Snapshots from Sweden: Vanilla Hearts and Cardamom Cookies at Flickorna Lundgren
From June 5 to June 11, I visited Western and Southern Sweden on a trip sponsored by Visit Sweden, West Sweden Tourist Board, Skåne Tourist Board, and Volvo as part of their CAR + VACATION contest. Here's a look at something I ate during my trip.
The pack of cardamom cookies I brought back from the over 70-year-old café and bakery Flickorna Lundgren didn't last long in the Serious Eats office; by the end of the day only a few crumbs remained. But as good as the cookies tasted here, they probably would've tasted better in their original, fairytale-esque setting in southern Sweden.
Flickorna Lundgren bursts with greenery and flowers from their thatched-roof cottage filled with baked goods, to their garden featuring a pond and plenty of outdoor seating, to their airy greenhouse, perfect for sitting indoors on a rainy afternoon like on the day I visited.
Flickorna Lundgren ("Lundgren Girls") is named after its founders, the Lundgren sisters: Greta, Ebba, Marta, Rut, Anna, Britt-Marie and Ella. In 1938, after their father Alexander considered selling the family's summer cottage in light of financial troubles, the sisters saved the cottage by turning it into a bakery and "coffee cottage." The business became popular from the beginning, eventually gaining the attention of King Gustav V and later King Gustav VI Adolf, both of whom gave official endorsements by awarding Flickorna Lundgren with royal warrants ("Kunglig hovleverantör" in Swedish). In 1988, Ella's son Mats Fejne took over the business and has since made updates to the property, including building a new greenhouse in the garden, repairing the cottage's roof (the building dates back to 1732), and installing a new kitchen to better serve their over 65,000 guests each summer.
Flickorna Lundgren's most famous dessert (and a favorite of King Gustav VI) is their vanilla heart, a heart-shaped cookie filled with vanilla cream and dusted with confectioner's sugar. It's a typical Swedish pastry—I also found them at supermarket chain ICA—but I'm guessing Flickorna Lundgren's are among the best. The shortbread-y cookie is crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and made all the better with a center of rich cream. They say they make about 37,000 vanilla hearts each summer; I can see why. I'd contribute more to that number if I didn't live 3,800 miles away.
Unfortunately, I found out from Mats that vanilla hearts don't travel well and should be eaten in the same day. There went my plan for hoarding a suitcase of vanilla hearts back to New York. On the upside, King Author Flour has a recipe on their website.
What travels better are their Skåne rings (Skåneringar), thin, nutty, ring-shaped, cardamom-flavored cookies topped with sliced hazelnuts and pearl sugar. Before eating these cookies I thought I merely liked cardamom; afterward, I found that I love cardamom when used as well as it is in these cookies. The flavor is dominant but not overwhelming, like a gentle cardamom punch (if there is such a thing as a gentle punch). The cookies are brittle, so if you're as dumb as me, your pack of cookies will transform into a bag of cookie shards by the time you get back home. However, the texture and flavor of the shards should be the same as when the cookies were still ring-shaped.
As I already mentioned, I brought my bag of cookie shards to the Serious Eats office; by the end of the day, the bag was cleaned out. That's impressive in an office usually rife with leftovers. (I must thank Mats for not letting me leave without a pack of the cookies; at first I was just going to get a bottle of their homemade strawberry juice concentrate—which I'm still enjoying two weeks after getting back home—but he gave me the extra cookies on my way out.)
Now that I'm cookie-less, I tried to find a recipe online. Thanks to Swedish cooking blog Sara Bakar, I can try to make it at home, at least with this Google translated version. Sara notes that the recipe isn't in Flickorna Lundgren's official recipe book, Underbart är gott: klassiska kakor från Flickorna Lundgren, at the request of Aunt Rut, who didn't want to reveal it.
I wish I had had more time to try Flickorna Lundgren's other cakes, cookies, sandwiches, and homemade juices—my less than 45-minute visit was sandwiched in between a trip to a meat shop and Vikentomater, which was followed by Fricks Spettkaksbageri (it was a packed afternoon). If you can't make it in the summer, they're also open in the winter for the Christmas season. Make sure to spend more time there than I did. And eat more vanilla hearts.