The Legacy Lives on in San Diego’s Swedish Royal Bakery

Photo courtesy of Swedish Royal Bakery

Food & Drink

The Legacy Lives on in San Diego’s Swedish Royal Bakery

Photo via Yelp

Sameh Abdelmasih, with his Egyptian heritage, never has traveled to Sweden. Nor had he even prepared any Swedish pastries, breads or other dishes before he decided to buy the Swedish Royal Bakery two years ago from John Janni, who had founded the San Diego-area store in 2003.

Instead, Abdelmasih, who did bring experience in pastry decoration and other kinds of baking, went into a six-month extensive training with Janni before the one-time owner returned with his family to Stockholm.

“When you know how to cook and someone teaches you new things, it’s easy,” Abdelmasih, who kept the same team of bakery workers when he took over in February 2015. “You have the talent. You have the knowledge. You can do it.”

In fact, Janni asked him not to change the bakery’s name, Abdelmasih said, a sentiment echoed by members of the Swedish community who have sought out one of the country’s rare fully Swedish bakeries.

San Diego Swedish Bakery strawberry pastry
Photo courtesy of Swedish Royal Bakery

The new owner mastered Janni’s original recipes, not tweaking any of the directions or ingredients, although refining the finished look of several of the products. Because Swedish baked goods are lighter and often with less sugar, the quality of the ingredients – including the highest-quality butter – is critical to creating the best pastries.

“American style pastry is so sweet; the pastry is too thick,” said Abdelmasih, who arrives about 30 minutes before the bakery’s 8 a.m. opening to start the next batches of baking, which will continue throughout the day. “The Swedish pastries, most often, are so light and with not so much sugar.”

Swedish Royal Bakery has a long history of supplying the local Swedish community with traditional cultural favorites, including limpa bread, which it prepares with a blend of rye and white flours mixed with flavorings such as molasses, anise and caraway. The full-service bakery, which features a 1,000-square-foot kitchen in back and a half-dozen tables in front of the pastry cases, also offers gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan options for today’s dietary needs. It also features pizzas and sandwiches.

San Diego Swedish bakery treat window
Photo courtesy of Swedish Royal Bakery

While Princess Cakes always are popular, Abdelmasih also says the bakery’s top Swedish sellers include bikevi, an almond cookie with chocolate cream dipped in melted chocolate, and the green roll – more affectionately known to Swedes as a “vacuum cleaner” – which is a log made from ground walnuts, almond and dark chocolate wrapped with green marzipan and both ends dipped in chocolate. As if you’d have to ask, the bakery uses Swedish chocolate.

“We do everything from scratch,” said Abdelmasih, noting that the crowds swell around Christmas, Easter and other holidays when customers are looking for traditional seasonal offerings from their homeland. “We have the Swedish recipes.”

As for traveling to Sweden?

Abdelmasih will get the chance to experience Swedish baked goods firsthand when he visits for a planned trip this summer.

“When I go over there, I will look at how the bakeries produce the same items,” he said.

His research, which includes checking out Trip Advisor ratings, already has singled out a popular bakery, “but their pastry is not like mine.”

But, he said, “I will look for new recipes. I will look for new products.”

And he’ll plan to bring some new offerings back to Swedish Royal Bakery.

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