Copenhagen isn’t new to baked goods. On the contrary. The Danes have been eating dark rye and weinerbrød pretty much since the Vikings.
It’s a drizzly morning in Copenhagen, but the rain hasn’t deterred people from forming a line outside Juno the Bakery for kardemomme snurre (cardamom buns). Made from fragrant yeasted dough rolled with ground black cardamom and organic butter, the kardemomme snurre are worth waiting for. Once inside the homey, narrow space, customers huddle over the pastry-laden glass cabinet and select their morning treats. Some shoppers scoff them immediately, while others take brown paper bags bursting with buns or croissants to-go. Juno the Bakery is consistently heaving. But despite drawing a regular crowd, the bakery, which opened late last year in Copenhagen’s Osterbro neighborhood, feels like a local joint. This is precisely the way Emil Glaser, co-founder of the bakery and former Noma chef, wants it to feel.
“We knew we wanted to create something that gave value to our local neighborhood. A bakery felt like a great place to start, so we just jumped straight in,” says Glaser. He isn’t the only chef-turned-baker who has recently unveiled a neighborhood spot stocking baked goods. Over the past year, the city has seen a significant rise in chef-owned and operated bakeries.
Copenhagen isn’t new to baked goods. On the contrary. The Danes have been eating dark rye and weinerbrød pretty much since the Vikings. In Denmark, almost every morning begins with a slice of sourdough loaded with butter, jam and cheese or (on weekends) a spandauer (a pastry with vanilla cream). Bread and pastries are an integral part of the food culture, so why are we seeing an emergence of hip, new bakeries now? “We believe people are starting to crave better sourdough bread. Fully organic, naturally leavened, no crap,” says Jesper Gøtz, former sous chef at Copenhagen’s 108. Along with his co-workers Mia Boland and Sara Macedo, Gotz opened Lille Bakery in a warehouse space on Refshaeløen island on the outskirts of Copenhagen (close to Noma).
“We decided to open a place where we would all like to spend time and that would also bring something positive to the community,” says Gotz. Inside the lofty glass-fronted bakery, long wooden sharing-style tables evoke a cozy community feel. Locals roll around on their bikes and grab loaves of bread to-go, or stop for a cup of coffee and warming slice of sourdough slathered with butter, jam and cheese. On the menu, there’s everything from rye bread to sourdough buns, sausage rolls and berliners. They also have more substantial meals like salted cod and tomato and stracciatella (which come with bread), but a firm favorite is the little alice berliner, a donut (without a hole) dusted with pink sugar and topped with a dollop of strawberry jam and milk cream, which tastes as good as it looks on Instagram.
On the other side of Copenhagen, in the Nørrebro neighborhood, Mirabelle, a restaurant and bakery opened by chef Christian Puglisi, begins the day with pastries and ends with pasta. Puglisi became passionate about baking when he began building his Michelin-starred flagship restaurant, Relæ in 2009. “Bread has a very special position in the meal. Delivering a very high level of sourdough bread was a simple and basic way of setting the tone and quality of the dining experience at Relæ,” he says. It’s extremely common to receive a basket of freshly baked bread before or with a meal in Copenhagen, even at a Michelin star restaurant. In 2014, Puglisi opened Mirabelle, which produces a signature sourdough made from organic Øland’s wheat, grown and milled just 18 miles away at the bakery at Kornby Mølle. The bread is mixed and strengthened by hand, and naturally fermented for 24 hours before going into the oven for a long time on a high temperature. It’s certainly not a simple process, but Puglisi is a stickler for quality. “Supermarkets and gas station have successfully marketed bake-off breads produced in factories, which are sold at ridiculous prices. They are impossible to compete with. It seems like the general standard is getting very polarized – very good in the high end, and really bad in the rest.”
Andersen & Maillard, a new bakery and roastery not far from Mirabelle, is undoubtedly one of the ‘very good ones’. Opened by Hans Anderson and Milton Abel, the former head pastry chef at The French Laundry and Amass, the cafe serves excellent coffee alongside baked goods. Abel strongly believes that all these new bakeries are building a community rather than competing against each other. “The special thing about Copenhagen is the collaborative relationship that all the new bakeries have with each other,” says Abel. “We are all moving our industry forward by continuing to produce [products] everyday. We all share info, tips and talk about what we a planning to do in the future”. Andersen & Maillard is the kind of bakery you could spend all day in, hunched over a laptop at one of the slick wooden tables, drinking countless coffees and eating the signature kouign amanns (a crispy, buttery pastry that looks like a croissant which has been baked in a muffin tin).
The newest addition to the bakery scene is Hart Bageri, a shop from former head pastry chef at San Francisco’s Tartine, Richard Hart and Rene Redzepi, which opened in September. Like all the other chef-turned-bakers, Hart cooked for 12 years before he discovered his love for baking. “I’m obsessed with bread. I think about it all day, it keeps me burning,” says Hart. As a transplant (although he has spent much of his life in San Francisco, he’s originally from London), one of Hart’s biggest priorities when moving to Copenhagen was to make bread and pastries in tune with the Danish taste. “Rene [Redzepi] said to me: you need to capture the Danes with the rye bread,” says Hart. “People in Denmark seem to like sour tastes a lot more, so I created a miso rye, which is really umami and tastes sort of like rye bread on steroids”. The menu is ever-changing but the bakery also produces Danish favorites like tebirkes (a laminated pastry with a poppy seed crust) and spandauers. “We are looking at what Danes want and then making the best versions of them,” says Hart, who cites that the rise in bakeries is nothing more than chefs discovering a love for the oven. “Working as a chef, you are constantly on the go. As a baker, you’re not. Once you start making bread you get this crazy obsession,” he says.
Emil Glaser of Juno the Bakery would agree. “The fact that most of us opened [bakeries] within a year is more of a coincidence. I guess many of us felt we had something to contribute to a city that’s already full of so much good food,” he says. Its no secret that Copenhagen has one of the leading restaurant scenes in the world, now it has the bakeries to match.
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