Turning Bread Into Bread

CFK Bakery a pilot program for local food entrepreneur

A page from Mary Wessel Walker's handmade recipe book.

The Masonic Temple on West Liberty seems an unlikely place to find a food entrepreneur, but when The Chronicle arrived there one Tuesday morning earlier this month, Mary Wessel Walker was already aproned and baking at the commercial kitchen there.

“I’m experimenting a lot with recipes I haven’t tried in large quantities,” she says, opening a jar of honey that had crystallized from the cold. Those large quantities are for her customers –  eight families who’ve signed up to buy a weekly amount of baked goods from CFK Bakery, Wessel Walker’s newest venture.

It’s a pilot program, she says – thus the experimenting – lasting just eight weeks and ending in late February. It works like this: Each week, Wessel Walker emails her customers with a list of items she’ll be baking. She generally includes a quick bread, like blueberry muffins; cookies; some kind of yeast bread; and a breakfast item (often granola, though the week we visited she was making brötchen, a German breakfast roll). You pay upfront for the entire eight weeks, based on the number of items you want per week. A two-item order costs $96 for the full eight weeks, or $12 per week. If you want additional items on any given week, you can order more for $6.50 each.

Mary Wessel Walker stirring honey

Mary Wessel Walker warms and stirs crystallized honey. Her apron says "Thyme on my hands."

She uses local ingredients almost exclusively: Flour from Ernst Farm, milk from Calder Dairy, blueberries (for the muffins) from Locavorious, which freezes produce bought in season (and is owned by Rena Basch, who’s also the Ann Arbor Township clerk). If Wessel Walker can’t find a local source, she buys from the People’s Food Coop.

The kitchen at the Masonic Temple is a bit weathered, but it’s well-stocked with equipment, including an imposing 12-quart Hobart mixer that looks like it dates from the 1950s or earlier but which, as Wessel Walker notes, is probably indestructible. Having an industrial mixer is important, she says: When you mix dough for eight loaves of bread at once, “that’s beyond the capacity of anyone’s wrists.”

On the farm: Community Farm Kitchen

The subscription-based bakery is a wintertime outgrowth of her other business, the Community Farm Kitchen, coming up on its third year. The concept is similar, but Community Farm Kitchen is linked to a partnership with the Community Farm of Ann Arbor, a membership-based entity that Wessel Walker’s family has belonged to since she was a child. Each season, the farm – like other community supported agriculture (CSA) groups – sells “shares” that entitle you to a certain amount of produce each week. The type and quantity of the produce varies, depending on the harvest at any particular time throughout the season. (Sometimes, you get an awful lot of kale.)

If you sign up for your weekly allotment but for whatever reason you don’t want to deal with it, Wessel Walker and her crew prepare the food for you. The service ranges from something as simple as washing the lettuce to making complete dishes, including soups. They can or freeze some items as well.


Yeast hasn't yet worked its leavening magic on this dough.

Last season, almost two dozen families and individuals signed up with Community Farm Kitchen, and Wessel Walker employed seven part-time workers. She does the cooking for that business out of the kitchen at the Anthroposophical Society on Geddes, part of a movement founded by Rudolf Steiner.

The economics of the CFK Bakery’s pilot project made renting space at the Anthroposophical Society too pricey this winter. So Wessel Walker scouted out other locations and eventually found the Masons. (Interestingly, this isn’t the first time The Chronicle has encountered a story involving the search for a commercial kitchen.) The Masonic Temple building is for sale, however, and Wessel Walker expects to return to the Anthroposophical Society’s kitchen come spring, when her work again focuses on the Community Farm and its produce.

How Does One Become a Food Entrepreneur, Anyway?

The Anthroposophical Society is a good fit for the Community Farm and for Wessel Walker, too: The farm uses biodynamic farming methods, which evolved from lectures that Rudolf Steiner gave in 1924. And Wessel Walker majored in philosophy and math at Bryn Mawr College.

When she returned to Ann Arbor after graduating in 2006, she worked on the farm that summer. While talking with others on the farm about how to get more people involved in CSAs, one idea floated was to offer a food-preparation service for people who were too busy or not inclined or equipped to turn the produce into meals. Wessel Walker thought something along the lines of, “Why not?”

Pouring milk

Milk and flour – but not thyme – are among the ingredients for CFK Bakery bread.

“I did not see myself as a future entrepreneur,” she said. “But I think those disciplines (of philosophy and math) taught me to think things through.”

She’s still thinking through her summer business – this coming season, for example, she might offer a week-by-week option for people who don’t want to sign up for the entire 22-week season. That’s attractive for families who usually prepare the food themselves, but for whatever reason – a medical emergency, a trip out of town – need some one-time help.

