Ovenly

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Sometimes when I’m doing events, such as meet-ups and booksignings, people will kindly bring treats for me to eat. It’s always nice when people think of me, and my sweet tooth, when I’m on the road. However there’s nothing worse than trying to carry on a back-and-forth with someone who is chewing on food when you’re not doing the same. It just doesn’t work. My least favorite moment when I’m dining out is when I just put a forkful of food in my mouth and the waiter comes by at the exact moment when I’ve slid the food into my mouth to ask me what I thought of the meal.

Additionally, no one looks good when they’re shoveling food in their mouth, even Bradley Cooper and Angelina Jolie. (Which I’m just guessing, since I haven’t had the chance to dine with either of them — yet.) So when I’m at a public event, I politely set whatever it is aside, continue chatting with people, and revisit it when I have a moment to myself. Wine, however, I’m pretty good at balancing during a conversation.

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However my save-it-for-later technique was tested the last time I was in Brooklyn when doing a signing at The Brooklyn Kitchen. Someone came up to me and handed me a big cardboard bakery box full of individually wrapped treats. Almost immediately I tore off the seal and lifted the lid, happy to see almost a dozen different cookies, bars, and brownies, neatly arranged inside.

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In spite of guests holding camera phones at the ready, and people lined up to chat, I couldn’t help myself and dove right in, dialing in on the darkest package of the bunch – ripping off the wrapper and tearing off a corner of the salty dark brownie, not worrying about black crumbs on my teeth. (Apologies if you were there and I kept you waiting, but I’m kind of powerless against chocolate.) And in spite of any worries of photos going viral of me shoving food in my craw that resembled an eating contest at a county fair, I was happy to take a break to savor an excellent brownie. Which I think just about anyone can relate to.

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In Paris, there are five bakeries within a one block radius of my apartment, which is I take for granted. (Except for the not-good one, whose success is partially attributed to the fact that they’re open until midnight.) But in Brooklyn, the only bakery is four blocks away and while the breads looked pretty nice when I went, when I got the slender baguette outside and tore off the end, Paris-style, I winced that it was sweetened. A New York friend who was a noted food editor for a much-missed food magazine told me it’s because people don’t eat as much bread in the states like they do in France, so they need to preserve it longer by adding sugar.

I don’t mind sugar – which is a good thing because I’d be out of a job if I did, but I prefer it in my desserts. (One trend that I don’t approve of in France is putting sweet elements in appetizers and main courses. Non, merci, especially the betteraves crues, raw beets, that I was once served that were dipped in chocolate, or an infamous dish of rabbit garnished with marshmallows.)

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After I’d polished off most of that box of pastries from Ovenly, I flew back to Paris with a copy of the Ovenly cookbook and shared the sensational dark, salty brownie recipe which were a big hit each time I made them for friends and  neighbors. Fortunately I had brought back a bag of the black cocoa required for the brownies, and I need to remember to get another bag before I return. (And to wrap it well, because as experience has taught me, there’s nothing worse than a bag of cocoa powder opening in your luggage.)

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While in Brooklyn, I got in touch with Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga, the owners of Ovenly, to see if I could stop by and visit the kitchen. Often in Europe when I ask to go into kitchens, they want to clean everything up before I come. Or when I want to take a picture of something, they guide me away from what looks the most interesting because there are stray bits of flour or chocolate on the table, which they don’t want shown. I think some of them are wary of bloggers and “gotcha” pictures of raspberry-stained kitchen towels or bits of chocolate crumbs lying on the counter after a tray of brownies was sliced.

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That’s what bakeries do – make a mess, and I’d be wary of going into a shop that looked like a Swiss medical clinic. The kitchen at Ovenly was tidy and organized, and around a dozen people were buzzing along, with their hands and scoops sticky with chocolate dough from shaping cookies, flour dusting up from being measured on a scale, and quick-thinking bakers pulling baking sheets of streusel-topped muffins right out of the oven at the exact moment they were done, with remarkable calm.

Ovenly is located in Greenpoint, a section of Brooklyn that’s been gentrifying, but still home to a visible Polish community. When I got off the subway, I noticed a number of Polish bakeries that would likely be worth exploring – but perhaps without a camera in tow. (So as not to get anyone riled up.) Erin and Agatha are both of Eastern European origin, and while their pastries look all-American, there is a sturdy wholesomeness to them that suggests their heritage, especially the hearty oatmeal cookies, sugar-dusted pistachio mounds (shown up above), and date-cocoa bars that are mostly all-business. There are also savory pastries, like custard and cheese tarts, as well as a variety of “bar snacks,” which was what they had originally intended on producing when they launched their business.

