• Krystal Mack's Pantry •
Krystal Mack is a dessert whiz, small business owner, activist, and an outspoken intersectional feminist, to boot. She’s the owner of BLK //SUGAR bakery, a food and lifestyle concept from the black feminine perspective. It’s a sweet tooth’s heaven- replete with multi colored macarons, floral pies and activated charcoal brownies. In her down time from BLK//SUGAR, Krystal also works at Little Pearl in DC.
What’s more, her strong sense of identity, purpose and justice around food is palpable, and shows us the power of using food as a platform for change- whether she’s talking representation, labor issues, or access to good food. She’s the epitome of everything we #pinefor.
Step into her flavorful kitchen with us:
- Well, currently my kitchen is in transition. I’m moving my ingredients and tools for my business from one commercial kitchen to another in a month, so there are Cambros occupying the already super small space. While I would LOVE a bigger at-home kitchen, I also really love the intimacy it provides. Everything is within reach and I have learned to get creative with the space I have. The same goes for the food I make. Food is intimate to me. Outside of work, I only cook for people I truly feel connected to. Cooking for yourself and others is an act of love so I am selective with the act and my ingredients. I try to use what I have on hand so that I am not wasteful. The more I familiarize myself with ingredients I have on hand, the more confident and creative I become as a cook. Because I have to rent a kitchen for professional use, my home kitchen is my study hall but also my lab where I get to have fun and experiment. The colorful and funny artwork on the walls....the posters, trinkets, and tools all from different periods in my food journey...it all tells a story of how I got to be where I am today. It’s a really humbling reminder of how blessed I am in this moment.
- I love how food can be a vessel for so many things. Culture, memories, emotions, stories. We all need to eat to survive but personally I like to think of each meal as a celebration. There have been times when I was hungry and couldn’t afford to put together a meal, let alone one that made me feel special. Even when I could financially, I didn’t know where to begin. I started reading cookbooks, watching videos, and trying to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes. The rest is history in the making.
markets & shopping
- I start with what I need or what I’m running low on. As a baker who loves to play, I always keep certain things in my kitchen like various butters (currently I have salted and unsalted American, salted French, goats milk, and Vegan on hand) eggs (Large Conventional and Large Heirloom when I can find them locally), and fats (Bacon, Duck, and Schmaltz). If I’m running low on any of those, I start there. Then I add to my list ingredients from a recipe I want to try. I also pick up new things that sound yummy to snack on when I’m at the grocery store (recently: dried squid and cocoa coconut chips) or new fruits & veggies from the farmers market that I’ve always wanted to try but were intimidated by (most recently this was Black Salsify).
- I take inspiration from a recipe in a book I’m reading and ingredients I have on hand. I’ll thumb the index of a cookbook looking up things like chickpeas, bacon, or mustard greens and see what my options are. Then see what I’m working with ingredient wise and whether I can come up with something delicious. It’s easy to make something pretty but the question you should be asking whenever you’re about to create a dish is “Is it delicious?”. Most of the time the most delicious things I make aren’t the prettiest. And that’s fine. If the meal filled me up and I couldn’t stop thinking about it weeks after, that’s a sign it was delicious and needs to go into my notebook of recipes. I also find inspiration from my friends/industry colleagues and dinners at their homes.
- My homemade mise en place. So sauces, garnishes, butters, and spreads that could go into future dishes. Currently those are things like Cured Egg Yolks, Miso-Pecan Butter, Gochujang-Date Sauce, Golden Milk, Cereal Milk, Jasmine Pistachio Milk. At first glance, these things sound difficult to make or like a time suck but they are all very easy and can be the key to stepping up a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For example if I’m in a rush and only have time for a smoothie breakfast it’s made extra special because I can now make a Banana Smoothie with Almond Milk and Miso Pecan Butter OR a Kale Smoothie with Jasmine Pistachio Milk. Prepping is just another little gift to yourself! Also chocolate and cheese. Currently for cheese I have parmesan for a baking experiment and Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese because blue cheese! For chocolate I have Guittard Epique 70%, Valrhona Araguani 72%, Valrhona Alpaco 66%, and a white Callebaut CW2. Surprisingly I don’t actually like chocolate that much but it’s great with beer and wine.
- Pearl Barley Powder is always in my pantry. I use it to make Pearl Barley Water. It’s actually in a pitcher in my fridge right now. It’s a great hydrator thats amazing for your skin. Canned fish are my favorite because they make a great inexpensive snack. Sardines, eel, anchovies....they are great with krauts and kimchi’s (things often kept in my fridge) and are delicious on rye toast. I ALWAYS have 2 packs of Mestemacher Rye Bread at home. An open pack in my fridge and an unopened pack in my pantry (the shelf life is insane). I love this bread because it’s thin yet sturdy and good for you (yay fiber!). It’s my go to for toasts unless I’m making crostini or I need sourdough.
