New York has long been a food capital, from the upscale kitchens of our finest restaurants to the bagels and sausages on the street corners. But as anyone who has walked around Brooklyn has figured out, the next chapter of New York’s food history has everything to do with the local, “artisanal” food scene that is making its mark on the city. From the rise of greenmarkets and food fairs to the focus on seasonal ingredients, these products embody a DIY ethos that New York City has had from the very beginning.
The New-York Historical Society’s Museum store is introducing it’s A Taste of New-York History collection of specialty foods produced in New York City and State, including jams, savory condiments, and chocolates. One of those vendors is The Good Batch. Started by Anna Gordon, The Good Batch is focused on making not-too-sweet treats like cookies, bars, and classic Dutch stroopwafels. We spoke with Anna about learning to bake, her love for Brooklyn, and why she won’t compromise on making fresh products.
When did you first start baking growing up? How did you decide that making sweet treats was what you wanted to do for a living?
I absolutely loved being in the kitchen from a very young age. I wouldn’t even say that I grew up in a family with strong culinary roots, but we certainly loved food, and my parents were very supportive of my creative and curious mind. Making a heap of cookies for the holidays was a yearly activity with my aunts, and my mom and I would pretend like we were hosting a cooking show when we made dinners together. And that was before the Food Network was cool!
My decision to take my love of food and baking to a professional level came to me after living in New York City for a year or two in my early twenties. I was having such a hard time being happy in the office work environment, and spending so much time on intangible projects. I wanted to work with my hands, develop my own projects, and create something that would have an immediate and joyous effect on other people. I put myself through pastry school, and the rest is history!
One of your most unique treats are your stroopwafels, a classic Dutch treat that is totally addictive. (Sidenote: the first time I went to Amsterdam I bought a whole bunch to take home and they didn’t last the plane ride.) What made you decide New York needed some homemade stroopwafels?
I have to give credit to my Dutch in-laws for this one. Before dating Steve I had never had a stroopwafel. Over the course of dating, I was introduced to these caramel waffle treats, along with a slew of other delicious Dutch delicacies (koek, real Gouda, bitterballen, homemade Indonesian food…). While I was in pastry school, his family would ask if I could make them stroopwafels, since it’s nearly impossible to find fresh ones in this city, let along country. For fun, I tried it out, and while I continued to experiment different recipes, I realized it would be a perfect gateway cookie for starting a baking company.
Your cookies seem to have no artificial ingredients or preservatives in them. Why do you think that’s important?
For anyone that has ever baked cookies from scratch, it is obvious that the ingredients are incredibly simple. I couldn’t imagine complicating that process for the sake of keeping my cookies on the shelf longer. I want my product to be pure, simple, and delicious, so I keep the ingredients that way. I will say, however, that the shelf-life factor really limits the type of products I can make. If I had a pastry counter I could fill with fresh desserts and baked goods every day, you’d see a very different menu from me. But for now, I’ll stick with hearty baked goods that can still be scrumptious and buttery after 4 weeks.
Do you have any plans to open a storefront?
Absolutely, but I’m not quite there yet. I have a lot more recipes and ideas I want to develop before I go down that road.
In the past few years, Brooklyn has seen a renaissance of independent food makers. Do you feel like you’re part of a greater movement in food?
I could not be more in love with Brooklyn if I tried, and the food scene here is a humongous part of that. There is inspiration, raw talent and outrageous thinkers everywhere you turn, and I am incredibly honored to be part of the “artisanal food entrepreneur” demographic. It is pretty tremendous that this borough has created such a blast in the country’s food culture. By default I suppose I am part of the “movement,” but I really try not to take myself or what I do too seriously…I do bake cookies for a living, after all.
Any tips for at-home bakers?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, stray from a recipe with your own ideas, and trust your gut. Pastry and baking have such a bad rap for being very precise and unforgiving, and while there is some truth in that, especially in comparison to making a pot of marinara sauce, there is still so much room for play.