The Bean Story
It all started during my senior year of college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a Nutrition major, I had learned the health risks of consuming excess sugar, but I had observed that most people (myself included) weren’t going to give up dessert. To balance my dream of having a bakery with my desire to help people find improved health, I began adapting recipes in line with my mission: to provide treats that were a little lower in sugar and little higher in nutrients, so that people could indulge and still feel good.
I had eaten black bean chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday and thought, this is amazing- why aren’t there a whole line of bean treats? Bean cakes...bean breads...bean cookies... When it came time to choose an Honors Thesis, I proposed a unique idea to my advisor: “What if I studied the health benefits of beans, and created a cookbook for baked goods made with beans?” Thus, the Hidden Bean was born. I spent a memorable senior year researching the science of beans and experimenting with favorite family recipes to incorporate beans, typically substituting for some combination of flour, eggs, and oil. Many products ended up being gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan, though this was not the original intent. I surveyed fellow students and community members to gather feedback and gauge the acceptability of the treats. I analyzed the nutritional profile of each recipe and compared it with that of traditional baked goods. Bean treats were indeed higher in protein, iron, potassium, and fiber. In theory, they also had a lower glycemic index (meaning they would make your blood sugar rise less quickly) due to the increased fiber and protein content. I printed four copies of the cookbook and said I would publish it “later,” when I had more time to further improve the recipes. Someday, I said, I would live on a farm in the mountains and open a bean bakery.
Following college, I put baking on the back burner as I completed my year-long dietetic internship at a hospital in Boston. I became a Registered Dietitian and began my career working with patients in the hospital. I loved so many things about this work, but I missed doing the more hands-on, creative work of baking and cooking. So I moved to a farm in the mountains-- to Earth Sky Time Community Farm and Bakery in Manchester, Vermont. Here, I learned how to farm, shape loaves of sourdough bread, and prepare delicious farm-to-table meals. With unlimited access to baking supplies and an enormous wood-fired oven, I re-started my bean baking in full force. “Bean cake?!” friends would exclaim as I carried a hot pan into the kitchen for sampling. I am grateful for everyone’s unwavering support and honest feedback as I continued to tweak old recipes and create new ones.
I started selling bean treats at the farm’s summer music festivals, and then applied to sell at farmers’ markets. I moved to Brattleboro, VT, and have kept my connection to farming by work-trading for many local ingredients (eggs, beans, vegetables).
You can find Hidden Bean Bakeshop on Sundays at the Dorset Farmers Market, and some weekends in Brattleboro (check facebook or instagram for posts about where I’ll be and when). Want to order a whole cake for your child’s birthday party? Or a tray of brownies for an office meeting? The menu page is coming soon!
-Kelsey Baumgarten, Hidden Bean Bakeshop