Sunday, May 26, 2013

Local for a day at St. Jakob's Stenugnsbageri in Lund, Sweden

St. Jakob's Stenugnsbageri  (stone oven bakery) in Lund, Sweden, is the kind of inviting spot that feels like a home away from home: one of those cozy cafes you would frequent weekly if you were a local in this university town.  

I had to work a bit to find this bakery, though it's just a  stone's throw from the Lund Cathedral, the city's most well known landmark.  

It was my first time in Sweden during Easter time, so I was eager to try some seasonal baked goods, but I knew I had to practice patience.  When bakery hunting abroad, the trick to finding the local favorite baked good source is to refrain from tasting at the first few bakeries that you see.  Keep looking in the storefront windows, and step inside if you need to survey the scene more closely.  But never, I repeat never, hand over your Swedish kroner until you're sure you've found the right one.  While Scandinavian bakeries tend to be impressively consistent, you can only try so many rich, traditional Swedish baked goods in one day, and you should try the best versions you can find. So look for the clues relied upon by every good bakery hunter: try to spot a bakery with a steady line of people.  Lots of traffic is usually a key sign that you're on the right track to get the finest kanelbuller kroner can buy.  And when in doubt, look for full bellies and satisfied expressions.

Swedish cardamom

When you enter St. Jakob's, the aesthetically beautiful pastry and bread display enchants you. Customers line up in a narrow area to place their orders, then find seating in one of the many cozy nooks of the interior, or in the large area by the streetside window, perfect for people watching.  It's the ideal place to find some warmth from the Swedish weather, and curl up with a book, or catch up with a friend.  It's the kind of friendly place where locals walk in and order their cappuccinos "extra hot," and so popular that customers remark to one another at their good fortune when they discover a prime open table.  Two regulars chatting together confirmed that Sunday morning is the best time to visit, as the cafe is otherwise filled to capacity.

Like many other businesses in town, St. Jakob's fills its windows with the traditional Easter birch branches decorated with colorful feathers.  

St. Jakob's is bursting with the charm of a place that is well loved by Lund residents.  It's also bursting with baked goods. Fresh piping hot treats seem to cover every imaginable surface of the place, including several precariously perched trays from straight out of the oven.  

Mazarin and croissants, with lovely loaves of bread in the background 

While I feared for the clumsy customer who might knock these over, I embraced their lack of counter space as a sign that they keep the fresh baked goods coming!

Mini semlor, a seasonal treat with cream and almond paste

Thanks to the people of St. Jakob's, who offer not only great tasting baked goods, but a cozy, inviting space where it feels automatically possible to be a local in Sweden, if only for a day.