book reviews · recipes


Fika Ikea Baking Book

As formalities continue to be shed in an effort to live in a more simplified fashion, so too our food has begun to follow suit. More frequently we are encouraged to eat our meals in a ‘deconstructed’ form. Jamie now scatters his communal dinners across a chopping board, cheesecakes are commonly served up in drinking vessels and salads regularly layered in kilner jars (maybe this is my cue to toss a scoop of Vegemite, a few cheese shavings and some bread in the lunch box for some deconstructed school sandwiches). But I digress. The Scandinavians, or more specifically, Ikea, have had the jump on this mode for years. Their latest contribution to our pared-down existence is their new baking book, Fika, illustrating each recipe as a collection of deconstructed ingredients. Intrigued? So was I.

Fika is the Swedish term for a coffee break, generally shared with others. This book offers a host of recipes perfect for such events. Based on your level of experience and time affordable, you can dip in and out of this baking collection and come up with some delicious treats. The Rustic Biscuits caught my eye, basically because in my ‘deconstructed pantry’ all the elements were present and equally because the bakes could be made in two stages (dough needs to be chilled a while) allowing me to fit swimming lessons in between. And what lovely, crispy little gems they turned out to be:

Rustic Biscuits

Even on a day when baking is not within your reach, this book is a lovely browse, as rarely have I seen a collection of recipes photographed in such a simplistic form. For novice cooks to be able to see baked items broken down this way, leaves very little hiding space for uncertainty or self-doubt to settle. Dismantling kitchen fear and apprehension my friends, can only be a good thing.

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp. golden syrup
35g blanched almonds, chopped
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tbsp milk (optional)

  1. Cream butter, sugar and syrup.
  2. Combine almonds, flour and bicarb of soda and then add this mix to the creamed mix.
  3. Work into a dough (at this point, you may or may not need to add the milk, depending on how dry your dough is).
  4. Roll the dough into a long sausage, about 3 cm thick and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for up to an hour or freeze.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Remove cling film and cut slices of dough about 1 cm thick. Lay these out on trays lined with baking paper.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

You will need to be forgiving with some of the text in Fika, as we are crossing a fairly challenging language barrier here. The odd ingredient may be foreign, and occasionally ml is used in place of gram, but remember, we are working on our flexibility.

Rustic biscuits and coffee

Postscript: By the way, Fika is a marvellous word to have in your vocabulary when you burn your hand on the oven tray whilst young family members are present.

family · recipes


Forcer Biscuits

Autumnal rain, while gratefully received, does tend to curb weekend activity. However, where a door to outdoor occupation closes, a window of indoor opportunity opens – a chance to assemble the biscuit forcer and press out an intricate array of delicate little icing sugar sprinkled treats.

If you’ve never been acquainted with a biscuit forcer (or more recently, cookie press) before, there is a creative pursuit waiting to be explored. With little culinary skill required, it is simply a case of mixing up a buttery dough – recipes accompany the kit – rolling it into a sausage and feeding it into the cylinder. Choosing the patterned discs dictating the biscuit shape is the only challenge – the press chef is provided with quite an extensive collection. (Where a number of chefs are involved ie house bound young, this stage can become quite interesting).

Once arbitration and conciliation is complete, it’s time to start pressing. Suddenly a baking sheet full of dainty shapes appear, which when removed bronzed from the oven and dusted with icing sugar, provide an irresistible plate of afternoon treats.

Plate of pressed cookies

My observation of cookies these days, is that they are of ever increasing dimension and far outlast any cup of tea or coffee they were originally designed to complement. These little forcer biscuits scale back this recent up-sizing trend and are a reasonable representation of the portion size a treat was intended to be.

Readily available on Ebay or the like, a biscuit press may well add a new dimension to your life.

Ampia biscuit press

Postscript: Once the simple process of individual pressing is mastered, the logical progression is to create pairs for sandwiching with icing and jam for homemade melting moments – bring on the rain I say.

family · recipes


Anzac Biscuits

As we pause to pay respect to our brave soldiers who fought on distant shores, an equally courageous group must also be remembered – the women who remained.

Without a single text, email or status update for reassurance, the womenfolk endured what must have seemed like an endless silence, with only the hackneyed adage ”no news is good news” for psychological comfort.

So what did they do to fill this emotional void – amongst an inventive array of homecrafts, they baked. Unable to be at the side of their loved ones, they did what most of us do to protect our broods as they go forth into the world – nourished their souls in the best ways they could think of: fruit cakes and biscuits.

And if we can recall our own intense care and attention lavished on first-day lunch boxes, then I guess we have some minor benchmark to compare the love and concern that went into the parcels of baked goods, sent lovingly to their cherished.

Anzac biscuits have become an iconic representation within this time of tribute, and lest we forget those who baked them.

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
125g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp boiling water
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius. Grease or line baking trays will silicone paper.
  2. Combine first four dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Melt butter and golden syrup over a low heat.
  4. Mix the boiling water with the bicarbonate of soda and add this to the butter and golden syrup mix (it should foam well).
  5. Add this wet mix to the dry mix and mix well.
  6. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared trays and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
    (Biscuits will harden as they cool. Makes approximately 24)

anzacs and ename lware

Postscript: Even though much of the baking finding its way to the front had perished or disintegrated upon arrival, the intention and love packed within the parcel remains forever intact. 



Chocolate almond cookies

Done with shopping? Me too. The last of my gifts are coming from the peace and solitude of the kitchen, sans parking lots, harried faces and never-ending landfill.

These cookies epitomise pure cooking escapism – easy to prepare, high yielding and incredibly toothsome (love that word, it sounds like a descriptor that would horrify a dentist). Depending on how reasonably stocked your pantry is, you may not even need to leave the house to get your batches underway.

And just to give you that little extra bang for your baking buck, the mix can be rolled into half-size balls, for twice the output. Put a couple of choc chips on top as soon as they are lifted from the oven and you will end up with at least 30 of these:

chip-topped cookies

Start with the almond topped ones, or build on this mix and design your own.

125g softened butter
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups self-raising flour
½ cup cocoa
¾ cup dark chocolate chips
almonds to decorate

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  4. Stir in flour and cocoa, then fold through chocolate chips. (The mix will be quite stiff)
  5. Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place on greased baking trays. Flatten slightly with fingers.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. Cool on a wire rack. (makes about 20)

Postscript: If you have some bags and left over tags, you’ve got something to hand to your colleagues or neighbours over the next few days.

cookie bags