Friday, June 15, 2012

The Bread Shop

I am a huge fan of the "mom and pop." This concept has largely lost it's flavor and value in the states as we've big-boxed every kind of shop and created cookie cutter strip malls across the states. This is of course a generalization but for the the majority of America today most purchases are done via one-stop shops that have everything from bread and veggies to hair dryers and picture frames.

I miss specialty shops in the states basically because they're special. A bakery is great because they make the best breads, cookies, cakes and other delicious treats fresh from the oven. Bakeries however suck at giving me a slice of meat. For that I would go to a butcher. I have never been able to find a baked good baked in a Stop and Shop "bakery" as tasty or fresh as one found in a stand-alone bakery owned by Mr. and Mrs. Franzonelli. (I don't actually know a Mr. and Mrs. Franzonelli, but I believe you get the point.)

Still a crowd at 2 a.m.
Thankfully, the Middle East, or at least Amman, still cultivates the stand-alone. And oh how they stand alone! Our first visit will be to the local bakery because I'm hungry and bread is filling.

This bakery stands on a corner right down the street from our studio in Swefieh. I'm pretty sure the place is open 24 hours as I've been there at 2 in the morning and it had a steady flow of customers. If I knew more Arabic I'd ask but I'll just go with an assumption at this point and maybe show up randomly at 4 or 5 to test the theory.
Buttery smooth cookies!

The best aspect of the bakery is of course the wonderful array of flavors to be had from its variety of products. However a close second would have to be the different aromas wafting through the air in and just outside the shop. There are sickly sweet smells when walking past the fresh Kinafi; smooth vanilla  from pretzel shaped cookies; the smell of poppy, sesame, and other seeds I'm not quite familiar with aerate the right side of the shop; and even a familiar smell of tomato past comes from a rack of Arab style pizzas.

Almost burnt myself.
I especially enjoy walking through the aisles of baked goods when the bakers have brought out a fresh rack of breads. The warmth radiating off of the old, warn racks reminds me of burning myself as a kid when I couldn't wait to get at the bread or muffins my mum would make. I know for a fact that she'd make a daily visit to this place not only to pick up a few items, but also to get some ideas to try in her own oven.

Warm, flat and slightly chewy
The prices is this place are incredibly reasonable The first thing I bought from this place was a large pita-like flat bread which I used like an edible spoon  for some locally make hummus. Each bread is about a foot in diameter and costs around 10 cents. A few bakers stand in the back of the bakery in front of large stacks of this bread and weigh it out for customers. I still buy mine by the quantity, talata or arba (3 or 4), but all the locals just come in and ask for a given weight - in kilograms of course.

Most items in the bakery are priced by weight but there are specialty items priced by the unit - things like Tiramisu, individual cheesecakes, or fist-sized macaroons. The huge macaroons lie in heaps on top of cookie sheets and beckon to me with their crisp, shiny finish. They're lacquered mounds of chewy coconut goodness that cost me only 35 cents and maybe a salsa or two on the dance floor.

I haven't tried everything from here yet but I have every intention of doing just that before I leave. If you ever find yourself in Amman for a visit make sure you stop at the nearest bakery. Like Chip and Dale floating through the air to a freshly baked stack of hotcakes - just follow your nose.
Flaky stuffed crusts!

Mounds of deliciousness!
Variety of sweets.
Fancy desserts in the desert.
Bread, bread, bread, bread.

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