Fika: Kärleksmums

One of the best things I’ve learned in the last two days is that “mums” means “yummy” in Swedish.

“Mum’s the word” takes on a whole new meaning.

I share this because my next Fika recipe is kärleksmums, or “love yummy”—a name that sounds pulled from the pages of a particularly jubilant Chinese restaurant menu. According to the authors of Fika, this is but one way to refer to this particular, very popular baked good. Others include fiffirutor, mockarutor and, most elegantly, snoddas.

Regardless of which name is used in Malmö and Stockholm, in English the dish is essentially Chocolate Coffee Squares.

On Sunday, I felt inspired to fika, so I pulled out my squishy little cookbook and paged through it until I landed on something I had ingredients for (NOT elderflower cordial) and the inclination to eat (NOT caraway crisps). Chocolate Coffee Squares would work perfectly.

“These cakes are the perfect blend of dark chocolate and strong coffee,” assure the writers. While usually topped with powdered sugar, here kärleksmums get a ganache topping—thereby making them “the perfect thing to enjoy on a cold autumn day.” I nodded, knowingly, as the 81-degree weather outside sparkled un-El Nino-like.

To make these tempting squares, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and then greased and floured a square baking pan. (Note: I’d decided to half the recipe because I couldn’t imagine having 24 of these bad boys hanging around the house.)

I melted 5 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and set it aside. In my favorite green melamine mixing bowl, I mixed together 1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Simple enough.

In a smaller yellow bowl, I whisked one egg with ½ cup sugar until it was smooth and “frothy” according to the recipe’s guidance. Then I put on my Big Math Hat, figured out I needed to add 5 tablespoons of milk, and poured that in, along with the melted butter from the stovetop and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Once the wet ingredients were smooth, I folded in the dry ingredients carefully until nary a lump remained. I poured the batter into the prepared pan, coaxed the surprisingly thick concoction into the corners so it was spread more or less evenly, and then popped the pan into the oven to cook for 20 minutes of baking time.

Next up: the ganache. First, I warmed ¼ cup of heavy cream with a tablespoon and a half of cold, strong coffee over medium heat until little bubbles appeared at the edges (about five to seven minutes). I lowered the heat and stirred in 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate smashings until they were completely melted. I removed the pot from the heat and plopped in 1 tablespoon of butter, stirring non-stop, until the tiny pale square disappeared into the luscious, creamy dark liquid. It smelled heavenly—like stepping into a fine chocolate shop.

I found a spot on the cook-top for the ganache to cool for about 10 minutes, and then ushered it into the fridge to thoroughly chill for about an hour.

The cake was done when I stuck a toothpick into the center and pulled it out with nary a crumb attached (that took about 22 minutes). I put the pan on the cook-top to cool while the ganache finished firming up. To fill the 40-or-so minutes remaining on the ganache, I tackled the dish pile in the sink, worked through my LA Times pile on the table, and admired a new Lego creation of Roxy’s.

The results:

With about 5 minutes to go on the ganache, I gave up, removed the pot from the fridge and spread the chocolate goo all over the cake. I cut a tiny corner piece for myself. The cake was simple, basic, reassuring…exactly what I crave when brewing a hot beverage on a weekend afternoon.

In fact, my Chocolate Coffee Square resembled, smelled like, and fundamentally tasted like a brownie…except for one key difference: the warm, smooth note of the coffee. That powerful ingredient, with its whisper of fruit, when paired with the rich ganache blanket elevated the kärleksmum above its fairly ordinary (albeit tasty) American picnic-staple cousin. It’s a subtle difference, but definitely distinct.

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