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Monday
Feb012010

Snack Attack: Salty and Sweet Super Bowl Brownies for Serious Eats

Super Bowl Sunday is one action-packed afternoon. There's so much going on: commercials, performances, deliciously salty snack foods, and I hear a rumor that sports are involved too.

But with all of this sensory overload, what sweet treat could possibly compete for your attention?

How about brownies so packed full of sweet and salty flavor they practically tackle your taste buds? Starting with a basic brownie recipe, I made these ones extreme by packing them chock-full of gooey caramel and dark chocolate, roasted peanuts, and salty pretzels. The sweet plays offense, pummeling your taste buds with a rich, chocolate-filled flavor, with salty bringing up the defense, with a crunch and savoriness from the peanuts and pretzels. Yes indeed, when sweet and salty team up, everyone wins.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Feb012010

Ganache and Yum: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes for February

MEMORANDUM

Date: February 1, 2010

Attn: Seattle Sweet Tooths

Re: The new Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes

Seattle sugar fiends, it has recently come to CakeSpy's attention that today marks the debut of the flavor of the month for February at all Trophy Cupcakes locations, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake. Composed of Valrhona chocolate cake filled with raspberry buttercream, the top is then dipped in a rich chocolate ganache. Now, I don't know if you realize this, but this basically means that you get two doses of frosting.

You probably did not need to be told this, but double frosting basically equals double happiness.

Conclusion? This decadent dose of deliciousness will undoubtedly make you want to sing, dance, and fall in love. Now that's the taste of true love. Happy February.

The Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake is available at Trophy Cupcakes all month long; for locations and more information, visit trophycupcakes.com.

Sunday
Jan312010

Sweet Freedom: Wheat, Egg, and Dairy-Free Figaro Bar Cookie Recipe

If pressed to name the basic building blocks of a delicious baked good, most people would probably include flour, eggs, butter, and sugar.

But not Ricki Heller, author of Sweet Freedom, a book comprised of "dessert recipes you'll love without wheat, eggs, dairy or refined sugar".

Dude. Really?

I was willing to take that challenge.

I decided to start out with familiar territory. One of the best vegan baked goods I can think of is the Vegan Oat Bar from Seattle's Caffe Ladro--a gooey, fruit-filled bar cookie which isn't just "good...for a vegan baked good" ('cos we all know there are some of those), it's just good, period. I saw echoes of the oat bar in the recipe for "Figaros", a fig bar with a dense cookie crust and crumb topping, and so I decided to try that one first.

I took some small liberties with the recipe: lacking figs I tried it out using frozen organic raspberries instead; right before baking, on whim, I melted about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and drizzled it on top of the cookie base before putting the crumbs on top. I also played around with the flour ratios--where the initial recipe called for spelt and barley flour, I subsituted the barley flour with part oat and part coconut flour (you know, for fun).

The result? Goodness, were they good. Dense, chewy and decadent, these bars didn't taste like dull suffering for health's sake at all. The natural sweetness of the berries really shone, and the bars were excellent for breakfast the following morning.

Of course, sweet freedom isn't without its cost--for my pantry, which was not equipped with the various flours, agave nectar and sunflower seeds, the recipe did throw me back about $20 (of course, I did have leftovers which could be used in the future). However, if you're looking for a slightly more virtuous baked good that won't leave you feeling at a loss, these are a great bet. And I already know what I will be trying next from the book--the "Dark and Decadent Chocolate Pate"--which features--of all things--avocado along with dark chocolate, which judging by the book's pictures yield a rich, thick slab of yum.

The book can be purchased here, and for more of Ricki's writing and adventure, check out her site, Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Figaros

Makes 12-16 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 10 ounces frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

(Note: the original recipe does not call for the frozen raspberries or peanut butter--if you want to use the original, use 10 1/4 ounces soft dried figs, cut in half with hard stems removed instead)

Cookie Base and Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour (I used light spelt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Make the filling: in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, comine the juice, agave nectar, zest and figs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cookie base and topping. IN a small bowl, whisk together oil, 1/3 cup agave nectar, and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flax and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir until you have a soft dough. Pat about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be fairly thin). Spread the fig mixture over the base, then crumble the rest of the cookie mixture over the top of the filling.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until edges are golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 12-16 squares. These freeze well.
Sunday
Jan312010

Somebunny Loves You: Sweet Love for El Conejo Bars by Woodside Bakehouse

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, but who cares when there's a Bakehouse in Woodside?

