YOU THINK YOU’RE busy cooking for the holidays? Forget it. You could be Miriam de Leon. She and her staff hand-make nearly 400 apple, pumpkin and pecan holiday pies as well as the 600 other pieces of baked goods they produce on weekends. Were you a baker in Guatemala? No, I was a preschool teacher, but during my training they offered me a class in baking and I said, “No, I’m not interested in that. Not at all.” I thought I was never going to need it. And look at me now. When did you start here? September 1, 2007. I was 19 and I had just come from Guatemala and an ex-teacher of mine was working here. She said, “I have a job for you.” Whoa, I said, “can I take a few days to rest?” No, she said, “you have to start now.” I started right away as a dishwasher. That’s hard work. I remember telling my teacher how hard it was and she told me to be patient and something would come up and it did. When did you start baking? A few months later. I started helping Carol (Levalley, Rustic Bakery founder) with the baking on the weekends and one day she asked me if I was interested in learning how to bake croissants. Now, I make croissants, scones, muffins, focaccia rolls, different kinds of cookies and pies. Have any favorites? I love the blueberry oat scone and the chocolate raspberry croissant. What are your hours? Normally, I come at 5 and work 10 hours four days a week, but during October, November, December, I work around 12 hours a day, five or six days a week. Any pie-making secrets? For apple pie, peel the apples right before you use them and don’t soak them in water. Otherwise the pie will have a lot of water. The crust? After mixing, you want little chunky pieces of butter remaining in the dough. Don’t over-mix. Anything else? Flour the pan before you add the dough. Then the pie will slide out easily when you cut it. What do you like about your job? I love to make croissants. Making croissants makes me happy every day. Have you ever eaten a croissant in Paris? No, but I’d like to. Oh, one day. Maybe, you never know. Are you ready for the holidays? I think I am. I think so.
Miriam de Leon, bakery manager, Rustic Bakery, 1139 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, rusticbakery.com