Robyn Sargent’s job is a delicious one. In her “office,” a spacious test kitchen equipped with the latest baking pans and gadgets, Robyn bakes cinnamon rolls and pizza dough and cream puffs. She adjusts seasonings and ingredients until the final product tastes just right. And she gets paid to do this.
I discovered King Arthur Baking this past holiday season. A lovely friend gave me a gift card for Christmas. Sure, I’d heard baking professionals rave about King Arthur flour and claim it’s the gold standard in the industry. What I didn’t know is their website is a treasure chest for the home baker.
“We have incredible resources on our site,” says Robyn from her snowy home in Vermont. “We offer tips, products, great recipes, and virtual classes.”
Robyn grew up baking alongside her mom. When she graduated from the University of New Hampshire, she couldn’t find a position utilizing her Political Science degree. But she did find a job—with a view—she loved. “I baked all the desserts and breads for a restaurant located in a renovated flour mill,” she says. She kneaded bread and shaped pastries while gazing out the window at the scenic Pemigewassett River.
Photo courtesy of King Arthur
Her baking experience steered her to food writing, and Robyn crafted a weekly, country-style column for the local newspaper. In Robyn’s Nest, she featured stories about in-season produce and how to cook it, recipes, restaurants, and local food-related folks.
Almost three decades ago, while writing an article on white whole wheat (a new strain of wheat at the time), Robyn interviewed the then-owner of King Arthur Flour. The two “hit it off,” and the owner hired Robyn to field baking questions for the Norwich, Vermont company’s baking hotline.
To answer calls from stumped bakers, it was important for Robyn to “be an expert.” Through correspondence courses with the acclaimed American Institute of Baking in Kansas, she earned a baking science accreditation.
That expertise has allowed her to wear many hats, or chef coats, at King Arthur. In their baking school, she creates curriculums and teaches classes on how to make the perfect chocolate cream pie or eclair or croissant. She’s traveled the country—“even Hawaii”—teaching adults how to bake bread in the company’s national baking program.
King Arthur Baking Headquarters, Norwich, VTPhoto courtesy of King Arthur
King Arthur’s Bake For Good program is one of her favorites. “I go into middle schools, teach students how to make a basic yeast bread, and send them home with the ingredients for an assignment,” says Robyn. Their homework? Bake two more loaves at home. One loaf, she instructs the students, is to enjoy at home, with their family. The second loaf they must donate to a soup kitchen or shelter or family in need. “It’s a great lesson and a great program,” Robyn says.
To keep kids and grandkids busy on these cold, winter days, Robyn recommends baking projects that involve bread dough. “Rolling it, kneading it, it has lots of tactile and textural components,” she says. Bread dough is a good springboard for little hands to make monkey bread or soft pretzels or mini pizzas. Homemade pasta (her favorite class to teach) is a huge hit with the younger set also.
In recipes calling for vanilla, Robyn suggests substituting almond or coconut or maple extracts. Or her favorite—and a King Arthur Baking exclusive—Fiori di Sicilia (flower of Sicily), a luscious Italian combination of vanilla and orange. “It tastes like a creamsicle,” says Robyn. (I have this on order and can’t wait to try it in sugar cookies!)
Chocolate Chip Scones (author photo)
Gluten intolerant folks will want to know about the “magical” Measure for Measure flour. In any recipe without yeast—cookies, cakes, quick breads—this is a one-for-one flour replacement and turns the recipe gluten-free,” says Robyn.
From late May to November, Robyn tramps the woods near her New England home in search of wild edible mushrooms. On her regular hikes, she comes across chanterelles, black trumpets, morels, and porcini. And she uses these to cook at home.
When we talk over Zoom, Robyn steps away from our call to take a shepherd’s pie out of the oven. I’ve been looking for a simple version of this dish, and I figure Robyn’s the one to ask. “Oh, I made it up this morning,” she says. As she rattles off vague instructions, including imprecise amounts of rosemary and Worcestershire sauce and garlic, I follow along and think I can do this. When she gets to the part where she makes a slurry, she loses me!
Morning BunsPhoto courtesy of King Arthur
On my travel bucket list, I’d love to attend a class or two at the King Arthur baking school in Vermont. Wouldn’t that be a fun girls’ trip? “Come in the autumn,” says Robyn. “It’s gorgeous here.” I want Robyn to teach my class—and write down the steps for her shepherd’s pie also. Meanwhile, I’ll try their Iron Skillet Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza. A friend gives it five stars.
Featured photo courtesy of Robyn Sargent
Tags: baking, King Arthur Baking
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I will do her class with you!!!
Very interesting! I use King Arthur flour for all my baking and didn’t realize they had so many great items on their website. Would love to try their sour dough starter sometime!
Thanks Joanne! It’s a fun website, that’s for sure!
Fascinating! I’ve used their products but never thought to visit the website. Great information
Pam, loved this interview. Coincidentally I just received my first order last week from King Arthur — their flour and some kitchen and baking goodies! Hayden is dating a young man who is in graduate school in NH and he lives in Norwich! We are going to visit King Arthur this June when we go for his graduation — I’ll report back. You are so right — their website is FULL of helpful information on a daily basis!
Thanks Merrill! And what a small world! Please, please, please report back in. I can’t wait to hear about the visit.
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