Updated: Aug 20
A memory of a recipe and a landscape from Sweden
The Stockholm archipelago’s rocks, skerries and islands are still rising from the glaciers which once covered the region. Beautiful yet harsh, populated yet remote, it’s easy to imagine the tough-skinned existence of the farmers and fishermen who initially inhabited this elemental landscape. People dot the cliffs, bathing on the bulbous slabs of rock which form the lands bond with the water; when the sea is calm their relationship is soft and harmonious, but it can quickly become a battle, the magnitude of the water meeting the stern face of the rock. We spent a lot of time sat on ‘seagull rock’, aptly named because of the faecal debris left behind by the birds when the cliff was discovered; nothing which a mop and bucket of seawater couldn’t clear away.
Time on the rock escapes the day. Shoes are taken off shoes at the top of rocks, like leaving them in the hallway of a house. Then small paths and ways are formed by the bare feet walking down to the sea, eyes will then look out upon the sun-scald on the surface of the water and finally a ‘jack sparrow’ dive will break the stillness, before being broken again by the shocked look of a frozen face. Watching the cold sea move around the dark rocks I imagined the two holding each other like a hard-hand squeezing soft-skin; the rocks had smoothness and roughness, warmth and coolness, angles and contours, like a human body. Under sun, it was hard to imagine that this blue sea can freeze over in the winter and that the islands and its inhabitants are subject to the long, harsh, brumal days normally associated with the Nordic region.
Ingarö is where the summer lives
People love to get naked
You need to understand Fika
These were the statements I was repeatedly told on my first couple of days and they were not proved false. The island was drenched with warm, clear and salubrious sunshine, there certainly was a cheerful propensity to bare-all and I did come to understand that most ubiquitously used Swedish word: ‘fika’.
Put simply, fika is a chance to enjoy a coffee alongside something sweet, most of the time this is done with others, but it can be done alone. It is a break from something, whether that be work or sunbathing on some rocks. Fika structures even the loosest of days and in fact, a lot of the time leading up to a fika was spent discussing what would be eaten for it. Whether you had just crawled your way out of the sea, put down your book or finished doing your impression of the Swedish chef from the muppets, you had to come and join the fika. There is something quietly ceremonial about it, even though it is quotidian: out of the picnic bag came the enormous thermos full of coffee for the Swedes and the small thermos shamefully full of tea for the Englishmen, but most importantly, out came the bag full of home baked kardemummabulle (cardamom buns).
Recipe for sourdough cardamom buns:
Dough: 700g wheat bread flour / 10g salt / 10g cardamom / 100 sugar / 350g milk / 50g egg / 80g sourdough starter / 100g butter
Filling: 200g butter / 80g sugar / 20g grinded cardamom /
Sugar pearls to sprinkle on the top
Melt half of the butter in a pan. Take the pan off the heat and then add sugar and cardamom to the. Elated butter (always use a bit more than you think). Add the rest of the butter and mix it together until it becomes a paste texture. Leave it at room temperature covered by plastic/or lid.
On a table surface: Mix flower, sugar, salt and cardamom (buy whole cardamom seeds and crush/grind them in a pestle and mortar), then make a hole in the middle of the mix.
Pour eggs, milk and sourdough starter into the dry ingredients and mix it all together.
Knead the dough, then let it rest under a baking cloth for 20 minutes.
Add the butter, a little at a time and pinch into the dough. Let it rest under a damp cloth for 2 hours.
Wrap the dough in plastic (alt. leave it in the cloth) and put it in the fridge for another hour.
Roll the dough out to a flat square (as big as possible), apply the paste on to the dough, fold it over from the middle, making a massive sandwich, then cut the dough into long strings.
Twist and twistle the string, then wrap into a bow. Might be worth watching a youtube video for the technique, but you don’t have to be too precious, they turn out great after baking.
Place the buns on the tray covered with baking paper.
Leave the buns in a cold/turned off oven for 8-12 hours for them to double in size.
Turn the oven on to 200C.
Spray the buns with water and sprinkle some pärlsocker (pearl sugar) before baking them in the oven for 10-14 minutes, or for however long it takes until they’re beautiful and golden.