Praline Bakery has brought its French pastries riverside with the opening of a third D.C. area location at the Wharf development.
The company started in 2006, when former White House pastry chefs Susan Limb and Patrick Musel opened a full-service bistro and bakery in a Bethesda shopping center. With its menu of sweet and savory patisserie items, Praline developed a loyal customer base that helped it open shops at the Mosaic District in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2016, and in Southwest D.C. during a mid-January cold spell. There’s also an outpost at Glen Echo Park in Maryland.
Limb graduated from the L’Academie de Cuisine pastry school in 1998, got a job as a pastry chef at the White House that year, and worked there until 2005. She met the French-trained Musel there, and the two worked at Filomena in Georgetown before opening Praline.
The glassy, open space at the Wharf location draws the eye to the display case, which begins with a rainbow of macarons and ends with sandwiches and quiches. The journey in between travels through cheerful enclaves of croissants, muffins, cookies, and cakes.
Bestsellers and standouts include include the fragrant almond croissant, a generously filled blueberry muffin, robust opera cake, and the classic ham and cheese baguette.
These items reflect one of Praline’s guiding principles, intensity of flavor.
”When we say it’s a flavor, it is that flavor. There’s no guesswork, not a hint of flavor,” Limb says. “When you get a lemon cookie, you know it’s lemon. Our flavors aren’t subtle.”
For example, she says, her chocolate truffle cake “is more chocolatey than sweet. You’re getting chocolate, not sugar.”
A lighter alternative is the walnut dacquoise, a meringue and mousse composition that can be ordered by the slice or the whole cake.
Consistency is another baking tenet that guides Limb.
“The guest has to know their favorite items will have the same flavor, quality, and freshness every time,” she says. “That’s the reason people keep coming back.
While priding herself on precise execution of French classics, Limb is also thinking about introducing some variety in the form of bingsu, a Korean shaved milk treat she expects to serve in the summer.
Praline Bakery is located at 965 7th Street SW. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.