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While I was at the bakery, it would have been hard to get a picture of me when I wasn’t eating, that’s for sure.

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But just to make sure I had enough, when I went to leave, they kindly packed up a few cookies for me to take home for the ride on the subway, where presumably no one would be taking any pictures.

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But just in case, if you see any pics out there of someone looking a little familiar to you on the G train, shoving cookies into his mouth, I’m going to deny it was me.

Ovenly

31 Greenpoint Avenue

Brooklyn, New York

Telephone: (347) 689-3608


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49 comments

  • April 13, 2015 2:56pm

    Nnnnnooo… I was hoping to get the recipe for the pistachio mound! :-(

  • April 13, 2015 3:07pm

    I love that bakery and the cookbook. A must visit.

  • April 13, 2015 3:07pm

    When we moved into our new home, a legitimate “con” was that we’re not in walking distance to any bakery. I’m still experiencing withdrawal (and putting a few extra miles on the car too!). Loved reading about Ovenly and adding it to our “must visit” list for next month’s trip to NYC. I suspect I should leave extra room in my suitcase for the haul.

  • Joanne
    April 13, 2015 3:07pm

    Dear David,

    Your post was lovely to read, as usual. But is was the fact that you’d tagged Angelina Jolie that made me laugh!

    Yours,
    Joanne

  • April 13, 2015 3:33pm

    That dark chocolate cake is so incredibly inky, is the black cocoa just darker in color or does it taste different at all?

  • April 13, 2015 4:11pm

    I enjoyed every word of that post, and the Ovenly Cookbook just shot to the top of my Mother’s Day wish list. Thank you for your interesting and fun posts.

  • April 13, 2015 5:30pm

    Your posts are are an entertaining travel experience. The humor and wit, along with the photos make me want to travel and eat more – especially the bakery stuff, which makes me drool. Ovenly is no exception!

  • ML
    April 13, 2015 5:35pm

    OMG, what are those green cookies and how do I get them into my mouth ASAP without being in Brooklyn?!?! :)

  • Gladys
    April 13, 2015 5:43pm

    Where do I get the recipe for that chocolate cake?????? I already have the black cocoa powder, and it is amazing. At Christmas I made the very best chocolate cookies ever with that.

    • April 14, 2015 4:47am
      David Lebovitz

      It’s called Brooklyn Blackout Cake and I think the recipe is in their book (page 142) – I don’t have it with me, but I looked at the Index on the Amazon page and it says the cake is in there. Happy baking!

  • April 13, 2015 6:04pm

    Oh my! I am drooling at how delicious these look! So wish I could taste them but living in the U.K this will have to be a burning desire! Will try next best thing and see if I can get the book! Always love reading your posts David, but they are not good for my waistline ;)

  • April 13, 2015 6:06pm

    I love how both of the Bakers look SOO EXCITED, SO PROUD to have their pictures taken by you – I can easily imagine them doing the ‘squeally, jump up & down, OMG OMG’ dance. Just ordered the book.

  • Ramon Ferreyros (From Peru)
    April 13, 2015 6:08pm

    AND the recipe for the Pistachio Dark Chocolate Cupcake????????????? Please!!!!!!

  • Jessica
    April 13, 2015 6:29pm

    This post made my giggle/snort out loud – the mental image of someone snarfing down cookies on the subway in particular. I am definitely that person at times!!! And not ashamed one bit!

  • Kate
    April 13, 2015 6:54pm

    This sounds so delish! I am going to have to try and make it there some time soon!

    Kate

  • April 13, 2015 8:10pm

    David,

    Sounds like you’re being seduced in the US by …cookies! Yum, they sound delicious and now I’ll expect one (or many) next time we get together.

  • Sharon
    April 13, 2015 8:18pm

    I totally relate to your story about the waiter coming up just at the right moment-when it’s impossible to speak… The black coco sounds intresting. Do you know if it is sold outside of the US?

  • Sharon
    April 13, 2015 8:19pm

    I totally relate to your story about the waiter coming up just at the right moment-when it’s impossible to speak..The black coco sounds intresting. Do you know if it is sold outside of the US?

    • April 14, 2015 4:40am
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not seen it for sale outside of the U.S. – in the previous post that I did on the brownies, some people sent links to similar-looking cocoa powders there in the comments, but they aren’t the same as the black cocoa that is available in the United States.

  • April 13, 2015 11:11pm

    I’ve been reporting on a lot of bakeries in my area lately, and, boy, did I hit the jackpot! I love that they always want to have me taste things while I’m there and then never fail to send me home with something amazing. Such a perk that makes the stress of deadlines worth it!!

