This year, as every year, we are celebrating the official Cinnamon Bun day. A national holiday in Sweden (not really, but it should be) – it falls every year on October the 4th and is celebrated by eating cinnamon buns en masse.
For many Scandis, us included – every day is cinnamon bun day. There’s always a reason for a cinnamon bun. It is, as you may know, also referred to as an edible hug. No? Just us then. Because that’s how we feel about it. It is as comforting and warming as a hug from your best friend, a stranger or your dog. Whichever of those you prefer.
As Scandinavians we feel it is our duty to educate those less knowledgeable about this harmonic symbiosis of flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon. This is lesson 1, based on our post from last year (read it here) – we’ll keep it simple.
The cinnamon bun’s origin is a hotly debated topic. The Swedes claim it originated there in the 1920s. Usually, we won’t shy away from a debate, but in this case – it doesn’t matter where it is from. We love it too much. It is a love-child of Scandinavia.
Cinnamon bun day has been celebrated since 1999, and the bun itself didn’t really become popular until the 1950s.
A Nordic cinnamon bun is typically made with a bit of ground cardamom in the dough – this is what differentiates it from other cinnamon buns, such as the over-the-top sticky sweet buns you often see in north America. with a bit of ground cardamom, which sets them apart from other cinnamon buns on this lovely planet of ours.
A real cinnamon bun (a Scandi one) does not have icing on the top. In Norway, a sprinkle of normal granulated sugar – in Sweden those lovely big-ish sugar crystals called Pearl Sugar.
A typical Swede eats 316 cinnamon buns per year – in our central London cafe we sell about 60 cinnamon buns per day (and we all smell faintly of cinnamon..mm!).
That is roughly 21600 per year.
If you stack all these buns, the total height would be 648 meters, or roughly the height of the Shanghai Tower, the 2nd tallest building in the world with 632 meters. Only Burj Al Kalifa would be taller, with its 830 meters. (Eat more buns, people!)
Or, you can bake a really really long one to share.
In Norway (and highly likely elsewhere in Scandinavia too) there are various very important cinnamon bun competitions held every year, where readers of the local newspaper nominate and vote for the best cinnamon bun in town. It is prestigious and competitive, and taken very, very serious.
The same place refers to its cinnamon buns as Skillingsboller – ‘schilling buns’ – referring to the cost of one back in the day.
In Denmark, they are often called ‘cinnamon snails’ – Kanelsnegl’, and in Finland, ‘slapped ear’ – Korvapuusti. Maybe because if someone did slap your ear, a cinnamon bun would be a suitable treat to comfort you in your pain and distress.
Cinnamon buns are made a variety of different ways. You can swirl them and pop them into a little paper case to keep all the buttery sugary gooeyness; do a simple swirl and bake, cut side up, or do a thinner swirl baked cut sides out. We love them all.
The cinnamon bun is perfect – it doesn’t need meddling with. Still, some people make things as the below – a bacon cinnamon bun roll sandwich. Proceed at your own responsibility; we take no responsibility for whatever may come from consuming this (delicious?) concoction.
There are two kinds of cinnamon; Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon is also referred to as sweet cinnamon – or true cinnamon and is the most popular one. It is a bit more expensive than the other, but the taste is miles better. Get it if you can – otherwise your buns won’t be as good.
Cinnamon also contains a substance called coumarin – which can damage the liver if consumed in larger quantities. The Scandinavian countries regularly relish in this fact, purely so they can put a scare cinnamon headline out, such as; ‘How to avoid cinnamon-poisoning’ ‘Be careful with cinnamon’ ‘Cinnamon buns can damage your liver’But fear not – you would have to eat approximately 10 cinnamon buns per day for an extended period of time to notice anything.
It is Scandifically proven that it is impossible to resist a fresh cinnamon bun still warm from the oven. Try it. Sprinkle with almonds for a nutty taste..mmmm!
Phoro credit: Peter Cassidy, for Ryland Peters.
