brittany main pic.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Brittany Bardeleben's pies are wildly popular at Betty.
Brittany Bardeleben has a sweet spot in her heart for desserts. They remind


Brittany's Super Sweet, But Her Desserts At Betty and Crow Are Never Cloying

brittany main pic.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Brittany Bardeleben's pies are wildly popular at Betty.
Brittany Bardeleben has a sweet spot in her heart for desserts. They remind her of growing up and hanging out in her grandmother's kitchen. But she ramps up the old-fashioned classics she makes for Betty and Crow by adding unexpected details. Like drizzling pineapple caramel on the plate before loading it with a beautiful wedge of carrot layer cake. Or pouring whiskey on an apple upside down cake. And pairing summer fruit with herbal ice cream. Yum.

SW: How did you get interested in cooking?

Bardeleben: When I was in high school, I saw this woman frosting a cake in the window of a pastry shop and I was so blown away that she got paid to do that. I was thinking how cool it was she got paid to play all day. I've always loved to bake at home. I grew up around bakers. My grandmother baked and my mother, too, and I always begged to help. So, I decided I was going to culinary school.

SW: What was your first job?

Bardeleben: The Third Floor Fish Café in Kirkland was like pastry boot camp. There were seven or eight things on the menu. It was intense, but a great learning experience. Even though I used to come home and cry every night. It was totally insane. Later, I moved to Seattle to try some other things. I cooked brunch and ran a wholesale bakery, but always staying in kitchens. I wanted to see if cooking is where I wanted to go, but I discovered it's all about desserts for me.

I joined the team here at Betty when it first opened, about three years ago. The manager celebrated our anniversary by going down the street and buying a cupcake at Wink.

SW: Do you think the cupcake thing is played?

Bardeleben: I'm not a huge cupcake person, I'll be honest, even though I have the world's biggest collection of cupcake T-shirts because people give them to me. Cupcakes are cute and fun, but I would rather see more pastry shops opening, places with assorted pastries like Besalu. But people do love cupcakes. It's like the 90s when bagels were everywhere.

pie at betty.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Rhubarb pie at Betty means it's spring.
SW: Your desserts seem so homey, but with an upscale twist. Is that what you're going for?

Bardeleben: Absolutely. Nothing makes me happier then when someone tries one of my desserts and is instantly reminded of their grandmother, but they still feel like they're out on the town.

SW: Betty is famous for its pie. Have you played around with the recipe?

Bardeleben: Yes, it's a very tinkered with version of my grandmother's. It's a lot of butter with just a little flour to hold it together and some cream cheese, which gives it a little tang. My grandmother used butter and a little bit of lard. But I didn't really want to use lard.

SW: What have you got against lard?

Bardeleben: Nothing! It's just at the time I was playing around with that recipe I just didn't any in the kitchen. I was experimenting and liked the way cream cheese turned out, so I just had to go with it.

SW: How often do you change things up on the menu?

Bardeleben: Every month and a half or so. We're coming up on strawberry season, and I like to keep it simple. Summer fruit doesn't need a lot of fussing. This year, I'm going to make something I'm calling strawberries and cream, a simple panna cotta with a balsamic deduction. I've done strawberry shortcake, but I'm kind of bored with that.

SW: Sometimes, people don't think of pastry chefs as cooks, but you do quite a bit of cooking too, right?

Bardeleben: I do a lot of sautés with fruit, too. I get the pan really, really hot and add the fruit like Bing cherries and then add some red wine. I do a lot of that. I make all the ice cream and brioche buns for the burgers.

SW: Hey, there's pineapple caramel on the carrot cake. What's that?

Bardeleben: It's basically caramel and pineapple juice. I've never put carrot cake on the menu before and I was looking for a way to make it a little more special. It's not as sweet as most carrot cakes, especially the frosting. I reduced the sugar by half. You can really taste the cream cheese. It's a tall, proud layer cake. It's gone over really well. When people try it, they say: Oh, I love carrot cake.

Tomorrow, in part two of our Grillaxin Q&A, pastry chef Brittany Bardeleben gives us the skinny on boozy treats she loves to bake.

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