Burnt Toast Bakery: A Newfound Passion & Purpose

November 08th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 6 Minutes
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Burnt Toast Bakery: A Newfound Passion & Purpose

November 08th, 2023
Lauren Leone
Read Time: 6 Minutes

Christa Hanna, a talented singer and songwriter from Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, never had much interest in the art of baking. She poured her creativity into her music, singing in church bands and choirs and even dabbling in open mics.

When the 2020 pandemic caused a worldwide shutdown, Christa continued to pursue her music online but noticed it wasn’t fulfilling her creatively like it once had. As home baking was on the rise, she became inspired. Looking for a new creative outlet, Christa decided to try her hand at baking.

“I saw what everyone else was doing, and it looked really inspiring,” said Christa, talking about the surge of microbakers during the pandemic.

She started by making cheese and butter before deciding to take on a different kind of challenge. Combined with the desire to stop buying bread from Costco after seeing how much bread her family was consuming, Christa wanted to give baking bread a shot. With a history of failed bread attempts, Christa decided to consult with her bread-baking family members to learn the ins and outs. She borrowed some sourdough starter from her brother-in-law, and he taught her how to make sourdough over Zoom.

From there, she regularly baked sourdough for her husband and continued to get her inspiration from videos on social media. One loaf became two, and soon Christa was wrapping her loaves up as Christmas presents for her friends and family.

“I started pumping out sourdough loaves left, right, and center,” she said. Even though Christa continued to increase her baking output, she didn’t have any interest in monetizing her loaves. “I felt like I wasn’t going to love baking as much,” she said. “I thought if I started selling, it would feel like a job”.

A close friend of Christa urged her to start selling her loaves, insisting on how great her sourdough was. Hesitant at first, Christa’s opinion changed when her friend placed the money in her hand.

“That was the pivotal moment,” said Christa. “It was a total brain shift of perspective, where I saw that what I love to do had value”. Christa realized she could continue to do what she loved but on a bigger scale. It also gave her something she wasn’t expecting; a sense of purpose.

“I didn’t realize I had been looking for a purpose,” she said. “I didn’t want just to be a mom, I wanted to be doing something and making a difference”.

And as a result, Burnt Toast Bakery was born in February 2022. 

The unforgettable name came to Christa after she burnt a piece of her toast during breakfast. When she asked for her family’s opinion on the name, she got a resounding yes.

Christa operates her micro bakery out of her kitchen and has been slowly upgrading her baking equipment over the years. She started baking in her home kitchen while using Dutch ovens, baking steels, and even lava rocks. As a result, she burned her oven out and realized something needed to change.

“I just wanted an oven that worked,” said Christa. “I didn’t want to worry about all the little finicky things”. After researching different ovens with her husband, Christa ordered her first kitchen upgrade. “I looked at all my options and nothing came close to the Simply Bread oven,” she said. “Having this oven makes my business possible”.

A proud moment for Christa was when she had a line of people waiting for her bread at her local farmer’s market. “It was astounding to me,” said Christa. “My favorite moments have been from the markets and meeting everyone in my community”.

Competing with a lot of bread varieties around town, Burnt Toast Bakery stands out with its Classic Sourdough Artisan loaves. On top of her classic loaves, Christa has baked all kinds of sourdough loaves, usually as a request from her customers.

Due to the increase in orders, Christa has had to adapt to accommodate the number of requests by simplifying her menu. She added a Weekly Special to satisfy her customers, letting them enjoy the different loaves she has made in the past. Today’s customer requests included an olive rosemary and carmelized onion loaf, a raisin swirl, and a cheddar and chive loaf.

Christa sources her grains from a few local mills; one specializing in organic stone-ground flours, another in a heritage grain that is good for those with gluten sensitivities, and another that repurposes coffee grounds and spent barley. In addition to her flavorful sourdough loaves, Christa bakes sourdough cinnamon twists, focaccia bread, and her highly regarded sourdough chocolate chip cookies.

“Apparently, I make the best chocolate chip cookies people have ever tasted,” she said. “I just take what they say as true and go with it,” she joked, revealing that she isn’t personally fond of chocolate chip cookies.

The hardest part of her journey so far has been balancing her micro bakery and her family of three kids. She described the chaos of her kids coming home from school, making their lunches and dinner, and multitasking everything in between.

“Multitasking at home is the hardest thing for me,” said Christa. “I get distracted with too many things”. But even with all the craziness that comes from working from home, Christa is able to find relaxation in her dough. “I love the process,” she said. “I love the feel of the dough, the stretching, and folding, and I love the scoring”.

Christa offered some advice for aspiring microbakers.

“The best thing I ever did was get to know other business owners and entrepreneurs. It started by bringing them bread to try, following them on social media, and then collaborating on giveaways or posting about their products that I would try. Between that and doing local markets, I have discovered a great community where we are always trying to lift each other up, and cheer each other on.,” she said. “Running a business is hard, so having the support of others is crucial”.

“Don’t expect to be amazing right away,” warned Christa. “If something doesn’t work one day, it’ll probably work the next day. You just have to take a deep breath and try again”.

As for the future of Burnt Toast Bakery, Christa hopes to one day not have to “beat the algorithm” on social media to broaden the awareness of her micro bakery. “I want to be known in my community,” she reflected. “And maybe down the line, a brick and mortar, but that’s a faraway dream”.

In a reflection of the last year, Christa describes her baking journey as the start of her healing journey and a realization of her self-worth. She compared the appreciation she received as a baker to the praise she got as a singer.

“People would tell me they love my voice, but no one ever paid me for it,” she said. “It’s nice to feel that my time and effort are worth something when I bake”. Christa continued to describe customers ordering her loaves as the “biggest thank you that somebody could give me”.

Burnt Toast Bakery is a testament to the power of passion and unexpected moments in life. In her small kitchen in Okotoks, Christa has transformed her newfound passion into a thriving micro bakery. As she kneads, shapes, and bakes, Christa continues to find her sense of purpose in each loaf she creates.

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