I started baking a few years ago, more out of a necessity to fill my time with something somewhat productive than because I had any great interest in it. I was a “trailing spouse,” an unflattering term for the spouse of someone who has been offered an expat position in another country, often with no visa of their own that allows them to work. This small town Albertan found herself living in beautiful Paris, one of the most gastronomically celebrated cities in the world. Gastronomy is the art and science of good eating, and to say that the French excel in gastronomy would be an understatement. How can one not be inspired by the quality and quantity of alluring foods there? Specifically, desserts. And bread.
So with 2 kids in school and the toddler still at home with me, I began to experiment more with baking. First, with intricately decorated sugar cookies and cakes for friends and their kids, selling a dozen here and there for holidays and birthdays. Soon came the research and playing around with sourdough bread- before it was Covid-cool! Ultimately, I wanted to try my hand at some of the more difficult-to-make items that are at the heart of French Patisserie. Soon I started “enjoying” afternoons of failed macaron attempts in that perpetually humid climate, relishing the few batches that did turn out perfectly. And yes, of course, taking my Instagram photos like I was Hermés or Ladurée himself.
Macarons led me to try other French bakery favourites, including the rich chocolate tarts and their tangy lemon counterparts, as well as the exquisite artisanal little cakes called entremets. There is a beautiful Parisian shop called A. Lacroix Pâtissier that is just across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral. I spent many mornings there with a good book, a cup of tea, and a beautiful entremet, which tasted even better than it looked. So much fodder for my creativity came from that beautiful little shop. We lived in Paris for nearly 6 years, and in my last few, A Lacroix was the first place I’d recommend family and friends visit, not just for the delicious treats, but also the warm ambiance and the wonderful people who work there.
Sadly, all beautiful adventures must come to an end, and the middle of a global pandemic is an ideal time to move across the world! Well, not really. But we made it back to Canada, all five of us, our geriatric black lab, and a giant suitcase of my most precious food colorings, flavorings and decorating tools.
And here we are. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “when are you opening your bakery?” “I’m going to be soooo fat when you move back!” or “You need to start selling!” …well…then I wouldn’t need to actually open a bakeshop! I’ve finally taken the plunge and created Crumbs Artisanal Bakeshop, and you can be assured that each item I make for you has been meticulously planned, prepared and handcrafted from scratch with quality ingredients, and is “Paris approved!” I can’t wait to meet you.
Crystal from Crumbs.
This year’s gingerbread house.