A Brooklyn Baker’s New Book



When a professional gardener turns her full attention to baking, the odds are good that her recipes will keep alive her ties to the soil.

Sarah Owen’s new Sourdough – Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More (Roost, 2015), weaves together many biographical and botanical threads, creating in the process a series of recipes that follows closely the turning of the year.

From Owens’ Tennessee childhood come biscuits and candied bacon cornbread; from her life as a ceramicist turned on by seedpods to create “fantastical ceramic creatures” come impeccably turned loaves — Ngoc Minh Ngo’s photos will make you want to nibble the crusts — flavored by roast beets, sweet potatoes, butternut, figs and smoked chilies. And from her sourdough immersion and founding of BK17 Bakery in the South Slope, a tribute: Brooklyn Sourdough, a loaf whose mild white starter has “an ambitious nature.”

The persimmons, whose full-page photo closes the book, came from the trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Lily Pond Terrace.

From her travels there are Saraguro cheese bread, and medina-spiced apple hand pies. There are flowers and fresh produce from friends: roses, of course (Owens was the rosarian at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for six years), in a syrup to drench a dense cake, and a lilac-infused blueberry cobbler. The pork and rhubarb pot pie was born from the pink-stalked gifts from the BBG’s Herb Garden; the persimmons whose full-page photo closes the book came from the trees at the BBG’s Lily Pond Terrace (the fruit features in several recipes).

And there are forages: fiddleheads on a spring pizza, burdock burgers for sourdough sandwiches, nettle and ale bread, and dandelion and chive popovers.

The pages of Sourdough will leave seasoned sourdough bakers refreshed, and tentative bakers emboldened to begin somewhere easy and inviting.

We also profiled Sarah in our 2014 innovation issue.

Sundried Tomato Shortbreads

Owens recommends these Sundried Tomato Shortbreads for the holidays: “They are versatile in serving, require no special pans or skillets to bake, the dough can be made ahead and baked when ready, they keep for several days once baked, are vegetarian, and are simply delicious.”

(They are. I baked them recently for a forage walk in Central Park, substituting mugwort for the rosemary and serving them with a field garlic labneh dip. Not a crumb remained.)

Makes 7 dozen 1½-inch shortbreads

30 g sun-dried tomatoes
110 g Parmesan
25 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
120 g whole wheat pastry flour
40 g fine cornmeal
½ tsp. paprika
Pinch of salt
126 g cold unsalted butter
100 g 100% hydration starter

Place the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, sugar and rosemary in a food processor and grind to a fine texture, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the flour, cornmeal, paprika, and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form coarse crumbs. Add the starter and pulse to combine.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a round disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and allow to soften on the counter for about 5 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350˚F.

Unwrap the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll to about a 1/4 -inch thickness, using your dough scraper to assist. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out the shortbreads, reworking the dough until it is all used. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

From Sourdough, by Sarah Owens © 2015 by Sarah Owens. Photographs © 2015 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com

Marie Viljoen

Marie Viljoen lives in Brooklyn and believes in food, flowers and plants you can eat (and drink). Join her on a seasonal forage walk or find her daily posts on Instagram @66squarefeet

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