Listen carefully as you step into this bakery because the conversations you hear might make you feel like you’ve just been transported into a French boulangerie and pâtisserie. Owner and head baker Thierry Danvin is quick to greet his customers in his native French tongue (or any of the six other languages he has mastered), and his customers eagerly respond, even if some are just practicing their rusty high school French. Thankfully, all I needed to ask to go behind the kitchen door was “s’il vous plaît”.
Bakery: Brewster Pastry
Description: Tucked away in the Towne Centre Plaza Mall off of Route 22, Brewster Pastry is a sweet oasis offering an unbelievable array of pastries, cakes, cookies, breads, and more.
Three display cases, holding four tiers of tempting fresh baked goods, run the length of the left side of the store. There are shelves on the wall that display Danishes and breads like French baguettes (are there any other kind?), country rounds, and bastones. A few tables are squeezed in on the other side where you can relax with a cup of Green Mountain coffee and a Danish or two.
There are many lovely decorative touches throughout the bakery, like this print of the view of the Hotel Trocadero through the base of the Eiffel Tower.
Cuisine: Did I mention this is a French bakery? With a real deal authentic French baker? The baguettes and croissants top my list of favorites, but if you lean more to the sweet side, there’s lots to choose from like Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Mousse Cake, French Apple Pie, Éclairs, and Cream Puffs to name just a few from the extensive menu.
Owner/Baker: If I looked up French baker in the dictionary, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Brewster Pastry’s new logo with chef Thierry Danvin’s welcoming face smiling right back at me.
art imitating life?
Chef Thierry Danvin has a big personality and a charming French accent; a totally irresistible combination. If that’s not enough, he woos his customers with his sweet and savory offerings; so, how can they possibly not come back for more? What they might not realize though is that Thierry trained for years in his native France to receive the Certification for Professional Aptitude for boulangerie (breads) and pâtisserie (pastries and confections — that would be chocolate!). His first baking position was in a local boulangerie. Then, he landed a true dream job working for Club Méditerranée (more commonly known as Club Med), a French company with all-inclusive resorts around the world. Thierry worked in over 20 different clubs and became involved in training bakers when new clubs, like ones in Brazil and Australia, were being set up. He met his wife while they were both working at the club in Turks & Caicos; and when they eventually left Club Med, they settled in nearby Patterson.
Thierry worked in bakeries in Scarsdale and Port Washington before opening up Brewster Pastry five years ago doing what he loves most — baking! His ultimate goal is be fair to his customers and give them the highest quality baked goods, while trying his best to keep prices reasonable. With the rising costs of main ingredients like flour, butter, and sugar, this is a daily challenge. He lives locally with his family and is always involved in giving back to the community. His appreciation to his customers is apparent, and it’s no surprise that a morning “regular” may receive a complimentary cup of coffee as a “thank you”.
Pastry chef: I would describe pastry chef Efrain Soler as focused and meticulous. Spend some time with him and you will also find an easygoing guy who totally loves what he is doing.
Efrain’s career began at the pastry shop Le Delice Guy Pascal in NYC as a delivery driver and manager, until he approached the head pastry chef to try his hand in the kitchen. After that first position, he’s worked at Restaurant Associates in the city, Pastry Garden in Poughkeepsie, and Scarsdale Pastry, where he worked with Thierry before moving on to Bedford Village Pastry in Bedford. A chance meeting in Bedford brought these two artisans together once again, and the rest is fate as this duo have been working side by side since the opening of Brewster Pastry. Efrain breezes through his daily tasks at the bakery with ease, but admits the most difficult part of the job is the craziness of the Christmas high season where, along with tons of baked goods, there is non-stop assembly of gingerbread houses.
Staff: Charlene Williams is just one of the friendly faces at the counter and has been at Brewster Pastry for about six months. Aside from working the register, she also does the dipping, sprinkling, and displaying of the all the goodies — what fun!
Signature dish: You might think The Brewster Cake (chocolate cake, cheesecake, and layers of creamy chocolate ganache) would be the signature cake, but it’s the extremely seasonal Peach Cake that customers wait for each summer! Thierry goes through 5,000 pounds of Big Smile peaches from South Carolina (the only variety sweet enough for this cake) in the short 10 week season. This cake really does get everyone smiling with a pâte brisée bottom (buttery tart dough), moist (more butter!) pound cake topped with summer sweet fresh peaches and finished with an apricot glaze. All I can say is YUM. Don’t fret if you missed out on the peaches — Plum Cake is next!
Coolest appliance: The Seewer Rondo Pastry Sheeter gets my cool vote. Think of this as having ten of your friends equipped with rolling pins to quickly and efficiently roll pastry dough, like the delicate buttery croissant dough, back and forth to achieve the ultimate texture and thickness.
Kitchen: The entire rectangular kitchen space is home to a walk-in refrigerator with an equal-sized freezer in the back, two huge Hobart industrial mixers, two little brother Hobart mixers, and the baking behemoth — a DBE rotary rack oven. Multiple 25” x 18” trays can be loaded into this twirling rack insuring that all the breads, cakes, and pastries are evenly baked to perfection.
