Anna Henrie Henricks of Sweetheart Bakery

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-3

Meet Anna of Sweetheart Bakery, located in St. Johns in North Portland. Anna and I met this past summer at a local Portland market where I was simply enamored by the intricate details created through her pastries. I instantly knew that I wanted to feature her on Portland Fresh as she brings such beautiful and refreshing craft to the sweet bakery world. Portland is the land of overflowing bakeries, but Anna brings something that’s one of a kind, the icing on the cake rather, to the pastry world. Her Hermit Bar cookies for instance are made with Sultanas, Prunes and Date Molasses, encrusted with white grain sugar before baking.  She then spices them with star anise and cardamom to name a few which adds the final touch.

I use the seasons to determine my menus, whatever is in season at that very week or month is inspiring to me and every year I feel like I get to explore more and more with flavors as I become more seasoned as a chef.

Being out on a farm at 6:30 in the morning when the sun has just risen and starts to dry the dew resting on the fruit you are about to pick, that’s some magical stuff right there.  It keeps me enchanted and inspired.

It’s also amazing that she sources her ingredients locally, so much so that she is even able to source it nearly entirely from her neighbors in the North Portland area. She has a fantastic hands-on approach that is just riveting and inspirational in the world of food and sustainability.

 

Knowing that my friends and neighbors are the people growing the fruits, honey, eggs and other ingredients in my products is also incredibly rewarding, it makes me feel like I’m part of creating something meaningful within my community.  Because I have committed to sustainable and community-supportive practices, I actually go pick up my honey from my neighbors yard, pick the plums from my farmers tree, and never have to really leave North Portland to do it.

 

I hope you enjoy hearing more of her background, creative story, and journey that has brought her to where she is today in running with a dream behind her successful venture, Sweetheart Bakery.

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-6

 

What inspired you to start baking? Have you always been a baker or do you enjoy cooking as well?

I love Cooking and Baking and have always done both, although I really came to the sweet side of things later on in the game after a few years working as a savory cook.  I was fortunate enough to train under very talented Pastry Chef, Nina Bachinsky of Butter Brown Baking Company and  Swoon Kitchen Bar who taught me the art form of fine composed pastry.  I think working within the medium of sweet composition has been a great framework for designing my work now.  I typically start from the point of a composed dessert idea, then work my way back to an item that is self contained, using the elements in a complimentary way that works.  I’ve always found that baking is fun in a more challenging way for me than cooking because you are always working within the confines of a recipe so finding the elements you want to change and how much you can change them is always the hard part. Flavors are infinite and the combinations and endless and so exciting. It’s getting it right that presents the challenge, and it’s what keeps me pushing exploring and creating.

Cooking presents those challenges less to me because once you do it for a living at a certain level, it becomes very easy to always eat well with a few ingredients prepared with love and care without a recipe.  I’m really not trying to push myself in the savory department much these days, although every once in a while I start dreaming up savory dishes and get inspired to knock around the stove and whip up something fun.

I think that in finally having a platform for my sweet ideas with Sweetheart after being on hiatus for the past few years has lead to a bit of a creative explosion. I have notebooks filled with ideas that I never have even made because I had no where to make them! Now I have a platform to do so, I’ve been working through ideas and it’s been so awesome and exciting!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-15

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-14

How did your love for what you create in the kitchen turn into a business for you?

I’ve always been super passionate about food and enjoyed working in kitchens.  After working for other very talented chefs my whole life, I finally got to the point where I realized that in order to be truly happy, I needed to have an outlet for my pastry that was my own.  Ownership of my ideas and having my own creative identity have always been important to me. Not exploring or having a platform for my work for a few years really put me in the position to make the decision to rip off the bandaid and start my own company; it was just time.  It helps that I have an amazingly talented, wonderful and loving husband who has supported the evolution of my idea for the company the whole time and a family, friends and community who have encouraged me every step of the way.  I’m super lucky to be so supported, it really helps keep me going, aside from my passion for food and drive to create obviously.

What’s your creative background look like? Any past experiences here or abroad?

I have been fortunate to have traveled and lived in a few foreign countries.  When I was a little girl I lived in Taipei, Taiwan and Edinburgh, Scotland.  I think living abroad totally shaped not only who I am but most definitely my palette.  Being exposed to a variety Asian cuisine at a super young age and having it be a main staple in my diet throughout my whole life definitely shows in my work I think.  My father used to cook Chinese food for us at least a couple of meals a week in my house growing up.  Not that Classic French and Italian training are not super important and the back-bone of a lot of my work, I just think there is a bit of an Asian sensibility to some of my pastries that shines through.

I think working for and with super creative chefs has also been a super important part of my training.  I’ve always been inspired by the talented chefs I’ve worked for because most of them were hyper-creative people who wanted to re-define food in a playful and delicious way, being unafraid to push themselves with new and challenging flavors.  Working in a creative and collaborative environment really shaped who I am as a chef — that and a lot of home experimenting!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-13

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-12

Have you had any mentors or coaches along the way that have helped grow you into the chef and baker that you are today?

Mona Talbott :  Mona was the first chef I worked for and taught me the ins and outs of seasonal cooking.

Natalie Dibenedetto : Natalie was the Chef at the first Fine dining restaurant that I worked at, Mina, where I trained on the line and learned classic Italian technique.

Nina Bachinsky : Nina was the Pastry Chef who trained me in fine pastry at Swoon Kitchenbar.

What is it about being in the kitchen and running your own business that brings fulfillment and happiness into your every day life?

Ha, that’s funny because sometimes all I feel is the stress of managing orders, the business side of things and the actual baking crashing down on me!  But for real, I think what is fulfilling has been the process of learning about what I want, how to get it, the obstacles in my way and learning what it takes from within myself to hurdle them, pave a brighter path and learn from my mistakes.  It’s actually been quite draining and challenging, but really when I get to step back and look at how far Sweetheart has come in just one year, I feel super proud and happy.  Just being in the kitchen baking is great and I love that part of the job, but I know eventually I will need someone else’s trained hands to take over so I can keep growing things and designing new work. I really do love the process of creating my items from idea to finished product, just starting from raw ingredients and inspiration and looking at a finished cake or pastry ready for someone to savor really keeps me doing it.

Knowing that my friends and neighbors are the people growing the fruits, honey, eggs and other ingredients in my products is also incredibly rewarding, it makes me feel like I’m part of creating something meaningful within my community.  Because I have committed to sustainable and community-supportive practices, I actually go pick up my honey from my neighbors yard, pick the plums from my farmers tree, and never have to really leave North Portland to do it.

Feeling that direct connection between my work and my neighbors on a very real level is the most rewarding thing about what I do.  Sure it would be easier and cheeper to have it all delivered from the back of a truck to my kitchen from Mexico or California, but I really enjoy the process in engaging with my community this way.   Being out on a farm at 6:30 in the morning when the sun has just risen and starts to dry the dew on the fruit you are about to pick, that’s some magical stuff right there.  It keeps me enchanted and inspired.

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-11

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-10

Where do you pull your creative inspiration from with what you create for your menu? Is it constantly changing or is there are common thread throughout your creative process?

I pull from so many things. Sometimes it’s just looking at other pastry artists and chefs that I follow on Pinterest or Instagram or in magazines, cookbooks and other publications and seeing how they have used an element that gets my gears turning.  I use the seasons to determine my menus, whatever is in season at that very week or month is inspiring to me and every year I feel like I get to explore more and more with flavors as I become more seasoned as a chef.  I still dream out-of-season though, so if I start thinking about winter ideas in spring, I jot it down and ruminate on it until that season rolls around.  I feel like I have been lucky to have worked with a lot of super creative chefs and I’ve worked in kitchens that have really fostered my creative relationship to food too.  I also follow what other pastry chefs are doing in other cities outside of Portland as well because I just love to see what is out there and sometimes it leads to my own exploration of an ingredient or element of a dish.  Inspiration strikes pretty much when it feels like it; whilst enjoying a delicious meal in a great restaurant in Portland or another city, gardening in my backyard, lying in bed or hiking around Mt. Hood.  Summer time in Oregon is so inspiring because there is so much amazing food available to us, it’s almost overwhelming.  We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place in the Pacific Northwest, it’s inspiring to just to look around sometimes!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com

If you could go anywhere in the world and explore one creative “avenue” in that culture, where would it be and why?

