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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Bread Basket: Fresh Pastries & Bread in Maadi
Located in a distinctively competitive area in Maadi, across from Metro Market and the Parisian-inspired La Gourmandise on Road 9, Bread Basket has still managed to cling to its long held position as a popular provider for Maadi's daily bread and carbohydrate cravings.
Taking up a teeny-tiny space on the 1st floor of a residential building, Bread Basket efficiently manages to make the most of the little space it has.
At the counter they display all their sweets and treats, which include such favourites as Danish pastries and brownies; both moderately priced at 5LE. Although the menu claims they serve a large selection of morning pastries – including a raisin Danish, an apple Danish and a chocolate Danish – only the pudding Danish was available when we visited. The pudding Danish was perfectly sweetened with a perfect pudding-to-bread ratio, making the pastry enjoyable and easy to eat.
At 2LE-3LE cheaper than the gateaux at The Bakery Shop, they make a good option if you want to buy morning pastries in large numbers. Even after the filling pudding Danish, we decided that an additional sugar fix couldn't hurt and went for a brownie. The brownies are sold in individually wrapped pieces and were chocolaty with a distinct butter taste. However, it was not as rich or moist as you would expect; it tasted only slightly better than store bought ones, which was disappointing.
Behind the counter are shelves reserved for the baked bread, which comes in a multitude of varieties including grain baguette (31LE), multigrain loaf (20LE), raisin bread (14.50LE), sesame rolls (1.25LE) and cheese rolls (2.50LE). However, despite having over 20 different kinds of bread listed on their menu, only about six were available that day.
We tried the brown multigrain bread, which was coated with a sprinkle of grains. Crunchy on the outside and very moist and soft on the inside, it hit the spot. However, since this bread does not come in the pre-packaged plastic sleeves that keep it fresh, make sure you have a place to store your bread or you risk it becoming stale before you have even finished.
Shopping at Bread Basket is an experience; the bakery is cosy and smells wonderful. But the selections are limited and if you don't come early then it's likely they will be out of some of the more popular staples by noon.
Discovering the true essence of life in Cairo involves dipping and diving into the most unlikely of places; looking beyond the garish and the gaudy; finding something completely unexpected. This is often the case with the city’s dining scene, across the thousands upon thousands of restaurants, cafes and bakeries. The shops and restaurants change so often it’s impossible to keep up and there’s something around every corner and in every alleyway.
On our most recent tour to Mohandiseen, we came across a small store with a big sign that said ‘Grand Kunafa’ – almost as a proclamation of sorts. There are two small tables outside, but we recommend you take your food to go because Syria Street isn’t the quietest place. Neither is it the most comfortable – in fact, it just isn’t the most pedestrian friendly.
As the name suggests, the shop specialises in konafa and other classic Oriental sweets – even selling them by the portion. Our first experience was with the smallest size offered was the Konafa with Cheese (20LE). Readily put-together and kept on a metal plate in a fridge, the Konafa goes onto a coal grill for 20 minutes upon ordering. Although this sounds like a lot of time for a simple serving of konafa, our patience was rewarded. The konafa was hot, golden and crispy, covering a thick layer of ricotta cheese. The cheese melted and pulled like a pizza, and the best thing about it was that it wasn’t overly greasy.
Afterwards, we ordered a small Nabulsiya Extra with Cream and Pistachio (15LE). Divided into four layers, two layers of finely ground konafa has a layer of cream and it’s all topped with a pistachio paste. While the Nabulsiya wasn’t as good as the coal grilled konafa, we can’t deny we enjoyed the taste of the pistachio coupled with the syrup typically used on Oriental sweets.
Our last order was a Hareesa with Almonds and Cashews (10LE) which, unfortunately, lacked any flavour at all; flavour that was almost entirely dominated by the nuts.
Grand Kunafa isn’t the most refined-looking place selling Oriental sweets and desserts. More than most, Cairenes are creatures of habit – especially when it comes to food. Will Grand Kunafa blow your mind? Probably not; but it’s easily reachable location makes it a good back-up.