Bakery creates ‘Pan Solo,’ a 6-foot replica of ‘Star Wars’ hero made of bread
By Michael Levenson
They made him at night, in the quiet hours after the bakery had closed. Together they worked, mother and daughter, mixing the materials that would give form to their creation: flour, water and sugar.
Slowly, he began to emerge as each feature was sculpted and placed into the oven to bake. First came the basic contours of his body, then the details: the anguished expression, lips contorted in pain, hands reaching out in desperation.
Finally, after a month of work, he was ready: a lovingly wrought 6-foot re-creation of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, made entirely of bread. The duo behind the creation, Hannalee Pervan and her mother, Catherine Pervan, called him “Pan Solo.”
On Sunday, the sculpture went on display outside their shop, One House Bakery in Benicia, California, about 40 miles north of San Francisco, next to an arrangement of seasonal gourds and a chalkboard that read, “Our hero Pan Solo has been trapped in Levainite by the evil Java the Hut.”
Customers and passersby have noticed.
“People are just super interested by it, and you see people smelling it and poking it, and they’re just like, ‘What is going on?’” said Hanalee Pervan, the shop’s co-owner and head baker. “They kind of don’t believe you that it’s made out of dough.”
But it is. The younger Pervan and her mother, co-owner of the bakery, made Pan Solo out of dead dough, which contains no yeast. Pervan learned to make the dough several years ago at Wheat Stalk, a baking conference, and started using it to bake Halloween decorations.
Then she and her mother, both self-described science fiction nerds, set their sights higher.
In 2018, the year they opened the family bakery, they made Game of Scones, featuring a White Walker made of bread next to an iron throne of baguettes.
Encouraged by the positive response from the public, in 2020 they made the “Pain-dough-lorian,” clad in armor made of bread, “Baby Dough-Da” clothed in bread and “floating” in mixing bowls, and “the Pandroid,” made of pans and kitchen tools, all inspired by the television series “The Mandalorian.”
Last year, they created “Dough-ki,” a menacing alligator made of bread, with sharp teeth and curved horns, modeled after “Alligator Loki,” a creature on the Marvel television series “Loki,” starring Tom Hiddleston.
This year, they thought about baking Audrey II, the bloodthirsty plant from “Little Shop of Horrors,” but worried it wouldn’t fit in the oven. So they settled on Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, frozen in the mythic substance carbonite from the 1980 “Star Wars” movie “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Hannalee Pervan served as a model for the body, which was placed on a plywood board and then layered with dough. Getting the final details right was not easy.
“Mom made me leave it because I was obsessing over the lips,” said Hanalee Pervan, who has worked at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California, and was part of the team that made bread for Keller’s famed restaurant The French Laundry, also in Yountville. “She was like, ‘You need to walk away.’”
All of their bread sculptures were made for Benicia’s Downtown Scarecrow Contest, which encourages local businesses to display creative scarecrows for Halloween.
Pervan said making Pan Solo was particularly meaningful for her because she lost much of her senses of smell and taste after contracting the coronavirus in January 2021. She had always found pleasure in the smells and tastes of the kitchen and had dreamed of being a baker since she was 10.
“So just to find joy in a different part of food is really important,” she said.
Catherine Pervan said it was well worth the long hours it took her and her daughter to craft Pan Solo.
“It’s a little quiet time for us to have together when she’s not the boss and I’m not the mom,” she said. “It’s just us, hanging out and working together.”