From Science to Sweets. . .
I'm Amy Clough, sole baker/decorator of Clough'D 9 Cookies (pronounced "cloud nine"). I am not a pastry chef, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I have my bachelors degree in biology, my masters degree in education, and taught middle school science for 15 years. So how did I end up making cookies a career?
As a little girl, my mother taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. My paternal grandfather was a classically trained pastry chef. So sugar art is in my blood, so to speak. Over the years, my mother gifted me all kinds of cookie cutters, usually ones she picked up on sale someplace. I would study the card that was attached to the cutter and think to myself, "Why on Earth would anyone spend that much time on a cookie?!". Of course I thanked Mom profusely, faithfully pulled out the cutters at Christmas, threw red and green sugar on them, and called it a day.
And then it happened.
I visited (ok, stalked) MANY cookie blogs and facebook pages. My husband grew weary of the OOh! and Oh my gosh look at this!, so I decided to give it a shot. It was Thanksgiving time, so of course I decorated some fall leaves and turkeys. It was pure bliss, pure joy. I was in love! And I had to bargain with my offspring to let ME decorate the last of the cookies. I became that person who would spend hours and hours on decorated cookies.
Soooooo. . . fast forward. . . tons of cookies later, LOTS of cookies equipment, and a trip to Salt Lake City for CookieCon 2012, I began to feel torn between my "real" job as a teacher and my potentially selling my cookies. Maryland had just passed the Cottage Law, which would allow me to sell at farmer's markets and public events. But to legally sell to individuals beyond farmer's markets and to folks online, I would need to work in a commercial kitchen. Mike (my hubby) was not too keen on the idea of me working away from home through the night at some leased kitchen. And those of you who have made decorated sugar cookies, it's not like they can be baked, decorated, dried, and packaged in the matter of a few hours (unless you are a cookie superhero, or have some form of cookie magic).
The most logical thing to do was to build our OWN commercial kitchen on our property. Yes, I said logical, which sometimes can be confused with completely insane. It was actually the most financially sound means of allowing me to legally bake. Mike did ALL the legwork- meeting with planning and zoning, the health department, bank managers for a loan, contractors. He researched and selected all of the appliances and equipment. In the midst of it all, I was the Devil's Advocate, the worry-wort. Mike had complete faith in the processes . . . and me.
Here's the biggest leap of faith- I quit my teaching career. I walked away from my consistent paycheck, my classroom full of years of hard work, my dear teacher friends, and my sweetest students. I also walked away from grading papers, education reform, and the day-to-day frustrations that accompanied teaching. My children now get on the bus from their home, and not a daycare. My kids get to stay in bed when they're sick, and not have to go to "mommy's school" as I scrambled to finish substitute plans. My commute to work is about 50 feet. And my work clothes? Yoga pants and t-shirts. It doesn't get any better than that!