Ok, class, we’re about to take a field trip: does everyone have a trip buddy? Find a buddy now. David Lebovitz, no, you can’t be buddies with Perez Hilton: he’s not in our class. This is a food class, not a gossip class, ok? Now then, I hope you’re all hungry because we’re about to visit one of the best bakeries not only in Brooklyn, but all of New York; it’s a bakery with an awesome cookbook from which I made that easy homemade granola and also those oatmeal cookies with cardamom. Remember those? Well then you should be excited because here we are: welcome to Baked!
Standing outside to greet us are the owners of “Baked”: that’s Renato Poliafito on the left and Matt Lewis on the right. This trip all came about because Matt Lewis started following me on Twitter: he’s @brooklynbaker on there. We struck up a correspondence and Matt invited me out to meet him and Renato; I told him I was going to bring my friend Josh because Josh, who never cooked before reading my book (shameless book plug!), is now a cooking addict and he loves baking from the “Baked” cookbook (which I bought him for his birthday). I thought maybe I could get Josh a job in the “Baked” kitchen but pretty quickly Renato shot that idea down:
That’s Renato screaming: “No! You’re not qualified to work here! Get out of my sight!”
Actually, do you want to know something funny about Renato? He lives in Park Slope: I live in Park Slope. Ok, maybe that’s not that funny but guess what? He’s from Boca Raton, Florida…that’s where I’m from! And get this: we went to the same high school, Spanish River. So ya, isn’t that weird that two guys who went to high school in Boca Raton, Florida ended up working in the food industry and living in Park Slope, Brooklyn? I’ll give you a moment to ponder that.
But where were we? Oh yes, we’re on a class trip. So let’s go inside and take a look around:
What a charming interior! If I lived in Red Hook, this is where I’d be every day doing my work. As you can see there are cozy booths and lots of natural light and quirky touches like a chandelier and a glass window peering into the Baked kitchen. Working in there is another living coincidence: this guy Eric Wolitsky who’s friends with my friend Jimmy. I’ve met Eric several times and he’s one of Baked’s best bakers. It’s a small world indeed, no?
But you are starting to get impatient, aren’t you class trippers, you want to see some food. I don’t blame you–how could you not salivate looking at this tray of focaccia or the lemon shortbread behind it?
Or these dainty and delightful cupcakes:
(True story: the day after I went to Baked, I went into Blue Apron Foods in Park Slope for the first time and bought a cupcake in the window. “Where do you get your cupcakes?” I asked. “From Baked in Red Hook,” the man answered and sure enough it was one of their signature coconut cupcakes: and it was way, way good. Meringuey and fluffy and it didn’t make you feel gross afterward.)
Where were we class? Stop distracting me. Oh yes, looking at the food. Look at these cakes:
Ok, ok, stop yelling at me! Yes, we’ll let you try something: don’t take that tone with me, Clotilde! Here, come to a table and let’s see what Matt and Renato bring out.
Ooooh, now this was worth the wait, wasn’t it? On your left that’s a hefty piece of coffee cake, but it’s no ordinary coffee cake. It’s light as air and incredibly moist and it has the perfect balance of butteryness and cinnamoniness (is that a word?) and we gobbled that right up. And on the right is a PB Krispy Bar: rich chocolate and peanut butter on a bed of caramelized crisped rice cereal. Please, everyone, take your turn: everyone gets a piece.
Already, we’re reeling from all this Baked goodness but then I spy something on a counter that I ask about and Matt immediately whisks it over:
That is my downfall: I love fruit desserts and this is right at the top of my list. It’s a buttery bar with a brandied apricot filling. Yes, I know, it doesn’t get much better than that. If I tell you I almost ate the whole thing, will you rat me out to Principal Fitness? Because he’s already on my case.
As much as we’re enjoying the food, there’s something I like even better: it’s the company. Matt and Renato are great guys and it’s almost like hanging out with old friends; we talk about their business (they started it after both working in advertising), what they think about other New York bakeries, and which teachers Renato and I had in common at Spanish River. (I think we both had Mrs. Stenner (she was the best) and we recalled the funny vice-principal, Yetta Green, who had 60s hair and cat-eye glasses and apparently slept on a cot in the school’s main office.)
By the time Josh and I look at our watches, we’ve been here two hours! Yes, time flies by when you’re pigging out and hanging out at Baked; it’s quite a way to spend a day and if you’re ever in New York and want to experience a unique part of Brooklyn, you could do no better than to hop on a bus or a train to Red Hook. And for those who won’t make it there, you can certainly buy their book.
And now class, find your buddy: it’s time to go back to school. Let’s give a big thank you to Matt and Renato–this was way better than any trip to the Museum of Natural History.
And now for your essay assignment: did cookies and dinosaurs co-exist? Please double-space your answer and if you hand it in with a Baked pastry you get extra credit. Serious extra credit. Like: you automatically pass the class. They’re that good.