I’ve always had a little crush on both India and Japan, of course both a food-based crushes.  I am so intrigued by the intricate spicing in Indian Food and the simplicity and elegance in Japanese Food.  Both are totally different but appeal to my desire to learn outside of western and european techniques.

But if we really get down to brass tacks I would totally go to France and just eat so much delicious cheese!

Where do you see yourself going with Sweetheart? Are there any long-term dreams you’d like to share with us?

I have decided to expand my cake department and that has been great, booking weddings and making birthday cakes is something I never thought I would do with the company but it’s actually really fun and I’m enjoying it and having a lot of fun on the design end of things.

I would love someday in the near future to have a little baking studio with a small case and counter to make custom cakes and pastries a few days a week, that’s the dream!  My own little space where I can make sugar dreams happen!  I’m in the process of figuring out a sustainable way to get there right now, so hopefully it’s not too far off!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-8
Where can we find your ‘sugar dreams’ locally?

I have a booth at the St. Johns Farmers Market on Saturday Mornings from 9-2 which runs from May to October.  I also sell my pastries with the Portland Flea at Union Pine from 10-4 every second Sunday of the Month and at Sunday Emporium at Rejuvenation from 11-5 every Last Sunday of the month.  I also have a booth with Plucky Maidens for their Junk Fest! and Get Hitched! Bridal Shows.

I also work by custom order for my Cakes and Desserts, Weddings and other events, including Holiday Desserts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.  I also offer a Monthly Pastry Share Subscription delivered to offices and homes every First and third Friday of the Month, respectively.

What are your top two favorite pastries that are “must tries” ?

Well my pastries change every couple of weeks depending on what is in season and they are all delicious!  But I guess I would say, the Layer Cake is always delicious, regardless of what the flavor is!  And my Hermit cookies are really yummy.  I grew up in Vermont and always enjoyed Hermit Bar cookies the most, this is my twist on them, I add Sultanas, Prunes and Date Molasses and encrust them with white grain sugar before baking.  I spice them with star anise, cardamom and a bunch of other super heady spices so they are super tasty and special.  You can take the girl out of New England but you can’t take the New England out of the girl!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-5

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-7

Where would we find you on your day off? Are there any local shops or attractions you’re in love with?

I love living in the Pacific Northwest because we have such a variety of amazing places to go within such short distance to the city.  On my day off in the summer I will usually be swimming in Washington or up on Mt. Hood at a Lake, beached and blissed out.  We also have a big garden so that takes a lot of work in the summer, but I am a homebody so I actually love hanging out with late brunch, my awesome husband, our billion cats and garden.  We also spend a fair amount of time at our friend Grey’s Farm, Morgan’s Landing Farm on Sauvie Island because he is awesome and wonderful, grows amazing produce, and has a beach to veg out on. He also throws an amazing Fourth of July party every year that features an antique Canon that fires Onions and six giant tables of food!

In the winter we love to head to the coast and cozy down in a yurt at one the great state parks in Oregon and Washington, play a little Skip-boo and Bananagrams, sit around the fire and enjoy being outside in the misty magic coastal spritz.  We usually bring coq au vin or some other braised stew thingy to heat up camping-style and then when that’s all gone we gorge ourselves on Dungeness crabs and amazing fish and chips, ps go to Jay’s Fish and Chips in Lincoln City and get the Rockfish if it’s on special, it is sooooooo good!

The whole city of Portland is pretty great and we really love living in St. Johns for the smaller community that it provides and the access to amazing farms on Sauvie Island and proximity to Forrest Park. I really love how Portland seems to have kept the spirit of independence, sustainability and community alive.  It’s very real here, and although it’s a bit cliche and “Portlandia”, I love that fact that people care about where their chicken is from, make their own pickles and wear hemp clothes, it’s rad, Please Portland keep the 90’s alive!  I love that Punk Rock is still a thing here and that people grow sprouts in there cupboards and have beards and turqouise hair!  It really feels genuine to me and I absolutely love it.  I feel that it’s reflected in the business community here too, like people want to support someone’s new idea for a shop, food cart or wine bar because that’s what living here is all about!

Anna Henrie Henricks Sweetheart Bakery by Christiann Koepke on PortlandFresh.com-16

 

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