What is fika?
It’s another one of those alluringly simple Scandinavian concepts. This one is from Sweden and it means making time in your day to socialise over a good cup of coffee and a homemade treat.
The coffee and cake are important, but the really crucial bit is the conversation. Baking some sticky buns and brewing the coffee gives you the excuse to take a break from your day and sit down with someone you care about. Make eye contact, have a chat and reconnect.
Life-affirming cinnamon buns
Because this is a Swedish thing, cinnamon buns are obligatory. Arrange to meet a friend in your favourite cafe, or get baking at home. If you bake them yourself the gorgeous fug of sweet sugary baking will make your fika extra special. I’ve two options for you: a traditional recipe and a super-easy version…
My favourite recipe
My favourite Fika time treat is Nigella’s Norwegian buns from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I am reproducing her recipe here in full, but with one major change: you need more flour. Don’t worry if your buns get a little dark when cooking, it’s the sugar catching. They will still be gooey and sticky inside!
When they come out of the oven you will feel like you’ve performed a miracle and your guests will be in awe. The truly clever thing is, they’re really not actually that hard at all. You’ll need about two hours to get these babies ready, but it’s worth it.
NIGELLA’S NORWEGIAN BUNS
FOR THE DOUGH
- 600g bread flour (I USED 800G – start with 600g but be prepared to add more if your dough is very sticky)
- 100g sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 x 7g sachets/envelopes easy-blend yeast
- 100g unsalted butter
- 400 millilitres milk
- 2 eggs
FOR THE FILLING
- 150g soft unsalted butter
- 150g sugar
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 egg (beaten), to glaze
- Preheat the oven to 230°C/210ºC Fan/gas mark 8/450°F
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Melt the butter and whisk it into the milk and eggs, then stir enough of this into the flour mixture to give a soft dough. BE PREPARED TO ADD EXTRA FLOUR HERE – I USED AN EXTRA 200g TO ACHIEVE A SOFT DOUGH THAT WASN’T TOO STICKY. Mix to combine and then knead the dough either by hand or using the dough hook of a food mixer until it’s smooth and springy. Form into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave it to rise for about 25 minutes.
- Take one-third of the dough and roll it or stretch it to fit your roasting tin or large brownie tin – measuring 33cm x 24cm (9 x 13inches), lined with baking parchment bottom and sides – this will form the bottom of each bun when it has cooked. Roll out the rest of the dough on a lightly floured surface, aiming to get a rectangle of roughly 50 x 25cm (20 x 10 inches). Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl and then spread the rectangle with the buttery cinnamon mixture. Try to get even coverage on the whole of the dough. Roll it up from the longest side until you have a giant sausage. Cut the roll into 2cm slices (¾ inch) which should make about 20 rounds. Sit the rounds in lines on top of the dough in the tin, swirly cut-side up. Don’t worry if they don’t fit snugly together as they will swell and become puffy when they prove. Brush them with egg and then let them rise again for about 15 minutes to let them get duly puffy.
- Put in the hot oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, by which time the buns will have risen and will be golden-brown in colour. Don’t worry if they catch in places – see mine in the picture. Remove them from the tin and leave to cool slightly on a rack – it’s easy just to pick up the whole sheet of parchment and transfer them like that – before letting people tear them off, to eat warm.
The super-easy option
If you’re short on time (or hate baking) don’t despair. This super easy option means you can still have freshly baked cinnamon rolls in a matter of minutes.
You will need a packet of Jus-Rol Cinnamon Swirls, which you’ll find in the pastry section of the supermarket. It’s a roll of ready made cinnamon buns – all you need to do is slice it up and bake in the oven. They are so easy, my kids can make them! Not as utterly life-affirming and ambrosial as the Norwegian buns, but still very tasty.
A good cup of coffee
This bit’s really up to you, but personally I favour a double espresso topped up with hot, velvety milk. A flat white, in other words. I make it using my La Pavoni machine with these beans. If you don’t like coffee, try this gorgeous new Cinnamon spiced hot chocolate by Cupsmith.