| Co-owners Anne Fletcher and Spencer Budros. |
The Italian meringue on the chiboust dessert is browned with the brûlée torch just before it is boxed. Caramelized pineapple bay leaf vanilla bean éclairs are sliced and filled on the spot.
These last minute additions may add to service time, but they are necessary to maintain the integrity of the flavors and prevent sogginess, says Pastry Chef Spencer Budros, who owns the 2,300-sq.-ft. dessert-only bakery with his sister, Anne Fletcher, a former financial advisor.
In line with Pistachio’s attention to detail, just about every component of the bakery’s 60 varieties of cakes, cookies, tarts, tortes and other sweets is made from scratch. Individual flavors are key to the concept of this seasonal ingredient-driven operation. For example, no two Pistachio pastries use the same kind of chocolate. Intensely bittersweet guanaja is used in the passion fruit cream-filled layered torte, spicy Mexican Ibarra in the “Fudgie” cookie and single estate Tanzanie in the cocoa pod-shaped petit pastry spiked with Grand Marnier.
| With such a wide array of products available, Pistachio has established distinct product categories. This caramel chocolate peanut butter crunch is a petit pastry, selling for $4 |
The constantly evolving collection is the result of collaboration among the company’s three executive level pastry chefs. When Budros left his pastry kitchen position at a major Scottsdale, Ariz. resort two years ago to open Pistachio, husband and wife colleagues John and Katie Begalla came with him.
Fletcher runs the business side of the half-a-million-dollar operation, situated in the Short North downtown neighborhood that is undergoing urban revitalization. Short North has become home to numerous art galleries and boutique shops. Pistachio, located in a warehouse that was scheduled for demolition, has become a destination spot for fine-tuned taste buds from all over the Columbus metropolitan area.
About one-half of the menu items are core “must-haves,” including lemon pistachio macaroons, pistachio dacquoise, and pistachio mascarpone cheesecake, all of which feature the bakery’s namesake nut. Almond pithivier, a classic French cake with a flaky pastry crust and almond filling traditionally served on holidays, is a year-round favorite.
| Products are garnished to order in full view of customers in the exhibition kitchen. |
Cannelés, which are tea cakes made with infused milk batter (mace was a recent flavor choice) and baked in individual moulds lined with clarified butter and bee’s wax, are showcased under a clear glass dome. Making these bite-size, not-too-sweet treats is a three-day process, but it is the type of item that sets the bakery apart.
Not every innovation that comes from the creative collaboration at Pistachio makes it onto the menu, and not everything on the menu finds its way into customers’ hearts, Budros readily admits. When a torte made from parsnips failed to garner a following, the team switched the main ingredient to a more familiar root vegetable, carrot. However, even the revamped version is a twist on the classic, made with whole wheat flour for “added dimension and heartiness,” he explains.
Red beets didn’t quite make it either, even though they were combined with chocolate and griottes (small French sour cherries packed in kirsch brandy) in a recently offered loaf. Not at all disheartened, Budros, Fletcher and company are planning to replace it with a double chocolate loaf with zucchini jam.
“Our goal is to inspire people to think differently about dessert in terms of ingredients, sizes and flavors,” he says. “Instead of a slice of cake or pie, we’ll encourage our customers to try a three-bite Parisian macaroon, cassis ganache torte or dulce de leche mille feuille, which by the way, evolved from our original Napoleon.”
Customers looking for an 8-in. cheesecake won’t find one at Pistachio. According to Budros, the formula the bakery favors yields a product that “wouldn’t slice very nicely for our customers at home.”
Instead aficionados can satisfy their cravings with individually portioned cheesecakes in varieties such as caramelized banana rum, roasted berry (IQF berries roasted with a little bit of sugar to bring out their natural sweetness) with blue corn crust or liqueur-laced Keoke coffee, all of which are baked in silicone moulds.
| The staff helps customers pair their dessert selections with dessert wines, which the bakery sells by the bottle. |
Pricing such a wide array of individual items could have been the source of constant headaches for the Pistachio staff. To simplify the process, the bakery has created flat price point categories, each of which is based on an average 20 percent to 25 percent food cost.
For example, Belgian chocolate brownies, butterscotch coconut macadamia nut squares (Pistachio’s elegant take on the traditional layered cookie bar) and the signature éclair are grouped under the category of “Classics” and sell for $2 apiece. Individual cheesecakes are priced at $4, as are the “Petit Pastries,” which can range from the mini Moscato bombe to the cherry thyme ricotta tartlette.
“We make a little more on some items, a little less on others, but in the end, it all works very well,” says Budros.
