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Sunday
Aug152010

Spy Lessons: Danny's Tutorial on How to Eat French Toast More Awesomely

If you've ever been to brunch at Calamity Jane's in Seattle, you know that while it's not officially on the menu, the Orange Almond French Toast is pretty much always offered as a special.

And boy, is it ever special. Here's a description of it:

Macrina's Colombe Pasquale bread dipped in Drambuie French Toast batter then grilled, served with a dollop of whipped cream, maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar.

That's right: even if it's written in comic sans, it still looks good. But here's something you may not have considered: how will you eat it?

Well, as Danny is about to demonstrate, there is a proper method to apply when devouring to maximize deliciousness. Here goes:

Step 1: Look. At. This.

Step 2: Unwrap butter. Place a small dollop on each slice of toast, so that by the time you butter the last slice, the butter on the first slice is melty.

Step 3: Spread butter on each slice. That's right.

Step 4: In a confident and assertive manner, pour the syrup in a crisscrossing motion from end to end of the French toast fan, to ensure even and full coverage.

Step 5: Spoon or fork a dollop of whipped cream over each slice.

Step 6: Admire handiwork (see picture, top of post).

Step 7: Dig in.

Step 8: You did it!

Step 9:Awesome overload: time to go to sleep, or maybe die, but pleasurably so.

Feel free to apply these steps for awesomeness at your favorite breakfast or brunch establishment, with substitutions as needed based on ingredients. 

Calamity Jane's, 5701 Airport Way South, Seattle; online here.

Calamity Jane's on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Aug152010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Tour of Levallois, France from Cake Gumshoe Robert

CakeSpy Note: The best part about being a professional cake gumshoe? Meeting other pastry enthusiasts and learning about their bakery adventures. What follows is a Gumshoe report of Levallois, which is just outside of Paris and dubbed "honorary 21st arrondissement", contributed by Robert N. Mayer of Salt Lake City. Who is this fella? "As a professor of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, I take my consumption seriously and believe that my findings should be validated by others.” 

This past April, CakeSpy reported having visited over the course of seven days a bakery (or other sugar‐oriented place) in each of Paris’ 20 districts (arrondissements). My first thought was that I should don my running shoes and try to perform the same feat in one day. But that would only attest to my envy.

Instead, I broke some new ground, literally. Just outside the Paris Périphérique Highway but still on the Metro line lies the city of Levallois‐Perret. Although it occupies less than one square mile, Levallois is full of street names that evoke French history (Danton, Voltaire, Victor Hugo), and, more important to me, is more densely packed with pâtisseries and boulangeries than any arrondissement in Paris proper. It also has a lively covered market on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, a pedestrian‐only street, and a quaint city hall.

It is ironic that rue Louise Michel (1830‐1905) is named after a French anarchist who sentenced to prison for leading a Paris mob in pillaging a baker's shop. That’s because rue Louise Michel is home to four fine bakeries:

Fougeret Henry, 16 rue Louise Michel

This is the archetype of a traditional, neighborhood bakery, down to the baby blue paint and paintings that surround the front door.

L’Atelier des Pains, 32 rue Louise Michel

With its original location in Courbevoie, this new bakery has taken Levallois by storm. From the front window, you can see their pastries and breads coming out of a huge, shiny over. The fruit tarts are especially good, but the lunch crowd lines up for their baguette sandwiches.

Maison Baillon, 57 rue Louise Michel

Baker Philippe Baillon has won the award for the best baguette in the Haut de Seine region three times in the last eight years. This shop in Levallois is his second, the original being in nearby Neuilly. I particularly like the well‐browned palmier.

Festival des Pains, 85 rue Louise Michel

The wide smile of the baker is almost as good as the pastries in this new shop; I zeroed in on the items with pistachios.

Of course, if you manage to escape rue Louise Michel with your sweet tooth intact, you are within two blocks of:

Boulangerie Alain Bernard, 6 place Henri Barbusse

Alain recently took over a bakery that used to attract me with its pear tart. Alain is partial to brioche dough. You practically need sunglasses to look at the brioche with its bright pink pralines.

G Jusseaume, 16, rue Henri Barbusse

OK, this is technically a traiteur rather than a patisserie, but the shop (located on the pedestrians‐only block) makes its pastries on site. I enjoyed the fruit tart shaped like a bird’s nest.

