Saint Gallener Bread is Back

Saint Gallener Bread, also known in Switzerland as Sankt Gallenerbrot, was a staple bread at Bakery Normand for many, many years. For some reason, over time, it went out of favor....except with a hardcore group of fans who had discovered that it was the best bread to use in their turkey stuffing. Now, I personally have not tried using this bread for that purpose. Mostly I like using it as an all-purpose sandwich bread. It is a hardier bread than our French Loaf because it is enhanced with 10% medium rye flour and 10% cornmeal. This addition lends to the crumb a bit of tooth and a more complex flavor.

In Switzerland it is the signature bread of the city and German-speaking region of St. Gallen. Characteristically, it is baked as a free-form bread with a complex form of pulled and tucked tails and a round head. Some Swiss bakery websites even say that this bread shape has a 'nose' (Nase). Yeah, well, whatever; we used to make this unique shape alongside the more conventional Pullman pan loaf pictured in this post. I think most people in our market thought the traditional shape was a bit odd, and so it was never as popular as the loaf pan shape. Below is an image of St. Galler Brot from a Swiss website:

See what I mean!

So for those of you who would have been asking us if we were going to be making St. Galler Bread for Thanksgiving...we beat you to it. We will be offering this wonderful bread through Thanksgiving. Order it for Wednesday, November 23rd, or pick up a loaf or two early so you can dry it out for your turkey stuffing. Either way, you will have the pleasure of an all-purpose, simple, flavorful, and honest loaf .

Ordering Ahead for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, so we would encourage you to place your orders early. It is always difficult for a small bakery like ours to meet the increased demands from customers around any holiday. Our kitchen, our ovens, and our baking crew is only so big, so organization is critical if we are to produce three or four times the amount of goods using the limited tools available to us. You can help us by planning early and placing your orders in a timely manner. If you go to the 'Thanksgiving Specials" tab on our page bar just above the "BAKERY NORMAND" header you will find our specials page, with a complete listing of breads, pastries and desserts for Thanksgiving. Since we won't be using the website to accept orders, please call the bakery and place your order directly with a sales person. They should be able to answer any questions you may have and to suggest items you may not be aware of. If you have an unusual request, or feel that the sales staff was not able to help you on the phone, email me through our website and I will try to help you personally.

I have often thought of holiday production in biblical terms in the sense that it's like trying to pass a camel through a needle's eye. It is nearly impossible and always stressful. With the many and varied orders that we receive it is difficult to keep everything straight; but we are aware that nothing but 100% success will do. Unlike a test at school, a 95% grade means that we have failed and disappointed 5% of our customers. For those customers our grade is 0%.

We want to make sure that you get what you want, when you want it, and exactly as you ordered it. You can help us do that by placing your order early, and with clear and exact details about produce type, quantities, pick-up times, contact person name and correct phone number.

Say Cheese Crackers...

Back again for your holiday party needs, we are happy to present this season's first cheese crackers. Our crackers are a blend of butter, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, egg yolks only, and our special blend of spices. They are rich yet delicate. We cut them into various bite-size shapes like hearts, stars, moons, disks, ovals, etc. and top them with a variety of seeds, nuts and herbs. Sold by weight, you can get just the amount you need for that special occasion. These cheese crackers are always anticipated by our regulars, so try them soon and see what the excitement is all about.

Dresdner Stollen

Today marks the official beginning of the Holiday Season at Bakery Normand with the first appearance of our prized Dresdner Stollen. This variety of Stollen is the classic original made with raisins, currants, lemon peel, orange peel, and ground and slivered almonds. Our Stollen is made exclusively with butter and is flavored with almond and lemon extracts, nutmeg and cardamon. Our recipe was passed on to me at the first bakery in Germany where I worked in 1976. The Master Baker in the kitchen of B├Ąckerei Kaiser, Joachen, had fled the Eastern lands in advance of the Russian army and had ended up settling in the area around Wiesbaden in then West Germany. Originally he came from Dresden, the official home of Stollen in Germany. So I feel quite confident that the formula we use for our Stollen is as close to the real thing that you will get on this side of the Atlantic.

As I said, our Stollen is made with butter, lots of butter. This makes our Stollen a rather expensive item, but butter also explains why our Stollen will keep for weeks and months if stored in a cool, dry place. Butter, as every good baker knows, is a natural preservative.

