Bettina Pope’s dream was to own a bakery. After leaving her career as a private education administrator in Florida, her dream has become a reality—and she hasn’t had more than two days off since she and her husband, Mark, opened San Jose’s La Lune Sucree in September.
Pope, who was born in Germany and counts her mother as a major influence on her cooking, has always loved baking. But when she decided to make a career change from school administrator to baker, she realized she needed some additional education.
She enrolled in classes and worked with veteran pastry chef Michael Ostrander, owner of Sweet Caroline’s Bakery in Palm Harbor, Fla. She spent last summer in the Loire region of France apprenticing under pastry chef Olivier Grimaud.
“I wanted to take my skills up a notch,” she says. “I got to see how a commercial pastry shop works.”
Then she headed west to be closer to her children and grandchildren, who all live in San Jose. When a bakery on Paseo de San Antonio near San Jose State University opened up, she jumped on it, and La Lune Sucree (“the sweet moon”) was born.
Pope is the only baker in the shop, but she’s training an employee to help out. “It’s a huge challenge, but it’s fun everyday,” she tells me.
The bakery offers a little bit of everything—pastries, crepes, sandwiches and other savory items.
The almond croissant is my bellwether for judging a baker’s skill. The one I tried at La Lune Sucree is not as layered and flaky as the gold standard croissant at Fleur de Cocoa in Los Gatos, but it’s a solid contender. The pastry ($3.75) is moist and buttery and conceals a sweet but not too sweet marzipan interior. It’s also made with marzipan and chocolate, the solution to my “chocolate or almond?” croissant dilemma.
Equally good is the peach tart ($3.99), sliced fruit layered into a sweet but not-too-sweet cream cheese filling with a great, almond pastry crust. And then there’s the flourless chocolate cake, a hulking wedge of ridiculously chocolatey and nutty cake for $5.49.
For something smaller, don’t miss Pope’s cannelles ($2.25), a French version of a cinnamon twist only more delicate, crispier and moister than the American version.
La Lune Sucree’s sandwiches are worth seeking out, too. They’re made in the minimal Parisian style, just a fresh baguette layered with a few ingredients. What makes them especially good is the bread, beautifully crisp and moist baguettes pulled hot out of the oven.
The turkey bistro sandwich ($6.99) comes with Pope’s own plum jam. The croque monsieur ($6.99) is a good ham and cheese, but I was expecting the mornay or b–chamel-topped version. This was more like a ham and cheese panini.
Pope also makes a few family recipes from Germany including a good quiche ($5.25) with ham, mushrooms, cheese, crispy onions.
For Pope, sweet dreams, and the hard work that comes with it, do come true.
La Lune Sucree
116 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose