Long Lines and French Pastries

Please let there be some left for me

Last week, I did something I try to avoid at all costs; I waited in line.  Wait, let me rephrase that, I waited a long time in a very long line for a pop up bakery at a San Francisco restaurant, Flour + Water, thanks to the inside scoop from my friend, Adrienne, aka Gastroantropology.  Her friend, Belinda Leong a fellow pastry chef from her time at Gary Danko had gone on to expand her skills and culinary horizons with stints at Manreasa and Noma.  She also eyed this as an opportunity to test the waters for San Francisco’s interest in these sorts of goodies.  Judging by the lines, I’d say she is on to something.

phew, the end is in sight

Some of her offerings were new to me, and upon sampling, everything she offered made me want to know more about these tasty treats.  The French pastries Belinda made do not often show in bakeries and pastry shops in the United States, and having a chance to sample made it all the more special (and well worth the wait):

a list of options

Kouign-Amann is one of many specialty regional cakes from Brittany, France, specifically around Douarnenez.  According to Culinaria France by André Dominé, one of appeals of this regional baking is the use of salted butter.  Now a more famous treat, and easier to find as no self respecting Breton baker would miss showing off his or her skills in the making of this pastry.  The name is not the most original when you consider  kouign is Breton for cake and amann is their word for butter.  However don’t let that fool you, as the resulting combination makes one appreciate just how good the simple things in life are.  To get a sense of what kouign-amann is, its been described as a butter and caramelized sugar layered pastry, but again that description falls short of doing this cake justice, or touch on its great appeal.

kouign-amann in the foreground

Kouglhoff or kougelhopf or guglbuph are various versions of this Alsatian  yeast ring cake made with raisins and almonds.  While everyone in Alsace agrees this cake makes for a good breakfast or coffee break, broad disagreement exists on how to spell it.  According to André Dominé in Culinaria France, “when a glass of Tokay Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer is offered, a piece of cake should be offered too.”  (I am not about to disagree).  Often a savory version of this cake made to be consumed with wine, is made by replacing the raisins or currents with diced bacon.  Kouglhoff’s traditional shape is the result of the use of a high-walled ring cake mold that fired in terra cotta and are tiled red.  As you may have guessed, the name is German, although it originated in Austria and was brought to France by Marie Antoinette.

While the focus is on French pastries, it should be noted that this pastry is equally popular in Germany and Austria.  One story suggest that when the Hapsburg forces defeated the Turks at Vienna’s city gates, the cities bakers made a cake in the shape of a sultan’s turban to celebrate.  This article from the New York times offers up a nice history on a pastry that people can only seem to agree is darn tasty; history.  Its history, the spelling of its name, the proportions of its ingredients, now that’s another story, and are subjects much debated.

get kouglhoff

Bostock is the French version of French toast, if that makes any sense.  This is how the French treat day old brioche, and believe me, one taste and there’s no going back.  Belinda’s bostock was made of twice baked, brioche soaked in a simple syrup with almond frangipane and passion fruit.

yes, please, bostock for me! (Gastro in the middle)

This sampling should whet your whistle.  The diversity of options and the stories behind these tasty treats, make for a wonderful way to while away a Sunday morning.  Unfortunately I do not have access to the recipes that Belinda used, but I can only hope that a cookbook is somewhere in her future plans.


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22 comments for “Long Lines and French Pastries

  1. August 13, 2011 at 8:36 PM

    The pastries sound wonderful! Totally worth the wait!

  2. August 13, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    Look divine! $4 for each mini kugelhopf? wow..that’s a bit pricey, isn’t it?
    The French toast looks divine.

  3. August 13, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    You are a very good friend and good foodie to endure the line.

  4. August 14, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    At least you got a reward for waiting so long! Pastries are totally worth it…



  5. August 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    The pastries look incredible! I would totally wait in line for those!

  6. August 14, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I have “issues” with waiting in lines too but I can tell you for sure, I’m so glad you didn’t! How else would we learn of these tasty delicacies? I’m a bit familiar with these names only because I have seen them while browsing through some of my international cookbooks. The Time Life Series comes to mind. I also have two German cookbooks which are in their native language, I wonder whether they are mentioned in either of them?

    Thank you so much for giving us a taste with a side of delectable history, Lou Ann. Another fabulous post!!! Break out the Gewurztraminer!

