At the Fika Table, Austin baker Laura Galos keeps her family traditions alive with Nordic treats
Laura Galos' great grandmother arrived in the United States from Finland the year before the last pandemic.
It was 1917, and she brought with her several Finnish baking traditions that the family kept alive when Galos, the founder of a new Nordic baking company, was a girl growing up in the Northeast.
For example, her grandmother, Lois — "hands down my favorite person" — loved to bake the family's pulla bread, a buttery cardamom loaf that was the first thing that Galos remembers baking.
"She was the one who got me started on this," Galos says of her company, The Fika Table. "She would bring coffee bread to all the family gatherings."
Having grown up in the Northeast, where many European immigrant families settled after coming to the U.S., Galos wanted to bring a taste of these desserts to Central Texas, another part of the country heavily influenced by immigrant settlements, particularly the Swedes, Germans and Czechs.
Baking Nordic goods in Austin
Galos and her husband moved to Austin in 2012 after they met and married in New York City. For most of her career, she'd worked in design research, but when the pandemic hit, she started working toward selling Scandinavian pastries for delivery. She eventually rented a commercial kitchen space and started posting photos of the treats on Instagram.
"I'd always had my own dream of owning a business, and the pandemic has been this interesting moment," she says. "It's so terrible for so many people, but there are these opportunities to try something new."
Galos launched the company before having had a chance to visit Scandinavia, but that could change this year. She has a ticket to Sweden booked for August. ("Fingers crossed," she says.)
There, she'll explore Finland, a country whose times of privation left an imprint in their baked goods. "There are little variations about the kind of fat or eggs that hint to them being scrappy people," she says.
Galos says that the Finns use a hard-to-translate word, "sisu," which is akin to persistence and stoicism in the face of adversity but it is often used as a compliment. "Sisu is the national character of Finland," Galos says. She thinks of it now as the art of courage, a fitting concept to hold dear during this difficult year we've had.
Connecting with her family's ancestry might have been what drew her to start the Fika Table, but Galos says the most rewarding thing has been connecting with customers over these treats, which is exactly the heart of fika, a treasured Scandinavian ritual of breaking for a coffee and a baked good in the middle of the afternoon.
"The pandemic has been lonely for a lot of people, and fika is a way of connecting people. I get to connect with the community through baked goods," she says.
You can order the baked goods at thefikatable.com for Saturday delivery or find them at Tiny Grocer, 1718 S. Congress Ave.Online customers can also join the cardamom bun club for $60, which includes regular delivery of those spiced buns found throughout Sweden and beyond. Other treats on the Fika Table menu have included Icelandic date cake, Swedish apple-hazelnut cake and lingonberry thumbprint cookies.