A BAKER'S YEAR
12 MONTHS OF BAKING AND LIVING THE SIMPLE LIFE AT THE SMOKE SIGNALS BAKERY
"Poetic, Personal & Profound... A Baker's Year is an eternal and daily reminder to serve things we love in a place we love with those we love .... The name of Jensen's bakery, Smoke Signals, is such a perfect metaphor to help us find and follow that smokey bread crumb trail of good intention and do something delicious with it ...." —Chris Bianco, James Beard Award winning chef-owner of Pizzeria Bianco and author of Bianco: Pizza, Pasta and Other Foods I Like
"Tara Jensen represents an elusive ideal: the young bread maker who structures her life around the rhythms of a wood-burning oven, not the demands of a high-volume production facility.... Her dedication shows in each bread and pie." —Julia Kramer, Bon Appétit
My first book, A Baker’s Year, will be released by St. Martin’s Press on February 14th, 2018. The book was written, illustrated and photographed by me here at the bakery starting in the winter of 2016. Final edits were done in the fall of 2017. Many thanks to the staff at St. Martins for supporting me in the highs and lows.
I dreamed of being an author as a teenager. After signing the contract I bought a pack of cigarettes, some bourbon and put on a black turtleneck. I plopped down expecting to have amazing ideas flow seamlessly from my mind onto the page. But all I got was a radio silence and a few extra pounds from stress eating ice cream because I had no idea what I was doing. I called my journalist friend and asked her to save me.
Using her advice I separated the process into three stages: brain storming, typing and editing with paper and pencil. I also created a strict routine, waking up to write from 5 A.M. to Noon on days when I wasn’t teaching. It was cathartic, all those hours to feel and describe and indulge in story, but it was also hellish and hard.
Some mornings I would stand next to my chair and jump up and down like a child, not wanting to muster the energy that focus required. One difficult morning I cleaned the base boards of the entire house just to avoid starting. And every so often, after I’d sat in the chair long enough to tire my ego, something nice would slip out. Something that was both me and not me. And the room would light up a little.
In the afternoon I’d step away from the computer to test bake the recipes. Coffee, cake scraps and very loud pop music kept me fueled. I took pictures on the floor of the kitchen, the rock wall next to the outdoor oven and in the grass by the pond. Mostly, I tried to just keep my toes and fingers out of the shots. The photos were all taken on a Fuju x70. All the food you see in the book is really food!
I hope you enjoy!
Here’s what St. Martins has to say:
A year in the life of Instagram bread-baking sensation Tara Jensen as she teaches readers how to bake bread and pies, build the perfect fire to cook with, and live a simple, satisfying life.
Why do so many people make pilgrimages to Tara Jensen’s North Carolina Smoke Signals Bakery? Why do over a 100,000 people follow her Instagram feed @bakerhands? It’s because Tara bakes the most exquisite bread in the US, using a wood-fired oven that she tends with her own two hands. It could also be to learn how she makes her bubbly, deep-dish fruit pies or to see the crisp pizzas that are sometimes covered with fresh flowers. It could be something deeper: Tara Jensen has learned to live a simple life, close to the land that feeds her oven. In her first book, she shares her philosophy of simple living and her trove of recipes with others.
A Baker’s Year takes readers month-by-month through the seasons at Smoke Signals for porridge and waffles in winter, crusty bread in spring, pies and pizza in the summer, and celebration cakes for end-of-the-year holidays. Along the way, Tara writes about how to live in a more peaceful world, shares stories from her own life, mourns romances lost, and celebrates the promise of a new relationship.
Illustrated throughout with Tara's photographs and drawings, A Baker’s Year is a true American original destined to be a classic of cookbook shelves.
And….from Publisher’s Weekly:
Jensen, who owns the Smoke Signals Bakery outside of Asheville, N.C., arranges this homey, down-to-earth book by month and intersperses her recipes with short essays that offer insight into her lifestyle and baking philosophy (“If bread making is a solitary, mindful self-expression, then pizza is a noisy journey into community and the mess of human relationships”). Recipe standouts include March’s savory pancakes, brushed with a honey-balsamic glaze; June’s individual party pizzas topped with flowers; July’s Broken Down Berry Pie, which is made with apple chunks; and August’s Bundt cake, flavored with thyme and served with fresh blueberries. There is a recipe for December moon pies that includes versions for each moon phase and a section titled “Hold a Pie Contest” that includes instructions for throwing a November pie contest with friends and suggests categories and prizes (such as handmade books or vintage kitchen gadgets). Photos, illustrations, and pictures of the author’s handwritten baking journals evoke her comfortably solitary life. This cookbook will make even urban dwellers crave a night under the stars and a morning baking bread solo in a quiet, rustic kitchen. (Feb.)