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Central Coast baker Kaitlin Munoz fulfills lifelong dream with Proof and Gather 

click to enlarge DECADENT DELIGHTS Proof and Gather's holiday cookie box includes two seasonal flavors as well as biscotti, sweet and salty bark, and other goodies.

Photo Courtesy Of Proof And Gather Baking Company

DECADENT DELIGHTS Proof and Gather's holiday cookie box includes two seasonal flavors as well as biscotti, sweet and salty bark, and other goodies.

Proof and Gather breads and pastries are hot commodities in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. From farmers' markets and weddings, to direct-to-consumer channels and wholesale accounts, business is bustling for proprietor Kaitlin Munoz, and she couldn't be happier.

Born and raised in Lompoc, Munoz began her baking career as a child, whipping up creations from her Easy-Bake Oven. Her mother would place orders from outside her bedroom window, with Munoz ringing her up on a toy cash register.

She soon made the transition to a real oven, collaborating with her grandmother "as she shared all her baking secrets with me over the years," she said.

"It wasn't long before I became the go-to baker for all family holidays and events, eventually leading to my first 'real' baking business making cakes for birthdays and weddings during high school," she said.

Her passion for food and baking led her to pursue a degree in food science at Cal Poly.

click to enlarge ON THE RISE Proof and Gather proprietor Kaitlin Munoz sells her artisan baked goods at locations throughout the region, including SLO's Thursday night farmers' market and Dare 2 Dream Farms in Lompoc. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • ON THE RISE Proof and Gather proprietor Kaitlin Munoz sells her artisan baked goods at locations throughout the region, including SLO's Thursday night farmers' market and Dare 2 Dream Farms in Lompoc.

"After graduation I started a food company (VegThisWay) with fellow Cal Poly graduates where we developed a fruit and veggie snack for kids," she said. "I later joined a sports nutrition company (GU Energy Labs) in the Bay Area as a product developer, where I had the opportunity to develop several new products, including flavored nut butters and stroopwafels, honing my product formulation and flavor science skills.

"During my time in the Bay Area, I explored every bakery I could find to gain inspiration for what I knew I eventually wanted to build for my career," she added. "A shared passion for baking with a mutual friend led me to a small jar of a 45-year-old sourdough starter, which launched my next baking adventure, the world of bread making."

After a year of baking for friends and colleagues from her cramped San Francisco apartment, Munoz decided it was time for bigger and better things, including a return to the Central Coast.

A lover of travel as well as food, she and her husband first embarked on a six-month-long backpacking trip through Nepal, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Iceland.

"Then [we] finally made it back to our happy place—San Luis Obispo," to pursue her lifelong goal of building a bakery, she said.

Munoz initially launched her business from her registered cottage food kitchen in Lompoc in late 2020, then the following year relocated to San Luis Obispo and opened a larger-scale commercial kitchen.

The name Proof and Gather "is inspired by my scientific background and love of bringing people together through food," Munoz said. "The word 'proof' is a term used in bread and pastry making where the dough is left to rest and rise to allow for fermentation and leavening.

"Proofing is a part of everyday life as a baker. After proofing and baking comes the real fun—gathering together to share the joy of good food."

Munoz specializes in artisan baked goods, including sourdough bread, muffins, cookies, tarts, crackers, and more.

"What my customers love the most are my unique sourdough flavors, including sun-dried tomato basil, honey oat, slow roasted garlic, apricot walnut, and the indulgent dark chocolate sourdough," she said.

Additionally, she regularly sells out of her cookies, with classic chocolate chip being her best seller, followed by chocolate peanut butter, gingersnap, and espresso snickerdoodle.

At Harvestly, which connects local vendors with consumers, Munoz's products are a big hit and draw rave reviews from clients in Santa Barbara and SLO counties, according to SLO market manager Madisen Peterson.

click to enlarge PASTRY PARTY SLO-based Pretty Little Picnics offers Proof and Gather baked goods as an add-on to its outdoor dining experiences, including an upcoming holiday-themed picnic. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PRETTY LITTLE PICNICS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Pretty Little Picnics
  • PASTRY PARTY SLO-based Pretty Little Picnics offers Proof and Gather baked goods as an add-on to its outdoor dining experiences, including an upcoming holiday-themed picnic.

"Personally, I've tried the gingersnap cookies and pumpkin bread, and they were amazing," Peterson said. "Her products always come to our fulfillment center looking great, and they are made with the most quality ingredients."

SLO-based picnic provider Morgan Johancen also recently landed a partnership with Proof and Gather. Pretty Little Picnics customers can now purchase Munoz's pastries as an add-on package.

"It is apparent how much effort and love goes into each of her recipes," Johancen added, and her seasonal treats are the perfect accompaniment for a holiday-themed picnic.

For the holidays, Munoz plans to release a slew of new items, including chocolate peppermint and spiced sugar cookies, mini pies and tarts, chocolate cherry biscotti, peanut brittle, and bark. She is also currently prepping her holiday cookie box, "which was a big hit last year," she said.

Munoz also offers dairy-free, vegan, and gluten-free options. "I want everyone who buys my products to have a chance to indulge in something delicious," she said.

The local baker said she's humbled and excited by her company's success.

Her long-term goal is to open a bakery "where people can come together and share in the joy of wholesome and delicious baked goods over a cup of coffee and to continue my passion for developing new products and flavor combinations to share with my customers," Munoz said.

She also hopes "to share this space with my kids one day and to pass on my love of baking to them."

Brown sugar cherry almond biscotti

click to enlarge Brown sugar cherry almond biscotti from Proof and Gather Baking Company. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PROOF AND GATHER BAKING COMPANY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Proof And Gather Baking Company
  • Brown sugar cherry almond biscotti from Proof and Gather Baking Company.

Yields 18 to 20 pieces

• 2 1/4 cups flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 3/4 cup brown sugar

• 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

• 2 eggs

• 2 teaspoon almond extract

• 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

• 1/2 cup almonds, chopped

• cinnamon sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix brown sugar, coconut oil, eggs, and almond extract until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until just combined. Add cherries and almonds until evenly dispersed. Evenly divide dough and shape each half into a long rectangle approximately 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Smooth top and sides, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (Tip: Wet your hands to help shape dough to prevent sticking.) Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Carefully cut each rectangle into 1/2-inch pieces on the diagonal to make individual biscotti pieces. Spread pieces out on baking sheet and bake again for 35 minutes or until biscotti is no longer soft in middle. Turn off oven and prop open door to let biscotti cool slowly while still in oven. Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte has visions of Proof and Gather pastries dancing in her head. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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