Inside the Wonderful World of Eric Kayser

February 10, 2016 9:20 pm Last Updated: February 10, 2016 9:20 pm

Eric Kayser is on a roll. His empire keeps on growing; recently he opened Maison Kayser outposts in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Taiwan. He’s counting more than 150 boulangeries around the world, including nine in the U.S., all in New York City. The most recent opened a few weeks ago in Brooklyn Heights.

As a fourth-generation baker, Kayser knew he wanted to be a baker since the age of 3. He also knew he wanted to travel. “Since I was very young, I was very curious and I wanted to travel, so I have my profession with my pleasure… It’s important to love what you do.”

These days he spends about 40 percent of his time baking and training his staff around the world.

“I think it’s important to show people how to make beautiful bread … to make beautiful things from raw materials,” he said.

His breads are made with only natural ingredients with a fermentation period of about 12 hours, which brings out the complex nuances from the alchemy between flour, bread, salt, and levain—a natural leavening mixture of flour and water.

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Eric Kayser at the Upper West side location of Maison Kayser in Manhattan. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Each location has its own particularities.

“The humidity is different, the air is different … the microorganisms are different, the water too. It changes the tastes a little but that’s what gives the world charm, doesn’t it?” he said.

The bakeries also take local preferences into consideration. “In Japan, we make a lot of croissants and financiers with matcha,” Kayser said. “In the U.S., we make a lot of almond croissants and we have large stations for coffee.” In Singapore, customers prefer sandwiches made with soft pullman-style bread. In Cambodia, customers buy sweet breads, while the older ones buy baguettes—”the older ones who speak French and who remember France.”

Kayser has eaten “extraordinary breads in a lot of countries—wherever they’ve retained a certain level of artisanal knowledge. I learn a lot.” He found for example, that chickpea makes a great natural leavener.

“Pavlova, we learned to make it in Russia,” he said. Topped with blueberries and blackberries, the meringue confection balances out sweet and acidity in a most delectable way. In Cambodia, Kayser made a bread with chocolate and the famed local green peppercorns from Kampot.

Pavlova with blackberries and blueberries. (Courtesy of Maison Kayser)
Pavlova with blackberries and blueberries. (Courtesy of Maison Kayser)

At their heart, the confections are simple. Kayser doesn’t work with more than three main components in each pastry.

The work is seasonal: chocolate gets used more in the winter; fruit starts in the summer; fall sees apples. And of course there are the many happy occasions that mark the calendar.

For Valentine’s Day, he’s featuring two pains au chocolat joined together, one traditional, and the other with a fine crispy chocolate layer on top—perfect for sharing, of course ($4.25, available Feb 12 to 14); as well as a heart-shaped soft chocolate cake, with dark chocolate crémeux, black currant confit, and almond mousse ($25, available Feb. 12 to 15).

Two pains au chocolat joined together. (Courtesy of Maison Kayser)
Two pains au chocolat joined together. (Courtesy of Maison Kayser)

The baguettes—with pointy ends rather than the standard rounded ones—continue to make his fame. Their ends are pointy, rather than tapering in the usual oval shape. A few weeks ago, French Morning, a French news site, held a baguette competition with 15 contenders from the NYC area. The jury, including Ariane Daguin from D’Artagnan and André Soltner of the International Culinary Center, took part in a blind tasting. Kayser won for Best Baguette from the jury and from the site’s readers.

(Courtesy of Maison Kayser)
(Courtesy of Maison Kayser)

Open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Various locations. 

New Brooklyn Heights location:
57 Court St., Brooklyn