Between a progression of pastry roles at some of the city’s top restaurants (Bouley, Le Cirque, David Burke Restaurants) to walking away a winner and runner-up (respectively) on Sweet Genius and Chopped, pastry chef Katie Rosenhouse has had her hands in a little bit of everything (and we haven’t even touched on her cookbook, culinary producing, or consulting projects). That wealth of experiences served as fodder for her first brick-and-mortar venture Buttermilk Bakeshop (339 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-689-4376), which opened last weekend in Park Slope. “Its style is a combination of all of those places and a lot of what my mother was doing when I was a kid,” she explains. “It’s basically my favorite things all on one menu.” That menu includes comfort-rich classics, from whoopie pies and linzer cookies to chocolate chip bread pudding and monkey buns. Here, we spoke with the multitasker to get her thoughts on reality cooking shows, why she’s crazy about buttermilk, and her Americana outlook on all things pastry.
How would you describe the experience of being on a reality cooking show?
There’s no way to describe that feeling in words. It’s horrifying. It’s very intimidating, scary, stressful — just a crazy experience. Basically the clock starts, and they’re like, go! And you’re like, really? But when you win, it’s great.
Did any of the challenges ever seem impossible?
Anything seems possible when you’re creating it. And for the people who are really creative who come on and just take the reins of wherever they’re sent, it’s a very liberating culinary experience of you have this kitchen, this is what you have to work with, do whatever you want. If you can just breathe and have fun with it, I think it’s great. Also, I think it gives chefs the chance to take on a larger stage.
Is pastry more difficult to practice in a competitive setting, being that it’s a more technical process than savory?
I always look at pastry a little differently, in that I definitely don’t play by the rules probably like I should — maybe that’s more of the American in me and a little less of the French training. But I think anybody can whip up a mousse or a whipped cream or a cake. Pastry uses very few base ingredients. You’re always using butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, so it’s like, where do I go from there? I think for someone who’s really comfortable with baking and just does it all of the time, it becomes part of your soul and what you do. It’s definitely just more fun than scientific — you can play a little more than you would when you’re starting out.
You’ve taken your pastry experience beyond the kitchen and into various mediums like consulting and writing. How would you describe your experience with these endeavors?
The track used to be that you’d go to culinary school, become a pastry cook, become a pastry sous chef, become a pastry chef. Nowadays you can write a cookbook, go on TV, consult — you can do whatever you want. There are so many pastry chefs in NYC now who haven’t worked in pastry really for years — but they’re still great pastry chefs. I think there’s a freedom these days to take on whatever you want in your field. When I was doing recipe editing or testing or consulting, it all stemmed from the same knowledge and background, and it’s just a way of informing other people through your background. I think it’s fun; I think it brings everybody together.
Which project has been your favorite?
This one! Definitely this one. There’s nothing like opening your own business.
How would you define the offerings at Buttermilk Bakeshop?
American comfort. It’s just everything that I would want to eat. We’re definitely about gooey, over-the-top delicious — things that remind you of home, things that remind you of when you were a kid. A lot of things with sprinkles on top. We’re in a very family-friendly area, so we try to cater to that.
How did you decide to open shop in Park Slope?
I live about 10 blocks from the bakery. My boyfriend and I kept passing the space — it used to be a Tasti D-Lite, and it closed — and were like, “Wouldn’t that be the cutest little spot for a bakery?” It just seemed like that sized space would be something that I could actually afford and give a real shot, and it just all came together and became opportune at the moment.
How did you decide on the name for the bakery?
I was doing a Podcast with a friend of mine. We were talking on one of the shows about our favorite ingredients, and I was going on and on about buttermilk — just how it balances everything, adds a little tanginess, and just rounds everything out. That’s what I go for — pastries that aren’t just sweet and aren’t just one note, pastries that definitely have a little more soul to them. I think Buttermilk was just appropriate for that.
Have any of your favorite childhood recipes made it to the menu?
Yes, my grandmother’s raisin crumb cake and my other grandmother’s apricot bars, which are very Eastern European. Also, my mother’s carrot cake — which is definitely one of my favorites.
What do you hope the bakery will bring to the neighborhood?
I hope that everyone will come and find their favorite thing, and if we don’t have it, we’ll make it for them. We definitely take requests all of the time. Also, the open kitchen vibe: it’s like walking into someone’s home kitchen but getting a professional product. I think it’s something that’s really comforting, and I just think it’s fun. Especially for kids — they run in and knock on the window and get so excited. I think that’s what a bakery should be.