By Jasmine Jones
This story was first published as “Community Cookbook: Pat’s Pastries recreates nostalgic small-town bakery experience in the August 2023 issue of The Best Years.
Pat Schaaf says when you make pastries from scratch, they will never be perfect. She says you could roll the dough out precisely, measure everything and use a special cutter to make even portions, but the pastries will still be slightly different shapes and sizes. It’s one of the things she loves about making pastries: They’re all unique.
Schaaf starts baking at 2 a.m. every morning to give herself time to mix the dough, let it rise, roll it out and let it rise again. Schaaf does it because she loves seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they walk into her bakery, Pat’s Pastries in Ste. Genevieve, Mo.
“People come in and say they appreciate you. [They say] thank you for being here,” Schaaf says. “That makes your day. … Some of the [customers] I’ve really gotten to know well, I’ll pick on them, and they’ll pick back. Sometimes, I think they come in just so I can give them a hard time about something. It’s great.”
Schaaf grew up on a farm in Weingarten, Mo., with her two brothers and one sister. When she was 9 years old, Schaaf says her father put her on a tractor and said, “Go!” Once she learned how to work on the farm and cook, Schaaf says her parents let her do everything. That’s when Schaaf first remembers baking. Her love for pastries and cooking grew when she started her own family with her husband, Robert Schaaf.
The couple had six children. Two of Schaaf’s sons, Bryan and Jimmy, work with her at Pat’s Pastries. Her other children might step in on the weekends to bake and decorate cakes, make batches of cinnamon rolls or deliver to-go meals during Ste. Genevieve’s downtown festivals and events.
“Working with family, we all know what to do in order to help each other out,” Schaaf says.
Before Schaaf opened Pat’s Pastries in 2021, she sold homemade kettle corn, cookies and other treats at the Ste. Genevieve Farmer’s Market. People started asking her if she’d make some of the recipes from Tony’s Home Bakery, a bakery that opened on Main Street in Ste. Genevieve in 1948, then moved to Merchant Street in 1959. The bakery, complete with a wood-fired oven, was run by Antonio Zarinelli who studied at the Missouri Baking Company located on The Hill in St. Louis.
Zarinelli was the son of Italian immigrants and quit school at the age of 14 to support his family after his father got black lung disease. Later, he moved from St. Louis to Ste. Genevieve. He ran the bakery on Merchant Street until 1977. His daughter, Leesa Zarinelli, says people still talk about how much they loved Tony’s Home Bakery. Recently, a man told Leesa the day her father retired as a baker was one of the saddest days of his life.
Schaaf found some of Zarinelli’s beloved recipes in local cookbooks. She also searched for old recipe books used by bakers in the St. Louis area during that time period.
“That’s how I came up with the crumb cake recipe. I did enough searches and searches on those searches, and I was reading the description [of a recipe], and it sounded like what it was. So, I tweaked it,” Schaaf says.
With her brick and mortar location, Schaaf’s goal is to recreate that nostalgic experience of a small-town homegrown bakery. Her shop is just a few blocks down from the old bakery location on Merchant Street.
“My husband, he had his favorites [from Zarinelli’s bakery], which were the crumb cakes, the peanut coffee cake. That’s why we kind of picked the things he liked to serve here,” Schaaf says.
The honey bar recipe is adapted from one of Zarinelli’s recipes in the Valle Schools cookbook. Schaaf says there are three older women who come into the bakery just to get the honey bars they remember.
“One lady yesterday, she was sitting there [at a bakery table], she [said], ‘You know, we’re all so proud of you to work all these hours and be here for us.’ … It makes people happy,” Schaaf says. “I enjoy doing it.”
Recipe based on Antonio Zarinelli’s Fruit Bar recipe in the Valle Schools cookbook, adapted by Pat Schaaf
1 cup shortening
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup honey
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
In a large bowl, mix shortening, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Beat until light. Add honey and beat again. Add baking soda. Mix, and then add flour, and mix until batter does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Put dough on table and work with flour until it is flexible and does not stick to the table. Divide into three equal pieces. Now, cut three pieces from each of these and roll into a log shape approximately 16 inches long. Deposit on a 16-by-12-inch pan with three shapes on each pan. Pans or cookie sheets must be greased. Flatten dough by pressing with fingers and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes. Check for slight cracking at the edges of dough to know it’s ready. After baking, allow to cool slightly. Then, loosen shapes from the pan and cut into one-inch slices while still warm. When cool, brush cookies with icing. Make icing with approximately one cup of powdered sugar mixed with warm water. Spread glaze on cookies. Enjoy!