Enjoy Bun Day on the 4th October – we want to see your buns, so don’t forget to send us a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the best ones on facebook and instagram. Prizes for the best looking buns.
As the saying goes (well, in Scandinavia at least), dear child bears many names. We love breakfast. It is often the main reason we go to bed at night – to fast forward to another lovely meal. Best enjoyed with big yawns, squinty eyes and coffee-hungry brains.
Fun-fact: In Sweden and Norway, breakfast is called Frukost/Frokost. The same word means lunch in Denmark. In Denmark, breakfast is called morgenmad – morning food. So naturally, a lot of confusion arises around the two first meals of the day when Scandis visit each other. Frokost? Nej mand, it is way too early. Frokost? Vad då, it is far too late!
Ah, the stress!
Important-fact: 1 of 3 children in the UK don’t have breakfast. We are working with charity Magic Breakfast to reduce this number – please read more here about this important cause.
Whatever you call it, the first meal of the day is important, and each country has its own traditions. Scandinavian breakfasts differs a lot from the British – so, because we know you’ve been wondering, let us present – some basic differences between British breakfasts vs Scandi breakfasts .
The Brits have.. toast. In Sweden: Crispbread. More crispbread. In Norway: Various breads or crispbread. The one called Frukost. In Denmark: Rye bread.
The Brits drink..tea or instant coffee. In Sweden: Black coffee. Proper brewed coffee. Like this one from Zoegas. In Norway: Black coffee. Sometimes with milk. This one from Friele, for example. In Denmark: Black coffee. Proper brewed coffee. You get the drill.. we all like real coffee!
The Brits also drink..orange juice. In Sweden: Milk, sometimes juice. In Norway: Milk, juice sometimes. In Denmark: Milk or juice.
The Brits who don’t eat bread eats.. cereal. In Sweden:Filmjolk (a light natural yougurt) with granola or musli and some berries. Or kalaspuffar. In Norway: Frokostblanding – breakfast mix! Ie., cereal. With banana if you’re being virtuous. In Denmark: Skyr or Ymer – a type of natural yogurt – with Ymerdrys – a lovely rye bread crumb cereal.
For a weekend breakfast, the Brit will have.. a full English (or components thereof).
In Sweden: ALL the crispbread. Several types of bread. Eggs and kaviar, different cheeses, jams, perhaps a ham or pate. Something bun-like. Yogurt pots, fresh fruits, something with egg. Coffee. Juices. Milk. Many many hours, newspapers and good company.
In Norway: Several types of bread. Toaster handy. Fresh rolls. Norvegia and brown cheese. Boilt eggs. Ham and chopped up cucumber and red pepper. Tomatoes. Jams. Pate. Basically – your entire fridge. Milk and juice to drink. Coffee AND tea. Many many hours, the radio in the background and good company.
In Denmark: Fresh rolls from the baker – at least one per person plus a Danish pastry and white bread, which is never normally eaten. Rye bread. Cheeses and jams and marmalade. OR a full on Scandi brunch with scrambled eggs, bacon, all the sandwich toppings in the fridge. Juice and milk, tea and coffee. Perhaps a shot of Gammel Dansk (a digestif) or three if it is a special occasion.
Korv Stroganoff. Ask any Swede and they’ll tell you all about this quick mid-week favourite meal. It’s delicious, even if it isn’t the most photogenic of dishes.
Made with Falukorv, a cooked pork sausage, this dish takes only ten minutes to put together. Falukorv can be bought in our cafe shop or also on Ocado. We highly recommend the brand Per I Viken for the high meat content and great smoked flavour. www.scandikitchen.co.uk for more.
A quick and easy sausage casserole. A hearty Swedish mid week meal.
Author: Bronte Aurell
Recipe type: Dinner
1 x 400g falukorv sausage, skin removed and chopped in large chunks.
