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Dine & Dish: A chat with ‘Harvest Baker’ Ken Haedrich |

Dine & Dish: A chat with ‘Harvest Baker’ Ken Haedrich

As I lamented last week about my failed garden, my dream would be to grow my own food and incorporate the produce into my baking.


While I will try again this fall for squash, beans and more sans deer, there are many of you in town getting this right. One person in particular is cookbook author and pie instructor Ken Haedrich. 

His newest cookbook, “The Harvest Baker,” is in stores now and it offers 150 sweet and savory recipes that all celebrate fresh-picked flavors of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Just about every recipe is paired with a Pinterest-worthy photo of the dish, fun for home chefs that only cook the recipes in cookbooks that have a photo. 

I had the chance to dish with him and learn more about the harvest baker concept, as well as ask him a burning question I had about keeping sheet pans clean.

Like many people that land in Wilmington, Haedrich describes his path to the Port City as a long one. He grew up in New Jersey, spent time in New Hampshire, another 12 years in Annapolis, Maryland, and four years in Hilton Head, South Carolina. For the last 2.5 years he has been in Wilmington, drawn here by his sister who has resided here for decades. 

Haedrich said there is no hard and fast rule to being a harvest baker;  it is a cooking style that celebrates the love of fresh produce, which is his long-standing obsession. As he admits in the video tease for his book, he has never really been into baking fancy decorated cakes or anything really pretty. 

“For me the perfect baked good is a calzone stuffed with collards, onions and sausage or homemade chocolate zucchini cake,” he said. 

The book, which is Haedrich’s 15th, includes recipes for sweet carrot cake, spiced eggplant and lentil turnovers, tomato slab pie and recipe for flower pot bread where you cook a loaf of bread in a terra cotta pot. His everything biscuits are a creative food mashup of everything bagels and buttermilk biscuits that are garlicky, secretly filled with spinach and perfect with soups. In the book, Haedrich writes he likes to split these in half and top with a poached egg for a biscuit-and-egg Florentine. 

The recipes that are locally inspired, include several  that incorporate fresh blueberries from his brother-in-law Dean’s backyard, like Dean’s blueberry crumb pie and blueberry scones. 

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And now for sheet pans

Throughout the book there are photos of food being sliced off sheet pans that are so shiny you could do your makeup in the reflection. Mine at home are quite the opposite. So many dark stains from roasted vegetables, I’m starting to treat them like cast iron skillets and just calling the mess seasoning.

“How in the world do you keep a baking sheet that clean?” I asked Haedrich. And I will dish on his pro tip: parchment paper. And he doesn’t just use any parchment paper. He told me he orders sheets by the thousands that are basically delivered pre-cut in a ream of paper from the website Restaurant Equipment World (rewonline.com.) Search “parchment paper” on the site to find several options. 

“If you use parchment paper from a roll, you can never keep it flat,” he said. Good to know I’m not a horrible baker because I can never just press the paper into a greased dish and it stay put. Now we all know the secret is paper that was flat to start with. He recommends using silpat mats as well. 

And another dish detail: Haedrich, a professional baker and food writer, also has dirty baking sheets.

“I love hideous baking sheets — the darker the better,” he said. “And some of mine go back 40 years or so, and my favorite ones are the oldest ones.”

Thank you, Ken Haedrich. Thank you for validating us all.

For more information on Haedrich or to participate in his “no more tears pie pastry course,” check out his website, ThePieAcademy.com.

Blueberry scones

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter,

cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

1. If your blueberries are fresh, an hour before you plan to bake these — or even the night before — put your blueberries on a plate and place them in the freezer to firm up a bit. (Firm berries won’t burst and leave blue streaks in your scones.)

2. Reheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment if you have it, or butter the sheet very lightly.

3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands or a whisk. Add the butter and gently toss it with the dry mixture to coat the fat. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it is broken into split pea–size pieces.

4. Combine the cream, egg, lemon extract, and vanilla in a measuring cup; stir to blend. Set aside 2 teaspoons of this liquid to brush on the scones. Make a well in the dry mixture and add the rest of the liquid mixture. Mix gently with a few strokes, then add the blueberries. Stir, using as few strokes as possible, until the dough forms a shaggy, cohesive ball.

5. Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and press it into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Use a rolling pin if you like to even it out. Either way, press gently to do as little damage as possible to the blueberries.

6. Remove the plastic and cut the disk into six to eight wedges with a knife or dough scraper. Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet, re-creating the circle but leaving about 1/8 inch between the pieces (see note). Brush the scones lightly with the cream glaze.

7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until they’re swollen and a rich golden brown. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes. Cut the scones apart and set them directly on the rack.

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