Postimees summoned foreigners in Estonia – from lands and nations where the custom is unheard-of – to assess the traditional «vastlakukkel».
The testers were a group of Estonian language students frequenting the Kamahouse restaurant-art hub in Tallinn. They were: Emilia Pawłusz (27, from Poland, in Estonia for around a year) and New-Zealander Joseph Sturm (23, one year in Estonia), as well as the English writer Tim Heath (35, in Estonia for three years) and Simona Šiūšytė (27, also three years in Estonia), a lady from Lithuania. In the group were also Rob Walters (49, England) – a guest of Tim – and an Irish waitress at Kamahouse.
What they were tasked to do was evaluate 12 different vastlakukkels. These included the most traditional ones – with white bread and whipped cream – and some really brave innovative buns.
With the tune of upbeat Latin music on the background, the six of them set to work. Before the vastlakukkels were cut to smaller pieces – to spare the testers from eating 12 whole buns – the folks were able to go around the table to get a good look of them and first evaluate their appearance.
Purely by the appearance, the guests were greatly intrigued by vastlakukkels of Gustav Cafe, Ristikheina Cafe, Gourmet Club, the bakery Pagar Võtaks, confectioner Heidi Park, and of Selver.
Regarding the buckwheat vastlakukkel by Pagar Võtaks – they thought this to be made of chocolate. With the peach vastlakukkel by Heidi Park, the inspectors had difficulty detecting the fruit – mango and pineapple were mostly suggested. Nobody guessed that it was the peach. However, the testers liked that it had a fruit inside.
Several times, also, the caramel decoration of Kamahouse’s vastlakukkel found a lot of praise, as well as the cowberries on the cream. One said the vastlakukkel in question was a break from a tradition and for another it reminded of Christmas.
The severest judgement was rendered regarding the appearance of the cream in cowberry vastlakukkel by Pagaripoisid. For some it looked purple, while to the others pink. Still to many it was repugnant. However, there were those in whose mind it stirred curiosity – how might it taste like? One suggested that this must be a strawberry bun.
The buns that were judged as plain or outright boring by appearance were: the traditional Pagaripoisid vastlakukkel, and those of Vesivärava Cafe, Selver and marzipan bun by Pagar Võtaks.
When they got to tasting them, it turned out that in some cases the appearance were deceptive: in some cases you didn't get what you saw. Some vastlakukkels most certainly surprised the testers and both – in a good and a bad way.
What they liked the most were the soft and tender ones with almond flakes. With this, Gustav Cafe and Gourmet Club buns scored points. «Almonds is a good extra,» noted one tester. What they also considered pleasant were the buns by Ristikheina Cafe, Selver and the Heidi Park bun with nut cream.
The marzipan vastlakukkel by Pagar Võtaks, however, proved controversial. One said it was good, but not very memorable. Another noted it was a bun with some «secret ingredient» that he would like to know.
Assessments greatly clashed, also, regarding the Selver vastlakukkel. Some liked it a lot, but one was highly critical: «I could never finish it, ever.»
In the realm of taste, the Pagaripoisid cowberry bun again met the most criticism. One put it plain: «Excuse me, but I absolutely dislike the cream – it tastes so artificial.» Two people did not like the bread part of the bun. However, there was one tester, who claimed to like the taste of slightly sour cream.
While the appearance of Pagar Võtaks buckwheat bun caused quite a stir, the taste thereof was not a favourite at all. While all admitted it was the healthiest buns of them all, it was described as too dry and tasteless.«Considering the looks, the taste proved an absolute disappointment,» blurted a guest.
On the 1–10 scale, most of the group people placed the majority of the vastlakukkels in the six to nine slot. The only ten-pointer proved to be marzipan bun by Pagar Võtaks – by one taster. Meanwhile, buns totally disliked were boldly deprived of points – thus, the Pagar Võtaks buckwheat bun got only two points by one, and the same company’s marzipan one mere three. Only four points were awarded to the Selver vastlakukkel by another taster.
The best tally was pocketed by Gustav Cafe vastlakukkel – 7.9 points. Second place – the silver medal – was shared by equal 7.5 points Gourmet Club vastlakukkel (with cherry jam and almond chips) and Kamahouse kama bun.
Great vastlakukkel test
Price (€ a piece)
Gustav Cafe vastlakukkel*
Gourmet Club kukkel (cherry jam, almond flakes)*
«Jam and cream go wonderfully together, the bun is a bit chewy.»
Tallinn, Haapsalu, Keila, Pärnu, ferries, Rakvere, Rapla, Tartu, Saaremaa
«The bun is a bit chewy, but I like the kama taste.»
«Very tasty, but nothing to stir the excitement.»
Ristikheina Cafe vastlakukkel*
(Facebook fan page)
«I like the sweet-sour jam, the bun is a bit chewy.»
Heidi Park vastlakukkel with peach*
«Not too sweet – I’d agree to eat two in a row.»
Bakery Pagar Võtaks vastlakukkel with marzipan*
«There’s some «secret ingredient» here which really works.»
Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi
Pagaripoisid cowberry- vastlakukkel*
«I don’t like the cream at all – it tastes so artificial.»
Heidi Park’s vastlakukkel
With nut cream*
«Nut cream – no!»
«Some added flavour might make it more memorable.»
Selver’s vastlakukkel with whipped cream and jam*
«Something is wrong here – the jam just doesn’t fit.»
Bakery Pagar Võtaks buckwheat bun with whipped cream*
«A bit too dry, but the tastes are in balance.»
Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi
* with natural whipped cream
Source: Postimees, bakers and their websites