When Andersonville’s storied Swedish Bakery closed in 2017, Chicago collectively let our a huge gasp. Where could we get our Swedish treats? In stepped Lost Larson, with their modern take on Scandinavian baked goods. For Lent in Sweden, sampling Semla (plural semlor) pastries is a must, and Lost Larson has their own rendition (seen below). Traditionally, semla are eaten on Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday and also throughout Lent on Tuesdays. Lost Larson’s version has an almond cream filling, chopped almonds, and whipped cream all in a house-made cardamom brioche. Yum! They were fresh and full of almond flavor, definitely the most delicious version we have ever had. The semla at Lost Larson frequently sell out, so it is recommended that you place your orders in advance for pickup on the Lost Larson website (at either location). Plus, their new Wicker Park cafe (2140 W Division St.) is extremely charming, so we recommend that you pop in. If you need any more convincing, Lost Larson also has one of our favorite matcha lattes in Chicago (also seen below).
Tag Archives: Sweden
There is nothing we like more than trying pastries from around the world, so we were delighted to visit a new bakery in Andersonville in Chicago that celebrates the neighborhood’s Scandinavian heritage: Lost Larson ( 5318 N Clark St Chicago, IL). Lost Larson specializes in traditional Scandinavian pastries made with the highest quality ingredients. The bakery itself is bright and clean, and there are even some comfy booths for seating.
We have been to Lost Larson a few times, and we have yet to try something we did not love. We think that the croissants are particularly good. The scrumptious chocolate croissant has a touch of cardamom, and there is also a Danish riff on a croissant, the Tebirkes ($4.50), which has an almond filling and is covered with poppy seeds. M was head over heels for the cinnamon roll ($4.50), which was subtle, not overly syrupy or sticky. The cardamom bun ($4.50), a Swedish classic, was also superlative. They also have seasonal specialties in the pastry case like Saffron buns for St. Lucia’s day in December (unfortunately they were sold out when we got there).
A full selection of beverages are available including espresso drinks, tea and a matcha latte. Recently, we also sampled a special elderflower mulled apple cider. Don’t sleep on the breads displayed behind the counter either, we were in love with the slightly-sweet Swedish limpa bread with fennel, anise, and orange peel. There are also a few savory open-faced sandwiches (known as smorrebrod in Denmark) with eclectic toppings like avocado and pickled herring ($8.50-10) if you are in more of a lunch mood. Though Lost Larson may be a bit more expensive than other bakeries, it is worth every penny!
If you’re looking for that “kid in a candy store” feeling, there is nowhere better to visit than Sockerbit (89 Christopher St New York, NY 10014) in New York City. The best part about Sockerbit is that, unless you are Swedish, you have probably never seen any these candies before, which makes the adventure all the more fun. All of the bulk candy in Sockerbit is sold by the pound ($12.99) so you can grab a bag and pick out your own perfect selection from the dozens (hundreds?) of varieties. Here is a preview of a few of the candies you can get.
- There is a huge variety of gummy candies, in any shape you could ever want, including old favorites like bears, worms, cola bottles and fish. But the fun doesn’t stop there, the beauty of Sockerbit is that there are also dozens of particularly unique shapes like sour apple skulls, pink dolphins and raspberry Ferarris.
- Hard candies like the wrapped mint Marianne variety and fizzy raspberry balls
- Traditional Swedish licorice in both hard and soft varieties, some of which is super strong and almost spicy, like the hard Napoleon variety. Other varieties like Salmias are salty!
- Flavored Sockerbitar marshmallows in flavors like strawberry (the Swedish word for marshmallow is the namesake of the store)
- Wrapped toffees and caramels, both hard and soft, in some more unusual flavors like the Swedish Christmas cookie Pepparkakor
- Chocolate with fillings like muesli, toffee or hazelnut
In addition to the overwhelming amount of candy, Sockerbit also has a small assortment of Swedish ingredients like coffee, jam and flour along with boxed candies and cookies. You can also buy modern Dala Horses and and housewares, if you are looking for something a little more durable. Plus, Sockerbit is also one of the few places you can find the famous Swedish Polkagris candies in the US. If you can manage to save some of your candy haul, these also make a great souvenir!
