From cupcakes to donuts, fresh artisanal baked good have been all the rage in the past few years as consumers look for more flavorful alternatives to mass produced confections.
But a growing number of bakeries are going the extra mile, making the choice to locally source all their ingredients, a decision that ensures their customers get the freshest product, while helping out local businesses.
Going local was a no-brainer for Kevin Gardner, owner of Five Points Bakery in Buffalo, N.Y. "When you know the people that you're getting your ingredients from, then you can be sure about the quality," Gardner said.
At Kara's Cupcakes in San Francisco, customers have responded positively to the idea of locavore baked goods. "We've had a lot of great success," owner Kara Lind said. "I think customers love it. I think they are excited that they can enjoy something so local and be proud they are contributing to that."
While limiting their bakeries to local ingredients can sometimes mean higher prices, that's not always the case. "I think it actually brings the cost of the product down," Gardner said. "Because when you take out a lot of the middle men and work directly with farmers it brings costs down."
Sourcing top-quality ingredients does require a bit of homework, and some ingredients are easier to find than others. Eggs and honey were particularly easy to track down, while things like milk, walnuts and oil required a bit of legwork, Gardner said.
Of course, not every ingredient can be locally sourced. Sugar, coffee and chocolate are products from the tropics that don't exactly grow in places like Buffalo and San Francisco.
But for these bakers, doing as much as they can to establish a connection with local producers is something close to their hearts. "It's pretty important sourcing locally," Lind said. "It's something my grandparents and great-grandparents did. It was always about local back in the day. For instance, we had a milkman. That was the way it was when I was growing up."
And while it can require a bit of research, it's easier than ever these days to use local ingredients in your own baking at home. Five Points Bakery, for instance, sells all the ingredients they use in house.
"I think people will be pleasantly surprised about what's being made available today," Lind said. "Just try one thing. Try the eggs and see what it does for you." More and more grocery stores are stocking regional goods, as consumers increasingly develop a taste for locavore products. But to really develop those local connections, the best place to start is a farmers market. "Go to the farmers markets," Gardner said. "Because the farmers that are in the market, they know other farmers."
By building relationships with local producers, it becomes easy to track down fresh, flavorful ingredients from around your region. "It's kind of like following your bliss," Lind said.
"You find one thing and then you find the next thing. It's just about talking to vendors."
Adam Verwymeren is a Networx writer.