Love at first bite...
The first time I tried a chokladbollar was many years ago while I was still living in NYC. A new coffee spot opened up in my neighborhood called Fika and I remembered that fika is a Swedish version of taking an afternoon tea but instead of tea, coffee is the preferred beverage. I had studied Swedish in college for a year and took quite a number of classes at the Scandinavian studies department as well so I was intrigued to step into this tiny cafe.
The chokladbollar reminded me of the rumballs I had grown up with as a child in Jakarta. My aunt used to make rumballs with real rum, lots of butter, and chocolate. I loved alcoholic desserts as a child! I was pleasantly surprised at the taste of the chokladbollar to be similar but different. Deliciously rich in chocolate that paired well with my black coffee.
Once or twice a week, I would have fika at Fika and have a chokladbollar or try one of their other Swedish cakes. It was a weekly ritual.
Years later, I made it to Sweden and had proper fika in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Lund, and Helsingborg in various places. When in Sweden, one must have fika! Fika is the best Swedish habit
How I learned to make chokladbollar
On one of my long haul flights from Copenhagen to Singapore, I sat next to a lovely young Swedish woman who was on her way "home" to Australia. We spoke in Swedish, I ended up telling her my love for chokladbollar and wished that I could recreate the balls at home. She told me the balls were easy to make and told me the recipe.
That entire flight, I could not stop thinking about making my own chokladbollar. As soon I got home, I looked up various recipes online and followed them exactly but I could not get the proportions correct. The mixture was either too wet, too dry, too grainy, etc. Even though the taste was all there, the balls were less like the smooth, sweet, and rich chocolate tastes than the cafes and bakeries in Sweden. I had a fika with my Swedish friend before she moved and had her try one of my chokladbollar. She told me that in the stores, they add a ton of butter and sugar and used industrial grade mixers so thats why it was so smooth.
I was really frustrated and was not satisfied with the results.
I kept making chokladbollar and it was different each time because I had not figured out the right proportions of ingredients and there were problems with temperatures as well. My dear friends were all too happy to taste test and liked whatever I made. But I am really picky and wanted to make the chokladbollar better each time.
When I moved to Switzerland for graduate school, I asked my Swedish friends how they make their chokladbollar because I was not satisfied with chokladbollar I was making. One of them said, cold coffee and another said old coffee. I kept experimenting and found that the temperature and dry air of the alpine village was affecting the consistency of the mixture that was different than the balls I was making in Singapore! The proportions were off again.
Finally, after several years and multiple batches of trial and error. I'm able to make chokladbollar that I'm proud to say are pretty damn good. I've also experimented with different ingredients that reflect the environment and location because its important to continue pushing for excellence.
I hope you enjoy my chokladbollar journey, recipes, and stories.