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A trio of neighborhood nooks in Reno-Sparks where one can find perfect pastries.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (all)
I’ve been in Reno about five years after stints in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and figure it’s about time to find the bakery in town that rivals Paris’ finest. Every city has one, but I admit I haven’t gone looking yet, partly because a trip to France had me long satiated and partly because I’m afraid it doesn’t exist here.
Motivated by a compelling desire for the best croissants, cakes, and pastries, I begin my search. I feel out of touch with this city, so I turn to the ultimate resource: my friends. A message on Facebook gets me a promising lead.
Like many bakeries this far west, Isabel’s Bakery is quite young—about six years old—but being family owned and run gives it some solidity. Located in a strip mall in north Sparks, this place is ready for the long haul.
Owner Debbie Brockhoff credits her success to keeping a high standard for the wares she sells. In her words, “If it’s not fresh, we don’t sell it.”
As I walk into her bakery, I’m greeted with a cozy atmosphere: tables placed for patrons to enjoy their treats as well as displays filled with beautifully decorated specialty and wedding cakes.
I’m not here for the wedding cakes, in spite of their beauty, though. I’m here for the other treats. I ask the employee at the counter what the most scrumptious item in the case is, but she can’t decide. “Everything is so good. You can’t really go wrong,” she says.
After a short battle between the Cream Cheese Brownie and a slice of Death by Chocolate Cake, the brownie finally wins out. How could it not? It’s huge, chocolately, and topped with both cream cheese and fudge icings. The brownie is decadent and rich, and each bite is laced with a smidge of guilt. Not enough to make me stop eating, though. My daughter goes for the Triple Chocolate Cherry Delight Cupcake, and I’m convinced that her choice is due to the large amounts of cream and the bright red cherry topping it.
Brockhoff and I have a nice conversation over my brownie, during which I get a chance to ask about the name of the bakery.
“Isabel’s, not Debbie’s?” I ask.
“No, Isabel was my aunt. She was very poor, but she had a big heart. She didn’t bake, but she taught me to have a good work ethic, and so this bakery is my homage to her.”
Looking around, I’m sure Isabel would be proud of her niece. Having tried Isabel’s, I’m heartened—the self-described homespun bakery definitely produces tasty and satisfying treats.
KRUMBLZ DELI BAKERY
A quick search on yelp.com helps me here. A place called Krumblz Deli Bakery in Reno comes up with four out of five stars, and I simply must find out what all the fuss is about.
The pastry chef, Eduardo Quevedo, got his start in town at the Siena Casino, which abruptly closed a couple years ago and reopened under new management in 2011. Quevedo and a friend, executive chef and co-owner Juan Villa, bootstrapped a chance at a place of their own, and Krumblz was born not much later. They’ve just passed their one-year mark successfully with many more on the horizon.
I arrive in the afternoon to a bare case and am informed that I should be lucky anything is left at all. Eager to get my hands on something, my heart tugs me toward the enormous homemade chocolate croissants that dominate what little is left in the case.
It comes apart in uneven, buttery flakes with chocolate sticking to my fingers, and the center has the perfect chewiness. I am smitten. I feel like a child caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Eduardo is my new best friend.
Quevedo says he’s always trying new things: “I’m inspired by magazines, cooking shows, and books. I challenge myself by taking classics and giving them a twist.”
He doesn’t have to twist my arm to come back. I see why locals come here. It’s comfortable, friendly, and situated in central Reno near Renown Regional Medical Center. It’s the perfect excuse to get me out of my house to meet my husband for lunch. Next time I come, I’m getting a made-to-order cannoli. Sadly, they were out today.
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this issue went to press, Krumblz Deli Bakery announced that it had closed its business.
FRANZ’S BACKSTUBE AUSTRIAN BAKERY CAFÉ
If Krumblz and Isabel’s are gems in this high-desert city, then Franz’s Backstube Austrian Bakery Café is the Holy Grail.
Franz Hauser opened his doors about nine years ago to the delight of many a pastryophile in the Truckee Meadows. And the addition in recent months of Don Holtzer as his partner continues to make Franz’s bakery one of the finest in the region. Holtzer apprenticed with Hauser about 30 years ago and had a varied and successful career across the country, including work at the Dunes in Las Vegas and the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C., where he was involved in President Obama’s Inaugural Ball.
I’m a little nervous coming here because my hopes are high, and they rise once I walk through the door. The case is filled with pecan and fruit tarts, pastries, quiche, and walnut croissants, among other things. The authentic cakes and pastries here will tempt even the most dedicated dieter.
But then who needs a diet when a slice of Princess Cake awaits? This signature cake is assembled with layers of love otherwise known as delicate, moist white cake, a thin layer of raspberry preserves, and pastry cream so light, creamy, and full of flavor it can only be compared with the culinary treats produced by the bar-raising patisseries of New York and Paris. A balance of flavor and texture is achieved with the final touch of thinly rolled frangipane colored a striking green and decorated with tiny budding, butter cream flowers. Absolutely delicious and worth coming back for. Not only that, but I’ve already promised multiple friends and family members that we’ll be going to Franz’s the next time they visit me.
While I’m swooning over the Princess Cake, I ask Holtzer what he has in store for the bakery’s future. He assures me that the success of Franz’s is Franz himself. Though Holtzer has worked in the most stressful, time-consuming, and demand-for-perfection areas of the business, he allows that Hauser demands more still. Holtzer has a vision of the bakery that involves more delicate sugar-work and artistry. He’d also like to break into the wedding industry here in town. And he’d like to add more complex creations to the case. But the heart of this bakery is what Hauser has built, and Holtzer is committed to that, for which I’m grateful.
Reasonably priced and nuzzled up to the foothills on the west side of town, Franz’s serves up the sort of pastries I had previously only dreamt about.
Recipe provided by Debbie Brockhoff at Isabel’s Bakery.
• 3/4 cups cooking oil
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 whole eggs
• 1 cup pumpkin
• 1 cup raisins (optional)
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. allspice
Preparation and Cooking:
Combine oil and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add eggs to oil/sugar mixture, mix again. Add all dry ingredients and mix again. Add pumpkin and raisin, and beat mixture thoroughly. Spoon the muffin batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake papers, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Brockhoff suggests topping the finished muffins with cream cheese frosting.
WALNUT-CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Recipe provided by Eduardo Quevedo at Krumblz Deli Bakery.
• 1 1/2 cups butter
• 7/8 cups brown sugar
• 3/8 cups granulated sugar
• 3 whole eggs
• 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup medium chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup vanilla pudding mix
• 1 3/8 cups all-purposeflour
• 1/2 tbsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Preparation and Cooking:
Combine room-temperature butter with brown and granulated sugars and salt and mix thoroughly. Mix in eggs one at a time to butter/sugar/salt combination. Add pudding mix, flour, baking soda, and vanilla extract and mix again. Add chocolate chips and walnuts, and blend until well mixed. Roll the cookie dough into one-inch -diameter balls and place on baking sheet approximately two inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.