For Lauren Hambleton, baking is about connecting with people through food, so she founded Red Hen Artisanale to do just that.
Located in the heart of Grey County, Red Hen Artisanale offers hands-on baking workshops and various food experiences for people of all interest and skill levels. From workshops to private dinners, team-building activities, and markets, Hambleton’s mission is to bring people in communities and workplaces together by sharing her passion for teaching and love of all things sourdough.
“I like the aspect of bringing people together and doing something with your hands, maybe stepping outside of what you’re used to doing…” said Hambleton. “Overall just having a good time and giving yourself a day to have some fun.”
Hambleton graduated from Humber College’s Culinary Skills program, but it wasn’t until after graduation that she realized her true passion was in pastry. She spent the next few years travelling through Western Europe, gaining work experience while living for different lengths of time in Amsterdam, Rome, and various cities throughout the U.K.
When she returned, she enrolled in a bread program at the San Francisco Baking Institute. This is where her love of baking bread really began to develop.
“With baking, I like the idea that everything is organized and calculated,” she said.
She became the pastry chef at Peller Estates, where she spent three years developing a bread and pastry program that focused on baking everything in-house and sourcing ingredients locally as often as possible. She also started teaching baking and pastry part-time at Humber College.
“I went right back full circle to teaching where I originally went to school, which is kind of cool,” she said.
In the fall of 2017, Hambleton went to North Carolina to spend a few weeks learning from world-renowned sourdough enthusiast Tara Jensen and assisting with her wood-fired baking workshops surrounded by the mountains.
“It was what I always wanted to do, I just didn’t know it existed,” Hambleton said. “Teaching small workshops and having people come to you in a nice, relaxing setting.”
When she got home she got to work formulating her own workshops, and her flagship Sourdough + Pie experience was born.
The one-day workshop leads attendees through a hands-on baking experience where they get to mix and shape their own loaves of sourdough bread and create a seasonal pie with a sourdough pie crust. At the end of the workshop, each baker goes home with a detailed recipe booklet, a sourdough starter plus instructions to keep it alive, two loaves of sourdough bread, and a seasonal pie ready to be baked.
For the past five years, her workshops have all been held in quaint locations throughout Southern Ontario, from one-room schoolhouses in the Brant County countryside, to bright little studios along the Grand River in Elora.
In November 2021 Hambleton moved to Grey County and started building her own studio space from the ground up.
In January, her newly built, private baking studio that sits along the Saugeen River officially opened its doors and has welcomed attendees for a variety of baking experiences ever since.
Hambleton now hosts several different workshops, both virtually and in-person, that range from handmade whole grain pasta cooking classes to bagel workshops and baking experiences for kids.
Her virtual workshops have reached people as far as Alberta, Texas and even Germany, but she still prefers hosting in-person workshops where she can bring people together. In the future, she hopes to hold more multi-day workshops so bakers can get to know each other better and she can highlight all that Grey County has to offer.
“I could make a whole itinerary for people to come and stay in a really cute spot, attend a workshop, go out for dinner, and have a really nice wine tasting,” she said. “There is just so much going on here.”
What she loves most about baking is that it is formulaic in nature.
“I like the process of putting things together and the flavour combinations, from savoury to sweet. It’s calculated and organized,” she said.
Hambleton said there are so many different tips and tricks for success, as long as they are followed, there is no reason why anyone can’t make successful sourdough. She loves getting photos and feedback from past attendees and said has had people from all experience levels attend her workshops, from those who have only baked once in her life to avid bakers looking to learn a new skill or improve their consistency.
“It’s not necessarily simple, but it is easy,” she laughed.
Hambleton also sells sourdough starter kits and operates a monthly Bread Club, where members get a fresh loaf of sourdough every Friday for the entire month.
For more information about Red Hen Artisanale or to sign up for a workshop, visit her online.