BY AUBREY DUNNUCK
In her song “Chelsea Morning,” Joni Mitchell sings of waking up happy, a sense of home found in the familiarity of food, space, and loved ones. Stephanie Schuyler named her daughter after the song, and her shop, Chelsea Morning Bakery, after her daughter.
Bloomington raised, Schuyler spent nine years developing her baking skills at the Runcible Spoon before moving to Ashland, Oregon. There she opened and ran a successful organic bakery for nearly 20 years. All the while, though, Schuyler missed the connections she’d made with the people and community of Bloomington. Encouraged by family and friends, she took the plunge and returned home to open Chelsea Morning Bakery.
The transition wasn’t without hiccups. Schuyler had little luck in her search for a downtown storefront. She initially hesitated to view 511 W. 4th St., imagining it couldn’t possibly generate enough foot traffic. But stepping into the building she realized, despite misgivings about the location, it felt like home. The soaring ceilings and large, beautiful windows made it an ideal space for all types of creativity.
Schuyler bakes with local, organic, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. Some of her recipes originated at My Sweet Ol’ Etcetera, her Ashland bakery; others were developed at the Spoon, tweaked to perfection over the course of Schuyler’s career. Think tender, crumbed quick breads flavored with tart lemon and juicy blueberries or spicy cinnamon and plump raisins. Crave-worthy brown sugar blondies are crisp around the edges with a chewy interior, finished with a sprinkle of miniature chocolate chips. Apricot-almond shortbread is tea-party ready, spread with an ocean of sticky-sweet preserves, islands of shortbread, and chocolate on top. Thick wedges of buttery coffee cake are cratered with crumbly cinnamon sugar.
But there’s more than sweets. The bakery recently added savory items: Soups, sandwiches, and quiches are made in-house, all vegetarian. There’s no set menu; offerings vary depending on season, inspiration, and customer requests. Schuyler considers dietary concerns as well, developing vegan and gluten-free alternatives to many of her confections. “It’s part of the beauty of being a small business,” Schuyler says. She can ask individual customers, “What are you looking for?” and then respond with food that nourishes and comforts anyone who walks through the door.
Schuyler’s treats can also be found at local spots like Soma Coffee House & Juice Bar, Max’s Place, the downtown and east-side Bloomingfoods locations, the Cheshire Café at Collins Living-Learning Center, and, coming full circle, the Runcible Spoon.