Langley baker nourishes community spirit

By 2 a.m., when the majority of South Whidbey residents remain nestled snugly in their beds, Langley baker Kelly Baugh is already hard at work. The Clinton resident and single mother of five said she had always dreamt of a place in which she could fulfill the age-old profession of village baker.

Kelly Baugh removes a loaf of bread from her brick wood-fire oven.

By 2 a.m., when the majority of South Whidbey residents remain nestled snugly in their beds, Langley baker Kelly Baugh is already hard at work. The Clinton resident and single mother of five said she had always dreamt of a place in which she could fulfill the age-old profession of village baker. “I’m awake, alone, and the rest of the world is just turning over for the first time,” she said with a smile, adding that she finds a great sense of tranquility in baking. At 11 years old, Baugh began her career in the food industry making pizza dough at an Italian restaurant. “I was like a Ryan’s House child,” she said referring to the organization that helps homeless youth on Whidbey. Throughout the years, Baugh enrolled in college five times, earning a degree in early child development and child psychology and, in 2001, received her associate of arts degree in bakery and pastry arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She worked as a baker and manager for Great Harvest Bread Company and later baked for Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Wash. During a typical day at her establishment, Sundance Bakery, Baugh does everything from threshing the grains to operating the cash register. Her eldest daughter and a handful of other employees assist with various aspects of the business. Baugh moved to Whidbey with her five children, son-in-law and two grandchildren and rented a space on Second Street and DeBruyn Avenue, formerly a cafe, nearly two years ago. Baugh said she had moved from Washington to Chicago in order to help her mother. “I was only there for a couple of months,” she said. “I hated it … there is no community in a city. I lived in an apartment complex with 52 people and I didn’t know a single person’s name.” A sense of community, she said, is something she always yearned for, something she found in Langley. As a single mom, the Village by the Sea afforded her peace of mind that urban life lacked. “For 10 years I searched for a place where I could be the village baker, and I found Langley and fell in love,” she said. “Imagine every dream you’ve ever had happening.” Baugh never required a bank loan, she said, and instead acquired a loan from Whidbey Island Local Lending and received donations from investors such as Jean McIntosh, George Henny and Paul Schell. In order to furnish the bakery’s brick oven, she ran a Credible campaign, raising enough money to build the wood-fired oven — a unique mechanism made largely from recycled materials — which she uses to make hundreds of baked goods per day. With the help of Sharon and Fred Lundahl, she also obtained discounted equipment, such as a large mixer, from a former Camano Island bakery. “This community is really, truly one of a kind,” she said, adding that farm blogger Chris Williams has been a great asset to her in networking endeavors. Sundance Bakery currently collaborates with Whidbey farmers at Ebey Road Farm, Greg Lange— owner of Draft Works Logging and Custom Farming, Sherman Farms, Morningstar Honey Farm, Deep Harvest and Jones’ Road Blueberries. “We’re more than just a bakery because we grow the grains with the farmers here on the island,” she said. “Any time you buy anything from this place, you’re actually helping local farmers.” Recently, she also began working with the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative, which supplies flour from Nash’s Organic Grains in Sequim via the Langley marina. She also works with the Pacific Rim Institute and was advised by Dr. Stephen Jones of Washington State University Island County Extension as to which grains grow best in the Puget Sound area, and which provide the greatest yields. Perhaps her most unusual grain is barley seed she obtained from a historian. The seed, dating 700 A.D., was found in an Egyptian pyramid and is now grown at the Pacific Rim Institute. These ancient grains, said Baugh, will also be used by the whiskey distillery. Each day, the bakery produces six different breads, four varieties of muffins, cinnamon rolls, cookies and pies. Soon, she said, they will be baking eclairs. “They’re dangerous, kind of like Pandora’s box,” she said with a chuckle, adding that eventually, she hopes to hire more employees with experience in pastries in order to expand the menu. The most rewarding aspect, Baugh said, is hearing the exclamations of satisfaction from customers. “When people say, ‘I haven’t had bread this good since my grandma made it,’ that feels pretty good,” she said. Her personal favorite product, the Swedish rye, comes from a 150-year-old recipe. “When you’re dealing with traditional grains, you have to look at old recipes because of the ratio difference in the protein levels,” she said. Chantelle Freilinger, a dishwasher who began working at Sundance about two months ago, said this is by far her most enjoyable and least stressful job. “Kelly is awesome, great to work for,” said Freilinger, adding that on Sundays, Baugh allows her to work around the Seahawks football schedule. “I don’t work on Seahawks days,” she said with a laugh. “The whole process of how she does everything is so unique,” said Freilinger. “There is a story behind everything.” The brick oven, which Baugh built over the summer, was made using materials from Island Recycling, former fireplaces and what was once a Seattle post office. She has moved her antique grinder mill across the country four times, finally finding it a permanent home at Sundance. “I was scared people weren’t going to like my product,” she said, noting with a smile that this fear has since been quelled. Baugh said she hopes to expand and incorporate a smoothie bar in the near future.

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