Eric Kayser, 19 rue Trébois

True, this is one of 19 locations in the Paris area, but even its chocolate chip cookie was worth trying.

Le Grenier à Pain, 53 rue du Président Wilson

Most bakeries occupy corner lots, but this one is tucked into the middle of the block. The breads are notable and change every day. I opted for a chocolate item that resembled a bouchon with its gooey middle.

If you get back on the metro at the Anatole France stop, you might stop at William Galland, 73 rue Carnot, where I learned to love the almond croissant, and Jeanne, 63 rue Voltaire.

You won’t find web sites for these (mostly) family‐owned bakeries. Nor will you hear a lot of English spoken in Levallois. It’s the real France. But the people will take the time to communicate with you if you’re willing to use whatever French you have and let them take it from there. 

CakeSpy Note: and it's a sure bet that if you try to communicate, the rewards will be sweet.

Friday
Aug132010

Dough-Eyed: Cookies and Controversy from My Dough Girl in Salt Lake City, Utah

Which would you like first? The good news or the bad news?

The good news: My Dough Girl Cookies, a bakery in Salt Lake City, makes amazingly delicious cookies. I mean, like, really good. Fat, chewy, buttery, and flavorful morsels, sweetly packaged in the cutest retro sleeves. I recently had the good fortune to try several when SLC-based Cake Gumshoes Rob and Carol came to Seattle for a visit and brought me four specimens for me and Mr. Spy to sample.

We tried the "Lilly" (lemon sugar cookie with lemonheads and lemon glaze), which was bright and sunny and -- surprise, crunchy!--from the addition of sweet-sour lemonhead candies, the "Sandy" (the special flavor of the month, with macadamia nuts, zucchini, and milk chocolate), which was an unlikely, but oddly addictive combination--

--as well as a rich, filled chocolate cookie, and what I think may have been the "Betty" (oatmeal cookie with fruit bits), which was moist, buttery, and not at all as healthy-tasting as it may sound. In a good way.

The bad news: My Dough Girl Cookies won't exist for much longer. You see, one chubby little white guy doesn't like this Utah-based bakery's name very much at all--the Pillsbury Dough Boy. As it turns out, owner Tami Cromar recently received a cease and disist" order from General Mills, saying that she'd better change the name of her bakery.  According to The Salt Lake Tribune

The national company, which owns Pillsbury, said the name is too similar to its iconic Dough Boy character and represents trademark infringement. The letter also suggests that because My Dough Girl sells frozen take-and-bake cookie dough — just like Pillsbury —the Utah product could tarnish the company’s reputation.

Rather than fight, Cromar has decided to comply with the request, which includes a gag order that forbids her to talk to news media. She referred calls and text messages from The Salt Lake Tribune to her attorney, Catherine Lake. Calls to Lake’s office also weren’t returned.

But don't despair, because there's more good news: Although the name will change, the cookies will not. As the article goes on to say,

"I have to stick to baking so cookies can still be a part of all our futures,” Cromar wrote earlier this week. “ If the Dough Girl fights, there will be no cookies."

And that would be seriously bad news.

Whatever you want to call them, you can find 'em at 770 South 300 West, Salt Lake City, Utah; online here.

My Dough Girl on Urbanspoon

Friday
Aug132010

Sweet News: High 5 Pie Opening a Retail Bakery in Seattle!

If you are foolish enough to think that Capitol Hill, Seattle can't get any sweeter--what with it being the home of Cupcake Royale, Bluebird Ice Cream, North Hill Bakery, Oddfellows Cafe, Molly Moon's, Old School Frozen Custard, and CakeSpy Shop (ok, figuratively at the latter, but still), and all--well, you are wrong.

'Cos guess what? High 5 Pie is opening a retail bakery on 12th Avenue. That's right: Dani Cone's pie genius will now be readily available at one wonderful place, seven days a week, with an expanded menu. Yes!

Want the scoop? Well, as reported on the Capitol Hill Seattle blog, 

The shop and production bakery will occupy the large corner spot of the Trace retail space that has sat empty since the building was completed in 2007. Cone is excited about the 22-foot ceilings and said the south wall will be big windows that will look into the bakery and cafe. Cone said the pie shop will also feature Fuel Coffee along with what she called a "classic pie shop" featuring dozens of varieties of pies and, yes, ice cream, too. The High 5 shop will also sell frozen pies and pie items to 'take n bake,' Cone said. According to Department of Planning records, the build-out of the shop will cost around $80,000.

