Words and photos: Stephanie Breijo
“We always wanted to be in business for ourselves. It’s something we talked about for years.” The ‘we’ head baker Lindsey Morse is referring to is her husband, Niall, though today she’s joined by kitchen manager Lindsey Downen as she pipes chocolate ganache into the center of a few dainty tarts. Fall is here and today they are attempting their first batch of seasonal, local baked goods.
Like the months it took to reach fall harvest, it’s been a long road for BakeHouse, the bright and cheerful bakery-cum-coffee-shop which opened in spring. The unconventional path that led the husband-and-wife team to the corner of 14th and T routed them as far as Antarctica, with a stop or two along the way in a museum studies program in Scotland and a stint at a Starbucks, before landing them at a literal hole in the ground–the future site of their first business.
“Being kind of food snobs we learned that if we wanted good bread and pastries, we would have to make them ourselves,” Morse mentions, before telling me the duo began by catering Antarctic cruise ships. “We always wanted to have a really great marriage of coffee and baked goods; it’s hard to find someplace that takes both very seriously.”
Stepping behind the counter and into the small kitchen at BakeHouse it’s clear that seriously is precisely how this machine is run, though it’s not done without a smile.
By the time you read this, both Morse and Downen will have worked tirelessly at Bakehouse for hours, starting their shifts at 3:30 a.m. In the morning, one begins baking biscuits and scones while the other starts the muffins and the cupcake bases, then prepare and slice the loafs. From there they move on to cookies and scooping brownies, carrot cake, and flourless chocolate cake. Then come the cupcake decorations and ice cream sandwiches. If there are special orders, they’ll knock this out of the way, too.
And all of this should be done by the shop’s 7:00 a.m. opening.
If this sounds daunting and exhausting it’s because it is, though you’d never know it just looking at the team of Lindseys. Both cheerfully move from one task to the next, near-seamlessly completing both their own tasks and the other’s when needed; a kitchen in tandem. The pair buzz from one task to another clearing bowls of batter, pulling trays from their industrial fridge or delicately spooning one of their daily-made concoctions onto a tray. “You just have to go to bed like a grandma,” Downen jokes. “At like, 9:00 O’Clock. We’re still half-asleep in the morning.”
Downen, who began her career with a background in marketing, loads a tray of quarter-sized yellow dough into their industrial oven. Today they are trying lemon macarons with blueberry currant filling for the first time; call it a farewell to summer.
“We definitely try and keep things seasonal,” Downen adds. “Recipe development is one of my favorite things.”
Morse pours out small cups of her Black Pepper Hot Chocolate, a late-fall menu item. The incredibly well-balanced cocoa is savory and nearly bitter, dark, not overly sweet. What inspires their flavor profiles? In the case of the hot chocolate, Morse had just purchased black pepper oil; it’s whimsy and creative instinct that sets BakeHouse apart with new items influenced by purchases and experiences that take the form of new batters, creams and crumbles every morning. “The Lindseys,” as they’re playfully called, are never afraid to try; every day is an experiment.
“We really like taking classic ideas and playing around with them,” Morse notes. They pause and look at the oven, both exulting. The macarons have feet.
In addition to their Black Pepper Hot Chocolate, the fall menu sports–albeit predictably–an array of pumpkin, from pumpkin spice loaf and pumpkin-and-walnut streusel muffin, to items made with the gourd’s flavor-like relative, such as sweet potato biscuits. Past pumpkin you’ll find popcorn balls made with bacon and whiskey, coconut and curry, or spicy chocolate, as well as lollipops, sandwiches and even Downen’s own family recipe for persimmon pudding they’re trying to integrate.
Morse tenderly peels the finished macarons from the parchment paper, flipping them upside down. On the other side of the table, Downen pours the blueberry currant filling into a piping bag, folding the top over itself.
Once the cookies are cool, we all try a bite. Sugary lightness folds in on itself and we let it dissolve on our tongues. The Linsey’sdebate briefly the consistency of the blueberry curd–would thickness improve the top and bottom from sliding?–but the general consensus is that the flavor is great; tomorrow when they experiment again, they will try anew.