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A&E >  Food

Chef Spotlight: 7 questions and a recipe with Mika Maloney of Batch Bakeshop

Mika Maloney, baker and owner of Batch, poses in her bakeshop in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Mika Maloney, baker and owner of Batch, poses in her bakeshop in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Mika Maloney founded Batch Bakeshop in 2011, making treats at odd hours out of a rented kitchen.

She moved her operation into her own brick-and-mortar location in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now, her charming West Central bakeshop is known for holding a variety of classes and clubs, including a cookbook club and dessert-of-the-month club, as well as events, such as dessert nights.

Maloney, 35, specializes in wedding and special occasion cakes and treats with all kinds of creative flavor combinations. She’s been working in the food industry since 2005 – earlier, she said, “if you want to count Burger King or the Fred Meyer Deli. But I don’t recall much ‘cooking’ being involved, (just) some stirring and slicing.”

Today, she’s a master at creating flavorful desserts, such as citrus-caramel, Earl Grey, tres leches and cardamom-pistachio cakes.

What’s your favorite dish to cook at home? Central Food bread, toasted, with too much mayonnaise and perfectly ripe tomatoes from the my garden or the farmer’s market, topped with some fancy salt and maybe a few fresh herbs. Is that cooking? It’s my favorite thing to make and then sit in the sun on my back porch and eat. I love winter and living somewhere with four distinct seasons, but it’s hard to beat tomato season around here.

Where do you eat when you eat out? My wife and I live in West Central so it’s easy to eat really well and never leave the neighborhood thanks to Central Food and Ruins.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef, and how? I don’t consider myself a chef, or a pastry chef. I’m a baker and home cook who has learned on the job over the years. Growing up, my mom always encouraged my sister and I to take part in whatever was happening in the kitchen. I had a lot of freedom to experiment and try new things on my own. I’m a big fan of following your curiosity and the world of food is endlessly interesting to me.

What are your go-to ingredients? Well, as a baker, there’s a lot of butter, sugar, eggs and flour involved. I love using as much local fruit as I can. And I always come back to coriander, ginger, vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, lavender and rosemary, in one combination or another.

What was the first dish a customer ever sent back to you, and how did you handle it? I’m sure there was a disappointingly under-done pastry at some point or another. It takes awhile to trust yourself to really bake things long enough.

What’s a dish you’ve never made but would like to, and why? I don’t do breads at Batch – just pastries, cookies, cakes and pies. But I’ve done a little bread baking at different bakeries I’ve worked at over the years. And someday I’d like to dive into that more. Not professionally though, just at home!

What dish or ingredient best represents you? Dates. They’re sweet, useful, versatile, a little unexpected, go well with sweet or savory dishes, and thrive in hot, sunny places.

Apple, Cheddar & Pink Peppercorn Biscuits

Warm biscuits, fresh from the oven, are impossible to resist. Add to that sharp cheddar, sweet-tart apples, and floral, kicky pink peppercorn and you’ve got a winner for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounces butter, thinly sliced

2-4 thinly sliced apples

4-6 ounces thinly sliced sharp cheddar

1 cup buttermilk, cold

2 ounces butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons pink peppercorns

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl, breaking up any brown sugar chunks. Add the 8 ounces of butter and toss gently to coat. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, core and thinly slice the apples and set aside. Slice the cheddar and set aside.

Remove the chilled biscuit mix from the fridge and use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the chilled butter into thin pieces, working quickly and continually tossing with flour mixture. You’re going for thin, dime-size sheets of butter. Add the buttermilk and stir to combine.

Dump the wet dough onto a floured work surface and pat into a thick rectangle, roughly 6-by-12. Use a bench scraper to fold the dough; it might be a bit sloppy. Dust with flour and roll into a rectangle, about 10-by-18. Fold into thirds, then half. Lightly flour again and repeat two more times until dough is workable but still has visible butter pats.

The last time you roll the dough, brush along one half with melted butter, sprinkle with brown sugar and top with all the cheddar and all but 12 of the apple slices. Grind the pink peppercorns or crush in a mortar and pestle, and sprinkle some onto the apples and cheddar. Fold the bare half of dough over this and press the edges together. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut into biscuits (6-12 biscuits, depending on what size you want).

Brush the biscuit tops with melted butter and top with additional apple slices and pink peppercorn. Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom when you use a spatula to gently lift a biscuit to check.

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