For those who have their heart set on purchasing a full-size confection, Pistachio offers four-layer cakes and dacquoise up to 16 ins. The delicate almond pithivier is only available as a whole cake as are the vanilla bean “orchid,” whole wheat carrot and lemon meringue tortes. Two particularly popular items, the gunaja passion fruit and semisweet Moscato bombe, are available in full and individual sizes.
Terrines ($20 for a 14-oz. dessert that serves between four to six people) in varieties such as milk chocolate caramel with fleur de sel (sea salt) or white chocolate passion fruit with raspberry are stellar sellers, says Budros.
“They’re easy for customers to slice and plate at home,” he explains.
These dense delights are profitable, too. One sheet pan yields 24 terrines.
Given three-days notice (one week for 16 ins.), the Pistachio team also will create custom celebration cakes with a variety of layer, filling and finish flavor choices. Prices (before special decorations) start at $48 for an 8-in. cake and up to $116 for 16 ins.
The bakery also accepts a maximum of two wedding cakes per weekend. Prices begin at $5 per slice.
With the pastries in the display case for show and not for sale, only about 10 of the most delicate items, such as the éclairs and mille feuilles, must be replaced on a daily basis.
“We never have to worry about crumbs, spills or half-filled shelves,” Budros says. “Our case looks as full and fresh for our last customers of the day as it does for the first.”
Essential equipment in a tight space
Three executive-level chefs working in one 1,500-sq.-ft. production area to create an ever-changing menu of 60 desserts doesn’t leave a lot of extra elbow room, let alone space for an array of fancy equipment. But, at Pistachio-A Sweet Kitchen, an upscale bakery in Columbus, Ohio, a tried-and-true system allows the chefs to stretch their imaginations without getting into a work-stifling squeeze.
According to Co-Owner Spencer Budros, the equipment workhorses in the Pistachio kitchen are the sheeter, steam kettle and two-burner hot top. The sheeter allows the bakery’s Executive Chef John Begalla to continually experiment with puff pastry, adding lavender and orange zest for one creation (“just enough lavender for a tinge of purple and floral fragrance without giving it a soapy taste,” he explains) and chocolate for another.
Begalla likes to add his herbs and spices (“fresh whenever possible,” he says) and chocolate to both the dough and butter layers of his puff pastry for greater flavor intensity. He is currently working with an “inverted puff,” with the dough in the center and butter on the outside, to develop a “crispier, shorter product with bigger flakes and a caramelized exterior.”
Pistachio’s steam kettle is the kitchen’s appliance of choice for making fresh pastry creams, glazes and jams, such as the pineapple bay leaf jam that fills the éclairs. The two-burner hot top takes up much less room than a range and is just as effective for getting the job done when it comes to melting butter or chocolate and making caramel, Budros says.
Pistachio...at a glance
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Founded: August 2004
Primary business: retail
Web site: www.pistachiosweets.com
Number of stores: 1
Market served: Columbus metro area
Bakery management: Spencer Budros, partner/certified pastry chef; Anne Fletcher, partner/manager; John and Katie Begalla, pastry chefs
Bakery size: 2,300 sq. ft. (1,500 sq. ft. for production)
Production method: scratch
Product line: Parisian-style macaroons; individual pastries and tea cakes; cookies; whole specialty cakes, tortes and terrines; biscotti
Annual sales: $500,000
Major equipment: vertical mixers, sheeter, deck oven, convection oven, steam kettle, hot top
Bakery supply distributors: Euro USA, Dawn, Krema Nut, Happy Chicken/Merry Milkmaid, Albert Uster, Pennzey’s, Chef’s Garden, Earthy Delights
Pistachio...a sampling of prices
Belgian chocolate brownie, 2.25 ozs. $2
Mini cassis ganache torte, 2.5 ozs. $3
Dulce de leche mille feuille, 3 ozs. $3
Grand Marnier Tanzanie cocoa pod, 1.5 ozs. $4
Tea cookies, 2 ozs. $1
Biscotti, 1.5 ozs. $1
Macaroons, 1 oz. $1
Apple rhubarb dumpling, 2.75 ozs. $4
Cherry thyme ricotta tartlette, 4 ozs. $4
Yuzu chiboust, 2.5 ozs. $5
Caramelized banana rum cheesecake, 2 ozs. $4
Sour cream cinnamon peach loaf, 38 ozs. $15
Meyer lemon meringue torte, 18 ozs. $20
Whole wheat carrot torte, 30 ozs. $20
Pistachio dacquoise, 44 ozs. $35