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Monday
Aug242009

Plymouth Rocks: The Story of the Jumble for Serious Eats

Jumbles
Have you ever been curious about what the pilgrims ate on the Mayflower? 

Well, you're in for a treat: check out the writeup I did for Serious Eats about the Jumble, one of the first cookies that made it over to the US from the old world. Jumbles originally gained popularity because of the fact that they kept amazingly well on sea voyages (although undoubtedly they became pretty dense and rocklike by the end of the trip!). These days they've evolved into a soft, moist drop cookie with unlimited flavor variations. You can more about one of our nation's oldest cookies--as well as get a delicious recipe for a soft, spicy, frosted version (complete with mini candy rocks as a shout-out to Plymouth Rock!), on Serious Eats!
Jumbles, the Plymouth Rock treat

 

Sunday
Aug232009

This Little Piggy: The Miss Piggy Bacon and Chocolate Chip Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe, Seattle

"Miss Piggy" Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe
Bacon in baked goods. It's hardly a new culinary trick, but it has enjoyed a bit of a vogue in recent years, showing up in everything from chocolates to brownies to cupcakes...and now, chocolate chip cookies.

When I visited Volunteer Park Cafe for the first time the other day with my buddies Neil and Judy, we tried out their "Miss Piggy" cookie--a generously sized chocolate chip cookie studded with bacon bits.

In general, I don't seek out bacon in baked goods, feeling like it's more often a shock-value addition than something intended to really bring out the flavors--but in this case, I did feel as if it actually worked. The bacon was used sparingly, so the taste was more of a whisper than a shout. While our consensus was that perhaps the bacon could have been slightly more crisp to add a texture contrast to the chewy cookie, it was overall a pretty successful use of sweet and savory. And for vegeterians, I'm pretty confident that the same would hold true if the cookie had been made with Morningstar's soy-based bacon.

What do you think about bacon in baked goods? Is it simply a shock-value addition, or are there delicious merits?

The Miss Piggy Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe (call for availability), 1501 17th Avenue East, Seattle; online at alwaysfreshgoodness.com.

Friday
Aug212009

Sweet Escape: Cake With Nail File from Criminal Crafts

Cake with Nail file by Criminal Crafts
We all need to make a stealthy exit sometimes--so why not add some gateau to your getaway with a super-sweet cake complete with prison-break nail file from Criminal Crafts?

These two-layer cakes are indeed edible, and come in a variety of cake and frosting combinations; they are coated in apricot glaze before shipping to preserve freshness; each cake has a (non-edible) durable 6" metal file (safely wrapped in a parchment paper seal) hidden in the lower layer. Of course, as they specify in their shop, "We’ve never actually tried to make a jail break with one, but seen it done in movies, so we’re fairly certain it should work" -- though refunds are not offered in case it doesn't.

Of course, there is some fine print:

This item is for delivery in the US only and will NOT be shipped directly to prisons, mental health facilities, government offices or HS detention, you’re just going to have to take it in person, and as we’ve spelled it out in delicious dark chocolate, “Good Luck”.

And finally, to sweeten the deal:

As a special offer we’re offering a 20% discount to anyone ordering who is under investigation for tax fraud or if your last name is Madoff. Please convo for more info on felony specials.

Sounds like one sweet escape!

 

CakeSpy Note: The artist in question, Shawn Bowman, is also part of an amazing upcoming event in Portland, OR: The Pie Fight Party! Click here for more information.

Thursday
Aug202009

Sea Biscuit: The Hermit Cookie of 1880-90

Delicious Sandwich Cookie
The late 1800s were a pretty eventful time in the USA: in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened and Lady Liberty was installed; in the West, Billy the Kid and Jesse James bit the dust; the nation also grew, officially adding Washington, Montana and the Dakotas to the Union. And according to Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, the cookie of the decade was the Hermit:

One of our earliest favorites--rich with spices from the Indies, plump with fruits and nuts, Hermits originated in Cape Cod in Clipper Ship days. They went to sea on many a voyage, packed in canisters and tucked in sea chests.


Now, you may be wondering where this morsel got its funny name. There are a few theories uncovered on historycook.com:

 

Some say that the cookies were named because they look like a hermit's brown sack-cloth robe, but the earliest recipes are for white and round cookies. One possible lead is that the Moravians, an ethno-religious group well-known for thin spice cookies in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, were sometimes called "herrnhutter" in German or Dutch, and that might have sounded like "hermits" to an English-speaking cook.


