In characteristic Swedish style, the bulle is a pastry that seems almost complex in its simplicity. For Bulle Bakery, the art lies in creating a distinctive doughy texture with an addictive balance of mild sweetness and spice.
Usually shaped in braids or rolls, these pastries are an inseparable part of the daily coffee break in Sweden known as “fika.” In the afternoon, a bulle is ritually consumed with a strong cup of Swedish coffee.
“Almost every office in Sweden does this. People do it on the weekends, too, with friends and family,” says Sarah Reich, a Swedish native who started Bulle Bakery with her husband Ezra.
In their quest to introduce bulle to the US, the couple began catering out of a commercial kitchen in Marina del Rey in December. They were immediately slammed with Christmas orders from the local Swedish population.
“I got the idea for the business just from craving bulle myself,” said Ezra, a well-traveled New Yorker who has visited Sweden many times. He notes that most cafes there offer several varieties of bulle. Though Swedish furniture megastore IKEA sells a frosted covered cinnamon roll, they’re just not the same for bulle purists.
“I think you can tell that ours are made from scratch with really good ingredients,” said Sarah.
For the Reichs, artisanal entrepreneurship sprang from their commitment to bake bullar the right way. While Sarah had been making them since childhood, entering into the LA food industry took some research. They wanted to find local, high quality ingredients—such as the flour, butter, and yeast—that were as similar as possible to those found in Europe. Only the pearl sugar and the vanilla sugar are imported Swedish products that they buy from a local source.
Achieving the look is the easy part, according to Ezra. But to truly nail the thing that defines the bun, the dough must be thick and stretchy. Part of the solution was to dedicate four hours to the entire process, much of that time spent letting the yeast repeatedly sit and rise.
“So many Swedish people immediately try to know the secret,” said Ezra, who will only reveal that it took several months of experimentation to finalize the recipe.
The ultimate test was the approval of the local Swedish community. Bulle Bakery does private orders for many companies and individuals including weekly shipments to the Hollywood offices of Absolut Elyx Vodka, a Swedish company. And on Fridays and Saturdays, Bulle Bakery sells a few batches from home furnishings boutique Huset on Abbot Kinney Blvd., which sees a steady stream of tourists from Scandinavia.
“They’ve actually said ours tastes better,” said Ezra.
Customers trying the buns for the first time say they prefer the bulle over a cinnamon roll because it’s not as sugary, and they appreciate the mixture of savory and sweet flavors, especially in the cardamom bulle. The soft chewiness of the pastry also feels more substantial as a snack.
“It will make you satisfied, like you just had a bagel,” Ezra said.
Bulle Bakery offers two main flavors: cardamom and cinnamon. They also make a vanilla, and in accordance with Swedish Christmas tradition, they offer a saffron bun during the holidays. The bullar are priced at $5 each, and minimum orders of 10 buns can be placed by emailing Bulle Bakery or calling 310-227-2099. Orders can be picked up in Marina del Rey or delivered to your location for a fee.
Sarah and Ezra are in talks to set up stalls at a local farmers markets and eventually open a cafe where they can serve Swedish coffee with the buns.