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Issue Five / Essay
“The hour is early and there is a calm quiet that I find comforting”

Morning Baking

Words by Caroline Egan Photographs by Nikole Herriott

A young baker recounts her early morning routine and the affinity she has developed with her trade.

The hour is early and there is a calm quiet that I find comforting. Morning. Dough, flour and sugar cover my workspace, evidence that it will be a good morning. Baking is now intuitive: after hours of prepping, researching and practicing, I know that my hands, body, and soul have memorized each recipe. From the kitchen I can hear the barista dialing in, click, click, click—perfecting the grind of the espresso, pulling the first shot of the day, checking its taste. Notes of espresso fill the air and the regulars start to arrive.

As I place a dozen maple date scones into the oven, I hear someone ask about blueberry muffins, and I know without looking at the clock above my head that it must be 6:30. The muffins are ready. Their sweet crumble is golden brown, and the dark blueberry juice escapes from the cracks: art, if you ask me. I place them on a slab of wood and head out to the pastry case. Their scent fills the café, catalyzing a group of customers to get up from working (drinking coffee) to order muffins. As I stand there, all but a half dozen are sold, and I take this as a sign that my hard work—and early hours—are worth it.

I was once a customer at the café, and each day I would look forward to the ritual of drinking my cappuccino. Then and now, I enjoy the café as a place where people can pause. Sometimes customers are in a rush, but the baristas, baked goods and I encourage a slow atmosphere of conversation and appreciation. The baristas converse through the pour of each cup, the contrast of espresso to milk, their love of coffee evident in every movement. We encourage customers to appreciate their coffee slowly, to talk about the espresso, to discover subtle notes and flavors in their cup. Over time, customers become regulars, and begin to yearn for those conversations. They slow down automatically, leaving our café with far more than a cup of coffee.

This morning, I chat with one of the regulars about curing meat and the art of baking the perfect carrot cake. After our morning conversation he leaves with a large latte and a café staple: an orange cranberry scone. I can always tell when those scones are almost ready; the warm scent of butter and citrus, a scent that I find familiar and enchanting, fills the air.

Walking back to the kitchen I can see a shot of espresso waiting for me. I take a sip and close my eyes; it’s rich, flavorful and sinfully sweet. The scent of figs escapes the oven. Like the regular customers, I cherish routine. My mornings are defined by scones, muffins, espresso and those slow and thoughtful human interactions that coffee shops allow. I place my cup down, wipe my hands on my apron and roll up the sleeves of my soft flannel shirt. The morning has just begun.

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