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Sunday
Sep142008

Cakewalk in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Skrumptions, Sciortino's Bakery, Milwaukee
Pulling into Wisconsin from Illinois, the sign proclaims the state's highlights to include "industry, agriculture, recreation". But what's going on in Milwaukee? Most know it for its relationship to Harley-Davidson and beer, a memorable scene from Wayne's World, and perhaps Laverne & Shirley. Luckily for us, Milwaukee turned out to be a treasure—beautiful, architecturally and culturally diverse, and full of sweetness. Under the watchful eye of the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen and friends, we had the good fortune of trying out some of the city's best. Here were some of the highlights:

Alterra Coffee, MilwaukeeAlterra Coffee, Milwaukee

Alterra Coffee: You may have heard that Seattleites can be picky about coffee--so it's no small thing to say that the coffee here is excellent. The location we visited, which is very green-friendly and committed to sustainable materials, was very cool too--with an artistic, loft-ish vibe. As for the baked goods? Cake Gumshoe Bob raves about the cookies, especially the espresso variety. Multiple locations; for more information, visit alterracoffeepro.com.

The "Wisconsin" CookieSeventh Heaven Bars = Delicious

C. Adams: A newcomer on the bakery block, C. Adams is tucked in the Milwaukee public market, which is…well, sort of like what you might expect if the Pike Place Market had a baby. But there's nothing lightweight about these baked goods, which are dense and rich—from the cupcakes (voted the best in Milwaukee!) to the delectable—and heavy as a brick (in a good way) 7th Heaven Bar (compare to the Hello Dolly bar or 7 layer bar). Milwaukee Public Market; for hours and location, visit milwaukeepublicmarket.org  or call (414) 271-1871.

Canfora Bakery, MilwaukeeCanfora Bakery

Canfora Bakery: We just dropped in to this location, but the array of goodies—from Italian cookies by the pound to an alluring array of fresh breads to heartier fare like the formidable (and, according to the employee, very popular) Cannoli cake, made us wish our trip was longer. Hours: Tues-Fri, 5.30 a.m-6:00 p.m.; Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-1 p.m; closed Monday. 1100 E. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee; 414.486.7747.

Sweet Empanada and ice creamGuiness Stout Mousse with a cherry on top
Fratello's: Though this is a restaurant, we were treated to some major sweetness here--"Chef Jeff" fixed us up two custom desserts, including a Guiness-infused chocolate mousse with cake and a cherry on top, as well as a devilishly rich chocolate-peanut butter empanada atop a tall glass of apple-spice ice cream (an unusual, but delicious, combination). Various locations; visit supplerestaurantgroup.com for more information.

La Tarte, MilwaukeeBread Pudding at La Tarte

La Tarte: This sweet little coffee shop had a surprisingly comprehensive array of homemade desserts, including chocolate cupcakes, good-looking lemon bars, and a carb-o-licious bread pudding slice. Hours: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m; closed Sunday. 6742 Wells St., Wauwatosa; online at latarte.com.

Lehmann's Bakery, WisconsinKringle at Lehmann's

Lehmann's Bakery: En route to Milwaukee from Chicago, we saw a sign for Racine and recalled once hearing about a Kringle that came from that fair city. Pulling over at the first bakery (which was not actually in Racine, just along the route to Racine), which was in there it was: the Kringle. Have to admit though--in person it wasn't really a showstopper. The frosted cookies intrigued us far more. Hours: Mon-Fri 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m; Sat. 6 am-6 p.m.; Sun 7 a.m.-2 p.m. 9117 Durand Avenue - Sturtevant, WI 53177, 262.632.4636; or, order online at lehmanns.com.

Cafe Lulu: Ready for pie in Milwaukee? Make sure to stop at Lulu's, according to Cake Gumshoes Sandy and Bob—they carry a mouthwatering array of gorgeous pies, including "the best blueberry pie you've ever tasted". Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. 2261 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee; online at lulubayview.com.

