Fika

In October, two of my three nieces spent 3 weeks in & around Sweden, France, and the UK. The first leg of their trip was Göteborg & Stockholm. After photos of their arrival, the cobbled streets and brightly colored buildings around their inn, Instagram lit up with photos of Fika. I had never heard the term Fika so turned to Google. Much more than coffee break, Fika embodies the social, the gathering of friends, accompanied by coffee and, usually, something sweet. Growing up the child of a Norwegian Grandmother and Swedish Grandfather, my parents, aunts & uncles ALWAYS had coffee break-mid morning and mid afternoon. The idea that coffee break was an actual Thing, a big deal, a Swedish phenomenon even, tickled me. My niece at home found this book, which I promptly ordered, and with more pictures from my Eurotravelers, began investigating Fika.

Stocking up on cardamom, I first explored Johanna Kindvall’s Vetebullar. Always one to throw whole wheat flour into everything I make, the first batch didn’t respond well. The second batch made true to recipe, white flour and all, was amazing. I tweaked the third batch with half whole grain and while it was ok, wasn’t like that second batch. On my baking docket is a fourth batch of Vetebullar, one to incorporate my new-found love: Kamut.

After getting the vibe of the recipes, I turned to Tartine Book No. 3 for more. No. 3 is the culmination of Chad Robertson’s time in Scandinavia, exploring different grains, studying and creating with native bakers. With two-thirds of the book devoted to bread, and bread the reason I have the book, I forgot that the remaining recipes are pastry. Pastry using spelt and Kamut and barley and rye. These recipes, none overly sweet, fit easily into what I was reading about Fika. I arranged a baking day with Niece No. 1 and set a date for a Family Fika Event.

The Sunday following Thanksgiving had the World Travelers, most of my family and in-laws, gathered in the afternoon. We pulled espresso drinks for all, ate Vetebellar Twists & Rolls, Chamomile-Kamut Shortbread, Kamut-Walnut Shortbread, Fig-Walnut Cookies, Cardamom Einkorn Crumb Cake, an allergen-free Chocolate Sunflower Cookie, with a few other offerings. We talked and laughed and cheered on the Seahawks.IMG_0240

The Seahawks, and Fika, won.

 

The Library

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty
Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread
New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total
Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan
Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor
Good crumb, nice crust and flavor
Mushroom & basil
Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.

Breakfast
Breakfast

French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving

Method

Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.

 

 

School Lunch

I don’t know the quality of school lunches in my day, of how they might be rated by today’s *ahem* standards. I don’t know if they were full of textured vegetable protein, if any of it was fresh-made, if the dietitians considered ketchup a vegetable. I do remember the lunch carts being wheeled through the hallways, the Lunch Ladies that commandeered them, the red tokens we handed over, and the 75-cents that faculty paid, in cash.

I didn’t take part in those hallway procured meals very often. I remember when I did, it felt exotic and very inclusive. My lunches were usually a sandwich (woefully so on tuna salad day,the white bread overly saturated with the mayonnaise and pickle juice), a piece of fruit, and a cookie or other small yum-yum. Mini bags of chips and Hostess desserts were the hallmark of a Field Trip Sack Lunch, always the best brought-from-home lunches.

Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese was one of the few lunches I did get to buy on occasion. Carrying the tray hosting the divided melamine plate, with the square, cardboard-like, overcooked, hot-held grilled American Cheese sandwich in one section, a small bowl of water-based from-a-can tomato soup in another, some unremembered fruit, and the finale: a serving of full-sheet pan chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Perfection.

We often had tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches at home, so I don’t know why this school menu was such a favorite of mine. It could have been the comfort factor, it could have been the power of that chocolate cake. What I do know now, tomato soup and grilled cheese it still one of my favorite comfort lunches, except no more canned soup or American Cheese or wimpy bread.

Tomato soup is easy to make. This batch started with some onion & garlic, gently cooked in a combination of butter & olive oil. Shallots are my first choice for this soup, but I don’t always have those on hand. When the onions are translucent, the organic canned tomatoes, some fresh thyme, and a few cups of water or chicken broth join in, then the covered pot simmers for 20 minutes or so. Adding salt is always dependent on the tomatoes used-some canned tomatoes are laden with the stuff!

Set to simmer
Set to simmer

After the simmer, the soup needs to be blended, which can be done in a standard blender, but I forego the mess and danger of traditional method and always use my immersion blender. The original recipe calls for a bit of baking soda to help balance the acidity of the tomatoes. If I’m using cream to finish the soup, I will omit the baking soda, letting the dairy fat mask any startling acidity, but leaving enough to make the soup interesting.

Ready to blend
Ready to blend
Baking soda fizz
Baking soda fizz

Grilled cheese at my house is always on my Tartine 60-70% whole wheat Country Loaf, with Tillamook Cheddar. Tillamook is not the greatest or most sustainable cheddar in the land, but Junior eats it so that’s what I have on hand, cooked with butter on cast iron.

Sturdy bread
Sturdy bread
Perfect on a rainy day!
Perfect on a rainy day!

Food memory, food as comfort, the taste preferences of any individual are all very mysterious. Why do I like this lunch? The slight acidity of the soup? The crunchy whole wheat nuttiness of the bread? The decadent nature of the full-fat, full-dairy cheese? How all three elements play together? I will ponder these, perhaps unanswerable, questions while I eat my lunch, remembering that there will be some chocolate at the finish. Bon Appetit!

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