Rising a Bakery
Julia Castellano on baking up Little Loaf Bakery and Schoolhouse
Food has been a running theme in JULIA CASTELLANO’s life. She may not be where she is today without its continued influence. And her exposure to international foods and travel also played a huge role.
As the daughter of an Italian American father and a Belgian mother, she had no choice but to be surrounded by different types of food and cultures.
“I have half of my family in Belgium and France so growing up I visited from time to time,” she says.
After living abroad in such places as Réunion Island and Argentina (where she taught English as a second language), her career path took a turn when she started a cookie business there out of her tiny apartment kitchen and she says she realized that there was no sense in her doing anything else with her life.
She credits her taste for bread and pastry from her early childhood travels and being spoiled with the bread available in New York.
Fast forward to today and she is currently the pastry manager at True Blue Butcher & Table. But something even bigger is on the horizon. Castellano has started her own company, Little Loaf Bakery and Schoolhouse, a positive result that came from her COVID and quarantine experience.
“I have always wanted to own my own business, but to be honest, the time alone at home provided me with the time to actually consider this as an option. When we were forced into quarantine, I had complete control of my time,” Castellano says. “This is something that is only possible (in the food industry) if you own your own business or work for yourself.”
She started experimenting with bread at home—trying and tweaking dozens of recipes. How does she decide a recipe makes the cut?
“I develop a recipe by failing a lot over and over again,” she says. Sometimes Castellano will pull from multiple recipes for inspiration.
“Bread, unlike pastry, is more challenging to stick to one recipe,” Castellano says. “Though the ingredients and weights of flour and such remain the same, the methodology is ever-changing.”
Trial and error is her main approach as well as other factors such as humidity levels and oven and outside temperatures.
Needless to say, her family and friends benefitted from her progress. “There is only so much two people can eat,” she says. Castellano made a pastry Instagram account, and with that, came orders for loaves, focaccia, and baguettes. Seeing this success validated what she needed for taking the next big step.
“It showed me the potential of my product and that I could be successful. Little Loaf was then born,” she says.
Among her baked goods include challah dinner rolls, Spanish style baguette, mini sourdough focaccia, and on the sweeter side: honey biscuits, cookies, brown butter pecan blondie, and vegan options including sourdough breakfast bar and wild blueberry Bundt cake.
While she currently sells her baked goods at the Riverfront Farmers Market and Downtown ILM Market, often selling out quickly, Castellano plans to extend her business beyond just a pastry shop by opening a shop.
Unable to leave teaching completely behind, she will also use her shop as her “schoolhouse.”
“I want my spot to be a bakery by day and a schoolhouse by evening/night,” she says. She plans to offer a multitude of pastry and bread courses as well as hosting events.
In addition, she plans to invite other artisans and craftsmen in the area to come share their craft.
“The joy of education and community and craft is often lost, and honestly, quite unavailable in small towns,” she says. “I really want to bring Wilmington together to do what is important and get back to the basics.”
To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.
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