When Bronwyn and Dennis Eriksson took over the tiny shop in Bridge Street that is home to the Swedish Bakery and Café just over seven years ago from their son they didn’t know anything about baking but they did know what they love in a great loaf of bread.
They wanted to make bread the way it has been for thousands of years, using a levian starter to make sour dough breads with a real crust, none of this soft white fluffy stuff that is produced on a huge commercial scale, packaged in plastic bags and doesn’t have a lot of flavour.
The sour dough starter they use to make their breads was created when they bought the shop and has been used ever since. Rather than using a commercial yeast this starter was created by using the natural yeasts in the environment and the result of this is breads that have a wonderful deep flavour.
Making bread this way also takes time, about three days from the time they start with some flour until it is ready for us to buy from the shelves, and there is plenty of hard work and passion that goes into every single loaf they make. This labour intensive way of producing bread means they don’t make each variety every day but their regulars know when to shop for the loaf they love.
When I had a chat with Bronwyn a few days ago her passion for producing great product was obvious, I got a quick lesson in the history of bread and how bread making has changed over the centuries, how the way we eat bread and spend our time. Bronwyn says as we became busy we stopped taking the time to make our own breads and turned to commercially produced products instead. The same passion and love of producing wonderful food goes into everything they make; flaky pastry for the croissants and sweet pastry treats is hand-made using real butter.
Bronwyn tells me artisan bread making has made a big comeback in Sweden (Dennis’s home country) and that we are seeing a big growth in demand for high quality handmade breads in Nelson too.
While I love these breads and have been buying them occasionally for some time (you have to try their fresh croissants on a Saturday morning) it is the treats they make I want to talk about in this column. The display cabinet is packed with everything from sandwiches and rolls made using the bread they produce to deliciously naughty traditional Swedish chocolate coated treats.
In Sweden it is the depths of winter at Christmas it is miserable and grey with temperatures as low as -20 degrees with northern parts of the country in darkness 24 hours a day for a few weeks so people make lots of baked treats that lift their spirits. Things like thin, spiced crisp biscuits (think ginger crisp biscuits) called peppar kakor and saffron buns that are made using the levian sour dough starter but are bright yellow and packed with warm flavours.,
Some of the treats they have don’t have a Swedish heritage but Bronwyn says that is the wonderful thing about food, it crosses boundaries and all good things travel around the world. We are lucky in New Zealand because as we travel we are exposed to new foods and when immigrants come here and start making foods from their home lands we are already familiar with them and we take on new ideas quickly, some countries take centuries to accept new things.
So with that in mind the Swedish Bakery and Café make treats from other countries too, like marzipan and date filled dates that have an Arab influence, Croissants and other pastries from France, Stollen from Germany and a Kiwi favourite, sweet fruit mince pies.
This year they will hand make pastry and then hand roll about 200 fresh croissants for their customers to buy on Christmas Eve and enjoy on Christmas Day as well as producing some special Swedish Christmas treats.
Drop in and see Bronwyn and Dennis and experience their passion for great bread and other artisan products for yourself, have a coffee while you nibble on a delicious slice of Tosca (ground almond cake wrapped in chocolate) maybe a dark Belgian chocolate with fruit and nuts or a rich rum chocolate and marzipan roll while mull over which loaf of bread you will take home with you.
And if you are travelling around the Moutere area over the holidays stop in at the Moutere Inn for lunch where you can try a delicious gourmet burger with sour dough buns handmade by the Swedish Bakery and Café in Bridge St.