INTERVIEW WITH KARL SÖDERLUND AND DANIEL NORÉN, FOUNDERS OF BAGAREN OCH BONDEN.
After recently being recognised for the best sourdough bread in Sweden, Bagaren & Bonden has become a hot spot for sourdough lovers who are willing to travel miles to Malmö and buy their fresh bread. A fact illustrated by the numerous interruptions during our interview with eager customers pitching up on their prep day. Although they were closed, one woman needed her fix anyways and asked, “Do you have anything in the freezer?” Demand is clearly rising for Karl and Daniel's bakery, so we were keen to hear their story...
Why the name Bagaren & Bonden?
Karl: A question we often get is who is the baker and who is the farmer? That’s not the thinking behind the name, but rather that when a customer buys bread from us it is both from a baker and a farmer. Hence the name. It’s a collective effort between us and the one making the primary product, the one we call the ‘farmer.’ It is everyone from the one producing grains in Skåne to the producers of cinnamon and sugar. All the producers. We want to give them recognition. We focus on the products, rather than just a place with cool interior design. We ask first: is it healthy and produced organically? Is is environmentally-friendly?
How did you and Daniel start working together?
Karl: I grew up at a farm in Dalsland, outside Mellerud. Daniel is from Stockholm. We got to know each other working at a bakery in Stockholm.
Can you tell me a bit more about your background and education?
Karl: I’m a civil engineer with focus on energy systems and environmental consequences of technology and society. I studied for five years and then worked the following five years on environmental risk, crisis and security. I helped develop strategies for organisations to handle crises. It wasn’t really my scene: most of the time spent working in an office for an administrative authority with a focus on industry. There, I was a project management consultant, but I wanted to get closer to the source and work on a smaller scale according to my own values. As a consultant, you work for an employer who hires you out to other employers. I felt quite far away from independence.
Growing up on a farm, I had this interest for food and also an interest for grains. I missed having that in my life. I changed jobs for something closer to my heart and landed in the bread business. My life had everything I cared about again: the countryside, the environment, food and health. I tried the change and liked it. But I couldn’t start a bakery on my own, I needed someone who knew the trade. And that’s where Daniel came in.
Daniel: I’m a biodynamic gardener, and I’ve worked at a farm with cultivation, gardening and animals. Some of these places have had their own cafes with their own bread. There has been a natural connection there. And I got into it and studied to become a baker. Since then, I’ve worked at many bakeries and have been drawn to places that bake organic sourdough bread.
Is there any place that inspired you when you first started?
Daniel: Rosendals Trädgård in Stockholm has been an inspiration both when it comes to baking and gardening. Also, Rute Stenugnsbageri in Gotland, which was where I did my work experience. I’ve been a baker for about five years.
Who does most the baking?
Karl: I help with the bread, but mainly focus on the sweet things, like the cookies.
You were running your company without having your own place. How did that work?
Karl: In the beginning, when we made the decision to start something in Malmö, we didn’t have our place. It took a while, and I thought we’d try out our baking first. We spoke to Caroline at Brödlabbet in Lund and she allowed us to rent that place once a week. We started to sell our bread in various places. We sold to a coffee shop, and at stalls on Möllevångstorget and Värnhemstorget. It’s not easy to just sell things nowadays, you need to to have permission for everything, so we had to go through the necessary permissions. At the same time, we tried to learn how to run a company, read up about bookkeeping and the whole administrative side. We didn’t know how to run a company before.
Did you always have the plan to start your own company?
Karl: That was something I felt that I needed to do after working for other people for a while.
When did you decide to open something in Malmö?
Karl: First I was working in Stockholm while trying to look for a place here. That wasn’t easy, so I quit my job and moved down here. It was Daniel’s idea to try Malmö.
Daniel: I had been working in Copenhagen and wanted to come back to Sweden. And I had a plan to get a farm and open a bakery there. But then it felt like a massive project. All of a sudden, this place opened up and we thought we could start something. It was a bit of a coincidence. We thought there was space for a bakery and it was our style here in Malmö. In Stockholm, there is a lot of competition.
