It all started with a shortbread cookie. Brooke Carter applied for a spot five years ago at the McKinney Farmers Market with shortbread cookies in hand and has been building her pastry business, the Rosemary Bakery, ever since.
Now 28, the Fort Worth native started baking professionally at 20 years old at a cafe, working her way up to pastry chef by learning through experience, she says. At age 23, she started putting her own dreams of having a baking business into place. She applied for a spot at the McKinney Farmers Market and within a short few hours, she says she got the acceptance call.
Carter makes bread and pastries — like croissants, loaves, cruffins, Danishes, cookies and pies — that emphasize organic, simple ingredients. Most of her ingredients are locally sourced because she says it gives her a sense of community. A lot of breads in the grocery stores have a lot of ingredients in them, she says. Carter wanted to create bread with flour, salt and water, and that’s all.
While she didn’t attend culinary school, Carter has done bread and pastry apprenticeships in France, England and Germany. She says her baking style has been influencedby her time in Europe.
“I got on a plane and went to a farmers market where I didn’t know anybody in the middle of a different country and was like, ‘Hey. I’m here to make bread’,” she says.
She says she doesn’t like very sweet pastries. European pastries tend to be less sweet because of the lack of excess sugar, she says, making for an overall healthier treat. Tasters also experience more of the flavors and ingredients that go into making the pastry if it’s not coated in sugar, Carter says.
Her pastries are heavily inspired by nature. She forages for ingredients, such as elderberries and lemon bee balm, during her baking process. She started by foraging small, recognizable things and then moved on to more sophisticated finds with the help of books and a mentor, she says.
There’s physical proof of her dedication to nature in three of her arm tattoos: blackberries with rose hip, wheat with rosemary, and the John Muir quote, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
Carter would bake when she was younger, inspired by her mother and grandmother, both named Mary. Carter says her business name is dedicated to them, and that rosemary often symbolizes remembrance.
The Rosemary Bakery’s menu has some staple items, but many are made depending on season. Thyme is a favorite herb, and she throws it in as many things as she can, but ingredients such as raspberries — her favorite berry to use — and peaches only work when they’re in season.
“Things aren’t supposed to be grown year-round,” Carter says. “The best time to get peaches isn’t gonna be in the winter. It’s gonna be at the end of June when it’s ripe. That’s when you want to use it.”
For the farmers market, she bakes the goods at her home under the Texas Cottage Foods Law, which legally allows one to make food to sell in small batches. For big events like weddings, she rents a kitchen.
Her week starts on Tuesday when she begins gathering ingredients, and she preps until Thursday. Friday is when she gets up really early in the morning and bakes until evening. Carter says she sleeps for a few hours, then gets up and bakes from around 10 p.m. until Saturday morning. She heads to the market after that, where a lot of customers are usually already waiting.
A lot of the customers have become like family, she says. They’re the first ones in line because they know if they come too late, things will sell out, Carter says.
“I just want everything to be as fresh as possible on Saturday,” Carter says. “Have you ever gone somewhere and could taste it wasn’t fresh? I want people to come to the market and know it was just made.”
Carter says a lot of detail, time and effort go into making bread. The actual baking process doesn’t take long, but with cold fermenting and kneading, she says it could take her up to 20 hours to finish.
Her main mentor is based in Whitstable, England, and she participates in an email thread with other traveling bakers who inspire her a lot.
“If you think that you know everything or that you’ve perfected everything, then you’re really not growing,” she says. “It’s constantly refining, constantly bettering yourself.”
For her next adventure she is teaching a three-day course on pastries in Versailles, France, in February.
Carter says she hopes little girls can see her business and the life she has created for herself, and know they can open a business like a boss babe, too.
Where to buy: You can find Rosemary Bakery every Saturday at the McKinney Farmers Market or online at therosemarybakery.com. Brooke recommends ordering online at least three days in advance for special orders. You can also find her at the McKinney Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Follow her on Instagram at @therosemarybakery for information on pop-up events and workshops.