Life is a combination of flavors and mine has taken me from one country to another to finally settle in Warsaw. The reason, the food of course! Not quite, even if my culinary curiosity has always accompanied me on my travels. In Great Britain, I discovered cornish pasties, in Germany it was pretzels and in Poland jagodzianki. Finally, in France, I educated my palate and enjoyed the best croissant and baguette ever: Najlepsze na świecie!
To be honest, if I started writing this article, I owe it partly to Richard Kapuscinski. This genius of Polish literary reportage encouraged me to report the Polish genius of Cuisine.
Baguette, cheese and wine are the symbols of French gastronomy. But also the cause of an expat homesickness when they are hard to find. Breakfast without my pain chocolat or my sourdough bread tartine, for example, is unthinkable. La boulangerie is my Proust’s Madeleine.
So I asked myself: if I were a bakery in Warsaw, which one would I want to be?
Then I jumped from my sofa, grabbed my French-Polish dictionary, my kaszkiet, my bicycle and go in search of what would excite my taste buds. This experience was so enriching that I decided to share it with you.
One thing struck me about the bakers I met and which is to their credit : they are self-made. In France or Germany, for example, the practice of this profession requires a state diploma. So, in Poland with appetite and determination, you can do almost anything.
Five is the number of stages in my Tour but also the number of bakeries that caught my eye and inspired the title of this column.
Nowa Praga – Stalowa 47
As my French fellows citizen, I immediately went to a craft bakery which aroused my interest since two decades ago the Oscar-winning film The Pianist put the spotlight on the street where this place is located. Today Stalowa street (Chlodna street in the movie) owes its fame to number 47 where Rano, the bakery of Weronika Noganska, makes the loaves of bread dance in a harmony orchestrated by her talent.
In a few lines, I would like to describe the tranquillity that reigns in this place. The large windows in the front of the shop, through which you can see the craftswomen at work, create a pleasant, warm atmosphere that soothes the mind. Inside, time seems to stand still, reminding you that you must savour it like the loaf of bread you are about to buy.
From bostock to poppy bread, everything is delicious. For all newcomers to Warsaw, a place to put on your to-do list.
Żoliborz – Krasińskiego 18
I headed to Joli bord (it’s in fact the original name of Żoliborz) to discover a place where men are not allowed to work. I don’t see any problem with this as long as the products on offer are up to the challenge that the owner, Monica Walecka, has decided to take up.
Cała w Mące run the world of flour, sourdough and Co. and it is not Beyonce who will contradict me.
When I arrived in front of number 18 Krasińskiego Street, I saw a long queue of soldiers, disciplined and arranged in single file. At first sight this image gives off an austere atmosphere of the place. As I pass the door of the barracks, the smell of hot bread combined with the scent of pastries attacks my nostrils and takes me back to my childhood.
What I liked about the range of breads on offer was their appearance. The crust was dark, as if a painter had covered it with a thin layer of umber burnt with fatty oil. An artist’s work.
Unfortunately I did not have the chance to talk to the artist to find out more about the secrets of her work but « Co ma wisiec, nie utonie ».
However, I know talent where it is and I highly recommend this place.
Wola – Grzybowska 56
So far my eyes have been delighted by what they have seen and the rest of the Tour has more surprises in store.
The manager of 56 Grzybowska Street makes the best pain au chocolat in the city. Michal Paleta is a former chef who became a baker. At the end of 2020, he and his partner Bartek Rychcik decided to open Bakery Browary
Michal is passionate about his work and you can feel it when he explains the process of making his breads and Viennoiserie. When I asked him what his favorite products were, he answered without hesitation: « pain au chocolat and baguette. I think I’m half-French, because I love my pain au chocolat. Croissant it’s Ok for me but my pain au chocolat, I love it. All the layers, all the Belgian chocolat inside, I’ve just love it ».
And he is not the only one who finds it exceptional. Michal shared with me an amazing story about his pain au chocolat « When I was working at the hotel Warsaw, Massimo BOTTURA, one of the best chefs in the world, no I would say the best chef in the world, came to work in Warsaw. One day he was having breakfast in the hotel and when he came out of the bakery after breakfast he said: “This is one of the best pain au chocolat I have ever had in my life ».
« I lost my words » Michael concluded.
Making a perfect traditional French baguette is not for everyone. True connoisseurs will focus on the appearance of the baguette, which should offer a promise of taste, the crust should be crisp, the crumb creamy and airy with plenty of holes. I have to say that Michal’s baguette meets all these criteria. We cut it and tasted it. A real treat! Bravo!
Just like in a Michelin-starred restaurant, you go to Bakery Browary Warszawskie to have an unforgettable experience. Pain au chocolat and baguette are well worth the trip.
