Come Fika with Me (Again!)

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we last had fika together.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it’s a Swedish concept not unlike high tea in England. Instead of tea though, we usually serve strong coffee, along with a bite to eat. This could include anything from simple bread and butter, to open-faced sandwiches but traditionally is something sweet. More than just your typical 3 p.m. coffee break, it’s a time to press pause and chat with friends, or to just contemplate the events of the day.

As a baker with a semi-Swedish background, I’ve incorporated fika as much as possible into my regular routine. It’s better for you than you think! Taking the time to sit, relax and focus on your sensory experiences is restorative for your mind and also for your digestive system- having a little bit of food with your coffee can counteract the acidic, sometimes inflammatory, effects that coffee has on your stomach. Plus, I’m kind of a stress baker, so I have to some way of getting rid of all those extra sweets in my cupboard!

Ever since I started writing about my baking back in 2014, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to share some of my favorite classic recipes with you, as well as new ones that I’ve been longing to try. Last year’s fika was a chance to feature some of my favorites from the blog, and it’s amazing how many more recipes I’ve added to my collection since then.

I even got together with some other bloggers (twice!) to round-up even more recipe inspiration, first focusing on cakes, and then sharing our most-loved cookies.

Last year’s fika also featured a listing of some the cookbooks that grace my shelves. You’d better believe my collection of titles has expanded since then!

If you find the concept of fika as appealing as I do, I hope you’ll join me this year for my second annual fika party. Today’s post is just the first of many goodies this week- I’ll also be sharing a little more about where I get my inspiration, how I develop and test my recipes for the blog, and some of the adventures I’ve had in baking along the way.

For now, though, your only task is to decide what you’re going to have for fika. Here are some of my suggestions from the past year:

These Cranberry-Almond Biscotti are perfect for dunking in your coffee, and they’re gluten-free which makes them good for you. (Kind of?)

Looking to fika but still stuck with the kids? These Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes, or these Rocky Road Sour Cream Brownies are certain to pleasure sweet-tooths of all ages. Just mind any nut allergies, please.

I originally made these Date Pecan Bars for Christmas, but they pair perfectly with any hot drink any time of year, plus they’re super easy to make.

Impress your friends with this minty version of a Nanaimo bar that eliminates your need to bake, although there is some assembly required. (For more no-bake wonders, try these Butterscotch Bars, this Chocolate Roll, this Marshmallow Roll, this Pineapple Log, this Butterscotch Confetti or these S’mores Squares.)

For those of you looking for something a little less sweet, search no further than this surprisingly delicious Zucchini Bread. (You’ll have most people fooled into thinking it’s carrot cake!)

You won’t ever have to choose between sweet and salty flavors again with these addictive Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

The baking on this blog doesn’t stop there. I like to try out a new recipe out every two weeks or so, and you can find all my work archived into the following categories: cakes and pies, cookies, muffins and cupcakes, squares and loaves, and “other” (think lots of fruity surprises, and yummy candy).

And if you’re planning on throwing a festive fika for a crowd, I’ve got tips on how I bake for the masses here.

Even if you’re not a baker and you just enjoy baking, I hope you’ll join me for fika this week. We may not know each other but we’ve bonded already over our love of food, and it’s always a good excuse to kick back, relax, and enjoy some great company. Thanks for joining me!

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Do you fika, or have you incorporated a particular aspect of it into your everyday life? Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and tell me everything- including how you like your coffee.

Or maybe you want to join in on the party too so leave your comments below along with a link to your favorite recipe, or one of the best featured on your blog! The more the merrier!

Baking with B: S’mores Squares

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I have to admit- the other day I was feeling a little nostalgic about the end of summer. There’s something ominous in those cool August nights- a promise of the weather yet to come that somehow serves as a reminder of all the stuff you didn’t get to experience or enjoy over the past season.

And I definitely have not enjoyed the quintessential outdoor dessert, s’mores, in awhile.

S’mores just aren’t the same when you’re not camping, so the next best thing is making your own deconstructed version that come out more homemade chocolate bars instead of gooey treats. Think of all of the possibilities of the places you can take these babies once you get rid of the oozy, marshmallow-y factor- to the park, to the beach, in the car. (Maybe don’t leave them in the direct sunlight.) S’mores lovers fear no more- they are no longer confined to the campfire. You’re welcome.

S’mores Squares (makes 1 9 x 12-1/2-inch sheet or six 2-1/2 x 5-inch bars)

600g (approximately 1-1/2 lbs.) milk chocolate chips, melted

1 pkg graham crackers

2 c. mini marshmallows

Line a 9×12-1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet or 6 small loaf pans (2-1/2×5-inch) with plastic wrap, and cover the bottom with graham crackers to form a layer. (I used a loaf pan to get a thick, dense square). Reserve remaining crackers. Pour the melted chocolate onto the graham cracker layer, and spread until even and smooth. Sprinkle with mini marshmallows and crumble remaining graham crackers off of top. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Peel off the plastic wrap and break into pieces to serve. Keeps in the fridge for one week (if you can resist the temptation to eat them!)

If you’re feeling schmancy (like I was), you can experiment with the flavors and the presentation. I toasted my marshmallows ever so slightly before adding them, and I set some of the melted chocolate to drizzle over top. But don’t let me stop you there- add more toppings like your favorite nuts, dried fruit, or shredded coconut if you want to junk it up. Or if you’re a chocolate lover, you may want to try experimenting with different kinds of chocolate, or flavors of candy bars.

Me, I’m a s’mores purist, and I’ll take these squares as is.

Happy baking!

B

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Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.

Baking with B: Homemade Granola Bars

Granola, granola, granola. In all the forms, with all the flavours: nuts, fruit, chocolate. You name it, I’m addicted. I’ve never really met a granola that I didn’t like and I’m a firm believer that it tastes best with a healthy heap of thick yogurt, some fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey.

But sometimes…I get lazy. And I get busy. And in the summertime there are some days that are just so beautiful that I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t get outside right this minute and enjoy the fresh air. Who has time for things like cleaning and showering and eating when there’s sunshine and a warm breeze waiting? (I’m joking; of course I shower.)

Mornings like these my dog, Gemma, is raring to go too, so I’ve taken to making a big batch of these whenever I can force myself to stay indoors to bake for an hour or two. Then it’s grab one of these and seeing where the morning takes us- to the park, along the boardwalk- the possibilities seem endless. Better take two along, just in case.

Homemade Granola Bars (makes 12-16)

2 c. old-fashioned oatmeal

1 c. sliced almonds

1 c. shredded coconut, loosely packed

½ c. toasted wheat germ

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 c. honey

¼ c. light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. kosher salt

½ c. chopped pitted dates

½ c. chopped dried apricots

½ c. dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8×12” baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300F. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2-3 hours before cutting into squares.

Happy baking!

B

KBwB-Flower-50

Baking with B appears every other Monday on the Keeping Busy with B Blog. Find out why I like baking so much here. For more of my baking, click here. And for even more recipe inspiration, check out my Pinterest full of food eye candy that will have you licking your computer. Promise.