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Sunday
Jan112009

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Ococoa Chocolate Peanut butter cups
Need advice on how to burn dessert with panache? Find it here.

Martino's Bakery is famous for their tea cakes, but to us they look like--gasp!--square cupcakes! (via Jess Loves Cupcakes)

Lenôtre est mort--we loved learning more about his life and contributions to the world of pastry.

Gale Gand tells us where to eat sweets in Chicago--but lucky us, we'd already been tipped off about a lot of these places by Natalie of Bake and Destroy and Claudia of Babushka Bakery!

We're impressed by the eclectic array of shippable desserts (including baklava, rice pudding, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes!) we found at foodsoftheweb.com.

These artistan, handmade butter cups (not just peanut butter!) by Ococoa look deliciously indulgent. Pictured top.

 

Did you know that for just $40 you can become a lifetime member of the Pie Council? (Did you even know there was a pie council?) Membership benefits include access to the Pie Times newsletter, manufacturer coupons/offers and discounted entry fees for the Pie Baking Championships.

 

Friday
Jan092009

1.9.09: Baked Good of the Day: Caramel Turtle Brownie from Macrina Bakery, Seattle

Caramel Turtle Brownie from Macrina
I don't know about you, but I don't care for light, cakey brownies--for me, the denser, fudgier, and heavier, the better.

Macrina's Caramel turtle brownies are my kind of brownie. Weighing roughly the same amount as a brick, they're so dense, moist, and fudgy that it's almost impossible to finish the entire thing in one sitting. Almost.

While I generally don't think that toppings or flavorings are necessary with brownies, the caramel-nut combo is a nice complement: the caramel is smooth and slightly salty, providing a nice subtle counter-flavor to the chocolate; the pecans give it a nice added texture.

Of course, after eating one of these brownies you might have to just sit down and rest for a while, but oh, are they worth it.

The Caramel Turtle Brownie is $3.50 at Macrina Bakery.

Thursday
Jan082009

1.8.09: Baked Good of the Day: Galette des Rois at Le Panier, Seattle

Posterior view of the Galette des rois
Christmas may be over, but the Epiphany brought on a whole new season of cakes and goodies, starting with the tres-Frenchie galette des rois. After several attempts to locate one in Seattle (no luck at Belle Epicurean or Le Fournil), I finally found it at Le Panier in the Pike Place Market; and this one was certainly worth the wait.

The galette des rois, while part of the same family tree as the New Orleans King Cake, is not the same--as baking expert Dorie Greenspan so eloquently put it,


"The galette is really very simple, if a little time-consuming to make--it's an almond and pastry-cream filling sandwiched by two rounds of (all-butter) puff pastry dough--but so, so good."

 

Like the King Cake, one of the most important aspects of the galette des rois is the prized porcelain figurine to be found hidden in one of the slices. Luckily enough, I arrived at Le Panier to receive the piece with the little "feve".
Feve from the galette des rois

But prizes aside, this cake is definitely a treat--while it doesn't have the same visual appeal as a frosted cake, it's buttery, flaky, and rich enough to more than make up for it. Or as they say in French, le yum.

Galette des rois, available for a limited time only at Le Panier.

Wednesday
Jan072009

Going Dutch: Say Hallo to the Jan Hagel

Jan Hagel cookies
What can we say about our love affair with Jan Hagel? It just sort of...happened. OK, truth be told, we'd just poured 2 cups of flour into a bowl to make banana bread and realized we had no bananas. After scouring our recipe books for another recipe that might start out with the same amount of flour, we decided to try the Jan Hagel from our beloved Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

