New York Times

Montclair Bread Company Has Sunday Treats All Week Long


FEB. 5, 2016

Rachel Crampsey’s bakery sells the usual breads and other treats, but it is the doughnuts that she and her bakers create that prompt people to line up.The first time Rachel Crampsey wrote her name, it was in buttercream. “Before I could hold a pencil, I could hold a pastry bag,” said Ms. Crampsey, the owner and head baker of the Montclair Bread Company in Montclair.

Ms. Crampsey spent much of her early childhood in the kitchen of her grandparents’ house in rural Maryland, where she would watch her grandmother, a professional wedding cake baker. “My grandmother would give me a paper plate and a pastry bag and I would make rose after rose,” she said.

Ms. Crampsey graduated from the University of Florida in 2002 with degrees in French and history. After a brief stint as a teacher, she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 2003 with every intention of specializing in wedding cakes, like her grandmother. “But the first class I took was bread-making,” she said. “I didn’t look back.”

Ms. Crampsey admitted this decision broadened her potential customer base. “I realized with bread you can be part of someone’s family every day, whether it’s someone’s toast in the morning or the dinner table at night. It is part of people’s daily existence, as opposed to the fancy wedding cake they’ll just have pictures of,” she said.

And while her bakery sells some of the best bread in the area, from ciabatta to a yeasted Cheddar cheese and jalapeño cornbread, it is the doughnuts for which people stand in line.

There are melt-in-your-mouth glazed doughnuts, jelly doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar, and a chocolate-glazed one, which is dipped in ganache and then crowned in a dense mass of chocolate curls.

When Ms. Crampsey opened the Bread Company in 2012, she had no plans to make doughnuts. Yet Sunday mornings were slow at the bakery, so Ms. Crampsey and one of her bakers, Kyra Wilder, would spend the hours cooking for each other while they waited for customers.

One morning, Ms. Wilder suggested they make use of a heavy copper pot Ms. Crampsey owned to fry doughnuts. “I made them the only way I knew how, and fried brioche dough,” Ms. Crampsey said. “I made three dozen doughnuts that morning.” They sold out almost immediately, she said.

What started as a weekly treat for customers — they were known as “Sunday Doughnuts” until 2014 — are now available every day. The bakery offers a variety of cake doughnuts, including a chocolate one topped with a glaze made with Stumptown coffee, and a birthday cake one that gets ringed in vanilla buttercream frosting and showered in rainbow sprinkles.

There is a honey-glazed French cruller sold on Wednesdays that is made from fried pâte-à-choux (a light, French pastry dough), yet the majority of doughnuts are still made the original way: from airy brioche dough. Brioche makes for a less-sweet doughnut, which leaves Ms. Crampsey and her team of bakers more room to experiment with toppings and fillings, a challenge it appears they have accepted with unabashed fervor.

For purists, there are melt-in-your-mouth glazed doughnuts, jelly doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar, and a chocolate-glazed one, which is dipped in ganache and then crowned in a dense mass of chocolate curls.

Other daily doughnuts include one nearly bursting with Nutella and glazed in praline ganache, and a popular tres leches one that is soaked in a triple-milk cream (the traditional Mexican blend of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream) and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Her February specials include a red velvet cake doughnut with cream cheese frosting, a fresh strawberry glazed doughnut with chocolate drizzle, and a linzer tart doughnut with raspberry jam and crushed hazelnuts.

The menu changes monthly, with new ideas coming from kitchen experiments and social media.

For Father’s Day last year, a customer suggestion produced “the Manhattan”: a whiskey-flavored cake doughnut topped with orange-bourbon buttercream and a maraschino cherry.

But that’s not the craziest doughnut they have made, Ms. Crampsey said. That award goes to one called “the Touchdown,” but depending on the time of year, it’s also known as “the 420” (in honor of the counterculture holiday in April, inspired by the time of day when many marijuana users partake) or “the PMS,” when it is sold around Mother’s Day. That doughnut is covered in chocolate glaze, crushed pretzels, potato chips, mini M&M’s, crumbled brownies and drizzled with peanut butter.

Ms. Crampsey said that she tries to use local ingredients when she can, such as cream and milk from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in Ancramdale, N.Y., and she often gets inspiration from the Montclair Farmers’ Market, where she has sold her products on Saturdays in the summer. A box of bruised peaches may not appeal to regular customers, but to Ms. Crampsey it becomes the foundation for a peaches and cream doughnut. “I roasted the peaches with brown sugar and butter and then mashed some and puréed the rest,” Ms. Crampsey said. The doughnut was then filled with mashed peaches, glazed with peach purée and topped with whipped cream.

Doughnut-making blends all of Ms. Crampsey’s skills. “All the stuff my grandmother taught me about decorating, plus all the stuff I know about yeast and everything that I learned in pastry school ends up in one little fried nugget,” she said.

A few months ago, Ms. Crampsey moved her kitchen out of the back of her shop on Walnut Street and into a converted motor vehicle inspection station a block away, on Label Street. The new production space was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $27,000 from her devoted doughnut fans.

“I knew I had to get a bigger kitchen when by 9 a.m. on Father’s Day 2014 there was a line of people down the block that was Cronut-worthy long — and I hid in the bathroom and called my grandma because I knew the people at the end of the line weren’t going to get any doughnuts and I didn’t know what to do,” Ms. Crampsey said.

Her kitchen now produces nearly 5,000 doughnuts a week, along with a variety of breads, croissants and cookies. In addition to the Walnut Street shop, she and her husband, Kevin, sell sandwiches, soups and doughnuts at the Montclair Public Library’s cafe on South Fullerton Avenue. A local Whole Foods Market recently asked to sell her doughnuts, raising the possibility of expansion.

Ms. Crampsey works the long hours one might expect from a baker and the owner of a growing business, arriving at the Label Street kitchen every day between 2 and 3 a.m. A mother of three — Josie, 7; Keegan, 6; and Malachi, 4 — she tries to leave by 2:30 p.m. to pick up her older children at school, and she often misses school events.

But Ms. Crampsey finds other ways to be part of her children’s lives, and sometimes it is in ways she does not expect. She sent a cake to her son’s school Thanksgiving party that was made of doughnut holes and shaped like a giant piece of candy corn. After school, she asked him what everyone thought of the cake. “Mommy, it was delicious,” he said. “And smelled just like you.”

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