As for opening date? Still undetermined, but hopefully before the end of 2010.

Basically, my suggestion is that if you're in Seattle, you should be very, very excited. And if you're not in Seattle, you should start browsing airfare.

Check out High 5 Pie here.

Friday
Aug132010

Everyone's Irish, Even in August: Whisky Maple Cupcakes Recipe

Thing I'm saddest about at this minute: I do not have a Whisky Maple cupcake from Cupcake Royale in my mouth. This is a fact that became all the more evident when I read the Seattle Weekly writeup on the delicious seasonal morsel, which is sadly available only during March. 

Happily, I uncovered the recipe in an issue of Edible Seattle, and you know what that means: you can be Irish any time you want now. And oh, how sweet to be Irish with a rich sour cream vanilla cupcakes with whisky maple buttercream. They're just as good made at home (although your frosting swirls might not be as perfect as the one shown above, which was made by Cupcake Royale!).

Here's the recipe.

Sour Cream Vanilla Cupcakes with Whisky Maple Buttercream

Adapted from Cupcake Royale

Cupcake ingredients 

  • 3/4 cup whole milk (I used half and half! heavy, but tasty)
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature 

Frosting ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup whisky (CCR uses Jameson, I used some cheap brand, I'll be honest about it)
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners (this recipe yields 18-24 cupcakes, depending on size). 
  3. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the milk, sour cream, and vanilla. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium spead until the mixture is light and fluffy, about one minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating at medium speed for a full 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add half the dry mixture, and beat until incorporated. Repeat the process again, mixing until the liquid and dry ingredients are combined, the batter thick and smooth.
  5. For traditional cupcakes, fill each lined cup 2/3 of the way full with batter. For fat crowns on your cakes, fill each cupcake liner close to the top (this will make fewer cupcakes, but bigger and awesomer ones).
  6. Bake for 22-27 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Make the frosting. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, whiskey, syrup, salt, and one cup of the confectioners' sugar together until smooth. Add the rest of the sugar bit by bit until it has reached your desired consistency (you might not use all of it). Spread generously on cooled cupcakes.

 

Friday
Aug132010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Guess what? This cake is fake. By Cakery Fakery, link below!I think Friday is a great day to waste--er, spend--time checking out links on the internet. Look, I can prove it:

The world's best Whoopie Pies, for 75 cents apiece: airfare to Chestertown, MD not included.

Things everyone loves: an underdog, and pie. This story has both.

Delightful, but certainly not delicious: The Cakery Fakery!

Something I can't stop looking at: Thomas Chung's food-meets-art Flickr photostream.

Forget Spice World: it's the dawning of the age of POP. That is to say, Pop-Tarts World!

Pittsburgh is totally sweet: Dozen Bake Shop opens a new location this week! 

Say it with Fudge: telegram meets fudge with Fudgemail (discovered via The Nibble)

So sweet: a customer chronicles her visit to CakeSpy Shop!

Totally sweet (and savory): the incredibly awesome artwork of Mike Geno!

Did you know that you can download coloring book pages I did for kids (or bored adults), at the Taste of Home website?

Poultry meets Cake--are you ready for this jelly? Red Velvet Fried Chicken.

Humble pie: A Commonplace of Pie is a sweet little book by Kate Lebo, winner of the Cake Vs. Pie Showdown!

Sweet memories: Salad dressing cake!

Thursday
Aug122010

Bar Hopping: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Topped Bar Cookies Recipe

If I were, on this very day, pressed to answer the question "what treat would you most enjoy eating until you descend into morbid obesity?" I would have a ready answer: Peanut butter and Chocolate Chip-Topped Bar Cookies.

It all happened recently while baking the "Dream Bars" from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book and realizing that--duh--I basically had none of the ingredients for the top layer, which was meant to be made up of an almond-coconut topping. So there I was, with a somewhat sad expanse of beige batter for a bar cookie base.

Turning to my pantry (OK, my cabinet), I found half a jar of old-fashioned chunky peanut butter and half a bag of milk chocolate chips. Yes! In the mix they both went, scattered irregularly on top of the batter.

