Something’s in the air in New York City, and it may well be the scent of baked goods. In fact, it may well be coming from one of the three popular bakeries in the city whose proprietors have books coming out this month: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Baked, and Ovenly.
Dominique Ansel Bakery may have opened in November 2011, but it became famous worldwide in May of 2013, when it unleashed the Cronut™ on the world. Fans of the pastry will be happy to hear that Ansel, creator of the croissant-doughnut hybrid, has included the recipe in his debut cookbook, Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes (Simon & Schuster), which will be published on October 28. The book “speaks about not just recipes, but about creativity,” said Ansel. “You can teach a person to follow instructions and make a cake, but my hope is to inspire them to innovate further.”
The first section of the book is essays and stories about “the lessons in creativity from each pastry,” according to Ansel, followed by the recipes. When asked if he was hesitant to share the recipe for what became a baking phenomenon, Ansel said, “I'm never hesitant to share a recipe, but you have to share the right recipe with the right person,” and added, “You can't expect a home cook to do what a professional kitchen does—it’s not practical. The recipe in the book is the At-Home Cronut pastry recipe. We worked hard to scale down the recipe and also simplify the lamination process for the home cook. It still takes three days to make and is quite advanced, but there are some amazing bakers at home these days.”
Before opening his own bakery, Ansel worked as the executive pastry chef at Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s flagship French restaurant in New York, and seven years at the French bakery Bouchon. As he was deciding to open his own shop, he had only one city in mind. “New York is amazing city and a muse for me,” he explained. “There's a sense of open-mindedness here that's really exciting. People are willing to TRY—that’s the most important thing.”
Red Hook, Brooklyn has been home to the beloved Baked since January 2005. Co-founders Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito opened their shop on Van Brunt Street due to the neighborhood’s quaint feel. “Ten years ago, we had been looking at all kinds of spaces and we wanted something a little different,” said Lewis. “We felt like if we were tucked away in a small space in Brooklyn, we could grow slowly. If we were in Manhattan or in a more well-known area of Brooklyn, we’d have to be 100% on from the get-go. Red Hook is different in that it still feels like a neighborhood. It felt very Mayberry when we first opened.” A slow build just wasn’t in the cards for Baked because just six months after opening their doors, the shop’s brownies were featured in O, The Oprah Magazine as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. “It took us by surprise,” said Lewis. “It was huge. We basically started hiring people off the street just to keep up with orders.”
Later this month, Lewis and Poliafito will be opening a second location in the Tribeca neighborhood in New York City, making October a big month for the duo— on October 7, they will be releasing their fourth cookbook, Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holiday, and Informal Celebrations (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). For this latest outing, the two have created a calendar of treats, with recipes for some of the more mainstream holidays, such as New Year’s Day and Halloween, but they also provide food for thought for some of the lesser-known holidays, such as Texas Independence Day, Dolly Parton’s Birthday, and National Chocolate Pudding Day. The book contains 75 recipes, with a wide range of treats, from Chinese Five-Spice Sesame Scones to Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise.
Another Brooklyn-based bakery lauded for its sweets, Ovenly, opened in September 2010 on Greenpoint Avenue. The co-founders, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, decided on that space out of convenience. “We both live in Brooklyn and we wanted to be there because we wanted to stay close to home,” said Patinkin. Now that they’ve been open for four years, convenience certainly isn’t the top reason they like having a shop in New York. “I feel really fortunate having a shop here because there is so much excitement around food,” said Kulaga. “We’re near the ferry so we get a lot of tourists, but also locals, and everyone is very supportive of our shop.” The two also appreciate that New York is filled with foodies. “New York is a place were people really love food. From the guy who fixes our walk-in refrigeration to our regulars, the people appreciate the craft of food,” said Patinkin. Kulaga agreed and added, “There are so many chefs and food entrepreneurs in New York, and it is a close-knit community so we’re fortunate to have a business here and thrive the way we’re thriving just four years in.”
The shop’s first endeavor into publishing, Ovenly: Sweet & Salty Recipes from New York’s Most Creative Bakery (Harlequin) went on sale September 30. Known for their unique mixture of sweet and savory flavors, the debut cookbook treats readers to recipes for everything from Blue Cheese Apple Pie with Toasted Walnuts to Cheddar Mustard Scones. Kulaga said she has a few favorite recipes in the book, and one is the Brooklyn Blackout Cake, which she said is, “the perfect balance of salty and sweet.” For Patinkin, the Peanut Butter Cookies is one of her favorite recipes. “It has just four ingredients,” she said. “It’s gluten free, simple to make, and so delicious. It’s very representative of what we do in that we are not chefs. We are self-taught bakers who opened a bakery. Many of our recipes have seven ingredients or less. We’re hoping that readers will want to experiment with the recipes and take risks. It’s all about having fun with baking.”