And it's there in Queens--at Woodside Bakehouse, a wholesale and custom-order operation--that magical el conejo bars are created by baker Sarah Peltier, who has worked in pastry at various NY restaurants but is currently making the bars as a second job.

What's an el conejo?

Literally translated, it means "the rabbit" -- but don't worry, no bunnies are harmed in the making of this version.  In Woodside Bakehouse's world, el conejo bars are a dense, chewy granola confection that is completely vegan.

And addictive--it's slowly but surely winning over New Yorkers. Peltier started selling them last summer at a friend's taco shop in Rockaway, and has since placed them in Rice restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and can also be found at the monthly Greenpoint Food Market (the next one is coming up on February 13, as you can see by the totally sweet flyer), where in addition to el conejo bars, there are occasionally other vegan sweets, such as packaged Valentine Cowboy Sugar Cookies.

For more information, visit the Woodside Bakehouse site; you can also find more information about the upcoming Greenpoint Food Market here.

Sunday
Jan312010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sarah Moske of Monkey Bread Bakery, Memphis TN

Why cupcakes? Well, let me defer to Sarah Moske, proprietress of Monkey Bread Bakery, a custom-order baking business with a focus on the baby-cakes based in Memphis, who cites several reasons why cupcakes take the cake:

  • They are portion perfect. Each equals about 1/2 a slice of cake.
  • They are portable and require no fork to eat.
  • They are easily personalized and versatile for any occasion.
  • Big enough to be an indulgence, but small enough to be guilt free.
  • They are DELICIOUS!!
  • Best of all you never have to share a cupcake!

Yup, that Sarah is one smart cookie. Ready to learn more about her and her baking business? Let's go:

CakeSpy: What was the last baked good you ate?

Sarah Moske: A mini chocolate raspberry tart...yummy, yum, yum!

CS: Tell me more about your business. How did you get started with Monkey Bread?

SM: Ever since I can remember I have loved to bake and help in the kitchen. After my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I realized that life is too short and deiced go after my goals in life. I got some business cards printed, had a friend build me a website, and started bringing treats to work for my co-workers to taste. I figured I would at least give it a shot and if it didn't work out, no big deal...but at least I would know that I tried. It worked and the rest is history.

CS: How did you come up with the name? What is Monkey Bread?

SM: My hubby and I both love anything that has to do with monkeys. As a young child, I used to love to go to the zoo and watch the monkeys. When I started teaching school, our class mascot was the monkey. My hubby said that if I ever had a bakery, I should call it "Monkey Bread". Monkey Bread is actually a yummy treat itself, although I do not actually sell it. In my world, monkey bread is a cupcake.

CS: Tell me a favorite cake (or baked good, or candy) memory of yours.

SM: I can remember making fudge in the kitchen with my grandmother and cookies with my mom. That always makes me smile.

CS: Do you think cupcakes will ever be "over"?

SM: I do think that cupcakes are a trend right now, but cupcakes will never be "over". They are yummy, portable, and take you back to your childhood.

CS: I'm always curious about regional specialties. What are some desserts that you would consider classic Memphis treats?

SM: Our most "Memphis" treat is the Fat Elvis cupcake. It is a banana cupcake with a chocolate hazelnut center, peanut butter buttercream and a banana chip on top :) It's a hunka-hunka yummy num-num!

CS: What are some of your goals for your business?

SM: Right now, Monkey Bread Bakery is special order only. Right now, I get the best of both worlds! I teach school for my full time job and make cupcakes on the side. Eventually I would love to open a store front.

Want more Monkey Business? To find out more (or to place an order, if you're lucky enough to be in the Memphis area) visit monkeybreadbakery.com.

Saturday
Jan302010

A-Weigh We Go: A Cake Poll and Kitchen Scale Giveaway!

Bad Idea: Obsessively weighing yourself. It leads to non-enjoyment of cake, plus you're perfect the way you are (awww).