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tin chopped tomatoes
½ stock cube diluted in a bit of hot water
1 bay leaf
Dollop of double cream (optional)
Corn Flour, to thicken
In a saucepan, add a bit of oil and cook the onion until soft. Add the sausage and stir. Add tomato purée, chopped tomatoes and stock. Continue cooking for a few minutes, then add the milk and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and a bit of sugar, if needed.
Thin a tbsp cornflour with some water and add to the pot to thicken. Add cream at the end, if using.
(subtitute Falukorv for Frankfurters if you can’t get hold of the real Swedish deal).
Ohhh, those delicious buns of delight and loveliness. It’s the season and we have a great recipe.
Lent buns (Semla for singular, Semlor for plural) are buns eaten leading up to and during Lent in Scandinavia. In Sweden the are most popular and bakeries start selling these already in January. Fat Tuesday – Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras – is the day when we eat at least one and maybe more of these buns. We basically fatten up before Lent.
You will never ever find Semlor buns sold outside the season – it is just not done. So, take advantage of the season now that runs until Easter and have a go at making these seriously rich buns at home.
Let us tell you that the little dollop of custard or creme patisserie makes all the difference. Thats just our little trick and hint for an extra delicious bun.
If using mixer, set it up with the dough hook attachment. Melt the butter and add the milk, ensuring a lukewarm temperature of around 37-38ºC. Add the fresh yeast and stir until dissolved.
Add sugar and stir again. Add half of the flour as well as the salt, baking powder and ground cardamom. Add the ½ egg (preserve the other half for brushing before baking).
Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated and then start to add more of the flour, bit by bit, until you have a dough that is only a little bit sticky. Take care not to add too much flour: you will get dry buns. Knead the dough for at least five minutes in the mixer, longer by hand. Leave to rise in a warm (not hot) place until doubled in size (30-40 min).
Turn the dough out to a floured surface. Knead again for a few minutes, adding more flour if needed. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces. Take care that the balls are completely round and uniform in size. Place on baking tray with good spacing between buns. Leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes.
Gently brush each bun with the remainder of the egg wash and bake in a hot oven (200ºC) for about 8-10 minutes or until baked through – keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from oven and cover the tray with a lightly damp tea towel immediately – this will prevent the buns from forming a crust.
When the buns have cooled down completely, cut a ‘lid’ off the buns – about 1½ cm from the top. Scoop out about ⅓ of the inside of the bun and place crumbs in a separate bowl.
Mix the almond paste with the crumb until it forms a very sticky mass –add a dash of milk, custard or crème pâtisserie at this point to help it along. You want a spoonable, even mixture. Spoon the filling back into the buns, equally divided. Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until stiff and use a piping bag to pipe cream on all the buns’ tops. Put the ‘lids’ back on and dust with icing sugar.
Want to host the most Scandi of Scandi parties? Try a traditional Crayfish party – or ‘Kräftskiva’ as they are also known in Sweden.
Always held during crayfish season (August and part of September), a Crayfish party is surprisingly easy to arrange. Follow these guidelines and you will be ready to go.
Crayfish. The star of the show.
Unless you have a lake full of crayfish nearby you may want to opt for the method that 95% of Swedes also opt for: Buy them. Ready to eat. They come frozen in one kilo boxes (usually imported from Turkey or China because there is just not enough crayfish in Scandinavia to satisfy us all) – each box contains around 18-20 little crustaceans. All you need to do is thaw and serve (thaw overnight). How much to budget for? About 500g per person if your guests are mainly non-Swedes. If Scandies and skilled in the art of crayfish parties, plan around 700-800g per person. Some greedy Swedes have been known to get through over a kilo each.
Arrange the crayfish in big bowls or trays on the big table where everybody’s sitting. Decorate with a few sprigs of dill.
