Kitchen Q&A: baking is a sport for Black Walnut Bakery owner – St. Paul Pioneer Press

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We’re fans of Sarah Botcher’s pastries that can be found at Spyhouse Coffee Roasters, including the St. Paul location. Now, Botcher has branched out and opened Black Walnut Bakery in Minneapolis’ Uptown while continuing to supply Spyhouse. We take a time out with Botcher to talk about how her love for baking came to be, what’s next for Black Walnut and more.

Lemon Tart at Black Walnut Bakery. Photographed Nov. 8, 2019. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

What’s your favorite childhood food memory? For me it was a combination of different things. One is my grandmother’s baking and enjoying the things that she made such as banana bread or rice pudding. And then when I was younger, I think when I was 9 years old, my mom let me start baking and I would bake chocolate chip cookies.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A professional athlete, something related to running, track and field. I love seeing the hard work they do and the dedication they have toward their success. It’s very inspiring. For me, baking is an ultimate sport. Baking is very physical and creates a connection between your mind and body.

How did you get into the industry? I worked in the industry for years prior to being in the kitchen. I was in the front of the house as a barista and coffee shop manager. Then I ran my own coffee shop for a few years. That was my first foray into running a business. Working in the industry in Minneapolis 10, 15 years ago it was hard to learn how to bake. There weren’t a lot of bakeries, and there weren’t a lot of kitchens that accepted new people because no one ever left. I left to go to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. I also worked at Tartine Bakery in the city while going to school. Those years were some of the most formative years of my life. It expanded my knowledge and views about food and influenced my baking tremendously.

Cassis Vanilla Bavarian Cake at Black Walnut Bakery. Photographed Nov. 8, 2019. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

How did Black Walnut Bakery come to be? Black Walnut came about in 2012. I was the opening pastry chef at Butcher and the Boar. After a trip to France, I always knew I wanted to have a bakery one day. When I was at Butcher and the Boar, they said I could use their kitchen for making stuff I wanted to sell at the farmers’ market. I would bake all night for the farmers’ market. I pitched a tent on Nicollet Mall and it was just an amazing response from the community and so much fun. I started doing pop ups including at One on One Bicycle Studio when it was on Washington Avenue. Then four years ago, Spyhouse Coffee Roasters called me and asked me to be their supplier and deliver to their locations. They, along with One on One, have been a tremendous asset to my business. Walnut Bakery opened in November. And we’re still the supplier for Spyhouse, which has grown to several more locations.

Egg & Cheese Croissant Sandwich at Black Walnut Bakery. Photographed Nov. 8, 2019. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

What’s the last thing you ate off your menu? This morning I had a croissant. Most mornings I do. I love to have my quality control taste test. Croissants are the bulk of our menu and I always want to make sure the quality is there.

Where’s the last place you ate out at? I don’t go out to eat because I work overnight. It’s been several years. I guess if I could, I would probably love to go out and get a pastry and coffee. But that doesn’t exist because I don’t have time to go out.

What’s the last thing you baked at home? It’s been years. I have no idea. When you work in a commercial kitchen it’s nice to bake there because you have all this counter space and other amenities. I don’t have a full size oven at home. I’ll bake squash and beets. That is the most my oven gets used.

If you could only eat or drink five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? Coffee — it’s one of my favorite rituals. Fruit is one of my favorite things to eat. Nuts — cashews and almonds are my go-tos. Fish would definitely be in there — sardines and oysters, yum. I love naturally fermented bread. They say you can’t live on bread alone. But you can’t live without bread. At least I don’t want to live without bread.

Black Walnut Bakery in Minneapolis’ Uptown. Photographed Nov. 8, 2019. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

What’s next? We’re starting to roll out our bread products. We’re getting our starter all fed and fattened up. We’re working on that right now as we speak, so we’re excited about that. Focaccia with olive oil and Maldon salt — there’s nothing dreamier.

Black Walnut Bakery

Where: 3157 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For more information: 612-353-6552;

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