Cloud Cliff Bakery, the Mennonite Name Game, and a Pie Crust

Every Mennonite knows the nuances of the well-known "Mennonite name game", the dance and banter between two Mennos who are first meeting as they attempt to find a common thread between themselves in their geneaology. A little something like this... 
"Katie here.... Yes, I'm a Boyts. You may know my grandfather Jim - he lived in Elkhart for years. Randy? He's my dad, Jim and Belle's second child. Oh you remember him playing playing high school basketball... Neat. Pam?  - That's Randy's older sister - my aunt. You were in Pam's class? Oh you're actually Pam's husband's cousin? So we're in-laws?! Great!"

This all really boils down to a man named Willem Malten, who is not Mennonite actually. Willem is the owner of Cloud Cliff Bakery in Santa Fe, what was once a cafe, an institution as I've heard one writer call it. It closed just a few years ago but Willem still sells his artisan bread at the Farmer's Market, and uses the cafe's large kitchen to bake it. So every Friday a group of folks - volunteers, apprentices, employee, and a variety of Willem's friends gather to bake bread. I joined on as an apprentice and Fridays have quickly become Cloud Cliff day for me. 

Willem and Satanka showing off Satanka's break-time guacamole

Every Friday is a bit different, one quieter than the next, one more voluminous in bread than the next. But there is a constant sense of ritual.... 

Make the dough.
Proof the dough. 
Breakfast and tea together. - usually Amaranth cereal - the grain Willem is so passionate about
Fold the dough. 
Shape the loves. 
Proof the loaves.
Lunch together - usually of pizza made that morning from the ciabatta dough.  
Bake the loaves.

Over this mutual love of baked goods I have now met: 
Willem, Andre, Dan, Sam, Leslie, Satanka, Collin, Tristan, Eden, Jasmine, and now Trish and Greg.
In a city where I once knew none, I now know several.  

The dough living and breathing under careful guidance

Andre and Leslie prepping loaves for proofing

Jasmine posing proudly with her decorated pizzas

And slowly the afternoon, while the bread sits waiting patiently in the ovens, has become a time when Willem encourages my play with pastry. So I pull together a tart to sell alongside the artisan bread at the market. Perhaps of beets, or hydroponic tomatoes, or maybe walnuts. Next week shall be spinach and egg. 
And slowly this community has become a wealth of taste-testers. I can bring the little tartlets I've been testing for the book, and see how they fare on the face of fellow bakers. Guess what? They liked my shoofly pie!

Seed Loaf

Nativo loaves basking a bit


Which oddly enough really boils back down to the Mennonite Name Game... You see Willem is active in the research and activist group, The Los Alamos Study Group, which provides leadership on nuclear disarmament work. I learned of this one Friday as Willem beamed at the news - a nuclear construction project in Los Alamos was put on hold, in large part because of the group's efforts. A huge win for the Study Group. It ends up, says Willem, that two other board members for the Group go to Albuquerque Mennonite Church. You don't say?!

So one Friday afternoon when Willem introduced me to said Mennonites, Trish and Greg, the name game commenced between us... "Lovely to finally meet you. Do you know Anita, the pastor at AMC? She's my cousin! On the Boyts side. You're seeing her this afternoon... tell her hello!" 

Despite my jabbing elbows, I love this dance, this banter, this ritualistic game. It brings you to your people, establishes a connection where there seemingly was none. And suddenly, there in the middle of this new city of mine, from my brand new friend and teacher, amidst the smell of freshly-baked bread, were some of my people. So I can now add Trish and Greg to my aforementioned people. 

Now... to encourage our own play with pastry, practicing for those upcoming pies... here's my go-to pie crust. The one I used on that beet tart, those tomato gallettes, and the walnut tartlets. Enjoy!

Flaky Pie Crust (by hand)
adapted from Madeleine Kamman's Making of a Cook

The basic process: 1. MIX  2. ROLL 3. BAKE
The basic factors: 1. FLOUR 2. FAT (butter) 3. LIQUID
The basic notes:  1. KEEP IT COLD  2. DON'T OVERWORK IT  3. HAVE FUN!

Yield: 1 tart or pie crust, bottom and top if rolled very thin

4 Tablespoons cold water 
2 Tablespoons cold apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup all purpose white flour, cold
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar (if making sweet tart/pie)
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and cold

1. Mix water and vinegar into small bowl and set aside in freezer.

2. In large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.

3. Add the cubed and cold butter to the bowl. Mix together with a pastry blender, knives, or with your fingers till the butter is the size of small peas.. I prefer the fingers - press the cubes of butter into the flour with your fingertips making small pea-sized balls.

4. Make a well in the flour and butter, and add the water/vinegar 1 to 2 Tablespoons in the center. Mix together by tossing it lightly into the flour. Continue adding liquid 1 Tablespoon at a time until you're able to form a ball. Careful not to add too much liquid - this will make the finished product chewy.

5. Form the dough into a flat and round disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the frig for about 15 minutes. This ensures that everything stays cold which is important so that the butter does not soften too much - once again we're trying to avoid a chewy dough. 

6. When ready butter your pie/tart pan. Remove the dough from the frig - If you're making a double crust cut off one third of the dough for the top. Use the remaining two thirds for the bottom.

7. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough out till it's slightly larger than the size of your chosen pan. Note: The fewer amount of rolls, the better, so be firm with your rolling pin. Run your hand along the surface of the dough between rolls to make sure it is even.

8. When it is the right size, lift the dough by folding it over onto itself and carefully placing it into the pan. Press firmly into pan.

9. For a pie pan - trim the edge around the lip of the pan with a knife or scissors. (I would freeze this for at least an hour before baking) For a tart - press the dough into the edge of the pan, making sure to leave a bit of extra dough to create the fluted edge. 

10. If making a double crust pie, lay the top crust over the pan, trim the edge and tuck that edge under the bottom lip. To create the fluted edge, press the inside of the lip with your thumb into a crease made with your other finger and thumb. (See Grandma's hands in photo). 

11. For a pie ready to bake - Bake it! Otherwise, freeze it till you're ready to use. Enjoy!


  1. The photo of Jasmine is striking! Just beautiful. Also, I would love a bread recipe! I've just started venturing in to making things that involve yeast. It has always been intimidating for me!

    1. Hey Kate! Thanks so much!
      I'll work on the bread recipe... I've not yet made my own at home here yet as I'm still a bit intimidated by the altitude. Willem seems to have all his recipes in his head - I've never seen him even peek at anything. Astounding! Anyhow you're motivating me to take the plunge into yeast at 7000 feet. So excited you're venturing into your own yeast world! They're gloriously satisfying. What have you been making?