Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Post by Meera Lee Sethi: Fika with Mountainfit: A Swedish Recipe to Enjoy While Reading

Today we're going to do Glorified Love Letters' very first guest post. I've had offers for writers to do blog tour-type promotion before, and up until now, I've turned them down. The reasons why vary, but when it came to Meera Lee Sethi's book Mountainfit, something about the idea intrigued me.

Sethi's book is a beautiful meditation on her travels to Sweden, where she assisted in the tracking of various species of birds. While I'm not much of a nature-book reader, nor do I particularly know anything about birds, I really enjoyed Mountainfit. Sethi's openhearted enthusiasm for what she learns and encounters is contagious, and the way she writes is closer to poetry than journalism. You can find more of her writing on her site, Dispersal Range.

For today's post, I left the topic up to her. Since I am somewhat obsessed with food and coffee breaks, her contribution today is perfect. Enjoy:
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Mountainfit is a book about science, nature, place, mythology, and identity—but it's also, at heart, a book about Sweden. And you can't go to Sweden without having your daily schedule taken over by several leisurely instances of what Swedes call fika. Fika is a kind of backwards version of the Swedish word for coffee, and is usually translated as "coffee break"—but it always, always involves not only a cup of (extremely strong) coffee, but also a plateful of small and most often sweet treats.

Fika is a truly pervasive cultural phenomenon—at some offices, I was told, fika might take place as many as four separate times between clocking in and clocking out. It is a wonderfully institutionalized system of pauses during the work day, dedicated to resting, consuming something delicious, and connecting with friends.

I don't, however, see why the company you keep over your fika shouldn't be a book.

Jennie, a very dear human being whom you'll meet a few times if you read Mountainfit, made a batch of these kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) on the spur of the moment the very last time we were together at the observatory. She wrote down the recipe for me, but she did it from memory, and my conversions may not be the most accurate.

Kanelbullar are a classic Swedish pastry, and you should note that they are very much less cloyingly sweet than American cinnamon buns. Instead, they are subtle and fragrant with cardamom. I hope you enjoy both them and Mountainfit.

Kanelbullar (Cinnamon rolls)

  • 60 g butter (a little over 2 oz.), warmed to 37 °C (98.7 ° F)
  • 25 g fresh yeast (0.35 oz. instant, or 0.5 oz. active dry)
  • 2.5 dL (1 cup) milk, warmed to 37 °C (98.7 °F)
  • 0.5 mL (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 7 dL (13 oz.) flour
  • 0.5 dL (1/4 cup) sugar
  • Sweetness and shine
  • More sugar
  • More butter
  • 1 egg or egg white, beaten
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground cardamom
  • Pearl sugar (optional)


  1. Mix together the yeast, milk, and warmed butter in a large bowl. 
  2. After the yeast foams, add the sugar and salt; then whisk in the flour slowly. 
  3. When the dough is thick and not sticky, let it rise covered by a damp cloth for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, turn out the dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle (a little thinner than the cover of a hardback book).
  5. Spread a thin layer of butter all over the dough—you can either melt the butter and brush it on, or wield a slightly softened stick of butter like a paintbrush. 
  6. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom generously onto the butter.
  7. At this point, you have two choices: A: Roll the dough up like a cream roll and cut it into small segments, Or B: Cut the dough into narrow strips. Then, cut a slit almost all the way through each strip, leaving an edge at the end. Braid/tie/creatively twist the two strands into a knot or knot-like shape. This need not be a precise process.
  8. Brush a layer of egg over the top of each kanelbulle, followed by a sprinkling of pearl sugar if you have any; ordinary sugar will do in a pinch. 
  9. Let the kanelbullar rise for another 30 minutes on a baking sheet.
  10. Bake for about 6-8 minutes at 250 °C, or about 9-12 minutes at 480 (this conversion assumes your U.S. oven is not a convection oven). Or just until they're beautiful and brown.
  11. Enjoy with very strong coffee and a good book.


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Full Disclosure: Sethi's publisher, CCLaP (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography), provided me with the eBook for review and were also the ones who contacted me about this guest post. I thank them, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.

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