With its first brick and mortar store, Bramble Baking Co. flourishes in Hamilton

“The kind of community that Allie is trying to create is very inclusive, whatever the possible use of the word may be.”

Like Hacker and Koshgarian, Dayna Palmer spent time in the restaurant industry. “I’ve focused my career on chocolate for the past six years, but this is the first time I’ve worked in a bakery since cooking school,” says Palmer. “The kind of community that Allie is trying to create is very inclusive, whatever the possible use of the word may be.”

As she speaks, Palmer pours buttermilk into a well in the center of the butter-flour cookie mix – bakers produce 48 on a weekday, selling out within hours. It was she who added chocolate candy to the bakery’s holiday repertoire, which also quickly sold out.

But no matter what delicious treats Smith adds to the menu, flowers will always be Bramble’s signature.

“Part of using flowers is to honor their temporary beauty,” Kinney explains, as she carefully stores the flattened petals and herbs in binders.

With additional flowers, all non-toxic and/or edible, to fuel the sweet work flow from Two Boots Farm, Belvedere Farm Flowers and Locust Point Flowers, there’s enough to load into an old wooden flower press, donated to the bakery. at its beginnings.

“It’s very therapeutic,” says Felicity Lugay, a domestic worker and special education student at Towson University, as she lifts mummy and tulip petals, salvia and sage leaves. “When we run out of space [on the flower
press]we only use books,” Kinney explains as Lugay brings in thick cookbooks (The cake bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum; At Roxana Jullapat’s Mother cereals; At Claire Ptak The Violet Bakery Cookbook) at the bottom of the bakery shelves.

Kinney asks people to refrigerate their cakes, keep them out of the sun for the sake of the flowers and the buttercream – Smith keeps a blowtorch next to the KitchenAid to help control the temperature of the finicky icing while the layer cakes are assembled – and recommends that fresh flower cakes are best given and eaten as soon as reasonably possible. This is usually not a problem.

Carrie Beha, who like most Bramble employees oscillates between front and back work, also discovered the bakery through the farmer’s market. Beha started working as a teenager and never went to college, but eventually made the transition to a job at Moon Valley Farm in Woodsboro, one of Bramble’s suppliers. “My heart lit up,” Beha says, after seeing the Good Food Jobs post about Bramble. Of the wider social project of the bakery, Beha says, “I hope we can maintain this balance. I think this is going to be the best part of Bramble and the hardest part.

Because despite the garlands of flowers and the warm cookies, working in a bakery is not easy. The demands are high and the hours are long: Smith starts work at 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and on weekends someone is at the bakery from 2:30 or 3 a.m. “The only way to make this kind of work sustainable, when it’s so counter to our circadian rhythms and puts a lot of strain on your body, is to really be honest with yourself and each other,” Smith says. . She spreads buttercream on a mini pumpkin cake, turning the cake stand like clockwork. “The pinnacle of honesty that we’ve been able to find on our own is working towards this collaborative environment.”

Good sourcing, whether local or not, has always been a priority for Bramble.

“Working with local farms and local ingredients was really important to me,” says Hacker, whose Stellar Rye Croissants, using stone-ground rye flour from Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is a chef. -dough, both buttery and flaky, and earthy whole grains. (All Bramble’s milk and buttermilk comes from South Mountain Creamery in Middletown; the pie crust is made with flour from Small Valley Milling in Halifax, PA, and Migrash Farms near Randallstown; these cookies are made with Plugra butter.) “Allie understands how important it is, when I’ve had so many chefs say, you’re lucky you have any flour at all.

It’s not hard to see how Bramble’s work environment translates from the production table to the pastry case. “What I’m doing here,” says Hacker, “is some of the best I’ve ever done.” “The kindness made me want to work here,” Haji recounts later, sitting outside on the sunny bakery bench, summing things up with the skill of a baker. “It’s great to be part of something and to feel valued, to be in a community. It puts everything into perspective. »

Because depending on where you are in the world, brambles can be roses or weeds, blackberries, or even arctic brambles – hardy and hardy, often grown in neglected spaces. And utterly magnificent, much like the bakers themselves.