Pastry chef Kim Hoàng Wood often finds American pastries too sweet. “It is just cake and full of sugar frosting,” she says, noting that the high amounts of butter and sugar used in many desserts overpower “any of the flavor and texture.”
In contrast, Wood’s pastries are French-by-way-of-Vietnam influenced and have less butter, sugar and calories, yet deliver more flavor.
“If you’re making a French cake, there are two to three or four different recipes in one cake,” she says. “When you put it all together you get the smoothness, the crunchiness, the earthiness, and then all the tartness, and the sweetness, and even a little bit of bitter, a little bit of salt.”
You’ll know exactly what she means the second you bite into one of the eye-catching, delicate, light and oh-so-very delicious and layered pastries she creates at her new delivery-only bakery Le Bánh Patisserie. Operating out of a commercial kitchen in Canton, Wood delivers throughout Connecticut, with most of her business focused in the Farmington Valley. “Bánh” means “cake” or “bread” in Vietnamese and “patisserie” is French for bakery, and the business merges her Vietnamese heritage with French culinary traditions.
Wood, 32, was born in Vietnam. Her father fought alongside Americans as a member of South Vietnam’s navy but was captured and was a prisoner of war for seven years. After that harrowing experience, the large family — Wood is one of six children — moved to the U.S., settling in Texas. Wood would always cook with her mom and fell in love with baking and the elements of French cuisine that had influenced Vietnamese cooking. After receiving her degree in business, she went to culinary school at The Art Institute of Houston and further honed her skills as a chef in the corporate kitchen of ExxonMobil.
In 2017, Wood’s husband got a job in Connecticut that brought them to Simsbury. For a time, she worked at Foxwoods at Cake by Franck. She stepped away from the industry to have a child but found she missed baking as a stay-at-home mom. “I love my son, I love motherhood, but a little part of me was lost,” she says. She decided to launch a delivery-based bakery in early 2020 before COVID-19 was truly on the local radar. By luck, it has proved a business model particularly well-suited to these times.
A recent contactless order delivered to my home left me thoroughly impressed. A bourbon chocolate pecan tart is a lesson in subtlety and deliciousness with each element complementing the other. The cannelés, doodles (sugar cookies) and bánhsicles (a cake pop) are also impressive. But the star of the show is the Petit Gâteaux heart, a decadent mousse dessert served in a strawberry shell that is a sightly showcase of Wood’s skills and the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. It is also an example of the type of layered flavor profile she takes pride in creating in her pastries. “You have the tartness from the strawberry, the dark chocolate mousse, which is the smoothness, then the fluffiness of the cake and the crunchiness of the cookie,” she says. “So, in one bite you can have all of that explosion in your mouth.”
The appearance of each pastry and how it is presented is of equal importance for Wood. The pastries are little edible works of art and many are delivered in clear packages wrapped with bows. This presentation is reminiscent of a beautifully wrapped Christmas morning gift, and Wood loves that her desserts are often ordered for others as a present. Her goal is to give her customers a little bit of wonder and delight.
“It makes me happy making it,” she says. “And I also want to make people happy receiving it.”
Le Bánh Patisserie