The story behind Excelsior’s favorite French bakery—and a Valentine’s Day recipe, too.
Ask Margo Bredeson about the early days of her career, and she might mention working in a tiny bakery—eventually covered in flour, fully immersed in the art of baking Swiss and Austrian pastries—as a college student in Madison, Wisconsin. Her plan was to finish a degree in psychology and continue to grad school. Baking would help pay the bills.
“But the economy was lousy in 1980—there was crazy unemployment—and people who had MBAs were working in fast food,” says Bredeson. With less-than-favorable prospects after graduation, her master’s was—er—put on the back burner, and she moved home to Minneapolis and found a job at French restaurant 510 Groveland.
“I had a skill. French cuisine was just coming into its own. They said, ‘If you can do Austrian and Swiss, I can teach you French pastries.’ Chefs are often optimistic about how much time they’re going to have—I understand that now,” laughs Bredeson. In somewhat of a trial by fire, and Google still absent from life and kitchens in those days, she rounded up all the pastry books she could find. They were in French (which she didn’t speak), the measurements were metric (which nobody in America speaks), and there was nary a digital scale in sight to help with the conversions.
“Everything was so hard. I put in crazy long days,” she says. “But I must have been at least tolerable.” When she married husband Eric, she left Groveland and did a stint at another bakery, developing her bread-making chops. As their family grew along with her career, Eric and Margo decided to start their own business. Without an industrial kitchen of their own, Margo worked out a deal to use the 510 Groveland kitchen in return for baking their pastries. She’d spend early mornings fulfilling wholesale bakery orders.
“It was pure sweat equity. And when you work for yourself, you can work as many hours as you want—as you can,” says Bredeson. They developed a complicated dance to keep the bread baking, Eric’s musical career afloat, and their kids cared for at all hours. Margo would begin baking at 1 a.m. and Eric would drop off their 3-year-old daughter at 5:30 a.m. before he took off on a delivery run. She’d nap and watch Sesame Street while her mom baked, and then Eric would go back to kid duty at noon while Margo slept. It was a lean, mean family business machine. “I liked the idea of baking stuff that was already sold; there was no waste. And we were blessed with stamina, if nothing else,” says Bredeson.
Business took off and they bought their own space and opened a beloved Edina storefront—with a restaurant and coffee shop—in 1996 to supplement wholesale and catering orders with sales from real, live clientele. To this day it’s a family affair, with four of the five Bredeson kids still playing an active role in the business.
Son Collin remembers heading to work shifts at the bakery after sports practices in high school, “doing dishes. helping with the baking or clean-up. I did the ‘good son’ deal!” he says. He managed Patisserie Margo’s wholesale accounts for a time and, as the business continued to grow, he took charge of the build-out of their second location on Excelsior’s Water Street (it opened in March 2009).
“We were on the earlier side of the Excelsior boom. It was such a small, quaint, old town at the time,” says Collin. Patisserie Margo has since become a familiar part of the booming Excelsior downtown. It has a relaxed vibe like a hometown bakery in France, where you want to linger and chat over incredible comfort food and delicious smells. The staff—and the customers who have come to love Patisserie Margo—have become a tiny community within their community. “Our bread and butter is getting to know our customers, like they’re our family, especially the ones we see every day,” says Collin.
The Menu à la Margo
From sandwiches and soups du jour to decadent bakery items and a full line of espresso, tea and coffee drinks, Patisserie Margo has something for everyone and every occasion. Start the day with a croissant or Danish, muffin, scone, signature beignet, or a caramel or cinnamon roll. There’s fresh bread in a variety of flavors—including Fridays-only challah—available in-store or to take home. Revolving quiches and soups are the stars of the lunch hour, along with a variety of fresh sandwiches, their ingredients piled high on fresh bread. Finish the meal with a macaron, cookie, bar, a beautiful shortbread-crusted tart—or any of the baked goods in the case. Everything’s available to-go, with catering options available, too.
Though the tastes are varied, they have something in common that hasn’t changed in over 20 years. “It’s all made from scratch. It’s the highest quality we can put out there,” says Collin. “There are for sure cheaper things out there but we’re offering the highest quality.” He says when he was growing up, his mom’s delicacies were commonplace, and he’s come to appreciate more fully the role great food has played in his family and now plays in the Edina and Excelsior communities.
“I feel very fortunate to have grown up with a mom who made that stuff at home. There’s nothing like her hot-out-of-the-oven baguette, fresh-baked, slathered with butter. Too hot to even cut,” says Collin. “Yeah, once we get regular customers, they don’t go other places.”
Flourless Chocolate Dome
Impress your Valentine’s Day date with a DIY version of a Patisserie Margo favorite. It’s gluten-free and loaded with love. (Serves 12 and freezes well; save some for later!)
- 6 eggs
- 2 T. sugar
- ½ lb. unsalted butter
- 1 lb. chocolate (54 to 70 percent cocoa)
- ¼ c. fresh raspberries, pureed and strained to remove seeds
Preheat oven to 425º F. Combine eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, and whisk by hand as it warms over a double boiler. Once tepid and well combined, attach the bowl to a stand mixer and mix on high. Meanwhile, slowly melt the chocolate in the double boiler and begin boiling a separate pan of water.
After 4-5 minutes of mixing, the egg mixture will start to transform and “you’ll get this lovely whole egg meringue; it’ll mound on top of itself and have a nice body to it,” says Bredeson. Add the melted butter to the chocolate, pour it into the meringue mix, and fold together with a spatula. After some time, it’ll change in texture to more of a “chocolatey custard” consistency.
Put the mixture into a greased cake pan lined with parchment paper, place it inside a roasting pan, and pour the boiling water into the larger pan so the cake pan is surrounded by hot water. Bake the whole thing for 10 to 15 minutes, until it’s “just a little jiggly in the middle, with dull edges and a little sheen in the center,” explains Colln Bredeson. Let it cool completely before serving, topped with fresh fruit or purée—or all by itself.
“It’s like eating a little wedge of chocolate truffle,” says Bredeson. “It’s really intense chocolatey flavor; it’s great to share with someone.”
Not Up for a DIY?
Swing by Patisserie Margo for some romance—the kind in a box—with these go-to delicacies. An 8-inch flourless dome runs $30, or $4.95 for a small version that’s perfect for one hungry person—or a romantic night for two. A chocolate mousse dome—filled with rose buttercream and pink macaroon—is $5.25. Cherry tarts topped with shortbread hearts ($4.25) go the extra mile for the favorite heart-shaped holiday.