A Perfect Swedish Afternoon at Solhaga Stenungnsbageri
Published May 12 2016, Scandinavia Standard
It’s a lazy day during the school holidays. I’m swaying in the hammock in the garden of our country cottage, turning pages in one of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking stories. Bees buzz above the bushes of lilac (has anyone else thought about the fact that bees are fluffy kamikaze or is that just me?), joined by the silent flutter of colourful butterflies (has anyone else thought about the fact that putting together the words 'butter' + 'flies' is REALLY disgusting and is very unrepresentative of these creature's beauty, or is that just me again?). That’s the idyllic memory of my childhood that drifts to the forefront of my mind, as I sit in front of the red and white painted Solhaga Bakery in Slöinge.
The scent of cardamom elopes from the wide open windows and door of the bakery, making me want to go back in and get one of the bakeries famous Kardemummabullar (Swedish Cardamon Rolls). But I’ve already chosen to try their Eclair this time – a Scandinavian take on the French classic, filled with a delicious liquorice butter cream. The great thing about this place is that you can’t go wrong with any choice; everything tastes just right.
I love coming here when I visit my mum in Sweden. The bakery and café is open year-round, but on sunny days like this it really comes into its own.
Sun rays flood the bakery, its garden and porch, where a number of other guests are sitting at the outside tables, sipping the freshly brewed coffee Solhaga gets from the Slöinge coffee roasters next door.
A steady stream of customers go in and come out carrying brown paper bags filled with freshly baked bread loafs and sweet pastries. My mum and I might come to have a coffee and a small pastry to accompany our chat, but we never leave without carrying one or two of those brown paper bags home ourselves.
Solhaga’s bread is slowly baked using sourdough. Croissants and pain au chocolate are rolled with real butter and things like jam and vanilla cream are made from scratch. The bakery sources as much local produce as possible, only bakes with natural ingredients and refrains from using additives.
The ladies working at the bakery are absolutely lovely. Every time we’re here we are greeted with the warmest smiles and, of course, they all speak fluent English. It’s the kind of place where, if you’ve been more than once, they’ll know you and make you feel at home.
The heart and soul of Solhaga’s bakery is an old stone oven in plain view inside. In 2008, three years before opening the bakery, owner Sara Wennerström bought the property as a summerhouse. She began restoring the oven, sharing her progress and baking recipes on a blog. Beginning in 2010, she trained as a craft baker under Jan Hedh and eventually left her fifteen year career in marketing to focus entirely on her bakery.
Wennerström has had well-deserved success. She was nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year in Falkenberg in 2015 and the bakery has been awarded several prizes and nominations. Solhaga Stenugnsbageri offers a number of baking courses and hosts conferences and events. Unsurprisingly, it has become an integral part of the community and supplies a small range to local shops and the Grand Hotel Falkenberg.
The proverbial icing on top: Wennerström will be opening a new café, Borgmästargården Kafé & Konditori, in Falkenberg in May 2016. I’ve had a look at the pictures of their cakes and if you’re in town, don’t miss it!