The Ovenly Interview: Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin | Bakepedia

The Ovenly Interview: Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin

A Chat with Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin

Author photo. Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga

Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin are the authors of the new book, Ovenly, which shares the name of their Brooklyn, NY bakery. Their approach is to create desserts and baked goods that are a little sweet, a little savory with a hint of spice. We will be highlighting their Currant Rosemary Scones and their Blue Cheese Apple Pie with Toasted Walnuts. The ladies chatted with me about their creative approach, how even they have recipes that don’t work from time to time and how naming desserts is an art in itself.

 

Dédé Wilson: Hi, it’s Dédé from Bakepedia…thank you so much from taking the time to chat. Agatha, I have to dive in here first and ask you about Martin Yan! Does he know about the book? Did you contact him? You went on at length in your introduction about his influence on you and I have worked with him and I know he would love to hear this!

Agatha: OMG that is so amazing that you asked this…he is my hero. I did reach out and asked for a quote and we never heard back. He really was such an inspiration for me…

 

I have some old contact information for him. I want to try and help you get in touch. I bet the message just never got to him because if it did I bet he would have been all over this. He is very generous with his support. OK I wont drop the ball on this; let’s see if we can make that happen.

That would be amazing! Seriously…

 

And Erin, in your introduction you talk about your love of fresh currants and how your initial idea for the currant scones was to use fresh…I have a recipe for fresh currant scones in my book Unforgettable Desserts! I paired it with a red currant curd, as well. I felt so bonded with you here! I have to send it to you to see what you think…

Erin: I love fresh currants but they aren’t easy to find and can be expensive so that’s how we came to use the dried…

 

And I never had the experience that you had in your grandmother’s garden, covered in red currant juice. I love that an early experience had such an impact on you.

OK this is a perfect time to talk about creative inspiration. Where did the concept come from to create baked goods with sweet, savory and spicy profiles? Your approach does have a niche…was it very deliberate?

Erin: As soon as we started baking together we knew we wanted to do something different from what we saw everyday…and Agatha likes savory and I like sweet…and we realized that this could be inventive and unique but approachable…we were seeing desserts and flavor profiles in our favorite restaurants and books but not in bakeries…at the time we were making baked goods for other people (wholesale), but we wanted to do our own thing…we went back into reading blogs and family recipe cards and going into spice shops and really thinking about approach. Our goal the entire time was to have things with complexity, but not to be complicated. When we started experimenting we realized early on that sweet and savory with a touch of spice suited us and our ideas.

 

What do you hear from customers?

Agatha: We did so much experimenting in the early days and were only offering “Baker’s Choice” with lots of different flavor combinations and we would get feedback from the coffee shops and cafés we were working with…we would be dropping off baked goods somewhere and would actually have someone chase us down on the street and start talking to us about our baked goods, like about the Currant Rosemary Scones…it was such helpful feedback for us…confirmation that we were on the right track…we definitely had things that didn’t work – that goes with experimenting. Now that we have the bakery we see customers on a daily basis and we can see them face to face and can chat…we’ve always said we should do a video of people’s first reactions…people are really responsive and get super excited…it’s so funny and they get so ecstatic… what’s cool is that the most common statement is that people feel that nothing is overly sweet but everyone also has a little bit of a surprised reaction. Our baked goods are all takes on traditional, but with that first bite, you taste the difference…sometimes it takes a moment until the other flavors hit and that’s what makes them special…

 

Like you said, complex but not complicated…and also, it is at a time where there is so much super sweet stuff out there. I mean, I think the pink sugar cupcake trend is on the downside but still, there is a lot of very sweet baking going on…

Agatha: Yes, and that, as bakers, is what we were trying to do – something different. We didn’t want cloyingly sweet. We wanted to bake the things that we like to eat…I don’t know if you noticed but one of those things is soft cookies. We don’t like crisp cookies…

 

So what were the failures? Were they recipes that actually didn’t work or was it that the flavor combinations just didn’t resonate with your customers?

Erin: Sometimes it was that the recipe didn’t work…that we didn’t have the right equipment to make something…like we made homemade pretzels but couldn’t get them to stay crispy. We needed a dehydrator, and it just didn’t make sense to invest…and in the beginning it was just the 2 of us baking and supplying several coffee shops. Several gluten-free recipes didn’t work for us, but this helped guide us…that was not going to be a focus. We do make some simple GF products using nut flours and egg whites, but not a lot with GF flours. There have been flavor combos that we love that didn’t sell like a black olive shortbread cookie with lemon zest and it is so savory and sweet and tender and buttery…but people said “ew” and there is nothing weird about it! So now we just make it for friends and family, not for Ovenly.

 

What about re-naming it as a cracker? Maybe when people hear “cookie” they expect one thing but if it were a “cracker”…

Agatha: You have a really good point…how you name things affects people…we love prunes…we made a coffee cakes with prunes and ginger prune scones and they didn’t do well and then we changed the name to dried plum scones and people loved them! (We all laugh).

We have this mustard spice cookie which is also great; we re-branded it as molasses spice but people don’t want that everyday so we learned that it works, but as a special. Everyday cookies to our customers are things like peanut butter and chocolate chip.

 

Now the book came out recently but of course you handed in the manuscript a while ago…so what’s new since then? What’s new at Ovenly now?

Erin: We have been going back into the kitchen and coming up with new things…we are about to participate in a bunch of new farmer’s markets, so we are focusing on local and organic ingredients…working on a rye scone…

Agatha: And we have seasonal things like for fall we have a vanilla bean roasted butternut squash cake and a roasted cranberry buttercream to go with our vanilla cake that’s delicious…

Erin: Thanksgiving pies! We make a bunch the day before and the day of. No pre-orders. We just sell what we have. We will bring back our Bourbon Maple Pecan Pie…it has a maple custard that holds the pecans together and it is so good…also from last year a spiced pumpkin pie with toasted marshmallow topping…

Agatha: And some sort of apple pie…

 

Perfect segue! We will be featuring your Blue Cheese Apple Pie with Toasted Walnuts. Any tips and hint for our community members who want to make it?

Agatha: Well there are two components, the pâte brisée and the filling. For the pâte brisée use very cold butter and make sure to use ice water. Work very quickly and don’t over work dough. For the filling, don’t let it sit – you don’t want the apples getting soggy and for the blue cheese, we like a more mild blue cheese…mild and crumbly. Not too creamy. We tried this amazing funky blue cheese and it was too much. It overpowered the apples.

 

Anything about the Currant Rosemary Scones?

Erin: Again cold is key – the cream should be cold and the less you handle the dough the better. Turn it onto your work surface to knead it but work quickly and briefly and fold it – there are specific instructions in the recipe – follow it all the way through for flaky, butter bursting in your mouth scones.

Agatha: It even helps to stick all of your equipment in the fridge beforehand – your bowl, spoon or fork and the cream of course. Chill them and the other thing is also once your scones are on the pan, put them into the fridge or freezer for a while…

 

Like while you are preheating the oven?

Yes, that would work…for pies, too. Pies and scones in the freezer for 5, 10, 15 even 20 minutes to get them all firm. They bake better from frozen…turn out better… scones rise a bit better…be careful; you might need to add a few minutes to the baking time. And as we always like to say color is flavor! They should look golden! Don’t pull them out too soon.

 

Well thank you so much for your time. We wish you luck with the book and your recipes will be a great addition to Bakepedia. And I will get back to you about Martin Yan.

Agatha: That would make my week. Make my year!

 

We will talk soon.

 

 

 

 

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