The result? Something lovely and amazing. Moist blondie-esque cookie bars with pockets of gooey-crunchy peanut butter and smooth, delicious chocolate. Something you won't...be...able...to...stop...eating. And if you don't like them? No problem, I'll finish the tray for you.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip-Topped Bar Cookies

adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 jar (about a cup) peanut butter (I used chunky)
  • 1/2 bag (about a cup) milk chocolate chips

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar thoroughly. Stir in flour. Press and flatten with hand to cover the bottom of a parchment-lined oblong pan, 13x9-ish. 
  3. Bake 10 minutes, then spread with the topping (irregularly spooned globs of peanut butter and a sprinkling of chocolate chips).
  4. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then cut into bars. Makes about 20.
Wednesday
Aug112010

Battle in Seattle: A Cake Vs. Pie Party Roundup

The writeup on SLOG is better.It happened the other night at CakeSpy Shop: Cake Versus Pie. The ultimate showdown. Planned along with the food-smartypants powers of Jenise Silva and Edible Seattle, and judged by experts including pie mavens Kate and Brittany. How'd it go?

Well, that begs the question: do you want the short answer or the long answer?

I'll give you both.

Short answer: a Pie won best in show.

The long answer: as a cake devotee, I am willing to admit the pie was stellar...but I am not admitting defeat. After tasting ten of the most delicious cakes of my life, and seeing how fast the leftovers disappeared, I don't think it's quite time to throw in the towel. And I'm willing to bet that there are many others who would be willing to take part in a delicious rematch.

Now, I could get all in-depth about it and tell you about the trials and tribulations, the whos, hows, and whys.

But you know what? A bunch of other talented writers and photographers have, ah, already done it for me. For the full review, I suggest that you click over to the SLOG, where the lovely and amazing Megan Seling delivers a play by play.

You can also find a great roundup here by Alana!

Here's another roundup by Irina Vodonos!

And--most deliciously--you can find some of the recipes for the treats we enjoyed in these places (perhaps more to come?):

Oh, and you can follow the Twitter feed from the event here. 

Wednesday
Aug112010

Brownie Heaven: The Baked Brownie

Now, I don't like to talk in absolutes, but...

...without a doubt, there's definitely something wrong with you if you don't think that the Baked Brownie is the finest brownie of all.

I recently used it as the base for Mimosa Brownies, which were most excellent--but really, this is a brownie that doesn't need anything added--and for that reason, I'd like to take a few moments to celebrate the beauty that is the Baked brownie in its purest form.

This is a brownie which is fudgy and chewy but not too extreme in either direction. Each bite is redolent of chocolate, and every bite is indulgently delicious. They're perfect (but it's ok if you don't like the espresso--while I don't necessarily understand what your problem is, they still taste great without).

Here's the recipe. As you can see from the top photo, it's not only CakeSpy-beloved, but gnome-approved.

The Baked Brownie

As seen in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking  

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
  • 8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan (I like to lay down a bit of parchment too, for easy removal from the pan).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.
  4. Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.
  5. Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  6. Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.
  7. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

 

Wednesday
Aug112010

Pie + Cake + Shake = Pake Shake

This is a personal note to everyone who came to Monday's Cake Vs. Pie Party. This crust-against-crumb was a star-studded event, and you have my greatest thanks (along with co-hosts Jenise and Edible Seattle) for coming. True, a PIE was declared best in show--but it was a rather fine specimen, so I can live with this.

But today I'm here to talk about the darker side of sampling 10 pies and 10 cakes in one evening: the massive pie-and-cake sugar hangover you're bound to have the next morning. How to deal with this unique sort of sugar shock to the system?

Hair of the dog that bit you, that's how. And my suggested medicine? The Pake Shake.

Equal parts pie, cake, and shake, this beauty is inspired by both the pake and the excess of Monday's indulgent evening of tasting pie and cakes. True, it may not be the most beautiful concoction, but it's good for what ails you, a sort of bloody mary equivalent for a sugar hangover.  Keep this idea on file for the next time you find yourself sampling 10 pies and 10 cakes in one night (it might be sooner than you think).

Pake Shake (Pie-and-Cake Shake)

Ingredients

  • 1 slice pie (I used the "Rhueberry", a lattice-topped rhubarb-blueberry pie made by Wendy Sykes)
  • 1 slice cake (I used a slice of mocha cake with chocolate buttercream made by Nazla Merce)
  • 2 large scoops vanilla ice cream
  • Cream or milk, to taste

Procedure 

  1. Combine all of the above ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more milk or cream until it has reached your desired consistency.
  2. Pour into a glass, reflect on last night's revelry, and enjoy.

 

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