Food For Thought

Hidden Bean Bakeshop

November 1, 2023
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Hidden Bean Bakeshop is about saying Yes, not No: Yes to delicious food, to health, to dessert(!), and to an abundant, beautiful local food system. Kelsey Baumgarten’s cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and pies have added nutrition that comes from legumes (hence the name), and each ingredient is thoughtfully chosen to maximize taste, texture, and benefit. Everything she bakes is gluten and dairy free (her celiac friends, especially, really appreciate it), but for Kelsey the idea isn’t just about what her products lack—it’s about what they provide. To enjoy one of her soft, scrumptious, perfectly sweet confections is fulfilling, pleasurable, and satisfying to anyone lucky enough to try them.

As a teen, Kelsey made a vision board of her dream life. It showed an imaginary cookie company and a tiny house with chickens in the yard. It’s remarkably similar to her life today. The main ingredients—a homestead and a baking business—were all there. But the road to it was a bit curvy.

Kelsey’s educational background is robust. She is a licensed dietitian and has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from UMass Amherst. It was there that she laid the groundwork for her current business with her honors thesis, titled “A Study of the Properties and Acceptability of Beans in Baked Goods.” That project started her on a journey of recipe testing and feedback that continued for years. Based on responses from fellow students, she developed the Hidden Bean Cookbook, filled with recipes for various baked sweets that satisfied every palate, not just people with food allergies, sensitivities, or health concerns.

Her academic studies taught her a lot about the science of food and health. But after school she pursued a different kind of knowledge. She wanted to know more about where food came from, and develop a deeper understanding of food, diet, and well-being. This led Kelsey to a communal farm in Manchester, VT, called Earth Sky Time. Her baking and testing continued there, and after a year and a half she moved to Brattleboro and subsequently started a baked goods stand at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market.

About 60% of Hidden Bean goodies have sugar in them, and the rest are sweetened with local maple sugar and maple syrup (she goes through a gallon a week), pureed dates, honey, monk fruit, or a combination thereof. And even the sugar she uses is high quality, organic, and fair trade. All of the ingredients in Kelsey’s treats are purchased with a conscience: she buys local whenever possible, and when it’s not, she makes sure to use products that are justly made, less processed, and free of pesticides (about 95% of her ingredients are certified organic).

The last time we interviewed Kelsey, in 2019, she was still working part-time as a dietitian, and lived and baked in an apartment in town. Since then a lot has changed. She and her now-husband, Jake, moved into a house in Guilford. And after a very awkward transition, during which she was still baking at the apartment in Brattleboro and practicing as a dietitian a few hours a week, she stopped work as a nutritionist and started baking full time out of her home in Guilford. Jake, a contractor, completed—with the help of a neighbor—the transformation of an unused porch on the side of their house into a tiny commercial kitchen in the spring of 2022. The space is petite, but it’s lined with windows overlooking rolling hills, and is outfitted with a small professional oven as well as a stainless steel counter and sink.

Before the kitchen renovation, when her workplace was off-site at the apartment, she had to structure her work flow and commute to and fro. Now she can stay in the bakery till all hours, churning out orders for her peanut butter brownies, fruit pies, cupcakes, and other delights. She’s still head over heels in love with baking, but now has two part-time employees who manage to squeeze in the space for a few hours a week, allowing Kelsey to have time for things like meals, bike rides, fiddle class, chorus, and time with friends and family.

The house in Guilford where Kelsey and Jake live is on a beautiful property overlooking a thriving wetlands, with a vegetable garden out back and eleven chickens in the yard. If she ever needs eggs or veggies for a savory quiche to sell at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market, Gallery Walk, or a Food Truck Roundup, she uses eggs from her hens and produce from her backyard. And that’s really the direction Kelsey wants to go: staying close to this earth and this community, creating sweet treasures for our community, and our Co-op!

Hidden Bean Bakeshop Tasting!  Thursday, Nov. 16, 1:30-3:30 pm

By Ruth Garbus