Bulle, Bullar + Fika, Or Why Sweden Rules

Nothing epitomized my recent trip to Stockholm quite as much as this humble baked good, the bulle.  Bullar are the svelte European parents of the outrageous American cinnamon roll that stinks up malls everywhere.  With a much lower glycemic index, bullar taste not only of sugar and often cinnamon, but also of yeast and bread, with a toasty exterior and tender insides.

Pictured above is a classic: kanelbulle. Topped always with pärlsocker, which translates to 'pearl sugar' or 'nib sugar', the kanelbulle is perfectly enjoyed as a part of fika. It should come as no surprise that, in a country where cold is a lot more prevalent than daylight, indoor activities like coffee drinking and baking become an art form.  That is fika: a moment spent enjoying coffee or tea with a little something: bulle, cookies, or something sweet. It's a very widely enjoyed Swedish custom, as evinced by the way the hotel concierge's face lit up as she explained it to me. So of course I took every opportunity possible to warm up with coffee and a bulle.

There's a bulle for every season, as my friend and virtual Stockholm guide, Ingrid, tells me. Summer is sommarbullar, in winter there is lussebullar (with saffron), and springtime ushers in semlor or fastlagsbullar. We both agree, however, that the best bulle is the kardemummabullar, flavored generously with cardamom and topped with small sugar and crunchy bits of the spice.  Below is my initiation into this type of bullar, from Blooms Bageri in hip Södermalm.

 One of the best fika-slash-bullar moments I had was at Wiener Caféet

This classic bistro bakery just happens to be under the creative direction of Daniel Lindeberg.  This esteemed pastry chef was co-chefowner at Restaurant Frantzén (post coming soon, swear), back when it was called Frantzén/Lindeberg. He broke off and now ensures pastry perfection at this Norrmalm spot.

So how important culturally are these sweet buns? According to Ingrid, that fount of Swedish knowledge, there's even an old saying to the effect of Real moms bake bullar. Look for that in T-shirt form soon.

And, in case you were wondering, Swedish Cinnamon Bun Day is October 4.  A fine excuse for fika.