Despite the proliferation of mixes and ready to bake goods, stalwart bakers have preserved and redefined long-held Southern baking traditions. Generations have baked breads, cakes, pies, and cornbread out of Southern-grown soft winter wheat and stone-milled cornmeal. This collection explores the people who continue Southern baking traditions and augment them with innovative flavors and techniques. “It’s bigger than me,” notes baker Joye Moore, whose sweet potato pie recipe has been in her family for six generations. “It’s people . . . who see the value in our pie legacy… the connection of family coming together. And then you get to do it with a quality slice of product that everybody’s happy with.”
Baking has always played an important role in local and regional economies. Evva Hanes, owner of Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian cookies took over her mother’s business in rural North Carolina. “Daddy had cows, but he didn’t have that many,” relates Mrs. Hanes. “It was a small dairy farm, and he’d put all the money he made back into the cows and to his farm, trying to better it […]. So Mother did it to supplement the farm income.” From cheese straws to cookies, bakers make and sell baked goods for the public.
Many of the bakers highlighted in this collection recreate and locate familiar tastes and techniques in new recipes for cakes, cookies, or quick breads. Pastry chef Justin Burke found his identity as a baker by translating classic childhood desserts to the professional pastry kitchen. For him, baking became about “taking these forgotten recipes, these desserts, and just bringing them back, and not taking dessert so seriously,” he says. Burke experimented with classic recipes for pound cakes, poke cakes, and strawberry pretzel salads.
From Virginia to Louisiana, bakers continue to flourish on their own terms. Listen to their stories for a sense of the scope and diversity of baking in the South.