Aubrey O’Connell has been baking for 16 years and is now sharing her scones, muffins and granola with Gig Harbor residents.
Called Hope Bakery, O’Connell started on the paperwork to make her dreams a reality just after moving to Gig Harbor six months ago from San Diego.
“Small business is my thing,” she said. “It’s really, really fun.”
O’Connell, a former marathoner, first started baking to satisfy her craving for something sweet after her training runs and because she was unsatisfied with the pastries she found in nearby coffee shops.
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“I felt the stuff I made was so much better than what was in stores,” she said. “My whole family likes to cook, so it’s ingrained in me.”
I felt the stuff I made was so much better than what was in stores. My whole family likes to cook, so it’s ingrained in me.
Aubrey O’Connell, owner of Hope Bakery
In her quickbreads, O’Connell combines sweet and healthy by increasing fiber content with ingredients like whole wheat flours and substituting typical bakery fats — such as butter and oil — for healthier options like yogurt or sour cream.
“You can still indulge and it doesn’t have to kill your diet,” she stated. “There’s no sense in not having something good that can be good for you.”
Healthy options are important to O’Connell, who works part-time at the new Gig Harbor Strength and Fitness Gym, which opens for business on Saturday (April 9).
Along with her healthy ingredients, O’Connell likes to create unique flavor mixes for her products and has over 50 different flavor combos so far.
While O’Connell’s creativity is boundless, her Cottage Food Permit has currently limited to her to six flavor combinations: blueberry white chocolate scones, lemon scones, peanut butter scones, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, peach almond muffin and oat and honey cranberry chocolate chip granola.
A favorite for Chad Butler, O’Connell’s boyfriend and biggest supporter, are her blueberry white chocolate scones.
You can still indulge and it doesn’t have to kill your diet. There’s no sense in not having something good that can be good for you.
“They’re all good and they’re all great,” Butler said of O’Connell’s creations. “I’m just proud of her. I think it’s awesome.”
The couple have been together for more than a year now, but have known each other for 25 years and were eighth-grade sweethearts in San Diego.
The bakery is named in tribute to Butler’s late wife and O’Connell’s sister-in-law, who both died of cancer.
“I’m lucky she makes me things she can’t make for the general public quite yet,” he said of O’Connell’s baking experiments, mentioning a purposed cheesecake that O’Connell turned into scones. “She’s really good with repurposing food.”
While this is O’Connell’s first professional baking venture, she has been baking for family and friends for years, especially around the holidays when orders would begin to stack up for parties.
Hope Bakery made its first appearance at the Gig Harbor Farmer’s Market on Saturday to overwhelmingly positive response: the booth was almost completely sold out.
“I got a great response,” O’Connell said of her first day in the market, where she gave out samples of her baking to eager customers.
I think we have a bright future in front of us with Hope Bakery. I think it’s going to do great things.
Butler agreed: “The farmer’s market is such a great way to get a response and get people introduced to her.”
Along with regular appearances at the Gig Harbor Farmer’s Market through the summer, O’Connell also provides private orders for parties or other events. Her goal is to grow her bakery into a storefront in Gig Harbor and maybe even offer baking classes, similar to what she taught in San Diego.
“Something small along the Harbor would be great,” she said. “Someplace unique and comfy.”
Butler is confident in both the bakery and O’Connell.
“I think we have a bright future in front of us with Hope Bakery,” he said. “I think it’s going to do great things.”
Contact Aubrey O’Connell at 619-890-0882, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook