Artisans bake to impress
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Eleven small bakeries and confectionary firms proudly presented their best products from fermented bread and tarts to chocolate and ice cream at the fourth Window Bakery Collection held at Shinsegae Cultural Hall in central Seoul last weekend. Visitors wandering through the stalls and displays happily took in the rich aromas and tried the different baked goods, macarons while sipping fresh coffee.
The Window Bakery Collection is a gathering of independent bakeries and pastry shops in Korea. Established in 2009, the Window Bakery Collection aims to boost small, neighborhood bakers. The term “window bakery” comes from the intimate interior of small bakeries where customers can see chefs baking through windows separating the workroom and shop.
The fourth event was themed “The Return of Artisans” and featured 11 bakeries and other independent shops — Publique, Pain de Papa, Maybell, Hotel Douce, Maison de Zoe, and Tarte, Suave, Piaf, Haap, Fell+Cole and Coffee Libre.
Shin Yong-il, chef of Korean traditional confectionary shop Haap and the planner of the event, said it was not easy to gather the bakeries since the concept of window bakery was not familiar to them.
“Most of them are independent shops operated by the owner-chef and they had to close their shops to participate in the event,” he said.
Lee Ho-young of Pain de Papa has been involved in the Window Bakery Collection from the first year. The bakery is known for its fermented bread with minimum use of yeast and no additives. This year, he brought olive ciabatta, focaccia and whole wheat bread with orange and yuzu.
“When it began in 2009, the concept of window bakery was not common, but more bakeries want to participate as time goes by and I see an increase in visitors,” Lee said. “Small bakeries do not have many ways to promote themselves and the Window Bakery Collection is a good place to raise awareness.”
Lee said window bakeries offer breads with more character. “Standardized bread from factories has led the Korean baking industry, but more independent bakeries are introducing their own breads,” he said.
More than eggs and flour
While the previous three events invited mainly artisanal bakers, this time there was a bit more variety.
“Bakeries were the central focus in the beginning, but we decided to widen our vision for this one,” Shin said. “Artisans who create handmade food with quality ingredients are appearing more often as well as customers seeking such products and unique food rather than what’s factory-made. This event reflects this trend.”
Kim Do-hyeon of Coffee Libre said when they were first offered the chance to join the event they thought coffee would go well with the bread and desserts.
Coffee Libre is a coffee roaster that purchases specialty coffee beans through direct trade. They brought coffee from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Rwanda for sampling at the Window Bakery Collection.
Kim proudly showed Coffee Libre’s logo on a sack of coffee. “We visit the coffee farm before we buy coffee beans. We have six employees and each of them is on a business trip for about four months a year. I’ve been to four countries in central and south America from January to February,” he said.
Self-styled “ice creamista” Ho-june Tristan Choi of Fell+Cole brought three of his signature flavors — Strawberry Red Wine with Szechuan Pepper, Hokey Porky and Perilla Leaves. Hokey Porky is ice cream with candied bacon, while Perilla Leaves is a unique ice cream flavor developed by Choi which has distinct scent of perilla leaves captured in a creamy texture.
Choi is known for his knack of creating unique flavors for ice cream — his recent invention includes Parsley Lemonade, inspired by a drink he had during a trip to Hawaii. “I try to reinterpret uncommon ingredients,” he said.
Suave, located in an alley in the Hongdae area, offered a variety of handmade caramels — from vanilla and almond to green apple and black tea — for taste tests. The caramels melt silkily as they dissolved on the tongue with a thick flavor.
Kim Yong-rae, the caramel maker of Suave, said he hopes to change awareness on caramel. “People only think of mass-produced caramels sold at supermarkets. They will know Suave’s caramel is different once they taste it,” he said.
Going to bread heaven
The hall was packed with a variety of guests from students learning pastry skills to families on a weekend outing. The host said more than 4,000 people visited the fourth Window Bakery Collection over the weekend.
Choi Kum-ja, 62, who came to the event with her daughter, loved the yuzu bread by Pain de Papa. “It is nice to visit all these great bakeries at one place since some of them are far from my house,” she said.
Demonstrations from top chefs heightened the gaiety of the baked festivities. Jeong Hong-yeon of Hotel Douce talked about the charms of jewel-like macarons and Shin of Haap demonstrated how to make “juak,” or Korean traditional glutinous rice donuts dipped in honey. Publique showed how to knead dough and Coffee Libre introduced various coffee brewing devices including the French press.
Bread connoisseurs also loved the new additions. Lee Dong-heon came from Busan to visit the Window Bakery Collection.
“It is easy to sample the bakeries at once. I liked the strawberry sherbet of Fell+Cole, which was bursting with strawberry flavor and totally different from what I had before,” Lee said. “There are almost no bakeries offering fermented bread in Busan, but it seems quite popular in Seoul.”
The 11 bakeries and pastry shops will further cooperate to nurture the culture of appreciating artisanal food in Korea. The fifth Window Bakery Collection is slated for October.
For more information about the event, visit www.windowbakerycollection.com.