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In Chicago, a Reclaimed Swedish Heritage for a New Bakery

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In Chicago, a Reclaimed Swedish Heritage for a New Bakery

When Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood bid farewell to its beloved Swedish Bakery in February 2018, it was as if a princess cake-shaped hole was left in the historically Scandinavian neighborhood’s collective heart. The traditional Swedish neon green-domed cake had long been local legend.

When pastry chef Bobby Schaffer, who had previously led the pastry programs at Michelin-starred Grace in Chicago and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., was searching for a space to open his new venture, he knew the neighborhood was in need of a local bakery.

“I’d always known that it was one of my favorite neighborhoods, having grown up here,” Mr. Schaffer said. “I really loved how it supported independent businesses and had this hometown charm to it.”

He also knew that he had Scandinavian heritage himself, the story of which had gone missing when his grandfather, whom Mr. Schaffer never met, supposedly changed the family name from Larson to Schaffer after the man he’d worked for. He said that heritage “was never part of my upbringing. I didn’t know any cultural connection to that.”

And so he christened his bakery Lost Larson and set off with his sister Bree, who runs the front of the house, to Sweden where they visited three to four bakeries a day in search of inspiration for the recipes he’d develop for hearty loaves of limpa, sweet, yeasty cardamom buns, and yes, even a homage to the Swedish princess cake.

I visited on a damp and dreary afternoon, and when I ducked out of the descending gray mist into the bright and tidy cafe, an aromatic cloud of sugar, cardamom, vanilla and bread immediately surrounded. Every gleaming white marble cafe table was filled with patrons chatting over small plates of enticing food and mugs of hot coffee — save for a single table in the corner. My husband and son slid onto a mint-hued banquette that spans half the length of the shop while I perched on a sleek, but comfortable, Danish modern chair. Not a single laptop was open. No one stared into a phone. No one was even shooting smartphone pictures of the otherwise Instagram-worthy pastry case. It was as everyone had pledged to honor the spirit of “fika,” the Swedish coffee break.

Taking note, I left my phone in my bag as I helped my 4-year-old pull apart his flaky ham and cheese croissant. My husband and I shared two intriguing open-faced sandwiches: ’nudja and gianduja with spreadable spicy sausage, chocolate hazelnut spread, creamy ricotta, pumpkin seeds and two poached eggs; and pickled herring with salty, preserved fish, a bright lingonberry jam and paper thin slices of radish and white onion.

So enamored was I with the limpa on which the herring sandwich was made that I took home an entire loaf. “Limpa” translates from Swedish simply into “loaf,” but usually refers to some sort of rye bread. Mr. Schaffer’s version is aromatic, baked with uplifting orange peel, fennel and anise. At $8 a loaf, it is a luxury item — and satisfying: I slathered thick slices with salted butter for three days thereafter. The miniature duchess cake (Mr. Schaffer’s take on the princess cake), however, with its tender vanilla sponge, jewel-toned raspberry gelée and a dreamy white chocolate marzipan mousse, disappeared posthaste.

Lost Larson, 5318 N. Clark St., Chicago (773) 944-0587; a meal for two is about $20, not including coffee or tip.

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