Fiber Fool

Follow the feats and foibles of a fiber fanatic.

Fika: Bullar and Káffe

Filed under: In the Kitchen, Times Past — Kristi at 8:17 am on Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bullar Mosaic

Did you know that the Swedish consume the second most coffee in the world per capita? They fall behind only Finland. This explains a lot to me when I learned of this. Growing up it seemed the adults around seemed to always be drinking coffee. I didn’t understand it. It tasted bitter and the last thing I wanted to drink when the heat index was over 100 degrees was hot coffee.

I have a friend who recently got her Swedish citizenship and she was always talking about fika (pronounced “fee-ka” I believe) and from what I could gather it seemed like tea to me, but it seemed like she would partake in this activity many times a day. I never did ask her what it was. Then right before my mom’s visit we picked up a book from the Univeristy of Minnesota Press at a great local kitchen store called The Swedish Table. The first section of the books contains memories of the traditions the author partook in when she was growing up in the north of Sweden and in there she described fika as a break from your activities in which you drink coffee and eat a sweet. Wow, did that hit home for me!

I grew up on the old family farm where my great-great aunt Emma and her brothers Aaron and Karl lived. My paternal grandparents built a house across the gravel road just before my parents got married and my father moved down the hallway from a kid room to the master bedroom. When I was little and we had to hire neighbor boys and the like (well, young men really) to aid in farm work such as putting up hay. It was expected that all the workers would be provided not only lunch, but also a morning coffee and an afternoon coffee. I realized they were working hard and it was often quite hot and definitely stifling for whomever was in the hayloft, but it always kind of surprised me how much work they could get done when they were stopping all the time to eat and drink. Now, the young men usually had lemonade with thier cinnamon roll or cookies, but the older men almost always had coffee, no matter how hot it was.

Helene Henderson describes fika as “The most important custom in Sweden… The day begins and ends with fika, and it also happens many times between, while you talk about the weather, the all time favorite topic of conversation for most Swedes (in the north at least).” That is why everything in my home church in Svea (we pronounce it sa-veh’-ah but it should be pronounced svee’-ah) revolved around coffee and cookies, no matter the time of day! And that is why to this day grandma Irma has coffee and rusks at 10am and 2pm!

Fika can be elaborate with the requisite 7 kinds of cookies (a traditional measure of one’s housekeeping skills) and sweet rolls and the like, or it can be simple and just be coffee and a rusk as grandma Irma often does. Henderson said in her family fika almost always included a pastry called bullar, so we gave her bullar recipe a try and invited a couple friends over on a whim for fika on Saturday.

Bullar is similar to our cinnamon rolls. It consists of a yeast-raised dough that is slightly sweet. The dough is rolled out after the first raise, slathered with butter and sprinkled with a cinnamon, cardomom, and sugar recipe. Then it is folded in half and cut into 1-inch wide strips. You take the strips and twist them and then wrap them around your index finger. They rise for a second time and then you bake them. Traditionally they are washed with egg and sprinkled with pearl sugar, though we did not have any pearl sugar on hand so we opted for a powdered sugar glaze. They are lighter and less sweet than most American cinnamon rolls and there is of course that nice addition of cardomom. The recipe recommends fresh cadomom, but I’m not sure where we might be able to get some, so we used fresh ground dried at the amount recommended. We did decide we would up it a bit as it was hard to pick up on that nice change.

DH has decided he won’t mind partaking in fika on a regular basis as long as he can substitute tea. So we’ll be trying some of the other recipes for baked goods in The Swedish Table in coming weeks or until it gets too hot to bake. Once we’ve had an opportunity to try more of the recipes I’ll formulate a more formal book review of it.

Along with my greater exploration of my Swedish heritage and customs I’ve also taken on the goal of writing to grandma Irma weekly. I realized when writing her thank you for my birthday card last week that once you blow the font up 20pt and bold it that it doesn’t take that much writing to make a decent letter and as long as it is large and bold she can read it much easier than we can talk on the phone. I can also send along full-page photos so she can see what I’m up to. Last week I sent her some Chicken Soup for the Souls that I dubbed to tapes and two photos of me and my shawl. This week I’m going to send a picture of our bullar and ask her if she remembers great-great aunt Emma making anything similar.



Comment by trek

April 26, 2006 @ 8:31 am

You made me salivate. Can you mail me some?? :O


Comment by Carole

April 26, 2006 @ 8:41 am

What a great Swedish post! My family and my husband’s family are all Swedish and it’s always been something I’ve been so proud of. But since my grandparents are all gone it’s hard to know about these sorts of traditions. I’m so glad you shared this!


