There are only so many days in life that I would classify as extraordinary.  You know, those days that something magnificent happens or you meet someone great or have a day that leaves you smiling for days to come?  I recently had a day like that – and I have the photos to prove it.  I was invited to tour the newly reopened Maison Kayser store at Bryant Park in NYC.  I love baking and have been baking since I was little, so it would be good chance to see the beautiful creations and taste some yummy treats.  I mean, I thought it would be great to get some photos and blog content and to surround myself with a little bit of France.  What I didn’t realize is that I would meet one of the world’s top bakers, tour a world class kitchen that is old school and modernized at the same time, and leave knowing how to make my own bread better with a treasure trove of new ideas…So my day at Maison Kayser was different than expected.  Wow, it was a really good day.

Perfection

 Maison Kayser recently expanded and reopened its location at Bryant Park.  It’s located at 8 West 40th Street across from the New York Public Library.  Go for a Sex and the City (Carrie’s wedding) throwback tour and stop in.  The store is chic and very French.  Coffee is a big focus with an enormous coffee bar in the center of the main dining room.  There is a somewhat revamped menu, if you’re a Kayser fan you will recognize most of it.  The pastries are perfection.  I couldn’t work there or I’d be overweight and probably diabetic.  It’s really a neat layout because the store revolves around the kitchens.  They have windows so you may walk between the pick-up restaurant and the dining room and watch the baking happen.  It is very cool.


Delicious
I knew I was going to meet Yann Ledoux.  He is the Executive Master Baker for Maison Kayser stores in the US.  Do you remember the feeling of giddy excitement as a child meeting Santa?  Then you get really quiet and nervous when he appears in front of you…that’s how I felt about meeting Yann.  At first I couldn’t remember my questions.  Yann trained in Paris under Eric Kayser for years, he has a thick French accent, and he knows everything about bread and baking science; except maybe Eric Kayser, but I haven’t met him yet.
Yann Ledoux
I’m not just writing that Yann knows everything about baking, he does know everthing about baking.  People email him photos of bread gone wrong and he writes back about what is wrong with it – just from the photo.  Getting a job at Maison Kayser isn’t easy.  You must train for a period of months before you start baking.  The product is taken seriously.
It’s true
Maison Kayser has six stores in Manhattan with 2 opening soon.  The goal is eventually 20 stores!  I think it’s a lofty undertaking especially given that the products are made on site.  They bake using artisan traditions and methods.  The breads take hours, overnight time, and several proofs before they meet the heat!

Our Daily Bread

Yann explained the process from start to finish.  I was there for about an hour – it is a real process.  Eric Kayser invented a fermenting machine to make his own leavening agent similar to yeast for us mere baking mortals.  The culinary know how to think of that is genius.  The entire time I felt really privileged to be there.  

This is the machine in the Bryant Park store, they use 60-80 liters of leavener per day.  The largest Maison Kayser store in NYC uses 120 liters of leavening agent each day.  Imagine!  Kayser’s ratio is roughly 20 percent – so think of how much bread that equals.  On a busy weekend, any given store will sell between 300-500 croissants per day…just croissants.  This place is hopping!

First comes leavener

Everything is made by hand, literally, the bakers shape every single baguette, croissant, roll, etc – by hand.  Everything is also proofed twice.  After proofing (rising), the bread sits covered in a cooler overnight to await baking the next day.  Allowing the bread to sit overnight is the real trick.  I didn’t know that.  I will talk more about the process in a minute.

Shaping the rolls

The ingredients are top of the line.  I won’t mention the brands, but expense is not spared in finding the best flours, seeds, toppings, and add-ins for the breads.  It is truly an artisan process with attention to every single detail.  The original recipes are made by Eric Kayser and Yann sometimes adds in his special touches to breads of the month or other goodies.  I asked Yann about his favorite bread and it is the basic baguette…hmm I thought it was a bland choice.  After he explained the process I understood.

Baguettes waiting in linen

The baguette dough is made and proofed and rests overnight.  The trick is that Kayser uses linen fabric in their bread making.  Using linen is an old world French tradition for baking.  The baguettes sit in folded linen in the cooler as the top hardens just a touch.  Yann explained how to bake the perfect baguette and the need for the ingredients to be absolutely perfect to create the bubbles in the dough that will become the baguette.  He cut one to show me and the bread was perfectly crusted and also beautiful on the inside.  I felt seriously out of my league.  There is much more science than I realized.

The perfect baguette

Okay so I’m learning how little I know about baking…Next he explained the loaf bread process.  I’m sort of wondering why I’m here at this point because the Kayser process is so refined and amazing.  A world wide bakery chain that churns out so much bread on a commercial scale but is still committed to quality and traditions that are hundreds of years old?  Really?  I thought especially in Manhattan with commercialized everything and the frantic pace that quantity and speed would be king.  It isn’t that way at Maison Kayser.

Bread is proofed in linen lined baskets.  Yann said they make their own baskets (of course they do) because they couldn’t find the French quality baskets they wanted.  Once the bread is ready for baking, it is lightly sprinkled with flour to turn it on the, wait for it, specially made ovens with baking stones on rolling racks.  What else would you expect from Maison Kayser?

Baking Bread Step #1

 Then the bread is turned on the stone.

Baking Bread Step #2

And once more sprinkling.  Yann wasn’t pleased with the ingredient composition of one of the loaves.  Can you guess which one?  I thought they all looked perfect but he said one was just a little off.

Baking Bread Step #3

 And finally the top is scored in a cool pattern and sent to the oven.

Baking Bread Step #4

 You can kind of tell the “imperfect” loaf, but I’m not certain.

And into the oven

The tip Yann gave Effortless Girl readers is to try proofing their homemade bread twice and then putting it in linen in a basket and allowing it to sit covered overnight.  It is really just one more step – but if we are trying to be French Artisans, it is worth a try.  If you are making bread at home in a small basket, a round loaf is easy enough.  Bring four corners toward the center, allow it to sit, and bake it.  You may want to try using a small bowl of water in the corner of the hot oven to keep the heat somewhat moist as the bread bakes.  

It’s easy right?

The photo below is a Fougasse.  It is a French pizza/bread combo.  It is technically considered a bread but it is like pizza without the sauce.  Fougasse is made fresh daily and available in different flavors.  

Fougasse

I wanted to do a face plant in the pan, but it would’ve been completely inappropriate and I probably would’ve been asked to leave. 

Delicious and Hot!

I stayed at Maison Kayser for lunch.  The dishes we sampled were from the revamped for spring menu.  Below is the Salade Poulet & Quinoa.  The ingredients are organic chicken, quinoa, green pepper, cilantro, avocado, mache, sauce verte, and crème fraîche. It was perfect.  All of the ingredients go together deliciously.  I will have this again.

Salade Poulet & Quinoa
Also we sampled the Saumon Fumé Tartine.  On a slice of fresh bread is smoked salmon, crème fraîche,  an organic sunny side-up egg, capers and red onions.  I’m not a runny eggs person, but I’m told this is divine.

Saumon Fumé Tartine

Lunch was the perfect way to end my visit.  I learned so much, tasted amazing food, and most of all I left extremely impressed with Maison Kayser.  I am confounded by the fact the bakers spend so much time and effort to master the product.  Yann is amazing and I’m so glad I met him – he’ll probably be on the Food Network one day so watch out.  If you’re in NYC visit Maison Kayser.  You’re missing out if you don’t.  

Find them on Facebook and Twitter!  Thank you to Janet Mick, Yann Ledoux, Anthony Battaglia, and Tripp Polen for the photography.


Maison Kayser




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