We are starting the year with a tip about what may be the best brunch place in Toronto. Karelia Kitchen (1194 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N2, Canada) is dedicated to all things Scandinavian for brunch, snacktime and dinner. Karelia’s brunch is a mix of continental, Canadian and Scandinavian flavors with dishes like Pitti Y Panna ($14) Swedish-style potato hash with dill, bacon and eggs; Herring Two Ways ($14); and a grilled cheese made with Canadian Oka cheese ($12). For something more savory, there is also a huge variety of smorrebrod – open faced sandwiches in varieties like salmon, shrimp and beet ($10-12). In true Scandinavian fashion, coffee is a major feature of the cafe, and there is also a wide assortment Scandinavian pastries for a true Swedish-style fika coffee break. It can get pretty crowded for brunch, so reservations are recommended. But even if you don’t have a reservation, you can order at the counter to go.Even with all of this selection, our favorite thing about Karelia Kitchen is that they have Pulla Bread! Pulla bread is a traditional Finnish cardamom bread, which is particularly hard to find pretty much anywhere in North America, and this quest is what initially led us to Karelia. Pulla is a relative of the Swedish cardamom bun, kardemummabullar, and may be found in braided loaves like brioche, or in smaller rolls (as seen below). Served with clotted cream and lingonberry jam, a pulla roll is a prefect not-too-sweet accompaniment for fika or breakfast (or a snack). If you have the chance head over to Karelia to sample the excellent pulla bread and more!
Today is St. Lucia Day, one of the most important holidays in Scandinavia, and Christmas is right around the corner! We have covered some Swedish holiday cakes and cookies here on the blog previously, but did you know that candy canes may in fact have their roots in Sweden? In Sweden these striped candies are called Polkagris. Polkagris was invented by a female entrepreneur, Amalia Eriksson, in 1859 in the town of Gränna, Sweden. At a time when few women were allowed to be entrepreneurs, the widowed Amalia created the candy as a way to support her family (and the recipe was kept as a secret until her death). The traditional polkagris color is red and white with peppermint flavor, much like the candy canes we know in the US. However, there are a few differences – Polkagris is made with vinegar, which makes it softer and chewier – and creates a shorter shelf life.
October 4 is the date of two very important food holidays: National Taco Day and National Cinnamon Bun Day. We have a lot of coverage on tacos on the blog, but we thought we would supplement our cinnamon bun coverage! The holiday, like most other food holidays, is an invented one, but since its introduction in 1999 it really has taken off in Sweden. Swedes really love cinnamon buns (Kanelbullens in Swedish), in fact, as of 2010, they ate 310 a year! The love for cinnamon buns is shared across Scandinavia (we sampled some in Denmark). Swedish cinnamon buns are indeed relatives of the Cinnabon-style American Cinnamon rolls, but are flavored with cardamon, and topped with pearl sugar instead of icing (to be honest I like the Swedish kind a lot better!). Plus, Cinnamon buns are not just for breakfast, they are perfect for an afternoon coffee break or “Fika.” Here are recipes for classic Swedish Cinnamon buns from Kokblog, Swedishfood, Salt & Wind, and What’s Gaby Cooking. If you want a little twist, Nami Nami has a recipe for a Finnish Cinnamon Bun variety.
Swedish Cinnamon Buns by Kajak
Today is the Summer solstice – the longest day of the year! That means it is also time for Midsummer / Midsommar festivals in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia. While you may not have access to a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång), get outside, put on a flower crown and serve up some delicious treats, and you will be celebrating Midsummer like a Swede (Kitchn called some actual Swedes for their take, and that seems to cover it). Midsommar festivals and meals typically happen outdoors, in order to full enjoy the beauty of summer, and the super-late sunsets. Herring is a popular dish on the Swedish Midsommar table, as are new potatoes, fresh strawberries and a little aperitif like Akavit. Tasting Table, Serious Eats, The Kitchn, and Saveur have Midsommer menus for your own celebration. I think tonight’s dinner is going to be al fresco.
Who doesn’t love flourless chocolate cake? We certainly love it, and apparently the Swedish do as well. One of the more popular cakes in Sweden is Kladdkaka, which basically translates to “sticky/gooey chocolate cake.” The recipes for this cake seemed too easy NOT to try, and were uniformly beautiful, so on a whim we decided to whip up our first Kladdkaka last night. The cake we made really was a dream – that is, if you like chocolate (don’t talk to us if you don’t). We followed the Kladdkaka recipe on Call me Cupcake (as pictured above), which is flourless and gluten free, but other Kladdkaka recipes sometimes incorporate some flour, too. You probably already have all of the necessary ingredients in your fridge/pantry, so there is no excuse not to make this cake!
We are pretty fond of the Swedish way of taking coffee, Fika, and we also love their idea of the “cake table” aka kaffebröd or fikabröd which accompanies this traditional Swedish fika coffee break. A cake table typically includes cakes (obviously), cookies, pastries and other sweet treats. We think that a full fika with cakes and cookies is the perfect way to celebrate St. Lucia’s day, a holiday celebrated in Sweden on December 13th. Here are some top picks that we think would be perfect on any holiday table (or just for fun):
Tre Kronor (“Three Crowns” in Swedish), a local Scandinavian bistro, has been on our to-do list for quite a while, but it was just far away enough to keep eluding us. We finally found the perfect time to go, when we were looking for a place to catch up with a friend for brunch. Now we are usually pretty skeptical of brunch, but Tre Kronor seemed laid back enough to give a try. Tre Kronor (3258 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) is located in the quiet North Park neighborhood, and is adjacent to one of the cutest stores around – the Sweden Shop (3304 W Foster Ave) which sells all manner of Scandinavian design items, cards and food. We could spend hours just browsing around – you won’t be disappointed.
