Students amble into the kitchen of Hiram College’s Kennedy Center. They don aprons, wash hands, and pull dough out of the stainless steel refrigerators to roll and shape into bread, cinnamon rolls, Russian tea bread, and cookies. They work smoothly measuring and mixing fillings, kneading and shaping the soft elastic dough.
The students form the bread and pastry teams for the Terrier Bakery, a student-run business venture started three years ago by French professor Ella Kirk. At a crossroads, Kirk was looking for a way to rejuvenate her career. “Wouldn’t it be cool,” she asked, “if I could be a French professor and a baker at the same time?” With a grant from the college’s Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship and a stint in culinary school, she created courses that combined intensive writing with learning the ins and outs of running a bakery.
The students arrive in the class with varied food knowledge, from Food Network fans like junior William Watts to sophomore Erin Smith, who described her previous experience by saying, “If I could microwave it, I could make it.”
In the fall, they focus on the bread-making process from growing wheat to fermenting yeast to make bread rise. In the spring, the class considers food more broadly, including genetically modified foods and nutrition. Students have individually researched such topics as the nutritional challenges of food stamps, the impact of Western diets on teeth, and the results of giving up meat for a month. “You don’t think,” said Smith, “how something little and itty bitty on your plate has such an impact everywhere.”
While learning, students bake breads, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, and pastries to sell to students, faculty, staff, and the public. Student favorites include monkey muffins, chunky Lola cookies with chocolate and coconut (“a mixture of happiness,” describes sophomore Alyssa McGhee), and banoffee (banana toffee) pie. While faculty and staff gravitate toward savory with their favorites being the brioche loaves and rosemary olive bread.
Starting as early as 6am — an unheard-of time for college students — bakery members work an extra 5—10 hours weekly in the bakery or on the marketing team. They often finish the experience with a whole new perspective on what they eat. “You don’t have to go to the store and buy a box of cake mix,” said McGhee, “I don’t think I would buy things already made up again. I can just make it myself.”
This fall the student bakers are taking on a new challenge: running the bakery solo under the direction of junior Brittany Dunne while Kirk is leading a study-abroad trip in France. “There’s just going to be two to four of us doing the whole thing,” said McGhee. “There are going to be more things on our plate, but I think we can definitely handle it.”
Terrier Bakery is located at Hiram College’s Kennedy Center, 11730 Garfield Road in Hiram. W—Th 11am—8pm, F 11am—4pm, Sa 10am—2pm. Hiram.edu/terrierbakery
Want to try to make student favorite, banoffee pie, at home? Check out the recipe at EdibleCleveland.com.