Behind the Apron with BB&P’s Head Baker, Laura Horner-Richardson

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What first drew you to baking?

I grew up in a big family so there were always lots of people to cook for. Over the years I discovered how fun it was to share what I’d made with those around me. Seeing the connection people have with food and how it can bring people together in a very comforting way is what sparked my interest in baking as a career.

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Where has your passion for the culinary arts taken you? 

My passion for baking, which began in my family’s small kitchen in Cornish, NH, has already taken me farther than I ever expected. When I was 18 years old, I started my baking career in Norwich, VT as a bread baker at King Arthur Flour. Four years later—much to my surprise—I took a job as the executive pastry chef on an 800-acre private island in the Turks and Caicos. 

After a year, I decided it was time to get back to New England and took a job as a sourdough and bagel baker at Scratch Baking Company in Maine. After a wonderful ten months there (up to my ears in bagels), I was invited to join the U.S team of bread and pastry bakers to participate at the annual Fête du Pain festival in Paris, France. 

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After two weeks of baking in Paris, and six weeks exploring Europe with my best friend and fellow baker, I came back to the Upper Valley to pursue my next adventure.

 

What about BB&P inspires you?

One of the things I am most excited about in joining the team at Butcher & Pantry is the opportunity to connect with the community through my baking. I think the need for a local grocery store within a small town is huge, and the vision to make this an accessible, everyday store for the community is very inspiring.

The idea that small towns can support their own local grocery store is one that is losing popularity, but it’s an idea that BB&P embodies so well and is one I am very excited to be a part of.

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Can you give us a sneak preview of what customers might find at the BB&P bakery?

My hope is that the bakery case strikes a balance of classic and modern. I like to bake things that are accessible and comforting, but also surprising in one way or another. More than anything, I want to be serving things that are made well and taste delicious. 

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Whether it’s a really good chocolate rye brownie, or a sticky bun to enjoy with your morning coffee here at the store – I want to serve baked goods that are comforting to people, while also adding a little something extra that allows me to share a part of myself with the community through delicious, wholesome food.
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Doughnuts will also be available on certain days of the week, and really, who can argue with a warm doughnut to start the day off right?!

 

If Vermont was a pastry, what would it be?

I feel like if I answer this wrong, it could be a deal breaker for some people! I would say either a bear claw (mostly for the name), an apple fritter or turnover.

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How have your travels influenced your culinary vision?

Baking in France with a crew of Parisian bread bakers was by far one of the most surreal events of my baking career. Being able to bake alongside people who have been making bread for generations gave me a deeper appreciation for the craft of baking. It has such a long-standing tradition in France.

Being around a community that respects the trade and fosters that respect in young bakers was inspiring to see. That reverence is something I definitely want to incorporate more into my communities here.

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One baking tool you can’t live without?

If I had to choose only one it would be a digital scale. I measure my ingredients by weight, not volume. It’s the best way to get consistent, accurate results. I also rely heavily on a metal bench knife for cutting dough or butter, squaring off corners and scraping my work bench clean between tasks.

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Favorite Vermont activity?

In summertime I spend the majority of my free time swimming! I love exploring new swimming holes and lakes. Snowshoeing is a wintertime favorite of mine, and I will gladly spend hours in the woods doing that. I also really love gardening and seeing my spring efforts rewarded with flowers and vegetables in the summer and fall.

Is there a new recipe you’re working on, at home or professionally? 

I always have a handful of new ideas I’m throwing around, sometimes they are just variations on an old standby recipe. I try to always be thinking of new ways to use ingredients that are in season. Just the other day I got a couple bags of overripe peaches so I made fresh peach butter and stuffed that inside a sugar and spice doughnut. I had no complaints! 

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What are some of the achievements you’ve received over the years?

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of working with a lot of talented bakers in the industry. I have excellent mentors who have taught me not only to be a better baker but have shaped me as an adult. That in and of itself feels like a great privilege, and those relationships are ones I feel very fortunate to have formed.

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All photos courtesy of Laura Horner-Richardson.

Peter Varkonyi