Tucked away in the small village of Lom, in the foothills of Norway's majestic Jotunheimen Mountains is a little secret. In an unremarkable building on the banks of the river Bøvre lies arguably Norway's finest bakery, Bakeriet i Lom.
The man behind this remarkable bakery is Morten Schakenda, one of Norway’s leading chefs. Schakenda has cooked at some of the finest restaurants in Norway, including the much-missed two-Michelin starred Restaurant Bagatelle. He also spent eight years heading up the prestigious Gastronomisk Institutt in Stavanger, as well as representing the Norwegian national culinary team with much success in competitions across the world. He then decided to become a baker and spent almost three years as an apprentice at the fantastic Åpent Bakeri in Oslo, learning the mysterious secrets of combining flour, yeast, and water. In 2004 he branched out alone and opened this, his first solo venture, in the achingly beautiful village of Lom. It's an unusual location, but the crystal clear mountain air, the roar of the nearby waterfall, and the backdrop of the mighty mountains make for such a unique setting for this truly unique bakery.
Before you enter the bakery, the first thing you're aware of is that exciting and comforting smell of freshly baked bread. You then notice the stacks of wood piled up outside. Bakeriet i Lom's ovens are exclusively wood-burning and, as such, there's something fantastically primal about the place. Bread, the 'Staff of Life', is one of man's oldest prepared foods, and here in plain view it is reduced to its simplest components: flour, water, and fire. No preservatives or additives are used. In fact Schakenda is an exponent of the slow food philosophy of using the best local ingredients in an unhurried manner, and it shows in the sheer quality of the bread produced here.
The bakery is housed in a grey brick building right in the centre of Lom, next to the 900-year-old Lom stave church, and it is clear that it is a focal point of the community. The bakery's two giant wood-fired ovens weigh 40 tons and are made from stone and sand, which act as a heat reservoir. The ovens are fired up in the evening, when the majority of the baking is done. It is said that the doors of the bakery are hardly ever locked - such is the round-the-clock life of a baker.
I was here off-season, but it was still very busy and I gather that in summer the queues for bread snake out of the door. Above the counter is a blackboard displaying a range of seventeen different breads and buns. There are also various cakes and sweet pastries to enjoy. In Norway, where there is bread and pastry there has to be coffee, and Bakeriet i Lom is no exception, serving good Italian-style coffee from its on site café. The café also offers freshly made sandwiches, pizzas and other simple warm dishes to be eaten in the cosy indoor dining room or on the outdoor terrace. I had a delicious sandwich of sliced salami served in some crusty white bread with a glass of apple and raspberry juice. I couldn't resist a cheeky little Norwegian rosin bolle (a traditional sweet cardamom-scented bun with raisins) and a strong cappuccino to finish. It was a perfect little lunch.
I bought a few different loaves to take home with me. The sourdough bread had a thick, crisp crust, which yielded to a chewy interior that had a pleasingly sour, acidic tang to it. Poilâne eat your heart out! This stuff is amazing. The Dansk Rugbrød was broodingly dark and dense with a pleasing malty flavour. I ate a slice of it topped with some sweet Norwegian prawns and a dollop of mayonnaise. There was also a fruit and nut loaf packed with hazelnuts, dried apricots and sultanas. It was perfect toasted with some goats' cheese and fig chutney.
Bread is such a simple and honest food, yet so often it is overlooked and becomes the victim of egregious culinary crimes. I'm thinking of those perfectly formed, crustless, pre-sliced loaves of Wonder Bread or Mother's Pride that appear to last indefinitely and taste of, well, not much really. So it takes an experience like this to remind you just how simply wonderful bread can be when made with time and effort in abundance. Yet you sense that for Schakenda, this is about more than just baking good bread; it is a total way of life and a chance for him to excel in something as seemingly mundane as baking bread. Schakenda himself has a saying, "en liten glede i hverdagen," or "a little joy in everyday life," and I, for one, left Bakeriet i Lom with a very big smile on my face indeed.
Bakeriet i Lom
Tel: +47 61 21 18 60