by Mabel Suen
Welcome to Sugar High, a series devoted solely to spotlighting the best ways to sate a sweet tooth in St. Louis. We'll sample the best the city has to offer at restaurants, bakeries and holes-in-the-wall, and provide some insight on how these confections are made along the way.
At Soulard Farmers' Market (730 Carroll Street; 314-622-4180), patrons can get a taste of Europe by way of Central Illinois. The decade old, Champaign-based Pekara Bakery arrived in St. Louis nearly two years ago and has shared its from-scratch products every Saturday since, including their highly-coveted croissants and Croi-Nuts.
"We fell in love with Soulard and its charms," says Sales Manager Robb Tobias. "Its French roots were a huge attraction for us. We felt we owed it to the market to do something that really captures the essence of its history."
Pekara specializes in an old-world European baking style, with twenty bakers working around the clock to hand-make everything from focaccia and loaves to macarons and pretzels. The self-described "clean-label" bakery features simple ingredients -- no preservatives or things you can't pronounce.
The bakery's croissants -- always some of the first products to sell out at the high-traffic stand -- go through a laborious process. A dough sheeter meticulously layers high-fat butter with a fermented, yeasted dough. The finished product is a croissant with flaky, dreamy texture.
Choose a plain option to get an unadulterated taste of this treat that's more neutral than sweet, or opt for the "Tiger Croissant" which gets a subtle addition of cocoa powder at the end of the layering process. A pain au chocolat ups the ante with two soft Belgian chocolate sticks rolled inside and a light dusting of powdered sugar on top. For something sweeter still, try a classic almond croissant.
"In France, croissants are day old by noon, so the French developed the almond croissant to give the high-labor products a better shelf life. You slice them open, slather almond paste on the inside, put it back together with simple syrup on top and re-bake it," Tobias says. "We don't ever have day-old, so we have to bake more croissants just to make them."
And while Pekara typically adheres to tradition, one new-world trend finds its way into the bakery case. Its Croi-Nuts utilize the same croissant dough, but go through a cutting and frying process to give it doughnut-like qualities. Look for these daring desserts in flavors such as chocolate, chocolate with bacon, maple, maple with bacon, lemon-curd and raspberry-jam.
Pekara Bakery is open at the Soulard Farmers' Market on Saturdays featuring around 70 of its 400 products from 7 a.m. until they sell out. Also look for Pekara at the Kirkwood Farmers' Market on Saturdays starting at 8 a.m., albeit with a smaller selection. For more information, check out the Pekara Bakery website.
Previously on Sugar High: - La Vallesana's Paletas - Nourish by Hollyberry's Chocolate-Chip Cookie and Cold Mug of Milk - Clementine's Liege Waffle Sundaes - Gus' Pretzels' Cinnamon-Sugar Pretzels - Fitz's Berry Pomegranate Soda - Smalcakes' Wedding Cake Cupcake - Pastries of Denmark's Petit Fours - Lucky Buddha's Five-Spice Crème Brûlée - Amy's Corner Bakeshop's Scones - Vincent Van Doughnut's "Mini Vinnies" - Piccione Pastry's Sfogliatella Riccia - The Feasting Fox's Warm Apple Strudel - I Scream Cake's "I Scream Sammys" - LuciAnna's Pastries' Chocolate-Mousse Cheesecake - Spoon Baking Company's Spoon Cookie - Insomnia Cookies' S'mores Deluxe Cookie - Living Room's Peanut-Butter Chocolate-Chip Cookie - Stimulus Baking Company's Pad-Thai Cupcake - La Bonne Bouchée's Strawberry-Mousseline Cake - Pie Oh My's Pumpkin-Maple Pecan Pie - Annie Moons' Banana-Split Muffins - Cyrano's Carrot Cake - Whitebox Eatery's Cheese Pastry - Comet Coffee's Mousse Cakes - Whisk's Apple-Cinnamon "Pop Tartlets" - The London Tea Room's Blueberry-Lemon Cake - Corner 17's Fluffy Ice - The Fountain on Locust's "Banana Bourbon" Sundae - Vinnie's Pinwheel Baklava - Red Fox Baking & Catering's Lemon Tart - Sugarfire Smokehouse's Crack Pie - Russell on Macklind's Coconut Cake - The Kitchen Sink's Sweet Potato Fries - Giovanni's Kitchen's Panna Cotta Trio - Crepes Etc.'s Crepe Cake - Cafe Ventana's Beignets - Frida's Raspberry-Chocolate Avocado Mousse - India Palace's Gulab Jamun - Melt's "Violet Beauregarde" Waffle - Brevan's Patisserie's "Brendan" - Winslow's Home's Chocolate Cake with Espresso Meringue - La Patisserie Chouquette's Eclair - Black Bear Bakery's Raspberry Oat Bar - Gelateria's London Fog Gelato - 4 Seasons Bakery's German Cheesecake - Libertine's "Candy Bar" - Cleveland-Heath's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie - Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks' Sticky Toffee Pudding