Sweet Sundays: Family Baking at Yellow Dog Bread Co.

On their day off, the Andrews family brings their kids into the bakery for a delicious tradition.
by Addie Ladner | photography by Eamon Queeney 

On a crisp Sunday morning in December, Yellow Dog Bread Co. is adorned with fresh Christmas garland. The bakery is toasty inside its frosted windows, where two giggly brothers decorate Christmas cookies with a substantial amount of blue icing and mounds of sprinkles.

Every other day of the week, the bakery hums with excitement as loyal patrons grab spiced lattes and workers box up Christmas cookie orders. But Sundays have a different kind of energy: that’s when owners Matt and Tanya Andrews share a tasty tradition with their sons Walker and Graham.

“I hold the pageantry of Christmas in high esteem,” says Tanya Andrews, whose grandfather was a pastor in Rocky Mount. Each Christmas Eve, her family would gather in his living room to listen to the Christmas story from a worn book while the kids, dressed in their holiday pajamas, sipped hot apple cider and ate fruit cake. “You hold onto those sacred moments from childhood,” she says.

But those simple, homemade memories can be hard to foster when you’re running a bakery and December is the busiest time of year. “Thinking about baking when I get home is almost laughable,” Andrews says. But the couple felt they’d be remiss not to create those special times with their children, like the ones she had as a child.

So on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they head to their second home, the bakery. Their boys get set up with a cookie-decorating station in the production area to make treats for friends and family. Meanwhile, Tanya Andrews meticulously decorates cookies for Monday orders while Matt Andrews gets a head start on bread baking. “If there is anything folks can relate to right now,” she says, “it’s working with your kids in tow!”

While the family-run bakery has grown since they opened the doors to a brick-and-mortar location with 18 employees back in 2013, Tanya Andrews still takes on the role of primary cookie artist each December. She decorates every gingerbread man by hand—last year that meant around 1,300 of them. “Gingerbread is my bread and butter, but it’s an art form that certainly has its limitations,” she laughs. Personalized orders of various nature come in each year, like a recent request for a gingerbread man wearing a monogrammed Lilly Pulitzer scarf.

Over the years, she’s created a few holiday hacks to ensure the season is “more special and less stressful and regretful.” A favorite: making big batches of dough well ahead of time to call on throughout the season. (You can steal this trick yourself with the recipes she’s shared.) “It’s not revolutionary, but having a few of these things ready to go means we can still spontaneously have fresh baked cookies for beautiful and magical moments.”

Family and togetherness are what Yellow Dog was founded on in the first place. “I always had this vision of a walkable bakery in a neighborhood that would allow us to be a part of people’s lives,” says Andrews. “I’d ask myself, what would I have wanted if I had been a little kid? What memories would I have created?

If the sprinkle-strewn countertops and icing-covered fingers are any indication, those memories will indeed be sweet.

Click here for the recipes.