Baking with a Swedish flair: How Swedish pastry is creating a mark for itself in the United States

Baking with a Swedish flair: How Swedish pastry is creating a mark for itself in the United States 1

Pastry-making is a beloved art form that varies greatly from country to country. Today, we embark on a tasty journey to compare and contrast the baked goods of two nations – the United States and Sweden. Follow Jenny Engdahl, a Swedish pastry student at Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland (CAAS), as she interns at Biltmore bakery in Asheville. Jenny gives her perspective on the current trends and techniques in the pastry sector, from traditional Swedish cinnamon buns to American-style cakes and pastries. This is a story you won’t want to miss if you’re a pastry chef or simply a pastry enthusiast.

Hi Jenny! We heard about your bold move of leaving your job without knowing if you were accepted to the school. Impressive! Do you have any tips for those considering a similar career switch?

The best advice that I can give is probably to not “settle”. Don’t stay somewhere just because

it’s comfortable. I got to a point where my body physically told me that I needed to do something, and I do not wish for that to happen to anyone honestly. But now I am, in a way, grateful that it happened. Because if it hadn’t I would probably be one of the ones that “settled”. I have now learned that life is way to short to just sit around and complain about things. If you have an interest in, let’s say, baking – then go for it! Fill out an application to school and keep your fingers crossed! I have never regretted my decision to go to Switzerland for 6 months, and now I am loving my life here at Biltmore during my yearlong internship. The word grateful doesn’t even come close!

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As a student at CAAS, how has your pastry arts education influenced your understanding and appreciation for the art of baking so far?

As soon as I started term 1 I started learning things. I knew quite a lot when I started, but you can always learn more. The school gave me a lot of answers to why things happen or go wrong when you’re baking, and it also gives you a good understanding of the ingredients and how they’re all connected. I didn’t have that much experience when it came to chocolate for example, so I learned a lot in that area. The school really gave me a good foundation to start from and now it feels like the internship complements that really good. Even though I might not know how to do something I can at least get an idea of how it’s going to work and how different ingredients are going to react to one another for example.

Can you tell us more about your internship in the US – maybe you have come across any specific ingredients or techniques that are commonly used in one country but not in the other?

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At first, I was lucky enough to find my internship at the IRF in Switzerland. IRF stands for International Recruitment Forum and I went there with CAAS in October 2019. It is a huge opportunity for Swiss Education Group students to network and get to know a lot of businesses. I received an offer there, for which I am incredibly grateful!

The place in Asheville is called Biltmore. It is the biggest, privately owned estate in the US and it’s owned by the Vanderbilt family. My internship is 12 months long and it’s spilt up into 3 different parts. To start with I am working at the Inn on Biltmore Estate and that’s the estates 4-star hotel. My second part of the internship starts in April and then I will spend about 3 months at Cedric’s Tavern and the Bistro which are two restaurants located in Antler Hill Village which is also on the estate. The third and last part starts in August, and that’s when I go to work at Deer Park and the Stable café which are also located on the estate. That part includes more events and banquettes, like weddings etc. All in all it’s a 12 month long internship at the same place, it’s just that I get to rotate between different parts of it which is a huge bonus.

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Here in the US the flavor combinations have really been an eye opener for me. They use a lot of flavors that are not very common in Sweden I’d say, like a few weeks ago a girl made a purple sweet potato ice cream, and it was really good! I’ve also gotten to do a pâte de fruit flavored with pear and lemongrass. The pastry chef and the demi chef here are always on the lookout for new things, and they renew the menu every year by asking all the chefs to create one new dessert each. As we speak, they are actually working on the new summer/fall menu for this year, and also the winter desserts as well. I know a lot of the chefs are using spices like sage, cloves etc. which is kind of new to me and definitely something I’m taking with me when I leave.

What are some of the creative challenges and opportunities you’ve encountered while incorporating both Swedish and American styles in your pastry-making during your internship?

See that’s the great thing about going abroad for your internship; when I came here, they told me that they’d love it if I could make some Swedish pastries. But then they’ve of course also shown me new ways of making it, easier ways maybe etc. Sometimes though it has been the other way around, like they want to learn how to do something. For example, Sweden is very famous for their cardamom buns and also cinnamon rolls. So when I told them I had quite a lot of experience making those they asked me to show them how to do that. They are very open to me making pretty much whatever I want, I get to be very creative which is fun but also challenging. The best thing I’d say is that I can come up with a Swedish pastry that I’d like to do, but then they’ve given me an interest in some different or new flavors so it kind of ends up as a Swedish pastry but with “American flavors”. It’s so nice though to see their interest in pastries that mean a lot to me, makes you feel very appreciated and seen and you really feel like you’re contributing.

