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Monday
Mar292010

Hot (Cross) Buns at Essential Baking Company, Seattle

Want some hot buns?

Well, if you're in Seattle, you're in luck, because Essential Baking Co. has got hot buns--hot cross buns, that is--aplenty. Per an update from EBC:

Easter is this weekend and Hot Cross Buns are a traditional English Easter food historically enjoyed on Good Friday. The Essential Baking Company's  legendary, slightly sweet version features a rich, velvety crumb, currants and the trademark glaze topping. Hot Cross Buns are perfect warmed and served with breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea.

EBC's legendary Hot Cross Buns will be available at select grocery stores in the greater Seattle area and The Essential Bakery Cafés in Wallingford (1604 North 34th Street - 206-545-0444) and Madison (2719 East Madison -206-328-0078) now through June 15. 

For more information on how you can get your hot (cross!) buns for Easter, visit essentialbaking.com.

Sunday
Mar282010

King Corn: Cornmeal Blueberry Cookie Bars

So, when I first encountered a review copy of the book Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, I have to confess, I had my doubts. The concept--a book of recipes for baked goods (both sweet and savory) using whole grain flours sounded vaguely...virtuous.

But once assured that they still did include plenty of sugar and butter, I figured it was worth a try.

And after looking through the book (and lovingly, at some of the pictures), I decided to try the cornmeal blueberry cookies. Why? Well, for one thing, I like cookies, and I like corn muffins, and these kind of sounded somewhere in between. Plus, I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand.

Well, I veered a little from the original recipe: for one thing, I used frozen instead of dried blueberries, dehydrating them by baking them at 200 degrees farenheit for a few hours to dry them out; and second, instead of cookies I made my batch as bars, using an 8x8-inch pyrex baking sheet. Because I had dehydrated the berries and they weren't completely dried, I placed them on top of the batter rather than mixing it in; however, even with these changes, the yield was a very dense and pleasing bar, like cornbread meets sugar cookie, with a nice tart edge from the berries.

Here's the recipe.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookie Bars

Adapted from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

Dry mix:

  • 2 cups corn flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used Secret Stash Sea Salt's Pistachio cherry)

Wet Mix:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I had frozen; I baked them for a couple of hours at 200 degrees to dehydrate them)

Finish:

1/2 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)

Procedure

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Rub your baking pan with butter.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just barely combined, about 20-30 seconds (it's very pretty to watch). Scrabe down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk (and if you're using dried, add the blueberries now). Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.
  5. Spoon your batter (it will be thick) into your prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to even out the top. Sprinkle the dehydrated blueberries and finishing sugar on top. (or, if you want to make cookies, pour the sugar into a bowl scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form into balls, and set on a plate; dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly; arrange the balls on baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them--balls that don't fit on the first baking sheet can be dipped in the sugar and chilled til ready to bake).
  6. Bake the bars for somewhere between 20-30 (possibly a few more) minutes depending on your pan size (more minutes for a taller pan, less for a shallower pan); (20-22 for cookies), rotating the sheet at about 10 minutes. The bars will puff up and crack at the top and are ready to come out when the sugar crustis golden brown and the cracks still faintly yellow.
  7. These bars / cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or the same day. But, if you must, they'll keep in an airtight container (at room temperature) for up to 3 days.
Friday
Mar262010

Cake Byte: Various Sweet Goings-On for CakeSpy

OK, sweeties, if you're not a fan of shameless self-promotion, maybe you should click over to another awesome site (like this one or this one or this one)--because this week's Baker's Dozen is dedicated to CakeSpy, and all of the exciting things going on. But if you're a lover and not a hater, here are just some of the reasons why it's awesome to be me right now:

A feature in Sunset Magazine! Yes, Sunset Magazine (pictured above)! I take no credit for this--it all goes to Rebekah Denn, who has always "gotten" the whole CakeSpy thing (maybe she can explain it to my grandma, bless her soul, who always asks what it is again I do for a living, and always reminds me that when she was young, she walked uphill five miles each way to school--sometimes in the snow--and that there were none of these cupcake shops, but rather bakeries that charged five cents for an entire crumb cake?)

