“French roll?” Tine asked and held the paper bag out to me. “Freshly baked.” I took a roll out of the bag. It was still warm and smelled like cinnamon. I bit into it. “Hamburg specialty,” said Tine. “Does it taste good?” I chewed and said: “Absolutely!”
-André Klein, translated (by me) from Learn German With Stories: Ahoi aus Hamburg
We walked to our local bakery from our Airbnb in Hamburg. It was a bitter-cold (-6ºC) morning, and we were searching for a sandwich to take into work for our lunch.
This was a splendid bakery in Blankenese – nothing fancy about it, but in spite of the inclement weather there were a couple of individuals sitting outside, muffled to the neck, sipping milky coffees and reading newspapers.
We must have looked pinched because the motherly ladies in Bäcker Körner took pity on us. Having established that we weren’t locals they told us that, in addition to the rye and cream cheese sandwich, we should definitely try ‘one of these’, a Franzbrötchen, which, in spite of the name (which means literally ‘little French bun’) was typical of the city. This family bakery (established in 1901) was one of the best places to sample one.
It was impossible to say ‘no’, we paid and I took the bag, starting to scrunch up the opening. “No! No!” cried one of the ladies in consternation, “Don’t close it, it needs to breathe. And make sure you eat it while it’s still hot.”
I folded the warm, loose, parcel carefully inside my jacket like a baby animal.
Arriving at the office we set about making a quick coffee, and then savouring the pastry. I must say, it was wonderful, like a mix between a rather excessive French croissant (especially in shape – it looked as if someone had gone a bit over the top with the folds) and a full-on, oozing hygge-hype, Scandinavian cinnamon bun. Not wholly surprising, really, considering the geography – Hamburg hovers between Paris and Stockholm in terms of latitude.
So what, in fact, is a Franzbrötchen?
A Franzbrötchen is made from puff pastry – the same pastry that cinnamon buns are made of. But the shape is unusual, achieved by pressing the pastry with the handle of a wooden spoon, and the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling pushes out of the sides.
One theory is that the name comes from a time when Napoleon had reached the city, another that the shape is, as I noticed myself, a bit similar to a croissant.
If you want to make a Franzbrötchen yourself
For a good recipe if you fancy making your own, go to Taste Made.