Karl: Before we opened, we came to Tornahällestads Lanthandel and met Anders Hammar, who has been running the bakery in his garage. Anders let us bake at his place two days a week and cooperate with the Farm Shop. He needed time off, and we could bake for him. So we were working there a couple of months, but then Anders said that he had seen an advert for this place in Malmo, and asked us if we should buy it and we felt it was time to get our own place. We had been selling at different square markets and knew there was an interest. People liked our bread, which made us feel comfortable. We got to test our wings.
Did you already have places that wanted to buy your bread?
Karl: Uggla Kaffebar has bought from us from the start. We felt that this would work, and if people wouldn’t find their way there, we’d have to go to them in the markets.
What’s your work schedule?
Daniel: We set the sourdough on Mondays, which takes about an hour. Otherwise we’re off Sundays and Mondays. Then we’re always a day ahead: on Tuesdays we bake Wednesday’s bread, which will yeast in a cold room. It’s a nice way of working because we don’t have to get up too early since bread will taste better if it’s allowed time to rise.
Your business has grown a lot since you opened. How much has that affected you personally?
Daniel: We have a lot more to do, and because of that we've had to hire an additional baker.
Many people travel here for Sweden’s best bread.
Karl: It’s fun. It’s worked well here. It’s a weird street, and with us not being from Malmö, we didn’t know much about the areas. People told us that the expensive organic stuff wouldn’t work in Värnhem, that we should maybe go to Slottsstaden. To be honest we didn’t have much to choose from. We looked at a few different places, but then we liked Värnhem.
Daniel: It felt like a place in transition. A place that has perhaps had a bad reputation, but is undergoing a process of renewal. And then there are a lot of people coming through the bus connections.
Karl: There are a lot of people moving here. Maybe not on this exact street, but around here. We don’t see our bread as a luxury product, but rather the healthy choice. Our bread is supposed to be eaten everyday, it’s an everyday product. It is not a product for a privileged part of the society, but something for everyone who cares about our values.
How does your bread compare to that found in supermarket?
Karl: The industry has jacked up the prices of bread, and if you compare our prices with commercial bread sometimes our bread is cheaper. There is so much air in the mass-produced bread. They look big, but won’t fill you up.
What would you say is your vision for the bakery?
Karl: The vision: We want to be a place where people buy their everyday bread. Then we want to be a place that’s alive, where things happen, where there is a pulse. Fridays and Saturdays here are great. We also want to be a cafe. We’re interested in food and drink--especially coffee. That’s why we incorporate it.. We buy organic products and try to think like a farmer way. If we bake with rye, then we allow the rye to lift the flavour alone, and the same thing when it comes to coffee. We like single origin. We like diversity, but want to allow things to taste different. We have an espresso and a filter coffee. The filter is light and fruity, while the espresso is dark and heavy. If you like dark coffee, then we’ll do something with espresso. If you like an elegant fruity cup, then we have the filter. We buy our coffee from Solde. And they’re one of few micro roasteries who work with organic coffee. They roast their coffee just on the opposite side of the train tracks, and we have a good relationship and a dialogue with them. It feels great to have Solde here. What’s our thinking behind what we have to offer? We’re thinking about bread, buns, croissants, coffee, tea and sandwiches.
Daniel: Bread has been our focus. Sourdough and the culture grains. And to bring out the flavour in the grains, rather than adding flavours. Croissants are fun to make, since it hasn’t had a daily place in bakeries. It’s fun to bring home for the weekends.
Karl: We make croissants everyday, and people appreciate them.
What characterises your bread? Your croissants taste different…
Karl: Everything is ‘kalljäst’, (cold yeasted/raised). We believe a lot has to do with the time we allow the dough to rise.
Daniel: If you allow the dough enough time to rise, different kinds of flavouring will appear. Bread and sweet things like croissants will get a more mature taste. This is also important when it comes to the health aspect, since enzymes will break down the starch. Flour, that is difficult for the body to break down, becomes accessible through the baker. That’s the problem with the bread industry, that they make bread that’s difficult for the body to deal with. And the taste doesn’t come out.
