Who’s Who: Elizabeth Charlton

Who’s Who: Elizabeth Charlton
By Mike Butler

“Happiness is knowing there is bread in the oven!”

Elizabeth Charlton, of Slow Dough fame, is a well-known Valley-based baker and cooking genius. Have you ever had her carrot cake? Honestly folks, I pride myself on having carrot cake from corner to corner of the Maritimes and Elizabeth’s is my favourite! The bread, the lemon cake, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, chocolate-covered, whole grain: the list of her delectable treats is limitless. This wonderful Wolfville kitchen guru is the reason a lot of us give in to our sweet tooth temptations every Saturday at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market. Elizabeth Charlton is a brilliant baker (and more).

Elizabeth Charlton was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec and then moved another 16 times in 17 years, ending up in North Bay, Ontario, where she went to high school. Her father was a forestry engineer, so every northern community possible was where they ended up. She took her first degree at Waterloo in political science, worked for a while in the House of Commons as a speech writer, and then decided to go to McGill, where she studied opera. Yes, that’s right everyone, opera!

She explains, “I sang professionally for the next fifteen years. I met and married Warren in our late thirties and had two kiddies in short order. I, never one to be idle, studied in the pastry arts program at George Brown College in Toronto. Upon completion of the program, I worked in a restaurant supply bakery and I loved it! But, life in the big city was stressful and we wanted a quieter way of life for our children. My parents were from Halifax and Warren’s folks were from the Valley so Nova Scotia had always been a draw for us.”

“Good food is all the sweeter when shared with good friends!”

Elizabeth started out at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market around 10 years ago when it was still an outdoors market (and I know I am not alone when I say how much I miss that!).

“I use only butter, no dyes or additives, and I have a complete devotion to consistency of product. As things grew over the years, Warren introduced our slow rise breads to the mix. We use very little yeast, a scant 1/2 tsp per loaf, and a long development time. We use wheat varieties grown by Longspell Point Farm in Kingsport, and the result is delicious. Warren has also started making Montreal-style bagels which are selling really well, and it’s a great treat for folks in the Valley to have access to these unique items,” she says. “I think our very labour-intensive way of doing things produces wonderful products, and that’s contributed to our success in a somewhat competitive market here in the Valley.”

“Baking is love made edible!”

With the creation, marketing, and stabilization of her business, Elizabeth and Warren don’t get a lot of downtime, as it goes with every entrepreneur. Their occupation is all-consuming and they work seven days a week and have done so for the past five years. Elizabeth did take the time to go back to her singing roots last year and she performed with the Atlantic Opera Society.

She commented, “It was a huge diversion and commitment and I sang with incredibly talented performers and had a wonderful time. Warren belongs to a men’s cooking group, Men Who Shall Cook, and has a great deal of fun eating and drinking with the guys. In our slower times during the winter this year, I studied for and sat the Red Seal exam for baking. I was successful and now can wear the big Chef’s hat! I’m delighted as it opens different doors for my future.”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you bake the cake!”

The Wolfville Farmer’s Market, which I’m sure everyone reading this will agree, is a brilliant blessing to our community! The Wolfville Farmer’s Market has fostered an integral network of local food growers and producers which is very attractive in a community and Elizabeth and Warren have been fortunate enough to add their food to this network and develop relationships with like-minded individuals.

Besides the Farmer’s Market, Elizabeth was at the helm of the Slow Dough Bakery on Main Street, Wolfville until its recent closing. “I am very proud of the business, Slow Dough Bakery. The devotion my entire family has committed to it over the years has enriched our lives and hopefully the lives of the people who are loyal to our products, but now we are stepping away from our shop on Main Street and this will allow us to develop new areas of growth,” says Elizabeth. “We will continue to be at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market on Wednesday evenings and on Saturdays, expanding our savoury line, and we are also participants in WFM2Go, which is a great new system for delivering farm market materials to a wider audience. We are developing a bread CSA for pick up at The Wool ‘N Tart, starting sometime in summer 2018. I would also like to develop a series of baking lessons, but that is all just running around in my brain right now.”

Well, let’s hope that brain never stops cooking up new ideas! To Elizabeth, Warren, and future of the foremost carrot cake ever: all the best!

“Life is a kitchen so put on your best apron and whip up something incredible!”