Artisans: A toast to the baker from Bern

By Alexia Santamaria

Baked goods from Swiss Konditorei Bern. Photo / Supplied
Baked goods from Swiss Konditorei Bern. Photo / Supplied

Switzerland: land of mountains, yodelling, chalets and fondue - so much to love. What's even more lovable than any of those is Swiss pastries and cakes - and none so much as those made by Markus Schwarz at Swiss Konditorei Bern in Avondale. Yes, Avondale.

Surrounded by big grey factories on industrial Rosebank Rd, it's an unlikely spot for an artisan Swiss Bakery but it certainly makes for interesting clientele. There is a constant flow of Swiss, Germans and Eastern Europeans interspersed with local Westies just popping in for their morning tea.

Markus came here 10 years ago from Bern after working all around the world as a pastry chef in top hotels. He had worked in New Zealand some years before at the Regent (now Stamford Plaza) and identified the need for good European baking. Two years after arriving he set up his wholesale business, and two years ago opened it up to the public too.

It's pretty hard to know where to start in describing his wares as they are all truly magnificent. He describes Swiss breads and pastries as the best of both Germany and France (obviously because of the geographical location).

Everything has elements of the light, white fluffiness of Gallic patisserie or the slightly heavier, more dense dark qualities of Germanic baked products - sometimes both. For example one of the custard sweets he makes is similar to a French millefeuille (a very glamorous and delicate multi-layered version of our rather solid custard slices) but rather than puff pastry alternated with the creme patissiere, it's slightly crispier layers of pastry. The best of both worlds.

He also makes quark cheesecakes and mousses which are very traditionally Swiss, as well as a to-die-for chocolate mousse cup. Soft fluffy dark chocolate mousse in an edible chocolate cup with crushed Toblerone and a hint of kirsch.

Big favourites for anyone who likes almonds or marzipan are the almond croissants: buttery with a layer of almond paste through the middle and flaked almonds on top. These are incredibly popular, as are the chocolate truffle cake, apple strudel and the bee sting (a bread-like pastry filled with light-as-air custard cream with almond glaze on top).

There is a huge range of traditional breads as well, which fly off the shelves every weekend.

Markus also works with Marianne Brunner from Gretel's Gingerbread and sells some of her products in the bakery.

Marianne's products are traditional soft-style Swiss gingerbread or lebkuchen, sweetened with honey and decorated in a way no child could ever resist.

Where to buy:

Swiss Konditorei Bern, 5/448 Rosebank Rd, Avondale (09) 828 5860, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7am-2pm, gretelsgingerbread.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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