The smell of bread slowly baking is one of the most delightful and simple pleasures in life. As I walked through the doors of Veggli Bakeri og Kafe, I felt welcomed in by that sweet aroma and the warmth from the ovens hiding behind a single, wide-open door. Even more welcoming were the smiles that beckoned me. And I was eager to learn more about this town institution and about the people who work all sorts of hours to create their breads and baked goods to be served and sold across shops throughout the area.
I was going to learn to make Trillemarkabrød. An homage to the natural reserve of Trillemarka, which lies between the two valleys of Sigdal and Numedal and is Norway’s largest forest reserve. A special loaf they created, packed full of grains and seeds and cooked lovingly in their old oven.
In 1952, Veggli Bakeri og Kafe took its roots in the town of Veggli, Norway. Situated along the main road, an easy stop for anyone making their way somewhere between Oslo and Bergen. It also overlooks the river, lending itself to the tranquility of the nature. A lovely place to stop, grab a bite and relax. It was built and operated by Arvid Melvold with Nils’ father as the head baker. In 1971, Nils’ father took over the business and ran it with Nils helping out. It wasn’t until 1982 that the bakery was being fully run under Nils.
For 45 years, Nils has been a part of the bakery. This can be easily seen as the rhythm of the bakery is in sync with him. Intrinsically connected. He carries a quiet stoicism. A kindness. Someone who works hard, diligently. He’s a family man, with three children he proudly, yet humbly, speaks of with a heartwarming smile. He loves his town. The people, the bakery, the nature. He calls this place his Garden of Eden. Without a single moment of hesitation, he states that he has no need to go anywhere else. His home is here. And home is where the heart is.
Nils is joined by his son, Stian, his sister, Solveig, a driver, and Tom – who needs no introduction as he is known lovingly as just Tom. Together, they work together seamlessly, with Solveig in charge of baking the cakes and pastries, Tom running the front of the cafe & Stian working alongside Nils as he is being prepared to take over the bakery one day if he so desires to do so. It’s clear to see that they desire to be relevant, to be adaptive and to listen to the needs and desires of the clients. They tell me about a new granola bar they are developing, and I’m lucky enough to get a taste test.
Many of the recipes still being used were developed by Nils father. Some are new. Some of the most popular breads are also the most traditional. Byggvegging, Havrerolling & Trillemarka breads all use tree bark flour when being baked in the old oven, which is sprinkled underneath the loaves. And they are the weekend favorite for visitors on their way to their cabins. Hearty, healthy and flavorful.
The stone oven, with electricity running through its veins, sits in the heart of the bakery. Burnished with use, its lips closed, quietly resting until its mouth is full of soft lumps of dough. As quick as lightening, it swallows everything up and with an tick of the clock, out comes the most marvelous loaves, perfectly cracked & lightly browned. The oven may have a new friend at the bakery. A newer model, fitted like a walk-in closet. Able to cook 150 loaves a time. But it still holds its place as the original oven. Used for special loaves. Traditional loaves. It’s coveted. It’s important. Because too few bakeries are able to, and desire to, bake in this cumbersome way. Yet, hard work pays off, and the proof is in the taste.
Nils steadies his wood ‘paddle’ and fills it to the edge with formed loaves, while Stian delivers the next batch and sprinkles them with a topping of rolled oats. With great ease and a casualty only an experienced baker has, Nils opens the oven, slides in the loaves, closes the door and begins to fill his paddle again. Soon, the oven is full and the waiting begins. But the waiting is almost as good as the tasting. There’s that sense of anticipation. And as the smell of the bread baking infiltrates the room, I lose myself in nostalgia.
Nils tells me that having a small bakery means you can produce what people want. There’s a satisfaction in serving the customer and creating for them. And he hopes his son will follow in his footsteps and run the bakery to his own tempo. His own beat. He hopes there will always be a need for the bakery. A need for something traditional. And if Nil’s passion and love for his town are any inclination, as well as the care and dedication from Solveig, Tom & Stian, the bakery will always be a part of Veggli. Without a doubt.
Many thanks to Nils, Solveig, Tom & Stian for letting me spend the morning nudging around the bakery with my camera and pen as they shared with me their stories and taught me to make Trillemarkabrød. Tusen takk! ♥ See the inspired recipe below.
The recipe for Veggli Bakeri’s Trillemarka bread might be difficult to replicate at home, with some of the ingredients being more difficult to access. So, below you will find an ‘inspired’ recipe to suffice until you can make it to the bakery one day.
North Wild Kitchen’s ‘Trillemarka Inspired’ Barley Bread
(Makes 1 loaf)
- 250g barley flour
- 125 g strong, white flour
- 125g whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 20g fresh yeast
- 75ml honey or molasses
- 300ml water
- 75g sunflower seeds
- 75g rolled oats
Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well, bringing the ingredients together, kneading. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead, about 5-8 minutes, forming a ball. Place the dough back into the bowl and leave to rest for about 2 hours.
Place on a greased cookie sheet (sprinkled with tree bark flour, if you can get your hands on some), and leave to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F. Lightly sprinkle the tops with rolled oats. Bake the loaf for 25 minutes. Place on an iron rack to cool.