Day after day, bakery customers across Buffalo line up for a regional delicacy that has existed longer than Buffalo wings have been served at the Anchor Bar.
The pastry heart has quietly been a fixture for decades on bakery shelves across the region, and is especially popular at Valentine’s Day and Easter. And the sweet delicacy – flaky, buttery, airy French pastry dough shaped into a large heart, baked and covered in white icing – apparently can’t be found outside the Buffalo area.
We’ve heard from fans of the sweet pastry that you can’t find them in cities as close as Rochester or Syracuse. But due to demand, some grocery stores in the Carolinas and Florida have stocked pastry hearts after multiple requests from the large Buffalo expatriates communities that reside in those states.
So what has made the pastry heart so popular?
“People say they’re as big as their face,” said Domi Emer, creative director of E.M. Chrusciki Bakery in Lancaster (80 West Drullard Avenue) and Clarence (4475 Transit Road), which has baked them for three decades and routinely fields calls from expats living out of state and looking for a taste of home.
The pastry heart’s exact origins in Buffalo remain baked in mystery. West Side residents can recall many now-closed neighborhood bakeries like Virginia Pastry Shop and Luigi’s Bakery, offering them in decades past. Luigi’s began selling them in 1977.
The pastry heart has been a mainstay at Eileen’s Centerview Bakery in West Seneca (465 Center Road) since it opened in 1964, according to third-generation owner Carol Parker. One veteran baker there, Danny Chudoba, has been making them there since it opened – and baked them at other bakeries before Eileen’s, too.
Eileen’s offers both “party size” mini hearts and full-size pastry hearts. Early each morning, the staff rolls a giant piece of dough out onto a table and hand-cuts and folds each piece. The key to the pastry heart’s popularity is in the quality of its ingredients and preparation, Parker said.
“There’s an art to it. It’s all in the folding of the dough,” Parker said. “You have to make sure the dough is evenly rolled out. It’s like a puzzle.”
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