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Monday
Mar012010

Sweet Liaisons at Maison Berthillon, Paris


So, in Paris there is this famous old ice cream shop called Berthillon on the Rue Saint Louise en L'ile, which, if you've never been there, is pretty much center-city and just about the Frenchiest little street you'll ever walk down. 

This place is hardly a secret--it's mentioned in all manner of guidebook and website--but that's ok, because awesome like this needs to be shared with the world.

Oh, Berthillon. 

On Dorie Greenspan's list of "The Paris Ten: Must-Tastes", she says

I know ice cream isn't the first food that jumps to mind when you think of Paris, but it would be a true pity if you went all the way to Paris and missed a scoop from Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, Paris 4).  No one knows how Berthillon does it (and they're not telling), but they make ice cream with the deepest, truest flavors ever churned.  Getting ice cream from the shop is a pleasure - when the shop is open: for reasons unfathomable, Berthillon closes in August, the peak of ice-cream season.  Luckily, many shops sell Berthillon and they're so proud to do so that they post signs on their doors saying it's their scoop of choice.

And after having visited, it's a delight to say that they're not just coasting on their reputation: they get the job (that being making ice cream) done, and they get it done right. The ice creams are unbelievably creamy, and full of rich, deep flavor that is assertively, but not excessively, sweet. The attention to detail is phenomenal--the salted caramel ice cream is flecked with red sea salt; the pistachio is redolent with a rich nuttiness, and studded with actual pistachios; the coconut is an absolute knockout of rich creaminess. The cones even taste good! 

The ice cream may have been cold, but it certainly warmed this spy team's hearts and appetites.

Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004 Paris, France; online at berthillon.fr.

Monday
Mar012010

Seeing Green: Irish Whiskey Maple Cupcakes all March Long at Cupcake Royale

March is in like a Lion at Cupcake Royale, where their flavor of the month is bound to make the masses roar with good cheer: Irish Whiskey Maple Cupcakes!

Here's the 411, direct from Cupcake Royale: 

It’s March 1...and you know what that means: Jameson Irish Whiskey Maple cupcakes are back at Cupcake Royale! In keeping with our mission to make Seattle’s most local cupcake, the March cupcake of the month is made from local ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter from Medowsweet Dairy and specially milled Shepherd’s Grain cake flour from Shepard’s Grain farmers in Eastern Washington.

But don't hesitate--in this spy's experience, the flavor of the month is usually first to disappear from the bakery case on most days! To ensure availability, call ahead.

Available all March long at the four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and contact info, visit www.cupcakeroyale.com. Of course, you can keep up to date with their goings-on at legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com and via Twitter.

Sunday
Feb282010

Shockingly Delicious: Legay Choc, Paris

So, CakeSpy and Company (myself, Mr. Spy, and friends Nicole and Ramon) just packed up and went to Paris for a week (It's OK to be jealous. I would be if the roles were reversed). We rented an apartment in the Marais, and upon meeting with the rental agent who gave us the keys and let us in, the first pressing question about the neighborhood was posed: "Quelle est la meilleur pâtisserie?"

Without skipping a beat, the response was "Legay Choc". Now, this kind of sounded like he was saying "the gay shock", but who am I to argue about a name when there is the promise of delicious pastry ahead?

And within five minutes, we were there. And Legay Choc, as it turned out, was tiny and adorable.

What did we get? So glad you asked.

A croissant, which was buttery, flaky, and tasted just how a croissant should;

a light and fluffy sweet demi baguette of briochelike dough studded with dark chocolate bits;

but the winner of the pastry round? Sans doute, the Roulé Cannelle (it translates to "cinnamon roll". I looked it up). It looks like a palmier, but it is really so much more. The pastry dough is coated in a sweet mixture of caramelized butter, sugar and cinnamon which gives it a tantalizing taste and crunch; it is harmoniously matched by a smattering of raisins which add little bursts of sweetness and soft texture to the mix. 

And as a side note, the employee  was extremely cute and nice--he somehow managed to not wince at my rusty gallic-speak, even when I accidentally pronounced "cannelle" as "canelé", which any French person can tell you is a different thing entirely.

Legay Choc gets a thumbs up, way haute.

Legay Choc, 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at legaychoc.fr.

Saturday
Feb272010

Sweet Harmony: Opera Cake From Dalloyau, Paris

Dalloyau in Paris is renowned for their Gateau Opera, and I'm here to tell you why.

But before I do that, how about a little backstory on the baker behind the cake?

