Last night was our last class. On the agenda: Fika.
This elaborate coffee break began in Sweden during the late 1880s when French fashion influenced language, costume, and food trends. An important formal occasion dictated seven baked treats, while an everyday fika typically called for three goodies. Modern health-conscious Swedes are less likely to indulge in sweets, but they still consume more coffee per capita than other non-Scandinavian countries.
Our class menu included a festive feast of seven treats that we baked together; tunnbröd (rolled around gravlax, ham, or cheese), semlor, ostkaka with fresh berries, drömmar, melting moments, pepparkakor, and hovdessert with a chocolate-balsamic sauce.
Hovdessert is a Swedish meringue cookie that I first read about in my ancient copy of the Time and Life Cooking of Scandinavia. In Swedish, hov means royal and hoof. This cookie is supposedly named for the court (think Pavlova), yet it looks very hoof like (at least mine do). The Cooking of Scandinavia recipe includes a simple chocolate sauce. I thought about one of my students who mentioned her grandmother's hard sauce made with vinegar, and it inspired me to create this balsamic version.
As we sat enjoying our fika, each student told us which class dish she liked best. Several of them enjoyed the crispbread and quick-cured gravlax and one liked the meatballs that we made last week, a few loved the semlor we baked last night, and one liked the cookies we ate with our coffee. Having always been a sucker for angel food and chiffon cakes, and my mother's Christmas meringue cookies (colored red or green and dotted with chocolate chips), the hovdessert was my personal favorite.
Hovdessert with Chocolate Balsamic Sauce
Makes about 20 cookies
4 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup super fine sugar
3 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In large bowl beat egg whites and salt with a wire balloon whisk or electric beater until the mixture is foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating for at least 5 minutes, or until the egg whites are very stiff and form solid, unwavering peaks when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl.
Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill pastry bag with meringue and make 1-inch wide circles with 2-inch tall sides with small opening in the middle (should resemble tiny baskets), or use a small ice cream scoop to drop mounds of meringue onto cooking surface.
Set sheet in middle of the oven for 50 minutes. If meringues take on any color, lower heat to 200 degrees. Finished meringues should be dry and crisp, but tender on the inside.
For sauce: Melt chocolate with cream and sugar on low heat. Add vinegar and stir over low heat until well blended. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted. Cool and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the sauce into or over each cookie.