Cinnamon blossom in pear bread

Dominik Flammer

In days gone by, grain would often be in short supply, particularly in the higher regions of Switzerland. Rye, for example, was grown up to 2,000 m in Graubünden and Valais up until the 16th century, but the grain all but disappeared from the Alpine fields in the colder centuries that followed. Which is why the farmers’ wives were so creative and came up with a wonderful Alpine speciality in the form of pear bread. Nowadays, you can enjoy this speciality in a wide range of different pear and fruit bread varieties right across the Alps. Graubünden pear bread is a classic example. It reflects the practice in the Swiss Alpine valleys of using dried fruit to make up for the lack of grain in times of need. In Graubünden and other Alpine regions, pear bread is made from a mixture of dried fruit – aside from local dried pears, it also commonly contained dried tropical fruit such as figs and sometimes also candied orange or lemon – and often rye dough. The traditional recipe for Graubünden pear bread is believed to have been developed by farmers’ wives from Domleschg – a place rich in fruit and ideal for fruit production. It wasn’t until the start of the 19th century that this makeshift solution became something of a delicacy and its production increasingly began to shift from farmers’ kitchens to commercial bakeries. The first mention of Graubünden pear bread in a cookbook was in 1905. The book entitled “Die gute Köchin” (The Good Cook) was a self-published collection of recipes by Carl Patzen, a teacher from Chur. Unlike modern recipes which use star anise, coriander or cloves, Patzen flavoured his bread with cinnamon blossom, a spice which is now virtually unheard of. Its seductive scent tickles the nose with its acerbity and leaves behind an unmistakable note by which you can quickly recognize whether the pear bread was made with a ready mix or by a spice connoisseur. Cinnamon blossom can also be used for compotes, as seasoning for heavy sauces, as a replacement for caraway seeds in the cooking of red cabbage, and as a complementary spice in countless Asian dishes.

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