Rolls in a bag

The first bakery my wife and I worked at in Germany back in the 1970's was in a small town of about 3000 people called Bärstadt. Located in the Taunus Mountains outside of Weisbaden, it was the kind of place that didn't see too many foreigners, let alone foreigners who actually chose to live and work among them. While I woke up at 4:00AM Monday thru Saturday to work in the bakery kitchen, Patty started her day at 7:ooAM helping the baker's son, Christoph, deliver baked goods to the outlying, more remote villages further in the mountains, villages which were too small to have their own bakeries. Patty recalls still the adventure that every day's trip meant, as Christoph, with cigarette hanging from one side of his mouth, would wildly drive at determined speed up and over the narrow, twisting roads deep into the isolated valleys, the Autumn fog and mist laced through the towering pines and beech trees and often obscuring a firm sense of where the road ended and the sky began.

But back in the bakery kitchen at Bäckerei Kaiser there were no misty romantic vistas and certainly no lack of clarity. There was bread to be baked, more specifically there were Brötchen to be made, hundreds of Brötchen. Brötchen is the German word for rolls, literally small breads, and they were the staple breakfast item in every house and hamlet. When we in America think of bakery breakfast treats, we think of danish pastry, muffins or scones, maybe toast with butter and jam. But in Germany there is only one thing that must be on every table at breakfast- Brötchen. And it is every German baker's duty to be sure that there are copious amounts of rolls, hot and fresh, seeded or plain, white or rye, ready to buy, ready to take home and slather with butter, jam, cheese or cured meats, the moment the bakery shop opened its doors

There was one curious and rather special custom involving Brötchen and Patty and Christoph's morning bakery tour (and it was called 'the Tour'). Every evening certain customers, especially Guesthouses in one neighboring town in particular, would hang a cloth bag on their outside doors with a small note attached to it. The note would instruct the bakery deliverymen how many and what kind of Brötchen they would need for the next day's breakfast table. Patty and Christoph would dutifully make their rounds to all their stops, scout out the Brötchen bags, read the instructions and deposit the requested number and kind of rolls into the cloth sacks. Somehow the accounts were adjusted, invoices were eventually sent and payment was received on a monthly basis. But most importantly, even before the fog had lifted and the sleepy households had roused themselves and shuffled into the kitchen to start the morning coffee, fresh rolls, copious and crisp, hung on so many doorknobs waiting for the breakfast ritual.

We make a variety of Brötchen at Bakery Normand: French Plain, French Poppy and French Sesame Rolls, Peasant Rye Rolls, Caraway/Salt Sticks, Pretzel Rolls and Cheese Pretzel Rolls. They are not the first thing that comes out of our ovens each morning; that would be danish pastry, muffins and scones. But if you don't mind breakfasting a little later some morning, stop in around 9:00AM and pick some up. Try dressing them up German style and you just might discover the best breakfast treat yet.  As for the cloth roll bags hanging from the doorknobs, that special tradition is still shrouded in the mist of a not so distant past

(A note on the Brötchen bag featured in our photo: It is from the second bakery we worked at in Germany back in the 1970's, Bäckerei Gassen, and it was issued on the occasion of their 100th anniversary in business as a family owned and operated bakery. It was an honor to be part of their history, even for a relatively short period of time.)

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Northampton, MA 01060

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