Greenfield teen bakes up miracles

Greenfield resident Shane Toomey jumped through multiple hoops to start his own business, Kneaded Goods, providing home-baked treats for many different palates and needs. The Greenfield High School junior carries a full load of honors classes while serving on several school governing bodies.

Greenfield resident Shane Toomey jumped through multiple hoops to start his own business, Kneaded Goods, providing home-baked treats for many different palates and needs. The Greenfield High School junior carries a full load of honors classes while serving on several school governing bodies.  CONTRIBUTED/SHANE TOOMEY


Published: 12-18-2023 4:33 PM

If you relish culinary challenges, you might attempt to provide scrumptious treats for everyone in your social circle, even if some people are dairy-free, others gluten-free (GF), and still others nut-free. And of course, baking for vegans adds a whole other dimension.

Imagine that you pull it off; in fact, your specialty baking skills are so spectacular, loved ones encourage you to go semi-pro or even professional, and you consider selling yummy home-baked creations at your local farmers’ market. Sounds fun, right?

But then you learn about regulations involved with commercial food production that require significant time and attention as you engage in online instruction and tests. Plus, your local health inspector must sign off on your kitchen, and you need to apply for and fund residential retail permits. Are you still in?

If so, let’s add two more wrinkles: you have to meet these goals while carrying a heavy academic load, and you don’t have a driver’s license, so you must coordinate transportation for grocery shopping, equipment procurement, and conveying your products, tables, display cases, signage, and a canopy to the farmers’ market. The reason you don’t have a driver’s license? You’re 15 years old.

It’s understandable if you’re exhausted from merely considering this scenario. But for Greenfield resident Shane Toomey (now 16), the above description is a personal account of 2023.

“I started experimenting with baking and it went really well, so I began thinking about doing it more seriously,” Toomey said.

Toomey developed a business model and met requirements, and that’s how his new business, Kneaded Goods, became a fixture at the Greenfield Farmers’ Market, drawing a wide clientele that has blossomed into online fans who can order specialty goods within and close to Greenfield.

Building a business

The Greenfield High School junior is planning for his second market season and loves receiving online orders, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. After the health inspector’s visit, Toomey’s mother had to sign his business certificate and, as a minor, Toomey needed parental assistance in opening a business account, a process he said “became a debacle due to legal hurdles.”

Toomey persevered, and when he set up his booth in downtown Greenfield on Saturday mornings, his products flew off the shelves, enjoyed by people with food allergies as well as those who have none. He offers bagels, cinnamon rolls, bread, cookies, and muffins, and while his bagels and rolls include gluten, all other items are gluten-free, which Toomey says is the hardest specification to accommodate. All of his products are vegan, nut-free, soy-free.

Baking under such circumstances may seem impossible for those used to baking with butter and eggs, but Toomey insists it’s not that hard.

“Butter is easy to substitute,” he said. “In addition to vegan butters on the market, you can use vegetable or canola oils. Really, eggs are the hardest to work around.”

He said it’s important to consider what role the eggs play in any given recipe: “Eggs are used for leavening, as a binder, and/or to add moisture.” To add moisture, he can use applesauce instead of eggs, “like in banana bread.”

For leavening, Toomey recommends a combination of oil, water, and baking powder, “but you have to mix it in and then use it right away, because it can get out of control, scientifically speaking.” In terms of an ingredient to help with binding, he recommends “aquafaba — the water that comes with canned chickpeas.”

Toomey’s top sellers at the farmers’ market are gluten-free muffins. “People who can’t eat gluten often do double-takes when reading my signage. They say they almost never find GF muffins that work for them.” In the glutenous realm, “my bagels and cinnamon rolls routinely sell out.”

Time management is key: “For a Saturday market, I start very early on Friday and go all day. Then I’m up at 4 a.m. on Saturday,” he said. “By that point, the kitchen table is covered with containers and my three-tiered display case. Cookies go into a ceramic bowl, and bread is individually bagged.” Toomey uses just one domestic oven in a standard home kitchen.

