Los Altos yummy chocolate croissants get kosher twist

The chocolate croissants at Springer Street Bakery in Los Altos are so flaky, so buttery, that they rival those in France.

At least that's what proprietor Brian Bacher's customers — some of them native Parisians — tell him.

But there's a significant difference between the boulangerie staple and the California confection: Springer Street's chocolate croissants are kosher.

South Bay residents no longer have to shlep to the East Bay to get their kosher baked goods. They can go closer to home, in the Rancho Shopping Center. The Los Altos bakery received kosher dairy certification by the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of San Francisco on May 1.

Bacher, who is not Jewish, said he decided to seek certification because he has several Jewish customers who had no area bakery where they could purchase their kosher products.

To make the kosher grade, he had to change a few ingredients he was previously using. Most of his dairy products were kosher, Bacher said, but he had to drop certain types of flours. And, bad news for asiago lovers, he had to stop using the Italian cheese entirely.

"My search was extensive," the 32-year-old baker said in a telephone interview, while he periodically checked his ovens. After calling multiple cheese manufacturers, Bacher said, "kosher asiago does not exist."

And then there is getting accustomed to the occasional spot check by the mashgiach, the rabbi or overseer who ensures that proper kosher standards are being followed. "The rabbi shows up when he wants to, unannounced," Bacher said.

Springer Street Bakery has been open for a year and a half. (Its predecessor, Rancho Bakery, also had kosher certification).

Although this is the first bakery Bacher has owned himself, one could say that baking is in his blood.

Both Bacher's great-grandfather and grandfather were bakers. And now, after skipping a generation — his father chose engineering instead — the Bachers are back in the baking business.

A native of Sunnyvale, Bacher has been baking since he was 18. A graduate of California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Bacher knew from the beginning his emphasis would be on baking.

Bacher describes his shop as a "full-service bakery," which offers fruit tarts, cakes, breads, rolls, cookies, scones and brioches, but "pastries are our primary focus."

He prides himself on the freshness of his ingredients. He uses no mixes and everything is made from scratch.

And he does almost everything by hand. There are only two pieces of machinery in Springer Street's kitchen: a large mixer and an automatic sheeter, which Bacher describes as a "big rolling pin, which gets the dough to the thickness you want."

With his new certification, Bacher is now ready to tackle the specialty-cakes market. He recently started making wedding cakes, offering such varieties as chocolate, butter cream, raspberry and lemon.

While he hasn't advertised with synagogues yet, caterers have started coming to him to provide the cakes for Jewish events.

And he's planning to start a pareve line of cakes as well. Springer Street Bakery has already been featuring a variety of Jewish products, including challah, and hamantaschen for Purim.

Pesach presented Bacher with a real challenge. He did not convert his kitchen into one that was strictly kosher, making his Passover products off limits to those who keep kosher; however, he did offer baked goods whose ingredients were in accordance with Passover restrictions. In addition to the old standards like coconut macaroons, Bacher came up with chocolate and caramel matzah brittle, and hazelnut meal thumbprints.

For Bacher, creating these baked goods for Jewish holidays and otherwise meant "just taking what I knew already, and saying some of this is really good, how can we modify it?"

One example was his upside-down apple cake, which was a flourless version of the French tarte tatin. "People raved about it," he said.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."