Baking frenzies and future endeavors
Photographs by Breezy Lucia
“I love honing down on colors. I haven’t seen anyone else selling sourdoughs with purple swirls,” says Cherie Canelas.
Cherie’s (pronounced “Cherry,” like the fruit) mom was a baker in Honduras. Cherie has brought that baking tradition to Memphis, where she sells Central American specialties and artfully crafted breads at the Memphis Farmers Market every other Saturday.
Many of the goods Cherie offers at her Artesanal de Tela booth are made from her mother’s recipes. Artesanal de Tela is Spanish for “Artisan from Tela” (the city in Honduras where Cherie’s mom was born).
When she was a child in Miami, baking served as her family’s main source of income for a time. She has happy memories of her parents clearing off the entire dining room table to tag team baking and packaging.
“My mom and dad would bake together at home in Miami and sell their breads to church members. Sometimes they would post a sign on the street and sell on the sidewalk,” she says.
Central American breads she specializes in include torta de queso crema (pound cake with cream cheese and butter) and chipas (cheese balls made from cassava flour with parmesan and smoked cheddar). The chipas are gluten free, crunchy, cheesy, and even more delicious when dipped in coffee.
“In Central America, we dip everything in cafe con leche,” she says.
But Cherie doesn’t just make Honduran recipes. At her booth you’ll also find colorful, unique sourdoughs; cheesy sourdoughs; fluffy, giant brioche; and Japanese milk breads. On the weekends that she isn’t at the market, you can find her filled brioche donuts at City & State on Fridays and at Comeback Coffee on Sundays.
Cherie started baking when she was 15 years old—when she got her hands on some frozen cookie dough. “ I remember putting it in the oven at 350 for nine minutes. It looked so beautiful, and it was delicious. I was so satisfied,” she recalls.
She says that, from there, she got into a baking frenzy. She bought cake mixes, started watching baking videos online, and tested her results on her family. “They did not mind,” she laughs. “I was good at icing cakes and making them decorative. Then I moved to cake pops.”
By the time Cherie was 20, she was living in Mississippi and working on getting into nursing school. She decided to make her own chocolate chip cookie recipe.
“It took about 20 batches to get the perfect recipe, but it’s my recipe,” she beams.
Cherie says the key to her recipe is using quality ingredients—not the most expensive but what tastes the best, like shortening and coconut oil.
Now 28 years old and a full-time nurse, she says that she discovered bread baking in January of this year. “I followed a simple recipe, and it was amazing,” she says. “I got into another crazy baking frenzy and got obsessed with making bread look beautiful. My roommate and co-workers sampled a lot of bread and gave me feedback.”
Selling at the market happened on a whim. “My best friend, Sergio, was also starting a plant business, and we decided to do the market together,” she says. “My parents were worried about me baking because of the long hours. Mom loves baking but knows it is a lot of work. It’s a grind.”
Cherie is still shocked by her success. “After the first market in April, I realized, ‘Wow, I really have something here. People really like my stuff!’” she says.
She got excited and doubled down on perfecting her techniques.
“I wanted to make it more aesthetically pleasing, almost too pretty to eat,” she says.
She brought two new items to the market each week, and her weekly bread count kept growing—peaking at 250. She says she was baking for days. “It’s a blur,” she says. “I did it all by myself, but I have a friend who helps package and provides emotional support because that’s what I really need.”
Her sourdough breads are three days in the making. The first day is for fermenting the sourdough starter. Day two, the starter is ready to be combined with flour and folded every two hours. On day three, she bakes. “I love the waiting,” she shares. “The longer it is, the more flavor the bread has.”
Her favorite part, though, is when the bread “reveals itself to her.” (She cooks them covered in Dutch ovens.)
Now, about those donuts.
She started making donuts in June. “One of my loyal customers asked for a menu of everything I could make. I put brioche donuts on the menu because I was just two tries from perfecting them. A week later, she tried them and immediately texted back that they were perfect,” Cherie says.
Another regular customer who works at the Brooks museum also bought some donuts. The customer’s wife, who is a photographer, took pictures and posted them on Instagram—and then Cherie’s Instagram blew up. “Comeback Coffee saw them on Instagram and reached out. I was buying flour in Walmart and I started screaming,” she says. “I wanted wholesale partnerships, but no one was returning emails. I met with Comeback in August on my birthday, and the best gift was to start working on a recipe.”
Cherie says that her policy is to say yes to things even if she doesn’t know how it’s going to happen, because she somehow makes the time. The donuts debuted on August 21 at Comeback. Cherie stayed in the store to see what happened. They sold out in 25 minutes. “It was very rewarding seeing people eat my donuts and say things like, ‘Oh my god, these look so beautiful. What flavors are they?’” she says.
With the speed at which she is making a name for herself, her dream to own her own bakery doesn’t seem too far off. “I know exactly what it looks like in my head,” she says.
Follow @artesanaldetela on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes videos. When the market ends for the year, Cherie plans to take special orders.
Stacey Greenberg is the editor in chief of Edible Memphis. You can follow her at @nancy_jew.
Breezy Lucia is a Memphis transplant from Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a queer photographer and filmmaker living in Midtown. When she’s not using a camera, she’s baking bread or making fermented beverages. @breezylucia