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards! (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! 

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! No, this is not a typo--this was exciting enough to put twice! Like, OMG!

An amazing feature on the Conde Nast Traveler Blog (one step closer to the New Yorker! Are you reading this, Françoise Mouly?);

A feature on NW Source about the new shop - that means it's official!

Features on the CHS and Central District News blogs about the new shop and Saveur Nomination, too -- double, triple official! (thanks, jseattle and seadevi!)

An interview on Alphabet Soup with the wonderful Jama Rattigan;

A feature as a Crafty Superstar on Cut Out + Keep;

A great time muraling and cake eating with the coolest girls in Minneapolis;

Delicious roundups of foods both sweet and savory enjoyed in Paris for Serious Eats;

Being part of a panel discussion on how to be a blog queen;

Numerous (!) features on the amazing Not Martha and Bakerella;

Enjoying a delicious tutorial on macaron-making by the inimitable Tartelette (I know, I owe you more info about this one!);

The honor of being part of a great Foodbuzz, Electrolux, Kelly Ripa, and Cake Boss event to raise money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Research;

Doing artwork for (and being asked to be a cupcake-tasting judge at!) Seattle's first CupcakeCamp!

And yeah, this is very nerdy, but I got an "@" reply on Twitter  from Dorie Greenspan. Dorie Greenspan! My heart was a-twitter (pun intended) about that one for days, people. But then again, her book Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops was what I took to Paris as my guidebook, so it makes sense, doesn't it?

 ...oh, and you know what? I'm also taking over a gallery in Seattle. CakeSpy headquarters will soon be located at 415 E. Pine Street, Seattle--I have purchased Bluebottle Art Gallery! And there's an awesome "meet the new owner" party this Saturday, and an awesome opening with Berkley Illustration on April 8.

OK, it's true, that was way more than a Baker's Dozen! But what can I say--life is sweet. Thank you everyone for helping me making it all happen, and for making it so fun to tell people what my job is when they ask.

Thursday
Mar252010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Bubblecake Bake Shop, Roanoke VA

Photo c/o the Bubblecake Bake Shop Facebook PageUh oh. It's happened again--I've been hit by a sweet cupid's arrow, and the object of my affections? Bubblecake Bake Shop in Roanoke, Virginia.

CakeSpy reader Haley alerted me to this source of sweetness in the Mid-Atlantic, saying

I sadly didn't have my camera with me, so I didn't get any pictures of the cupcakes or the store, but were they both adorable! The place has a pink front door, a front lawn with the cutest furniture, and a covered patio on the backside of the store.

but the cutness doesn't end at the decor--oh no. Their wares are fresh and sweet--as Haley continues,

I couldn't rave more about the cupcakes though! They were all fresh, most were still on baking pans. My friend got me a twelve pack... they were all chocolately, moist, and delicious.

But the highlight?

BROWNIE CUPCAKES, exuse my caplocks, but I was complete suprised. I thought I was eating a normal chocolate cupcake, and what do you know.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that Bubblecakes prides itself on giving you a free cupcake for your birthday--their white/buttercake flavored with strawberry or blueberry icing with a happy birthyday M&M on top.

Oh, Bubblecake Bake Shop, you had me at hello.

Curious? Bubblecake Bake Shop has two Roanoke locations; find directions and more information on their website, bubblecake.com. They're also on Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday
Mar242010

CakeSpy's 13 Sweetest Discoveries in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

You may not know this, but Minneapolis and St. Paul are totally sweet. And this isn't meant in a "totally awesome, hip and artistic" sort of way, although that is true too--this is to say that the serious sweet tooth will have plenty to keep busy while visiting the Twin Cities. Here is a baker's dozen of some of the sweetest things (mostly, but not all, edible) which I encountered--both eaten and reported by trusted suggestion--on my too-brief visit:

Art: Cake Eater Bakery

The sweetest art in Minneapolis? The pastry-inhabited mural I did for Cake Eater Bakery, duh! Read about it here. 2929 E 25th Street, Minneapolis; cakeeaterbakery.com.