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What have been some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned during your internship in the United States so far, that you will carry forward in your career in the Europe?

The most valuable lesson so far has been to just be working in a bigger kitchen. The organization, the importance of communication, planning, delegating work etc. You learn a lot just by watching and listening to the people working there. It doesn’t really have to be hands on, you still learn a lot.

My first three months of this internship I am spending on Biltmores 4-star hotel and restaurant called The Inn. They do a lot of banquettes etc and all of a sudden a waiter can come running down asking for a “Happy Birthday-plate” for example. Then it’s up to us to try to put something together as quick as possible. When I move on from the am shift (morning) to pm shift (afternoon/evening) I will also get to experience working on, what they call, “the line”. The line is where you plate all the desserts that people order after lunch or dinner so that part can be very stressful at times. I am really looking forward to being a part of that part of the kitchen since it takes a lot of planning and staying focused.

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After these first three months at the Inn I’ll be moving on to a different place here at Biltmore called Cedric’s Tavern and also The Bistro. Those two restaurants are in Antler Hill Village on Biltmore. There they offer a different kind of pastries (more towards pub food and bread) so that’s going to give me even more experience and knowledge in a different area. Hopefully I can bring something to the table there as well. My last three months at Biltmore will be at Deer Park and the Stable café, and then I’ll be working more with banquettes and events like weddings etc so there I’d say I’m going to learn a lot about a different kind of planning and organization, storing and transporting things correctly etc.

The width of this internship here at Biltmore was a huge reason for me when I decided to come here. It’s far away from my husband and friends and family back home in Sweden, but I really wanted to gain some specific knowledge in the USA. And so far, I am so very happy that I decided to go!

What’s the secret to making the perfect buns like the ones in Sweden? Can you share some tips for beginner bakers looking to try their hand at these delicious treats?

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Don’t rush! Let it take time. Just because the recipe tells you to prove the dough/buns for 30 minutes doesn’t mean it/they will be ready after 30 minutes. How warm your kitchen is plays a huge role, as well the humidity and for how long you’ve been kneading the dough. Look at the dough, touch it and go from there. Give it time. Prove the dough in an airtight container or use plastic wrap and a towel on top of that. This keeps the moisture inside the bowl. When you bake them – don’t just look for the color on top, use a knife or a spatula to lift them and have a look on the bottom color also. This way you reduce the risk of burning them.

You’ve been writing a blog on your journey to becoming a pastry chef for almost four years, which we invite readers to check here. What new ideas or themes do you like to see on your blog in the future?

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From the beginning the blog was actually more for myself, like a diary. But friends and family back home are very happy that I have one so that they can follow my journey even closer. This is a once in a lifetime experience I’d say so I am trying to kind of document as much as I can. If I at the same time can share it with friends and family back home, and now also possibly future students, than that’s just even better! I try to post something 1-2 times per week, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on what I do here. My posts are not just about what I get to do in the kitchen, it’s also about my spare time and the places I get to visit while I’m here. Like this week I’ll probably go see a few waterfalls, and next week I’m going to New York City to visit a friend of mine. So, it’s pretty much about my life in general here in the US and what it can be like being an intern at Biltmore.

Also, I am planning to start writing blog in both languages: English and Swedish.

What advice would you give to young pastry students who are just starting out on their own creative journeys in the pastry world?

Do the things that you love! You don’t have to follow any trends or something. Just stick to what you’re good at, stick to what’s in your heart and you’ll be fine. Try to stay open when it comes to trying new things, new techniques etc. of course, but don’t step away from what makes you happy.

Are you ready to shine in the pastry world? Join Jenny at the CAAS for a comprehensive education that combines hands-on experience, theoretical learning, and artistic expression. As a student at CAAS, you will gain the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to stand out in the competitive pastry industry. Follow Jenny’s journey on her blog and be inspired to start your path to success.

Swiss Diploma in Pastry & Chocolate Arts


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