Guide to Scandinavian Bakeries
Aside from cream cheese Danishes , I think it’s fair to say that the average American college student isn’t exposed all that often to the wonderful world of Scandinavian bakeries. It’s a shame, since the breads, pastries, and desserts from Sweden, Norway and Denmark are just as drool-worthy as French chocolate croissants and Italian cannoli.
All three Scandinavian countries are known for producing many delectable varieties of breads and pastries. The typical breads and rolls that are eaten as toast for breakfast or used to make smörgåsbröd (open-faced sandwiches topped with either cured fish, cheese, or meat) are hearty and full of a variety of whole grains. They’re wonderful with a little butter or spread with a fruit preserve like wild berry or lingonberry preserves.
Cinnamon buns, though particularly popular in Sweden where they are known as kanelbullar, are available in bakeries all throughout Scandinavia. Unlike the American cinnamon buns that are often very sweet and spread with thick frosting, Scandinavian cinnamon buns are either braided or rolled buns with a modest amount of cinnamon filling worked into the dough’s ropes and spirals. They’re typically enjoyed during the mid-day coffee break, which in Sweden is known as fika. Some bakeries also make a variation on the buns with cardamom in place of cinnamon, which makes for a very subtle, but nicely warming, spiced treat.
If you ever happen to be in Denmark, you’ll have to make sure you try an actual Danish pastry. Just look for a storefront with a wooden pretzel hanging in front (the Danish sign for a bakery), then step inside and take your pick. The fillings don’t just stop at cream cheese, though–in Denmark you can find danishes filled with fruit jams, chocolates, and custard fillings. Unlike the single-serving ones normally found in the states, you can get impressively flakey Danishes that could feed a large family for dessert. In Denmark, they’re actually referred to as viennabrød in reference to the Viennese bakers that shared the techniques of laminated pastries with the Danes.
For a quick snack or a light lunch, many Scandinavians use lefses as their flatbread of choice. They most closely resemble crepes or chapatis, and they’re made with a delicate potato dough. You can fill them with cheese or meat, and if you want to really be authentic, enjoy a lefse with a few slices of geitost, the classic Norweigan caramelized goat cheese, and some jam.
As far as cakes go, Denmark has many bakeries that are dedicated almost entirely to lakage, or layer cakes. Like Scandinavian breads, the cakes tend to be fairly dense with rich nut flours in the cake, fruit fillings, and whipped cream toppings. In Sweden the show-stopping prinsesstårta (princess cake) uses layers of cake and marzipan to create the trademark pale-green domed cake. Rich marzipan and chocolate cakes are also popular, and are often served in the afternoon with coffee rather than after dinner as is typical in the United States.
Of course, this just scratches the surface of what a Scandinavian bakery may offer. Each region has its own specialties and holiday treats, but you should be able to find most of these baked goods within the typical bakery. For those of you studying abroad in Copenhagen, Stockholm, or Oslo, don’t pass up the opportunity to try some of the finest treats Northern Europe has to offer.
Cover photo source.