- Like any proud mom, I really love all of my tools the same. My Beriner (mandolin). My knives. Vintage spoons for quenelles. I have a few microplanes I love because you can never have too many lol. Bench cutter for dough and bars. My Vitamix, Excalibur, Robot Coupe, Breville Juicer, and Kitchen Aid mixer are anchor pieces of equipment in my personal and professional kitchen. There’s also my rubber spats and fish spats too....yeah it’s too much to choose lol.
- “Good and Cheap” by Leanne Brown is the foundation for a lot of my day to day cooking at home. She breaks down the recipes by cost per serving so that you can eat well on $4 dollars a day.
- “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nostrat is another great book for cooks starting out. I like to think of this book as the why when it comes to using and doing certain things in the kitchen. Like why we use certain types of salt based on crystal shape and surface area. The recipes are approachable and the illustrations are really cool.
- “Feed The Resistance” by Julia Turshen is the perfect book for this time we are living in. I love the collection of essays by those who are at the intersection of food and activism. The recipes are great for large groups and also easy after a lonnnnng day of work or resisting.
- I also love a good vintage community based cookbook. These tend to be cookbooks from the The 1960s-1990s where the recipes where contributed by members of an organization, school, or church and compiled into a cookbook to raise money. It’s really cool to read these because it gives a peek into what people were eating or held dear at that time. My favorites are “Naparima Girls High School Trinidad & Tobago Recipes 1912-1987” and the “Israel Baptist Church 1992 Cookbook” it’s just really special to be able to read about and taste a connection to my elders locally and taste classic foods from the diaspora.
to sum it up
pantry item she can't live without:
Hmmm lately it’s been garlic. BUT also salt because I have 8 different types that I use constantly! Can you tell I’m indecisive? Lol!
one or two items that are always in her fridge:
her go to inspiration cookbook:
Lately it’s been been Dinner by Melissa Clarke. I really like her approach to the last meal of the day.
her most trusted kitchen tool:
My Zwilling Chefs Knife. It’s not a fancy Japanese knife but it gets the job done and it’s the only knife I have left from my 1st job working on the line.
5 adjectives that describe her pantry style:
cluttered, diverse, flavorful, experimental, fermented
her all time favorite market:
H Mart is my very favorite. Melona honeydew melon bars, kimchi, ube, fresh tumeric, and kewpie for the win! I also love exploring the produce department and educating myself on fruits and vegetables that are new to me.
women she pines for:
@Gabrielle_Eitienne of Revival Taste Collective. She is like a sister to me. As a former line cook she throws down in the kitchen and she is just so fun to cook with.
@Shak_Simley is a force. I’ve become more vocal in views and standing up for what I believe in ever since becoming friends with Shak. She is so graceful and the type of human that we need in roles of leadership in food (and politics)!
@Turshen is one of the most authentic people I know. Her energy is just as comforting as her recipes. She is a great example of how to do what you love but also be the change you want to see. I am constantly learning from her.
@ChaniNicholas uses her talents in astrology to give others an intersectional understanding of the world we live in and how astrology plays a role in our lives and current events. I really appreciate the detail and love in her work.
Hannah Spiegelman of @aSweetHistory combines her love of history and ice cream into a simple yet delicious blog. The ingredients are thoughtfully selected for each flavor and all of the scoops are drool worthy. I’m super excited to be collaborating with her again this year on a very special project.
women made food products she pines for:
I really love @WootGranola made by my friend Gail here in Baltimore. Her flavors are SO good I love them all but lately I’ve really been into the Machu Picchu Mix and Coffee Cacao. Almond Lavender is a great starter flavor to try!
Everything Nice Brown Rice Snacks by Garden of Vegan are soooo good! It’s like a better for you rice krispy treat made with organic ingredients and unprocessed sugars. Ayo of @grdnofvegan also makes an AMAZING vegan crab cake mix that I like to use to make vegetarian crab toasts for entertaining.
I love @drinkramona and sometimes use it to make a really yummy beer spritz when I’m not sipping it straight up. It’s great for backyard bbq’s and people are always surprised to see it in a cooler. It’s just fun in every way and especially with a cute tiki straw.
@InfusedSpreads is jam company here in Baltimore and she makes jams and fruit butters with such cool flavors! Strawberry Lavender Jam, Smoked Peach Butter, and a savory Balsamic Onion Jam just to name a few. She also has a yummy Raspberry Jalapeño I really love on sandwiches with a Miso-Pecan Butter I make.
I am a VERY big fan of Neopol Smokery. Barbara and her son Dorian, the owners of @neopolsmokery, have been so supportive of BLK//SUGAR and all that I do. It’s great to have a business I’ve longed admired as a customer be supportive of my ventures. I love their whole Smoked Trout and the wide variety of Smoked Salmon. Ginger, Green Tea, Cranberry....they’re all delicious!
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