Good bread is one of life’s simple pleasures. I relish my creamy avocado mash on a slice of sourdough bread for weekday breakfasts; and cheesy scrambled eggs on seeded toast is my idea of weekend comfort food. One of my first tasks on moving up to Auckland was to hunt down a European bakery serving up flavoursome crusty bread.
I found it in Paris Berlin Organic Bakery, tucked into a suburban street in Ellerslie. This is my idea of bakery. A quaint neighbourhood place, where if you arrive early enough, you can watch the baker pull out trays of just baked pastries. Paris Berlin, which opened its doors in June 2010, makes honest, organic French-German breads, pastries, buns and cakes. Ellerslie isn’t technically my backyard, but a 15-min drive is a small price to pay for some of the best organic sourdough bread in Auckland.
Owner Isabel Pasch is passionate about producing authentic European breads, and it shows. Paris Berlin prides itself of using only certified organic flours, seeds, fruits and nuts, and their breads are naturally leavened. No additives, preservatives, or artificial enhancers are used, resulting in the breads which are full of natural flavours, with beautiful textures and colour. Isabel is happy to talk about her bakery, she said I could ask her anything; I jumped at the chance.
Isabel sources NZ Demeter rye flour from Chantal Organics in Napier, who get it milled it to her specifications. When white spelt flour was unavailable due to the floods in Queensland, Isabel asked her customers if they wanted to wait for organic flour to become available again or have breads made from conventional spelt flour. With the blessing of their customers, Paris Berlin used conventional spelt flour for 4 weeks. I love that on top of the personal contact, Isabel also communicates with her customers through a regular newsletter and Facebook.
Making authentic German sourdough bread is very labour intensive; the breads have to prove naturally, which gives them that marvellous flavour. When Paris Berlin closed for a couple of months early in 2011 so that Isabel could find a replacement baker, I was bereft. Luckily, Paris Berlin opened, better than ever; with Andre, a German Masterbaker and a wider range of seasonal pastries and buns.
My favourites are Campagne, a seed-studded rye sourdough bread and Walnut Sourdough bread. I always have a stash of either in my freezer. Paris Berlin also makes white breads (Swiss, Parisien and baguette), a gluten-free bread, pretzels and on weekends, Challah (Jewish braided brioche).
I asked Isabel what her favourite bread is. (Admittedly, it’s akin to asking a mother which child is her favourite). Her reply: I love bread and I eat a lot of it. So I like variety. I like dark breads with meats like dry cured hams or salmon (the Rye Vollkorn is beautiful for that), I like grain breads like the Campagne, Fitness loaf, or Sunflower Rye for sandwiches or a fresh cut baguette sandwich with cheese and spicy mustard lettuce hmm…. But I also like to have a jam or nutella bread on soft chewy Swiss Loaf….. So the short answer… I do not have one favourite bread! (If I get to create my own breads, I would love them all too!)
Isabel advises to store the breads in a bread bin or brown paper bag. The breads generally stay fresh a lot longer than normal breads because they do not contain sugar and are slightly acidic. The rule of thumb is: the darker the loaf (i.e. the higher the wholemeal content), the longer it stays fresh. so white breads (apart from baguette, which is a bread that should be eaten on the day) 3-4 days. Medium dark loaves and grain breads 4-6 days. Really dark 100% wholemeal breads 7-10 days. She also says that sourdoughs can be stored in the freezer for up to half a year (in plastic, otherwise they dry out).
A changing array of delectable pastries and savouries sit temptingly in the display case. There is a cake of the week at the weekends (check their facebook page for this week’s treat). I am partial to their savoury brioche with sundried tomatoes, feta and spinach for an indulgent lunch. The almond croissant is rich, buttery and generously filled with almond cream, and the bees knees, a bun filled with custard and honeyed toasted almonds is a delight.
On second thought, my waistline thinks it is a very good thing Paris Berlin is not in my backyard, otherwise I would be there everyday!
Edited 18 Nov 2012: There are bigger and better changes afoot. There will be a name change, – Little Bread and Butter will open in Ponsonby Central on 24th November, followed by Bread and Butter Bakery/Cafe at Westmorland Street, Grey Lynn in late January. Simultaneously, Paris-Berlin in Ellerslie shut its door end of Jan, and Isabel and her team will operate out of the larger Grey Lynn premises. I’m looking forward to a new cafe on the scene!
Paris Berlin Organic Bakery
64 Michaels Avenue, Ellerslie, Auckland
Ph: 09 – 579 5240
Hours: Wed – Sun: 8am – 4pm