When people ask me how I came to be a baker...I tell them, it was purely by accident.
This story starts at a time when I became one of many to share the misfortune of graduating into a recession. While I was able to secure some freelance writing work in those days, weeks and months seemed to fly by without gainful employment in sight. The only highlight was that I was able to stay at home with my baby girl.
One early spring morning in 2010, while we were watching the PBS channel, a short skit came on that went something like this:
Friend: "You make the best pies! You should sell them at the market."
Girl with red shirt: "Oh...I don't know, it's too much work to make them and sell them."
Friend: "Why don't you make them and I'll go sell them for you!"
Next scene showed the friend wheeling the pies down to the farmer's market and returning home with an empty cart. And so insert - 💡 - here! A flurry of thoughts that followed went something like this:
- I didn't know that non-farmers could sell things at a farmer's market (clearly I hadn't been to a lot of them...)
- Wait a minute...I can bake too!
- Since no one will offer me a job, I will give one to myself - at least for this summer.
A new market had been getting ready to launch in downtown Rockford that year. Timidly, I picked up the phone and inquired whether I could sell cookies, cupcakes and whatever pastries they'd allow. The answer was no - there were others offering those products already. However, they said, there are no vendors selling bread and asked me whether I knew how to bake bread. Without hesitation, I heard myself assuring them that of course I knew and I would be sending along pictures as well as samples. Before hanging up, I managed to add, "oh, and my company's name will be Crust & Crumbles."
I had never baked bread before in my life...
My great-grandmother was a stellar baker who raised our family on breads from her wood-fired hearth oven. But she was long gone and, frankly, I didn't know where to even begin looking for a formal apprenticeship. So I looked to the master bakers in the cookbook aisle to impart their knowledge on me. I'd learned everything I could and as fast as I could about bread baking from reading books, blogs, and tutorials. I spent endless days and nights obsessively baking bread over and over again. I'd stopped filling out job applications and started filling out recipe notes. That fall, when the market season ended, I was extremely tired, tremendously exhilarated, and hopelessly in love with baking bread.
Over the years, I've graduated from straight yeasted breads to naturally leavened ones. Although the ingredients have remained simple, the process has become more complex as I've been continuing to learn how to manipulate the fermentation and timing of my doughs. With the support of my incredible team made up of friends and family, Crust & Crumbles has gone through similar changes as we are slowly but surely trying to nurture its growth as a business. One of the best parts of bread baking is getting to share it with others and it is a great pleasure for me to watch them enjoy it. Our motto is "for love and loaf" - because we do it for the love of baking and for the endless journey of trying to bake the best loaf that we can.
To all the people who have allowed me to continue telling this story countless loaves later, I thank you for the privilege of baking for you and your families.