Tag Archives: Atlanta bakery

Sweet Auburn Bread Company, Atlanta, GA

“People are always happy when they come into a bakery,” says Sonya Jones, explaining why she loves being a baker.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Sweet Auburn Bread Company owner Sonya Jones experiments with peach pies during a creative diversion from her usual focus of baking treats made from sweet potatoes.

The day I visit Atlanta’s queen of sweet potato baked goods, she’s up to her elbows not in sweet potatoes but…peaches. “I’m getting ready to do a baking demonstration focused on peaches at AmericasMart,” says Sonya Jones, owner of Sweet Auburn Bread Company in downtown Atlanta. “They’re in season right now, so I’m trying out all kinds of recipes.”

Peach cobbler, peach muffins, peach bread, peach ice cream, peach jelly-cake (a confection involving peach jam spread between cake layers), and other peachy goods fill the tiny workspace, with crates of fresh peaches still waiting to be converted into showpiece treats.

Luckily for me, Sonya is in tasting mode, so I get to try a little of everything. “Nice peach muffin,” I say between bites, “but really I came to hear more about your sweet potato goodies.”

“No problem,” she replies, breaking out her signature happy grin and leading me to a mixer slowly stirring a bright orange mush. “I have plenty of those in the works too.”

Continue reading

Breadgarden, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta’s guru of good bread waxes eloquent about the taste and texture of truly worthy loaves.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Breadgarden produces a variety of crusty, slow-rising, tasty, aromatic breads. Photos by Bakery Boy.

When Catherine Krasnow starts talking about her favorite subject—baking bread—listen closely because you’re in for a treat. Founder and owner of Breadgarden, an artisan bakery tucked in the Virginia Highland area of Atlanta, she’s both an excellent baker and, on this topic at least, a bit of a poet.

“A proper sourdough starter and a long rise time, that’s how you bring out the best flavor in bread,” Catherine says. “Like good wine, you get the full flavor only when you take your time and do things right, though with bread it’s a matter of hours instead of days or weeks or even years.”

With that analogy, spoken as we sat at one of just two tables in the shop’s small retail area, she’s off and running.

Perfect baguettes include a careful balance of crustiness on the outside and softness on the inside.

“So much of what makes a good loaf of bread is about texture,” Catherine says. “Take a good French baguette: The crusty outside, the soft inside. The immediate flavor of the first bite, the ‘front taste’ you get right away, then the subtle ‘back taste’ that comes later. The slight sweetness of the caramelized crust and the chewy character of the soft inside, that’s what bakers look for.”

“You get all this marvelous complexity from just four basic ingredients: flour, salt, water, and yeast,” she concludes, smiling. “Isn’t it amazing?”

Yes it is. A loyal clientele claims retail loaves before they’re sold out each day, but far more of the bread goes to wholesale accounts. Breadgarden supplies such noteworthy Atlanta-area eateries as Café Lily and Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Wisteria Restaurant in Inman Park, The Mansion on Peachtree (a boutique hotel) in Buckhead, plus other fine bistros and coffeehouses.

Bread shelves empty quickly due to popular demand.

BREAD LINEUP Here are some of the crusty, aromatic, and highly worthwhile European-style breads at Breadgarden, most loaves priced in the $4 range. Grab them early in the day because the supply tends to run out before closing time:  Ciabatta… Country Italian… Duram Semolina… Tuscan… Integrale (mixed grain)… Sourdough… Sourdough Whole Wheat… Sourdough Rye… Sourdough Raisin Nut Rye… Pumpernickel… Baguettes… Walnut… Onion… Spinach Garlic… Sun-dried Tomato & Herb… Rosemary… Calamata Olive… Onion & Cheese Focaccia… Challah…

It's all about good bread.

NON-BREAD A few non-bread items inhabit a small showcase. On a good day there are croissants, fruit Danish, currant scones, butter-cream-iced cupcakes, brownies, biscotti, muffins, chocolate torte, and a ham-and-three-cheeses quiche. Around mid-day you can order an Italian sub or Mediterranean vegetables-and-goat-cheese sandwich, emphasis on the bread they’re wrapped in. Sometimes a focaccia loaded with tomato, onion, feta, and herbs will make it partway through lunch hour. But these are afterthoughts. Breadgarden is primarily about bread.

