On a floured surface, dough begins to take its form, kneaded, shaped and rolled. Soft and smooth, the subtly sweet aroma of pastry is what draws Ali Katz to a craft she has shaped over 16 years, adding influences of her life experiences and travels. Fragrant spices from Morocco and the Middle East bring forth a warm quality, using brown sugar instead of white for a richer cake. Sure, The French Culinary Institute grad likes to cook, but she loves to bake. In her own eponymous Mattituck incubator kitchen and bakery, Katz wants to make what will make people smile. For herself, it’s about having your cake and eating it too.
Katz looks for the undecorated in her cake recipe research, opting for ingredients that add a natural sweetness or spice. Like many kitchens, seasonality plays a role when sourcing locally. Fruit crumbles highlight the seasons, like strawberries in June, peaches in August and blueberries in fall. Pound cakes are a staple treat, with flavors like plum and almond or Nutella swirl. Tahini is a favorite of Katz’s, and she likes to use cardamom and yogurt, following her Middle Eastern inspirations.
“I do a mixture of just a little fennel seed with apple, chocolate, and a little whiskey,” Katz says of her favorite pound cake. “I’ll use brown sugar instead of white sugar and olive oil instead of butter in recipes. People are often looking for things not made with those other ingredients.”
Scones and cookies are top sellers at the bakery, as they were in Goodfood where Katz was most recently a former partner. Prior to opening her own incubator kitchen in the summer of 2018, which later included the retail bakery space, Katz worked in notable Manhattan kitchens, like The Boathouse in Central Park, in magazine test kitchens at Hearst and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and as a private chef. After various stints on the East End, she and her husband, fellow culinary school grad Fritz Beckmann, both took jobs at the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold, moving out east full-time.
Katz later began working on products that she could develop with local farmers, something she carried with her into Ali Katz Kitchen and hoped to expand on rather than run a retail shop full-time. Browder’s Birds of Mattituck, Feisty Acres of Southold and Deep Roots Farm of Southold are some of the local farms she works with, taking what they grow or raise to make something new, like chickens from Feisty Acres or Browder’s Birds, which is turned into a chicken stock she sells back to them as a value-added product. She has also made quiches, often 20 in one week over the summer, making dough from scratch and using eggs and vegetables that farmers bring. Pot pie is a newer offering she makes for the poultry farm.
“It’s kind of a cool way to be involved in the food community and know all of these local farmers,” Katz says of her wholesale business. “I give them back things that will make them money, things they can sell at farm stands and farmers markets.”
From sweet to savory, Katz’s homemade goods have been embedded into the local culinary scene with a warm reception. In addition to running her own shop, she wants to help other women starting their own businesses find success in the community that she had found herself welcomed into. The kitchen is rented out on various days to other bakers, including a woman making intricately decorated cakes for weddings and themed birthdays, another making gluten-free granola and a third who bakes bread.
Come fall and winter, Ali Katz Kitchen will bring back the Black Cat Supper Club pop up collaborations with local wineries like Saltbird Cellars and other labels at Peconic Cellar Door, possibly Borghese Vineyard, an Asian-inspired dinner with Beckmann and possible cooking classes. Until then, Katz will have her hair back, apron on and hands working her favorite dough.