Cake: Cake Eater Bakery

Noticing a trend? Well, granted, it was where I was muraling, but their cakes are also magical. The "banana split cake"--a tantalizing combination of rich, dense banana cake topped with creamy frosting and chocolate drizzle (pictured top), could probably knock banana bread out flat without looking back; even the vanilla is delicious. Oh, and have I mentioned they make Special K Bars, too? 2929 E 25th Street, Minneapolis; cakeeaterbakery.com.

Boozy Bubble Tea: Jasmine 26

Bubble tea has its merits, but it makes you feel even more buoyant when it's got some buzz. Say hello to Jasmine 26, where their bubble tea has an added somethin': ah, alcohol. It's intoxicating. 8 E. 26th Street, Minneapolis; jasmine26.net.

Buns: Isles Bun & Coffee

 It is with extreme sadness that I confess that I didn't actually visit myself, but based on the trusted feedback of other CakeSpy associates, I am certain I can't leave this establishment, known for making cinnamon rolls not only the size of your head but actually far bigger, it off the list. Just look at the two most popular items on their menu:

  • Cinnamon Buns Our famous Cinnamon Buns made fresh from scratch every day, topped with an unlimited amount of delicious cream cheese frosting.
  • Puppy Dog Tails ™ Named by the nursery school children next door, our cinnamon twists are easy to eat and less intimidating- making them a customer favorite.

Nom nom nom! Isles Bun & Coffee, 28th & Hennepin in Uptown, islesbun.com.

Calorie Free Sweets: Mitrebox Framing Studio

Sometimes you want to have--or share--some sweetness that won't make you fat. (it's ok every now and again to say no to real buttercream. I'll forgive you). For those off days, hit up Mitrebox Framing Studio, where they have a stunning array of sweet gifts and a lot of dessert-themed stationery items. 213 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis; mitreboxframing.com.

Chocolate: B.T. McElrath

At Minneapolis-based chocolatier B.T. McElrath, one of their signature items is called the "Prairie Dog", which consists of milk chocolate with butter toffee pieces, toasted almonds and sea salt. Really, does more have to be said? Available at various locations; I picked mine up at the Seward Co-Op; online at btmcelrath.com.

Cheesecake Heaven

In a world of cupcakes, Muddy Paws creates custom cheesecakes, and in flavors like Snickers, Honey Vanilla, and Key Lime. I salute you, Muddy Paws. Just gaze at the Snickers cheesecake photo from their website (above), would you? Available at various locations; online at muddypawscheesecake.com.

Ice Cream Experience: Izzy's Ice Cream

Undecided? At Izzy's, they've got you covered: They offer something called "The Izzy Scoop" wherein you get one healthy scoop of ice cream topped with a baby-scoop of the second flavor you'd been debating or wanted to try. There is another word for this: it is called genius. It is adorable too! 2034 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul; izzysicecream.com.

Nanaimo Bars: French Meadow Bakery

A western Canadian treat in the Midwest? Yes, it's true: I was surprised (and delighted) to find one of my favorite treats, Nanaimo Bars, at French Meadows, an organic bakery which serves up soups and sandwiches along with their sweets. Their Nanaimo bar has a perhaps slightly less custardy, but no less buttery, middle layer; the top is chocolate, melt-in-your-mouth bliss, and the bottom crust a sturdy coconut-studded chocolate. Various locations; online at frenchmeadow.com.

Old School Pastries: A Baker's Wife

When a bakery has been in the same spot and doing the same thing for over 50 years, either they're doing something right, or they're connected to the mob. Well, based on the deliciousness factor of the several pastries I sampled from here, including a sticky bun, doughnuts and a fancy-ish pear tart, it's definitely the former that has made this institution beyond reproach. 4200 28th Ave S., Minneapolis; more here.

A Baker's Wife's Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon


Pretzel-Shaped Mystery Pastry: Turtle Bread Company

Turtle Bread Company has an absolutely delectable treat which looks like a pretzel, but tastes like an amalgamation of butter cookie, almond croissant, and sweet pie crust. That is to say, best breakfast ever. Various Minneapolis locations; online at turtlebread.com.