CATHERINE’S STORY She doesn’t like to be in photos but did share some background. “I moved here from the Bay Area of California in 1990 and didn’t find a lot going on in the way of good artisan-style bread,” she says. “I saw an opportunity and started Breadgarden. I’m a self-taught baker—learned by reading books, experimenting at home, and visiting bakeries. My education and my previous career were in botany and bio-chemicals, which actually helped when I was learning the science behind baking, although I soon realized it’s as much an art form. My bread-making philosophy? It’s all about flavor, texture, and freshness. I bake at night so the bread is fresh every morning when people start wanting it.”

A basket of baguettes on the door welcomes Breadgarden guests.

HIDDEN TREASURE Breadgarden isn’t exactly easy to find in the little Amsterdam Walk business district on the eastern edge of Atlanta’s sprawling Piedmont Park. Loyal customers originally find it by word of mouth. There’s no  website. It’s not a hangout kind of shop. The utilitarian retail area encourages you to get in, choose some bread, pay up (cash only!) and go on your way.

DECIDE FOR YOURSELF I was shocked and a little amused to find online reviews citing Breadgarden for rudeness and, as one critic put it, “getting a slice of crazy with your ciabatta.” Maybe it’s a matter of expectations. I visited many times anonymously before introducing myself as the guy from the Bakery Boy Blog, asking to interview the owner, and sharing an hour of interesting bakery talk with her. The place is clearly focused on making good bread, not on creating a stay-awhile coffeehouse atmosphere, and I’m okay with that. I’d return even if the service hit a Seinfeldian “Soup Nazi” level, because the bread is worth it. Perhaps the resident breadophiles are a tad eccentric about their chosen field, but go decide for yourself—and let the bread do the talking.

LOCATION Breadgarden, 549-5 Amsterdam Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30306; from northbound I-75/I-85 in downtown Atlanta take Exit 248-C, go east on 10th Street past Piedmont Park, turn left on Monroe Drive, at the second traffic light turn left on Amsterdam Avenue, which ends at Amsterdam Walk with Breadgarden on the left.

HOURS Mon-Wed 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thu-Fri 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

INFO Breadgarden has no website. It gets plenty of business through word-of-mouth and press coverage, including this Bakery Boy Blog mention, so why bother being online? Call 404-875-1166.

Henri’s Bakery, Atlanta, GA

Pronounce it the French way, on-REE, and then try a taste of just about anything and say Oo-la-la!

story & photos by Bakery Boy

Henri’s iconic ’60s-vintage sign rises from Atlanta’s Buckhead Village. Photos by Bakery Boy.

Henri’s Bakery has made Atlanta bakery fans happy for more than 80 years, even if many still don’t get the French pronunciation right. “Some people say HEN-ree and we just let it slide,” a saleswoman told me as I bit into an enormous chocolate éclair filled with Bavarian crème. “Those who know us best and have been coming here forever get it right and say on-REE.”

It’s a moot point when your mouth is too full of goodies to talk, which is often the case at Henri’s, a mainstay at the Buckhead Village shopping and dining district in Atlanta. Founded in 1929 by Henri Fiscus, who emigrated from France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, it is now run primarily by granddaughter Madeline Leonard and co-owned by five siblings including Madeline, her sisters Suzette, Michelle, and Mimi, and their brother Ray.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT TURNED BAKER I’ve met many bakers, but never one whose path to baking matches Madeline Leonard’s. “I was a young woman working as a flight attendant when my grandfather died in 1974 at the age of 80,” she says. “I didn’t work at the bakery much growing up, but I was very close to my grandfather. It was a shock to learn that he had left the entire place to me. I basically inherited Henri’s.”

