Honungssnittar

A story about honey biscuit-slices, Christmas nook and the first advent Sunday

1129 first sunday of the advent

Sunrise: 8:57 AM
Sunset: 1:51 PM
Temperature: 2.9°C

Things haven’t evolved much since the days of my childhood Christmases. The tree gets decorated early. Biscuits get baked. So does my mom’s pain d’épices. Some years, Aïda and I will attempt to make marrons glacés [candied chestnuts], which is never a success since most of the chestnuts get eaten before they burst with syrup at the end of the fourteen-day candying process; but who could blame us? My dad will sing us the songs he wrote. And some presents get opened too early, on a champagne-induced can’t-wait feeling. And then, there was always the wishes Aïda and I made on Christmas eve for a snowy morning that – as the history now revealed – never came.

This year hasn’t been so different. Only that new traditions have come along too. Every window glows with an adventsstjärna [an advent star] and adventsljusstake [advent candles]. And on many balconies, a grann [spruce] can be seen, sparkling with lights and candles.

Our kitchen smells of saffron and cinnamon. And I’ve been baking småkakor [biscuits] almost every day. Today, our first advent candle got lit up. Oh and I managed to loose almost every picture I had taken over the past week or so.
If the next few recipes come with only one or two pictures, you’ll know why :)

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The snow that fell so heavily a weekend or so ago has now turned into ice after the occasional rain was followed by a day made of wool hats, moose-skin mittens and -15°C.
Much to my regret; for the sake of both a mesmerising cotton-like world and the ease of walking around.
On the latter point, after a much-feared sliding accident on the pavement, Kalle got me some crampons, which resonate into the empty streets – of the 5am kind – as I walk to work.

But I heard it might snow tomorrow night. To wishes; near and far!

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Honungssnittar
Adapted from Leila Lindholm’s kolakakor in A Piece of Cake.

I first came across snittar a few months ago, when I started working at the café. In Sweden, you’ll find snittar flavoured with just about anything, but two of the most popular ones are chokladsnittar and kolasnittar [caramel biscuits].
And just like it’s been really hard to find recipe sources on the many Swedish blogs I’ve been reading, it’s just as complicated with recipe names. Many times, snittar will just be called kakor, although they’re the same thing.

But really, I fell in love with how snittar reflects how the biscuits get sliced after being baked. Something I had never seen before, and that is amazing for a number of reasons that can’t match how easy these little biscuits are to dip in a cup of tea or coffee.
Priorities are in order in Sweden!

Honungssnittar are a favourite memory of many Swedish grown-ups. My friend Suss told me how she used to eat them straight from the freezer – when the edges are super-crisp and the centre still chewy – as a child.
To make these honungssnittar here I simply replaced the golden syrup used in kolakakor with creamy honey.
The resulting biscuit is soft and delicately fragrant. With edges crunchy just so.

It’s important to cut the biscuits straight out from the oven and they will harden quite a lot during the cooling.
I had taken some pictures of the rolling/baking/cutting process, but as I’ve told you above, they’re well gone now; it is, however, super simple. The dough gets rolled into logs. And flattened into 1cm-tick rectangles, straight on the baking tray. And right after baking, the long strips get cut into “diamond” slices. I always use a metal dough-scraper, although a large knife will work too as long as you’re careful enough not to damage your baking tray.

I hope you’ll give these a go! And let me know what you think of the Swedish snittar process! I’m smitten :)

honungssnittar

Honungssnittar

makes 16-20 biscuits

200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
170 g caster sugar
80 g creamy honey
2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp sea salt
270 g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a tray with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar, honey, vanilla sugar and salt for a few minutes, until well combined.
In the meantime, mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter and work until it just starts to form a dough.

Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a 30cm-long log. Repeat with the other half.
Place the logs onto the prepared baking tray, spacing them as much as possible as the dough will spread quite a lot during baking.

Flatten each log with the palm of your hand to a 1cm-tick rectangle. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light-golden-brown.
As soon as the biscuits come out from the oven, cut into slices using a dough-scraper or a large knife (in which case, be careful not to damage your baking tray).

Allow the biscuits to cool down completely on the tray before moving to an air-tight container.

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Lanthandeln

[The country store]

Nordanå, Ernst Westerlunds allé, 931 22 Skellefteå
Lanthandeln

I wanted to do an advent calendar on the blog this year. To document my first Christmas in Sweden. Except that after planning the posts, drawing illustrations, and baking a few – of the many I had on my list – traditional Swedish biscuits, I realised that it actually went against everything I believed in and mostly, against documenting.

I admire bloggers and magazine publishers who can write about Christmas in September (and most of the time, even earlier) but I’ve never been a good make-believer. I like to write as things happen – wether in my life, or in my kitchen. So instead of the daily posts I had dreamed about for December, I’m here with the now.

