Maui Rustic Crust: Baking Connections

January 9th, 2024
Laure Leone
Read Time: 6 Minutes
Meet Simply Bread Co customer Kevin Grenz (@MeloBread)

Maui Rustic Crust: Baking Connections

January 9th, 2024
Laure Leone
Read Time: 6 Minutes

Nestled 2,400 miles away from the mainland lies the vibrant island of Maui, where a unique micro baker is turning her passion for baking into a delightful experience for her community. In the little town of Haiku, Maui Rustic Crust has become a beacon of creativity and community connection.

Anne Wertheim, the micro baker behind Maui Rustic Crust is providing her local community with artisan loaves from her heart. Born and raised in Germany, Anne moved to the Hawaiian island of Maui when she was 29, over 30 years ago after she married her husband. For many years, Anne explored her passion for food by cooking and baking for her family and friends.  She explained it provided her with a sense of great joy getting to prepare food for the people she loves and cares about, as well as her community.

After working happily as a freelance illustrator for 25 years, Anne realized she missed having a real connection with people. Meeting most of her clients solely via e-mail, sitting in front of a computer all day long, and creating digital illustrations didn’t fulfill her need for human connection, nor her desire for the tactile use of her hands and body. When AI came on the market, she noticed the immense impact it would have on her field of work. In the already highly competitive world of illustration, competing against AI seemed impossible  

“There was just this sense of hopelessness that I wouldn’t be needed anymore,” said Anne. It gave her the final push to move away from the technical world where she was feeling disconnected, unable to even talk to her clients. Combined with the emergence of AI, and craving a connection to ‘real things’, Anne searched for a new passion for about a year before her nephew suggested she consider food and open a cafe or bakery.

Baking Business

Despite her initial hesitations, Anne started baking for the people at her Sunday meditation circle and word of her baking began to spread. She began taking orders and baking for customers and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. From there she began bringing her loaves to the Haiku Community Center and setting up a stand from 4:30 - 6:00 PM every Thursday. Before she knew it, three months had flown by and she had found the connection to her community she had been craving.

When it came time to name her micro bakery, she chose Maui Rustic Crust because of her love for the island and her fascination with ancient grains. Everything Anne bakes is organic, and she even mills many of her flours herself, such as rye, spelt, and Kamut using her two stone mills. “I believe in the freshness of the grit,” she said gesturing to the two mills behind her. “The closer the grain is milled to the making of the bread, the more nutrients are in it”.

In addition to baking the classic loaves, Anne has a signature rye and spelt with various seeds Danish whole-grain bread that she likes to bake. But her personal favorite is her ancient grain plus chia seed loaf, a recipe she made up herself. She was inspired to create her favorite recipe after a summer trip to Austria where she stayed at a hotel with an excellent bread baker.

After eating some delicious bread with chia seeds, Anne decided to recreate it at home. Combining her ancient grains like spelt and Kamut with chia seeds, she created her ancient grain plus chia seed loaf.

“Even though it’s not as popular as the classic, I love baking it because it’s so full of flavor and nourishment, a true healthy food,” said Anne. 

On top of receiving weekly customer orders, Anne regularly bakes bagels and sandwich loaves for a small cafe in her neighborhood. To manage her growing orders, she follows a weekly set schedule to get everything baked in time.

Mondays are a light day spent prepping dough for bagels and sandwich loaves. Anne wakes up early on Tuesday to boil and bake her bagels, and bake her sandwich loaves and usually devotes the rest of the day to her design and illustration projects. Wednesday is a "high-energy day" where Anne preps around 50 different types of bread from classics to whole grain. She sets an early alarm for Thursday to bake everything she prepped. She then gets her orders packaged and ready to take them to the Haiku Community Center to sell. Fridays are her rest and relaxation days, which allows her to unwind from the busy week.

This holiday season was the first for Maui Rustic Crust, and in a nod to nostalgia, Anne brought her German heritage to her micro bakery menu. Some of her holiday items included a traditional German sourdough bread, “Stollen”, containing candied citrus and various dried fruits, as well as flourless, chocolate-covered German gingerbread cookies. “The flavors and aromas of raisins, candied citrus, and candied orange coming together remind me so much of my childhood,” said Anne. “I really enjoy making specialty items that remind me of long days past ”.

Rising To The Challenge

Before getting the Simply Bread oven, Anne managed to squeeze six loaves of bread into her home oven. When it came time to upgrade her oven, she searched what was available locally before quickly realizing the island didn’t have what she needed. She researched other options until she discovered the Simply Bread oven.

“I just love Simply Bread’s customer service because I felt welcomed, helped, and appreciated,” said Anne

Looking back on her experience and journey as a micro baker, the biggest challenge Anne has faced so far has been balancing marketing herself on social media with her busy bake schedule. Finding time to plan out her social media posts or set up her camera has become harder to fit into her schedule as her bake orders have increased. “I find it at times a bit exhausting to always think about what to post next on my social media accounts. The more business I get through baking, the harder it is to find time for social media,” said Anne.

But her career as a micro baker has been equally as rewarding. A big moment of accomplishment for Anne came early in her baking journey when she figured out the rhythm and timing of her dough. She realized her skills were improving when her dough was no longer sticky or goopy during shaping. Since then, she’s measured the growth and success of her micro bakery Maui Rustic Crust by how many people show up to her community center and purchase her loaves, plus the great feedback she is getting from her happy customers

Commitment to Community

In early August of 2023, when fires burned through the town of Lahaina in Maui, hundreds of homes, shops, and structures were destroyed, leaving locals and tourists devastated. While Anne and her business weren’t affected by the fire physically, she said she was impacted on an emotional level. “I would have loved to bake for the victims and deliver fresh baked sourdough but the laws don’t allow that because I don’t have a commercial kitchen,” she said. Regardless, she felt inclined to help in any small way she could, so for a period of time, she donated the money she made from selling her loaves to families and victims of the fire.

Entering into the New Year, Anne hopes to get her foot in small businesses like cafes and bakeries and expand where her loaves of bread can be purchased. 

“I think my aspiration is just to continuously serve my community as a baker and build those connections with my customers,” said Anne. But for now, she’s enjoying the balance between her passion for baking and illustration, and the freedom to have a day of neither.

Advice For Aspiring Micro Bakers

Asked if she had any advice to share with aspiring micro bakers, Anne emphasized the importance of temperature control. She shared how she navigates the unique challenges she faces while baking in a tropical climate, like the constant need to monitor the temperatures of her ingredients to produce consistent loaves of bread. If it’s a particularly hot day, Anne places her water in the fridge the night before she preps her dough. She even places her bannetons in the fridge to prevent the bread from overproofing.

“Sourdough is so temperature-reliant that it’s important to monitor the temperature of the dough frequently, as well as the temperature inside the fridge,” said Anne. “I’ve had numerous bakes fail, because I didn’t pay close attention to dough or fridge temperature”. She also encouraged staying organized in the kitchen and shared that she loves waking up knowing that all her ingredients are measured and prepped from the night before.

From a seasoned illustrator yearning for a connection to an artisan micro baker kneading her heritage and passion into every loaf, Maui Rustic Crust is doing her island proud. With every loaf, Anne proves she is more than a micro baker, she’s a community builder and a testament to the power of following one's passion.

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