THE MOVEABLE FEAST: Neighbourhood baker


Unfortunately for my waistline Hermann Helmers Bakery is a two minutes walk away and one that I make often. Inside the bakery are display cases full of goodness ranging from 12 different kinds of cake including Blueberry (the berries are imported from the US), Black Forest, Chocolate Vanilla, Pear and Apricot. There are Swiss Rolls of 12 kinds, at least nine types of cookies and 16 kinds of bread. There are Patties and Hamburgers and Pizzas and…

Nirmal KC mans the counter and is one of the two sons of Ashok Kumar KC who started Hermann 27 years ago after studying the art of baking in Hermann Helmers in Germany. The other son is Kamal, who is a confectioner working with cream and desserts. They have six employees and their days start at 4 am.

All this Nirmal told me in between customers who streamed in endlessly.

I get the Brown Bread everyday and sometimes I’m reminded I’m eating something that was first made in 5000 BC over hot stones in an inverted pot to contain the heat. In 2600 BC, an Egyptian accidentally discovered leavening or breadmash when a piece of dough had become sour. I’m sometimes tempted to try the Buckwheat bread because the Greek physician Hippocrates recommended a fibre diet in 430 BC (the first person to do so) urging his countrymen to have a fibrous bread for its “salutary effect on the bowels”.

Bread has always held an extraordinary sway on people. Jesus Christ fed a crowd of 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fishes — a miracle. Christianity believes that wine, during the Eucharist /Holy Communion /Mass is the blood of Christ and bread is his body.

Pliny, the Roman scientist and historian, wrote a 37-book encyclopedia, which was completed in 77 AD. Pliny gave broad beans a place of honour because the Latin word for bread panis comes from the Greek word for broad bean puanos and in olden times the beans were mixed in the bread. The Greeks and Romans preferred white bread to the brown.

It was in the 12th century, the Crusaders brought gingerbread and puff pastry to Europe. And at Hermann Helmers the puff pastry comes into its own in delicious chicken patties that finish as quickly as they are made, and cheese and ham patties and sausage rolls. The pastry melts in one’s mouth reminding one of the 16th century Cornish pasties, which were

made from short crust pastry but were filled with meat and vegetables for Cornish miners.

The Apple Pie and the Strudel and the Crumble at Hermanns are delicacies and after a bite one’s breath is “like the steame of apple pyes”. The quote comes from Robert Greene in his book Arcadia (1590AD), which first mentions an apple pie. The trick in apple pies is not to make them sweet and Hermanns have got this down to a fine art.

… as they have doughnuts, which were first made in America by Dutch settlers in 1630 AD, and the cookies at Hermanns do these settlers proud — they introduced various types of “koekje” which means “little cake” which became cookie. My favourite at Hermanns is Choco-chips. I could go on and probably will in the future but I urge you as the sign at Hermanns says “Support Your Neighbourhood Bakers”.

For brief enquires, call 5524900.