While the thought of cooking vegan is daunting enough to some people, the idea of baking vegan and gluten-free can sound downright impossible. Not so for Jennifer Katzinger. In Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book, Jennifer creates dishes that are suitable for even the most sensitive stomach, yet still delicious.
Roseann Marulli Rodriguez: Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for speaking with SuperVegan.
You opened the Flying Apron Bakery in Seattle in 2002. How’d you go from a B.A. in English literature and an M.A. in industrial design to running a bakery?
Jennifer Katzinger: Great question! I grew up baking. Almost every odd job I had in high school and through college, I found myself working in bakeries and loving it. I loved the warmth of the kitchens, the conversations, the creation of works of art I could watch customers enjoy with every sense. Meanwhile, while going to school I loved studying literature. After graduating from the University of Washington with my English literature degree, I continued working in cafés and bakeries. It was only then that I began to crave creating more permanent designs, pieces of furniture. After returning to Seattle from studying at Pratt in New York, I did work in the industrial design field and was absolutely thrilled and inspired to be doing so. In fact, I would very much like to dangle my feet in those waters again. However, the lull of the warm kitchen, smells and tasty creations were strongly calling me back, which eventually led me to open the Flying Apron Bakery with my father.
There’s no soy or gluten in any of the recipes in Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book, and you use alternative sweeteners. Why is creating a healthy product important to you?
It’s something I feel really strongly about, using unrefined ingredients and wholesome sweeteners and often using less sweetener than one would find elsewhere. We all love a treat, but why not have a treat be nurturing to our body as well as to our taste buds? I know how good it can feel to be balanced, and eating healthy food is such a big part of maintaining balance and presence. I would like to share this with others.
The Maple Butter Bars were rich and sweet, and the texture was a little grainy. They’re great for breakfast or the mid-afternoon sugar slumps.
Is everything in the bakery also soy- and gluten-free? Is everything you make there organic?
I actually sold the bakery last winter to be a full-time mom and cookbook author; my next cookbook comes out next fall, and I’m delighted with the new recipes. I believe Flying Apron’s new owners are maintaining the commitment to organics. All of the baked goods are still soy-free, I believe, although they do now have some savory dishes that contain soy.
When you owned the bakery, what did it mean for you to participate in the local farmer’s market?
It meant the world to me! The community experience was so rich. Participating in the farmer’s market came to be my favorite part of the bakery experience. Working with a group of other passionate folks excited about whole foods, being independent entrepreneurs and interacting directly with customers was such a thrill.
You also care about sustainability. When you first opened the bakery, a few of your products contained eggs and dairy, but then you went plant-based, partly because of the lower carbon footprint. Why?
It just felt right to go vegan all the way.
While your cookbook is labeled vegan, some of the recipes call for honey. Why honey, and why use the vegan label when you use an animal product?
Agave can easily be substituted for the honey. The honey question is a tough one. For me, honey is a local ingredient and therefore better from a sustainable standpoint, as well as being a healthier choice, since agave is fructose. That said, I ought to really study this more thoroughly. I hope I haven’t offended anyone by including honey in two of the recipes.
Are you vegan?
Presently I’m vegetarian and mostly vegan. My husband is vegan, and together we’d been vegan for over a decade.
The Coconut Heaven Cake with Coconut Heaven Frosting isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a little heavy and sweet, but absolute, well, heaven for coconut lovers.
You use oil instead of a butter substitute. What’s the thinking behind that, and how does it affect the end result? Are there any recipes that doesn’t work for?
I think oil is a more pure ingredient than butter substitutes, and all the recipes I create are made to use oil.
You call some of your cookies revolutionary. Please explain!
In a jocular way I’m saying that when I first developed these recipes and opened the bakery, about nine years ago, no one was baking goodies gluten-free and vegan in our area, so it felt revolutionary to buck the white flour, white sugar, butter and egg baking tradition.
You also mention that there’s tradition behind pie- and tart-making. What does that mean to you?
Participating in an act that has taken place for lifetimes before can feel very special. Of course, it depends on what the tradition is, but when it comes to something like making pies or doing yoga, it feels very special for me.
You give instructions for making cookies from leftover pie crust dough—that must be some tasty dough! Which is your favorite for making cookies?
I like the simple crust. It tastes light and flaky and tender and subtly sweet!
You eventually began to offer savory dishes at the bakery, and there are many savory recipes in the book, from soups to salads to entrées. Did it feel natural to expand in that direction?
Absolutely. I very much enjoyed diving into that.
My little gnocchis, waiting to be cooked.
All of the entrées have an ethnic flair, whether it be Italian, Indian or Russian. Was that intentional?
Yes. I guess another way I’m inspired is by other cultures’ culinary choices. I also feel that the more international things we expose ourselves to, the more we can be open to people of different backgrounds.
I made your Maple Butter Bars, which were great! And the Coconut Heaven Cake was absolutely delicious, though I wasn’t able to whip the frosting—the oil or the agave stayed separate, so I frosted the cake as best I could and put it in the fridge so the frosting would congeal. What did I do wrong? (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t own a mixer and stirred everything by hand.)
I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the cake and maple bars! The frosting really depends on a mixer that can beat the oil into the agave or fruit juice.
The Gnocchi With Herbed Pistou—tender potato pasta in a pesto-like sauce—was divine. My first attempt at making homemade pasta: success!
And the Gnocchi With Herbed Pistou was amazing! The pasta had such great consistency, and the sauce was delicious. Though that too was more oily and less thick and pesto-like than I’d anticipated. Is that the desired consistency, or did I muck it up again?
Yes, Pistou is more oily than pesto, more like a flavored oil. I love the taste too! And the gnocchi are very tender, so always be sure to steam instead of boil them, as it says in the recipe.
Done! Thanks so much for speaking with us, Jennifer. We’ll keep an eye out for your next book. Best of luck with that!
Thank you so very much! All the best.