Eight AM, an early morning start in the Northern capital of country, a city I'm in love with. For a while, fate hasn't been allowing me to plan a trip there for an episode… but against all odds I headed up to do a special episode, but before that, I must tell you about Bread Basket, a place I discovered and enjoyed.
Bread Basket is the baby of Soumaya Merhi, a passionate Lebanese entrepreneur who came back from Canada with the dream of making a difference in this country. Soumaya's dream is now a reality, a bread company that's honest, hard working... A wholesome bakery using the finest, clean ingredients, including homemade flour, oats, rye and spelt as well as Lebanese spices; let's call it A Lebanese Bakery with a Twist.
Good morning Tripoli, my coffee was ready, brown sugar on the side along with my first introduction to the bakery: hazelnut flour cookies. A crunchy, flavorful cookie with a soft sweetness that looked like a Lotus biscuit, I loved it.
Today's plan was to take a tour around the bakery and check the production process behind a passionate brand which I believe has a bright future. Soumaya has introduced something vibrant to the country in the shape of homemade handmade product, four unique Taka Bars, six types of cookies, four choices of square Maamoul, bistro cookies, Arabic bread, louzina, Tamara and special creations for various events.
The maamoul: They're not your average maamoul but a new version for the next generation. Open the nylon bag where six square cookies await. Cookie dough that's lightly crunchy and a bit chewy at the same time, filled with smoothly crunched walnuts with a fine crisp where an enjoyable sweetness leaves a smile on your face. You'll enjoy it if you don't compare it with homemade maamoul, Try the ones topped with sugar powder. These maamoul last three months and you should know that this cookie doesn't contain animal fat (samneh).
The tour started at the bakery where chef Rabih Hamzeh works in his closed heaven. What caught my attention is that no wheat can be found here. Five containers contain brown sugar, spelt flour, oat flour, ground brown sugar and almonds.
I never thought that a bar could be handmade. I thought bars, like chocolate bars, are only manufactured in factories. Dates and cashew paste with more and more flavors are available including pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds and coconut with orange blossom or rose water added for flavoring and everything is 100% natural.
It's a recovery and energy bar including carbohydrates, fructose and mono saturated fat. Stored in a cool and dry place, the bars can last for six months and sells for LBP3,000.
The Taka Bar is handmade. The paste is first prepared than weighed before being covered with nuts. After that, a mould like the one used for maamoul, moulds one bar at a time. Those bars are dehydrated in the oven for a couple of minutes before being wrapped, every looks clean and neat, in line with international standards. Looking at them, you might think you're picking up something by Cadbury. Coconut and lemon, almonds and blossom water, pistachio and rose water and the last one I experienced was hazelnut with chocolate and dried apricot. I tried them fresh, before they were baked and believe me, they taste like heaven. You feel the freshness and richness of the products.
Bread was being prepared. Oat bread and rye bread with flour, sea salt, brown sugar cane and yeast…. Flour is mixed with water and then left to rest for half an hour or so while the oven heats up.
Breakfast was served: Zaatar rolls, cinnamon and raisin rolls and dark chocolate rolls. Like pastry rolls, they were served fluffy and warm, lightly crunchy, adequately sweet where the real flavor of cinnamon tickles your palate, crunchy walnuts and chewy bits of raisin. I loved the bits of brown sugar and the dark chocolate was heavenly. Imagine bits of dark chocolate in a fluffy pastry with a crunchy border. An airy puff pastry that's flavorful and rich but is lighter than croissant pastry. Zaatar, that's an innovation; combining local Zaatar and sesame in an occidental Danish pastry. Half a dozen layers rolled together with a generous filling in the middle. Your teeth cut a layer at a time while the mix melts in your mouth, full of balanced flavors and textures. Bravo. Those are sold frozen and baked by restaurants and you can buy them in batches of four and bake them at home.
Points of Sale:
- Aziz, Zalka
- Goodies, Verdun
- Carpaccio, Rabieh
- Stop&Shop, Dbayeh
- Jbeil Supermarket
- Rabih Salameh, Jbeil
- Soul el Tayeb
- Light & Easy, Tripoli
- Fahed , Furn le Chebbak
- Nourish, Saida
- Rasha Diet Centre, Tyre
- Nutrition and Health, Dbayeh
All their products are tasty and, most importantly, fresh and healthy. Bread Basket has unique products which you should try soon. Soumaya is so passionate about her products, which is clearly reflected in the taste of everything she makes. I took some cookies back home with me and believe me, my kids are now addicted to them.
Bread Basket Square +961 76 405 407