  • April 14, 2015 12:28am

    Small comment: love seeing anything with currants. Grew up with them and use them often in my own baking. Beautiful pics and fun story about this way-cool bakery. Thanks!

  • April 14, 2015 1:20am

    Oh my word! All of those treats look heavenly! Do you happen to remember what the dark brown/black cake being cut was? I *need* to know :)

    • April 14, 2015 4:38am
      David Lebovitz

      They call it “Brooklyn Blackout Cake.”

  • Miss Anita
    April 14, 2015 2:41am

    Hi David, I love your articles and look forward to reading them. I have a pie business and do love desserts. Can you give me a good white cake recipe? I will make cupcakes with it. Thanks so much!
    Miss Anita
    Miss Anita’s Pies
    699 S. Mill Ave #201
    Tempe , AZ 85281

  • April 14, 2015 5:28am

    This website should have a lock and key on it, a combination lock, SOMETHING that restricts my access at bedtime. It’s illegal for me to eat past a certain hour. I don’t just snack, I devour everything in sight once I begin.

    You are responsible for me ordering Nick’s book, “Pastry,” now I’m holding you accountable when I find these lovely ladies book.

    Seriously, Ovenly, captured a piece of my heart. Before my foray into bread baking, minus my stint at cupcake ‘perfection’ so I could make a decent cupcake (more like 277 cupcakes) for my daughter’s wedding, my life revolved around cookies. Let’s face it, cookies are simply the greatest comfort food known to man. Scrape your knee as a child? Mom hands you a cookie. Head off to college and what is your second request when you call home? Cookies. Everyone needs cookies and $. Have a rough day at work? Cookies with beer, or in your case wine (I can’t drink coffee late in the day). Death row inmate? Cookies, a whole friggin’ tray, Heinz 57 assortment.

    It’s 10:23 PM and I have my head wrapped around cookies. You are of no comfort to me, Honey-Bunches. How could you? Oh never mind! This house has no cookies, presently. I’m going to bed right after I find that book.

  • Mary
    April 14, 2015 5:36am

    I have just arrived home in Beacon after attending your class tonight at DeGustibus, which was so much fun….and delicious! Thank you for all the hard work you do and writing your wonderful and equally funny books. I have one comment here when you said there is “nothing worse than a box of cocoa opening in your suitcase”….maybe not but my mom carried 5 jars of dark molasses once in her suitcase because she couldn’t find it in Switzerland where we were living. 3 of the five jars broke and the suitcase was dripping molasses all through the airport. After that she told my dad he was just going to have to wait till we got back to the US for his favorite gingerbread!

  • Charu
    April 14, 2015 6:13am

    You write beautifully!! What are the cookies in the second picture called- the one’s covered in powered sugar,I guess and a pistachio in the center? Thanks!

  • Jonathan
    April 14, 2015 1:04pm

    I love the chocolate and cardamom combination – I recently made a chocolate and cardamom tart from the flavour thesaurus, it was divine

  • April 14, 2015 1:50pm

    Five bakeries within one block of your apartment?! I’m trying not to be jealous…but FIVE? Not fair :)

  • Hannah
    April 14, 2015 5:12pm

    The rosemary currant scone from Ovenly is my absolute, hands-down, favorite baked good of all time. I get one (several) whenever I’m in New York, and it’s really a good thing I don’t live within close proximity of that place.

  • Elaine
    April 14, 2015 5:45pm

    Off topic but I have to let you know how much I am enjoying My Paris Kitchen. The presentation (pictures, your comments, and recipes) is outstanding. Spring has sprung here in New Mexico and for some reason it is the perfect time to cook.

    Many thanks!!

    Elaine

  • April 14, 2015 6:10pm
    David Lebovitz

    Elaine: Thanks! I had a good time writing it, including all the stories and cooking for all the photos. Glad you like the book so much : )

    Matea: There are something like 1300+ bakeries in Paris, so it’s not all that uncommon. Not all are great, there used to be two near me that were not-good, but a better bakery took over one of the not-good ones. People often ask if I travel to other parts of Paris to get bread. But with bread just down the street, it’s not really necessary to get on my bike or a métro to grab a loaf. (Although sometimes I do!)

    Mary: Ha! I did have a jar of molasses open in a suitcase but luckily I had it triple-wrapped in zip-top bags. So happy you came to the class last night and enjoyed it. The group was great (as was the wine)…

    Charu: I think those are called Pistachio Agave Cookies. When I go into places, it’s hard to take notes (and remember everything!) because I’m snapping photos, chatting with bakers, and – um – eating as well, so I don’t recall things all the time. But on their website, they list those cookies as something they make at Ovenly. (I didn’t try one but imagine they’re made similar to my Italian Almond Cookies, but made with pistachio powder.)