Funny name and hazy origins aside, there's definitely another reason why hermits have lingered in our cookie jars: they're rich, cakey, moist, and satisfying. Adding raisins makes them taste vaguely virtuous, if you're into that--I'm not, so I substituted chocolate chips, and it worked out quite deliciously. They got even better when I sandwiched a slab of cheesecake filling between two of them (I think frosting would also work fantastically).
Hermits
Hermits


- makes about 3 dozen small cookies or 24 large cookies; if you're interested in the cheesecake filling shown in the top photo, you can find the recipe here -
 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cold coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate (or white chocolate) chips
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  1. Mix butter, sugar and egg thoroughly. Stir in coffee.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together; mix bit by bit into the butter/egg mixture.
  3. Once incorporated, add the chocolate chips and nuts and stir only until incorporated.
  4. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 400 F. 
  6. If you want small cookies, drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet; if you're not scared of a big cookie, do as I did and use an ice cream scoop. 
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes for small cookies, 12 or so minutes for larger ones, or until there is the slightest crispiness on the bottom (as they have a light brown hue from the coffee, you've got to be careful about this!).

 

Thursday
Aug202009

Cake Byte: The ClaireSquares Mini Debuts!

Custom ClaireSquares piece
As you probably know, me n' Mr. CakeSpy are pretty big fans of ClaireSquares, a San Francisco-based baking company which specializes in a sort of stylized take on Millionaire's Shortbread (they're able to ship them too--you can order here). But they've just introduced an adorable (and exceedingly decadent-sounding) new product: a chocolate-covered mini ClaireSquare! Here's the official announcement:

After six months in the test kitchen, our cutest addition to the Clairesquares family has finally arrived.

We created a bite size square made of Irish styled shortbread and caramel, then drenched it in Belgian chocolate.
The first image shows mini squares passing through a curtain of chocolate; the second image shows Clairesquares' Minis passing out of the chocolate enrober cooling tunnel, ready for eating!

 

Starting on Saturday the 22nd at the San Francisco Street Food Festival, you can sample the sweet treats people have been raving about.


Upcoming Tasting opportunities:

 

 

  • This Saturday, 11am to 7pm on Folsom Street in front of La Cocina
  • Saturday 29th, 10am to 1pm Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, La Cocina booth.
  • Available exclusively at Andronico's Markets starting in September.


For more information, visit clairesquares.com or follow them via Twitter!

 

Tuesday
Aug182009

South African Munchies: Delicious Crunchies

South African Crunchies
I first discovered Crunchies, a (natch) crunchy South African bar cookie, when CakeSpy Buddy Naomi handed one to me and said "eat this". Of course I was more than happy to oblige. Now, these cookies (made by local catering company On Safari) vaguely resembled granola bars, but one bite made the difference achingly clear. These cookies have a flavor that granola bars could only aspire to: crunchy, salty-sweet, coconutty, and very buttery.

So what's the deal with these cookies?
South African Crunchies
As one South African blogger reminisced,

Growing up in South Africa, the one cookie-tin constant that every child will remember is crunchies. They were usually one of the first things that your mom let you bake and kept forever in an airtight container, so we all grew up on crunchies. To me, they were distressingly unglamorous....but they certainly were a stalwart of every cookie tin that I remember growing up.

Want to make some crunchies? While On Safari's recipe is proprietary, I did find a crunchie recipe on the Hulett's Sugars (a South African manufacturer of sweeteners) which seems pretty legit.

 

South African Crunchies

  • 310ml (1¼ cups) flour
  • 310ml (1¼ cups) breakfast oats
  • 310ml (1¼ cups) coconut
  • 185ml (¾ cups) Huletts White Sugar
  • 20ml (4 teaspoons) Huletts Golden Syrup
  • 125ml (½ cup) butter or brick margarine
  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
  • 45 - 60ml boiling water
  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. Melt the Huletts Golden Syrup and butter together. Combine the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter mixture.
  3. Mix together with the dry ingredients.
  4. Press the mixture into a Swiss roll tin (or for a thicker crunchie, bake in a square 20cm x 20cm tin) and bake for 20 minutes at 150ºC. Gently press down the sides if they seem to rise too much.
  5. When light brown, remove from the oven and cut into squares. Switch off the oven. Return crunchies to the oven, for about 10 minutes to dry out.
  6. Allow to cool before removing from tin.

