Rachel Crampsey never planned on making donuts, however, a childhood filled with delicious memories of her grandmother baking wedding cakes and a brief stint as a French instructor later on led the stars to align — but not without an interim spent harnessing her unmistakable creativity and technique. Let’s fast forward to 2016. Rachel now runs her own bakery, Montclair Bread Company (which hosts two retail locations and an electric-powered food truck), and was the winner of The Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown” in 2014 to boot.
It’s clear that Rachel is highly driven and was always destined to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps in some way, but it wasn’t until she took her first bread-making class at the Culinary Institute of America when she discovered exactly where she would thrive most. From once handing bread out to friends from her apartment to now having a line of consumers wrapped around the corner vying for her signature treats (selling 1,300 on a Saturday is the norm), this woman has also built and rallied a community to run an annual 5k called the “5k Doughnut Run”, all of which the proceeds benefit causes like the Human Needs Pantry of Montclair in New Jersey, where she resides.
We invite you to read on and learn more about the inspiring woman who doubles as a wife/mother/baker/marathon runner and has been consistently breathing new life into the donut movement. Rachel is proof that hard work and sacrifice pay off immensely, resulting in the sweetest taste of all: living the dream.
[We asked Rachel to fill in the blanks.] My name is Rachel Crampsey, I am a baker. I am 25% dreamer and 75 % doer. I would describe myself as motivated, and I am most inspired by my community. I dream of the perfect glazed doughnut, and I will do that by frying it myself!
Dreamers & Doers: You have decades of experience crafting the sweetest confections. Which doughnut stands out most in your memory as an absolute favorite?
Rachel: Strawberry shortcake – It’s a fried brioche dough with strawberry glaze, filled with fresh strawberry jam, topped with whipped cream and a strawberry. It’s the best part of my life as a baker combined with flavors reminiscent of my childhood.
DD: Your bakery, Montclair Bread Company, is constantly churning out brand new doughnut recipes. Where do the different inspirations come from to ensure that you stay consistent and never run out of fresh ideas (or doughnuts)!?
R: Honestly, I really love to eat doughnuts and I get bored easily so I keep changing it up! Most of the concepts are based on seasonal ingredients…like the aforementioned strawberry. Once I have an ingredient I want to work with, I figure out a way to showcase in a doughnut. I often turn classic desserts into doughnuts – like Strawberry Shortcake, Bananas Foster and Tres Leches. My goal is to incorporate each flavor component into every bite – the construction is important.
DD: Aside from doughnuts and artisan breads, what else are you passionate about cooking up in the kitchen?
R: I love to recreate family meals my grandmother made when I was growing up….stuffed cabbage rolls, chicken & dumplings, meatloaf & mashed potatoes. Comfort foods happen to be very comforting! I’m also in love with making seasonal pizzas. I keep pizza dough on hand at all times, then I just dump whatever fresh veggies I can grab from the farmers’ market on top and dinner is served. I just finished eating one with fresh corn, asparagus, kale pesto and bacon (because everything’s better with bacon). I also find that pizza making is a fun group activity for an evening with my friends and my family.
DD: You’re a pro at fusing the wildest ingredients into concoctions that others could never dream of (like the margarita doughnut: lime curd with tequila glaze and dipped in a sugar/salt/chili mixture) — yet your ideas work flawlessly! How do you go about taste testing which flavors will work so well together in one doughnut?
R: I’m not really reinventing the wheel. I use combos that everyone knows and loves, like the margarita. I separate out all the major flavors and build them back together again. I reach into the deep recesses of my brain to remember all those crazy techniques I learned in pastry school to create different textures and layers of flavor.
DD: You grew up watching your grandmother make wedding cakes. Do your own children hang around and watch you in action? Do you think you have future bakers on your hands?!
R: Absolutely! My 8 year old daughter has been feeding sourdough since she was 2!!! All three of my kids love coming to the bakery after school. It’s like a playground but yummier!!!
DD: Aside from your grandmother, who have some of your artistic role models been?
R: Amy Sherber, who I worked for at her bakery, Amy’s Bread, has always been a tremendous role model for me. In fact, hardly a day goes by that I don’t ask myself, ‘what would Amy do?’ Not only is she an amazing baker, she has built an incredible team by nurturing them with kindness and respect.
DD: Do you like to listen to music while you bake? If so, what kind?
R: Yes, I do. Salsa or Reggaeton is my favorite. When I first started baking at Bread Alone, it was the only music that played in the bakery. It’s how I learned to shape bread at a fast pace and keep it up through the long nights.
DD: How did you get into marathon running?
R: I wanted to celebrate our first 4,000 likes on Facebook. I polled our followers to see what they thought I should do. Once customer suggested I host a 4K fun run. In a couple weeks I threw something together and 125 people showed up to run for doughnuts! That day, I ran my first mile since passing the Presidential Fitness Test in high school (do they still do that!?!?). It was easier than I thought it would be. I started running 3-4 times a week. My friend encouraged me to sign up for a race to stay motivated and keep myself going. I ran my first half marathon 3 months after the fun run. In November, 11 months after my first mile, I ran the NYC Marathon in 3 hours and 52 minutes!
DD: What other hobbies serve as a relaxing outlet when you aren’t at work?
R: When I’m not baking, running, marketing, selling, training, cooking or parenting…I’m sleeping!
(Above photo courtesy of Eric Delmar.)
Feast your eyes on Montclair Bread’s gorgeous Instagram: @MontclairBread!