Sandy Ferrell begins her days at 1 a.m. so that her customers at Czech Please Microbakery have the freshest warm baked goodies each morning.
From her small store in East Mountain, Texas — between Longview and Gilmer — she makes traditional Czechoslovakian pastries five days a week. Included are about a dozen different flavors of kolaches, six or more flavors of klobasniky (or Klob for short), huge half-pound, delicious cinnamon rolls, and more. With only a few exceptions, Ferrell makes all the ingredients herself, including her special recipe sweet cheese used in the cheese kolaches.
Ferrell says she wants to teach East Texans what a real kolache is.
"Most East Texas bakeries have mistakenly named their ‘pig in a blanket’ a kolache," she says.
Kolaches are a type of pastry that hold a dollop of fruit, rimmed by a puffy pillow of supple dough. Farrell takes great care to make her kolaches round, rather than fill the pans with them so that they bake together and become square. That is because the word kolache originates from the Czech word kolo, meaning wheel or circle.
The kolaches at Czech Please contain many different flavors — apple, apricot, blueberry, blackberry, pear, poppy seed, buttered pecan, raspberry, fig, sweet cheese, spiced plum, and more.
Klobs more closely resemble the "pig in a blanket," as it is dough surrounding meats and cheeses, and Ferrell offers many different varieties including smoked sausage; jalapeno cheddar sausage; spicy boudin; hot link; bacon, egg, and cheese; and tater tot, egg, and cheese.
Hand making all the dough, fillings, and other ingredients is important to her.
"I love it," she says. "It is a labor of love, not just something that you whip up."
On a slow day, the average amount of bread she makes and serves is 50 pounds. Many days, it is much more than that. She has an idea of how much she needs each day by checking pre-orders on Facebook when she first wakes up.
Customers can check Facebook for the pastry flavors of the day and to know what’s in her Grab & Go case. She prepares take-home food such as pizza, chicken spaghetti, cheesesteak, broccoli and rice casseroles, and more. She also makes chicken salad sandwiches, salads, chili con queso, and hummus.
Ferrell first started sharing her cooking skills at the Longview Farmers Market. She worked a 9-5 Monday through Friday retail job, then cooked all night Friday to take about 200 kolaches, 100 cinnamon rolls, and sometimes more items with her Saturday morning. Selling out in a couple of hours, she said, gave her the confidence to open her own shop in February 2019.
Ferrell self-taught herself how to cook. She is German on her dad’s side and Czech on her mom’s side. She began trying to make her German grandmother’s cinnamon rolls. She tried a lot of different recipes and after two years of trying, she finally got it right. When she did, her dad told her that if she could do that, then she could learn to cook kolaches.
She says, "I always knew I wanted to cook. I used to have a goal to be the executive chef at Summit Club (in Longview). To say that I have exceeded my expectations is an understatement."
She uses vision boards and works hard towards her goals and dreams. Her next goal is to expand her shop to include a salad bar, soups, and paninis for people to dine in at lunch. Beyond that, she wants to get a bigger place where she can put together a distribution center, make, and ship her products.
Czech Please is located at 1801 FM 1844, East Mountain, Texas and their phone number is (903) 238-6928, or reach out to Ferrell through Facebook. Pre-orders and messages can be left there. Go to www.facebook.com/CzechPleaseETEX.