One smart cookie
Euro Pane Bakery’s delicious wares make gift-giving easy this holiday season
By Dan O'Heron 12/12/2012
For a sneak peek at what could be under the Christmas Tree this year, open the menu at Pasadena’s Euro Pane Bakery and spread out its wished-for list of seasonal offerings — Yule logs, loaves of walnut/cranberry or chocolate/cherry breads, fruit- and nut-filled German stollen and gingerbread people.
Coming together with pies, cakes, rolls, tarts, cookies and macarons created by owner Sumi Chang, the holidays haven’t been this sweet since Nancy Silverton’s acclaimed La Brea Bakery stopped making its famed Yule logs and stollen.
Before Chang opened the original Euro Pane 16 years ago, she worked at the La Brea Bakery for Silverton, whom she considers her mentor. “Nancy Silverton is my idol,” says Chang. “She has a passion for baking. She has impeccable taste. And she was a great boss.”
Evidence of good character being worthy of imitation comes with the numerous accolades published about Chang in our annual Best of Pasadena editions — not to mention my longtime love affair with her cinnamon rolls.
More recently, I’ve been taken by Chang’s special touches with Christmas classics like German stollen, bread filled with dried fruits and mixed nuts, then painted with butter and rolled in superfine confectioner’s sugar.
Respecting the great taste, let’s mercifully abandon all stale humor about fruit cake: disparagements like “the gift that keeps on giving,” or “useful as a doorstop,” or “nuttier than a …”
The 1.4-pound stollen costs $13. But after such a delicious sampling, if you’re like me, you’ll leap to the bakery counter for more good things before looking at the prices. After all, for the lucky ones, Christmas is not meant for frugality. For those having a tough time of it, a $2.35 croissant, impaled with sticks of French chocolate —then dipped in black coffee — offers an affordable taste of grandeur.
After sampling a slice of “Grandma’s Chocolate Cake,” a well-off friend told me he would gladly pay the $48 price tag for one of his own. With three different layers of chocolate — a semisweet chocolate and whipping cream ganache, and both dark and regular butter creams — he said it reminded him of the times he’d hang around his grandmother’s kitchen waiting to lick batter from the bowl. My own childhood is referenced by Euro Pane’s amusingly decorated gingerbread men and women ($5.50 large and $3.25 small).
As the name Euro Pane would indicate, along with German stollen, there are many other expatriated recipes. Among them is Bûche de Nöel (a French Yule log). This two-footer ($57), ridged to resemble the bark of a log, is covered and filled with chocolate and topped with meringues of mushrooms. Cuts at the edges allow a peek inside.
Another foreigner, only available through special orders, is Milanese panettone, a sweet raisin yeast bread which is an ideal substitute for coffee cake at holiday breakfasts. (Major orders of all baked goods should be made before Dec. 21.)
Good old American 10-inch apple, pecan and pumpkin pies range from $27 to $32 each. Customers have confessed to me that if they tried to bake them at home, they couldn’t begin to match the taste and texture.
Foreign and domestic products are piloted by a steam-injected oven, considered essential for making great flavored breads. By bedewing them with gentle moisture, each loaf is given crisp crust and even color.
Many of the original Euro Pane goodies are also available at Chang’s Euro Pane Bakey and Café, located at 345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (Call 626/844-8804).
Though neither baked nor sweetened, there are two salad appetizers that will put a honeyed light on a dinner host. One is the kale slaw. Made from deep green leafy kale, Ireland’s staple, it’s chopped with pebbly granular pumpkin seeds and slightly tart goji berries (persimmon-colored Asian fruit). A sesame dressing comes through with nutty nuance.
The other is Inca quinoa (KEEN-wah) with tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, mixed greens and black beans. Rather new to the American market, but a staple of ancient Incas and still important to South American cuisine, quinoa’s delicate flavor can be compared to couscous. Very chewy when cooked, quinoa’s bead-shaped small grains expand to four times their original volume.
At Euro Pane, not only can we obtain all the goodies to make any breakfast sweeter, but we can get a salad to begin a fine holiday meal and a great dessert to end it. What else could anyone ask for?
How about aroma therapy? Slicing into a croissant and catching a whiff of its European buttered swirls may be just what the doctor ordered. For a full-blown scent, stand outside the bakery at 3 a.m., when employees start cooking the day’s batch of croissants, or drop by again at 11 a.m., when they turn on the granola.
Just thinking about these incredible baked delights is almost as good as eating them … almost.
Euro Pane Bakery
950 E. Colorado Blvd.,