There’s a little village in New Hampshire, population 583, named Chocorua. Blink, and you just might drive through and not even know it. It’s a quaint spot located in the general area of where Routes 16 & 113 meet, south of scenic Mount Chocorua and Chocorua Lake. Many visitors drive through Chocorua on their way to the picturesque White Mountains of NH and the shopping mecca of North Conway.
I was making that drive myself, which I’ve done countless times, when wind whipped flags and a roadside sign reading “Scandinavian Baking” caught my attention. I was on a schedule that day, and continued on my way briefly until I decided to make a U-turn. A Scandinavian Bakery was an unexpected find in a little New Hampshire town. How was it that I’d never seen it before? I was intrigued, and had to check it out.
I pulled into the narrow driveway of a two story looking “home” with a wraparound farmers porch and an open sign on the door. Entering the building, I was welcomed by a small station set up with complimentary coffee and tea. To the left was a door which opened to the store itself, a rich burgundy colored room, small in size but big on charm. Scandinavian music played in the background and a timer ticked away on the counter.
It was then that I met Betty Schneider, the proud owner of Scandinavian Baking. Betty is soft spoken and I immediately took a liking to her. I explained that I was a travel writer, and while passing through, saw her business for the first time and felt compelled to stop. She welcomed me warmly and we began to chat as I looked around her place.
Betty is a really interesting woman with a unique past. She worked for the Bell System in New Jersey for 23 years. She also had aspirations to be a Funeral Director, inspired by an uncle who was in the profession when Betty was just a young girl. She achieved that desire and worked in funeral homes in both Florida and New Orleans.
After the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which fortunately they emerged unscathed and with no property damage, Betty and her husband decided to move to New Hampshire. They had dreams of buying a bed and breakfast, but those plans never panned out.
They bought a home built in 1860 on 17 acres of property, and hired a multitude of contractors to undertake some serious renovations. The work went on for 9 months, and upon completion, Betty took it upon herself to thank her workers by making 15 cardamom coffee cakes, 1 for each. Each laborer, after savoring her gracious treat, begged the same question, “Why are you giving these away? You should be selling them!”
Soon thereafter, Betty’s husband encouraged her to open up a business and sell her tasty Scandinavian treats. Eight months later, she was at the end of her driveway with a cart built for her by her husband, doing just that for 3 years, come sunshine, rain, or snow.
With the success of that venture, it made sense for Betty to convert her front parlor to a small shop, separate from her living space. She slowly bought what she could, and upgraded her baking area with all commercial grade appliances.
The shop itself is cozy with small round tables and wooden chairs. Betty is quick to point out that her place is wi-fi accessible, which definitely comes in handy for the mobile traveller. There’s a glass case filled with an assortment of delectable treats, from Scandinavian almond bars to cardamom muffins, and French butter cookies, also known as Madeleines. I had trouble deciding and had to be on my way, so I selected an assortment to bring home with me for later.
Betty’s prices are more than reasonable, especially for homemade goods made from the heart. She bakes almost daily, not only for her shop but for the orders that loyal customers call in to her. As summertime approaches, and people open up their cottages and homes, Betty finds herself even busier than usual. It’s no surprise that she has so many repeat customers.
As my day finally wound down, and I found myself at home, I couldn’t resist opening up her carefully packaged box of goodies. I can’t rave enough about the cardamom muffins. So moist and flavorful, you’ll find it hard to eat just one. The Scandinavian almond bars are soft and have the tastiest flavor of almond essence and the crunch of the plentiful slivered almonds on top. It’s not hard like a biscotti. Lastly, the Madeleines. Made of chocolate expresso, they were rich but not overly flavored.
I’m so glad that I stumbled upon such a unique spot, and had the pleasure of meeting Betty. She’s certainly made her mother and grandparents proud as she bakes “with love and butter” the recipes passed down from her family.
Scandinavian Baking is closed Sunday and Monday, but open Tuesday through Saturday, 7am-4pm. Cash and personal checks are gladly accepted. To place an order, call 603-323-2021 or 603-662-6047. With the warmer weather fast approaching, you’ll soon be able to sit outside on Betty’s lovely covered farmer’s porch.