The first thing you will notice when you walk in to Tre Kronor is the cheerful gnome mural, and the strings of flags displayed on the walls, giving it a very homey atmosphere. Though they do breakfast, lunch and dinner, they seemed to be pretty popular for brunch, and we just barely squeezed in (no reservations accepted, so prepare for a wait). The menu at Tre Kronor is pretty varied, but there is a marked Scandinavian flavor throughout, and especially on the dinner portion which includes seafood staples like Gravlax and pickled herring. However, for brunch, we knew we absolutely had to order the Swedish pancakes – pannekaker – with lingonberry jam. Other options included omelettes with Scandinavian cheeses, pickled herring, and the more Americanized brunch items: French Toast and waffles. M, of course, went with his brunch staple, the French Toast. If you are feeling more like lunch, you can also pick among a variety of Swedish-tinged sandwiches and can even get a burger.
We heard they were known for their known for their coffee and their cinnamon rolls as well, so I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious, with an impressive amount of foam (see below). The food came out promptly, and everything was delicious. The Swedish pancakes were light and fluffy, and the french toast was crisp and golden brown. Also of note, Tre Kronor has an assortment of esoteric sausages, rotating on a daily basis. The day we were there, there was a potato sausage, which was delightful and mild, and a bacon sausage, which M thought was a revelation. What guy wouldn’t want a sausage made out of bacon? Our young server was very nice and helpful, and we appreciated his enthusiasm (as well as his Swedish idiom T-shirt). We thoroughly enjoyed brunch at Tre Kronor: the food was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. We are not big on brunch, but Tre Kronor may have just charmed us into changing our ways.
It’s almost Mardi Gras, and we are in NYC, so we decided to indulge in a semla (plural: semlor) from the Swedish coffee shop Fika (41 W. 58th St.), which we had visited on a previous trip. So while many may think of king cake for Mardi Gras, we were in a Scandinavian mood. A semla is traditional Swedish brioche roll flavored with cardamom and filled with whipped cream, usually eaten before Lent. Understated, yet indulgent, this is definitely a Mardi Gras tradition we can get behind. Learn how to make your own semla at Saveur.
Carl Larsson is a Swedish Arts and Crafts painter, who is known for his scenes of everyday turn-of-the-century Swedish life, and especially for depicting his own home and family. His paintings have also become associated with St. Lucia’s Day (December 13th), due to his popular depictions of the Swedish folk festival. His St. Lucia pictures include the traditional treats, but those were not his only paintings of Swedish food culture. As you can see below, the Swedish table was one of his favorite subjects.
It’s a rule – there is nothing we like more than baking treats for any associated holiday, American and international alike. St. Nicholas Day is coming up soon – December 6th, and in some European countries, it is a HUGE holiday complete with feasts, cookies, and having St. Nicholas fill your shoes with candy. One of the St. Nicholas Day treats that has traversed many borders and become something of a holiday staple is the German Pfeffernüsse cookie (which literally translates to “pepper nut”) which show up all around Central and Northern Europe this time of year. Similar cookies are called Pepernoden in the Netherlands and Pebernodder in Sweden. We even found a Swiss version of Pfeffernüsse in New Glarus, Wisconsin (see below). Pfeffernüsse are super easy to make and have a spiced, gingerbread-like flavor, sometimes coated in powdered sugar or glazed. The Austin Statesman has an interesting story about unearthing a heritage family Pfeffernüsse recipe and Saveur has a recipe that includes a rum glaze. We even saw a version at Trader Joe’s in the holiday special section, if you’re looking for an extra-quick treat.
41 W. 58th St.
New York City
We wrote several years ago about the iconic Swedish coffee and snack break – the fika – including a mention for the Fika coffee shop in NYC. The post got us really hoping to visit Sweden to enjoy an authentic fika. A few weeks ago, we were excited to visit Fika and experience a tiny bit of Swedish coffee culture right here in the US. NYC’s Fika cafe is just how we would imagine a Swedish coffeehouse to be: tiny and immaculate with only room for about 10 people at tall tables inside (if you are lucky enough to get a seat). Compared to US coffeehouse, Fika had a rather small menu of coffees. The coffee served here is actually roasted in NYC, but in the Swedish style. L ordered a cappuccino and the caffeine-averse M ordered hot chocolate. The coffee was light and flavorful and the hot chocolate was pleasingly rich.
