I was first introduced to Britt Maren at Williamsburg’s hottest new eatery, The Heyward. One of my oldest NYC friends is one of the owners and as chance would have it, Britt’s husband is the chef. After having a swoon-worthy dinner cooked by her man Chef Derek Orell, I met Britt who was in the dining room eating with friends. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just met another swoony, food lovin’ soulmate. You meet, you chat, you follow on Instagram and the next thing you know it’s abundantly clear that you’re more than like-minded. While Britt just so happens to be a highly in demand model, she’s also an accomplished baker who admits being in the kitchen makes her not only smitten, it makes her euphoric. So naturally, we had to bake together!
I arrived at Britt’s gorgeous Bklyn home and entered a kitchen prepped to perfection. Everything was laid out and measured and I knew she was a girl after my own heart. One who can’t get enough of life’s sweet indulgences like dessert, baked goods and breads. While she may be proud of her Texas roots, her current culinary style could not be further from the border. But don’t worry she’ll make something sweet with a Texas peach any chance you give her! As we started to get to work we found out we have more in common than we even knew. Not only does a sincere love of baking bring us both a sense of calm and the accomplishment of creation, we were both married at the crazy young age of 23 and have spent many years since perusing food blogs for inspiration. The result is a baking style that is both decadent and adventurous as Britt experiments with recipes to bring out their healthy side. The vegan chocolate salted caramel layer cake we set out to make is a true example of Britt’s better-for-you baking put to work. Did I mention we coated it in toasted coconut?! Totally swoon-a-licious!
Britt shared some of her tried and true baking tricks. Like, creating a crumb layer of frosting which is just a thin coating that’s not pretty or even, but covers the cake. Then you can let it sit in the fridge for 20 mins before doing your actual frosting, so that nothing crumbles! Dipping your spatula in a glass of warm water also helps ensure you get a smooth layer. Pro-tip: when you put your cake on a platter, trim the bottom edge with parchment paper so that when you’re done frosting you can remove it and be left with a clean as can be serving platter!
As we baked I asked Britt what it was like to be married to a chef – imagining her and Derek in the kitchen in a pottery wheel moment a la Ghost – but because of the realities of the restaurant industry Britt admitted she often eats alone and enjoys it. A independent spirit after my own heart! It’s amazing how therapeutic cooking can be, and how satisfying it can be to nourish yourself with healthy food you’ve made for just that purpose. That’s not to say she doesn’t cook for her man here and there, Britt swears by her killer breakfast burrito. And just like me she knows the first rule of being a sous chef to a top chef, cleanliness! Second rule, have a super sharp knife. And third rule, don’t clean up while the chef is still cooking (sorry Derek)!
Photography by Chloe Crespi