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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Zagreb - City Of Bakeries As Well

I came across this blog post the other day and thought I'd add it because I touched upon this topic a few times before.  The topic of bakeries in Croatia.  Zagreb is known as "The City of Hearts", "City of Museums" "City of Culture" "City of enter text here", but "City of Bakeries" would also be true.  The blog post below is regarding Zagreb, but the same thing can be said about every Croatian city and town.  For someone visiting there they will also notice it too. Bakeries galore, no such thing as a shortage for freshly baked bread.  Someone will also notice that they don't eat wonderbread type of bread. Example  If someone got served it they probably would look at it and wonder what to do with it.  "Is it like a sponge?" they may think. (Just because it's a slightly different colour on the outside doesn't make it a crust)  Now, to me this isn't just about bread, because that's boring, but it also gives insight into the culture, and topics of quality and service in a way too. I could do a similar post about deli's in relation to selection, freshness and flavour.   (The bakeries are more than just bakeries, the vast majority of them include choices of burek, (which are those flaky crust meat pies, that also come in cheese, vegetarian, and other versions) pastries, sandwiches,wraps, pizza slices...etc)

Bread always has to be fresh, it's very important. (I'm a big fan of the fresh still warm and crusty bread as well)  I remember an uncle years ago in the city of Karlovac, when we were getting ready to eat dinner, he looked at the plate of sliced bread and asked my aunt "What the hell is this"?  She committed a faux pas and decided to serve bread that she bought in the early morning. "It's still good" she said. (Actually it was still good, but for some people nothing will do like that still warm, fresh soft bread)  He didn't even consider eating it.  Someone took a short jaunt to the (of course, still open and nearby) bakery and got some fresh loaves.  I think many people in Croatia (It's like that in lots of places in Europe actually) if they were to walk into a grocery store around here, and looking at the numerous stocked shelves of Wonderbread and Wonderbread-like  imitation type loaves would think..."What is this stuff? joke, you are where's the loaf of bread?"  It's very cool walking down the street there in the mornings, and that smell of the bakery already in the air, seeing the people coming out of the store with their purchases.

They would also probably scratch their head when looking at some of those whole grain type breads the same way I do.  Some of them resemble bricks. Some of them are so infused with oats, different types of seeds, grains, barley and nuts,  inside and covering them, (even raisins or fruit at times)...I don't know whether one is supposed to eat it, or feed it to a horse, other type of 4 legged herbivores or throw a slice into the bird cage. (birds love to eats seeds)  Examples. Is the bread-like material used just to keep all the seeds, nuts, grains and oats together? Contrary to some commercials here, Croatian's and the majority of Europeans don't eat dark brown, nut, seed, grain and oat infused hard as brick bread-like breads or bread-like products that are packaged in plastic bags with the  word "bread"  and "fresh" or "100% freshness guaranteed" printed on it. Bread is supposed to be fresh bread. (They actually do have similar Wonderbreadish bread one can buy in the grocery stores, you know, for toast at home or any other purpose you can find for it, but they don't usually talk about it or mention it. It's sort of taboo) To me personally, even that yellowish spongy round thing you get at KFC, it's really not bread to me. I sort of chuckle when they ask "would like a loaf of bread with your bucket"?  You can forget to say your prayers, brush your teeth, feed the fish or change your socks or underwear in the morning, but don't you f***ing dare forget to pick up some fresh bread on the way home.("oh..and pick me up a meat burek and a pizza slice too!")  Anyway, this persons blog post and observations pretty well tell the story.....


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JANUARY 1, 2013 – IF YOU SHOULD ARRIVE AT THE DECISION TO PUT YOURSELFi n the capital of Croatia, there are things you should be aware of. One of these is that Zagreb is a city of bakeries. It can be a shock for carb-dieting or gluten-intolerant visitors, but it’s something they’ll have to overcome, shall we say, quickly.

I estimate that there are five bakeries for every person in Zagreb, including visitors or those just passing through. When you arrive here – actually, every time you arrive – five more will materialize and open their doors to accommodate your daily bread and bun requirements. They bake with tremendous zeal in Zagreb, on every corner of every street in every last blessed neighborhood of this beautiful city. There is at least one bakery within twenty meters of you at any given time, and usually more than one. Additionally, there is probably a little kiosk selling baked goods behind you. If you’re into bread, it’s very reassuring. Enter one of these bakeries and let your appreciation of baked goods be known. If you have some knowledge of the Croatian language, smile and proclaim, “What a wonderful assortment of bread and buns you have here in this lovely little shop!” Once the bemused grimace has faded from the face of the matronly woman behind the counter, she will command, “Wait five minutes. There’s more on its way out of the oven.”She does not lie. Something is always in the oven in Zagreb, be it hearty loaves, sweet rolls or savory filled pastries.Kruh, krafna, pita, lepinja, štrukli, peciva, burek… The list goes on and on into the night, and it is all of exceedingly high quality.

When you first arrive, you will fall immediately in love as I did with burek, a layered and filled savory pastry. It generally comes with either meat or cheese filling, but for some reason never with both. You’ll become quickly addicted, eat far too many of them, get burek burn-out, and then they will be what you eat when you can’t decide what you want to eat, as in, “Well, I guess I’ll just eat a burek and get it over with,” with a mopey sort of resignation. They are truly quite good when fresh, and wretched when left on the warming plate for more than ten hours. You’ll see what I mean when you have one at the streetcar turn around in Črnomerec at, say, 3 a.m., when the meaty ones taste eerily like White Castle hamburgers.

But walk across Jelačić Square and you will see at least twenty people munching buns as they wait for a streetcar. The doors to the boarding platforms at the central train station are flanked by two different bake shops. You may see bread and buns being used as headrests, seat cushions, doorstops, paperweights and more (I have seen children playing games with round loaves). They will eat it, use it as a utensil for eating other things, sleep near it, or even spread butter on it. Bread is everywhere in Zagreb, and it’s not stopping.  Speaking of pastries, if it’s a fluffy sweet or luxurious cake you’ll want, don’t try to find it at a bakery.


 A slice of the local meat burek.

You’ll need to track down a slastičarnica, which translates essentially to ‘pastry shop’, but more accurately as ’sweetery’.Whereas Zagreb’s bakeries are essentially places to purchase the daily bread or grab something to nibble as you make your way to the next bakery, the pastry shops are places where one can sit and enjoy a variety of elegant or elaborate sweets by the slice with a cup of coffee and a friend’s company.

Kremšnita in the town of Samobor, a short drive from Zagreb.  If you want to give it a go at trying to make some at home, read here.

These places are where the locals might have a little break between bakery visits.  Pastry shops are not to be confused with caffe bars, which is where Zagrebians actually live when they are not at the bakery or visiting their families at home. There are probably twice as many caffe bars as bakeries, and a thriving culture unto itself lives within them. We’ll discuss caffe bars on another day. Now, I am off to the bakery.

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