As Betty informs us, the Jan Hagel is a cooky of Dutch origin; as the internet informs us, they are also sometimes known as Hollanders, Janhagels, Dutch Almond Cookies, Dutch Hail or Sugar Hail Cookies.
But what may have started out as a fluke has blossomed into an obsession: these cookies, which are thin, crunchy, and very buttery, are also really, really good. But what gives with the name?
As we found out through one site, A Cookie for Every Country, Jan Hagel (yan HAH-ghle) "is Dutch for ‘an unruly mob’ or ‘rabble,’ with hagel in the sense of ‘multitude’ or ‘swarm.’ In the cookie, the rock sugar resembles hail." Another site backs up the hail theory, citing that Jan Hagel is merely translated "John Hail". The recipe we used didn't call for rock sugar, but maybe those little bits of nut could stand in for the "hail"? Also, though we can't find a reason behind it, there is another legend which was interesting, which is that "Jan Hagels are fed to homesick little children in heaven upon their arrival at St. Peter's Gate".
Who could blame the little lost souls--we wouldn't want to leave these cookies behind, either.

Jan Hagel Cookies
Here's the recipe:
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts (we used a mix of walnuts, almonds and cashews--it was delicious)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan, 15 x 10 x 1 or so. Mix butter, sugar and egg yolk. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Blend flour and cinnamon; stir into butter mixture. Pat into pan. Beat water and egg white until frothy; brush over dough; sprinkle with nuts. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until very lightly browned. Cut immediately into finger-like strips. Makes 50 3 x 1 inch strips.

 

Wednesday
Jan072009

1.7.09: Baked Good of the Day: Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil

Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil
Initially, I headed over to Le Fournil hoping for a galette des rois, the traditional French cake served on the Epiphany and for several days after. Alas, not a galette was to be found at this traditional French bakery, but it wasn't a complete wash--I picked up one of their gorgeous-looking chocolate tarts.

The chocolate tart (or, if you're feeling Frenchy, the tarte au chocolat) is comprised of a brebaked sweet pastry shell filled with the most divinely rich chocolate ganache--this stuff is so dense and decadent that it will leave teeth-or-tine marks when broken apart--just like the inside of a decidedly rich truffle. I'd like to say it's suitable for sharing, but I know that personally, I'd rather not, instead opting to eat this in lieu of dinner. How could it be wrong when it feels so right?

The Tarte au chocolat is available at Le Fournil.

Tuesday
Jan062009

Cakespy Undercover: Mr. Cupcakes in Clifton, NJ

Recently, Cake Gumshoe Steph made a delicious new bakery discovery: Mr. Cupcakes of Clifton, NJ. In a world overrun by cupcake bakeries, what sets Mr. Cupcake apart? After sampling a variety of their flavors, here's what she had to say about their cupcakes:

The french toast was my favorite....like a light cinnamony coffee cake with vanilla icing in flavor. I also loved the hot chocolate, red velvet, peanut butterful chocolate, apple krisp & snowball fight. I didn't try the oreo cheesecake or triple chocolate but others said they were insanely good. All of the cakes & were so moist & not heavy at all-some had "tall" fluffy frosting & others had icing that hardens a bit. If you have not been yet, you absolutely have to go next time you are in NJ.....it was crazy good.


Crazy good sounds like high praise to us--looks like New Jersey just got a little bit tastier! 

Mr. Cupcakes is located at 1216 Van Houten Ave., Clifton, NJ; you can find them online at mrcupcakes.com.

 

Tuesday
Jan062009

1.6.09: Baked Good of the Day: Pink Feather Boa Doughnut from Top Pot, Seattle

Pink Feather Boa Doughnut from Top Pot
Top Pot Doughnuts can be a polarizing subject for Seattleites, but I am definitely a fan of their doughnuts, especially the Pink Feather Boa Variety.

The Feather Boa is a dense cake doughnut which is available with pink (vanilla?) or chocolate icing, topped with a generous handful of coconut shreds. It's a happy doughnut to look at, and with a lovely three-part sensation as you bite into it (crunchy coconut, soft frosting, dense cake), a happy one to eat as well.

The Feather Boa, available at all Top Pot locations; for more info, visit toppotdoughnuts.com.

