OAKHURST – The savory scent of freshly baked Brazilian bread will soon be wafting through the center of Oakhurst.
Pastry Brasil, a new bakery set to open early next month in Junction Plaza, will feature an extensive menu of freshly baked Brazilian breads and will also offer exotic treats like chocottone — panetone made with chocolate instead of fruit — and brigadeiros, the wildly popular, Brazilian seasonal chocolate candy rolled in sprinkles that is sometimes compared to both truffles and fudge.
For Mary Moreira Holt, a Wishon resident and native of Brazil, the opportunity to open the new business is a “dream come true.”
“Since I was ten years old and watching my mother baking, I’ve always dreamed of opening my own bakery,” Moreira said. “When this space became available in Oakhurst, it seemed like a perfect fit.”
Moreira’s husband Greg, a contractor and custom home builder in Bass Lake, is handling the renovation of the new bakery space, which had been the site of Time for Tea tea house and gift shop. Greg Holt, who owns Distinct Design, did the first addition of the South Gate Yosemite Brewing Company.
Moreira, a 36-year-old mother of two, is a former engineer who for 12 years designed aircraft interiors for several large airplane manufacturers. After spending the first part of her career in Sao Paulo, she came to the U.S. in 2012 to work for Zodiac Aerospace in Santa Maria.
Moreira first visited the Yosemite Valley on a tour of the national parks.
“I’ve always loved hiking and came the first time because I really wanted to see Yosemite,” she said. “I met my husband when I went to a barbecue here. He’d actually built one of my friend’s houses.”
At the time, Moreira said, she was thinking of returning to Brazil.
“Actually, I was really homesick and trying to decide whether or not to go back when I met Greg.”
For the past few years, Moreira has sold her Brazilian breads and sweet treats at the Bass Lake Farmer’s market and has also worked frequently with Jen McMillan at Bandit Town, offering event goers there a little slice — or many little slices — of her native country.
In a relatively short time, Moreira’s signature pastry, candy, cookies and bread have garnered a devoted following among Central California foodies. Her brigadeiros are a favorite of Central Valley wine trail participants and her chocottone recently won a second place ribbon at the Mariposa County Fair.
With her kids now 3 and 4 years old, Moreira decided it was time to execute the business plan she’s been working on since 2015.
“I was looking to buy or lease a place and when the space [at Junction Plaza] became available, I jumped on it,” she said. “It’s such a cute spot and it fit so well with my business plan.”
After focusing for so many years on airplane interiors, Moreira said she plans to create a cozy, more intimate atmosphere inside the bakery.
“It’s going to be somewhere people can go to hang out and have some coffee and fresh bread. There will be couches and comfortable chairs. People will be able to just relax and talk — and smell the bread baking.”
“I thought that kind of place was missing in our area,” she added.
With the new bakery facing the bustling intersection of Highway 41 and Road 426, visibility is unlikely to be an issue.
Moreira had been hoping to be open this month but the process of obtaining the necessary permits from the county and retrofitting the infrastructure of the bakery space “has taken a little longer than we planned,” she said.
Moreira will be partnering in the kitchen with another baker who has 18 years of commercial experience.
“I’m going to teach him how to bake some of our Brazilian breads on a large scale,” she said. “We can’t wait to get started.”