Karl: It goes hand in hand. Luckily for us, to allow longer rising time will result in better flavour as well as better health. It’s better taste and you will feel better when you’ve eaten a long-rise sourdough bread, cinnamon bun or croissant. And in these, the cinnamon buns and croissants, a lot of the dough has been at work for two days since we also allow a day for the pre-dough. It’s a two-day project and nothing you just put together. Some people don’t realise this, and order buns the days before, but we need to plan two days in advance. Actually we have started to work with a four day process now with the croissants.
Are people asking you to expand and move to their area?
Karl: We don’t have an expansion plan. Our goal is to be able to live on this place. To make a salary that will allow us spend time with family. But we’ll see.
You are closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, which some people find difficult, since they want your bread everyday. You’re often closed on holidays. Some people would say it’s not that smart. What’s your thinking behind this?
Karl: Everyone is different, but you can’t work always. I’ve never worked as much as these past two years.
Daniel: The baker world is quite rough. Early mornings and hard physical work. I want to think long-term with the work load, and not to begin earlier than 6am and be open four days in order to keep up the quality.
Are breaks like these important to a company?
Karl: It’s extremely important. It wouldn’t work to extend the opening times. It’s not a choice since we need to recuperate.
Daniel: And to bring in more people, we wanted to keep it tight to begin with, for our financial security and to keep a good quality.
Even if you would have someone else working on Sundays, would you still think about it. I think it’s important.
Karl: We try to think long-term, even if these past two years have not had a long-term workload. We’re not there, but we’re open 4 days, but have to work five days due to preparation. And I’m often here on Mondays to set the dough and clean up and work with bookkeeping. A lot of things need to be done.
You’ve had the company for two years, but it’s been a dream for a long time. What has been the biggest surprise running a company?
Karl: It has been a lot of fun. I’ve never regretted it. It has almost been easier than we thought. Maybe because I didn't realise just how good Daniel is at what he does. We realised it would be a challenge, but we’ve gotten so many customers and positive reactions. It has been very hard work though. We didn't plan to hire anyone from the start but we’re bringing in more help. But then we get less money.
You won SM Gold for the best sourdough in Sweden. Is it important for you to be recognised?
Daniel: In one way the important thing is that our customers think we do something good. It is them we make a living on. Then of course it made us really happy when Sweden’s best bakers liked our bread.
Karl: We had a lot of media coverage, which made more people find their way here and, of course, that is good for us. It’s ‘fantastiskt roligt’ and fun to win a prize. And good for us as a business. And the bread we won with has everything we believe in. We want to make healthy bread full of nutrition, and this bread, a 100% wholegrain, won the wheat category. Wheat is usually seen as ‘white’ bread with sieved flour and poor nutrition. Our bread, on the other hand, is wholewheat full of nutrition, minerals and vitamins. And the connection to the farmer - Per-Ola Olsson, who is an amazing farmer, grows this grain that is a rare kind in Skane. There is no mill down here in Skåne who buys this ‘culture’ grain’. We love to support him. We submitted this bread because it’s our favourite, not because it was an ‘easy-to-win’ choice. Most people prefer lighter bread.
How long have you had your sourdough for?
Daniel: It’s not old, but I brought it from a previous bakery. We’re not big fans of old sourdough. There are different theories. But the way we think, a sourdough will adjust to the new environment, thus its history is not of great importance.
What other place in Malmö would you recommend?
Karl: Hmm, we’re not out much so this is difficult. Have you been to a falafel place? I’m panicking. Kiez was a favourite of mine until they changed owners, but I hear the new place (Mineral) is keeping the same concept of natural wines and organic food so I'd probably recommend checking them out.
BAGAREN OCH BONDEN
212 11 Malmö
Wednesday-Friday 08:00 - 16:00
Saturday 08:00 - 13:00
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