Friday, January 6, 2012

A strudel for all seasons

At the core of Serious Business Pastries's philosophy is the desire to give people carefully crafted, exceptionally delicious pastries at reasonable prices. It's not enough that a pastry or a cookie tastes great, they need to be well-made and beautiful, even on the inside, from end to end. There's no room for substandard pastries in my bakery. To maintain those standards, I devote a lot of time to research and development, from ingredient sourcing — who makes it, where, how is it made or cultivated, what does it taste like, — to recipe testing, to execution. Some days the kitchen feels more like a food laboratory than a bakery, but it's entirely worth it because it's led to repeat business. Which is what SBP want, and will continue to want. This feedback loop tells us that we're doing a good job, that we've lived up to our philosophy; it's perhaps the best compliment you can give a business (second best would be a referral).

For the past few weeks I've been working on developing an authentic German-style strudel for SBP. As much as I love working with yeast — it's magical stuff — at this point the bakery doesn't have the capacity to product yeasted laminated doughs (e.g., croissants, Danish, etc). I don't consider this a drawback as it is an opportunity for SBP to branch out into areas not already covered, and covered again, by the plethora of pastry shops in the city. We currently offer the Muffinletta (which has already received some press, here, courtesy of, and artisan soft pretzels, but I've been wanting to introduce to Portland a sweeter yeasted pastry, one that reflects the seasonal bounties available to us in the Pacific Northwest. Enter: the strudel.

Really, the credit for this idea goes to a gentleman I met shortly before Christmas. We happened to get on the subject of my line of work, at which point he shared his love of pastries, in particular, strudel. But not just any kind of strudel. He fondly recalled an apple strudel he had in Germany some thirty years ago. He vividly remembered how it tasted, what it looked like, down to the structure of the dough and its shape. And unlike the strudel we're familiar with here in the states, usually made with puff pastry or sheets of philo, this was a yeasted strudel. Yeasted strudel. Hmm. Color me intrigued. He returned to the subject of this magical pastry on and off over the next few hours, which was fine by me, because I always enjoy listening to people's stories about food. I love knowing that foods have the power to move people like great pieces of art can.

His love of this strudel, and the fact that it was made with a yeasted dough, inspired me to develop one for SBP. The end result is that we now offer a braided strudel that's light and airy, filled with Oregon fruit, but at the same isn't cloyingly sweet, or too rich. It's just delicious, every morsel. And it's a thing of beauty. The nice thing about it being a yeasted variety is that you won't end up with dozens of flaky pieces in your lap after you bite into it! I also think that by making it out of a dough, you really get to taste both the fruit and the bread in equal amounts: one doesn't overpower the other, which I feel is what happens when puff pastry or philo sheets are used. The filling will rotate depending on what's available during the season, so be sure to check out our menu on a regular basis!

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