Inventive baker finds farmers market success
with her unique spin on familiar recipes
Photos by Greg Nesbit
Driving along the rutted back roads that snake their way through the bucolic rural landscape surrounding her home bakery in Pownal, Vermont, you get a strong sense that Emily Gold has a very personal connection with the land and its bounty. The woods outside her cozy home are quiet and peaceful—a perfect setting for whipping up thought-provoking goodies crafted with a meticulous mind, a deft touch and an eye towards fresh local ingredients.
Tucked away on a wooded mountaintop connected tenuously to the rest of civilization by what some might call more of an ambitious logging trail than a proper road, Gold spends each week endlessly tinkering away in her kitchen. When she’s not baking sumptuous desserts for wedding parties and experimenting with new ideas for recipes, this enthusiastic foodie focuses much of her time on prepping an ever-rotating array of seasonally inspired treats to stock her booth at the Bennington’s Walloomsac Farmers Market on Saturdays.
From savory scones bursting with flavorful local cheeses and homegrown herbs to decadent fruit tarts and marvelous cakes, Gold crafts a broad range of delicious delights that fluctuate with the changing seasons. Her elegant culinary artistry is playful and palate-pleasing, mixing fresh ingredients grown in her own garden, acquired from nearby organic farms located only a stone’s throw away, and purchased from area growers.
A mainstay at the market for several years now, Gold’s unique flavor combinations and lovely presentations have generated a steady and dedicated following—so much that last year she decided to dive into her passion for food craft full-time and officially launched her small-scale baking business, Paper Cake Scissors.
The transition has been both exciting and nerve-wracking, says Gold, who’s thrilled she now has a great group of regular customers with receptive palates. It took a while for people to warm up to her different approach to baking and try out her more adventurous offerings. “It definitely was an evolution to get to that point. The first year [at the market] was rough,” Gold admits, adding she’s thankful that customers eventually caught on and grew to appreciate her weekly offerings and baking experiments.
“I really started doing the markets as an experiment for me, and I thought ‘Well, if that’s my purpose, then I want to do things the way I want to do them. I don’t want to be someone else.’”
Rarely content to keep following a recipe the same way every time, Gold’s intrepid exploration into putting her own interesting spin on familiar treats often flows with the changing seasons and availability of certain ingredients.
“If something is around that’s really interesting that I want to use, I have to figure out how I can use it,” she says. Other times, the byproducts of other recipes offer their own inspiration in the kitchen.
Take the evolution of Gold’s distinctive popular strawberry meringues, for example. After making a huge batch of fresh syrup from locally grown strawberries one week, she was left with a big messy pile of crushed “strawberry stuff.” Rather than throw the solids out to compost, she popped them in her dehydrator and ground them up into a fine powder. That’s when the “aha” moment came.
“I thought, ‘Hey, this would make a really awesome meringue,’” she recalls. “Classically, strawberries are paired with balsamic and black pepper in a lot of Italian recipes, so why not do a strawberry balsamic black pepper meringue?”
They’re now a popular sell at the market. Over time, market-goers have grown to trust her creative, quirky innovations in the kitchen, and her customer base continues to grow each year.
Vermont-made goods like King Arthur Flour, Cabot dairy products and regionally produced maple syrup are staples in Gold’s kitchen, but she also prefers to source the majority of her ingredients from the local community and even other fellow market vendors. Her savory galettes, for example, often use goat cheese from the nearby Polymeadows Farm in Shaftsbury and produce from other local growers, including True Love Farm in North Bennington as well as Mighty Food Farm and Wildstone Farm right down the road in Pownal.
Far more than just an opportunity to sell her baked goods, Gold feels being a part of the farmers market puts her in touch with her local community in incredibly rewarding ways. Interacting with customers directly, getting feedback from week to week and drawing inspiration from her regulars is one aspect of the experience she particularly enjoys. Then there’s the market itself, which has spawned its own close-knit community.
“I love what I do, I love being creative and I love being able to come up with new stuff every week, but ultimately it comes back to having that really nice connection with my customers and other vendors,” says Gold. “All of the vendors at the market just form a really nice community, and there’s this sense of family where they’re really willing to step in and help each other out. It’s a nice feeling.”