Smile Politely

An interview with Tooth Butter cottage baker

Several round pastries have a light orange center with a bright orange jam and edible flowers.
Photo provided by Tooth Butter bakery

Tooth Butter Cottage Bakery is a local cottage bakery run by Hannah Fink specializing in naturally leavened breads and pastries. Fink prioritizes seasonality and local foods into her practice, meaning we can’t find anything like this at the store. As someone who has worked in food service and sustainable agriculture their whole career, seeing a local baker utilize these kinds of ingredients is super exciting to me. Her menu changes frequently, featuring treats such as rhubarb jam buttermilk muffins, toasted sesame and honey sourdough loaf, and honey nettle cake slices. 

I asked Hannah how she started her baking practice as well as what sources of inspiration she draws on when developing her breads and pastries. 

A loaf of sourdough bread held by a white hand above other loaves of bread.
Photo provided by Tooth Butter bakery

Smile Politely: When did you first start Tooth Butter? Where did you get the idea for the name?

Hannah Fink: I dipped my toes in the water with Tooth Butter in November 2023 doing pies. Many, many pies. It was exhilarating and also had my internal house temp at 90 degrees. Tandsmor is a Danish term, tand (“tooth”) +‎ smør (“butter”), which means, you gotta have enough butter on your bread to leave teeth marks. A personal philosophy. 

SP: Did you grow up baking? Where did your passion for baking start?

Fink: I grew up around my grandma and mom’s baking, but I just loved to make mud pies and eat my grandma’s cookies. I started caring about baking when I sought respite from my music industry schedule living in Nashville, Tennessee. Sourdough bread became my thing. I was very bad at first, but I am an eager student. During the slow season for the music industry, I worked at an amazing bakery called Dozen Bakery as a bread delivery driver. Seeing bread in production behind the scenes inspired me onto the trajectory of being a baker.

A table of sweets in brown woven baskets for sale outside on April 20th.
Photo provided by Tooth Butter bakery

SP: What kind of products/baked goods do you sell?

Fink: I primarily want to be known as a bread baker, but I am a pastry chef, too. I do naturally leavened, whole grain breads and seasonally driven, locally-sourced baked goods.

SP: How do you source your ingredients?

Fink: I am devoted to being as involved a member in my local food system as I can be. This means, sourcing every single possible ingredient I can as close to me as it makes sense. I work with farmers directly, shop many local producers at Common Ground Co-Op, and maintain high standards with everything that simply isn’t produced regionally. For example, in my Every Little Thing cookie, I use these amazing flame-raisins sourced from Chile by Equal Exchange. Another standard I try to keep for myself is, if I can’t source the quality of ingredient I want to work with on any particular item, I try to limit its use in my menu. Chocolate is a big one here. I have a friend in town that is sourcing incredible chocolate from Colombia, directly from the farmer. She goes by Pueblito Nature. If I could only use her choco, I would be ecstatic. 

SP: How can someone buy your pastries and breads? Do you have a booth at the farmers market in the summer?

Fink: I operate on a mostly pre-sale basis utilizing a platform called HotPlate. Sales open on Sunday and close Thursday the weeks I am doing a bake. Pickup is the following Saturday 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The wonderful crew at Cloud Mountain Kombucha hosts me for most of the pick-ups and day-of sales, I usually have quite a bit for sale day-of. You won’t find me outside at the market this summer, I am barely halfway through my bake by its start time. 

SP: Do you have a favorite thing to make or ingredient to work with? 

Fink: The foundation of everything I do is whole grains. I love learning about grains. The challenge of working with them. The speckles of wheat bran in a cake batter or pastry dough. The smell of a bread dough with rye and wheat sourdough starter in it. Whole grains are ancient, and I feel rooted in something by choosing to work solely with them.

SP: As a baker how do you remain creative with flavors, while also creating a marketable product?

Fink: I think by working within my limits of seasonality and quality sourcing, I constantly have motivation to stay creative. Ingredients change, and I like to plug the variables into simple classics like muffins, hand pies, cookies, cakes, focaccia, and brioche buns. 

A cake with edible flowers.
Photo provided by Tooth Butter bakery

SP: I see that you also do cakes. I love your decorating style. How would you describe it?

Hannah: With real proper notice, I will take on special cake orders. I love cake, but I don’t love it enough, nor have the time, to be doing much more than that. My style is the culmination of drawing inspiration from many cake artists around the world that pulled off my look before me and putting the collection of pretty things I acquired that week in various spots on the cake until I feel that it is visually interesting. I let a lot of fresh florals (mostly from Delight Flower Farm) and edible plants do the decorating for me. 

SP: Are there any bakers locally or nationally that inspire you? If so how do they influence your work?

Fink: I am inspired by the bakers around the world choosing to do production differently, outside of a traditional bakery, as that’s the current path I am walking with a cottage bakery. Some regional favorites that both inspire me creatively, and also remind me to use my authentic voice as a baker are Girl With Pie (@girlwithpie) in Peoria, and Radical Joy Bakery (@radicaljoybakery) in Chicago.

SP: What does your menu look like right now and how will it look in the coming months?

Fink: My menus evolve as the seasons move through. I don’t decide concretely on a menu until right before I release it. So my menu now is totally different than it will be in a few months. Right now, I am so excited to have local strawberries and rhubarb to play with. Come summer time, peaches and corn, berries, and more savory pastry, too. 

SP: Do you have plans of expanding or opening a storefront eventually?

Fink: I have plans to expand but only as resources and time allow. The goal I have directly in front of me right now is to obtain an electric hearth bread oven and dough mixer so that I can produce more bread for the community. Going from two to four loaves in a home oven at a time to 15 in a more professional oven would be a game changer for this one-woman business. I don’t have plans for a storefront at this point. I don’t see that changing.

A pastry with green frosting and dried edible flowers.
Photo provided by Tooth Butter bakery

SP: What is something you’d like customers to know about you?

Fink: My goal with Tooth Butter is not to operate the most successful bakery, nor to have the “Best of Anything” in town. I am doing this to make bread and pastry that I am proud to share, in hopes to be a small but mighty piece in strengthening our local food system. I have many schemes and dreams with this thing: pop-ups and collaborations with other local creatives, free loaves of bread for members of our community, whole grain and sourdough education, the list goes on.

My ultimate goal is to bring people together with bread. Literally and figuratively, get people around a big long, communal table. Share the bread.

Tooth Butter

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