Taste is Paramount – Violet Bakery
One a recent rainy day in the West Village of NYC, three women bound by a love of TASTE came together to indulge their love of baking at The Little Owl event space. I gathered with Christine Muhlke, executive editor at Bon Appétit magazine and Clair Ptak, owner of Violet Bakery in London, to celebrate Clair’s newly released cookbook, The Violet Bakery. When I heard Christine was set to interview Clair about the cookbook’s release (and to talk baking, of course), I figured I would pitch the brilliant idea of us all to baking together. The afternoon was even more swoona-licious than I had dreamed…
I had only known Clair on the page, through her swoony recipes, and I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to bake with this pastry goddess from across the Altantic. Violet Bakery in the Eastside of London is an institution—a charming and unique bakery where Clair seamlessly fused her Californian roots with London polish, and built a cult following. With a creative background in film, fashion and art, she felt drawn to baking, and later found herself working with the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. She shared, “I learned how to taste at Chez Panisse”—the experience offered an indelible education. Clair was inspired to think more deeply about our relationship to food, farming, education, and especially taste and flavor. It is a sensibility she has brought to Violet Bakery and London’s taste buds are all the better for it.
Enter Christine Muhlke, executive editor at Bon Appétit magazine, who tastes every dish from those swoony BA pages to ensure the content stays true to their mission. Christine is the baker of the family and her go-to specialty is “mint chimp” ice cream, utilizing the mint from her garden and a lemon chocolate tart. And while her palate is highly-evolved—her ideal breakfast is Miso butter toast at Chalait in NYC and she snacks on fresh-plucked figs with yogurt while shooting on location in Greece—she also admits to an unwavering obsession with extra-cheesy Chicago deep-dish pizza. Juxtaposition is always necessary!
I found my way to Eyeswoon, and ultimately to myself, through baking. Baking offered me methodical precision when I did not quite have creative confidence in the kitchen yet—it almost became a meditation as I was learning, growing, expanding. Of course, baking led to a deep passion for cooking, culinary creativity and developing a side of myself I didn’t yet know existed—photographing, styling and propping food to create stories on my site.
All three of us ladies have found ourselves in a space where food, and capturing its beauty, has become a large part of our day-to-day existence. While it is always about the food and the taste, it is also much more for us. It is the story attached, the visions, the creativity in displaying—making sure the aesthetic is as appealing as the bites themselves. This is not at all to say it is about perfectionism—we certainly have our quirks. As we baked the swooniest chocolate croissant bread pudding together (a recipe straight from Clair’s cookbook), I found our creative process fascinating. We made due, figured it out, dealt with mishaps—oven temps were off, baking racks were janky, and Clair admitted that even as a baker, she’s too impatient to be overly precise, and skips sifting flour! (Swoon tip: whisk dry ingredients instead to save time J.)
Yes, we all make it up as we go: growing, expanding and overlapping into various disciplines like fashion, food, art, style, photography. We are all many things making up the sum of our parts: a baker who is a visual artist who enjoys food styling as much as baking. An editor who is a baker who thrives on her job being different everyday, and always learning. An interior designer who has suddenly become a cook, a baker, and a blogger. We are all so multi-faceted, yet bound together simply by taste, for taste is paramount.
TASTE what I mean in Clair’s cookbook, The Violet Bakery.