Not only is there a generous amount of butter inside each Stollen, but additionally, each Stollen is brushed with liquid butter three times after is comes out of the oven. The next day, after the Stollen has cooled and can be handled, each loaf is brushed again with melted butter, rolled in vanilla sugar, and then coated with a thick layer of powder sugar.

Stollen is a yeasted bread; it is actually the crowning achievement of German yeasted breads. Not to be confused with normal bread, Stollen is more like a confection and should be sliced very thinly when serving. Stollen should never be toasted. Anyone selling you a Stollen who claims that it is great toasted is selling you fruited bread, not real Stollen.

Stollen gets better with age and will last several months....of course, no great Stollen should hang around that long; it's an indulgence you should recklessly indulge.

For those of you interested in the unique shaping of Stollen, I've included here a few photos of the process we use employing a wooden pin.

Scottish Shortbread

Today the pre-Thanksgiving production at Bakery Normand got underway with our all-butter Scottish Shortbread. This rich, lemony shortbread is delicious with tea or coffee and will keep for weeks if stored in a cool and dry place. The unique feature of our shortbread is the use of a hand-carved wooden stamp (in Germany these stamps are called "Modeln") to imprint the top surface of the pastry with a scotch thistle motif. While the imprint does not make the shortbread taste any better, it certainly elevates it to a giftable culinary work of art.

"Modeln" were used throughout the Middle Ages as a quick and easy way to replicate often complex images onto Gingerbreads, Marzipans, and other pastries. While many "Modeln" depicted religious themes, some showed floral or heraldic motifs. Some "Modeln" were proprietary in nature and were used by bakers as a special marking to distinguish their unique product. One of the simplest forms of branding is the use by bakers of various cuts and scoring patterns to decorate the tops of bread loaves. We use these varied patterns today for the sake of variety, but in the past, when communal ovens were commonly used in villages, it was important that each household score their breads with a unique pattern to differentiate ownership of the finished product from their neighbor's breads.

We will be using many wooden molds during the holiday season. Aside from the detailed effect they lend to our baked goods, they are beautiful objects in and of themselves.

Lebkuchen is Coming!

For those of you who have been regular customers of Bakery Normand over the past thirty-plus years, you know that the approaching Holiday Season means one very important thing - soon we will be making Spirtzkuchen. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you have no idea what you have been missing.)

But to make Spitzkuchen, one needs Lebkuchen dough. And not just any gingerbread dough will do. Our Lebkuchen dough is made at least a month in advance of the final product production. First we combine honey, brown sugar, wheat flour, rye flour, and a special blend of spices. This starter dough must then be allowed to age for several week in our cool basement. During that time, a very slight fermentation occurs, which is critical in leavening the dough for various products - among them Spitzkuchen.

For now, that is all I'll say about Lebkuchen or Spitzkuchen. For now the dough has been wrapped up in plastic and placed in a plastic tub for cool storage. I'll be blogging as the dough is used and the various products made from it get baked and packaged, ready for sale in the store.

What I think should be interesting, and perhaps instructive, to our customers is the important role that time plays in producing many of the quality products at Bakery Normand. Most everyone knows that yeasted breads take time. First the dough must be mixed and kneaded; then it must have a first rise and rest; then the dough must be portioned, rounded and put to rest again for a second rise; then each piece of dough must be shaped according to the particular characteristics of each particular bread type; then the dough shapes are put up for their third and final rest and rise, the final proof, after which they are baked to perfection. Unyeasted, sourdough breads, obviously, take even longer to proof.

So when you come into the bakery when we open at 7:30AM, we bakers have been at it for many hours already. This is why customers who don't plan ahead can't always get what they want from us. It's not that we want to be difficult; it's just that the final result has a long production history reaching back hours, days, and sometimes weeks. In baking, nothing worth making or eating appears instantaneously. The same is true of many items we will be making for the holidays in the weeks ahead. Your patience will be rewarded; all things come to those who wait. Amen!

Leaf Pile in Snow

In our previous blog post I described how I made the Pile of Leaves "pull-apart" dessert. In light of recent weather events, and now that all of us are finally getting back to something like normal, I've updated this particular dessert to match the times we are living in. I dumped enough confectioners sugar on the original dessert until I started hearing branches snapping, tree trunks splitting, and a god-awful sense of dread begin to seep into my soul. I could say that it sent a shiver through me, but after sitting in a cold house by candle light for two days, I'm shivered out.

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Bakery Normand
192 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30am-5:30pm

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