It’s 9:45 on a Saturday morning. While the rest of Dublin is still asleep or comfy in their homes, a line twenty-strong hugs the plaster siding of the Fumbally Stables market, waiting until the doors open at 10. Behind me in line, two young girls who can’t be older than ten poke each other, while an older girl with them talks on the phone. The heavy, salty air whispers of impending rain and I grimace at the clouds gathering overhead.
Finally, the doors to the market open and the line surges forward. While the weekly market features seasonal vegetables, a cult-favorite Irish sauce brand, and more, we all risk the rain for the pastries from Scéal Bakery.
From Our Shop
The Fumbally Stables, a buzzing food and community complex, was built around 1750. It sits in Dublin’s Liberties district—home to Guinness beer and Jameson whisky—also the trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood where I lived during my term abroad studying at Trinity College. Prior to arriving, I’d scoured Instagram in search of can’t-miss food and drink options for my time there, and thankfully came upon Scéal Bakery. I couldn’t get a particular photo—one of a cross-sectioned croissant and its soft latticed interior—out of my head.
After a bit more digging, I found that partners Shane Palmer and Charlotte Leonard Kane started Scéal (meaning “story” in the Irish language) in 2016 after working in San Francisco. Charlotte, notably, learned her craft at Craftsman and Wolves, of heavenly scotch egg muffin and matcha snickerdoodle fame. To sweeten the intrigue, I soon learned that at that point, Scéal bakery only sold at two markets a week, with a few select items showing up at the Fumbally Cafe next door, on Thursdays and Fridays—no storefront of its own, no distribution in between. It was then or never.
My third Saturday in Dublin, I tugged a few friends along to try out the place. We arrived at 10:30 and Scéal had already sold out of croissants. Feeling the pressure of the line behind us, we each pointed at a few pastries (I will admit to buying three), then sat outside to enjoy.
The first one I tried was a kimchi-cheddar bearclaw, filled with a tangy, sharp Mount Leinster Irish cheddar and a housemade kimchi, made with in-season vegetables from the local McNally Family Farm. Each bearclaw wears a crackling cheddar toupee, like a crystallized spiderweb. Inside, the cheese melts to coat each piece of kimchi without sogging the pastry, and spice and tang meld seamlessly.
What makes this bearclaw sublime, though, is the pastry. Looking at the specimen from the side is like looking at a striated slab of sedimentary rock, layer upon layer stacking to create space for the kimchi and cheese. Each finger of the claw provides another surface for the oven to crisp and for my teeth to crunch. The dough rises for at least thirty-four hours, then gets stuffed with cheese and kimchi, glazed with egg wash and more cheese, then baked. And fresh Irish butter, a standard in Scéal’s treats, gives the bearclaw an unmistakable depth of flavor.
I could go on about the bearclaw, but that would be a disservice to Scéal’s other stellar offerings, ranging from sweet to savory. Another favorite worth mentioning is a curious coffee–Jerusalem artichoke “cruffin,” a crème-filled,muffin-shaped croissant, made again with their incredible croissant dough and coated in sugar. The artichoke-infused filling, which squeezed out of the center of the cruffin, was entirely unexpected, especially paired with an espresso dust on top. Tempered with a hint of sweetness, the final cruffin was savory and rich from the Jerusalem artichoke, toasty and bitter from the coffee, and ever so slightly slightly sweet.
I’ve also been known to savor their morning buns, another laminated pastry, crunchy on the outside and coated in cinnamon-orange sugar. There is no better breakfast than a Scéal morning bun dipped in a milky coffee—for me, a flat white—to bring out the bun’s subtle orange flavor.
And it couldn’t go without saying that Scéal also specializes in a fresh sourdough—tangy, chewy, and bouncy, with a crackling exterior. Their slow-fermented natural levain starter culture mixes with different types of flour depending on the loaf: some with wheat flour, some with flour ground from local grains (spelt, purple wheat, and einkorn, to name a few). The loaves are shaped by hand, allowing for a superior crunchy exterior and soft, fluffy interior. Scéal, never satisfied with basic, also does a rotating market loaf; popped amaranth, toasted walnut, and olive were a few flavors on offer when I was there.
Throughout my stay in Ireland, I bought loaves at a time, sliced them, then popped in the freezer, ready to enjoy anytime. My favorite of these is the classic Irish Heritage Grain, made with local flour, rich and hearty, perfect toasted with Kerrygold and a smear of orange marmalade. Like their pastries, quality, local ingredients and flawless technique combine to make this some of the tastiest sourdough I’ve ever tried.
So while traveling is off the table for the moment, daydreams of this pastry allow me to travel back to Dublin in my mind. But if you live in Dublin now, or happen to find yourself there in the near future, be sure to set your alarm early on Saturday morning. The pilgrimage out to the Fumbally Stables—whether for a kimchi and cheddar bearclaw, loaf of sourdough, or both—is well worth it.
Due to COVID-19, the bakery has suspended its market stall operations for the time being, and is selling its breads, pastries, and other pantry items for online purchase and local pick-up. Learn more about the bakery’s click-and-collect system on its website.
Have you ever been to Fumbally Stables or Scéal Bakery? Let us know your favorite pastry in the comments.