Every inch of this kitchen is utilized to the fullest extent — high nooks and low crannies line the kitchen where everything from 50 pound bags of sugar to cardboard cake boxes have a place. There are spacious workspaces on the three separate counters where Thierry can be portioning dough or using the pastry sheeter, and Efrain can be decorating cakes.
Chef’s personal favorite: After I asked this question, Thierry just threw his arms out and said “just look at me … I love everything!” His breakfast that morning was a grapefruit juice, a croissant, and an apple cider donut (and you can watch these donuts being made fresh every morning at the front of the store!).
Efrain’s favorite treat to make and eat is the éclairs made with a pâte à choux light pastry dough and filled with the traditional French pastry crème (my own favorite sweet indulgence!).
Most complicated: Thierry doesn’t consider any item in the store very difficult, but because I’ve witnessed the croissant making process, I might have to respectfully disagree. Although the croissants seem to start out with a simple bread dough, it’s the time involved proofing, folding in layers and layers of butter, resting some more, rolling out, cutting, shaping, proofing some more and finally, a quick egg wash before being baked to golden flakey goodness (whew!).
Secret ingredient: I know I’m stretching this as an ingredient, but the scale (totally old school — neither digital or dial) is the unsung hero in this kitchen used for the precise measurements necessary to produce all these delicious baked goodies.
Best advice: Thierry shared that the best piece of advice he received was from friend and colleague, chef Jacques LeGulaf (they worked together in Port Washington). He gave Thierry a “list of rules” that is posted in his office to this day which has guided him in making his new business venture a success. One rule on the list that was deliciously accomplished: Taking classic, and at times complicated, French pastries and turning them into American treats. Chef LeGulaf gave Thierry a gift that he holds near and dear to his heart — a pastry spatula. Although this spatula may seem run of the mill ordinary, it was bestowed on Thierry as a high compliment for his professional accomplishments and remains a symbol of pride and honor to him.
Favorite kitchen gadget: Efrain’s “baby” is his metal pastry spatula. What goes around comes around, as this French spatula was given to him by Thierry and he considers it a constant reminder that he has reached a pinnacle in his career. What tasks does he use it for? Well, it’s not a one trick pony, as this is THE tool for covering cakes with icing, also known as masking, or for making decorative chocolate fans, just to name a few applications.
What’s cooking in the kitchen now: When I arrived at the bakery at 8 am, the kitchen was in full swing. Thierry had just cooked up sausage meat for the sausage and mozzarella bread he sells at the Brewster Farmers’ Market (at the intersection of Main Street and Peaceable Hill Road) on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm. Olive bread, country round bread, and walnut raisin bread was also on his to-do list. Since these all begin with the same dough, a mega batch was mixed up and portioned.
Next, I helped to slice up loads of ripe strawberries. They were spread between layers of sponge cake (genoise), but not before the layers were generously sprinkled with a mixture of simple syrup (sugar and water) and kirsch (cherry liquor). Three layers of cake, strawberries, and fresh whipped cream later, we had a Strawberry Shortcake large enough to feed a small army or just a big party!
Efrain was working on the Coconut Cake, layering rectangles of sponge cake with coconut mousse and covering it all with buttercream icing and shredded coconut. But here’s the surprise — on the bottom is a thin layer of white chocolate.
My main task for the day was helping to make the quiches: ham, onion, and Swiss cheese (quiche Lorraine) and spinach and cheddar cheese. The Kitchen Aid grater attachment made quick work of the blocks of Swiss cheese.
Then, I combined eggs, cream, and milk to make the custard to fill the quiche shells.
We made trays and trays of mini-quiches ready to pop into the oven. They are not only sold at the bakery but are a popular item at the Brewster farmers’ market.
Best part was I got to take some of the custard mix home to make my own quiche for dinner. Thanks Thierry!
Music: Satellite radio was tuned to the 90’s music station, and we listened to lots of rock as we worked.
My random insights: Can I borrow a cup of sugar and butter? No problem! Here’s what’s in the pantry:
26 boxes of butter at 36 lbs each = 936 lbs of butter
16 bags of sugar at 50 lbs each = 800 lbs of sugar
Want to spend your own day in the kitchen with chefs Thierry and Efrain? Brewster Pastry holds baking and cake decorating classes and also does birthday parties (just give them a call).
This sentiment on Thierry’s new logo says it all:
“Everything you want, we got it …
… if we don’t have it, we’ll make it!”
Details: Brewster Pastry, 1620 Route 22 (Towne Centre), Brewster. 845.278.2555. Brewster Pastry is open 7 days a week. Monday, 8 am to 4 pm, Tuesday thru Friday, 8 am to 7 pm, Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, 8 am to 4 pm.
Patrice Costa is a passionate foodie who is on a personal culinary mission to learn it all from local chefs. She looks forward to sharing her experiences as she goes behind the kitchen door in some of her favorite restaurant kitchens. When not on foodie assignments, come visit her every Saturday at the Pleasantville Farmers’ Market where she will be in the Ladle of Love food truck whipping up yummy & healthy Love Potion Smoothies.