Chefs Dish: Hitting the Sweet Spot with Bachelor Farmer
At North Loop staple The Bachelor Farmer, pastry chef Emily Marks is tasked with creating a final impression. Simple ginger cookies are the result, a constant served at the end of every meal, just a hint of the desserts Marks and her team are working on between the Farmer and its accompanying cafe.
Like many chefs I’ve talked to, Marks didn’t intend on pursuing a culinary degree. Instead, she followed the siren call of drawing and painting to art school before moving to Oregon and attending Western Culinary Institute—now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts—in Portland.
“My time in Portland influenced me a lot,” Marks says. Her husband is from a small town in Willamette Valley, famous for its proximity to mountains, forest and coast. “We have friends with hobby farms, home gardens. The sustainable and organic food movement has grown substantially since then,” she says.
Minnesota-raised, Marks returned to the Twin Cities and began working in lamination and pastries at Rustica before helping Cossetta’s open its expanded space as pastry production manager. She then moved on to the plum job with The Bachelor Farmer, where opening chef Paul Berglund was named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2016.
A large part of Marks’ job is simply capturing flavors, such as the perfect autumn apple in a dessert or preparing seasonal produce and spices to last through winter. “We don’t use anything that’s not in season unless we preserve it,” Marks says. “We preserve it from the season, capturing jams, drying fruits.” Fall is a welcome season for Marks, as the bulk of the preservation is done in the quick summer, leaving a clean slate for fall flavors.
Those who like to fully steep themselves in autumn’s fruit and spices will find a welcome home at The Bachelor Farmer and its cafe. (See scone of the month served at the cafe. October’s flavor? Spiced sweet potato with maple glaze).
If you’re on the savory side of the line, you’ll enjoy the cafe’s vegetable galette complete with seasonal squash and gruyere cheese. “We have staples in the cafe we try not to mess with too much so the regulars can count on them,” Marks says. “We play around a little, try to have some fun.”
While unclear on her favorite, Marks has a particular fondness for a treat of her past. “At the cafe I feel that my big accomplishment is the chocolate brownie,” says Marks. “In high school I would make brownies with friends, chock-full of nuts, marshmallows, candy bars …” After perfecting the recipe—with as much chocolate as possible—the product now resides in the cafe. “I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do,” she says.
The Bachelor Farmer changes its menu daily, and recalling flavors from the past extends throughout the restaurant, coming through perhaps the most in their Sunday supper. “In conversations we have, we might reminisce on the desserts we had with our families, craving things that are holiday treats,” says Marks. “It’s really collaborative. We have a great team to work with that loves cooking and desserts.”
A hallmark of the foreboding winter is their butterscotch pudding, another recipe that went through numerous iterations before landing on its final product. “When it turns cold everyone starts asking me when it’s going to be on the menu,” says Marks. “We do really simple desserts, but with a twist.”
TBF Ginger Cookies
4.5 sticks or 2 ½ cups of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of granulated sugar
1 ½ cups brown sugar
¾ + 1/8 cups molasses
7 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 1/8 t baking soda
1 t ground clove
1 T ground ginger
½ t each of ground cinnamon and allspice
1 t each of salt and white pepper
Demarara sugar to coat
Cream room temperature butter 1 minute with a paddle attachment in a stand mixer. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, creaming another 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs and molasses slowly, scraping the bowl well after all of it is incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients and add into the mixer in two additions on low speed. Scrape the bowl down well and make sure the batter is well mixed. Chill dough for easier portioning. Portion cookies with an orange (#100) disher, or by rounded teaspoons and roll tops of cookies in demerara sugar, place on parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bake 350F convection oven or 375F regular oven for approximately 7 minutes.
White granulated sugar or coarse sanding sugar can be used in place of demerara sugar to coat cookies.