  • April 14, 2015 9:45pm

    I can never get enough of Brooklyn. yummy post

  • Carol L
    April 15, 2015 1:59am

    Just saying that if the women with the curly dark hair said she got it from eating the black out cake I would bake twenty tomorrow ! Gorgeous locks and beautiful baked goods too. I LOVE bakeries and bakers rock !

  • April 15, 2015 4:52am

    Just curious about your distaste towards sweet things in savoury dishes – do you make an exception for dried fruit (say, in a salad)?

    • April 15, 2015 1:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      I like sweet elements in savory foods – dried cherries and pecans in wild rice salad, pork chops with fried apples, chocolate in mole, lamb with quince, winter salad of blue cheese and pears, dried apricots in couscous for a tagine, etc, but I don’t like heavily sweetened things, especially things that make your teeth hurt (those dishes highlight things that are naturally sweet), especially as appetizers.

  • Gavrielle
    April 15, 2015 3:36pm

    Yes, the sweetened bread thing in the US is not a good thing. Virtually every sandwich we had during a recent seven-week trip came with sweet bread, even if the bread was wholegrain. I can’t believe that even supermarket bread needs heavy sweetening as a preservative – I suspect it’s just a sign of the ever-sweetening taste of the munching public. More’s the pity.

  • April 15, 2015 5:17pm

    mmm those cookies look good! I’ve never heard of Ovenly…luckily I’ll be traveling to NY next week so maybe I’ll get the chance to check it out! Maybe I’ll even pick up the cookbook!

  • April 16, 2015 1:39am

    D’accord, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying!

  • Bernadette
    April 16, 2015 5:10pm

    I am new to your blog & books and am loving it all! Thank you for bringing such fun to cooking. You make us WANT to cook. Thank you, David. Made your marshmallows for the first time; huge success. Fun to see people try them who thought that they did not like marshmallows. Now making your cheesecake….

    P.S. Have you seen this video from the NYT?
    http://www.nytimes.com/video/travel/100000003608262/36-hours-in-paris.html

  • Karen Cirillo
    April 16, 2015 7:26pm

    Ah, Ovenly. My favorite baked goods in NYC. It is wonderful (and dangerous) that they sell them at the coffee shop near my work, especially the sugar-free cherry scone, which gets just enough sweetness from the dried cherries. I love the texture of their scones (more biscuity/flakey than cakey, as so many scones in NYC are) and that they make interesting savory ones.
    My only complaint is that they used to make the most delicious gluten-free nut butter-oat cookies with chocolate chunks and dried cherries and stopped making them. They were some of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten and I’ve tried (with no success) to replicate them.

  • April 18, 2015 6:14am

    that cake dropped my jaw. how do bakers get that beautiful, dark, rich color? like i have made chocolate baked goods before with plenty of good quality, real chocolate and i don’t get that color. i wish i knew the secret.

  • April 18, 2015 10:30am

    Granola Tuesday! Whatever happened to the feta-basil-scallion muffin? Well the burg’s finest Cafe no doubt. Brooklyn represent! Feta-basil-scallion guys please, really loved ’em to death!

  • April 18, 2015 9:36pm

    Hello David,
    Wanted to let you know that I very much admire your work. Just left a week with Kate Hill and am back in Paris for one night and half day Sunday in the 7th. Would love to visit a market early tomorrow morning before I head to the airport. I doubt you will see this in time, but thought I would try. I am headed back to Boston where I work with Nico and Amelia Monday in the summer season.
    Best
    Robin

  • April 20, 2015 3:39pm

    I was lucky enough to meet Agatha & Erin this past year and ask them lots of questions about their book and their business – which they patiently answered – and they are as lovely as all of their delicious creations!

  • DD
    April 21, 2015 12:27am

    If you are interested in the Polish bakeries in Greenpoint, I’d like to suggest the pączki from Syrena Bakery and the assorted cookies & orange and rum babka from Northside Bakery (though that is technically part of Williamsburg).

  • Christine
    April 23, 2015 3:13am

    Ovenly=Heavenly!

  • April 27, 2015 7:45am

    David– I’ve been to Ovenly and while I loved everything else I tried the Brooklyn Blackout cake and thought it was just wrong– there should not be beer in it (and it was strongly flavored). Still seeking an authentic Brooklyn blackout cake in NYC if you have any ideas. p.s. Your gorgeous photos make me want to become a better photographer!

  • JoAnne
    April 27, 2015 8:20pm

    David,
    Would you be considering offering more gluten-free spotlights? Regrettably, I find myself now GF and while it has helped me lose 20+ pounds, I do miss the occasional treat! Chocolate is easiest to work GF but …