15 Nov 2012

Five Questions: Priscilla Carver, the Baker Behind Breadbox

Photo courtesy Priscilla Carver

Priscilla Carver saw that Washingtonians are constantly short on time, and also that they want fresh ingredients. So, this at-home baker, turned entrepreneur, started a home delivery business, called Breadbox.

Just like milk, newspapers, and dry cleaning, she delivers bread, a necessity that can be dropped off at your doorstep.  A four-week subscriptions give buyers a variety of fresh yeast breads and coffee cakes delivered weekly.

“Breadbox 1” includes two yeast breads and one coffee cake each week for four weeks for $84 a month.

“Breadbox 2” features just two yeast breads each week for $53. Choices range from Omega white, cracked wheat, whole wheat oat and sprouted wheat. The coffee cake selection includes vanilla cranberry cake with chai, sweet potato cake with crackle and dried plum coffee cake.

The Hill is Home asked Priscilla five questions about her secret to success…

You were a educational researcher and now you’re a baker. Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

I have been a stay-at-home mom for about a year.  My twins are two now.  Prior to that I was working as a social science researcher conducting education research in Rockville.  I have a Ph.D. in developmental psychology and I love research but I just wasn’t getting enough time with my kids.  We sold our house and moved into a rental so that we could afford to live on one income.  While at home with my kids, I realized that baking satisfies my need to do research and provides fulfillment that sitting behind a desk didn’t provide.  To shore up my meager professional kitchen experience, for about seven or eight months I volunteered my time early in the morning (before my husband went to work) at a local bakery to get a sense for whether I would actually want to pursue baking.  Then I hatched a plan for this company, so that I still get time with my kids, and I also get to “scratch a baking itch,” so to speak.

How long have you been baking?

In a nonprofessional capacity, from a ridiculously young age.  I spent summers with my mom. I had a terrible sweet tooth and she didn’t buy sweets. She would, however, let me have sweets if I made them.  So at like age 9, I was in the kitchen grating the rock-solid brick of sugar she stored in the cabinet for decades to make shortbread cookies or something similar. Anyhow, I moved to D.C. in 2003 and shortly after started a short-lived dessert catering gig on the side while I worked full time doing education research.  During that time, I made a few wedding cakes, provided desserts for some art openings and weddings and such. Then I realized it would be exceedingly difficult to make a living wage making desserts.

Did you have to rent a commercial kitchen — or will that come as volume increases?

I rent space in a commercial kitchen two nights a week.  It is really expensive and I do need to beef-up business if I am going to break even, but there is no way I could make 30  loaves of bread in one night in my home oven!

What’s your favorite thing to bake — in addition to bread?

I don’t know that I have a favorite thing to bake — I love the process of perfecting a recipe (i.e., the “research”).  For example, it took me 9 iterations of recipe testing to get the perfect (in my opinion) coconut macaroon.  I wanted it to be crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.  Many macaroon recipes (including mine) are only four ingredients  (coconut, sweetened condensed milk, egg whites, and salt) but those four ingredients need to be in perfect proportion for the cookie to come out right.

What’s a delivery day like for you? 

The pre-ferment for the bread is actually started about 24 hours before it is baked, but on the actual delivery day I get to the kitchen around 5 p.m. and bake until 12 or 1 a.m.  Then, I cool the loaves, package them, and deliver them to doorsteps immediately. Deliveries are on average around 2 a.m.   My goal is for customers to wake up to really fresh bread.  Right now, I am doing this all alone, so I am hustling to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Right now, I am averaging about 50 yeast loaves a week.

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  • James Maysonett

    We’ve subscribed to Breadbox, and Priscilla’s bread has been consistently excellent. And it’s always nice when you wake up on Saturday morning to have a fresh coffee cake waiting for you. I recommend it.

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