Ethical Eating

Le Petit Pain Imports Cardamom Into Its Coffee Cake

The only thing painful about Le Petit Pain is deciding which of its luscious breads, pastries, cookies, tarts, and other confections to take home with you. 

But one pain that's pure pleasure is a breakfast bread that, if you're not of Scandinavian descent, you've probably never seen before. "Scandinavian coffee cake" is how Le Petit's co-owner (with wife Gaelle) Tom Tchernia describes it, though at his tiny Lantana bakery, it goes by the more prosaic name of "cardamom-raisin bread." 

Yeah, that's cardamom, one of the stalwart spices of Indian cuisine but also a player in the cuisines of the various Scandinavian countries, where it arrived from

Constantinople via the Vikings. The unexpected hit of exotic, aromatic,

sweet-spicy cardamom in a rich, fine-textured breakfast bread is, well,

unspeakably tasty. 

Tom Tchernia says the three-braided loaf

is basically a brioche dough, flavored with cardamom and plump raisins

and given a glaze and scattering of big sugar crystals. To keep it

authentic and satisfy the customers of the site's previous occupant, a

Scandinavian bakery, he hired the bakery's former owner, Elsi Ollsen,

to make that and a couple of other items. Right now, it's available

only at the brick-and-mortar Le Petit, but Tchernia says he's looking into

selling it on the bakery's website. 

As to the best way to

serve it, many of Le Petit's Scandinavian customers ask for their

loaves stale, to better dip slices in their morning coffee the same way

Italians wield biscotti. Lingonberry jam is another traditional

accompaniment, but I think it's tough to beat simply toasted and spread

with a good European-style butter. (Plugra always works for me.)  

Truly, the only time it hurts is when you eat the last slice.