Food, Holidays

New Orleans home bakers create magic to sweeten your holiday table

Support local small businesses while avoiding the crowds this pandemic holiday season

My sweet tooth is insatiable. Before this year, I kept an eye on my dessert intake and baked healthy copycats of my favorites at home. But since the pandemic, I’ve forgotten about all that. And I didn’t channel my anxiety into baking, either. I channeled it into eating.

But at the beginning, a lot of the service industry was closed, and going into stores was stressful — back when we were buying all up the Clorox wipes and toilet paper. So instead of hitting up the Rouses bakery, I stayed true to my female millennial demographic and found solace on Instagram: Home bakers making my sweet dreams come true, and offering contactless or COVID-safe pickups.

This holiday season, it’ll feel good to support talented local bakers, some of them working toward brick and mortar and others doing this on top of regular jobs. Home bakeries are stress-free food shopping in the midst of this pandemic, and sweet troves of local gems.

Banh’s Vi Vietnamese Bakery

The algorithm brought me Banh’s Vi first, and I never looked back. All I needed was to see baker Uyen Ha’s bright purple ube milkbreads to immediately place an order.

 

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Ube is a kind of yam popular in Filipino and Japanese food. Uyen is from Vietnam but says she gets her inspiration from Japanese and Chinese recipes she sees online. Her popular milkbreads are lightly sweet, soft double-proofed buns that she estimates take at least six hours to bake. It’s an involved process Uyen navigates with the dexterity of a seasoned baker, but she only started this March.

Uyen is a 26-year-old dental assistant who hated baking until the pandemic hit. She thought baking was stressful but decided to try it out during quarantine and got rave reviews from friends and family. Now, she’s working to make Banh’s Vi her full-time job — but first, she wants to get a baking degree to learn more about technique.

How to order: Instagram @banhsvithebakery or text (504) 881-5813. Pickups are Saturdays in a Rouses parking lot on the West Bank. Thanksgiving orders should be placed by Sunday, Nov. 22.

House of Brown Sugar

Simone Harris is another home baker who recently turned her hobby into her business, but her treats are more delicately arranged and executed than any amateur baker I’ve known.

 

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She takes custom orders for pickup at her home in the 7th Ward. You’ll know the place by the cardboard sign on the mailbox saying House of Brown Sugar. She says she picked the name because it reminds her of ballroom culture, where different houses come together to dance, and because she wanted it to be clear the baker is a Black woman.

Simone worked at a bakery for a few months but was laid off at the start of the pandemic. During quarantine, she started experimenting with new flavors and recipes, but her baking style was always to use fresh, in-season ingredients.

“In New Orleans, you can forage a lot of stuff from your neighborhood,” she says. “Finding rosemary, finding satsuma trees, fig trees, and putting them into treats.”

Eventually, she started running a pop-up bakery on the side yard of her old house, and now you can find a variety of her rolls for sale on weekends at Old Road Coffee. Past flavors include sweet potato and pumpkin spice with brown butter icing, and fig and fig butter cinnamon rolls. She also drops off vegan treats at Small Mart.

In the long run, Simone says she would love the House of Brown Sugar to be a brunch spot. But for now, keep an eye on her Instagram for when she restarts her pop-up.

How to order: Instagram @houseofbrownsugar or email houseofbrownsugarbakery@gmail.com. Pickup in the 7th Ward. Thanksgiving orders should be placed by Sunday, Nov. 22.

10 Cent Baking

Gillian White bakes out of the Lower Garden District and skillfully blends savory notes like miso and tahini with caramel that flavors cookies and cakes.

 

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10 Cent’s treats are so carefully frosted and plated, their Instagram rivals the most aesthetically driven country baking magazines’. This home baker also popped up during the pandemic, making everything from Louisiana honey and Steen’s Cane Syrup pie to dark chocolate and black tahini cookies, as well as cookies for dogs.

Their brown butter-miso caramel cookies have been sold at Barrelproof pop-ups, but you can take your pick on Gillian’s Instagram. 

How to order: Instagram @10centbaking.

KK’s Kandy Konnection

This home-based shop offers something a little different than the rest: Keira Garrison’s specialty candied grapes, apples and strawberries come glazed in all different fruit flavors.

The candied grapes are especially unique, coated in peach-mango, green-apple, strawberry-kiwi and as many candy flavors as you could imagine. KK’s treats are available at pop-ups around town, all listed on their Facebook page, where they sometimes raffle off a bag or two.

Keira experiments with colors and presentations, so her glazed fruits make for a solid holiday gift.

How to order: Facebook KK’s Kandy Konnection.

Good Grief Cakes

Good Grief is more of a pastime than a full-time project, but that doesn’t take away from their piping or decorating skills. If you need a cake that sends a message, this is where to get it.

 

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This home-based cake shop is also good with baking alternative options like gluten-free, paleo or vegan. They also make sourdough chocolate chip cookies that you can find for sale at Old Road Coffee.

How to order: Instagram @goodgrief_cakes.