A&J King Artisan Bakers share a sweet history – The Boston Globe

Jackie and Andy King own A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem.

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Jackie and Andy King own A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem.

Valentine's Day treats, from left, Heart-shaped flourless chocolate cake made with 70% Taza chocolate glazed with chocolate ganache and striped with white chocolate, spicy sugar cinnamon cookies with a hint of cayenne sandqiched with caramel, and Baci (Italian for 'kiss"), buttery cookies laced with rum sandwiched with chocolate ganache at A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (Food, Smart)

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

A plate of Valentine’s Day treats.

Jackie and Andy King’s love story began on Valentine’s Day in 2002. After meeting in class at The New England Culinary Institute, in Montpelier, Vt., they started dating. Andy explains how their first Feb. 14 went: “It was after a long shift, and we both held our presents behind our back and we counted, 1, 2, 3. We pulled out the exact same shaped present, with the exact same wrapping, from the exact same bookstore.” The book was “Artisan Baking Across America,” by Maggie Glezer.

After culinary school, the couple headed to Portland, Maine, to Standard Baking Co., where the next three years were a whirlwind of work. But they married, had a daughter, Emaline, now 9, and finally decided they were ready to open their own place.

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In 2006, the family moved to Massachusetts, where Jackie was raised, and took up residence with her parents, so they could open A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem. Their son, Elliot, was born a couple years later. “ If we hadn’t lived with my parents I don’t know how we would have survived,” says Jackie. Her husband, she says, “used to get up at 2 in the morning, six days a week.” Their time together those first years “was across the baker’s bench.” Somehow, they managed to write a book two years ago, “Baking by Hand,” which shares some of their house specialties.

Now Valentine’s Day is often ruled by work, turning out treats for other couples. One of Jackie’s favorites is chocolate pot de creme, the classic chocolate custard cooked in a water bath. Her advice: Use a high-quality chocolate. Their favorite is the stone-ground Mexican-style chocolate from Taza Chocolate in Somerville. Whether you make dessert from scratch, or pick something up at a bakery, says Andy, stick with “small and rich — something that won’t leave you needing a nap.”

When it comes to balancing their own romance with the bakery and family, he says, “it’s something you have to work at all the time. Theoretically, you’d like to say I don’t think about work at home, and I don’t think about home at work. But that’s impossible. You kind of have to look at it as, this is my life. Everything is just mashed together like a smoothie.”

Adds Jackie: “We really like to be together.”

A&J King Artisan Bakers, 48 Central St., Salem, 978-744-4881, www.ajkingbakery.com