A professor of English. A successful playwright. An uncanny artist. A competent culinarian. A Romanian by birth, a U.S. citizen by choice.

A granddaughter.

While all of the above easily describe Dayana Stetco, it’s the latter and the connection to Maria Fratilia, her grandmother, and the recipes she passed down that caught my eye and, yes, palate.

“After years and years of waiting for it, I recently got my grandmother’s handwritten recipe book,” Stetco said. “I always planned to have a home bakery, but I wanted to have the original recipes and see what I could do with them. So that’s what prompted it.”

That “it” here is D's European Delights, a cottage bakery that since September specializes in sweet and savory Romanian desserts with French, German and Turkish influences and based on family recipes.

“We left Romania at different times,” Stetco said of her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. first. “And when she left, she took the recipe book.”

Stetco followed around 1991, after “the Communist bloc fell and a few years of hope that things would change,” she said. “And when they didn’t or didn’t for the better, since I had a 4-year-old to think about, I left.”

When her workload decreased at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Stetco found time to pursue her dream. In the process, she found something lost in translation, so to speak.

“The recipes are super old," she said. "They’ve been transcribed many times because it kept falling apart. So at this point it was handwritten. And what kills me about Romanian recipes — it’s like ‘a dash of this, bake it for a while’ — no temperatures, no time.

“Very few ingredients that anybody actually weighed, because these were all one’s recipes from one’s grandmother. They didn’t need to weigh or do anything because they just knew. So I’m kind of translating them for myself and measuring ingredients. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

Stetco also found modern Romanian recipe books with similar updated recipes for Petits fours, apple strudel, pastries, macarons, etc., did the math, and the results are delicate as they are delicious.

“It’s a labor of love and stamina,” she said. “What can I say?”

And it all goes back to Maria Fratilia.

“I grew up in my grandmother’s house and she cooked three- to five-course meals for us everyday and she made everything from scratch,” said Stetco. “There was something so peaceful and familiar about that.”

Last year, Stetco renovated her Lafayette kitchen “and kind of replicated her kitchen,” she said. “The lack of cabinets and the giant table in the middle and everything is out in the open.”

Stetco, perhaps unknowingly, gave each word pause when she told me: “It’s her kitchen.”

While her grandmother’s inspirations came out of the oven, an open house made sure they were shared.

“My grandmother was a very social being, kind of unlike me, and I always admired her,” said Stetco. "She would create occasions for people to swap stories or just talk about their heartache. There was always a plate of dessert and a cup of coffee.

“Nobody called to say they were visiting. They would just know they could come in the afternoon and there was always a bit of a dessert and a cup of coffee and a story. So in my mind, they’ve always been connected.”

In another nod to her grandmother and her own artistic inclinations, “A lot of these desserts come with stories from my grandmother,” said Stetco. “So when I put together a box of desserts, I include the story. So my writing background comes into that. And then while I wait for things to bake, I draw (she’s had art exhibits), so I do that, too."

While her desserts are a “confluence of this meeting of German, Austrian, French, Turkish and then the Romanian recipes themselves,” as a Lafayette resident for some 20 years, I had to ask if any Cajun or Creole influences have made their way into her recipes.

“No, not really,” she said. “But I also haven’t studied them. I didn’t have, really, time. But now I think I do have time. I’d like to take some classes, or at least private lessons with various local pastry chefs and see.”

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Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.