She’s also had requests from people who just want the food prep part of the service: washing and chopping, but not cooking. She has concerns over how that might work, whether some of the food would stay fresh that way. “I don’t want the kale to be all limp and sad.”

In addition to her two food ventures, Wessel Walker is active in the local food movement – she participated in the Local Food Summit in January, and is involved in some projects evolving out of that event. And though it seems unrelated to food, she’s also a fan of Scottish country dancing.

Or perhaps not so unrelated: When one of the Masons, Karl Grube, walked into the kitchen to offer up a cup of coffee, Wessel Walker said, “Karl, I just thought of this – there’s a Scottish dance called ‘The Mason’s Apron!’” The Chronicle must report that no demonstration of the dance took place that day.

Mary Wessel Walker in the Masonic Temple kitchen.

Mary Wessel Walker in the Masonic Temple kitchen. On the stove, bowls are covered with cloth while the dough rises.


  1. February 19, 2009 at 2:20 pm | permalink

    brötchen !!!

  2. By Steve Bean
    February 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm | permalink

    “(Sometimes, you get an awful lot of kale.)”

    I beg to differ: sometimes you get a beautifully large amount of kale. :-) I love the CFAA!

  3. By mk
    February 19, 2009 at 7:22 pm | permalink

    Great story about Mary! She’s part of our Michigan Lady Food Bloggers group.

  4. February 19, 2009 at 7:54 pm | permalink

    MK beat me to it–Mary is a wonderful person and part of our lovely tribe of lady food bloggers.

    I subscribed to this CSA and loved it. I got the BEST peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had…I would never have guessed they were vegan if I hadn’t known. They changed my whole world-view of vegan foods! :) Her breads are fabulous as well. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes baked goods that are made with love.

  5. February 19, 2009 at 9:05 pm | permalink

    Great piece on Mary Wessel Walker – you go, Mary, one of our many interesting Michigan Lady Food Bloggers!

    Steve and others who can’t eat all their CSA kale (I’ve been there, too!), try freezing it. It’s not really much of a fuss to do so and doesn’t take a lot of freezer space. I’m still enjoying our own frozen home-grown kale, which is so much better than the tough stuff available in the grocery store at this time of year. I have directions for freezing kale on my new kale blog, http://www.365DaysofKale.blogspot.com, where kale is more than decoration on my plate!

  6. By Mary Morgan
    February 19, 2009 at 9:51 pm | permalink

    For anyone interested in the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers mentioned a couple of times in earlier comments, here’s a link.

  7. February 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the plug, Mary :) (If you ever want to join…. :))

  8. February 20, 2009 at 6:28 am | permalink

    It has been a pleasure for the Masons of Ann Arbor to sample the
    CFK Bakery creations of Mary Wessel Walker. Starbucks mover over!

    It is also a pleasure to read a well written article, accented with quality images, and content for a local readership. Many thanks to the talented Mary Morgan for creating the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

  9. February 20, 2009 at 8:39 am | permalink

    Great artical Mary, so happy to learn a little more about you and what your doing.

    Shayne – Michigan Lady Food Blogger

  10. By mbuhalis
    February 20, 2009 at 9:08 am | permalink

    I love kale and put it in everything I possibly can but am always up for something new!
    My new favorite kale recipe is kale chips.
    Wash and dry kale, cut/rip into pieces. Toss with oil (walnut, sesame or olive) and sprinkle with seasoning (salt, chili, nut. yeast). then bake at 350 for 5 minutes and flip for another few minutes.

  11. By mbuhalis
    February 20, 2009 at 9:10 am | permalink

    I forgot to mention how much I Love the Community Farm and the Community Farm Kitchen!

  12. By Rena
    February 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm | permalink

    Great article about a great venture! We subscribed to the CFK Bakery pilot, and it’s been not only tasty but fun to try new stuff while Mary experiments. There needs to more raving about her pies though – YUUUM-MEEEE!

  13. By Linda Diane Feldt
    February 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm | permalink

    My favorite kale recipe can be found here –

    Kale Recipes

    for Aromatic Kale. It is a good starter for people who think they don’t like kale.

    At the bottom of the page there is even a recipe for dog treats made from sweet potatoes and kale.

    What is great about Kale is that it is pretty much available from the garden 9 or 10 months of the year in Michigan. And it has been proven helpful to prevent both cancer and heart disease. (References available). Feel free to pass on these recipes to anyone who is reluctant to try it. And to my fellow kale lovers…

  14. By Matt
    February 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm | permalink

    I could nearly fit this into my student’s food budget! But I’m not sure if I can make the pickup time. Hmm.