National Bakery, MilwaukeeNational Bakery, Milwaukee

National Bakery: A pretty generic name for such a delicious spot, which has a gorgeous range of pączki (which seems to be available at a lot of places in Milwaukee), doughnuts, bread, cookies and assorted deliciousness including the cassata, awaited us. Also, proved to be our our introduction to another local specialty which we noticed on the menu--Hard rolls with ham (which sounds not unlike New Jersey's Pork Roll with cheese). Hours: Mon-Fri, 6.30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Closed Sunday. National Bakery & Deli, two locations; for directions, visit nationalbaking.com.

Sciortino's Bakery, MilwaukeeSciortino's Bakery, Milwaukee

Peter Sciortino's Bakery: Being originally from New Jersey, this spot gave us a sweet reminder of the bakeries back home like Piancone's. We picked up some lovely cookies by the pound for the crew at Taste of Home; more immediately, a "Tutu" cookie (a kind of chocolate and walnut ball of a cookie covered in a frosting glaze) kept us fueled for the day ahead. They also had the fascinating (and delicious) "Skrumptions"--the lovely filled and frosted cookies shown at the top of this guide. Hours: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Peter Sciortino's Bakery, 1101 E. Brady St., Milwaukee; (414)272-4623; online at petersciortinosbakery.com.

Sweet Empanadas, San Angel Panaderia, MilwaukeeSan Angel Panaderia, Milwaukee

San Angel Panaderia: When we came across this spot, we thought maybe it was suffering un peu of an identity crisis—not too many places boast "panaderia", "babka" and "pączki" all on the same awning. Nonetheless, this place somehow pulled it off with panache, with cases stocked full of an international array of pastries—from conchas to cream horns to macaroons to scones, they had it all, and it was gorgeous and amazingly (almost alarmingly) cheap—two sweet empanadas and a cookie came to just $1.90 total. Hours: Tues-Sun, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; closed Monday. 960 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee; (414)727-9822.

Decorated Black bottom Cupcakes, Simma's Bakery, MilwaukeeSimma's Bakery, Milwaukee
Simma's Bakery: Our only complaint is that they ought to change their name to "Heaven, the bakery". This bakery has won a lot of awards locally--and they're well deserved in our opinion. The caramel-oat bar we got was like sweet manna; the aroma upon walking in made us want to stay for a very, very long time. Hours: Tuesday-Fri., 7.am – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.; closed Mondays. 817 N. 68th St., Milwaukee; 414-257-0998; online at simmasbakery.com.


P.S. Wanna know what brought Cakespy to Milwaukee? Hint hint, it has something to do with the magazine Taste of Home...stay tuned in the coming months!
Me and a Huge Magazine cover


Wednesday
Sep102008

Holey Sweetness: An Unexpected Visit to Shipley Do-Nuts in Houston

Shipley's do-nut
Sometimes, when life gives you lemons...well, you know the rest. However, in the recent case of an unexpected 3-hour flight layover in the Houston Airport, it wasn't lemonade, but sweet, sweet donuts that sweetened our day.

We're talking about Shipley Do-Nuts, of course.
Shipley's Do-Nuts saved my life
Shipley Do-Nuts was founded in 1936 in Texas (when donuts retailed for 5 cents a dozen) – they now boast nearly 200 locations in Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. While on previous visits to their website we were inclined to rage against the chain as having a contrived sort of nostalgic atmosphere, it must be said—on our visit to the Houston airport, all of the employees were almost alarmingly upbeat, and we were ultimately won over by the old-school packaging—but more importantly, by the donuts. These donuts weren’t extraordinary, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing--nostalgia is often comfort, is it not? They were certainly solid—our choice, the cherry-frosted (and rainbow sprinkled!) raised donut, was just greasy enough to provide a solid base for the smothering of cherry frosting, which recalled another glorious nostalgic taste memory: the cherry dip coating from Mr. Softee.
Shipley's in the Houston Airport

While we’re not going to denounce all other donuts in favor of Shipley’s (hey, there’s room for everyone!) we can indeed say that they made our layover sweet, and that we’re very happy to have made their acquaintance.

(Cakespy Note: At the time of our visit, we were not aware of the recent immigration scandal at Shipley’s, so we have chosen to just focus on the donuts in this writeup. Any reader thoughts?)

