The French art of patisserie

by Jesse Kiser

Ollie’s Bakery 300 S Marshall St. Winston-Salem 336.727.0404

Ifyou’re like me, most mornings begin with a short shower followed by adash out the door, one arm going in a jacket sleeve and a toothbrushhanging from your mouth. The morning meal, if you even have one,features a run through the drive-thru window for a mocha latté fromStarbucks or a sausage biscuit from McDonalds. As long as it’s hot,fast and cheap, most of us don’t care what the ingredients are. “Americans,we’ll eat anything,” says owner and chef of Ollie’s Bakery NancyRevzen. The French, she says, “[T]ook food to a pinnacle. Not to saythey were the only ones but they were one of the first.” For theFrench, according to Revzen, what goes into food is very important. Thefood and the atmosphere in which they eat are also taken intoconsideration. Ollie’s, a French bakery, is slower than the rest. Thebakery is a small, air-conditioned, historic building with nary adrive-thru window to be found. Ollie’s prides itself on adhering toauthentic French patisserie techniques. Revzen, lived in Europe for sixyears and purchased the bakery within a year of returning home. Thebakery has been around for eight years and Revzen has owned it for two.Ollie’s uses only hands and tries to include as many locally producedingredients as possible. Everything inside the building is baked freshby Revzen and her crew from midnight until the late morning. What doesnot get used that morning is sent to the local shelter. She wanted tobring authentic French pastry to the Triad, and she feels she is stilldoing this to the best of her power. The French don’t make doughand then bake it. Food for the French is engineered. “European styleconsist of very technical and difficult dough,” says Revzen. It isbirthed from a baker’s hard-working hands. French do not just makedough, they make masterpieces. Food for them is an art form. Thecroissant is a fine example of this. You enjoy bread by adding butterbut for the French they wanted to enjoy them together. Revzen says theytook something good and made it better by adding the butter into thedough and folding it over and over until just right. Oh, and onlybutter Revzen says nothing but real butter will work in her bakery. Nofrozen yokes or artificial anything. The croissant, possiblythe most commonly known piece of French baking, is the stuff of legend.As the story goes, during the late 17th century, an insomniacbreadmaker in Vienna or Hungary or someplace like that, heard strangerumbling noises. He investigated the noises and notified the townguard. It turned out the noises were from the Turks, making alate-night, sneak attack. The baker was made a hero, and in tribute tohis king (kings back then loved tributes, even from their heroes), hemade a small roll in the shape of a crescent, the symbol of Islam tocommemorate the event. The rest is breadmaking history. Either that orthe croissant is a recipe that came from Budapest in the Middle Ages. Ilike the heroic baker better. “Choosing a favorite pastry islike choosing a favorite song. It all depends on my mood,” Revzen says.Me too. On a sleepy Saturday morning, nothing else but a four-inchthick cinnamon roll will work for me. Hers is different from the usualAmerican style, which can be slathered with more sugary icing than abirthday cake. Well this French twist on an American favorite isdifferent; a smooth, well thought-out honey taste that treats the lipsas well as the tongue with its smooth texture. And yes this one I wasable to finish – slowly, and broken up into layers, but definitelyeaten up.