How to peel a crayfish
Surprisingly easy if you have ever had the pleasure of peeling a prawn or langoustine – it’s similar. Break off the head, then tail. Crack the shell open and remove the crayfish. You can crack the claws with your fingers or a nut cracker – they are not hard shells. Or simply open to reveal the leg meat by pulling the claws apart with your fingers. Some Swedes love to ‘slurp’ the brine juices out of the crayfish heads and belly. Most other people don’t, so do not feel obliged. Swedes tend to enjoy slurping loudly. It’s normal. After a while, you learn not to notice.
Bibs and hats.
Crayfish parties are messy. You will need hats and bibs. The bibs are functional, the hats less so, but they look good. Well, they don’t, actually, but after a few aquavit, Björn will be wearing one and so should you.
The man in the moon
Decorate your house with lanterns and crayfish bunting of all kinds. You can make your own or buy them here. If you are brave enough to do the party outside in your garden, by all means pop the lanterns around light bulbs for maximum festivity feelings.
The cheese and bread is simply to have something to mop up the aquavit seeing as nobody got full on eating crayfish, ever.
If you want to elaborate a bit, you can serve Västerbotten Paj, a cheese quiche made from the above cheese – serve it cold with a dressing made from red lumpfish roe caviar and 100ml crème fraiche. Surprisingly easy and utterly delicious combination.
Add to this a few bowls of pickled herring of your preferred variety, some new potato salad. Maybe some slices of gravlax. Remember, the crayfish are still the star, this is not a Smörgåsbord and you don’t need to make 117 little dishes. Keep it simple.
This is important: You need Aquavit. This is our traditional ‘schnapps’ distilled from grains and herbs and you can get a lot of different varieties. We recommend OP Andersson for this event or the Dill flavoured Aalborg variety – but anything goes. If you cannot get hold of aquavit, use a super-chilled vodka.
A word of warning: Aquavit makes you intoxicated from the waist down. It is tradition to drink a shot ‘to each claw’ but maybe choose a shot to every second crayfish instead?
It is no secret that we like to sing at every get-together. Crayfish parties are a great opportunity to learn Swedish. You need a bunch of ‘snaps-visor’, literally, Snaps songs. Most are in Swedish, but there are a few in English. The most important is this one here – the Swedish version and then the ‘How to sing it in English so you sound almost Swedish’ phonetic version.
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Och den som inte helan tar
Han heller inte halvan får
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Sing along version:
Hell and gore
Chung Hop father Allan Ley
Hell and gore Chung Hop father Allan Ley
Oh handsome in the hell and tar
and hell are in a half and four
Hell and goooooore …
Chung Hop father Allan Ley
First time you sing it, you will be feeling a bit weird. Then you’ll have a shot of aquavit. By the second time, you’re wearing your hat and winking at Björn. By the third time, you will be fluent in Swedish.
The other drinks
A good selection of lagers. You can of course drink wine, but be aware that wine and Aquavit have a habit of not agreeing if overdone, so we recommend beers like Tuborg and Carlsberg. Or just go easy on the wine.
This is important. You must cheer the correct way – whether beer or aquavit. Everybody raises their glasses at the same time, say SKÅL, then you look around and make eye contact with your fellow guests. This is a must, every time. No sneaking in shots on your own. We cheer together. Always.
You will need some friends for this. If you don’t have any, ask some random ex-pat Swedes you meet down the pub if they want to come round yours for a “kreft-HWEE-va” in your Hackney studio flat. Do all of the above. They will most likely turn up.
Have a great party.
Lovely photos thanks to Fran at StoryPr and Bex Williams. Thank you.
Picture this: a little, red wooden house set by a calm, blue lake that sparkles silver from the rays of the summer sun. Rolling green hills and never ending meadows full of wild flowers and berries, surrounding everything and everyone on pure postcard bliss. Welcome to the picture perfect Swedish late summer evening and welcome to the Crayfish Season: it’s time for Kräftskiva (or, if you’d rather: a somewhat messy event involving lots of crustaceans and hard liquor).