Sandwich Cookies: Cocoa & Fig

Upon hearing that Cocoa & Fig was home to some of the finest macarons in Minneapolis, I had to check it out: but what I ended up getting was the Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich. And oh, what a memorable one it was: cakey cookies sandwiching a sweetly piped dollop of rich cream cheese frosting. Oh, yes. Retail location at Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level, Saks Wing, 651 Nicollet Mall; cocoaandfig.com.

Unexpected Sweetness: Birchwood Cafe 

Right down the street from Cake Eater Bakery was a delicious oasis: Birchwood Cafe. Though most probably know it for their savories (sandwiches and well-made plates of fresh, affordable fare), they boast a pretty mean bakery case too, featuring pies, huge cream puffs, and cookies. 3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; online at birchwoodcafe.com.

Honorable mention (not all sweet, but all totally awesome): The regional specialty often called Jucy Lucy which is a cheese-filled burger (I sampled the version at Shamrock's/The Nook in St. Paul), Fried Cheese Curds (sampled at the same); Dunn Bros. Coffee, and of course, the Doubletree Cookie at the Hotel Minneapolis. Hardly a Minneapolis specialty but they get me every time.

Tuesday
Mar232010

Warm Feelings for Frost Doughnuts, Mill Creek WA

They say (and by they, I mean me) that bad things happen when you leave the city.

However, I was proven wrong--so wrong--when I was recently rewarded by venturing out of Seattle to visit Frost Doughnuts. It was beyond due--I mean, after hearing about their fancy doughnuts in flavors like Red Velvet from such trusted sources as Savory Sweet Life and Cookbook Chronicles, not to mention my go-to sources for all things sweet, Denise and Nick, I knew I had to visit.

Though there were a few grumblings as we made our way outside of the city into a suspiciously Anytown-looking sort of main street, all of this ceased the moment we entered the doors.

The first thing that hits you at Frost? That unmatched, beautiful, grease-meets-yeast-meets-sugar smell of doughnuts. You are breathing doughnut air from the moment you enter. But not in a gross way. In an "I wish I could live here" sort of way.

Next, you're probably going to notice the case. Like, OMG, what a case. Not only is it filled with row after row of delicious and creative flavors--but it's topped by rows of little parfait cups filled with doughnut holes and frosting for those on the run:

and flanked on the side by the most beautiful piece of decor I've ever seen: the doughnut floral arrangement.

But what about those doughnuts? They look fancy, but how do they taste?

Doughnut purists may argue that doughnuts aren't meant to be gourmet, but they have probably never tasted a fancy Wedding Cake or Red Velvet Cake doughnut from Frost. They both equal very delicious eating experiences, with moist, flavorful cake topped with a mountain of frosting. You may be inclined to say the frosting is overkill, but I assure you, it's not. It's kind of like a fancier, inverted Vanilla Kreme doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts (my favorite flavor!) but on a cake doughnut.

And the German chocolate cake and vanilla-vanilla varieties both got rave reviews too.

The verdict? Bad things may happen when you leave the city, but good things happen when you end up at Frost Doughnuts in Mill Creek.

Frost Doughnuts, 15421 Main Street, Mill Creek; online at frostology.com. Oh, and per the website, more locations are coming soon. Take over the world, Frost! Please!

Tuesday
Mar232010

Sweeter than Preserves: Cupcakes in a Jar from Cupcake Carousel

Cupcakes in a jar are basically the best thing ever. They're cute, they're a delightful novelty, they come in reusable packaging, and they ship amazingly well. And--bonus!--shipping them in a jar not only protects the cake but seals in the moisture. Yes indeed--I'm firmly convinced that this is the way to go when shipping cupcakes.

But if you're not into that whole DIY thing (don't worry, it's ok) there's someone who will do it for you: Cupcake Carousel, a custom-order "we will ship cupcakes in a jar for you" business based in Madison, WI. 

Recently owner Sarah, an avid baker who has "been baking since I was pretty much old enough to stand", citing that "Ever since burning my fingers on my easy bake oven, I was hooked" sent a batch of these sweet cakes over to the CakeSpy headquarters for us to sample--this was a hard task, but we put ourselves to it with due diligence.