Dzielnica – Kolejowa 43/U15
I appreciate people who renew themselves professionally and take risks by taking on new challenges. Life is too short for procrastination. Ania and Zenia probably share this opinion since in the midst of the pandemic they decided to try their luck with Chlebowy after being laid off by the restaurant they worked for.
He is from Ukraine, she is from here. They met in the kitchen of a Varsavian restaurant. The passion for bread united them. Was it a coincidence or a twist of fate?
In the village where Zenia grew up, it was natural to bake your own bread. When he arrived in Warsaw, he baked bread, together with Ania, for the restaurant where they worked. Today the pair bakes their own bread, but this time for their own customers.
Before ticking all the boxes of their bakery project, they fed their theoretical knowledge in French and American bakery books and their practical knowledge in this restaurant.
Two years ago Chlebowy opened its doors. The realisation of an idea has met with the satisfaction of many customers who come to enjoy the pastries made with seasonal products and the sourdough bread: « In general, our bread is made only with sourdough and I think this is what makes the difference between our bread and other breads not only in artisanal bakeries but also in industrial bakeries that use yeast and improvers while we use only wild yeast. To make sweet things like croissants or challahs, we use something unique: wheat sourdough (which is more delicate than rye sourdough) and poolish. This enhances the sweetness of our pastries. When it comes to pastries, like danishes, but not only, we try to use only seasonal products. In winter, even though there is less variety, there are always Sicilian oranges, cranberries and all kinds of nuts » Ania said.
It is no coincidence that customers love spelt bread and challahs, among other things, as their taste is incomparable.
As you can see, the chemistry of this baking couple is undeniable. In fact, the name of their brand was inspired by the Ukrainian word for bakery, « sklep chlebny », and polonized into Chlebowy.
I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this creative duo who would like to expand their product range, their great team and open a second shop in the near future.
Stary Mokotow – Puławska 38
Last but not least, I would like to share my feelings of Rdest. If you have never had the opportunity to see a pottery exhibition in Warsaw, visit this bread art gallery. By now you know that the baker of this place makes pottery in her free time.
Impossible is nothing, I mean that nothing is impossible for Karolina Huzarska.
Indeed, this former interior and graphic designer made the slogan of the brand with the three stripes her own.Twenty square meters are enough to make her customers life greedier. From the average person to the professional model, there is bread for everyone.
The Grażyna Hase of bakery is always in vogue. But how did it all start?
« For 10 years I baked bread for my family and friends. Then I started selling my bread on Facebook. The feedback was so encouraging that I decided to further my knowledge by working part-time in a friend’s bakery. Then one day my friend informed me that a shop was available and that I should take it over to start my business. I was caught off guard as I had no intention of opening my bakery so soon. Finally, I took the opportunity and Rdest was born » Karolina said.
On the shelves of her shop, you can appreciate the diversity of her breads. All made with flours milled from quality grains: wheat, rye, wild perennial rye, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, red wheat, spelled schwabenkorn. Most of them are ancient grains and are therefore tastier and healthier than ordinary grains.
Going to Rdest is like going to the dietician.
That is probably why the customer’s favorite is Mokotowski bread: « 80% of wheat, 10% of rye and 10% of wild perennial rye. High fiber, specific smell and taste and it’s good for the gut » Karolina said.
The variety of flours she uses reveals her will to satisfy not only the appetite of her people but also to treat the gastric problems of the most sensitive.
It’s funny because the route she decided to take through this profession was not predetermined, as this anecdote shows:
« When I was a child, my mother made a lot of dumplings and I liked to take a piece of dough. I liked to play with it and experiment with it. One day I took a piece, put it in a pot and went to my room. I left it on the floor behind the radiators. I had forgotten about it. Then, three or four days later, I looked at it and I was shocked and terrified because the dough was alive and it was coming out of the pot. It was everywhere and I didn’t know what had happened because my mother didn’t bake bread, so I didn’t know what it was… »
We all have childhood traumas. I think Karolina has done a brilliant job of dealing with and overcoming hers with Rdest.
I wish her all the best for the future with a team of young talents as creative and committed as her.
What I learned from this tour of Warsaw’s craft bakeries is that there are places where the creative spirit blows and where particular sensibilities feel and perceive it. Beyond the talents, I was delighted to discover courageous, inspiring personalities and places where I can now fill up on good bread and pastries. And the good news is that I have managed to overcome homesickness.
Lionel Bikoumou – French-Congolese lawyer converted to a baker. An avid reader, I traded law books for bakery and pastry books. Not having the gift of ubiquity that would have made my task easier, I lived in the different countries that attracted me. Now, together with my girlfriend, we would love to visit as many places as we could in Poland.