Lisa Ferland interviews author Alaine Handa about her passion for one of Sweden’s favorite sweets, chokladbollar. Go beyond Swedish tradition with these innovative recipes inspired by Alaine’s international upbringing and lifestyle.
How did you get started experimenting with recipes for chocolate balls (chokladbollar)?
I started experimenting with different flavors as a twist on the classic when I was living in Switzerland and then Belgium because of the international communities.
I was in a hospitality school in Switzerland and then interning at a hotel company’s headquarters in Belgium.
After perfecting my classic recipe with the best cacao in the world, I got inspired by my global background to add flavors like Japanese matcha, Singaporean kaya, and of course, Swedish spices of cinnamon and cardamom in the chokladbollar recipes.
From there, I looked to the local markets on the freshest produce like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, banana, and various nuts.
I lived in the US for 11 years, and loved the traditional cakes, pies, candy that inspired the s’mores, apple pie, and peanut butter recipes.
I am still inspired to create different types of chokladbollar based on my experiences of living in the US, Southeast Asia, and Europe.
What do you love best about this traditional Swedish sweet?
It reminds me of my childhood!
My aunt Mona used to make rum balls for my cousins and me during my childhood in Jakarta.
The chocolate ball she made was different, though, and the base is not oats like chokladboll but crushed Marie biscuits. However, the simple homemade feeling left an impression on me.
How long have you been rolling chocolate balls?
Only around 5 years, but I roll around 50-100 balls on average these days either creating new recipes or for events or as gifts!
I actually have not purchased any Christmas presents for more than a decade now as I always make baked goods like fudge, peppermint bark, cookies, and of course, my chokladbollar. I place them in beautiful tins or glass jars for friends and family.
What are your top 3 tips for making delicious chokladbollar?
Tip #1: Use quality ingredients! There aren’t many ingredients in chokladbollar so your oats, cacao powder, and coffee should be of good quality. The cacao powder should be a Dutch-processed powder to get that rich chocolate-y taste.
Tip #2: Crumble your oats. When selecting oats, I like to use instant oats and they should be crumbled after pouring them into the mixing bowl by hand or in a food processor. This is especially important because it makes the oats more porous.
Tip #3: Brown your butter (brynt smör in Swedish). I like to use browned butter instead of room temperature butter because it makes a slightly caramelized taste to the chocolate balls.
How many chokladboll recipes have you created?
Probably around 50! There are 30 in the book and I keep creating more recipes almost every week!
I also like to blend two recipes from my book together like my most recent creation: Stracciatella; inspired by the Italian white and dark chocolate confection.
It is also used to be my second flavor of gelato that I would always order on short trips to Milan.
You can make this blend by combining my fudge recipe and white chokladboll recipe in my book. Top it off with both chocolate and coconut to get the right flavor.
What’s your favorite recipe?
This is a really hard question! My favorite chokladboll is the classic, but I made an elevated version called “Bougie Balls” in my book. It utilizes a bit of truffle salt, vanilla beanstalk, Valrhona cacao powder, browned butter, cinnamon, and espresso!
What are some of your favorite cafes with delicious chokladbollar?
I used to order chokladbollar a lot, but because I make so many now, I don’t order them as much as before. These fika spots make pretty decent chokladbollar but also their traditional fika bread and cakes are so good.
In Stockholm, I love Gast, Kaffeverket, Kavalleriet, Johan & Nyström at Mariatorget, and used to love Snickarbacken which unfortunately closed. But of course, if you visit the Fotografiska museum, the café at the top has yummy traditional fika bread and cakes with a stunning view of the old city by the water.
In Lund, I highly recommend a visit to Love Coffee Roasters, Broder Jakobs, and Ramklints konditori.
In Malmö, St Jakobs Stenungsbageri is definitely a must! If you ever find yourself in Helsingborg, Ebbas Fik has a variety of chokladbollar of small and big sizes as well.
The best chokladboll, in my opinion, uses real quality ingredients like salted butter or coconut oil because the basic ball is so simple to make. It can be overwhelming sweet or taste artificial if margarine is used (in my honest but biased opinion!)
Also, it’s a fun family activity to bring the whole family together and make something yummy. Enjoy!
You can find Alaine’s book on online retailers worldwide and at these in-person locations:
Physical bookstores: The Moon Bookstore in Singapore, Fika café in Singapore, Books for Cooks in London.
Independent bookstores can order the book from anywhere in the world and some stores list the book on their websites.
Worldwide online retailers: Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, Walmart, Ebay, Waterstones, Apple Books, Foyles, Wook.pt, Tanum.no, Bol.com, Kinokuniya, Open Trolley Singapore, etc. and soon Culture Cakes Kit in the US.
Be sure to contact Alaine Handa at https://www.travelwithalaine.com/