A Dream of a Bakery

When I was in Ludington, Michigan a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting a bakery/cafe that was absolutely charming. The owner, John, started it years ago on a shoestring budget, using a credit card for funding. He was kind enough to show me his kitchen and tell me how he got started.

John made a few things really well and established a customer base. His customers liked his baked goods so much, and they wanted to see the business succeed, that they started donating mugs, tables, chairs, anything they could to help him out. A local artist painted the floor with unique designs for free. He couldn't afford wallpaper, so he used old cookbooks to cover the walls of the bathrooms. He found used baking equipment and ovens to expand his menu. (He didn't even have an oven when he first started out!!)

Little by little, John's business grew and is now a local hangout and tourist destination in Ludington. He makes really good carrot muffins (I included a similar recipe below, though not his) and multi-grain bread. I didn't have a chance to have breakfast there, but I definitely will next time I visit Ludington. John was very encouraging toward my own dreams of starting a bakery.

My life goal is to open a bakery/cafe, using locally grown organic food, and run it as a social business. I have a heart for homeless people, and I want to hire and train homeless people to work in the bakery, and then eventually move on to other jobs, so that I could continue to train people. I would also use some of the profits to keep the bakery open a couple of weeknights and have it be a glorified soup kitchen. Homeless and hungry people could come in, sit at a table with others, and order from a fixed menu. Then, volunteers would serve them what they ordered. It would be a more dignified approach to feeding the hungry.

This is my dream, and I've come across quite a few bakery-owners and business people who have absolutely exuded confidence, making me hopeful that my dream will someday become a reality. Even though I have no business background and only have about five recipes that are truly menu-worthy, I'm working towards this dream.

What do you think? Will I succeed? What is your life passion, or are you still searching?

Carrot Muffins
Adapted from a Gourmet 1998 recipe

1 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or 1/2 cup canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F. and oil a 12-muffin pan.

Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and whisk in sugar. Coarsely shred enough carrots to measure 2 cups and chop pecans. Add shredded carrots and pecans to flour mixture with raisins and coconut and toss well.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, yogurt, and vanilla. Coarsely shred the apple, omitting the core. Stir shredded apple into egg mixture and add to flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined well. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them almost full, and bake in middle of oven until puffed and a tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

Cool muffins in cups on racks 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.


Kelly Lynn said…
Rebekah, I love reading your food blog! It makes me wish we had been friends at Houghton instead of just friendly acquaintances! I love love love to cook and your blog always encourages me to do it MORE! Food hospitality? My mother in law is an amazing cook. Arturos family all like super spicy food. My MIL always makes a little batch of tamales, sopes and even posole that is less spicy than the rest. It always makes me feel cared for by her even though we can't talk much since I sadly lack the Spanish skills. There you go: good food bridging language barriers!
Rebekah Kuk said…
Kelly, it's great to hear from you! I know what you mean about feeling cared for when someone goes out of their way to accommodate your food needs. I usually only eat meat when I know where it comes from, and sometimes my friends will make food with other meat, but make something vegetarian for me. It's nice. I love food hospitality!
T Peter said…
I just stumbled on your blog and thought I'd mention a quaint little bakery near your place (sort of). If you ever drive north from the city, up on Route 1 about 45-50 minutes out of town there's an awesome little place called Route 1 Bakery. They mostly make cakes to order, but everything I've sampled there has been incredible.

Website: http://www.us1bakerymarket.com/

On a related note, something to try: http://www.perfectcupcakes.com/
Rebekah Kuk said…
Thanks Pete, I'll have to check out that bakery next time I'm up north. And I hadn't heard of the cupcake girl before -- what a great idea!
tsippor said…
Hey Becky,

What a lovely blog-post! Food is so much more than food and its inspiring to read your dreams about a bakery. Baking has been a passion of mine for a while and its interesting how food (especially sweets) can bring people together.

Let me know if you're interested in doing some bread-baking ever. I want to experiment with making bagels and I always need an excuse to make challah bread. Keep sharing your dreams and musings. They are much appreciated.

Also - - have you checked out "Sweet Sin" cafe in Remington? They are an up and coming bakery which specializes in gluten-free desserts. Let me know if you ever want to check it out together.

Rebekah Kuk said…
Thanks Candice! I love making bread, and am looking for new inspiration. I've always wanted to try making bagels and pita bread, so let's do it. And yes, let's go to Sweet Sin together. I don't know how flexible your schedule is, but I could do lunch during the week, or we could go on a Saturday morning.
I 'm sure if you want your own business you will get it, keep working toward it. I never thought I would have my own business, but somehow it worked out! The best part is being your own boss and making all the decisions, of course you're also responsible for making sure all the work gets done.
When we were in Ludington the last time, Kathy took me to the bakery. It sure is a charming spot. The baked goods are delicious too.
I enjoyed reading about your ideas for cottage cheese. I have always liked it, and we have a brand here in Michigan called "Michigan Brand" that is heads and tails above the rest, especially when it is fresh. We had some for lunch today. Usually I just serve it with chives and coarse grind black pepper, but I am going to try one your suggestions the next time I serve it.
Aunt Debbie
Rebekah Kuk said…
Aunt Debbie, thanks for your encouragement! I'm going to have to try some Michigan Brand cottage cheese when I'm there this weekend. So excited for Elaine and Dave's wedding!
Julie said…
That is a fantastic idea! I'm excited for when it will be realized. My favorite coffee shop from college was a not-for-profit, volunteer run place that welcomed homeless people. Those who couldn't pay for the coffee were welcome to do some odd jobs (clean bathrooms, sweep, etc) instead. It was a great atmosphere.
Rebekah Kuk said…
Thanks Julie! Where was the coffee shop? I'm keeping an informal list in my head of food businesses that work with homeless people, hoping I'll get to visit them some day.