Whitney Brien brings French flair and delectable baked goods to Whitefish
Story by Justin Franz | Photography by Greg Lindstrom
We all have our obsessions. Some people love to fish. Others like to collect trinkets. And many love to get lost in the works of their favorite author. Whitney Brien found her obsession in culinary school: a small French pastry called a canelè.
Now Brien is sharing her passion for canelès and other delectable pastries at her new bake shop in Whitefish called Fleur.
While biting into one of Brien’s creations will make you think she is a veteran of the industry, the 28-year-old Michigan native only graduated from culinary school a few years ago. In fact, it wasn’t until she was in college studying photography that she realized she had a passion for pastries. Looking for a way to make extra money while attending Montana State University in Bozeman, Brien got a job at a bakery.
“It was there that I realized that baking and making pastries was my true calling,” she said.
After graduation, Brien headed to Chicago to attend the French Pastry School. There she had her first encounter with the canelè. While the pastry looks simple, making the rum- and vanilla-flavored delicacy with a soft custard center is a complex process. To start, you need a specialized copper mold that can cost up to $30 each (Brien jokes that she spent nearly all of her money in college trying to acquire a collection of the molds). The copper mold is critical because it helps caramelize the outside of the pastry.
Brien makes the batter 24 hours in advance so that the flavors have time to develop. After that, she pours the custard into the molds, which have been covered in beeswax, and bakes it for 45 minutes.
“I just became obsessed with this pastry,” she said. “It was a life-changing pastry, and I think you can eat it at anytime of the day.”
Brien continued to make canelès while baking in Colorado and eventually Portland, Oregon. In Portland, Brien came up with the idea of Fleur Bake Shop. Brien had always wanted to return to Montana after school and thought that Whitefish would be the ideal spot to start a bakery. In early 2017, she moved to Whitefish and opened for business. In addition to canelès, Brien makes cakes, tarts, breads and cookies.
Description A canelè pastry, popular in the Bordeaux region of France, made with a rum and vanilla custard.
Location Fleur Bake Shop, 669 Spokane Ave., Suite B, Whitefish
Hours 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.