Slow Fruitcakes, Instant Karma
Lukas Bakery in La Grange, Texas, is an ongoing love story — retold six days a week, starting at 1 a.m.
At a friend’s wedding reception back the 1940s, Carol Faldyn’s mom took a karmic bite. “I’d love to marry whoever baked this!” she told the other guests, swooning over the wedding cake. “I’d never have to bake again.”
Was she ever wrong. Lucille was on her way to meeting and marrying Raymond Lukas, and a lifetime in the bakery business. Today, the Lukases' daughter Carol and her husband Larry Faldyn operate Lukas Bakery, the sweet spot on the courthouse square in LaGrange, Texas. They took over the operation when Carol’s father passed away in 1978, and have carried on Raymond’s recipes for cookies, strudels, cakes and kolaches (Czech cuisine’s version of a Danish).
“Everything is made from scratch,” Carol says — meaning long days; Larry comes to work at 1 a.m. At mid-morning, the shop is crowded, most folks asking for pigs in a blanket. Larry and Carol wrap their own ground sausage, not hot dogs, in pastry and sell 40-50 dozen a day. (One Saturday before Labor Day, coinciding with the Fayette County fair, they hit an all time high, selling 150 dozen.)
Glistening and black, poppy-seed filling of the Lukas Bakery kolaches looks just like caviar. And these days it costs nearly as much. Carol and Larry have posted a sign on the glass display case letting customers know this prime ingredient of Czech baking has tripled in price over the last nine months. “We only make poppy seed strudels by order” : still a bargain, for $8.
Carol says the bakery business has “gotten a lot slower than it used to be, but this is always a busy time of year.” Larry’s in the back with a long black rubber glove on, grabbing and weighing pounds of chunky dough, chock full of candied fruit.
“People say they hate fruit cake,” he laughs, “but they love mine.” Using the family recipe, Larry cooks his fruitcakes slowly, with very low heat — barely more than the oven pilot light. They turn out moist as a vision of sugarplums.
Lukas Bakery, at 131 N. Main in La Grange, is open Monday-Friday, 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Saturdays 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.