The Nordic Bakery

— super convincing design

Nordic Bakery Cinnamon Roll

I was telling my husband how much I love the Nordic Bakery, a cafe in London that serves Scandinavian bread and pastries.

The cafe walls are lined with wood from ceiling to floor, I feel like I’m in a cabin but I’m steps away from Regent Street. I’ve spent many afternoons there, it felt like the safest place in the world.

Yesterday, I went to the library and got the Nordic Bakery cookbook. All the recipes use commercial yeast.

The whole time, I thought they were using whole ingredients, like sourdough, wild yeast. The breads and pastries served at the cafe are ‘fast food’. Not as healthy and wholesome as I believed.

“In 1857, Louis Pasteur first saw yeast under a microscope, and lo and behold, baker’s yeast was made. Isolated as a single strain of yeast from the wild yeast culture, baker’s yeast was a quick, flavorful and reliable leavener that began to replace wild yeast in industrial breadmaking.”

“The result? Cheaper manufacturing due to newfound speed and reliability. But the unseen effects on the health benefits of bread took a toll.”

“This all meant a significant change in chemical composition of a finished loaf of bread - higher natural and added sugar content, tougher starches, and excess single-strain yeast. Without the lactobacilli that come with wild yeast, grain proteins, including gluten, were now unchanged by the fermentation process, leaving them fully intact and hard to digest. Nutrients that became bioavailable due to a long fermentation process remained locked up once sugar became the fermentable ingredient instead of flour.” - Bread Srsly

Despite understanding the shortcomings of commercial yeast, the photos in the cookbook brought back memories of the cafe where I felt overwhelmingly whole. Design can convince people they’re getting something of higher quality (wholesome and healthy) despite using the same processes as any bakery out there.

Perhaps I’m holding the cafe to too high of a standard. The definition of wholesome has changed over time. It used to be making things from scratch, now it’s about using the best ingredients (no shortcuts) and having time to let nature do the work (fermentation).

I’m still interested in trying out the recipes (cinnamon rolls, ginger cake) because I still want to recreate the experience of visiting one of my favorite cafes. The pastries are still unique, there’s a finish pastry made from rye and cooked milk. I’ll have to figure out how to incorporate wild yeast into the recipes that require commercial yeast. It’ll take far more time and attention (watching how the dough rises) but I think it’s still possible.

Wouldn’t you want your food to be more nutritious than less?

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