IN HER JOB, PASSION
IS BAKED IN
By Robyn Haberman
As a child growing up in New Jersey in the 1990s, Troy resident Isabel Burlingham spent many hours in her family’s kitchen. Her parents, both natural cooks of Norwegian ancestry, could whip up meals seemingly out of anything. Isabel, who grew up to be an analytical chemist, used to make volcanoes out of baking soda and vinegar, but she also recalls how she liked the way certain ingredients combined just right to make sweet, tasty treats.
As an adult working in a remote part of Maine, and then after relocating to Troy and watching her startup company shrink from 12 employees to three, she found herself feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from the community. Baking was her solace.
“I enjoy chemistry, but it does not make my heart sing the way that baking does,” said Burlingham, 34.
In 2019, during a weekly power breakfast club in Troy, Burlingham, who had moved to the city a few years earlier, became inspired by the stories of the local entrepreneurs there. After mentioning her passion for baking, she said, others in the room would ask, “Why aren’t you chasing your dream?”
Soon after, she did, and a company was born: Parchment Baking, which debuted at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market on June 16, 2019. Burlingham participated with the market every two weeks while she worked her day job.
Parchment features Norwegian recipes that were passed down through generations of Burlingham’s family. She has found that Scandinavian culture and cuisine are not well known in upstate New York, but she gets frequent requests from customers for delicacies their grandmothers used to make. Burlingham said her personal favorite is apelsinsnittar, a Swedish cookie in which buttery ginger shortbread encases a gooey orange marzipan filling.
In her spare time, Burlingham experiments with new recipes, many of which come from customer requests, such as pekann kjeks – crunchy, buttery-smooth pecan lace cookies that have quickly become her most popular item.
Burlingham’s dream job almost didn’t come about. At the time of her fateful breakfast club meeting, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market was accepting applications for new vendors. On a whim, Burlingham submitted an application and had to scramble when she was invited for an interview: She had no business plan, no price lists, no packaging. She prepared a variety of samples and a mock-up for the packaging with her husband’s help. Two people on the four-person panel had gluten allergies and couldn’t even taste her product, but they brought her samples to their families, and Burlingham received very positive feedback.
Like many other business owners, Burlingham was deeply affected by COVID-19. One Thursday
afternoon in March, she learned that the farmers market was shutting down -- on the same day that she had been laid off from her day job.
What do we do now? she wondered.
Her husband told her that everything would work out, and that things happen for a reason. She is starting to believe it: The farmers market has come back, and Parchment Baking returned to it exactly one year from the day it was launched.
At that time, Burlingham made the decision to leave her chemist job and commit to her baking company full time; she now works once a week at both the Troy market and the Delmar Farmers Market. She currently is looking to expand her online ordering capacity to serve out-of-staters.
Parchment Baking can be found at the Troy farmers market on Saturdays and at the Delmar market on Tuesdays. The website is:
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