Do you know what the most difficult thing about working at Donegal Square is? Corinne The Red Stag Pub’s In-House Baker. You heard me, Corinne. All week long, tantalizing scents waft down the hallways and permeate the walls of our 18th century building as Corinne creates sweet masterpieces. It requires the strength of Samuel not to run up the stairs and clear out the Pub’s scone case, which is home to Corinne’s scones, muffins, cookies, and cupcakes 7 days a week.
One of my favorite things to do on a quiet day in the shop is run up and visit Corinne on the third floor. As Corinne mixes, rolls, smacks, smiling all the while, I describe how much joy the baked goods bring to myself and all our patrons. Corinne is so busy baking that the high praise is not heard enough. I thought it would be proper and fitting for you, dear reader, to be introduced to our beloved baker. And after you are, do come visit us and taste what Corinne makes. And if you enter into Donegal Square, be sure to leave with our Brown Bread, Fancy Scone, or Irish Soda Bread mixes. Fresh from Corinne’s corner on the third floor.
On the afternoon of our chat, I have stolen a moment with Corinne as we wait for the last batch of crumb bars to bake in the oven. We sit in the Great Room (above the pub) with tea, of course.
When did you first know you wanted to become a baker?
So…that was when I was a freshman in high school. I would bake Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies, you know, the OG. I would bring them in every so often, I would get to school really early and sit in the cafeteria before school. I would just have to sit there, and you know there would be a bunch of kids there so I thought, why not eat cookies for breakfast? This is a great idea for a bunch of growing children…everyone said, “These taste like my grandma’s cookies…”. That’s how I knew.
Where did you study the culinary arts?
I went to Johnston and Wales up in Providence, Rhode Island, class of 2012. So I have an Associates in Science in Baking and Pastry Arts and I also have a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Service Management, with concentrations in beverage service management and psychology for funsies.
How did you end up here, at McCarthy’s? How long have you been with us?
I have been with McCarthy’s 2 years on April 1st. I would tell people back when I was serving a little bit, “Listen, I was hired on April 1st, but no one’s said April Fools yet, so it’s gotta still be real!” It was an ad on the Facebooks…a bunch of my friends always came here, they know it, they love it, and…they were like, “Corinne, there’s a baker position opening…” and I applied, and I talked to the old pastry chef, and Jill [Head Chef at McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub] was there of course, and Neville [Owner of Donegal Square and McCarthy’s] came, and we all chatted, and I showed them my portfolio, and…they chose me!
What do you have baking up for us right now?
So “currantly”…you’ve got to write that down as currant [a small, dried fruit often used in scones], like c-u-r-r-a-n-tly, man, now I’m gonna be looking for dad jokes to do this whole time…Laughs…so right now in the oven, gosh, we’ve got a little tea cake…I’m thinking that it’s gonna be nice with coffee or tea…it’s just like a buttermilk vanilla cake with a little bit of imitation almond extract in there. And then I popped overtop of that some macerated rhubarb from Neville’s garden…some raspberries, a little bit of orange zest, threw that on top…I make marzipan occasionally, for Christmas cakes, and it freezes really nicely… I like to have almond paste on hand anyway so I threw some almond paste on there too, and then crumb topping. I hope that it’s good, I think it’s gonna be nice.
How does the Irish/Celtic food vernacular inspire your baking?
A lot of Celtic baking is centered around really excellent ingredients; there’s a lot of dairy getting used because…cows…there’s sprawling green landscapes, so plenty of agriculture to play with… For example, rhubarb…wait! That’s what’s super fun about working here! Neville will show up one day with an arm full of rhubarb and be like, “Here!” and I’m like, “Yes! Fantastic! I love rhubarb season!.” So getting to play with stuff like that. Makes me kind of thinking about what’s gonna pair well with what is on the whiskey wall.
I’ve got a background in beverage service management, I took pairing classes in college. I was trying to become a Whiskey Ambassador before COVID, too, so I’m always thinking about what’s gonna pair well with stuff down there [in the pub] as well. How can I best showcase lovely dairy products? How can I do fresh fruits, fresh herbs? What can I play with? Even baking with beer, with the Guinness chocolate cake, things like that… What can I pair with beer, what can I pair with cocktails, what will go best with stuff downstairs? That’s what inspires me.
What do you love most about baking?
I believe firmly that sharing food with people is the deepest expression of love. because you are keeping them alive, right? You’re giving them something that will continue their lives, generally, for a short period of time, so it may as well be something tasty. I love doing stuff for people. I was a girl scout growing up, so a lot of volunteerism runs in my blood. So, even though I’m getting paid for it, I’m still helping people out. And it makes me feel good because people come back. People love it. We’ve got Whiskey Clan people, we’ve got regulars to the cooking and baking demos, and they’re always super excited. Helping out the folks who come to the Pub.
I can feel that from you. It literally shoots out of you, out of your eyeballs, your fingers…just your joy for baking; it’s your love language.
It is! Food is my love language! Ivan [McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub Manager] even told me that I “have the warmth of a fireplace” when he was training me to serve. He said, “That’s not something that you can teach”. So I think it’s special that I get to express that here… with food!