Artisan Bakers at the Market this Summer

By: Debra Chase

Giant sticky buns, soft as a cloud and oozing with honey caramel. Light and moist orange scones, drizzled with an old fashioned powdered sugar glaze, deep chocolate brownies generously cloaked with marshmallows reminiscent of s’mores. Oh so tender and flakey shortbread cookies in a variety of sweet and savory flavors; classic vanilla, lavender, scallion goat cheese, and rosemary sea salt. Freshly baked goods that one would expect to see in a high end bakery shop in San Francisco, New York or London. Traveling the world to experience the creations of artisan bakers is not necessary. They can now be found right here in Woodland at the Farmer’s Market.

Zest Fresh Pastry West has arrived and appears to be here to stay. Bakers Erin Morris and Gabriella Withrow, partners in pastry, started their first bakery in Stonington, CT four years ago. The idea for the original bakery came to them while they worked together in the early morning hours at a bakery in Connecticut. Becoming fast friends, they realized that they shared the same dream and work ethic. With the support and assistance of their husbands and families they decided to make their dream a reality, opening Zest Fresh Pastry in the summer of 2012. "This is truly our passion. We love food. We love learning about food. We love the process of creating recipes, baking and preparing food. And we love interacting with our customers. We believe in quality small batch baking, and using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. I think Woodland, where I was born and raised, [Gabriella hails from Maui], is definitely an ideal spot for us," states Co-Founder and pastry chef Erin Morris.

Starting a homebased bakery is not for the faint at heart or the late riser, especially when there are small children in the house. Erin and Gabriella certainly make it look easy and they have come west to share their culinary talent with Woodland’s residents. Both are classically trained in the culinary arts. Erin is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California and Gabriella graduated from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Add to that training their natural talent and their love of food and community, and Zest Fresh Pastry was born. "We started the first bakery the same way we are doing it here, by going to farmer’s markets and local events and slowly building our way up to a successful brick and mortar shop." Erin reported.

Creating both sweet and savory items, a few gluten, dairy, and egg free treats in addition to traditional items such as breads, muffins and cookies, the women enjoy experimenting with and incorporating non-traditional as well as seasonal flavors and are happy to accommodate special requests. They cannot create everything they want right now; the home kitchen has certain restrictions that prevents that, but, they are looking forward to expanding their creations in the future as they continue to grow.

The Woodland Farmers Market, it’s vendors and the many customers that visit the market have expressed their support of the new bakers with hometown friendliness and positive customer feedback. Market Manager Sonia Mora remarked that, "It’s fascinating to be a part of what’s to come for these two talented women. Bakers Erin Morris and Gabriella Withrow are characteristic of a new era of young local professionals which is very exciting for the Farmer’s Market. It is especially thrilling to see a Woodland that is increasing its appreciation for artisan products that are available locally."

Americans are just coming into the practice of consuming less and eating better. Woodlanders that enjoy artisan products may have to adjust their thinking where the price of these foods are concerned. In the case of Zest Fresh Pastry West, price is truly reflective of their products. Consider the price of a scone, factor in the culinary schooling, the high quality and local origin of the products and the overhead of the business, $3.00 is a more than reasonable price for the conscious consumer. Their love for the craft and their passion to bake and serve fresh, delicious pastry to you every Market day is, as they say, priceless.