I may have never been this excited to write a post.
You are reading the title right: there are gorgeous, authentic French pastries in Tacoma, thanks to Abeille Baking and Bianca Sanders.
I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw her and husband Casey Beach at last week’s 6th Avenue Farmers Market. There were their smiling faces behind a table of colorful macarons, pistachio tortes, kouign amann and an (unfortunately) sold-out tray of canelés. Once again, you read that right – canelés.
When I lived in Seattle, these were rare sites, much less in Tacoma, where I was starting to wonder if these French pâtisseries would ever find their way to our part of the state.
Abeille, which means “bee” in French, stems from Bianca’s nickname, “B”. “It’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s approachable…which I guess describes my philosophy on food and what I strive to do,” she said. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, just make really delicious things and see people be happy.”
Sounds like the right idea.
But the story goes deeper than that. The daughter of two chefs, including the late Gayl Bertagni, former co-owner of The Swiss Restaurant and Pub. “Being a product of two chefs, at a very early age I realized that desserts would be my niche. I desperately wanted an Easy-Bake Oven as a child, but my mother refused and taught me how to use our oven in the kitchen. What a concept. Then as soon as I was old enough, I was at her restaurant/pub, The Swiss, making brownies and cheesecakes for the masses. My time at The Swiss ended when hers did, four years ago, and I entered a new chapter/section/ book in my life without her…my biggest role model and best friend,” Sanders said.
After taking some time following her mom’s passing, Sanders enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu baking and patisserie programs in Seattle. In her words, “That is where this little Italian girl learned to LOVE – like really LOVE – and appreciate French pastry. Of course I then had to go to Paris to eat and see and smell the real thing. Magical.”
Notoriously finicky to make, Sanders was determined to figure out macarons, the colorful, lovely to eat French confections with buttercream, jam or ganache wedged in between two light and crisp cookies. They are whimsical, fun and impeccably gorgeous all at the same time, and they happen to also be gluten free. When her friends and family got word she was making them and started demanding them, she knew she had something special.
Same goes for the canelés, another notoriously tricky French pastry. They are hard to get right, and have a creamy interior and caramelized crust, made in cylindrical molds.
For now, the only place find Abeille Baking is at the 6th Avenue Farmers market each Tuesday from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Prices are reasonable. Caneles are $1.75, macarons $1.25/each, kouign amann $2.00, individual flourless chocolate pistachio tortes $4.00, and classic Italian torrone, aka nougat de montelimar, are $1/each.
You can also order directly from Sanders at abeillebaking [at] gmail.com, and she is currently working on a website where all of her products will be listed. Special orders are available for weddings, parties…even anniversaries (HINT, HINT, honey), and “flavors are limited only by your imagination. “The salted banana caramel has a kind of crack following,” Sanders said. “People love it. I did an Earl Grey last week that I was really proud of. It tasted like the way a cup of Earl Grey tea feels.” Sounds dreamy, right?
As for the future, Sanders hopes to open a retail space, but for now, she’s following her passion. “This is the town that I love. My booth at the market is over looking Engine House No. 9, where 25 years ago I’d walk up to the window and say hi to my mom who was managing the kitchen there and making a name for herself in this town. The fact that I get to stand feet from that very spot and do the same thing for myself melts my buttery heart. I want to be part of the solution for this city, and if I can do that one delicious pastry or macaron at a time, then I’m very happy.”
If you didn’t get a tear in your eye, an immense sense of hope for the future and love for Tacoma reading that, then no amount of pastel-colored confection will set you straight. But if you did, find Abeille Baking, buy everything you see, and share it with your family and friends.