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The first snow happened a few days ago. At around nine pm. And really, I was so excited I had to resort to my most serious form(s) of persuasion to convince Kalle to come for a walk with me.
Perhaps, it was nothing like the thick cotton snowflakes we’d seen last March, on the day we left for Åsen, but there is was. Winter.

Since then, we’ve put together a little Christmas corner in our flat. There are a few candles. And the white dalahäst [Dala horse] we bought in Mora two summers ago. There is a small wire basket, which reminds me of the – larger, and very yellow – one that my mum has always used to store her pinces à linge [clothespins]. Oh and a white apple that I couldn’t resist, so much it brought back memories of the apple – dripping with icing – illustration on a left page of one the books I used to go to bed every night as a child; and of which, I’ve sadly forgotten the title, not that I haven’t searched for years (it might have been the story of a mouse and his friend, and I, although I might be very wrong, I think they had a car; not that it matters so much, but maybe one of you will remember it too, and really, that would be the most wonderful Christmas present I could think of).

Today, the sun set as we walked back home from lanthandeln [the country store]. A happy miss-match of ribbons and Christmas ephemera, cast-iron scissors and glass jars; not unlike a charming cabinet de curiosité. It must have been no later than two thirty and by three, the growing darkness could only come up to the lights that glimmer on every window.

There is a café in the back; although, we will have to come back as we didn’t have any change. And also mostly so that I can buy the scissors :) And perhaps, next time, I won’t be so camera-shy and will be able to show you därinne [inside, literally, in there] and not just the beautiful windows.

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Everything falls into place – Raw muesli bars

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I spoke with my grand-mère last night. We settled on soup, mostly. Vegetables and a few spoonfuls of lentils or split peas. And citrouille [pumpkin] cooked with its skin on in a light bouillon.

Yes, the approaching winter means soup for dinner. It also means a half-past-three dusk and long evenings at home.
Kalle has been tying flies and installing new operating systems on his computer (he does that, weekly, if not more). And I’ve been baking, reading, and embroidering.
If I had been told that I’d find the one person on this planet who loves to spend evenings at home as much as I do, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But I once read something that went along the lines of: “Everything falls into place”. And like many other words, I think, these have stuck with me ever since. Not unlike my collection of old Pyrex glasses.

It does, indeed. Fall into place.
At times, you’ll forget what place even mean. There will be chaos, and hopefully, laughters too. And then, there will be mornings like today.

Depending on what day you’d come here, you’d either encounter autumn – the dark light, the raindrops against the windows of our patio; or winter – the crisp blue air, the frost.

Today is of the latter sort. A walk right after dawn, where the sky was purple and the ground glimmering under the street lights. A cup of tea, which I always end up forgetting about. A couple of rice cakes topped with avocado and more lemon pepper than you’d think is necessary.
But no matter how much I love to talk about breakfast, I think avocado on toast has been discussed enough (although I can only urge you to try it on rice cakes).

Muesli bars have too? Yes, I have no excuse for the recipe I’m telling you about today. It is what it is. And perhaps more; a staple in our house.

Raw muesli bars

I’ve been making these bars for a couple of years. In fact, more often than not, you’d find a few stashed in an airtight container in the second draw of my freezer.

The recipe itself is more of a bare-bones: oats, dates or some other dried fruits, nut butter, agave (although maple syrup or honey make an excellent substitute), nuts and seeds.
You could switch the cashew for pecans, or the pumpkin seeds for coconut flakes. Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, or even a handful of cocoa nibs (you should try with apricots instead of dates; in which case, I’d also throw in a few pistachios).

In any case, I hope these bars will fill your freezer and your quatre-heures [literally: four o’clock (as in afternoon tea)].

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Raw muesli bars

makes 12-14

300 g pitted dates
300 g oats
200 g whole almonds
100 g pumpkin seeds
100 g sunflower seeds
10 g flaky sea salt
180 g (raw) nut butter
120 g agave syrup
375 g cashew nuts

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the oats, almonds, seeds, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside until needed.

Drain the dates and place in a blender, along with the nut butter (I love to make it with raw peanut butter) and agave syrup.
Blitz until smooth. Then, add the cashew and give it a quick blitz, juts enough to break them down into smaller pieces.

Scrape the date mixture over the oats and using clean hands, mix until it comes together. It will take a little while, but eventually will! If the dough feels a little bit too dry after 5 minutes of mixing, add a tbsp or two of extra nut butter. Or if it feels too sticky, simply mix in a little more oats.

Tip the muesli over the prepared baking tray and flatten into a rectangle, around 2 cm thick. Place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, then slice into squares.
These will keep for up to a week in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer.

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