Good Idea: Obsessively weighing your ingredients when measuring them out for baking. Why? Weighing ingredients is common practice for professional bakers, allowing precision and control over the final outcome of your sweets, so that you'll have reliable results. Don't believe it? Check it out this entry on Brown Eyed Baker, where she experimented to see some of the real differences.

And happily, the supercool Eat Smart Products has kindly offered up one of their Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scales for giveaway! Not only does it have handy functions like a tare feature which allows you to remove the weight of the container your ingredients are in, but it can measure ounces, pounds, grams and kgs -- perfect for if you're trying a recipe from one of those metric system-usin' countries.

How do you enter? It's easy! Simply weigh in (get it?) on the important question below, leaving your response in the comments section below:

Which do you prefer: pie or cake? Why?

Good luck! 

The fine print: This giveaway is open to US entrants only, please. Winner will be able to choose their favorite color scale: they're available in red, white, silver, black chrome, and white chrome. The giveaway will be up until 12 p.m. PST on Sunday, January 31st; the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Please include your contact information (email) in the comment form so that I know where to find you if you win!

 

UPDATE: THE WINNER! Congratulations to Laura from New Haven, CT who is definitely on Team Cake! Her prize has been sent out!

Thanks to everyone for participating in the cake poll!

 

Saturday
Jan302010

Sweet Art: Cuppie Cannibalism

Hey, before you get all high and mighty and act shocked, just think about it this way--cupcakes need a snack too.

Or, as Chris Farley would say, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"

Friday
Jan292010

Sweet Art: Focused for Illustration Friday

Some lament the fact that in 2.0 world, we're too focused on ourselves and disconnected as a society. You know, together but alone, that whole thing.

What's the sweetest way to come back together? How 'bout over cupcakes? I have this little theory that the popularity of cupcake shops and cafes across our sweet nation just might have something to do with the fact that they create a sense of community, as well as enjoying delicious treats. 

Of course, if things come to the point where the cupcakes are all focused (which happens to be the theme of Illustration Friday this week) on their own Facebook pages and bliggity-blogs and become disconnected...well, then we're all in trouble.

 

Friday
Jan292010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Cookie Links!

Photo credits, from top left clockwise: ClankWorks; Forty-Sixth at Grace; CakeSpy; Chic Cookie Kits

It's Friday, folks. And this week, it's all about the cookie. Here's a baker's dozen of sweet cookie-related links:

What's cuter than a button? How 'bout a cookie that looks like a button? Get your fill of this cuteness at Forty-Sixth at Grace.

Type geek meets baker chic: Helvetica Cookie Cutters by Beverly Hsu (via CraftZine)

These guinea pig cookies are sort of mousy, but nonetheless simply precious.

Hugs and kisses cookies...oh, and just about everything ever posted on Chic Cookie Kits.

...and it would be a shame not to mention Cookie Sensations , possibly the sweetest cookie book you'll ever see, by Meaghan Mountford (author of the aforementioned Chic Cookie Kits blog).

Forget Chess Pie: It's all about these chess cookies, where you can eat the board after you play!

Breakfast of champions: how 'bout some blueberry lemon cornflake cookies? (via Cookie Madness)

Because bacon's not dead yet: more breakfast of champions, by way of bacon-oatmeal-orange juice breakfast cookies.

It's no secret that CakeSpy loves Sara Snacker...but let's just consider those CandyPop cookies one more time.

Craving Cute? Sogo Bakery's Panda shortbread cookies are pretty freaking cute.

At Park 19, behold the Creme Brulee Cookie.

Love all things Lilliputian? Learn how to make your own dollhouse cookies

Need cookie cutters? Cookies in Seattle is just about the sweetest shop ever--no bigger than a closet, but packed full of every type of cookie cutter--and they have a pretty great online shop too!

Thursday
Jan282010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Interview on In Erika's Kitchen

Are you curious about the super secret life of a sugar sleuth?

Shame on you.

Just kidding. Want to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at CakeSpy.com? Check out this interview with Head Spy Jessie on the sweet site In Erika's Kitchen!

The writer, Erika, will be part of an upcoming event in NYC, wherein food bloggers get to decorate cakes with Kelly Ripa on behalf of the Ovarian Cancer Research FundFoodbuzz and Electrolux are bringing it all together--booyea!

Read the full interview here! (oh, and P.S. - you might also enjoy this sweet feature on Stickers and Donuts too!)

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