Bethany McCall could talk about bread all day long. “Bread is my forte, where my true passion lies,” she says. This is good news for those who step through the doors of Bent Willow Baking Co., McCall’s bakery in downtown Franklin, North Carolina, where she sells her artisan sourdough, croissants, and focaccia. Opened two years ago, the bakery has become a fixture of the community and a popular stop for tourists traversing Western North Carolina.
McCall didn’t plan on becoming a professional baker. She grew up in Franklin and discovered baking as a creative outlet as an adult. When her three children became school-aged, she decided she wanted to open Bent Willow and began renovating a 1920s home built by her husband’s great-great-great grandfather, which already had a commercial kitchen. The resulting modern-meets-vintage space—with rattan furniture, plenty of plants, and brass accents on the bar—is a tribute to the home’s history. “I’ve spoken with so many older family members who said that [original owners] Bruce and Sue were so much about family and friends, and they were always gathering around food,” she says.
Before she could officially open, though, McCall realized she needed some help. “I was sleeping thirty minutes a night and baking all night long,” she says. She enlisted pastry chef Logan Kimsey, a cottage baker in Atlanta at the time, to keep the pastry case full of jam-filled Danishes, thick cinnamon rolls, sweet and savory biscuits, and a variety of cookies.
Standout items at the bakery tend to be seasonal. The focaccia, for example, comes topped with tomatoes in the summer and caramelized onions and goat cheese in the fall. “We always try to be as conscious about the sourcing of our ingredients as we can be,” McCall says. In the fall, the apple pie cookies especially shine. The recipe, developed by Kimsey, is taken to the “next level” by brown butter, McCall says, which adds a toasty, nutty richness. At the shop they’re made gluten-free, but home bakers can use all-purpose flour if they’d like.