Pavlina Davis and son Christopher at her Taste of Home Bakery stall at the Llano Farmers and Crafters Market. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.— John 6:35 KJV
Pavlina Davis took these words to heart and is doing what she can to share that bread, literally and spiritually, with her community. The Czechoslovakian native and Buchanan Dam resident started her own business, Taste of Home Bakery, and has been selling homemade bread at farmers’ markets in Llano and Lampasas for the past two years.
“I always wanted to be a bread lady,” she said. “It’s twofold. On one hand, you provide natural bread. On the other hand, I was like, ‘Let me provide people with the bread of life, the word of God.’”
Davis was born and grew up under communist rule in Czechoslovakia, which has since been split into two countries, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
“In Czechoslovakia, at the time, it was the students who started rising up against the system, so we were right in the focus point of the whole political movement,” she said. “When the Berlin Wall fell and the rest of the communist block started falling apart, the people were just so excited that times were changing, and we became free in a sense.”
She has lived in the United States for over 20 years, the past nine in Texas. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, she traveled with friends on missionary work and saw most of America along the way.
She met her husband Paul at a Christian conference in Florida in the early 2000s. Davis joked that they were meant to be since the name Pavlina is the Slavic form of Paulina. The name also has a Christian connection. The Apostle Paul was instrumental in establishing the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection and is believed to have authored a major portion of the New Testament in the bible.
The couple originally settled in Illinois but moved to Texas at the urging of friends who were big fans of the state.
“I fell in love with the people of Texas,” Davis said. “There are just so many beautiful Christian people in this area. You meet people on the street and everybody greets you. It’s just very friendly, and that makes a huge difference to me.”
She did find one important ingredient missing from her newfound home: the hearty bread common in the Czech Republic.
“I moved to the U.S., and I couldn’t find bread that I liked,” she said. “It’s different. It’s not that it’s bad, but it was so different for me. In Czech, people live on bread, and it’s a very heavy bread and it is a part of almost every meal.”
About two years ago, she began experimenting with ways to bring in a little extra dough for the family and settled upon becoming a bread lady. It started with an artisan recipe that reminded her of the heavy, rich bread from the Czech Republic, but her repertoire has since expanded to an ever-evolving assortment of hearty loaves and sweets. The recipes aren’t strictly “chleba,” (the word for bread in the Czech language), but they are close enough for Davis.
Her breads are organic and free of chemicals and preservatives. Some of the recipes she found on the internet, others were given to her by friends. They are all made with love.
“Everything is made with love because I love baking,” she said.
And her customers love what she bakes. Llano County resident Kristine Adams stopped by Davis’ Taste of Home Bakery stall during a recent Llano Farmers and Crafters Market for an artisan loaf. She numbered her reasons for regularly revisiting Davis’ setup on the Llano County Courthouse Square.
“One, freshness,” she said. “Two, because of the simple flavors. Nothing is overdone. And lastly, it is soft inside and crispy outside. I like her variety and her knowledge. It is like she makes her bread with love.”
When Davis displays her goods on the square, she is constantly greeting friends and customers. Her 17-year-old son, Christopher, is just as gregarious, chatting with regulars and recalling their orders from memory. He has been helping his mother at the markets since the baking began.
“I like coming out and seeing all the people, getting to talk with them. It’s always fun,” he said.
Davis bakes out of her home oven, which she said can be challenging on a commercial scale but works for now.
“It’s one thing to bake for your family, but it’s another to bake on a wholesale scale, especially when you do it in your small oven,” she said. “It has been a learning curve, but I’m finding it very satisfying.”
As Davis sells delicious bread to her neighbors, she asks people about their lives and how they are doing. She shared some of her philosophy with this reporter.
“People should know that there is hope,” she said. “You look at the world and it is completely falling apart; nevertheless, there is hope, and the hope is in Jesus Christ. With Him, every day has a meaning, whether the sun is shining or it is raining. We are here to share that beautiful light that we have been given.”
You can find Taste of Home Bakery at the Llano Farmers and Crafters Market on the first and third Saturdays of the month and the Lampasas Farmers Market on the second, fourth, and fifth Saturdays of the month. Call 224-612-2507 to place custom orders.
This traditional apple strudel has been a favorite in Pavalina Davis’ family for many years. It has a flaky crust and is filled with sweet spiced apples, raisins, and walnuts. In her childhood, both her grandmother and mother would make it for festive occasions.
“Even though I haven’t been able to recreate the same taste as in Europe, my son would say, ‘It is very good, almost like Grandma’s,’” Davis said.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Baking time: 25-30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup water, lukewarm
½ teaspoon white vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and shredded or thinly sliced
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅓ cup raisins
¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
1 egg for brushing
Serve dusted with powdered sugar and decorated with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Combine flour and salt in a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, add the water mixed with vinegar. Lastly, add the melted butter. Mix at low speed until a soft dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 60-90 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour, divide the dough into 2 pieces, and roll each piece into a rectangle as large as you can without tearingthe dough.
Spread 2 tablespoons of melted butter on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border around all the edges. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the butter and cover with the apple filling (to avoid leakage, do not use the liquid from the apples).
Roll up the strudel from the short side to form a log. Seal the dough and tuck the ends so no filling comes out.
Carefully transfer both strudels to the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the tops with a beaten egg.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden on top.
Let cool for 10 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve warm. ENJOY!