pros at home

Inside Professional Baker Katherine Glassman's Home Kitchen

By Jennifer Richardson / Photography By Naomi Henry | December 15, 2014
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With its mix of hardwood floors, treasured family antiques and garage-sale finds, the vintage-inspired interior of professional baker Katherine Glassman's Ventura home looks like it could have been curated from Paris flea markets. That's only appropriate, since a 2012 trip to that city inspired Katherine to open Sticky Fingers Baking Company, her small-batch bakeshop in midtown Ventura.

And while the French influence is alive and well in the shop's daily selection of lively flavored macarons–think tart cherry and chocolate peanut butter–Katherine gets inspiration closer to home for many of her shop's offerings, which include muffins, scones, cookies and cakes in vegan, gluten-free and traditional options.

Katherine's interest in gluten-free and vegan baking started with adjusting her family's diet to better meet the needs of her youngest daughter, Kate, who has autism.

"For many years I was tweaking things to try and find out if diet would help her. I messed around with it. It never stuck in our house but I had fun with it," says Katherine, who sources as many baking ingredients as possible from locally owned shops.

Along the way, gluten-free, vegan and food-coloring-free goodies began making regular appearances at her daughter's school. "It was nice to be able to provide her school right out of my home, so my daughter could be part of what every other child is part of."

When Katherine decided to launch Sticky Fingers, her time spent mastering gluten-free and vegan baking paid off. Both made perfect sense for the demands of health-conscious California consumers.

A mix of the European and the local also shows up in Katherine's professional experience. Early in her career, she worked at Les Dailles, a high-end formal restaurant in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. After she and her husband, Marty, moved to Ventura, she attended the culinary arts program at Oxnard College, where she studied under a French teacher, Chef Patey (pronounced, appropriately, like pate), and Chef Joe. She rounded out her education with a year of advanced training in bread baking and pastry in Santa Barbara before that fateful trip to Paris.

Katherine Glassman perfected gluten-free baking in her home kitchen.

Back in her post-World War II–era home, Katherine shows off the period details of her cozy and bright kitchen, including the now-restored Wedgewood oven and stove–complete with built-in Art Deco– style clock and salt and pepper shakers–that came with the house.

The original yellow countertop tile is complemented by a newer checkered tile floor, ruby-red chairs and a diner-style table, which Katherine sometimes uses as a work surface to compensate for her limited counter space.

"I love cooking at home. My family has always had a homecooked dinner, even if it's the only meal of the day at home. I also love big gatherings," she says, adding that she regularly hosts family and friends for holidays throughout the year.

"It took me getting here to slow down, embrace it and really understand what a neighborhood is," says Katherine, speaking about the couple's move from Los Angeles to Ventura in 1994. "When we moved here, we had a lot of older people nearby. They taught me how to slow down and enjoy the art of having a cup of coffee and time together … just like we used to do in the '50s and '60s."

It didn't take long for Katherine to build her reputation as the neighborhood baker.

"I was always bringing stuff around, inviting people over," says Katherine. Such treats might include the artisan breads, bread pudding or mousses she particularly enjoys making at home. On special occasions, friends and family are treated to "Grandma Ruth's chocolate cake," a Texas sheet cake recipe that was a wedding gift 22 years ago from the grandmother of Katherine's dear childhood friends.

In addition to her neighbors and her two daughters–the elder of whom, Molly, can be found at the bakery every other weekend helping with what Katherine has coined "Sticky Bun Sundays"– Katherine finds ideas for her ever-changing repertoire of goodies right in her backyard.

It has a microcosm of California produce, with trees boasting Meyer and regular lemons, limes, oranges, avocados and apples. Sometimes she even dreams about her recipes: "I wake up in the middle of the night and think, 'Oh, blackberries, lime and ginger. That'd be good!'"

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