“I head to market with about 16 bagels, 35 cinnamon rolls, 10 loaves of regular bread, 15-16 muffins, 30 cookies, and six or seven loaves of GF bread.” Toomey boils bagels in a mixture of baking soda and brown sugar, 45 seconds on each side, and then bakes them for about 20 minutes while managing several other recipes.

Cinnamon rolls are the trickiest: “It’s a messy process. I roll out the dough and have to get the caramel just right. There’s not any one thing that’s too difficult; it’s the coordination,” he said, adding, “… killer coordination.”

It’s not uncommon to have kitchen disasters while trying to create more than one thing at a time, and Toomey is no stranger to this phenomenon. “In my second week, I added a bit too much yeast, and the process went haywire, spilling over the top and cascading all over the place. What a mess.” Some resulting loaves turned out OK, “but others were too flat, because the gas was overdeveloped.”

Toomey learned that lower yeast content not only makes for less mess, “it produces a better crust and better interior.” A few recipes didn’t work well in trial runs, or are too difficult to make successfully within the confines of Toomey’s space, time management needs, and other factors. “I tried making English muffins on a griddle, but the cornmeal on the bottom led to so much smoke in the kitchen, it just wasn’t workable. Not with everything else going on …”

Other pursuits

In addition to being a kitchen whiz, Toomey stays on top of advanced placement (AP) classes in U.S. history, chemistry, pre-calculus, Spanish IV, and language & composition. “I love to write, and I enjoy the theoretical side of chemistry,” he said. He’s the vice president of the GHS Student Council and president of his junior class. And even though he’s no longer on the cross-country running team, Toomey stretches on his own, given that culinary work is physically demanding. “I love being outdoors, especially riding my bike and hiking. But I also love just sitting outside and reading.”

Toomey — the third of four children — is also a student representative for the School Committee. “There are two student rep slots,” he said, “and the other one is currently filled by my brother, Tristan, a senior.” Issues of concern to GHS students, he said, include policies about cell phone use during school hours, as well as access to bathrooms.

“After vandalism occurred, the administration locked some of the bathrooms, which made it really hard on students,” he said. “I like to give voice to students’ issues and have a positive impact.”

Toomey loves many kinds of foods, “as long as they’re humanely sourced. I approach food with openness and a willingness to try. I really love ethnic foods. We’re Italian on my mom’s side, and when we went to Rome in 2018, the Neapolitan pizza was amazing: chewy dark crust, fresh mozzarella …”

His mother, Jennifer Toomey, said, “All of my kids are incredibly driven in different ways. Still, I was surprised when Shane took on this level of challenge. It’s incredible to watch.” Recalling her own youth, she added, “During school vacations, I’d hang out with friends or lay around, but Shane spent last February break learning about allergens and processes related to town government.”

Jennifer Toomey is impressed by how her youngest son “rolls with everything. He handled the health inspection well, is extremely organized while shopping, and is a pro with customer service.” She noted that “it’s interesting to watch Shane in the kitchen and not do anything, myself. We’ve all gotten used to the kitchen being off-limits on Fridays. That’s become take-out day.”

Next summer, Toomey hopes to attend a week-long young entrepreneurs business program at Yale, sponsored by George Mason University. The program is designed for high-achieving students; coordinators learned of Toomey through an online AP tracker. “I’ve been accepted,” Toomey said. “Now I just need to figure out how to fund it. I never say that I’d like to do something–I approach it with an attitude that I will do it.”

The teen who’s worked at both McCusker’s Market and Rise Above Bakery, as well as interned with a local attorney, has plans for the future. “I’d like to do business management and leadership for nonprofits,” he said. “I don’t want to go into the corporate world, where profits are concentrated. I’m passionate about human rights, because all people should have access to basic needs, like water, shelter, and food. We need to combat oppression and provide dignity for all. That’s what I’ve grown up with; both of my parents are very strong with those ideas, and my friends, too.”

To order from Kneaded Goods, email, or check out Shane Toomey’s Instagram: kneadedgoodsbakery.

Eveline MacDougall is the author of “Fiery Hope” and a musician, artist, and mom. Readers may contact her at