an interview: Brown Bear Bakery

tis the season for all things sugary and warm and adding to our waistlines, folks. and what better way to celebrate than with a quick peak in the brain of a baker? one of my best gal pals, Blair, is the owner and sole baker of the Cincinnati famous Brown Bear Bakery.  we went to high school together and she was a few years older than i was. so naturally, she had no idea of my existence but in my eyes- Blair was perfect. a natural beauty if you've ever seen one and it wasn't until i entered the blogging world years later that i really got a chance to get to know her a little better and develop a friendship and respect for what she does everyday. 

back when i worked for The City Flea i would see Blair all the time when she would set up her booth of delicious treats and damn it if those cookies weren't always sold out in a few hours. seriously, people would arrive early to get their hands on her baked goods and for good reason. they are melt-in-your-mouth-forget-about-swim-suit-season-gonna-buy-a-bigger-size-in-jeans DELICIOUS! and even with the busiest season of the year upon us, she took some time to speak with me about her world of baking. so here it is, a quick little interview with the beautiful Blair:

most of us that have followed you for years know the background of how Brown Bear Bakey got started from the ground up, but for any of the newbies out there- how did BB come about?? 

I love to hear that people have been following along with my journey. I work alone and feel a bit blind to outside perceptions of Brown Bear, so it’s wonderful to hear I’m actually baking for someone beside myself!
At the time BB was created, I was a full-time student with family matters that limited my availability. Bakery jobs come with demanding hours so I created the traveling / pop-up as a way to continue growing as a baker with the time I had available.

The idea for Brown Bear to become something more than a pop-up / traveling bakery came about while I was vacationing in San Francisco. We were visiting all of these amazing bakeries, doughnut, and pastry shops and I was just so inspired by what these bakers were producing. Their skill levels were something I’d not seen before and the pastries were unlike anything I had ever eaten. I knew that someday I wanted to have a place like that here in Cincinnati. Creating Brown Bear was a tiny, small step toward this tremendous end goal.

So I've known you since high school and it's been so bad ass watching Brown Bear grown every year into something bigger and better. Do you think you'll keep the Bear in Cincinnati forever? or do you think you'll grow the business out elsewhere? 

Brown Bear’s home will always be here Cincinnati. I’m so proud of this city and love being a part of the small business community. Everyone has welcomed Brown Bear with the most enthusiasm and love. It’s a really special place to call home.

Granted, I've never pulled any treat out of a brown bear box that wasn't delicious- but there had to be some ideas that were flops that never made it to famous Brown Bear menu chalkboard, right? what was something you thought would be delicious that turned out not so great?

So many things don’t turn out like I imagine them to… SO MANY THINGS, but that’s part of what makes baking and pastry so exciting. It’s continuously challenging and rewarding. When something doesn’t work I change and substitute and rework the recipe until something great is created. Although, I did make these unsweetened chocolate buttermilk biscuits that were so off-putting to me that I didn’t even attempt to redo the recipe. Perhaps the time has come…

Your fiance, Chaske, is always there for the events that BB is involved in (he's the sweetest!) I know that he works with graphic design and you both have such a keen eye on design when it comes to the aesthetic for your brand. Is it ever hard working with your fiance or do you guys usually have a similar vision? 

Oh, Chaske, He is the most wonderful and supportive human on this planet and I don’t know where I would be without him. Both professionally and emotionally he is my rock. We normally have different visions but when those are worked together to combine one grand idea, the end product is always better than what each individual started with.

speaking of visions, anyone would agree that Brown Bear puts out the simplest and prettiest, dare I say "rustic" looking treats. What would you call your brands "style"? 

Natural? Modest? I don’t really know. I don’t think of Brown Bear as being put into one box because I get bored easily and like to change things up. I’m really just trying to make something that tastes great and is pleasing visually. The pastries are always natural, straightforward, and clean. If a treat is green, it’s made with matcha or an herb, if it’s pink, then it’s most likely beets or red berries. I like to keep things the way they were meant to be.

my favorite goodies from Brown Bear are the salted chocolate chip cookie and the whiskey s'more pie and i could probably eat them both for breakfast, lunch and dinner. if you were to just make treats for Chaske and yourself at home for fun, what would you guys go with? 

I’ve always got the refrigerator stocked with homemade salty caramel and chocolate sauces and the freezer has ice cream and brownies in it most of the time. I also like to freeze cookie dough for when I’m craving a cookie with my coffee. Chaske eats a big bowl of ice cream with brownies and both sauces at least one night a week. It’s his favorite Brown Bear combination, without question.

 what was your worst- crying over a table covered in flour and sugar- day you've ever had as a baker? a recipe that wouldn't work or maybe an order that was too crazy? 

2013 City Flea father’s day market. I had planned to fry doughnuts for the dads and enthusiastically took to social media to advertise this menu item. Back then; I was baking everything from my apartment (it was situated on the third floor above a bar and came fully equipped with no air conditioning and no counters). The day of prep was miserably hot and humid and unfortunately the dough rose far faster than I planned for ultimately landing it in the trashcan. I had a total melt down and Chaske was there to save the day. He and his younger brother, Ian, ran to the market for me while I stayed home to cry then pull myself together. I felt like a total failure at the time but looking back I’m sure no one even knew I was planning on bringing the damn doughnuts to market.

Whether it's for every day use or for baking up goodies for clients, what are some things that you couldn't live without in your kitchen- both food or tools? Like, my top three would be a bundle of parsley, my cast iron skillets and probably my Kitchen Aid mixer. I've put a lot of miles on that bad boy for sure. 

Kitchen scale, nice whisks, pastry cutter, thermometers, bench scraper.

if someone wanted to bake up something for their Holiday gatherings, what would you say is a pretty easy recipe out there for a newbie? 

I always tell new bakers to go for an apple pie! The crust only takes four ingredients and the filling is pretty simple and fun to make your own.

and finally, I'm sure the slots are filling up fast... but for those that don't have a skill for baking and would rather just pay a master... how can anyone go about ordering treats for their parties?? or is it too late!? 

It’s too late for Thanksgiving, but I’ll be selling holiday items at Idlewild on Vine Street along with Fern and Una Floral for a Christmas market.

Thank you to Blair, my absolute favorite baker on the planet for giving me some of her time. below are some photos taken by her fiance Chaske in their home while Blair created something i'm most happy about, her cookies! (i know, so much talent is coming out of their house. it's unreal.) thank you again to both of you and everyone be sure to keep an eye out for where Brown Bear will be popping up next.


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