Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Park your bike at the Nordisk Brødhus

Beware the urge to ride your bike too quickly down the streets of Copenhagen.  It's easy to get swept up in the flow of traffic in this city of cyclists.  But ride your bike too speedily down Rantzausgade street in Copenhagen's Nørrebro neighborhood and you might miss the Nordisk Brødhus
When I wandered inside one recent Saturday morning, I was greeted by Lennart, who explained the day's selection of breads and the 'dagens kage,' or cake of the day.  Meanwhile, Camilla, who creates the pastry selection of the Brødhus, gave me a friendly nod.  Their welcoming nature extended beyond the bakery, when they gave me some local farmer's market tips and suggestions about experiencing the city's coffee culture.  It's no mistake they chose the name Brødhus, or bread house.  The warmth created by the oven, and by the people preparing the dough, makes even a wandering expat bakery hunter feel right at home.  When I started asking questions about how the bakery got started, both Camilla and Lennart spoke with passion about their work. 

 Lennart explained that on this particular day, the pastry selection was small because of the sunny summer weather.  When it's nice out in Copenhagen, he said, people stop by the shop less and eat less pastries.  The weather also affects the way the loaves of bread turn out, so day by day each loaf will be a little different.  
Part of the joy of living in a new city is establishing the places you become a regular-- the bakeries, coffee shops, and bookstores that claim a permanent place in your routine.  The Nordisk Brødhus, with its magnificent wood-fired oven and reverence for bakery culture, is promising to become a regular destination for me.  

I tried the cake of the day, a cinnamon cake, and also sampled the day's bread, which they served with a generous slab of butter, and homemade jam.  

(Later that day, my Danish roommate explained to me that this large slab of butter is called 'tooth butter', because it covers the length of your tooth when you bite into it.)  When I commented on how delicious the butter was, Camilla smiled enthusiastically.  "We have the best butter," she said.    
The best part of the Brødhus is how intentionally they thought about each element of their bakery.  Close attention is given to the relationship between each ingredient that goes into their baked goods and the final product.  Excellent bread is paired with equally excellent butter.  Coffee aficionados can count on a good cup, sourced from Just Coffee, a roaster based in Roskilde.  

Homemade jam is served along with fresh slices of crusty bread.  Before opening this March, they put thought into each detail, each gram of flour, and each part of their customer's experience.  A detailed mural (created by a Swedish artist) decorates the wall of the bakery and draws customers in, telling the story of how their bread is made:

If you're ever visiting Copenhagen, go and listen to the good people at the Nordisk Brødhus talk about their life's work and try a piece of bread.  You're sure to hear how passionate they are about what they do, and you won't be able to resist just once more slice.  And if you live in Copenhagen?  Ride your bike slowly past this one, because you don't want to miss it.