Even better, there is a very nice selection of pastries and chocolate, including a wide variety of truffles and chocolates. In fact, Fika has its own chocolatier and several pastry chefs, giving the shop a constant supply of tempting sweets. We got a Cardamom bun, one of the most popular items, which was a rose-shaped croissant with a heavy helping of one of Sweden’s favored spices (there were also cinnamon and vanilla versions for non-cardamom fans). Of the chocolates, we tried truffles with goat milk, which was surprisingly delicate.
However, the showstopper was the Prinsesstårta, aka Princess cake. On their website, Fika even advertises that they are the “home of the Princess Cake,” which is no small feat. We have written about the painfully complex Prinsesstårta before (to date it is the the only cake we have seen that requires a diagram to explain) but we have never actually tried it until now. The version at Fika had all the requisite layers: sponge cake, whipped cream, jam and green marzipan. It was really enjoyable, and a lot more filling than we expected.
We are so happy to have found Fika, a little taste of Sweden in the US. Incidentally, when we went on a weekday morning, the cafe was full of Swedes! If you are feeling especially nostalgic, you can also bring home boxes of the stores coffee, tea, and Swedish berry preserves for your own little fika at home.
We recently wrote about the vibrant coffee culture in Scandinavia, particularly Norway. Adding credence the near-mythic status of Scandinavian coffee is “Bean Everywhere” a wordless video tribute to Scandinavian coffee by the South African Coffee publication, The Coffee Mag, with the much different Turkish coffee in the mix as well. If you are a coffee lover it is definitely worth a watch.
Shops featured in the video:
In an earlier post we wrote about Sweden’s iconic multi-layered Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta) – which seems equally delicious and daunting. Swedish Prinsesstårta was the May 2013 challenge for Daring Bakers, an online baking group, and the result was a lot of delicious-sounding takes on this tricky tart. May Daring Bakers Host Korena in the Kitchen has a very thorough description of how to make the cakes, for those of you that want to go traditional. Alternative versions include: Prinsesstårta cupcakes, Strawberry-Oreo Prinsesstårta, and Green Tea Prinsesstårta, among others.
Semla (or as it goes by many other names: fastlagsbulle, laskiaispulla, or fastelavnsbolle) is a Scandinavian pastry strongly associated with Lent in Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden. Semlor (plural) used to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, however, it is now eaten throughout Lent, especially on Tuesdays. Semla seems pretty easy to make – and consists of a cardamom flavored sweet roll filled with whipped cream and almond paste. During this time of year, all of the bakeries in Scandinavia stock semla, and it is the perfect snack to enjoy with your afternoon coffee break, or fika. For those outside of Northern Europe, Camilla’s Cravings has a recipe for Semla.
St. Lucia’s Day is a Swedish holiday that occurs on December 13th, marked by feasts and candles. Despite it being pretty dark in Sweden in the weeks leading up the Christmas, St. Lucia’s day and Advent as a whole are a great time of celebration filled with lots of light. We have written about some sweet treats like Lussekatter and pepparkakor that are used to celebrate the holidays in Sweden, but if you need some warming up the best prescription is Glögg, a mulled red wine. Glögg is so integral to the holiday season, there are dedicated “Glögg parties.” While you can buy Glögg at many stores, it is definitely more fun to make your own.
We love daily snack rituals, and we just learned of Sweden’s tradition of Fika. Fika is analogous to British teatime, though a Swedish Fika usually comprises of coffee and a sweet snack. Apparently Fika is so ingrained in Swedish psyche that it has become both a noun and a verb (“do you want to Fika?”), and is a daily ritual honored by both young and old. Fikabröd (“fika bread”) is the name for the sweet snacks (cookies, tarts, breads, cakes, etc.) that are part of a Fika, and there are sometimes even Fika buffets with a variety of sweet treats. If you are looking for an authentic Fika, and you happen to be in the NYC area, you can visit the aptly-named Fika Coffee Shop.
A Princess cake in Stockholm, by Peter Sunna
One of the most striking cakes we have ever seen is the Swedish Prinsesstårta, or “Princess cake.” It is called a princess cake because it was said to be a favorite of the daughters of Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland – princesses Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid. Since its creation in the 1930s, it has been popular for special occasions in Sweden. This festive cake is covered in green marzipan, one of the rare sweets to have green as its principal color. CakeSpy did a wonderful post researching why the princess cake is green (unfortunately the answer is still unknown). The cake, while beautiful, seems fairly labor intensive. Just take a look at the cross section on the Baking Obsession site for a better idea – the components are layers of genoise cake, jam, and buttercream, all covered by a dome of whipped cream and the distinctive marzipan. If you are feeling up to the task War and Yeast and have great step-by-step recipes. We think we will stick to getting the cake from the experts, Swedish Bakery (5348 N. Clark, Chicago).