Ovenly Partners, Agatha Kulaga, left, and Erin Patinkin.
Ovenly partners and bakers, Agatha Kulaga, left, and Erin Patinkin. Photo by Winona Barton-Ballentine / Forward
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For Patinkin and her business partner, Agatha Kulaga, the long hours spent talking to interior designers, reviewing cash flow spreadsheets and recipe formulas, and pondering refrigerator cases in preparation for their new shop were well worth the trouble because now they can call home a permanent bakery space and a sun-lit storefront equipped with coffee and a nonstop rotation of fresh pastries.

As an independent baking company founded by two Brooklynites, Ovenly has a story mirroring that of many other artisanal food businesses. What sets Patinkin and Kulaga apart from the others, however, is the same thing that ties them together as a team: their deep familial connections to Eastern European baking traditions.

Patinkin comes from Polish-Jewish and Austrian heritage and grew up baking nut cookies and kolache (sweet yeast dough pastries) with her grandmother in suburban Chicago. Kulaga is not Jewish but is the daughter of Polish immigrants who enjoyed similar treats in the Polish neighborhood of New Britain, Conn.

“Agatha and I jokingly argue about Polish versus Jewish babka all the time,” Patinkin said. (Unlike the twisted loaf of streusel-topped chocolate or cinnamon sweet bread familiar to Jews, the Polish version is baked in a Bundt pan and brushed with simple syrup or topped with confectioner’s sugar.) But their families’ reverence for food and tradition, not to mention their recipes for apple cake — dense and sweet cake topped with a soft layer of juicy apples — are nearly identical.

Read more at the Forward.