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|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (May 2010)|
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Konditorei is the German word for a pâtisserie and confectionery shop. A Konditorei typically offers a wide variety of pastries and is like a little café. In Germany, Austria and Israel it is a very popular custom to go to a Konditorei to have a cake and some coffee or hot chocolate mid-afternoon. Cakes vary from cream cakes to apple strudel to petit fours. A similar culture is present in many north european countries, such as Sweden (called konditori or kafé), for instance.
Konditorei sell pastries. Regularly they also offer a selection of different coffees and soft drinks, and many even carry beer and spirits. The main difference to a restaurant (besides aspects of the assortment) is the business hours.
Business times are usually from morning to late afternoon (e.g., 9 a.m. to 6 pm) on working days and in the afternoon on Sundays. The recent tendency to stretch opening hours also takes place in this business, especially in downtowns and shopping malls. These shops are now a growing business, whilst small shops in remote areas are a dying one since the latter half of the 20th century.
A Konditorei puts emphasis on the artistic aspect of the trade and, unlike a bakery, does not produce breads. The craft developed when particular bakers specialised in the creation of sweet bread to which candied fruits and other sweet ingredients were added. The origin of the word Konditor (the Konditorei’s baker) stems from the Latin word candire, which stands for “candying of fruits”. Another derivation is lat. conditura, ae, f (condio) = to concoct (food), preservation (of fruits)
The profession of the Konditor developed from that of the baker. Once the bakers of medieval times (15th century) mastered the art of baking bread, some started to rarefy the dough with honey, dried fruits and spices. These specialists called themselves Lebküchler, Lebküchner or Lebzelter. They founded a guild in 1643 in the area in and around Nürnberg. At the same time, the Lebkuchen bakers ran a second trade using wax, a side product of honey: they became chandlers, supplying churches and private households with artistic candles, wax figures and pictures made of wax. They carved wooden molds themselves and used these to pour magnificent pictures made of wax. A few Konditoreien practised the sophisticated art of the chandlers until recent times. The Lebküchner were turned to confectioners later and finally became Konditoreien.
The maritime trade brought spices and sugar from the Orient to the famous harbour towns of Genoa and Venice. Although sugar had an immense appeal, only the rich were privileged to consume it. The profession of confectioner was related to that of the pharmacist because the trade with sugar was exclusive to pharmacists. The German word “Konfekt” (English: confection) to describe sweets stems from the language of the drug makers, which were also called confectionari.
In the 14th century, the Venetians introduced marzipan, a confection made from almonds, sugar and rose water, to central Europe. Marzipan was an ideal material for moulding magnificent pictures from, which were artistically painted with plant colouring and often decorated with gold leaf.
At the start of the 19th century, chocolate first made its way to Germany, after the ladies of the upper classes in Spain, Italy and France had long been used to a daily cup of hot chocolate. When the Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten managed to press out the cocoa mass, the additional ingredients cocoa butter and cocoa powder were created. The chocolate thinned with cocoa butter was used to pour a variety of figures and painting cakes with cocoa powder became popular. The trade of the “Chocolatier”, a Konditor specialised in working with chocolate, was born. Chocolate now played a major role in the Konditorei. A good example is the chocolate cake created by Franz Sacher, who was the chocolate cook for Klemens von Metternich in Vienna in 1832.
The abundance of sugar through the native sugar beet in the 19th century lead to the development of cakes and pastries, with focus taken off decorative art. Light sponge cakes, almond pastries, apple strudel or milk-cream strudel, Gugelhupf, and cream cakes were served with then modern drinks such as coffee, tea and chocolate.