Dalloyau was founded in 1802 by Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau. He was no stranger to fancy food--both his father and grandfather had worked in royal kitchens. However, he was a visionary in that he was able to forecast that with the revolution coming and the end of court life, there would be a rising interest in food from the middle and upper classes--and he was there to feed them, with his concept of a "maison de gastronomie" which specialized in takeaway dishes that could be prepared by cooks.

Well, the concept certainly took off, and Dalloyau began to create quite a nice niche for itself. And pastry and sweets were a big part of it--according to the Dalloyau website, in 1883, founder Jean-Baptiste's great grandson, Achille Henri Dalloyau created the first modern ice cream store--and established the pastry union.

And as for the Opera cake? Well, according to an article in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas,

The elegant opera cake premiered as the Clichy, introduced by Louis Clichy, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Years later, the renowned Parisian patisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as L'Opera. This classic gateau is composed of exquisitely thin layers of biscuit viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The top of the cake is iced with a very thin chocolate glaze, creating a pleasantly firm texture. This cake is traditionally square or rectangular with the sides of the cake exposed to reveal its tempting layers.

And Dalloyau's storied version is very, very good. The rich coffee flavor infuses every bite, adding a deep, dark layer of flavor to every other piece of it: the biscuit, the chocolate, and the rich, smooth buttercream. Not to get too poetic about it, but this is sort of the kind of dessert that makes you want to close your eyes and say "mmmm" for a very long moment.

Today, Dalloyau today is comprised of over 500 employees, counting amongst their ranks "97 cooks, 100 pastry cooks, chocolate makers, confectioners, 4 ice-cream makers and 4 bakers"--all the better to make more Gateau Opera to share with the world.

Gateau Opera from Dalloyau, available at Dalloyau boutiques and cafes; for more information, visit dalloyau.fr.

Saturday
Feb272010

An Educaketion: An Oscar-inspired Battenberg Cake for Serious Eats

Really, Battenberg Cake is a perfect food analogy for the film An Education.

It starts out with an unlikely pairing—only instead of May-December lovers, it's two cakes, one a light, girly pink; the other a rich, refined Madagascar vanilla (which in my version includes worldly splash of amaretto).

And like the film's main characters, both flavors breathe new life when put together. You get a delicious shot of sweetness from the pink cake paired with the intensity of the amaretto-infused cake. It's beautifully rounded out by a thick slather of preserves (and, if you're feeling decadent, a smear of buttercream frosting), all blanketed in a rich layer of marzipan.

Of course, unlike the film, you don't have to take the bitter with this sweetness. Dramatic, layered with sweet subtleties, and ever-so-British: consider this An Educaketion.

For the full writeup and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Friday
Feb262010

Mac Attack: Macarons at McDonalds in Paris

It may be the home of Le Big Mac, but this Mac Attack has nothing to do with burgers. It's macarons, friends, and for better or worse, if you go to Paris, you can get them at McDonalds. 

Does this mean Laduree and Pierre Herme are in trouble? Is the MacDo Macaron a sort of death knell for the fancy French cookie, a surefire sign that they have jumped the shark?

I can't say for sure as I didn't try them, but when I happened upon this case on my recent Paris trip I couldn't resist capturing the moment.

Photo taken at the McDonalds at the Louvre; it was also featured as the Serious Eats Photo of the Day!

Friday
Feb262010

Sweet Art: Perspective for Illustration Friday

When you think of perspective in art, usually the first inclination is to think of the visual point of view. But sometimes the point of view of the artist is just as interesting: case in point, Frida Kahlo. She was a fearless painter, not afraid of painting her emotions or her unibrow. And I hear that she made a mean pan de muerto as well, so that makes her a-ok in my book.

And it makes her (in cupcake form, natch) a perfect fit for this week's Illustration Friday theme of Perspective. This is a painting I did as a custom request--I think the unibrow is quite becoming on Cuppie.

Friday
Feb262010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Emily of The Divine Cupcake

What happens when a midwife and a sound engineer decide to open a cupcake business? No, it's not the plot line of the latest reality show (although perhaps it should be)--it's the story of The Divine Cupcake, a custom-order cupcake business in Eugene, Oregon which is upgrading to retail storefront set to open on March 5. Want to know more? Here's an interview with proprietress Emily Downing-Moore.

CakeSpy: You are also a midwife. Do you ever offer combo specials--say, delivery and a dozen cupcakes?

Emily Downing-Moore: I wish! Maybe if I was in a small private practice, but as of now I'm in a group practice, delivering around 50-60 babies a month between us, so that would be a lot of cupcakes to coordinate! A lot of our women are also loyal cupcake customers though!

