Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across an intriguing photo of a pie and the words "Smoke Signals" written in the typical Bon Appétit font. Following the rabbit down the internet hole, I was introduced to baker Tara Jensen and her co-owned bakery, Smoke Signals.

Au Naturel

Smoke Signals is located 30 minutes from Ashville, North Carolina and, being the city person that I am, I had some questions about how Jensen's environment influenced in her baking. Intricately designed pies and breads, often with leaf-like patterns, cover Smoke Signals' beautiful Insta-feed. The baker explained that many people who visit her for her baking classes will often go camping as well since the area is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and trees.

"It's just a peek into the world here: rural life, splitting wood, pie contests, interesting people and the food culture," said Jensen.

Read it in the Stars

According to Jensen, her rural lifestyle allows for the parts of life to communicate to the parts of baking. This connectivity is also present in her process of baking, including a tie to astrology. 

"I like to think about the way different people communicate a hobby." Jensen said, "Reading my horoscopes and guessing people's signs are a great way for people to connect. The mysticism, as an observer, often encourages people to pay attention to get in touch."

Something to Be on the Lookout For

The rural baker is currently working on a soon-to-be released cookbook. During our interview, I followed up on this creative process in light of this expansion. It was evident that the community-oriented baking classes that Smoke Signals offers are influenced by her long-lived passion for art. Jensen keeps recipe journals, some of which are pictured in this Bon Appétit article.

Community Classrooms

The fear of getting tangled up in long recipes or foreign ingredients is something the baker tries to address with the notion of community. The classes she leads are small, with only 5-6 people per session.

"Change happens over time with small groups of people. Primarily teaching baking alone and delivering bread has its own romance space. At the beginning we go around and everyone says their baking goals."

She concluded with this anecdote:

"There are a lot of trends, and people get concerned when they don't have the right ingredients or tools. All I would say is baking is flexible."

As someone who has mistaken salt for sugar and corn flour for all-purpose, I can attest to the forgiving and flexible nature of baking, and all the joy that comes with the final product.