Ask any Dubliner to name a bakery and most will find with 'The Bretzel' rolling off their tongue. Once synonymous with Dublin's Jewish quarter, The Bretzel is as much a part of Dublin culinary history as a long ray or a bowl of coddle. In fact, The Bretzel still make their 'Challah' (Jewish festive sesame bread) to the same recipe as they did when it opened and their name is still synonymous with what once was a thriving Jewish quarter as its environs were indeed the hub of Dublin Jewish business. It was owned by Jewish proprietors from the Grinspons to the Elliman to the Steins and the tradition was only broken when the Hacketts took ownership in the sixties. Ill health led to the shops demise but it was snatched from the hands of obsolescence by its saviours and most recent custodians, William Despard and Cormac Keenan.
William and Cormac are acutely aware of the importance of the task they have taken on and though the bakery has been through few changes in the intervening years, they are keen to safeguard its traditions and reputation while gently pulling the shop into the twenty first century. Take the fantastic original oven, which has been baking breads for Dubliners for over one hundred years. Instead of changing the time honoured practises, they decided to just slightly modernise the existing oven and use its variant temperatures to bake breads and pastries of differing temperature requirements at different times of the day. Take their commitment to their trade partners. William and Cormac work closely with their customers perfecting the various styles of breads required, from dense sour dough to fluffy white rolls and carefully balance the commercial demands of the customer with the dedication to time honoured artisan methods, preparing up to seventeen distinct dough preparations each evening. This dedication to artisan production values is also evidenced in the complementary produce they choose to sell in the store.
Beside the fabulous wholegrain (crunchy and wholesome), the tomato and fennel baps (sweet and liquorice) the olive and walnut loaves (nutty and dense), the rye and caraway(crunchy and treacly), the brown soda (buttermilky and comforting), the cherry buns (sticky and familiar) and the focaccia (oily and creamy) are some seriously good producer's names. The boys have cleverly matched Janet's Country Fayre with their sandwiches and breads, G's Gourmet Jams with their sweet pastries and scones and display Kell's Wholemeal flour from Bennetsbridge in Kilkenny.
All this, together with a commitment to balancing tradition with progress is what makes William and Cormac such special operators, their baking practises a combination of timeless classics and cutting edge. Pop in to the cute shop and grab a sandwich made from local, evergreen vegetables and meats from the lovely Listons, sample some of the fantastic breads and pastries and wallow in the sense of history, tradition and custodial loyalty that is palpable in The Bretzel Bakery.
Read more about The Bretzel Bakery, here is their Producer Review