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Rapid Chat: Annie Paul on bakeries, competition, and better baked goods

From bakeries specializing in distinct diets (think: vegan-friendly Rise Authentic Baking Co.), to shops mastering the art of the perfect croissant; there seems to be a rising trend of sweets and savory specialty bakeries within Grand Rapids, MI. It's a niche market that takes not only passion — but patience — which can be learned through the lens of pastry chef Annie Paul.
Annie Paul

From bakeries specializing in distinct diets, to shops mastering the art of the perfect croissant; there seems to be a rising trend of sweets and savory specialty bakeries within Grand Rapids, MI. It's a niche market that takes not only passion — but patience — which can be learned through the lens of pastry chef Annie Paul.
Rapid Growth: Is AP Baked Goods a full-time job for you, or is it your ‘side-hustle?'
 
Annie Paul: It started out as just a side hustle but keeps on growing. Full-time I am the pastry chef at Beacon Hill at Eastgate
 
RG: Are you a self-taught or culinary-educated baker?
 
AP: I am a self-taught baker, although I have had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing bakers like Lynn Garrits, the head baker at Marge's Donut Den, and Timothy England, executive chef and culinary director at Beacon Hill at Eastgate. 
 
RG: When did you first fall in love with baking?
 
Annie Paul when she was young enough to be chaperoned around an oven.AP: I fell in love with eating cookie dough and baking just seemed like the next logical step. Let’s just say I was young enough, I should have been chaperoned around an oven.
 
RG: What was the first baked good you felt like you actually “mastered?"
 
AP: Chocolate chip cookies. I probably made close to 40 batches of chocolate chip cookies the summer of 1998 but I finally got them right and I still use the same recipe to this day. What makes them so special? They are baked with love ... 
 
RG: What pastry technique did you have the most difficult time learning?
 
AP: Mastering the technique of French macarons has been so very difficult, but last year I finally achieved a perfect macaron with beautiful feet and no hollow shell. French baked goods tend to be more advanced. Macarons are very finicky. Weather, humidity, [and] oven temperature can all affect how the cookies turn out. 
 
RG: What is your favorite unexpected flavor pairing?
 
AP: My favorite flavors are ever-changing but right now I’ve been loving my brown butter bourbon cupcakes with salted caramel Italian buttercream. 

Chocolate cookies.RG: If you could bake only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

AP: Hmm ... probably bread. I love making bread. There is nothing better then pulling a baguette right out of the oven, putting some butter on it,  and eating it right away!
 
RG: Do you cater at all to the (ever-growing) gluten-free consumer market?
 
AP: Yes, I actually have quite a few gluten-free and even some vegan customers. I love playing around with new ingredients and making things people can enjoy. I like to use ground flaxseed in place of eggs and bananas and applesauce in place of butter. My trick is enjoying the challenge. 
 
RG: How do your friends and family feel about having an extremely talented baker within arm's reach at all times?
 
AP: Well, my husband has to keep up at the gym but he enjoys being my taste tester. It’s fun to see smiles on my family and friends' faces. 

RG: What makes your baked goods different from the rest?

AP: I think the difference is I love what I do and I’m always pushing myself to do better. I love to make people happy with baked goods.  

RG: Do you have any help with your side hustle? 

AP: In the beginning, my husband helped me with dishes, but now he helps me with deliveries and some of the creative things. My business wouldn’t be where it’s at if it wasn’t for his support and encouragement. As far as the baking and decorating — I am a one woman show! 

RG: Bakeries seem to be popping up left and right here in Grand Rapids. What is it with this growing trend?

AP: I don’t know, but I love it! The more bakeries, the more competition, the better the baked goods.
 
RG: Do you have any current or future plans to open up a bakery of your own?
 
AP: Time will tell!

RG: What is your most requested treat?

AP: Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of orders for French macarons, cupcakes, and celebration cakes. I take about 24 hours to fill each order because I make everything from scratch.

RG: What goes into creating your awesome Instagram videos of all your delectable treats?

AP: Honestly, I don’t really think too hard into the videos I post. I just make videos on my phone of cool techniques or just silly things I’m making and post them.

RG: How can the Average Joe place an order with AP Baked Goods?

AP: They can email me at apbakedgoods@gmail.com or message me on my Facebook or Instagram pages. I’m a pastry chef so I do it all. I’ve taken orders from peanut butter cookies to crème brûlée to flourless chocolate tortes. Prices vary depending on the order.
 

Jenna K. Morton is the RapidChat editor for Rapid Growth Media
Main image courtesy of "I Rock My Own" by ArtPeers

 
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