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Southlake Style

Five Minutes with.....Stephanie Keusch

Sep 01, 2017 07:52AM ● By Ashley Pape
Stephanie Keusch, sweet artist and owner of Bella Bakery, didn’t always know how to cook. But when the former Miss Indiana was whisked away to Italy with her husband, she discovered a passion for baking—in particular, for baking pretty pastries. Now, the self-taught baker and baking-show competitor is spoiling Southlake with some of the loveliest treats imaginable.

I FIRST DEVELOPED A LOVE FOR BAKING WHEN: I moved to Europe with my husband. We lived in a beautiful area just north of Venice. I didn’t know how to cook anything but chicken and steamed broccoli, so I had to teach myself to cook and bake. Once our two daughters were born, I wanted to make birthday cakes for them and cakes for my friends. I taught myself how to be a pastry chef and Bella Bakery was born.

I DECIDED TO PUT MYSELF OUT THERE BY: competing in “Bake Off Italia,” a national baking contest in Italy. I came in second place. Right after that show, my husband changed jobs and we landed in Southlake. I thought the best way to get involved here was to continue doing the same things I was doing in Italy. I’ve changed nothing—I use only the best products I can get my hands on. 

I CAN ALWAYS FIND THE BEST INGREDIENTS AT: Central Market or Amazon—they have everything I need. I’ve been back to Italy a few times since we moved to Southlake, and when I return, my suitcase is always jammed with different gelatins, jams and cheeses. I’m becoming a professional importer!

MY RECIPES ARE INSPIRED BY: my time in Italy. I like to make things that aren’t only good to eat but also pretty to look at. That’s where the name comes from—Bella means beautiful. I particularly like to make macarons. I went to Paris to learn how to make them because macarons are notoriously difficult to make. 

I DO ALL MY BAKING IN MY: kitchen at home. I like it and dislike it at the same time. My kids [ages seven and four] are here, so I can keep a close eye on them. But it can be hard not having a designated place to go. One day I’d like to have a commercial kitchen. I’m operating at the smallest circle of my ability. These days, I like to do a lot of my baking at night around 11 or midnight. I put on my headphones and listen to cheesy ’80s music like Wilson Phillips or New Kids on the Block. 

MY FAMILY LOVES WHEN I BAKE: really anything! Any time they can get their hands on something, they’re happy. My youngest daughter will swallow an entire macaron without chewing. They both get the best birthday cakes. My oldest daughter had a fantastic piñata cake last year—it was a tall cake that spilled a sea of M&Ms when I cut into it. My husband doesn’t eat sweets, but the savory stuff is his wheelhouse. He loves chicken pot pie. 

BAKING IS A GREAT WAY TO: make friends! My client base is definitely expanding. It’s mostly word-of-mouth now. I’ve been doing free demonstrations at Williams Sonoma and connecting with other moms. I love how strong the mom connection is in Southlake. 

I TEND TO BE BUSIEST: any time people want to spoil teachers. Teacher appreciation is busy and so is Christmas. My ovens are cranking out biscotti and all kinds of treats. 

WHEN I’M NOT BAKING, I’M: spending time with my family. We love to be outside together, whether we’re swimming in the pool or running around in the backyard. 

THE MOST REWARDING PART OF WHAT I DO IS: getting to put a little of each customer in every order. Each treat is tailor-made. You can buy cookies and cakes anywhere, but when you support a small business like me, you get a better experience. I put my passion into it. 

Keep up with Stephanie and Bella Bakery on Facebook!