Bethany Clough

This new Fresno bakery specializes in something different – and it takes 16 hours to make

The Brioche Lady brings a touch of France with rich and fluffy brioche

Watch as The Brioche Lady owner Nubchi Thao bakes brioche at the new store near First and Herndon in Fresno.
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Watch as The Brioche Lady owner Nubchi Thao bakes brioche at the new store near First and Herndon in Fresno.

Fresno has a new little bakery specializing in something rich and buttery: Brioche.

It’s a bread often used in French toast and now, a whole lot of other breakfast, lunch and dessert items.

Many locals may already know the business, The Brioche Lady, from the years the owner has spent selling her bread at area farmers markets. The lady in the name is Nubchi Thao, who grew up in France and has been baking for years.

She met her husband, Leng “Doc” Thao, who grew up in Fresno, when he was visiting his grandparents in France.

Now the couple has opened The Brioche Lady Bakery, a French bakery with regular hours, at Herndon Avenue and First Street. It’s in the same shopping center as TGI Fridays.

The bakery used to be Le Parisien Cafe, until it closed in late February (the Le Parisien Cafe at Palm and Nees and the Parisien Bakery in Clovis are owned by different people and are still open). The Thaos originally had planned to open a location in Clovis, but it didn’t pan out.

Instead, they bought the Le Parisien business from the former owners. The Brioche Lady is still selling some treats made by those owners, including colorful macaron sandwich cookies, mini eclairs and French pastries.

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Nubchi Thao makes brioche at The Brioche Lady Bakery, which opened its first bakery near First Street and Herndon Avenue, offering uniquely French-inspired brioche once only found at area farmers markets. Photographed Tuesday, May 14, 2019 in Fresno ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

The bread

But really, it’s all about the brioche here.

Customers can pick up a loaf or order several. Other ingredients can be added to make different flavored brioches, including chocolate, cinnamon, blueberry cream cheese and strawberry cream cheese. Some are colorful, like the coconut pandan, which has shades of green from the pandan plant, which is sometimes called the vanilla of southeast Asia.

The taro brioche, made from the root vegetable, has a purple color and won the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 Fresno Food Expo.

Baking the brioche is not easy. The bread dough needs to rise, but also go through a fermentation stage. Each loaf takes about 14 to 16 hours to make, from start to finish.

The bread is used several ways at the bakery.

One of the stars of the menu is the croque madam. It’s essentially a ham and cheese sandwich, but it’s such a toasty, cheese-and-egg soaked creation that you eat it with a fork and a knife.

The sandwich uses two thick slices of brioche, ham, Swiss cheese, a French mayo Thao makes herself, and bechamel sauce. Shredded cheese is added to the outside of the bread so when the sandwich is grilled it creates a cheesy crust. It’s topped with an egg that’s just runny enough to soak into the the middle of the sandwich.

“I’m really trying to put that out there,” Doc Thao said. “We’ve been doing it in our home for years.

Waffles made with brioche dough and French toast are on the menu too. Perhaps the most traditional use for brioche, the French toast uses two thick slices of the bread, boysenberry sauce, powdered sugar, strawberries, blackberries and whipped cream.

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Brioche French toast with strawberries, from The Brioche Lady Bakery, photographed Tuesday, May 14, 2019 in Fresno ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Dessert

Something yummy is also coming soon: Brioche bread and ice cream. It’s sort of an ice cream sandwich made with a brioche bun.

Nubchi Thao admits it sounded a little odd to her at first.

“That’s crazy,” she said. “I never thought that would be yummy.”

But it is, she said, and it will be made with Fresno State vanilla ice cream.

Several coffee drinks are on the menu too, including Café Viennois, which here is an espresso or hot chocolate with steamed milk and whipped cream.

There’s also Eiffel Tower themed merchandise for sale, French cookies that Thao grew up with and French music.

“We really want people to come in here and feel that French experience,” she said.

The bakery is their baby – their ninth baby, Thao jokes (she is currently pregnant with their eighth child).

For now, they are taking a break from the farmers markets to focus on the bakery.

The Brioche Lady is at 1085 E. Herndon Ave., Suite 101. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. It’s closed Wednesdays, and open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.


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