  7. August 16, 2011 at 4:25 AM

    I found it interesting that you mentioned the popularity of some of them in Germany and Austria. I guess we always associate pastries with France, but we found so many great ones when traveling to those two countries. There are few things I’d stand in line for, but pastries is definitely one of them! Although, after the wait, I’d be forced to purchase one of each, just to make it worth it. 😉 PS. I got some 7 spice powder this weekend. Haven’t tried it yet, though.
    Lori recently posted..Thai Basil Pesto Orzo with Local Meatballs

  8. August 16, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Thanks again, LouAnn for telling me about this event! I can’t wait for the day she starts selling her pastries! Yes, if she ever publishes a cookbook, it will certainly be in my bookshelf. 🙂
    Kitchen M recently posted..Kitchen M Photobook

  9. August 17, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    They look wonderful!

  10. August 21, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    These pastries look really tasty, esp the bostock with the passion fruit and almond flavors. I really enjoy both of those. I didn’t know that flour + water was opening a bakery. Have you eaten there? I want to go desperately but I’m afraid of the huge lines and long waits that you so rightly note here. Everyone who’s been says it is worth the hassle though. What do you think?

  11. August 21, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I’m so glad you made it! And it was so great to see you the other day. Hopefully Belinda will do more of these…or open up her own bakery!

    @Stevie This was a one time event as the pastry chef Belinda Leong is good friends with the chef at flour + water. As for dinner at flour + water that is a must – they take reservations and they do save seats in the dining room for walk-ins.

  12. OysterCulture
    August 22, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    Andrea – Well worth the wait.

    Angie – A bit on the pricy side, but not out of line, especially when you consider that these items are uncommon here. They were finger licking delicious.

    Tammy – It was worth it.

    Rosa – Agreed.

    5 Star – Yup!

    Louise – My pleasure and I hope you can sample some soon.

    Lori – I do not regret it in the end, but I’d be lying if I did not confess impatience while in line. Cannot wait to see what you do with the 7 Spice powder,

    Kitchen M – So glad you enjoyed it and great to see you!

    Erica – They were!

    Stevie – They were all tasty. Regarding flour + water, no bakery there, at least not permanently. The chef kindly offered up his space for this event. Reservations are a must there. Gastro, has some added words of wisdom on that one.

    Gastro – Thanks for sharing the event, had a great time tasting everything and was especially grateful that it was not sold out by the time I got to the counter. Can’t wait to see what Belinda does next.

  13. August 23, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Everything looks amazing and bostock is one of my “to die for” favorites 🙂 Great read as always!
    Magic of Spice recently posted..What’s for dinner? Hot Buttered Honey Rum Maitake Mushroom and Olive Pizza

  14. August 23, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    I hate waiting in lines, too. But boy, these pastries definitely look worth waiting for. My kingdom for a kouglhoff!
    Carolyn Jung recently posted..Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary Public Lunch on Maiden Lane, Oyster Time & More

  15. August 26, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    I hate waiting in lines, but to try different pastries a girl can be persuaded, lol I have always wanted to try bostock!! happy weekend!!
    vianney@sweetlife recently posted..Lavender Tequila Cooler

  16. August 26, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Wow, the pastries sure look delicious, I am glad that you stayed so we all could enjoy 🙂
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  17. OysterCulture
    August 27, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    MoS – Bostock is now on my list of “to die for” pastries, I had no idea they could be this good.

    Carolyn – It was worth it in the end despite all my moaning up front =)

    Vianney – I am convinced there’s bostock and then theres BOSTOCK, and it is really worth the wait. That was BOSTOCK.

    Julianna – They were delicious and I was certainly rewarded for my patience.

  18. August 27, 2011 at 6:10 PM

    I think I’d be in line daily – waiting for a taste. These are worth the calories! What a sweet outing. By-the-by, I noticed I have not been getting your blog – so subscribed again.
    Claudia recently posted..Chilled Zucchini Soup with Mint

  19. August 27, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    Except cannot figure out how to re-subscribe. Maybe Facebook.
    Claudia recently posted..Chilled Zucchini Soup with Mint

  20. September 4, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    i can understand you lined for these marvels ;; by the way just downstairs by my boulangerie this is may daily parisian routine !!!Pierre
    pierre recently posted..Pêches et citron au pistil de safran

  21. OysterCulture
    September 17, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    Claudia – I hope you are back on.

    Pierre – Oh, lucky you, another reason I need to move to Paris.

  22. September 28, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    wow, sounds like you had a great time at the French bakery. Aside from croissants, I have not seen any of the varieties you listed above in commercial bakeries in Israel. I am sure if one opened there would be a line around the block.

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