Desserts are Jessica Armstrong’s first love, dating from her high-school days as a self-taught baker, making wedding cakes for family and for profit. After graduating from the pastry program at Johnson County Community College, Armstrong moved to Austin, Texas, and then onto Moulins, France, learning and perfecting her baking expertise the entire time. After returning to K.C., she was hired by Bluestem’s Megan Garrelts to fill the pastry sous chef position at Rye, then moving to Bluestem a year and a half later, in the enviable position of working alongside Garrelts. Marriage to Novel owner and chef Ryan Brazeal, and the birth of their daughter, Iris, in 2016, led to her move to Novel, where in addition to upping the pastry game at the award-winning restaurant, she’s assumed the event coordinator duties as well.
01. Tartine, a cookbook by Elisabeth Prueitt & Chad Robertson. It’s full of basic bakery recipes. I like to use it as a base for inspiration and build upon that by adding different seasonal ingredients and techniques.
02. A stainless-steel fine-mesh sieve. The best tool for sifting, straining, and eliminating unwanted lumps in desserts.
03. Oddly Correct coffee. We serve their fantastic beans at Novel. I make a cold-brew concentrate before I go to bed. Mix 1/3 cup ground coffee with 2 cups cold water and let sit covered overnight. In the morning I strain it through a coffee filter and pour over ice.
04. Grandma Millie’s date pinwheel cookies. We baked these together for Christmas on the farm, along with spicy homemade cheddar cheese crackers.
05. Badger Balm garnet lip tint. Hydrated and natural lips are the ultimate sexy.
06. Level 99 denim. My go-to when my daughter and I are spending time outdoors, where I’m usually in shorts and sandals.
07. White china and simple, sleek silverware. A blank canvas—the food is the star, not the plate.
08. Snow and Arrow baby slippers. They’re easy to put on, don’t fall off, have a non-slip leather sole, and come in organic cotton or wool and a variety of cute prints.
09. J.R. Watkins lavender lotion. Lavender and yoga are the perfect remedies for a stressful week.