Lagom, Cinnamon Buns, and finding balance with Swedish ‘fika’ by Linnea Dunne
The Swedish word ‘lagom’ means ‘not too little, not too much, but just enough’, and can be used to describe anything from the perfect-temperature bath to the right amount of discussion and deliberation before consensus is reached in work. It is a concept that goes some way to describe how Sweden became a country renowned for its robust welfare state and equality policies, celebrating a commitment to finding what really works and, crucially, knowing when to stop. If you know what’s ‘just enough’, why go overboard?
There’s nothing particularly lagom, then, about the Swedish ‘fika’ tradition, with very regular coffee breaks and daily spreads of freshly-baked buns and biscuits of all types and tastes, right? Wrong. See, the fika break, of near-religious status in Sweden, is just as much about the opportunity to check in with friends and take the pulse of whatever’s going on right now as it is about a caffeine top-up and an energy boost, literally speaking. And with endless research proving both that regular breaks – ideally every hour – make us happier as well as more productive and that Swedish businesses rank among the top of the world’ most efficient organisations, there’s very little arguing with these socio-culinary pit-stops.
Make time for yourself, for your colleagues and friends or that book you keep failing to finish – and do it with a cuppa and a pastry, and light a candle while you’re at it. Never before have we needed breaks and opportunities to check in with each other face to face like we do today.
No one pastry or baked treat says fika time as much as a cinnamon flavoured bun, paired here with a touch of aromatic cardamom. Think of that gorgeous warmly spicy scent spreading throughout your home while the buns are baking in the oven, and you’ll soon understand why Swedes have an almost sacred relationship with cinnamon.
Kanelbullar - Cinnamon Buns
Makes 10 buns
sunflower oil, for oiling
1 tsp ground cardamom
425g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
7g packet fast-action dried yeast
50g caster sugar
½ tsp fine salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
75g butter, softened
50g light brown soft sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp fine salt
For the glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Pearl or demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Lightly oil a large baking sheet, or 9 pie tins about 8cm in diameter. Put the milk in a small saucepan, add the cardamom and bring to just below boiling point. Turn off the heat, stir in the butter until melted and leave the mixture to stand until it is just warm. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg, then stir in the warm milk mixture.
Gradually mix until well combined and a soft sticky dough forms that comes away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface (don’t flour it) and knead by hand for 5 minutes. The dough will be very soft and sticky at first, but will become less sticky with kneading. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Lightly oil a bowl and add the dough. Cover with clingfilm or a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30–60 minutes or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Beat all the ingredients together in a separate bowl until soft and easily spreadable. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle measuring about 35 x 25cm and 3mm thick. Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough and, starting from one of the long edges, roll the dough up tightly like a Swiss roll, ending with the seam underneath. Cut into 10 slices around 2.5cm thick. Place on the baking sheet, leaving a small space between them, or in the individual tins or sections, and then cover and leave to prove in a warm place for about 30 minutes until the dough springs back when prodded gently.
For the glaze, brush the buns with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C, Gas Mark 6. Bake the buns for 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool for a while – delicious served warm.