Comment by trek

April 26, 2006 @ 8:44 am

Ack - I accidentally deleted your email reply (it got shunted to my junk mail, who knows why). Wanna resend?


Comment by Wendy

April 26, 2006 @ 9:01 am

I’m half Swedish — your post brought back fond memories of my grandma making bullar! :-)


Comment by Rebekah

April 26, 2006 @ 9:14 am

I decided to partake in a bit of Fika myself after reading your blog this morning, since it’s 10:14. However I substituted water for the coffee and baked cheetos for the pastry. Because well that was what I had, but your pastries look so much better.

Love the new blog!


Comment by Snow

April 26, 2006 @ 9:23 am

I think I’d like any tradition that involved something as delicious as those rolls look. The dough really looks like a rose. Lovely!

By the way, I’ve been to your teas and seen how good you are at so many things, so you’re definitely the modern high standard for housekeeping and hostessing.


Comment by Cathy

April 26, 2006 @ 9:26 am

I read “feasts and foibles”… tho “feets” is fine with all your socks and all… Yummy descriptions - I need a snack :-)


Comment by Stephanie

April 26, 2006 @ 9:39 am

I love the new site! It’s gorgeous. And when are we having brunch? I’ll make sure to bring the tea to go with those yummy rolls.


Comment by Imbrium

April 26, 2006 @ 10:02 am

What a wonderful idea - taking the time to enjoy the little things helps the work go faster. Definitely something to remember.


Comment by Hillary

April 26, 2006 @ 10:08 am

Good thing it’s lunchtime here because your post made my mout water. Seriously, those rolls have such a nice rose shape. I’d love to know how to do that.

I also loved the little bit of Swedish info. I have a cousin whose wife is Swedish and many years ago they moved back there. It’s actually a cool story. Someday I’ll go visit them and enjoy fika in Sweden.


Comment by Chris

April 26, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

Thanks for the info on Swedish customs. I know very little of the people who surround me. :)


Comment by Jenni

April 26, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

I want sime bullar and fika! Yum!


Comment by Dani

April 27, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

Add some needles and fiber and it sounds like heaven on earth!!

Comment by Jenny

December 21, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

Svenska bullar smakar alltid like gott!! Fika pa bara!!

Pingback by Fiber Fool » RECIPE: Slow Cooker Svea Latte for a Crowd

October 27, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

[…] RECIPE: Slow Cooker Svea Latte for a Crowd Filed under: In the Kitchen — Kristi at 2:07 pm on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 […]

Comment by Tammy @ Not Just Paper and Glue

November 12, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

Those pictures are making me hungry! I think I must go eat some lunch :) Great story as well.

Comment by ana @ i made it so

November 12, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

oh man, you’ve been sharing delicious stuff for ages! lol

i clicked on your link earlier today, but had to set aside some time this evening to read it. i often do that with your posts, you tell a good story to go along with the amazing photos, not something i like to skim through. i enjoyed learning about this tradition. thanks kristi. hope you’ll join in again, great group of bloggers and readers, and i hope more and more will join us in the future!

Comment by googiemomma

November 13, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

visiting from the archive dive @ imadeitso!
uhhh, i’m not swedish, but i must institute fika in my home. RIGHT.NOW. with bullar.
i’m drooling!
i love reading about different customs! seems so many other countries take the time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak–as opposed to the fast-paced hectic-ness of the u.s.
(yes, hectic-ness is totally a word)

Comment by Alyssa

November 14, 2010 @ 11:06 am

Visiting from Ana’s Archive Dive and I’m so glad I did. So are you happy with the recipes in The Swedish Table? The bullar look scrumptious. My family wasn’t Swedish, but that coffee and a sweet thing was definitely a part of our lives.

Comment by David

October 20, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

I stumbled upon this post just now, and I must say you’ve have it spot on! I’m Swedish and it’s nice that our little tradition get this kind of attention :)

I hope that more people get to fika now, it’s the greatest thing! The relief is total when you work with a group of people and you’re all stuck on something. The frustration builds up, but then someone suggests, “hey, let’s take a fika”. Then everyone switches to fika-mode and you instantly start talking about the weather (if you’re of an older generation) or about how the weekend’s been (if you’re younger). After 10-15 minutes, everyones refreshed and happy.

So, great article! Cheers!

Comment by Jenny

April 28, 2012 @ 4:33 am

Hehe, yes, “Fika” is really REALLY swedish (^_^) I can’t think of anything better than kaffe och Napoleonbakelse (coffee and Napoleon pastry). If you come to Sweden, you won’t survive without having a fika every day!

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