Raphaël's Bakery brings the flavors of Brittany to Greenwich

Owner Raphaël Dequeker btrings out a fresh tray of desserts beside his wife and business co-owner Charlotte Dequeker at the opening of Raphaël's Bakery in Greenwich. Located at 146 Mason St., the French Bakery features fine bread, patisserie, and espresso from the former head pastry chef at Valbella in Riverside.

Owner Raphaël Dequeker btrings out a fresh tray of desserts beside his wife and business co-owner Charlotte Dequeker at the opening of Raphaël's Bakery in Greenwich. Located at 146 Mason St., the French Bakery features fine bread, patisserie, and espresso from the former head pastry chef at Valbella in Riverside.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Raphaël’s Bakery has a napoleon to die for.

You walk in to buy a baguette and you walk out with two baguettes, two brioches, a few macarons and a napoleon. How could you be so tempted to ignore all your New Year’s resolutions to avoid bread and sweets? Of course, you are willing to share the bread with family and guests, but the napoleon? Ah, no, that’s treading on the secret cravings of your innermost gustatory soul.

But don’t blame yourself for veering off the path of no-fun diets. Blame Raphaël Dequeker. He’s the pâtissier who opened an eponymous bakery on Mason Street in Greenwich in late December. Neighbor to Doppio restaurant and Greenwich Flavor by Myrna's, it’s a small, spotless shop with Old World charm and charisma.

As the former pastry chef at Valbella restaurant in Riverside for 18 years — where the most requested dessert was his airy, intensely fragrant chocolate soufflé — and with a CV that boasts career stops at Ladurée in Paris and work with Alain Ducasse, Dequeker has an arsenal of experience and talent to corral for his temptations. There is seduction everywhere you look.

There’s Dequeker in an open kitchen (a rarity in bakeries), sliding logs of dough into the oven while his wife Charlotte boxes truffles for a customer. Kelian, their son, rings up an apple tart for a customer at the register.

Cream puffs are displayed at the opening of Raphaël's Bakery in Greenwich. Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Cream puffs are displayed at the opening of Raphaël's Bakery in Greenwich. Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

“People come in and they go ‘oh, wow,’” said Dequeker. “They have never seen a bakery where you can see us working and baking. In other bakeries, you don’t see nothing, you don’t smell something. Here you get the smell when you come in and you think it has got to be good. That’s the beauty of it.”

Dequeker grew up in a family that owned a bakery in Brittany, France, which is now closed. At 10, he began working with his father, arranging berries on cakes, fetching whatever his father needed, or doing chores in the shop. It’s not a life he wanted for his three sons.

“We didn’t have family time like regular people have,” Dequeker said. “I believe I needed some time with my parents and my sister and brother. I didn't want to give that to my kids, you know. Family time is a gift.”

A felicitous marriage of boulangerie (think that long, thin baguette), pâtisserie (that irresistible napoleon), and viennoiserie (choose brioche and croissants), Raphaël’s Bakery was an instant star on the town’s culinary hit parade.

The crisp crust on the baguette crackles when you gently squeeze it, its top caramelized brown and orange, with sharp ridges that form valleys across its length. The aroma is a chorus of tantalizing smells, and the taste is a symphony. Warm it up a bit to serve with dinner, slice for a sandwich, or spread with paté topped with a sliver of briny cornichon.

The naughty napoleon lures you into what may be a cardinal sin of indulgence. Voluptuous Chantilly cream with hints of vanilla and rum forms its heart, amid caramelized puff pastry and toasted almonds. In the display case, it sits alongside an éclair under its glass-smooth fondant coat of chocolate, above the pastel-colored meringue macarons that have the requisite snap when you bite into one.

And then — ooh, la la — there is kouign-amann, a specialty of Dequeker’s native Brittany. Made with a croissant-like dough, it is flaky and very rich, with butter and sugar at its core. The perfect breakfast pastry or afternoon snack, it’s an indulgent reward after scouting for a parking space (there is a municipal parking lot close by).

Raphaël's Bakery in Greenwich offers a variety of pastries.

Raphaël’s Bakery in Greenwich offers a variety of pastries.

Raphaël’s Bakery / Contributed photo

Dequeker’s day begins at 5 a.m. (4:30 a.m. on weekends). Every weekday, 120 baguettes (200 on the weekends) fly out the door. He goes through 800 pounds of flour a week and 55 pounds each day for the baguettes alone. Forget about asking how much butter he uses, though he will tell you that it’s a Vermont specialty boasting 85 to 86 percent fat. He stays one to two hours after closing to clean up and package up leftovers to donate to charity.

“It's insane,” Dequeker said. You catch a glimpse of his sense of humor from the opening page of his website: “One croissant a day keeps the doctor away, or something like that.”

All the pastries are created by Dequeker while you wait; the displays are but enticements to the real thing. The brioche is made fresh every day. So too are the croissants — faintly sweet with delicate swirls, flaky without becoming a crumbling disaster in your lap, as you grab a bite driving home with your treasure of sweets.

“People are very happy and coming back, and when you see that, that makes you very happy,” said Dequeker.

There’s another reason, other than bread and truffles, to visit: savory sandwiches. Dequeker is not all shy to tell you his favorite: smoked salmon on a croissant jostling some goat cheese and a bit of lemon juice in its composition.

“Divine,” said the passionate gourmet-baker. “It’s my favorite.”

Raphaël’s Bakery is located at 146 Mason Street in Greenwich. For more information, visit raphsbakery.com .

Rosemarie T. Anner is a freelance writer.