The Helms Bakery was a southern California fixture for decades, from 1931 to 1969. Their slogan was “Daily at Your Door” and their products were delivered throughout southern California by delivery wagons packed with fresh loaves of bread, donuts, cookies and cake. Their main facility was in Culver City, Los Angeles and is still a landmark for the area, now hosting a number of restaurants and stores in what is known as the Helms Bakery District.
The building hasn’t housed a bakery for decades, but that is about to change because pastry chef Sherry Yard and Sang Yoon (who recently appeared on Top Chef Masters) are reopening the official Helms Bakery in that space. The bakery itself – which will sell all kinds of pastries and breads, as well as Helms’ signature donuts – isn’t scheduled to open until early next year, but you can get a sneak peek by heading down to the Helms Bakery building to visit the Helms Bakery Truck. Sherry confirmed to me the other day that the truck was open Thursday – Sunday, from 12-4 pm. And I could not wait to get down there and check it out.
The delivery truck is stationary at the moment, but the 1962 wagon has been completely restored and does run. It is set up exactly like the original deliver trucks, with wooden drawers in the back that are full of goodies. The day I visited, the goodies included freshly baked cookies and ice cream bars, and I couldn’t resist trying a few different things.
I started with an ice cream bar that was made with roasted banana ice cream, dipped and chocolate and rolled in feuilletine, which are crunchy pastry flakes that pastry chefs work with to add a little texture to a dessert (kind of like an ultra thin cornflake). Chocolate and bananas is a delicious combination and this was no exception. The ice cream was delicious and full of banana flavor, and the chocolate shell was ultra-thin with a perfect snap to it as you bit in to the bar.
I also tried a strawberry cheesecake ice cream bar. As tasty as the banana was, this one was even better. It had three different types of ice cream inside to capture that cheesecake flavor. The base was a fromage blanc ice cream, with pockets of strawberry sorbet and graham cracker ice cream. The strawberry sorbet really popped, and the fromage blanc ice cream had a wonderful lightness to it. The bar was dipped in a very thin layer of white chocolate and finished with sweet, crispy graham cracker crumbs. It just might be one of the best strawberry cheesecakes I’ve had.
You can’t go wrong with any ice cream bars, but you also don’t want to miss out on the ice cream sandwiches. This one was built with jumbo oatmeal cookies sandwiching a fudge-swirled vanilla ice cream. In the center of the ice cream, there was a pocket of smoked marshmallow, and the whole cookie was drizzled with a little bit of chocolate. If you think this combination sounds similar to a s’more, you would be right, since that is the sense I got from the combination of smoked marshmallow and fudge as I ate.
The cookies were tender and delicious, a great balance with the ice cream. My only complaint about this sandwich was that it was almost to big to fit in my mouth – fortunately, after softening for a minute or two I was able to squish it down just enough to take a huge bite. And that was followed by many additional bites. This sandwich is big enough to share, especially if you’re going to be tasting some of the ice cream bars, too.
In addition to the cookies on the ice cream sandwich, they also sell individual cookies at the Helms Bakery Truck. These brownie-like cookies made with almond flour and packed an intense dark chocolate flavor. It was also so tender that it just about melted in my mouth.
The prices are very reasonable. I paid $3 for each ice cream sandwich and the cookies were $1. As a little added bonus, I also got a little caramel after I paid – and not just any caramel, a chewy creme fraiche caramels with cocoa nibs. Nice balance of flavors and a good sneak peek at one of the candy options that should be at the bakery.
They do change up the menu a little bit now and again, but if you hit the truck before summer is over, you are guaranteed to find ice cream and you’ll have a very good chance of finding these exact same treats in stock. I would highly recommend stopping by if you’re in the neighborhood. Actually, the ice creams are definitely worth going out of your way for – and I know that I’ll be back for another round soon.
Helms Bakery Truck
Across from Father’s Office (3229 Helms Avenue Los Angeles CA 90034)