|A fresh slice of Copenhagen Pastry's |
almond-topped kringle. So good, you need
a plate to give it its due - if the bag makes
it out of the car, that is!
A few days after the bakery opened, I needed to know more. Spoiled by the never-ending glut of information on the Internet, I had searched for photos, information, anything that would reveal the mystery of the new merchants and their wares. But the proof turned out to be in the actual pudding – or rather, the kringle, nougat crown, or any of delectable treats that Copenhagen Pastry offers. There is always something that just came out of the oven, providing lucky customers with a warm and comforting way to start the day.
On my second visit, I complimented the shop's owner, Karen Hansen, on the coffee. The complex and satisfying brew was created by LAMILL Coffee of Silverlake. My first thought upon tasting it – with tastebuds jaded as they are by too much corporate joe – was, “I’m really having a cup of coffee.”
|Karen Hansen, proprietor of Copenhagen Pastry, serves|
up Danish hospitality along with the shop's amazing coffee
and baked goods
“I tried lots of different blends before I chose this one,” said Hansen, who is a native of Denmark. “I wanted coffee that tasted like it would in Denmark.”
Hansen and her crew are the most hospitable people I’ve ever encountered anywhere at 7 a.m. The shop is clean and spare, qualities that have long been attributed to the Scandinavian aesthetic. The menu is similarly streamlined, featuring a small but focused assortment of traditional Danish pastries and bread. Copenhagen Pastry offers about a dozen varieties daily, with one special weekly items that baker Henrik Gram likes to try out on the customers.
What we know as “Danish” in America is actually called spandauer or wienerbrǿd, which translates as “Vienna bread.” The description of these traditional pastries that I found online refers to a “cake” made from squares of pastry and filled with dollops of apple, almond paste, jam, or various creamy centers.
|Maja Almskou fills freshly baked |
nougat crowns with hazelnut cream.
“I always have the morning poppy [roll], a half of a coffee bread, and then I have the kringle,” she says of her favorites.
Hansen says that traditional Danish pastries are eaten in Denmark at different times of the day, as desserts and for celebrations. She describes rundstykker, a traditional bread roll topped with poppy or sesame seeds that is not a sweet, and often served with cheese or Nutella as a more popular breakfast. She also says that a hearty rye bread – which Copenhagen Pastry offers – is a staple, particularly for children, with its wholesome ingredients including sunflower seeds, black flax seed, rye flour, and rye berries.
“It’s really healthy and low in sodium,” says Hansen. “As soon as [kids] get their teeth, you give them the rye bread. It’s so good for them.”
“This is why the Vikings are so strong,” quips Gram, hefting a newly baked loaf and flexing his biceps.
|Move over, Popeye: Copenhagen Pastry's |
traditional rye bread gives baker Henrik Gram
“We have good response from the children… because they always tell us what’s [gone] right and wrong,” Hansen quips. “They always have their favorite, and as they come in more times, they want this one or that one. They like to be part of the process of testing and trying out [our pastries].”
Gram, a native of Copenhagen, says that he was led to the baking profession by his parents, who owned a bakery back home. He says that while there are several bakeries that specialize in spandauer in every Danish city, Copenhagen Pastry is a rare authentic taste of home in Los Angeles. Hansen attests to her baker’s training and artistry, having also had a brother who was a baker in Denmark. His recipes, along with Gram’s, are part of the formula to the bakery’s success.
“Denmark has such a rich culture of making pastries,” notes Hansen. “To become a baker in Denmark you have to have four years of an apprenticeship, plus an [official] exam at the end. You really have to know your craft. But it’s also about how each baker handles it. Henrik does not compromise on what he makes. It’s the same with the equipment we have and the products that we use for the baking – we only use the best and that’s it.”
|Karen Hansen and Henrik Gram with a |
tray of dough for the bakery's signature
Hansen, who studied interior design at Otis, also strove for authenticity in her design of the bakery’s storefront. She feels that Danish pastries belonged in a place that was as close to a shop that one would find in Denmark.
“They’re little pieces of art,” she says of the delectable inventory. “When you look at the store and the way it’s designed… here’s not a lot to sidetrack you and to look at – it’s all about the pastries.”
I could not agree more. Hansen plans to keep Copenhagen Pastry’s offerings as simple as when they opened the shop three weeks ago. There will be special holidays offerings, such as kransekage, a tower of graduated almond paste cookie rings that is served at Jul and other celebrations throughout the year. She also wants to add a seating area in front of the bakery so that customers can enjoy the pastries at an immediate but leisurely pace without having to ferry them to the office or home.
|The elegant red-orange sign on |
Washington Boulevard belies the
homey atmosphere within.