This week, we are excited to launch a new feature with a focus on Brooklyn artisans! For our debut interview, I was invited into the kitchen of Anna Gordon, who owns The Good Batch, a growing bakery company which specializes in Dutch stroopwafels. Anna will be making her first appearance at the Brooklyn Flea on Saturday, and she gave us a sneak peek of what to expect — and answered my gnawing questions about what the heck a stroopwafel is.
Enjoy the interview below and make sure to say hi this weekend at the Flea!
For the Love of Brooklyn: Anna, first of all, I must say that you’re a genius with all things sugar — and I’ve sampled A LOT of your handiwork. Who / what inspired you to bake and to become a trained pastry chef? How did you make the decision to enter that world?
Anna Gordon: I love cooking, and I especially love cooking for other people. I make a lot of savory food at home, but I was drawn to pastry because it’s scientific, I can be creative with it, and there’s honestly a bit of magic in it — and I love that. And there’s nothing better than the smell of a bakery. It’s like the smell of happiness. I baked as a hobby for years, but ultimately I reached a point, a couple of years ago, where I couldn’t execute the kind of desserts I wanted to make without going to pastry school. So I took the leap. It is certainly a labor of love, but I couldn’t be happier running The Good Batch.
LoB: Okay, so — STROOPWAFELS. What the heck are they? Why did you choose to make them? What’s their significance? What makes them so tasty?
AG: The stroopwafel is a thin, round waffle cookie filled with gooey caramel goodness. In Dutch it literally translates to “syrup waffle.” My boyfriend’s family is originally from the Netherlands and they first turned me on to them. Whenever friends or family bring real Dutch stroopwafels to the US, they are seriously coveted and rationed because they’re so much fresher and tastier than any you can buy in America. When I visited Holland recently and saw them everywhere — grocery stores, bakeries, airports — I was inspired to make them myself. What’s really cool about them, at least for a pastry geek like me, is that although general ingredients are known, there is really no published or solidly tested recipe to be found. So, I had to figure it out on my own, which was a fun challenge.
The other thing I love about them is that after I figured out how to make a traditional stroopwafel, I realized how they really lend themselves well to experimentation. It is a perfect medium for variation. For instance — a chocolate stroopwafel, or one with jam filling, or Nutella, or dipped in ganache. It seems like nobody has really done that. I keep coming up with new, delicious ideas to try. In a way, making stroopwafels has really allowed me to pursue my own thing and evolve the way I think about flavor combinations. So, I just ran with it.
LoB: The Brooklyn culinary scene is an incredibly vibrant one, and one in which you have a lot of experience. What’s your food background here in the county of Kings? Any influences or mentors of note here or elsewhere?
AG: I went to ICE, and have been fortunate enough to trail at several fantastic New York restaurants and work under some incredible chefs. My externship at Marlow & Sons and Diner taught me a lot too. The pastry team there is incredible, and they’re all pros at seasonal, rustic desserts, which I absolutely love. I’ve also found inspiration in the styles of Baked and One Girl Cookie (where I interned for a bit), and I love the French authenticity of Almondine. Their fresh baguette is literally mouth-watering. Perhaps the strongest motivation for starting The Good Batch has been living in a community of such talented entrepreneurs such as Salvatore Bklyn, Early Bird Foods & Co. and Mast Brothers Chocolate, to name a few. Outside of the pastry community, Farm on Adderly, Applewood and The Good Fork, for instance, really epitomized for me the beauty of simplicity in cooking. They create practically euphoric dishes by using fresh, local, and well-seasoned ingredients. I think there’s a lot to be learned from that.
LoB: You’re a Fort Greene resident. What attracted you to the neighborhood? What are your favorite things to do there? Any tips on your favorite spots?
AG: I’ve always loved Fort Greene, even before I moved here last summer. The neighborhood has a lot of preserved history and character, and I think that’s why it attracts such an eclectic crowd. The architecture is gorgeous, the park is totally serene, and there are just lots of cool people doing cool things. Plus we have really terrific restaurants and bars. I would consider myself a regular at Der Shwarze Kölner because the waitresses are all adorable and welcoming, and will remember the obscure beer you enjoyed last time. It’s places like that that really make this place feel like a small community.
LoB: Finally, we wish you the best of luck with your new digs at the Brooklyn Flea. What should we expect to see out of The Good Batch at the Flea?
AG: Thanks so much for the good wishes! I think working at the Flea this summer will be a good time. I plan to have the classic and cocoa stroopwafels as menu regulars, then rotate in weekly specials of unique waffle cookies and other bars and cookies. Mix it up a little. A couple waffle cookies to keep an eye out for are Second Brunch (bacon & maple), ZingGinger (fresh ginger and molasses caramel) and the Bonfire (cocoa cookie with toasted meringue, caramel sauce and dark chocolate ganache). I’m also a little giddy for summer fruits because I want to incorporate homemade jams and fruit-based pastries into the menu. Needless to say, I’m very excited!
So are we, Anna. So are we. Thanks so much for the interview and we can’t wait to see you at your booth this weekend! Be sure to sign up for Anna’s email list to hear first word about her specials, and stop by and say hi this week at the Flea! Happy eating!