Bondkakor, or Swedish farmer cookies, both look and sound modest. Nothing special, surely? But don’t be fooled.
On a November Thursday in 1954, the press gathered to see the brand new, modern kitchen at the royal palace of Drottningholm. In contrast with the large banquette kitchen, this everyday kitchen had barely seen any modernizations since the turn of the century. Even after the renovations, there were unusual details – including a circular window fit for a cannon. The proud cook Jenny Andersson showed the journalists around, assisted by her staff of five, distinguished professor Ivar Tengbom (who drew the Stockholm Concert Hall), and architect Ragnar Jonsson.
The pale green kitchen shines, stocked with the latest equipment (and a massive old stone trough the cook couldn’t bear parting from). Finally, the old wood stove was kicked out and replaced by no less than two stoves – one gas, one electric. With this brilliant new equipment, what is a royal cook’s first inclination? Apparently, to make bondkakor to offer the king and queen when they returned home from travels. Oh, who wouldn’t want to be welcomed back home in that way?
To be fair, there were other cookie types made that Thursday, too. However, I stubbornly take it as a sign that the journalists were offered to sample something else than bondkakor. After all, those should be saved for the king…
So, if you start printing t-shirts (“Live like a king. Eat farmer cookies.”), remember who told you.
So what is a bondkaka, really?
Bondkakor rightly deserves a place in the constellation “seven types of cookies”. Two components are important; almonds, and golden syrup. The almonds add flavour and crunch, and the golden syrup, or ljussirap, makes the cookies slightly chewy, with hints of caramel.
With that definition, bondkakor seem to make a first appearance in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in 1939 but not until 1954 in Dagens Nyheter.
Consulting the bookshelf, I’ve found the first appearance of the recipe in the 1932 edition of Prinsessornas kokbok. The recipe suggests washing the butter first if it is salty – I say, keep the salt of today’s butters.
Compared to the recipe in the first edition of Sju sorters kakor from 1945, Sweden’s most popular book on baking, Prinsessornas has more almonds. Wise suggestion. Famous konditori Vete-katten’s recipe for bondkakor is also similar, although slightly less sweet and with less almonds.
Bondkakor – Swedish farmer cookies
So, eaten (sneakily) straight from the cookie jar? Served with a glass of milk of your choice? Crumbled over ice cream? The humble bondkaka is your faithful friend.
5 1/2 dl (2 1/4 cups) flour
2 dl (4/5 cups) sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup (ljus sirap)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp water
about 75 gr (1 1/4 dl or 1 1/2 cups) almonds
200 gr (7/8 cups) butter, room temperature
- Chop the almonds roughly.
- In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a small hole in the middle.
- Mix the water with the bicarbonate of soda.
- Add the bicarbonate mixture, sugar, syrup, almonds and butter to the flour. Knead until the mixture forms a dough.
- Form the dough into two logs rounded, 2-3 inches in diameter. Sometimes you’ll need to press rather than roll, and then shape, to make them come together nicely. Wrap in cling film and chill for two hours or longer.
- Put the oven on 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Farenheit). Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove cling film and slice the logs into large coins, about 5 mm (1/5 inch) thick.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden.
Ljus sirap is a golden syrup made from sugar beets. Brands like British Lyle’s golden syrup will work well, or some Germany golden syrups, “Zuckerrübensirup”. I’ve seen light treacle suggested as a substitution, although I haven’t tested it.
In lack of bicarbonate of soda, use twice as much baking powder instead.
Want to play with the recipe? Some of my favorite variations include toasting the almonds, using hazelnuts instead, substituting some of the flour for oat flour, or adding spices.