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Local baker looks to satisfy Denton’s sweet tooth

Local baker looks to satisfy Denton’s sweet tooth

Owner Eric Helland presses crust mix into a pie tin to start the pie-making process. Helland and his wife, Pam, both run the bakery and help bake the products. PC: Katie Jenkins

Local baker looks to satisfy Denton’s sweet tooth
July 31
21:21 2017

The smell of freshly baked bread fills the air as customers make their way through the front door of Ravelin Bakery. A variety of items fills the glass cases, from eight different types of croissants and pieces of pie to creme brûlée and slices of chocolate chip cheesecake.

Diligently making his way through a workspace behind the counter, Eric Helland plans his next move. With utensils in one hand and a bag of flour in the other, he continues doing what he’s been doing for 27 years — baking delicious treats and desserts for people all over.

Ravelin Bakery first opened its doors in Denton 15 years ago with a dedication to producing European style bread and pastries. The bakery is owned and operated by Eric and Pamela Helland.

Helland’s passion for baking began 27 years ago. In 1989, shortly after graduating from high school, Helland attended a nine-month culinary program at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. He went on to be a cook in the hotel business for approximately 13 years.

The basic cooking skills he learned in the program allowed him to get started in the food industry, with his interest in baking rising along the way.

“I’ve just always tried to work for people who were very high-caliber, not really knowing where I was going to go with it at the time, but always knew that was the way to go,” Helland said. “Just working around people and with people who were in baking caught my interest.”

The typical workday at the bakery begins at 2 a.m., when every item is prepared fresh from scratch each morning and ready to serve by 6:30 a.m.

“We refer to it as ‘old world artisan baking,’” Helland said. “That ‘artisan’ word is thrown around a lot, but we are a true artisan bakery where everything is cut and crafted by hand.”

Customers can buy boxes of cookies for gifts, which the bakery make fresh everyday. Katie Jenkins

Items not sold by the end of the day are donated to local food banks and soup kitchens.

Since Helland has been cooking and baking for over a quarter of a century, creating the same thing day in and day out has become sort of a systematic process.

While the everyday process is routine, it is not always so simple.

“The No. 1 enemy of a baker is consistency,” he said. “So getting up and remaking the same thing every day without having the luxury of all the fancy stuff like a factory would is the biggest challenge. So I think, operationally, it’s very simple, but execution is very, very difficult.”

This process does seem to strengthen the bond among the group, bakery staff member Molly Ford said.

Ford comes to work in the mornings to help Helland bake all the bakery’s goods for the day. Since Ford does not have 25 years of experience, working with Helland allows her to learn something new every day.

“I feel very connected with the whole process because everyone’s real close together, and I think that it [shows] really good teamwork,” she said. “Even getting here at 5:30 a.m., it’s a really joyous way to start the day.”

The bakery prides itself on using the highest quality products available, even encouraging customers to bring in their own garden-grown ingredients, such as tomatoes. The bakery does not use any additives or preservatives in their recipes, and even gets the milk they use for baking straight from a farm.

Using these kind of ingredients seem to broaden the appeal to customers as it makes the food easier for the body to digest, Helland said.

By using artisan baking techniques, Helland is able to provide to a larger population.

“We get a lot of people who come in who are cancer patients, who will tell us ‘I can eat your food but I can’t eat anybody else’s food,’ and they don’t know why,” he said. “That’s the only reason we’ve figured out, is that the food is clean.”

Competition with other food outlets in Denton is not a concern for the bakery. They rely on being a word-of-mouth business that sticks to its philosophy instead of posting ads all over town and social media.

Helland focuses on using his craft to serve a purpose.

“We don’t advertise and we do very little to get our name out,” Helland said. “Our number one focus is if you are coming in to buy a cookie, and we’re not focused on that cookie being fantastic, then you’re not going to come back. We just make sure the product going out the door is, hopefully, on the money.”

On her third visit to the bakery in a week, Denton resident Jennifer Herman keeps coming back because of Helland’s philosophy.

Just like any well-known coffee shop or burger joint in Denton, Herman said the bakery fills a certain niche in Denton.

“I’ve lived here for a really long time and have been coming for years,” she said. “It’s definitely one of those Denton staples you have to try when you get here.”

While the passion for baking and the appeal of still learning something new every day, what keeps the Helland family motivated is their strong faith.

“Our No. 1 thing is to glorify God and that’s our primary interest in the business and as a family,” Helland said. “If we keep that in mind, the whole business stays together.”

For now, their only hope for the future is that the business continues to serve the community of Denton as it does now.

While the bakery might not be as big as other dessert shops in Denton County, Helland hopes to use his skills to provide something deeper for the community besides a piece of cheesecake or a slice of cake.

He’s happy as long as he can bake in the morning, serve desserts during the day and end the night knowing he’s doing what he loves.

“We grow little by little each year but we don’t force anything,” Helland said. “We are a small neighborhood mom-and-pop operation and we will keep it like that unless something happens. It’s manageable and it allows us to live a simple life and that’s all we ask for.”

Featured Image: Owner Eric Helland presses crust mix into a pie tin to start the pie-making process. Helland and his wife, Pam, both run the bakery and help bake the products. Katie Jenkins

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Dionecia Petit

Dionecia Petit

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1 Comment

  1. Phyllis Minton
    Phyllis Minton August 13, 09:04

    From the beginning Ravelin has been part of the Denton community. One thing, I am particularly impressed with, is the fact that they have donated all the bread to be served at the Empty Bowls lunch. That lunch raises money for the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen and the Denton Community Food Pantry.

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