My first introduction to Fredrik Backman was his book Beartown, which I absolutely love and have recommended to countless people. It is like Friday Night Lights but hockey instead of football and rural Sweden instead of Texas. Since reading Beartown, I have started to go through the rest of Fredrik Backman’s work, including A Man Called Ove. This is such a sweet book about a curmudgeon of a man who is eventually won over by his neighbors. In honor of this book, I decided to try my hand at Swedish Visiting Bars. These Swedish visiting cake bars have a soft layer of almond cake topped with toasted almond meringue topping. These bars are just the right amount of sweetness for an afternoon snack. Paired with a cup of tea and a comfy chair and it is the perfect environment for an afternoon spent reading.
Swedish Visiting Bars
- For Topping:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
- For Bars:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- 1cup all-purpose flour
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
For the topping: Put the sugar in a medium bowl and pour over the egg whites. Using a fork, mix until the sugar is moistened. If there are lumps, ignore them. Toss in the almonds and stir them around until they’re coated with the sugared whites. Set aside while you make the batter.
Batter: In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and salt together until the mixture lightens in color and thickens a little, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold in the flour. When the flour is fully incorporated, gradually fold in the melted butter. Pour into the prepared pan and use the spatula to work the batter into the corners. The layer will be very thin.
Give the topping another stir and turn it out onto the batter. Use a spatula or your fingers to spread the almonds evenly over the mixture, making sure to get nuts into the corners too.
Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few crumbs stuck to it. The topping will be pale golden brown. If you’d like a deeper color on the topping, run it under the broiler until you get the shade of gold you like best.
Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove cake from the pan and put it on the rack to cool to room temperature.
Transfer the cake to a cutting board and, using a long, thin knife, slice it into nine 3-inch squares. For smaller portions, cut each square into two triangles. To finish, dust the bars with powdered sugar just before you serve them.