A Bakery Built on Butter and Hope
Esperance Bakery Keeps Things Simple and Serious
Cruising through Jenks America with a rumbling belly, a simple sign catches my eye:
“Croissants & Other Indulgences.”
My love for croissants cannot be overstated. I don’t hesitate to make a U-turn and navigate complicated construction barriers to find my way to the door of the bakery. It’s lunchtime and I’m hopeful they have sandwiches or something more substantial than sweet treats.
Esperance Bakery, on the site of a former Blockbuster, is located in a shopping center that’s dated enough to be considered retro. I’ve just come from a sprawling strip mall with high-end boutiques and, in comparison, this modest center feels understated and inviting.
Inside, the bakery is nothing if not simple: nondescript tables, a counter, a single display case. The pastries themselves do not vie for your attention. There are no colorful cupcakes, no mile-high meringue, no frosting, no sprinkles. With few exceptions, the menu revolves around laminated dough: the butter, dough, butter, dough layering that makes croissants.
The staff comes from behind the counter to review each menu item with me. An extensive list of daily selections is posted on the wall. There are no sandwiches but there are plenty of interesting savory options. After much deliberation, I select a croissant stuffed with chicken tikka masala. I never would have imagined two of my favorites (croissants and Indian cuisine) coming together in this form but the result is delicious and filling.
Behind the front counter is an open kitchen. From my seat in the corner I can watch Hope Alexander, the owner, rolling out dough and popping it into the oven. When she joins me at my table, she jokes that she’s going to start offering a workout class centered around rolling dough. Her arms have gotten stronger, she says, since she opened the bakery a year and a half ago.
Alexander’s journey to pastry chef and bakery owner began with tinkering in her home kitchen. In her spare time, she would practice making (and eating) croissants. They were so much better than any she could find in stores, she thought other people might appreciate high-quality, handmade croissants as well. She started with her own circle, feeding friends and family. Demand soon grew, her friends started putting in special requests and orders, and she outgrew her kitchen at home. She decided to make baking her full-time business. “I wanted to do something that I loved,” she says. “I know that sounds really cliché but I wanted to do something that made me happy. Feeding people makes me happy.”
At Esperance, everything is made from scratch and by hand. Organic ingredients are at the center of the kitchen. Nearly all the meats and eggs are sourced locally through the web-based platform Agruity. Bakery hours don’t allow Alexander to shop the farmers’ markets, but Agruity makes it easy to buy local.
A pastry chef ’s hours are long, starting as early as 2:30 in the morning. Bedtime is around 4:30pm. And small-business ownership can stretch a person thin, requiring the owner to wear every hat, not just the chef ’s hat. To make it work, you have to have a heart for it. “When I get to the point where I’m feeling really frustrated,” she says, “I think about what makes me happy and we make bread puddings and send them to DVIS or Palmer House or something like that.”
For customers needing a little ray of hope, the bakery keeps pocketsized words of wisdom next to the cash register. Rolled up like tiny scrolls, the quotes are bits of inspiration that came across Alexander’s path as she was planning the bakery. I open mine up to find a pearl from French cuisine goddess Julia Child:
“The only time to eat diet food is while the steak cooks.”
With the holidays approaching, I ask Alexander about her holiday menu. Will there be any special pies?
“No,” she answers, dryly. “No pies.”
Rather, the pre-order holiday menu features baklava, fruited Bundt cake, a yule log, cherry almond biscotti and a gluten-free Black Forest pavlova.
No pies, but no shortage of indulgences.
Esperance Bakery is located at 610 W. Main St., Jenks, OK. For more information visit EsperanceBakery.com.