In recent years the Swedish tradition of “fika”, which roughly translates to “coffee and cake break”, has gained worldwide popularity with many places around the world making their own fika time. While this might be a new tradition for some places Iceland has been enjoying their own fika for years, but in Iceland we don’t call it fika, we call it kaffitímar.
Kaffitímar, it means much more than a quick coffee break. It is a time for relaxing with your friends and family, taking a midday break away from the busy tasks of the day to enjoy each other and some tasty treats. It may be a short afternoon break from the workday, or a relaxing weekend afternoon where the coffee break lingers until almost dinnertime. Whatever time of day you enjoy your kaffitímar it is always about the same thing, catching up with loved ones over tasty treats and warm drinks.
Almost as important as the company you keep during this special time is the food enjoyed during kaffitímar. Delicious treats are a must for kaffitímar and we have two recipes of some of Iceland's favorite kaffitímar treats to share with you, kleina and Icelandic pancakes. Try out these recipes and recreate your own kaffitímar no matter where in the world you are.
Kleina is a popular treat across the Scandinavian countries, however, each country has their own unique version of them. In many countries, kleina is only served for special occasions, specifically Christmastime. While Iceland used to only serve these delectable treats at Christmas it has since made the wise decision to have them available year-round. Nowadays you can find kleina everywhere from the cornershop bakery to grocery stores, so you can be certain to get your hands on a scrumptious kleina while in Iceland.
The Icelandic kleina, also known as the Icelandic donut, is one of the most popular pastries in Iceland. You will often see the treat referred to as kleinur, which is the plural of kleina, likely because it is impossible to have just one of these yummy treats. Seasoned with cardmon or nutmeg, kleina is a light and fluffy pastry with a distinct twisted shape. And while they are made with simple flavors they pack a delicious bite. Once you try your first bite of the unique flavor of kleina you won’t be able to stop at just one.
A fun fact, recipes for kleina date all the way back to the 14th century. When a recipe has been popular for centuries, you know it is going to be a good one. Bring a taste of Iceland to your own kitchen and try out this classic recipe for Icelandic kleinur.
- 300 grams / 2 ½ cups Flour
- 100 grams / ½ cup Sugar
- 3 tsp. Baking Powder
- ½ tsp. Baking Soda
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp Cardamom, ground
- ¼ tsp. Nutmeg - optional
- 60 grams / ¼ cup Butter
- 1 Egg
- 120 grams / ½ cup Milk
- 120 grams / ½ cup Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream
- Sunflower Oil - or other oil for deep frying
1. Mix all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom and nutmeg together in a bowl. Crumble butter, or cut into cubes, and mix into a bowl with dry ingredients. Blend together until butter is mixed in, creating a mixture that looks like coarse crumbs.
2. Whisk together egg, milk and yogurt until combined then add to bowl with dry ingredients. Mix together until a sticky dough has formed, then knead the dough gently with hands into a ball.
3. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out until the dough is roughly 3mm / ¼ inch thick. Use extra flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.
4. Slice the dough into 5-6cm / 2 inches wide strips. Then slice each of these strips diagonally every 10-12cm / 4 inches to create a diamond shape. Cut a small slit in the middle of each of these diamonds.
5. Create the unique kleina twist by tucking one tip of the diamond through the center and gently pulling through to create the twist in the dough.
6. Deep fry the kleina in very hot oil, placing a few in the pot at a time. Cook on one side for 1-2 minutes, watching for the kleina to turn a golden brown. They cook very quickly so be sure to watch closely so they do not over cook. Once cooked, place kleina on a paper towel.
7. Serve warm, and if desired, dust with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or just plain sugar, but kleina are also delicious all on their own. Enjoy!
Recipe makes 30-35 kleinur
Another favorite treat you are likely to find on coffee tables in Iceland, the beloved pönnukökur, aka Icelandic pancakes. These thin, crepe-like pancakes are not all that different from other crepe recipes you will see, rather the key to the Icelandic pancakes is the special pancake pan. A traditional Icelandic pancake pan is a round skillet with a thick bottom, important for cooking the pancakes quickly at a high temperature to get the desired thin, yet slightly crispy on the edges, pancakes.
Further making the Icelandic pancakes stand out are the traditional toppings they are served with. Two of the most traditional toppings are regular granulated sugar, or jam with whipped cream. Whichever topping you choose spread in the middle of the pancake, then fold into triangles or roll up to enjoy. This recipe is always a crowd pleaser and is great to have out on the table for any coffee time, brunch, or even dessert.
- 160 grams / 1 ¼ cup Flour
- 2 TB Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 2 Eggs
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- ½ Liter / 2 cups milk – add the milk as necessary to get to the desired consistency
- ¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl except for the butter.
2. Melt butter on the pan, then pour melted butter into the bowl with the rest of the batter. Stir to make a smooth batter, adding more milk if needed to get a batter of a running consistency.
3. Butter pancake pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour enough batter to coat the skillet in a thin layer, the goal is to get the pancake as thin as possible. Turning the skillet as you pour the batter in can help get the desired evenly spread thin layer.
4. Cook until the bottom of the pancake is lightly browned, then flip and cook on the other side to light brown.
5. Once cooked fill the middle of your pancakes with desired toppings, roll or fold up, and serve warm. Enjoy!
Recipe makes approximately 20 pancakes
Time to enjoy your own kaffitímar! And while you are enjoying your freshly baked kleina, or still warm Icelandic pancakes, you can browse through the Hey Iceland Instagram page and pretend like you are enjoying your treats in the midst of the gorgeous Icelandic landscape.
Keep the feast going with our Delicious Icelandic Soup and Dessert Recipe!