Vanille's Sophie Evanoff

Sophie Evanoff of Vanille

Sophie Evanoff has been a fan of delicate pastries and flavorful desserts since she was a child.

"I always loved baking with my mom," said Evanoff, a Michigan native, who grew up outside of Detroit. "I remember she used to let me skip school to go to the church bake sales."

Evanoff, a graduate of Chicago's French Pastry School, is the owner of Vanille, a French patisserie with locations in Lincoln Park in addition to Chicago's French Market. A new shop opens this month in the Lakeview neighborhood.

"We're seeing an increase and demand for high quality pastries," Evanoff said, explaining her opening of a third shop.

The pastry chef said she's always loved French desserts for their beauty, visual appeal and detail.

At her shop, everything is handmade.

"I use high quality ingredients and natural flavorings," she said, adding the pastries are very European in that they're not as sweet as traditional American-style desserts.

Among popular items at Vanille are the French Madeleines, macarons, croissants, custom cakes and more. At the new location, Evanoff will debut a new gluten-free menu. Afternoon tea is currently available at the Lincoln Park location.

Evanoff, who is half Macedonian and half Serbian, said she grew up going to conventions and other events in Northwest Indiana and Chicago.

The following recipe is from Evanoff.

French Madeleines

2 1/2 cups Cake Flour

1 3/4 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoons Salt

1 1/2 cups Eggs

2 1/4 cups Sugar

4 teaspoons Lemon Juice

2 tablespoons Lemon Zest

1 1/8 cup Butter, melted, cooled

DIRECTIONS: Using a mixer, whip sugar, eggs, lemon, and lemon zest. Sift flour, salt, baking powder. On low speed, add the flour mixture then stream in cooled liquid melted butter, just until combined. Finish by hand until combined. Be sure to scrape down bowl with spatula. Put batter into piping bag. Set aside and get madeleine pans ready.

Getting molds ready: Brush with melted butter and dust with flour. Pipe into prepared molds, freeze for 5 minutes. Bake at 350 degree oven for 10-14 minutes. Yield: 36.

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Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.