half price of what you would pay at the local ICA. The guys working in the stalls will let you taste the food and most importantly, let you bargain.

Bargain, bargain, bargain, that’s how they work. Remember they’re mainly Arabs and their market system, like the Indian market system, is based on bargaining.

DN covered how bargaining works; which I think for many Swedes is mysterious. The only places I have seen in Sweden where I can bargain are places run by immigrants. No wonder there had to be an article on how bargaining works.

I am not the best bargain person – I just cannot haggle the way my aunts can in India and still walk away from what appears to be a good deal only to find that the shopkeepers cuts the price another 20%. Crazy! And then the deal is made.

For those of you like me, who aren’t the best bargainers or don’t know how, here is how to do it. Hötorgets market or anywhere:

1. The morning time and lunch time mark the highest prices for produce and flowers. This is when shoppers don’t have the time to bargain hunt so they buy and go. Produce in the morning is also the freshest since pickups occur early morning from the wholesale markets.

You won’t get much of bargain at this time but if you buy several items, you should be able to shave at least 10% of your total cost.

2. By late afternoon, shopkeepers intensify their battle with each and begin cutting prices. For the most part, these are cartels, they already know what prices to drop to and eventually all stalls drop to that price.

Your goal is to push them a bit further. Four boxes of strawberries for 50Kr? Make that five boxes for 50kr.

3. At 5PM, the markets will begin to close at Hötorget. They have to unload fast if they don’t want to pack things up or throw them away. Very delicates fruits, vegetables, and flowers will not survive to the next and must be sold.

Prices will further drop when buying in bulk: three bouquets of roses, 400 grams of cherries, 5 boxes of berries, etc.

You need to squeeze another box or cut the price another 20% to whatever your shopkeeper tells you.

If he tells you “no way!” then walk away. It’s all good, he will either not care to bargain or chase you and take your offer. If it is the former, then go to another and bargain the prices you want.

Whatever you Swedes do, you should bargain at the market. And you should go to Hötorget and buy fresh produce from them when possible. Because it is awesome and supports small folks and it is fun way to shop.

And for you Swedes with that look of aghast of buying produce on the street, get real. Street shopping is done all around the world and just because the food isn’t neatly packed on the shelf or sold at a saluhall, doesn’t mean it is any less delicious.

Oh, and women will fare the best at bargaining. Because we can totally bat our eyes and look stupid so a seller takes pity on us.

Fika – A Swedish Way of Life

Fika – it is a noun, a verb, and a way of life for Swedes.
Quiet possibly the best part of anyone’s day.

thanks lh for finding this!
 

Now don’t you just wanna fika right about … now?!
fika
thanks to Rinse for the photo

In British English a fika could be referred to as “high afternoon tea” but the definition is limited. High Afternoon tea is had in the afternoon and with the company of friends and scones.

In America English a fika would be “to have a  coffee” (verb) or a “coffee break” (noun).  Both definitions have limited meaning but get the gist across.

The Swedish way of defining fika is drinking coffee (verb), to have a coffee (noun).  Most people understand also fika as having a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, just nothing alcoholic. Glögg, a Christmas mulled wine is the only exception since it is consumed during one month of the year.

Fika is important because it gives employees a few minutes throughout the day to catch up on gossip, sports, and life. A bit reminiscent of the water cooler though with a darker, nuttier, acidic drink. With friends, fika is the easy way to grab a coffee and cake and hang out at the cafe for a few hours.

To have a fika:

  • A fika can be had anywhere, it is not physically limited to a restaurant or cafe or office. You can have a fika at home with friends or go to the park and fika.
  • Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are the proper beverages to fika. Most Swedes drink a black death version of coffee (remember – quantity over quality) but if you are fancy, go for the French or Italian press.
  • A proper fika includes something sweet. It can be as little as chocolate truffles or more traditionally a pie {paj} or cookies. Swedes love berry pies, carrot cakes, princestårta, and the infamous chokladbolls {formally known as a negroboll}.

I am so used to using fika that I say it to even my American friends. Seriously, which is cooler: let’s grab a coffee, or, let’s fika. The latter duh.

Next time you want to show off your Swedishness, ask your friends or coworkers for a fika.

How often do you fika?

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Have a Swedish Midsommar at Home

Whether you’re in Sweden or far away across the globe, you can celebrate midsommar, the Swedish way. Perhaps minus the mind-blowing-drunkenness.

You can always cheat and head to one of the Swedish missions holding a midsommar party Saturday afternoon. I know NYC, London are definitely hosting parties with a maypole and picnic.

But if you want to celebrate at home with friends, setting up for midsommar is pretty easy.

1. Find a few Swedes. You’ll be thankful you have them when it comes time to singing små grodorna and other silly songs.

2. Make flower wreaths. Find seven flowers and make yourself a halo to have on your head. Girls only!

3. Foodwise – The good thing about cooking for midsommar is the food is not time consuming, there’s just a lot of stuff.
– Gravad Lax – also known as ‘lox’

– Salmon – to bake in the oven with some cream, chives, dill. Alternatively, grill with a dash of lemon and dill.

– Grill-able meats – I mean real meat, NOT hot dogs or any of that shit. Nice medallions of pork or steak seasoned the way you like.

– Fresh potatoes – buy the freshest potatoes at the farmers market. The grocery store won’t give you the quality. These potatoes take 10-15 minutes to boil (add dill to the water). Serve whole with or without the skin.

– Herring {sill}- Can be found in jars at a speciality supermarket. Not a fish fish person? Then skip it.

– Strawberries {jordgubbar} – Midsommar isn’t complete without a bowl of fresh strawberries served up with homemade whipped cream and ice cream. Alternatively, make a midsommartårta.

– Cheese and hard bread {knäckbröd} – to keep the people from starving, serve a plate of cheeses and hard breads.

4. Drinks {dryck} – Rhubarb and elderflower {fläder} are two of the most popular summer fruits. Find some elderflower extract and mix with pureed rhubarb and bubble water. Serve with or without alcohol.

As for alcoholic beverages, midsommar is built on schnapps {aquavit}. The best is OP Andersson and for a more floral flavor, get Fläder aquavit. Some supermarkets sell aquavit but check your local IKEA.

nubbe
Once you have the basics covered, feel free to add more side dishes, vegetarian dishes and meat dishes. Dessert should consist of any berry to be kosher Swedish.

When you set the table, be sure to add vases of flowers and go local or pick your own. The beauty of midsommar is celebrating summer and what it has to offer, not buying roses flown in from Argentina.

Most importantly, have fun and eat outside at a park!!!