Somerville is buzzing with creative minds that often influence and inspire each other. For Caitlin Barry, it was her friends at Fringe Union that pushed her to share her kitchen experiments with the rest of Somerville.
“I always liked baking and being in the kitchen,” said Barry, who calls her business The Happy Homemade. “I wanted to figure out my thing.”
Barry is primarily self-taught, though she did briefly attend the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. After leaving, Barry worked at places like Petsi Pies and Sherman Cafe, where she really learned her way around the kitchen.
“I’m much more into getting your hands into something,” Barry said. In addition to Happy Homemade, Barry is also a full-time student studying history and government.
While Barry focuses mostly on baking, lately she has been really into making confections. She shared her knowledge of homemade candies with a City Chicks class at Kitchen Inc. (201 Somerville Ave.) a few weeks ago and plans to do more in the future. Later this month, Barry is teaching a class on chocolate holiday gifts where she’ll show attendees how to make truffles, chocolate whiskey cake in a jar (one of her favorite creations) and a homemade hot chocolate kit. (You can sign up here.)
“Right now I’m focusing more on confection, less on baking,” Barry said. “The thing I’m most into is learning to make things that I’ve always purchased.”
To that end, she’s been tackling homemade candy bars filled with nougat and caramel. Barry said that while nougat is relatively easy to make, it has to be created very precisely. She enjoys the process of discovering what works (and what doesn’t), adding that it’s sometimes the mistakes that yield the most delicious results.
“It’s important to me to communicate that it doesn’t need to look perfect,” Barry said. “The least attractive baked goods tend to taste the best.”
Barry got her love of baking from her mom and grandma, who both created special treats in the kitchen that left Barry with memories she still conjures up.
“As a child, the way you taste your mother’s apple pie, you can never recapture it. You’re never going to be that person again.” Barry said.
Barry now loves creating those memories for other people through Happy Homemade. She’s made special desserts for friends’ weddings and created caramels and truffles for people. Regardless of what she’s cooking up, Barry is always trying to improve.
“I do a lot of tweaking,” Barry said. “I love trying to make stuff better or different. Baking is such a science. It’s finding something that I like and figuring out what I can do with it.”
And Somerville has provided Barry, a resident of the city for four years, the perfect place to get creative in the kitchen.
“This area is the closest I’ve come to feeling like I’ve lived in a neighborhood since I’ve been here,” Barry said of Somerville. “People here are really invested in this community. People are invested in what’s always made this place great and making it better for future generations.”
And in the spirit of all the creative collaboration happening in Somerville right now, look for a potential mash-up from Happy Homemade and Culinary Cruisers/Ocean Ave Pops in the future. After that?
“I would love to be able to open up a little confection shop and just sell really simple things that are community accessible and that people can afford to eat,” Barry said.
After tasting some of Happy Homemade’s salted pumpkin caramels, I sure hope Barry makes that dream a reality.