First off, the parcel opened to sweetly wrapped rows of cupcakes in mason jars--everything was very secure. 

and each little jar came tied with a cute ribbon and--this kills me--a mini spoon! (see top picture for a visual) I may or may not have cooed a little.

Opening the jar, the cupcakes had fared amazingly well through the shipping--the frosting was hardly smudged, thanks to the firm bases and protective glass layer encapsulating each one.

And even after several days of transit time and a two days of refrigeration (they arrived while I was still in Minneapolis), they were still surprisingly moist. Not as moist as if I ran over for a just baked treat from the local bakery, but amazingly moist for cakes that had been baked several days before--and, importantly, not stale tasting. 

For me though, the standout was the chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream: 

rich chocolate cake topped with a healthy dollop (and middle layer! yes!) of a very buttery and silky buttercream, sweetly flecked with little bits of madagascar vanilla bean.

To order, visit the Cupcake Carousel website; for more info on the day-to-day goings-on, check out the Cupcake Carousel blog!

Tuesday
Mar232010

State of the Tarte: The Tarte Fruits Rouges, Rhubarbe from La Boulangerie Julien, Paris

What's sweet, tart, rich, and exceedingly attractive?

No, we're not talking about some celebutante here, we're talking about something with staying power: the delicious rhubarb tarte from La Boulangerie Julien in Paris.

Now, deciding on this sweet treat was no easy feat--just look at some of the other offerings:

Oh, bébé.

But ultimately it was the tarte that we selected, and were we ever rewarded: it was practically perfect in every way.

Starting with a sweet and sour-tart mix of assorted fruits, heavy on the rhubarb, the filling was perfectly paired with a flaky, thick, and very, very, very buttery crust. Its bright taste made a dull winter day bright--if you find yourself in Paris anytime soon (please, take me with you!), I'd highly suggest making a stop at one of the three Maison Julien locations for a taste of this delight.

La Boulangerie Julien, 3 locations (we visited the one at rue St Martin); for directions and more, visit their site at boulangeriejulien.com.

Monday
Mar222010

Sweet Art, Sweet Prize: A $50 Gift Card Giveaway

 

Are you ready to win a totally sweet prize?

Sweet Cuppin Cakes Bakery & Cupcakery Supplies has once again kindly offered up a $50 gift certificate to one lucky winner! I'm sure you'll have no trouble putting it to good use on cute cupcake and baking accessories: they've got some fantastic cupcake liners, sprinkles and other garnishes, and display items too!

How do you put yourself in the running? It's easy: just submit a drawing of a cupcake, cake, cookie, or pastry.

Nope, you don't have to be a cupcake artiste -- or even very artistic at all, because the winner will be chosen at random, not by merit! (Although we may give a shout-out to some of our favorites!)

It can even be a stick figure cupcake, an MS paint cookie. Or even just supply a link to some favorite dessert-related artwork by someone you love. We just want to see some totally sweet art! Feel free to link to a picture that is on a blog, flickr page or even via Twitter--just be sure to leave a comment telling us where we can find it so your name can be entered!

Since the winner will be receiving a gift card, this one is open to anyone, anywhere; you might want to browse their shop in the meantime to pick out what you'd get, or, you know, just to shop! The cake poll will close at 12 p.m. PST on Wednesday, March 31 (goodbye, March!). Good luck!

Monday
Mar222010

Spring in Your Step: Springtime Cutout Sandwich Cookies for Serious Eats

In case you couldn't tell by the proliferance of Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and pastel-hued jelly beans in grocery stores, Easter is coming.

Now, it's not to say that I don't enjoy these adorable seasonal sweets, but when push comes to shove, I simply prefer baked goods. So, in an effort to get a piece of that pastel-hued cuteness while also enjoying a delicious, buttery, and substantial sugary treat, I've created these Springtime Cutout Sandwich Cookies.

These were made using an adorable Springtime Linzer Cookie kit I found at Cookies, a thimble-sized shop chock full of all manner of cookie cutters in Seattle, but I veered a bit from the traditional Linzer cookie construction. These sweet sandwiches start with a buttery sugar cookie cutout recipe, filled with lemon curd for a sweet and rich zing, and topped with pastel sugar for a sweet springtime palette.

For the full writeup and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

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