Every year in August, Finnish and Swedish people all over the world get excited by the start of the crayfish season. The timing of the season is founded in local law which dictates that Scandinavian freshwater crayfish must only be fished in late summer and early autumn. Although in this time of easy imports where crayfish is available all year round, tradition still holds strong and the season is very much part of the Swedish and Finnish calendar of events, thirdly only to Midsummer and Eurovision.
Crayfish was first mentioned by Aristotle back in the really old days but as a delicacy its big break came in the 1800’s when Monsieur Napoleon developed a thing for the ‘écrevisses’ and got the whole of France hooked as a result. Initially crayfish were plentiful in rivers and lakes all across central and northern Europe, but as this gastronomic trend spread across the continent, the crayfish stock was in steep decline. A lethal pest almost wiped out the entire stock in the early 1900’s and local laws were quickly introduced to limit the availability of the delicacy thus saving it from extinction.
Today most crayfish in the world is farmed, although the ultimate delicacy for a crayfish party is still locally sourced Swedish or Finnish beauties. These are seriously pricey, though, so most people settle for the almost-just-as-good imported, cooked and quickly frozen type, usually imported from China, Turkey or other fancy far-away places. Alternatively, if you happen to have your own Swedish lake handy, you can opt for some night time fishing with wire traps – these buggers are nocturnal and will do much to avoid your dinner plate.
The difference between crayfish you buy at your local fishmonger outside Sweden is that the Scandinavian kind is cooked in a brine sauce of dill, then some dill and a bit more dill thrown in for good measure. Crayfish is, like lobster, cooked alive (sorry if you are vegetarian and reading this) which is why most people who do not have access to live crustaceans tend to buy the frozen kind – these have been cooked to the Scandinavian recipe already and all you need to do is remove from freezer and wait a while.
So, how do you go about celebrating the humble crayfish, Scandinavian style? A traditional Kräftskiva, or Rapujuhlat as it is called in Finland, typically starts late afternoon or early evening. A long table, which is usually outside in the garden or park, is decorated with colourful tablecloths; there are silly special crayfish party hats and bibs available for all guests to wear (surprisingly, with pictures of crayfish on them), lanterns depicting the Man in the Moon as well as festive crayfish cut-out garlands.
The crayfish is served cold in a big bowl on the table, lovingly decorated with some more dill. Eating crayfish is a long process: a crayfish party can last well into the night, so mountains of toasted, white bread is also served to ensure the aquavit is soaked up along the way. It’s always preferable that the guests don’t end up too wobbly too quick and get ideas about skinny dipping and sing-songs before time.
Blocks of the infamous Vasterbotten cheese (a 12 months aged Swedish cheese from the Vasterbotten area, not unlike parmesan in consistency but without the smell of feet) is also served. Along with this are an abundance of cold beers and, of course, no Scandinavian party is complete without the presence of the old Aquavit – a grain based, flavoured strong liquor that is served ice cold. Some people practice “one shot for every claw” but as you’ll eat your way through a good dozen crayfish during the course of an evening, pacing is recommended – at least until someone starts singing. Singing is a good sign that you may as well just give in and join the fun – and there’s no drinking without any singing, according to Swedish law (nor is there any singing without drinking, or any time for silence, according to most local ‘Crayffectionados’). A few of those aquavit and you’ll automatically be able to sing all the songs in fluent Swedish.
Crayfish is eaten with the hands and it is a lovely, messy affair. If you are invited to one of these special parties during the season, do remember that it is absolutely a requirement to slurp noisily as you suck up the dill juices from the claws and belly of the “krafta” as well – a sign that you are truly initiated into this wonderful tradition. Before you know it, all the people around the table will be your best friends, you’ll be planning next year’s holidays with Björn and Agneta in Uppsala and maybe even having a cheeky footsie session with Lars under the table. Suddenly, after you’ve thrown in a swarm of evil mosquitoes, that little red house by the lake doesn’t feel that far away after all.
Pandalus Kräftor – Crayfish in Dill Brine 1kg
Hedlund Festlykta Måne – Crayfish Party Decoration (medium)