At first she wasn’t sure what to do, so she kept her airline job. “I signed up to work all-night turnaround flights, and I’d go straight from the airport to the bakery at 5 a.m. and learn all I could about the whole operation. Henri had trained his staff so well they could run it without him, but that couldn’t go on forever. I realized if I didn’t keep Henri’s going, the bank would take possession and sell it. So I studied all the formulas [bakers prefer the word formulas to recipes] and the baking techniques and the business side. Two employees who worked for Henri and taught me a lot—brothers Donalson and Willie James—are still here. In the beginning I was afraid I’d mess things up, but as I gained confidence I learned to love it.” Soon she  quit moonlighting as a flight attendant and devoted her full attention to Henri’s.


KNOWN FOR It’d be easier to list what Henri’s is not known for, but here’s a short version of the good stuff.

  • Dozens of kinds of cookies overflow showcases, including standouts such as thumbprint-style shortbread cookies, raisin-buttoned gingerbread men, coconut macaroons, large-scale chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, and (my favorite) dainty little Daisy cookies with raspberry jam atop daisy-shaped cutouts.
  • Daisy Cookies

    Traditional wedding cakes, all sizes of birthday cakes, and cakes varying from black forest to carrot, caramel, marble cheesecake, and strawberry shortcake lead a long litany.

  • Breads range from French baguettes to braided challah, dark pumpernickel, whole wheat, German rye, butter-crust, cinnamon logs, sourdough, spinach-and-garlic bread, multiple colors of rectangular Pullman loaves, poppy-seeded knot rolls, and more.
  • Eclairs

    Pastries run the gamut from layered napoleons and colorful petit fours to tiramisu tarts, baklava, cream horns, chocolate pralines, crème cheese brownies, almond-filled croissants, apricot squares, and tuxedo-style chocolate-dipped strawberries.

  • The pie case holds pecan, mincemeat, coconut crème, key lime, egg custard, chess pies (vanilla, lemon, German chocolate), fruit pies  (apple, cherry, blueberry, peach), and more.

Po’ boys

EXPANDED ROLE Over time Henri’s has diversified to include a full-scale deli and sandwich shop famous for thickly stacked Po’ boys on French baguettes picnic-ready egg salad and tuna salad, party-ready fruit, veggie, meat, and cheese trays, and a variety of quiches and pot pies. There’s also an espresso bar and indoor and outdoor seating for the lunch-and-linger crowd.

THEY DO IT ALL While the trend in bakeries leans toward more specialized niches (notice the cupcakes-only places springing up lately) Henri’s manages to excel in just about every aspect of baking. It’s a disappearing genre—and a marvel of carefully orchestrated production—that deserves our applause and support.

WATCH THEM WORK Personally I like it when a bakery lets you see what’s going on in the back room. First, it’s quite a show when all the bakers are working at once, creating amazing goodies. Second, it’s bound to be a cleaner operation if employees know the customers are watching every move. At Henri’s a broad picture window behind the display cases allows views of an array of ovens, mixers, workbenches, and busy bakers. A separate window reveals the cake decorating area, where observant visitors might pick up pointers to improve their own cake-frosting skills.

MORE ABOUT HENRI A faded photo (shown here) of founder and namesake Henri hangs in the bakery office. “My grandfather, who came to America from France in 1921, was a true master of the bakery arts,” Madeline says. “He worked as a chef on ocean-liners and at fine restaurants in New York and Atlanta, including a stint as head chef at the Biltmore Hotel in its heyday on West Peachtree Street not far from here. He worked in a Midtown bakery, bought it, renamed it Henri’s, and moved it four times before settling in 1967 where we are now in Buckhead. He’s still an inspiration. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him. I love carrying on the baking tradition he started.”

LOCATION 61 Irby Avenue NW, Atlanta, GA 30305 (north of downtown in the Buckhead Village area surrounding the intersection of Peachtree Road NE, West Paces Ferry Road NW, and Roswell Road NE).

SECOND STORE 6289 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30328 (north of Atlanta about a mile north of Exit 25 on the I-285 perimeter highway)

HOURS Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

INFO www.henrisbakery.com, 404-237-0202 (Buckhead), 404-256-7934 (Sandy Springs)