Meet Ashley Chapman
The Adventurous Baker
I met Ashley five years ago on the night she moved from the West Coast to New York City. She had a short pixie haircut and spoke quietly about her dreams of becoming a professional baker. In the years we both lived in NYC, she would show up to a party or event with baked goods or pies, fretting that maybe they weren't quite right (take it from me, they always looked and tasted delicious).
When I learned that she had relocated to her hometown of Boise, Idaho, I couldn't wait to reconnect and see what she was up to. What I learned is that she is truly living her dream. After a stint in San Francisco attending the San Francisco Baking Institute, and working for the fresh food delivery service, Good Eggs, she has found her groove in Boise. Since starting a bread share program in collaboration with Fiddler's Green Farm, she has finally opened her own retail destination, Sable Baking. Ashley loves exploring and adventuring around her home state, and was excited to bake items before, during and after our Boise adventure. To watch her build and light a fire, and then bake a perfect chocolate cinnamon swirl bread in a Dutch oven, is truly a sight to behold. Yep, the soft-spoken girl with the pixie haircut has evolved into one bad-ass baker who’s not afraid to start her own fire. Read on to get to know her a bit better.
1. Can you recall the first time you knew you loved to bake? What was the first thing you made?
Ashley Chapman: I come from a family of home cooks. My grandmother taught me how to make cinnamon rolls when I was around nine years old. The first thing I remember making without adult supervision was Ginger Creams, a traditional cookie from a family recipe. I wanted to make enough for my family, so I doubled the batch without knowing that the handwritten recipe card was already a double batch. It was an overwhelming amount of cookies for a young novice baker. I stayed up later than my bedtime baking them off.
2. Your recipes always have a unique twist. Where do you find inspiration?
AC: I’m inspired by Scandinavian and European baking traditions. I also get a ton of inspiration from the community of bakers on Instagram.
3. You’ve lived in Seattle, New York and San Francisco. How did you find your way back home to Boise?
AC: Deep in my heart, I’ve always known I belonged back in Idaho. After working in the Bay Area for a few years as a professional baker, I knew I wanted to open my own business, and Boise seemed like a great place to do that. My family also still lives in rural Idaho. I wasn’t ready to go all the way back home, so Boise is a great compromise. It is a fast-growing small city that has a vibrant food culture—I’m really happy to be a part of it.
4. Have you always been an outdoorsy person? When did you start incorporating baking into your outdoor activities?
AC: Does making mud pies as a kid count? I started appreciating the outdoors in my early 20s, but I didn't start getting into backcountry cooking and baking until recently. It took coming back to Idaho for me to collect the tools required for cooking outdoors.
5. How has your personal style changed since moving back to the Pacific Northwest? Any clothing items you feel you had to purchase for your new lifestyle?
AC: The first thing I purchased when I moved back to Idaho was a Fjallraven cape, which was a pretty huge departure from the outerwear jackets I had been wearing in the past. I embrace comfortable, practical clothes much more now (but that might just be related to getting older, too).
6. Tell us about your Bread Share. How did the idea come about?
AC: It started out when I partnered with a local farm here called Fiddler's Green Farm. I joined them last year during their CSA season to offer a bread share to go along with their vegetable shares. It seemed like a big hit, so after the CSA growing season was over, I continued to offer monthly shares into the winter. I got the inspiration for pickup spots from a past job experience. While I was living in San Francisco, I worked for a company called Good Eggs. Good Eggs delivers farm-fresh and locally made food to people's front doors. I worked for the company when it first began, and in their early start-up days, they offered pickup spots which were hosted by various businesses.
The Bread Share is a subscription-based service and runs on a pre-order subscription system, which helps keeps costs and waste down and guarantees fresh bread the day it's made. I bring the bread to various pickup locations which have agreed to be host; the day of the pickup, my customers go to their chosen pickup location and pick up their loaf during a certain time window.
7. Your Sable Baking retail space just opened. How is that going and do you hope to expand?
AC: It's going really well! It's a unique concept for Boise, so I think people are really loving it. I have a Dutch door pop-up window that’s only open Saturday mornings. People come from all over Boise to grab a pastry, loaf of bread and coffee during the short time frame that I'm open. It's all outdoor seating alongside the railroad tracks.
8. What advice would you give to an aspiring baker or entrepreneur?
AC: Stage or shadow professionals. If you're really serious, go to a business you admire and ask if you can stage for a day or a week. Even just one day in the kitchen will expose you to new techniques and help you decide if it's really an industry you want to be a part of.
9 .What are your favorite tools for baking?
Read on, re-create the recipes Ashley has so generously shared, and explore her local Boise favorites—right alongside us.