College graduation does funny things to a group of close-knit friends. You spend four years creating traditions like Thursday breakfast and Tuesday drinks. You know who to call when you find free sandwiches, who prefers Pepsi to Coke products, who gets excited about tuna wasabi pizza and who will go drink-for-drink with you until the bartender offers to call you a cab. But then you graduate and weekly traditions become monthly traditions, if you try hard enough. Professional obligations, geography and relationships play their parts dutifully. You send each other emails regularly and take virtual jabs at each other, but it’s just not the same.
When Kelly announced she was emerging from her self imposed studying exile, we all jumped. Well, I fell, but that’s another story altogether. Everyone has a friend who falls all the time. If you don’t have one, call me. I’m that friend. Scraped knees, swollen ankle, bruises, I’m your girl.
Moving on.That evening I limped my way over to the Lower East Side apartment where Kelly, her super awesome husband Chris and our friend Steve were waiting. I use the term “waiting” loosely, as I am perennially late and they know better than to bother waiting. Steve had brought a hunk of Fiore’s mozzarella, bread from Hoboken’s Antique Bakery and several bottles of Golden Monkey. Kelly and Chris had offered up their beautiful new home, a stellar bottle of Malbec and alfajores straight from Argentina.
What did I bring? Well, other than my incredibly charming and witty self, I brought something I seem to be flush in these days – bread.
First up is onion and garlic Italian bread, the perfect company to fresh cheese, olive oil, or a very hungry tummy. I was a little worried that the raw onion and garlic would be overwhelmingly pungent, but they were beautiful. It will be making many repeat appearances. I’m already imagining it underneath a fried egg, and now, so are you. Oops.
Anyone who’s spoken to me in the past 11 months knows how I feel about Sweden. I want to say I love Sweden, but that might be a bit of an understatement. I went in January, a month when only a lunatic with a government employee’s stock of days off would go to a country traversed by the Article Circle, and I immediately connected with Stockholm. The water, the food, the people, the culture…I loved it all. You’d think that a girl with as many mobility issues as me wouldn’t love a city covered in ice, but stick me in a pair of Sorels and I seemed to hold my own. I went back at the end of August and loved the country even more. The Swedes have a wonderful coffee culture, which America could do well to learn. I decided to dig into the Swedish baking world a bit, and these “coffee bread” beauties fell into my lap.
Vetebröd was an absolute adventure in production and pronunciation. I can’t remember ever tasting cardamom before (and I have an eerily good memory), so I had no idea what to expect taste-wise. All my reading and recipe research indicated that cardamom was an integral part of the recipe, so there could be no avoiding it. Also, I knew making vetebröd would be time consuming, and while I tried to carefully plan out the evening, I was pulling out baking trays somewhere around 1am. I was tasting them somewhere around 1:05am. Have you ever smelled cardamom baked breads? Well, have you? Anyone who has knows that it’s impossible to avoid tasting these, regardless of the hour of day and silly claims that you just couldn’t/shouldn’t eat another bite. Vetebröd is traditionally braided, but I didn’t have the patience or energy (no, I mostly just didn’t have the patience), so mine made their debut in bun form. Additionally, these are traditionally served with a glaze, but let’s just remember that pesky thing called patience and continue on. At 1:05:30am, my first thought was, Damn, this good, followed almost immediately by, I really wish I had a fresh cappuccino.
We reheated the vetebröd that evening in a toaster oven and while they went rather nicely with my Hendricks and tonic nightcap, I wished for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I think it would make for a perfect dessert, especially in these coming months. The evening ended sooner than I would have liked (but then again, I always want the night to keep going – I hear it’s part of my charm), but I was glad to have shared my passion with those I am so passionate about.