The Food Shop: Boulangerie La Vie, 184 W. Main St., Bay Shore; 631-666-0800
William Duits' children spend a lot of time at his bakery. It's the best way to ensure they see their father, who rises at 1:30 most mornings and drives to work from his Westhampton home.
By 3 a.m., he is fully engaged in measuring, mixing, kneading, baking and frosting scores of cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, tarts and breads. He doesn't even think of leaving until early afternoon.
Tucked safely into one corner of the kitchen is a playpen where 9-month-old twins Sasha and Tatiana might play. Juliette, 31/2, and Liam, 8, like to hang out at the tables out front.
In 2006, Duits and his wife, Heather, took over what used to be Our Daily Bread. Over the years, he has upgraded ingredients and expanded the offerings to reflect his 24 years of baking experience. The 39-year-old Duits began a baking apprenticeship at age 15 in his native Utrecht in the Netherlands. Five years later, he moved to the United States and honed his skills at bakeries on the Jersey Shore and in Montauk and Westhampton. He likes being close to the ocean.
Duits' Dutch roots aren't very apparent to a casual customer, though it turns out the buttery sugar cookies are actually goude mops, and the "elephant ears" are suikervlinders. (There is a small Dutch flag displayed next to an American one.)
Duits is particularly proud of his fruit-based confections. The open-faced apple pie is a bestseller, as are the pies filled with fruit baked right into an almond-paste filling.
His fresh-fruit tarts start with a pastry crust, which he coats with a thin layer of dark chocolate to keep out any incipient moisture. Next is a thin layer of yellow cake, then cooked custard, then the fresh fruit and, finally, apricot glaze. Of course such a tart is a nonstarter if the fruit's no good.
For Mother's Day, Duits was having a terrible time sourcing decent strawberries until he happened upon a good batch at his local Waldbaum's. He bought them all.