Monday
Jan052009

1.5.09: Baked Good of the Day: Vegan Almond Cookie from PCC, Seattle

Vegan Almond Cookie from PCC
Lately, I've been obsessed with eating cookies for breakfast. I tend to gravitate toward "healthier" ones containing nuts, oats or thumbprints with preserves--perhaps this is a misguided effort to convince my body that it's eating a granola bar instead of a cookie?

I love these vegan almond cookies from PCC. They're dense, chewy little rocks of cookie that would probably taste too healthy later on in the day, but their almondy, whole wheat-y taste seems perfect in the morning. Not sure if they're made in-house or come from a local bakery like Flying Apron, but I've been pretty into them lately.

Vegan almond cookies, found at PCC in Fremont.

Sunday
Jan042009

Well-Dressed: The Salad Dressing Cake

Salad Dressing Cake
The New Year is upon us, and with it comes that most dreaded, terrible custom: The New Year's Resolution. Proclamations of healthy eating and new gym memberships are as plentiful as the popping of champagne corks less than a week before. However, as we all know, few stick to those resolutions--so when you've given up, when you're ready to come back to the dark side, we present the Salad Dressing Cake.

Now, the name "Salad Dressing Cake" can be misleading--this is not some sort of exotic balsamic-glazed confection. No sir, the dressing we're talking about here is the one that dresses salads of the potato and macaroni varieties: mayonnaise. Now, for all those naysayers, a few points. If you're disgusted by this cake but you're one of the many who indulged in bacon-flavored baked goods in the past year, you take a long look at yourself in the mirror before you judge the mayo cake. Because what makes up mayonnaise--egg yolks, oil, vinegar--is all stuff that would go into a cake anyway. And as a note to vegan readers, the recipe works just fine with Vegenaise as well.

Cake
We were surprised by this cake. It's probably the most dense, moist, rich cake we've ever made--it has a slightly tangy flavor, not unlike a sour cream cake. In our version, instead of using 4 tbsp of cocoa powder as in the original recipe, we substituted the same amount of ground Callebaut chocolate--this not only gave the cake a nice added texture and color, but added a nice bittersweet flavor contrast. Topped with a simple buttercream frosting, it's actually quite a pleasant cake. 
Moreover, the biggest problem with this cake is not the flavor but the gross-out factor--no matter how you put it, no matter how many justifications you have, Salad Dressing Cake does not sound delicious or appetizing. Still, once you get past that hurdle, you might be pleasantly surprised. Our advice? Serve now, and tell the tasters what they ate later
Salad Dressing Cake


Salad Dressing Cake (Via reliableanswers.com)

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa (we used ground chocolate--see above)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise salad dressing (or vegenaise for a vegan option)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  1. Mix all ingredients together, beat until smooth. Grease a 13"x9" cake pan (we used a circular pan) and dust with flour. Bake at 350° for 30-minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  2. Frost when cool; we used this simple buttercream frosting:
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high speed 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
If desired, serve on top of a real salad for a delightfully mischievous presentation.

 

Saturday
Jan032009

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy!

New Stamps for Taylored Expressions!

Need some post-holiday sweetness? Oh yes!

We're excited to announce the launch of several new sets of rubber stamps designed by Head Spy Jessie for the fantastically creative company Taylored Expressions! You can read more about the launch here, but as for the abbreviated version:

There are five new sets total--with rubber stamps for making calendars, seasonal crafts, and even a set of Valentine Cuppies! Perfect for if you want to make your own Cakespy-themed cards or crafts! But don't take our word for it, check out samples of crafts and tutorials on the Taylored Expressions blog.


Hanging Calendar Made with Cakespy Stamps
Valentine's Day CardSweet card made with Cakespy stamps
The stamp sets, which retail for $21.95 each--along with coordinating crafting products (a perpetual birthday calendar or a vertical calendar stand) can be purchased at tayloredexpressions.com.

 

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