SOMETIMES, going to the source of anything is dangerous. The reality rarely matches the expectation. Years ago in Paris, I decided to visit the site depicted in the French painting by artist Georges Seurat, La Grande Jatte. The painting (circa 1884-86) transports you to an idyllic scene of people lounging on the grass, couples strolling arm-in-arm and gazing at a pond. The world in repose is frozen in a sun-streaked Eden. My journey was planned days in advance with maps and a bus schedule. Time was allotted for getting lost and a nice lunch was packed to enhance what would be a glorious experience. After a boring trip plus a wrong turn, I arrived. But there wasn't a speck of green. Nor were there any contemporary versions of ladies with parasols or caring gents. Instead of a monkey with a curlicue tail, a band of mangey dogs snarled at my every move. The island of Grand Jatte, in the suburbs of Paris, was a cemetery of broken cars and desolate ware-houses. Not only did my lunch taste rotten, but it rained buckets. Go to the source? Never again. But memory is selective. Decades later, a recent trip to Germany brought me very close to another source. This time, I was a detour away from Alsace, where kugelhopf, a favourite baked food, originated. Nicknamed the brioche of Alsace, this yeast-raised cake is the manna locals devour at breakfast or during coffee breaks. Its fine texture is usually studded with rum-soaked currants; its crown, embedded with toasted almonds. A slightly crisp surface is ideal and, traditionalists advise, the sticky, yolk-enriched batter must be baked in a ceramic fluted mould, preferred over metal for its even heat distribution. Eaten warm, even without jam or butter, kugelhopf is sheer comfort food. In Hong Kong, several hotel bakeries, such as the Holiday Inn Golden Mile, the Furama and the Island Shangri-La, make kugelhopf and buttery cakes in a similar shape. Most are sweeter than the classic, and seemingly intended for afternoon tea or dessert. Variations here include one filled with fruit and vanilla cream, another marbled with chocolate and poppyseed. I decided to hunt for the master kugelhopf-maker. It began, and ended, in Colmar, the capital city. After inquiries at the station, a cafe, a bakery and the tourist office, the name Daniel Helmstetter kept popping up. Before a hotel room was found, I plunged into my mission. His bakery, the locals pointed out, was just across from the cathedral. You can't miss the half-timbered facade with the family name on the window. Since Colmar has a few churches and twisted paths, the hunt took an eternity. Then my eye caught the name peeping over a rainbow of cafe umbrellas and the wrought-iron sign over the door, a pretzel, the baker's symbol. Within minutes of asking for him, a small, bespectacled man in white glided from behind the sales counter. He appeared dwarfed by shelves of baguettes, arranged like toy soldiers, and the baskets spilling with rolls and croissants and loaves in every shape and texture. A signature loaf, a multi-grain whole wheat, bearing the initials DH on the top. With a curious smile, he dismissed my linguistic attempt. ''It's OK. I speak a little English.'' The 55-year-old native of Colmar has been at the helm of his great-grandfather's bakery, one that dates back to 1776. He is assisted by his 27-year-old son, Frederic. In the retail shop is his daughter-in-law, Lea, 25, and overseeing the kitchen of the tea-room is Marguerite, his wife. Six days a week, father and son with three bakers, make 20 varieties of bread (about 1,000 hand-made loaves) and 30 kugelhopfs in two sizes. Orders for the cake double on Friday and Saturday because the shop is closed on Sunday. The recipe hasn't varied for generations. ''The secret [of the fine texture] is good yeast, eggs, just a little sugar and two separate risings. One comes after the yeast-flour-liquid is mixed. The other, after the addition of eggs and rum-soaked raisins. As his father talked, Frederic greased the 10-year-old moulds, and lined each bottom with slivered almonds. On occasion, customers ask for a ''salty'' kugelhopf, made with minced ham or grated cheese and herbs. Locals prefer that or onion tart with wine. When Mr Helmstetter learned that the kugelhopfs in Hong Kong were marbled with chocolate or poppyseed, he winced. ''Sounds American. They're crazy about chocolate. But the poppyseed one. Sounds good. ''In Alsace, we don't like them too sweet because we eat them with preserves.'' His skill and devotion to his art earned him celebrity status plus a dining room wall plastered with certificates, diplomas and framed ribbons. Last year, he was voted the best baker in Alsace. As president of the region's association of bakers, he doesn't fear the competition. ''I know all 130 of them.'' His reputation begets invitations to Paris, Chicago and Tokyo to demonstrate Alsatian specialities. Next year, Budapest. ''In Tokyo, the department store gave me four assistants. And in the two weeks, they learned so well, that now they do my bread without me.'' When asked if I could watch how kugelhopf was made, he agreed. ''Come at 6 am.'' The cobbled streets were deserted; the fountains, mute. But the bakeshop hummed. Crates of breads cluttered the corridor, waiting for delivery. Trays of croissants were pulled from the oven as a pot of industrial-strength coffee was poured for the family. Between risings and baking, Daniel offered a quick visit of his colleagues' kitchens. The first stop, the pretzel-maker. ''He's the best,'' he announced, scooping up a salty fistful from the cooling rack. Next stop, Richon, the chocolatier. The jolly man doled out pieces of chocolates - brandy-filled, nut-filled, and nougat - as the two whispered about last evening's tragedy, a suicide. Between the butter-rich croissants, the jolt of caffeine, the salty hit, and too much chocolate too early, my head spun. It wasn't even 7am yet. By our return, the kugelhopfs were moulded and ready for inhaling. There was only time left for a photo and handshakes. Next time, instead of drooling or being polite, I'll ask for a piece of the cake that drove me to the source in the first place.