La Matriz Bakery fuses cultural backgrounds, culinary expertise, and maternal instinct. The owner, Karla Armour, proudly refers to herself as a fifth generation baker. The word Matriz is Spanish for womb, connecting the proofing process of baking with birthing. La Matriz Bakery fosters scratch-made cakes, breads, yeast rolls, and their signature scones.
As a first generation American, Armour preserves her cultural roots through food. La Matriz Bakery offers dishes influenced from African-American, Guyanese, and Latino cuisines.
Her father was originally from Missouri, but moved to Chicago after serving in Vietnam. He also cooked professionally, working at the Chicago Athletic Club as a Morning Steward. He passed on Southern, and African-American cooking styles.
On her Guyanese side, Armour’s great-great-grandmother’s baked cakes for weddings and birthdays, forming frosting roses by hand. Her grandmother ran a diner out of her home, serving neighbors ethnic dishes like curries, picadillo, and roti bread. Although principally a bakery, La Matriz also offers such items upon special request.
Armour’s first connection with the Spice House was in 2014, after entering a Chicago-based scone competition. We sponsored that event in part with King Arthur Flour and The French Pastry School. She visited our Old Town shop for our famous Saigon Cinnamon, and as been singing praise for our spices since. Her favorite spices are warm ones like vanilla, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, orange zest, and lemon zest.
Armour graduated from Washburne Culinary Institute, earning both Basic and Advanced Certificates in Culinary Arts. She spent some time baking for Mariano’s, before launching her own business after an arthritis diagnosis prevented her from working in commercial kitchens.
We reconnected and cooked with Armour at her culinary alma mater, in the heart of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. She kindly led us through two of her recipes, and has allowed us to share them with you. At her old kitchen classroom, she laid down a cutting board, opened her knife roll, and immediately began skinning the pumpkin for the first dish: Calabaza Caribeño, Caribbean-style pumpkin. Diced onion, garlic, shallot, and butter all fall in love before embracing chunks of vibrant calabaza, coconut milk, chicken stock, and a dusting of our Pilsen and Pumpkin Pie Spice blends.
You’ll need the right type of pumpkin for this dish. It is the calabaza, also known as the West Indian pumpkin. You can find this vegetable at most Latino, Caribbean, or Filipino grocery stores. This recipe is deliciously warm, creamy, sweet, and savory—a perfect pairing for steamed rice and grilled shrimp.
Scones are the cornerstone of La Matriz Bakery. The first thing you’ll notice is that her’s are round. She lovingly refers to them as Scottish biscuits, and says traditional scones aren’t triangular. The Bakery’s scones are always rotating with the seasons and personal whim. If you can dream it, La Matriz Bakery can scone it. Today’s recipe was Apple-Ginger, a seasonal favorite featuring our Apple Pie Spice and Crystalized Ginger Nibs.
The scones were perfect. Soft inside, with a crisp outside. The sweet apples deliciously juxtaposed the spicy bits of candied ginger. A well-rounded scone in both its shape and flavor. We recommend ordering a baker’s dozen.
La Matriz Bakery is currently run online only, offering baked goods, pastries, and catering services. Next year, Armour plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. To order from La Matriz Bakery, or to inquire about a catering menu, email Karla Armour at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is brought to you with special thanks to Washburne Culinary Institute.
Geoff Marshall is Web Content Manager at the Spice House. He loves writing stories and recipes for the blog. When he’s not nose deep in one of Tom and Patty’s many spice encyclopedias, you’ll find him daydreaming of dinner prep or riding his bicycle.