rising at 4:30 every morning and entering the kitchen still
redolent of the previous day’s cooking. By 5:00 you‘re
beginning to break a sweat as you throw yourself into your
a.m. ritual of mixing, kneading and rolling out dough. Before
the sun is up, you’re taking out of the fiery oven
the last of the croissants and placing them to cool by the
scones, muffins, bagels and Danish made the same morning.
You smooth back a stray strand of hair, remove your floury
apron and place yourself behind the glass counter displaying
the glistening array of buttery goods your hands have just
created. And you wait. You wait for everyone else’s
day to start until they drift in to purchase your wares,
exchange news and pleasantries and pay compliments to the
tradition you uphold and the art that holds you up. You
are the Dame of Tarts.
Moab’s Knave of Hearts Bakery has just such a dame,
a baker true to the Old World traditions, Robin Zank. What
inspires a baker to live this demanding life, following
such an ascetic schedule?
The answer is creative. Literally, creativity wakes Robin
up every day and beckons her to her kitchen, her sewing
table, her paints, her world.
Robin loves to create. Since Robin turned sixteen, not a
day has gone by when she hasn’t created something,
be it in the medium of food, fabric or painting. The Knave
of Hearts is a testament to her “calling in life.”
Her textile art and designs adorn the walls while the pastries,
breads and pastas act as the backbone of her enterprise.
Although the Knave is generally identified as a bakery,
it acts as a cafe, restaurant, art gallery and community
center all in one.
Robin has spent more than half her life at the Knave of
Hearts, founding the bakery in the mid-1970’s in Middlebury,
Vermont. Similar to its current location, the Knave was
housed in one of the oldest buildings in town, a charming
stone structure, just down the street from Ben and Jerry
(yes, of ice cream fame), who were early customers of the
bakery. After a decade, the Knave of Hearts was relocated
to sunny California, where it flourished for almost twenty
years before it was moved to Moab in 1997.
cornerstone of the Knave of Hearts is its fidelity to traditional
European recipes, making authentic genoise cakes, tortes,
Danish, pain au chocolat and other delectable patisserie.
Robin uses real butter and cream and respects the “tried
and true” proportions and ingredients of European
baking. She does so in part because they taste better and
in part because they work with her life philosophy of preserving
old traditions. Robin observes that too often, “old
ways are cast aside so quickly for new, modern and easier
ways - this runs contrary to my personal beliefs.”
The only alterations she makes are ones to accommodate the
ingredients available to her, especially seasonal fruits
and vegetables. The bakery serves breakfast and lunch items,
such as potato pancakes, blintzes (which are the best I’ve
ever eaten), eggplant parmesan, veggie burritos and spinach
pie. Her menu is fairly extensive considering everything
is home-made daily. She maximizes the use of fresh produce,
setting up trades with local gardeners for tomatoes, pumpkins,
peaches, herbs, and such.
Robin is attuned to the cycle of the seasons and her baking
and cooking reflect the time of year, particularly at Christmastime,
her favorite holiday. Every year, she decorates the bakery,
whose centerpiece becomes a signature Christmas tree with
thousands of ornaments that she has been collecting for
over thirty years. Her repertoire of baked goods expands
to include Stolen, Babka and Fruit Cake made with rum-soaked
organic dried fruits and she annually sets up a booth at
the MARC during the Christmas Crafts Fair. What really captures
the spirit of the season at the Knave is Robin’s good
will and generosity. With no exaggeration, she donates hundreds
of cookies and other baked goods to charitable causes and
non-profits. Not just in December, but all year round.
sense of community plays out in her desire to share her
talents and time. She sits on the board of two non-profit
organizations, Wabi Sabi and Friends of the Library. She
describes her feeling of responsibility to give back to
the community by explaining that “as an artist I feel
like I owe younger artists a hand. I try to mentor them.
I think it’s the same in business.”
This mixing of art and business explains how Robin is able
to maintain the arduous schedule of eighteen-hour days that
running a bakery and cafe demands. She claims she never
feels burnt out because she is constantly approaching her
baking as an art form, trying to elevate her skills every
day. Robin explains, “I want to be a master at what
I do” and it’s this devotion that sustains the
baker through the early morning hours when the rest of the
world sleeps peacefully in warm beds.
shortcuts and cheaper methods, Robin is a true baker, creating
not only pastries, but also a community harbor where members
feed their stomachs while replenishing their spirits. She
is the living incarnation of the central character, a woman
baker, from Maxfield Parrish’s illustrated book, The
Knave of Hearts, for which her bakery is named. The bakery
exudes a story book quality with its charming little sandstone
house, its glass-encased pastries, its whimsical and colorful
decor and its inspired baker.
The Knave of Hearts is located at 84 West 200 North and
can be reached at (435) 259-4116 and is open 7:30 a.m. until
4:00 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and 1:00 p.m. Sundays (Closed
Mondays). Breakfast prices range from $1.60 to 4.50 and
lunch from $2.50 to $5.50 (Can’t beat the prices!).
Catering is available.
Knave of Hearts
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
the butter, brown sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.
Stir in the flour. Spread dough onto greased cookie
sheet and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. While
still hot, top with the chocolate chips and nuts.
Cut into squares.