CS: How does it feel to be making the jump from custom order bakery to retail storefront?

EDM: It feels awesome! It's been our dream since we started the business, and we are so excited that its grown to a point where we can make the leap. I'm most excited to be able to offer people a variety of flavors, because up to this point if you ordered from us it was one flavor per dozen.

CS: Are your offerings going to change at all with the transition?

EDM: Yes! We will be able to offer more variety of flavors and we will also be offering Organic espresso, teas and drinking chocolate. We have a huge list of cupcake flavors to start experimenting with now that we have a bigger kitchen! We will also be making specific tea-cupcake and coffee-cupcake menus so people can see what drinks go with specific flavors the best.

CS: Because it's the question that everyone asks me, I'm curious about your response: why cupcakes?

EDM: We get asked this all the time as well! We usually say why not?! Everybody loves cupcakes! We chose them because they are fun to make, and the creativity you can infuse into cupcakes is endless. They are the perfect size dessert, and there is no better feeling than seeing people's face light up with a huge smile when they seem them.

CS: What is the first cake you remember baking?

EDM: Chocolate, of course!

CS: If you had to pick a flavor that you'd say is "very Eugene"...which would it be?

EDM: I asked Eugene what flavor they thought was "very Eugene" and the list was hilarious. I actually meant what flavor off the menu but you should check out the facebook page for all the responses. Hilarious! From that list it looks like I need to make a blackberry & a hazelnut cupcake. If I had to pick one from the current menu, I'd say the Electric Pumpkin. The name catches the eye of everyone, and they always ask me what makes it "electric." You can decide on your own why I might say it's the most "Eugene", but really... there's only food ingredients in it!

CS: Can gluten free cupcakes really be delicious?

EDM: Yes! However, the texture will always be different from a wheat cupcake, so as long as you can eat it without the expectation of that being the same, the flavors are delicious. Lemon is my favorite!

CS: Any special events for opening day?

EDM: Free Cupcakes, Live Music & the Emerald City Roller Girls will be skating around the parking lot.

Want more? Luckily, The Divine Cupcake is all over the interwebz. Check them out on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and on their website. And if you're lucky enough to live in the Eugene area, hit 'em up starting on their opening day, March 5; the retail storefront is located at 1680 W. 11th Avenue in Eugene, OR.

Friday
Feb262010

Cinematic Sweets: Inglourious Custards for Serious Eats

In the film Inglourious Basterds, a group going by the same name is set on taking down an evil regime in a blaze of glory. It's pretty intense.

And should you desire something intensely delicious as you watch, I couldn't imagine a more enjoyable treat than these Inglourious Custards.

These mini custards are an ideal cinematic snack: perfect portions of smooth, creamy vanilla custard in lightly crunchy phyllo cups which act as a vessel (a forgiving one, at that, if your custard hasn't set completely) as well as adding taste and flavor contrast. They're compulsively eatable: in fact, they go down so easily you'll be ready for a sequel in no time.

For the full scoop and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Feb242010

Go Nuts: Peanut Butter Blondies with Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post and recipe from Cake Gumshoe Julia, a 26 old wife, exercise fiend, and baking enthusiast. Her writing can be find at her site, Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body.

 Do you love peanut butter?

Did you know I love peanut butter?

I mean LOVE peanut butter. Not in a romantic way, but in a mouth watering, makes my taste buds sing kinda way. As I am getting older, not old, just older, I'm growing out of the idea that a dessert has to be based around chocolate. I now understand that a freaking amazing, mouth watering, makes you jump in the air with excitement, dessert can be based on something other than chocolate: peanut butter.

Saturday morning I woke up super early with lots of excitement and anticipation about what I would bake that day--and I realized it must be Blondies. And I could add peanut butter and make them extra delicious. I felt content with my decision. And after you make these, you will understand why I was so content. I can't say I am in love with these, because I am in love with my husband (ahh, how romantic of me). But I can say, with confidence, that these are one of my all time favorite desserts.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Recipe adapted from My Kitchen Addiction

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Frosting

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

 Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly until smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter.
  4. Allow to cool while combining the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt – in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the brown sugar and peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dry ingredients, and stir to create a thick, smooth batter.
  8. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan.
  9. Sprinkle with the milk chocolate chips, lightly pressing them into the batter.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
  11. Mix all the frosting ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer. Beat for about 2-3 minutes; until all the ingredients are incorporated. Spread onto the cooled blondies.
  12. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Cut into 15 large squares, serve and enjoy with a glass of ice cold milk!

These are rich, dense, and simply delicious!

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