by Debra on February 17, 2011

Musical pairing – A Sort of Fairy Tale by Tori Amos

I am absolutely thrilled to have Avery join us as a regular contributor here at Smith Bites; in fact, we’ve created a new category called ‘Bloomington Bites’ because she’s going to be blogging about college life, what she’s studying, plays, concerts and museum exhibits she visits and of course, what she finds to eat in and around Indiana University in Bloomington. Sweet Claire’s Bakery is her first full post and I have to say, I want to head to Bloomington this weekend to try Pandesal, a Filipino bread that get its distinguishing marks by rolling the dough in fine breadcrumbs and shaped like garrison caps. Welcome to the team Avery!

Sometimes, winter in college can hit you from every angle at once. Between the ice and snow that recently wrapped the entire campus in a treacherous—if beautiful—cocoon, and the apparent conspiracy between my professors to assign particularly massive amounts of reading all to be done this week, I felt as if I were stepping onto land again after a stormy week at sea as I emerged from my dorm this morning.

It wasn’t merely the triumphant fact that it was Friday that instantly awoke a sense of freedom and giddiness in my heart: the morning was sunny, ice dripping rapidly into water all about me and, what was more, I was headed to a bakery. After a dark week of existing primarily on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and instant coffee, something fresh-baked and fresh-brewed sounded deliriously tantalizing. So, taking with me one of my constant companions (Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto) as well as a more human friend, I set off for Sweet Claire’s Bakery.

Cozily tucked in a well-kempt old house—as most of the restaurants in Bloomington are—Sweet Claire’s is notable for its dramatic purple and black walls and the dark wood of its trim, the oriental tea pots that line elegant shelves in each room, and the generous yellow sunlight that pours so irresistibly in through the windows—a definite asset in the dim wintry days. But most eye-catching of all are the baked goods themselves: plump brioche buns crowned with creamy streusel and blueberries, buttery croissant twists studded with chocolate chips, cinnamon rolls with hot icing freshly drizzled over them upon being ordered.

In Bloomington, though, which offers a shockingly diverse array of restaurants specializing in food from every corner of the world, it should come as no surprise that there’s a slightly more unusual treasure to be found at Claire’s. A pile of Pandesal, or Filipino breakfast rolls, occupy a capacious basket by the cash register. They aren’t showy. In fact, they look decidedly humble. Nonetheless, I knew I had to try one and, as I broke open the yeasty roll, its slightly crisp crust giving way to reveal a moist and chewy interior, I was hugely glad I’d allowed myself to be seduced by the unassuming little roll. Perfect with a bit of butter and honey, the not-quite-salty, not-quite sweet bread took me worlds away from ice-bound Indiana, placing me instead on a steamy canal in the Philippines, with just enough time to eat my morning pandesal and read the last twenty pages of my book before I caught an obliging river boat back to Ballantine Hall, room 205, to discuss Renaissance Literature.


SMITH BITES NOTE: This recipe uses a breadmaker and the dough is then rolled into balls; feel free to mix and knead by hand if you wish.

You might also like:

How To Make Pan de Sal at Home: Jun-Blog (There is an excellent step-by-step tutorial for making these beautiful rolls by hand)