If somebody had told me 25 years ago that my life would be what it is now, I wouldn’t have believed them. Baking has always been with me, but never would I have imagined that it would become my career and life’s work.
As a teenager, I didn’t excel at anything specific and my grades at school weren’t great, but I did know what made me happy—it was the time I spent at home, baking. I cherished my mother’s copy of Company’s Coming Desserts and looked forward to the holidays when I would be helping her make treats. I thought of becoming a pastry chef, but was encouraged to go to university instead. Yet even after several years of study, I was still really only thinking about pastries—and slowly but surely, my skills and confidence in the kitchen were improving.
At 24, I decided that I was going to open a pastry shop. It took six more years for Duchess Bake Shop to finally come into being and nothing could really have prepared me for what it would be like. Overnight, I went from being a home baker to a small-business owner, with all the stresses and responsibilities that come with it. At first we worked 20-hour days, seven days a week. Doing payroll, paying bills, and bookkeeping were all skills I had to learn on the fly. Those first three years were the most exciting and the most difficult of my life.
With the flurry of the Bake Shop, I completely stopped baking at home. It was when Jacob and I had our children, Benoît and Rose, that I realized how much I missed it. I’m at my happiest when I’m in my home kitchen baking for my family.
It’s been five years since Duchess Bake Shop was published. In that cookbook I shared the recipes for our most popular pastries at the bakery and tried to bring what we do in a professional kitchen within reach of the home baker. But when I bake at home, the things I tend to make are more often a reflection of me as a person. My French-Canadian heritage, my passion for France, the traditions passed down in my family, and the things I grow in my garden all influence what I like to bake at home.
All of the recipes in this book are truly ‘me,’ each chapter representing an important part of my life. From old family recipes to new creations, this collection is my heart in a book. I hope these recipes will become your family favourites as well.