Munich bakeries: bread stories and sweetheart pastry
Munich bakeries celebrate simplicity of basic perfection, but also compete with contemporary pastry trends balanced by pleasing traditionalists. With the help of my delightfully researched guide you can relish the everyday basics at the best bakeries and pastry boutiques in the wonderful “Italy of the North” as the sweet lifestyle in München is often called.
While rivers of Bier flow at München Oktoberfest, Germany can pride itself in another, equally filling, tradition, and that of baking excellent bread and pastries. The liquid bread hardens up beyond the visually hubsch pretzels into loafs of slowly raised sourdough, seeded superfood bricks, gluten-free surprises and buttery, flaky pastries. I have been tasting and testing various bakeries in Munich ever since a sublime bread roll during my stop over at its airport whetted my appetite for more local Brot.
In Europe of the feudal past we used to hold bread festivities. Feasts ritualised our consumption. Celebrating the essential slow food of one’s culture is now a forgotten village affair or revived as a tourist attraction. Yet, we still need to eat, and we better do it mindfully. Raised awareness of our essential needs in time of conjuring affluence when quality mingles with mass quantity, lured some of our old traditions back. Now, those soul-hungry lineup at artisan bakeries in adoration of simple perfection. More, we can get a closer look at the tattooed bakers’ arms that cropped up along with the hip millennial chefs and Wimbledon finalists, as many of the small-scale bakeries opened up their backstage to the customer.
Munich bakeries undressed
The bakeries in Munich set the level in Central Europe very high. Behold, also in the gluten-frei (gf) realm! Before my recent visit, I still thought that Vienna, Paris, even Copenhagen were the Holy Grails of artisan bread. While all of these cities are hardly surpassed in their quality of bread, I cannot cast a vote on the winner. Each pulls up strength in its own tradition elevated by the contemporary zeal for artisan food.
Not far from the university, sipping my oat milk cappuccino at the hip Men Versus Machine café daily, I observed the locals joining me at the few spare chairs set outside. Each time someone unwrapped a paper bag they brought along. As if it was written in the local foodie magazine. A scent of baker’s perfume, like a Jin escaped out to grant me my greatest desire. The man next to me pulled out a buttery croissant. Oh la la! French rolled through my by coffee-infused mind. Next day another coffee breaker teased out of the same blue printed bag an apple bread roll to match the steaming brew. Naturally, I had to make my turn! So I did. Excitedly — two rounds within 16 hours — I stormed salivating into the Julius Brantner Brothanwerk bakery. The apple bread is out of this world and the most popular country loaf (both sold in smaller sizes as well) are both must try. Watching the two bakers (ladies) through the window, thumbing up the precision with which they rolled croissants and their returning winks, brought me in the following morning. They only sell them on certain days like Friday. In order to melt my lips in their buttery slips, I had to rush in. I brought the warm heaven in a bag along with me to the coffee shop, to indulge like a local. A copy-cat eager to be pleased.
Echtjetzt! does gluten-free bread and pastry a honor by compensating generously with flavour in seeds, spices and other savvy tricks to let you oozing with joy. While not everything is at par with the best there is in the “normal” flour realm, most will surprise your tastebuds with a delightful texture. You must try their generously seeded Korn an Korn loaf and the non vegan (less dry) cinnamon roll. The bread holds superbly also the next day. A heroic achievement in the gluten-free, hard to bake springy, rather dry style. Their Karottenbrot turns out a moist carrot brick, do not bother. The pretzel must have cheese, otherwise while the texture is close, it can hardly compare with the “real stuff”.
Munich gourmands are not blindly and egotistically following only the local bread scene. My favorite gourmet grocer Käfer sells Joseph Brot from Vienna. Also as Italian as it gets Café Centrale in the heart of the old town serves incredible panini and tramezzini for breakfast and lunch.
My favorite organic (mainly) flour and baking supplier in Munich Hofbrauhaus Kunstmuhle is an offshoot of the traditional baker E. Knapp & R. Wenig. Their crispy flatbread seasoned with anise and cumin is a great food companion. The spices ease digestion. They also sell with poppy seed dusted buns, sublime walnut twists and babka, for which lines of loyal customers form each day. Yet their pretzels are rather boring to our taste.
The most sublime pastry shops in Munich
Sweet tooth and minds will revel at Maelu. Their pastries lure the passersby for fruit tarts, chocolates (love their cinnamon rochers and ginger coated in dark chocolate), but above all their baumkuchen. This German fine pastry, rolled from ultrathin layers of pancake-like dough is elevated here in a vanilla cream centre and fresh mango, blueberries or other seasonal toppings. Sublime! The Japanese love this light treat and here is a fine example.
Just a glimpse of the French pastry by master “Konditor” Lea Zapf on Viktualienmarkt since last summer turned me on and around. I had to get a few pieces for the road. I assembled countless car ride comforts each time we passed through Munich. You must bite into their canelé! A Bordeux masterpiece shaped like a small cylinder flavored with rum and vanilla. Since I lived in France and successfully baked them, I am a harsh critic. Lea Zapf’s crunchy caramelised surface bites into an airy moist centre puding as a proper canelé should be. Another delight of a dense chocolate tart with crunchy hazelnut topping survived our ride to Vienna so it could grace my terrace breakfast with a grace that the Sachertorte would turn red!
More traditional is Café Luitpold. Your eyes scrolling over their glass counters awaken the inner child at any age. Those chocolate fly shapes with almond wings or the unicorn coated in white chocolate roar from their lolly-like sticks. I wanted them all, but strolling back to my hotel after a dinner nearby, I found my ultimate pleasure in the dark chocolate robe with the marzipan heart. I also got a chocolate and sweet marzipan laced cake with cream and airy soft layers for a breakfast on the next morning.
I was literary turning into a sweetheart!
Wandering around Munich with a bottle of local beer seems as natural as the nudists spread wide on the lawn of its vast and wonderful English Garden (as if it were a Mediterranean plage naturiste). I hope that my decadent research had infused your next visit to include its baked cousin and some sweet mouthfuls. The local established and up and coming master bakers and patissiers proved their worth!