 

Monday
Aug172009

All That Glitters: Golden Glow Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting from Cupcake Project

Golden Glow Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Continuing our monthlong celebration of birthdays and all things sweet, Stef from the amazingly creative site Cupcake Project has sweetly donated some of her sweet birthday memories--as long as a killer recipe for a classic Golden Glow Cake with an amazingly decadent chocolate cream cheese frosting. Here's her story (as well as a picture of her during her early days of caking it up):

Photo c/o cupcakeproject
I never understood why my friends enjoyed store-bought heavily buttercreamed birthday cakes. But, I don’t think my friends ever understood why I liked my birthday cakes. I was so excited for my mom’s homemade cake, but my friends would barely touch it. Oh well – more for me!

My birthday cake each year was a Golden Glow cake. It’s a somewhat dry yellow cake – not that exciting on its own. However, it was topped with homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting that I loved! To this day, chocolate cream cheese frosting is my favorite frosting.

Sure, I didn’t get professional decorations with cartoon characters, but nothing beats cake from mom! I should also mention that she got the recipe from her mom.

I have no proof that the above picture is from eating Golden Glow, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Cuppies Making Golden Glow Cake
Golden Glow Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

- CakeSpy note: I made this recipe as cupcakes, and it yielded about 24. While Stef's comment that the cake is somewhat dry is true, the frosting really does "make" this recipe. -

 

BatterCupcakes

Cake
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 2 T milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
3. Add butter and ¾ C milk and beat for two minutes.
4. Add remaining milk, eggs, and vanilla and beat for another two minutes.
5. Pour into well greased, lightly floured pan.
6. Bake 25 - 35 min.

 

Frosting
(CakeSpy note: the frosting in the pictures above looks thinner and glossier than it should; this is because we couldn't resist frosting some of the still-warm cakes and eating immediately)

  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese
  • 3 T milk
  • 3 C powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 squares (2 oz) of melted unsweetened bakers chocolate
1. Soften cream cheese by adding milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
2. Add powdered sugar gradually, blending well after each addition.
3. Blend in melted chocolate.


Golden Glow Cake
Keep tabs on what's going on in Stef's sweet world on her site or via her Twitter feed!

 

Monday
Aug172009

Sweet Art: (Un) Wrapped for Illustration Friday

(un)wrapped for Illustration Friday
Cupcakes are awfully pretty when they're wrapped, but as Cuppie is discovering in what can only be described as a cupcake coming-of-age moment, they're pretty attractive when they're unwrapped, too. Done for this week's Illustration Friday theme of "Wrapped".

Monday
Aug172009

CakeSpy Sweetens Up Serious Eats With Pizza Pie!

CakeSpy for Serious Eats!
It's a pie all right, but that's not pizza. It's just dressed up to look like it: this sweet confection is comprised of pie crust heaped with fruit preserves, cheesecake and marzipan "leaves" to resemble a classic Neapolitan pie. Not only is it delicious, but it's fun to watch the reactions as unsuspecting guests bite into a slice.

And this sweet pie also marks CakeSpy's debut on Serious Eats (which, incidentally, is where you can also find the recipe)! Yup--I've joined forces with the premier food blog community on the interweb! You can look out for my contributions on Mondays at 3pm EST.

Looks like the internet just got sweeter!

If you haven't already, bookmark Serious Eats now and visit often!

Monday
Aug172009

Sweet Art: Just Baked in Michigan

Custom Piece for Just Baked Bakery
I have fallen in love, from afar, with Just Baked, a Detroit-area bakery. I discovered them recently when I was hired by a friend of the owner to do a custom painting depicting cupcakes from their menu hanging out in front of the shop.

But business mixed with pleasure the moment I took a look at their menu, which has a gorgeous array of cupcakes:

 

as well as other baked goods:


 

If you're in the Detroit area, well then, lucky you--because you can taste the magic for yourself! A second location is set to open very soon.

Just Baked is located at 33309 7 Mile Road, Livonia, MI, (248) 255-1441; online at justbakedshop.com‎.

 

 

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