A lot of chat about buns...and the Swedish waffle.
Letter from Sweden by Gary (not Alistair) Cook
20 February 2021
Buns. The Swedish love their buns. As a consequence, they make the most delicious buns in the world. And the most delicious bun in this world of delicious buns is, as far as I’m concerned, the cardamom bun. They are extraordinary.
The first one I had was from a services on the way to Stockholm back in October. It was not what you’d call Top Class but, even so, it was delicious. Obviously, since that early bun sampling day I have tasted some of the best but, you never forget your first.
Of course, the most famous Swedish bun, the staple of many a fika, is the cinnamon bun. You can buy them anywhere, anytime, for any reason. I have no idea what would happen to the economy if there was ever a world wide cinnamon shortage.
Actually, quite often buns have their own special day here in Sweden. Naturally there’s a Cinnamon Bun Day. It’s October 4 just in case you were wondering. Though, as I said, you can get them at any time, day or night.
Then there’s the special Santa Lucia bun which is only available on December 13. I mentioned that one before in my Christmas letter. It’s a very good thing that it’s only available for a very short time each year because you could so easily pig out on them. The saffron makes them extra special and super tasty.
Then there’s the semla. The semla has legendary status here. They are an odd confection. A bun with the top sliced off, filled with almond paste and a big dollop of whipped cream, topped with the cut off top of the bun. The idea is you can dip into the cream on top of the hollowed out bun with the lid. This is impossible. The lid is made of bun. Bun does not make a good spoon.
Still, according to my wife, they are delicious. Sadly, the one and only semla I had was full of nut butter. I didn’t like it. It was far too rich for me.
Once upon a time, you could only eat semla on Fettisdagen or, in English, Fat Tuesday. It’s the day before Lent starts, but the Swedes love them so much that the semla time has grown. You can now get semla from Shrove Tuesday to Easter.
As well as buns, the Swedes love waffles. To be exact they love Våfflor, their own style of waffle. We had one at Christmas at a market. They are half way between a Belgian waffle and a French crepe. Served straight from the hot plate with a dollop of cream and a bit of jam. Take my word for it, they are lovely on a chilly, winter morning. And they even have their own special day. Of course. It’s called Våffeldagen and takes place on March 25.
Finally, there’s the one on November 6, coincidentally, my birthday. This is the day that King Gustav II Adolf died in 1638. To celebrate his demise, a special slice is produced with his head in a chocolate silhouette on the top.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one last year. Not that my description would be much good. There isn’t one single standard recipe for the Gustav Adolfsbakelse, which is what it’s called here. The ingredients change from place to place, each town making it differently. Well, except for the chocolate head of good king Gustav II.
Perhaps this year, my wife will make one for me with a chocolate silhouette of my head on top.
I can only hope.
Till next time. Hej dor!
PS: I can only apologise for my awful pronunciation of Swedish words.