For locations, visit www.shipleydonuts.com

Sunday
Sep072008

Parlez Beignet? An Exploration of New Orleans' Famous Treats

September 6, 2008: Beignets in Seattle
Our beignet story began with a brow wax. Now, generally "brow wax" and "delicious pastry" aren't things that go together--but it turns out, the aesthetician was originally from New Orleans, which inevitably led to a discussion about the best sweet stuff in the Crescent City. She waxed poetic about one specialty in particular--the beignet. (Cakespy Note: To avoid potential embarrassment later--it's pronounced "ben-YAY"--in your Frenchiest voice possible, please.)

What's a beignet? The answer may differ depending where you are in the world.


Beignet
The word beignet itself comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning "to raise", and according to our French dictionary, the literal translation is "fritter". If this seems simplistic, there's a reason why--according to this site, "In France, beignet is an umbrella term for a large variety of pastries made from deep-fried dough with fruit or vegetable filling". However, though French in origin, the beignet's legend seems to lie in New Orleans, so we like this definition (from What's Cooking America) best:
Beignets, a New Orleans specialty, are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter or 2 inches square. After being fried, they are sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings. It is like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. Beignets are the forerunners of the raised doughnut. When you hear people in New Orleans say, "Goin' fo' coffee an' doughnuts," they mean coffee and beignets. In 1986, beignets became the Louisiana State Doughnut.
And certainly, even if you've never tried a beignet, you'll recognize it as looking like a cousin to many other treats--at moments close to, but not quite the same as--doughnuts, zeppole, funnel cake, pączki, buñuelos, boules de Berlin...the list goes on.

But back to that pivotal brow wax.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet
Turns out, the N'awlins-bred aesthetician wasn't pining over the fried treats, for she had found beignets right in Seattle--in the unlikely spot of the Center House in the Seattle Center. The Center House, under the shadow of the Space Needle, isn't much of a destination--it's more of a mall-type food court, not exactly a foodie mecca--but as she had learned, this little spot makes their beignets using the same mix (note: though the thought of a mix might scare off some, the ingredients were decidedly tame--Enriched wheat flour, enriched barley flour, milk, buttermilk, salt, sugar, leavening (baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast) as Cafe Du Monde, which is probably the most famous of the beignet joints in New Orleans, having garnered mentions in Jimmy Buffet songs and in John T. Edge's donut book, if you're into pastry name dropping (we totally are).

When we went to Cafe Beignet on a Saturday afternoon, there was no line, and we watched the young employee roll out, shape and then fry the beignets to order. Now, we've never been to New Orleans so we don't really have a point of reference--but we can say that our beignets, taken piping hot to go and liberally dusted with a cinnamon-sugar topping, tasted hot, fried, sugary--that is to say, in our estimation, pretty delicious.


In Seattle? See for yourself at Cafe Beignet, Center House, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA; (206) 441-0262.

Not in Seattle? We found this recipe (below) which we're gonna try next time, or you could buy the Cafe du Monde mix at cafedumonde.com.


Beignets
Beignet Recipe
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature & beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
* Use just enough vegetable oil to completely cover beignets while frying.

Using a mixer with a dough hook, place water, sugar, salt, egg, butter, evaporated milk, flour, and yeast in the bowl. Beat until smooth. If using a bread machine, select dough setting and press Start. When dough cycle has finished, remove dough from pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. form dough into an oval, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled (3 to 4 hours) or overnight.

To prepare dough, remove from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares.

In a deep fryer or large pot, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees F. Fry the beignets (2 or 3 at a time) 2 to 3 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown on both sides, turning them in the oil with tongs once or twice to get them evenly brown; beignets will rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to puff. NOTE: If the beignets don't rise to the top immediately when dropped into the oil, the oil is not hot enough. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

NOTE: The dough can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator - it actually improves with age; just punch down when it rises. Dough can also be frozen; cut and roll, or shape doughnuts before freezing.)

Makes 18 beignets.





Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon

Friday
Sep052008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy!

birthdaygiftset
Oh, we're just brimming with sweetness this week! Here are some of the exciting things happening at Cakespy.com:

Mummy Cupcake Rubber StampTrick or Sweet Rubber Stamps

Sweet Stamps! Our own Head Spy Jessie recently collaborated with Taylored Expressions, a California-based rubber stamp company, to create several sets of rubber stamps! The first three sets, with Halloween and Birthday themes, are making their debut today: Frightful Night, Trick or Sweet, and Sweet Celebration. It was a fantastic experience, and the stamps came out so cute! Now you, too, can create your own cupcake cards and craft projects using these adorable stamps! Each set of unmounted, deeply etched, pink rubber stamps retails for $21.95. To see some of the projects others have made with the stamps, check out tayloredexpressions.blogspot.com; to purchase the stamp sets, visit tayloredexpressions.com!

Cuppie at the Chicago "Bean"
Going to Chicago and Milwaukee! Next week Cakespy will be headed to Chicago and Milwaukee...deliciousness is bound to follow! Stay tuned for upcoming roundups of all the sweet stuff we discover--and feel free to pass on suggestions!

Totally Sweet! Finally, longtime Cakespy reader and supporter Sue Scara of Piscataway, NJ, is living the sweet life indeed: her recipe for Bubbe's Apple Cake is a finalist for an upcoming "Spreading Smucker's Traditions" contest! Starting September 8, vote for her recipe (below) at smuckers.com!

The recipe:

Bubbe’s Apple Cake (our grandmother’s version of the traditional European-Jewish Apple Cake)

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium apples, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • ½ cup Smucker’s Red Plum jam
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 large eggs (brought to room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon each of vanilla extract and almond extract
  • A “shake or two” of cinnamon

Begin by preheating oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” square baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. Give dry ingredients a stir and set the bowl aside. In another bowl, combine apple slices, Smucker’s Red Plum jam and lemon juice. Mix up so that apples are coated in jam and lemon juice. Set aside.

Beat the eggs well, either with electric beater on medium, or vigorously by hand. Gradually add sugar and beat (about 2 min.), or mix by hand, till mixture is almost fluffy. Add oil and vanilla and almond extracts, and continue to beat and scrape side of bowl till all is combined. Next, mix in the flour mixture (if using electric beater, reduce speed to low). Mix short time more till batter is blended to uniform color and consistency.

Take just half of the batter and spread evenly in the baking pan. Next, cover the layer of batter with the apple and jam mixture. Then spread the remaining half of the batter over the apples. Give a light shake or two of cinnamon over the surface of the cake. Bake on the center rack till golden (approximately one hour).

After removing from oven, let the cake cool. Cut into squares and serve.




Friday
Sep052008

Cake Byte: Cookie Poll Winner!

Cupcakes and Shooting Stars
Someone's weekend just got sweeter--and that someone is Allyson A., from Chicago, Illinois! Allyson's name was randomly drawn in our recent Cookie Poll!

Allyson, whose favorite type of cookie is Oatmeal with Chocolate chips and toffee bits and isn't adverse to a little cookie dough eating (but asks that you please use a spoon and not stick your finger in the mixing bowl!), will soon be the proud owner of an original piece of Cakespy artwork!

Congratulations to the lucky winner, and til the next poll...stay sweet!

Wednesday
Sep032008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kim Ima of The Treats Truck

Treats Truck

Hands down, the Treats Truck is one of our favorite baked good innovations in recent years: an NYC-based "retail mobile bakery" run out of an environmentally-friendly silver truck called Sugar which brings sweetness to whatever corner she should be parked on that day (if you're in NYC, you can find their schedule here). But it's not just a cool concept--with homey treats ranging from serious brownies and cookie sandwiches to dainty "dot" sugar cookies to the of-the-moment cupcakes baked in ice cream cones, it's a seriously delicious business model as well. We were lucky enough to catch owner Kim Ima in one place long enough to engage in some sweet talk--here's what we learned:

Treats Truck
Cakespy: Which came first: the treats or the truck?
Kim Ima: The treats! I was obsessed with making treats, but as soon as I thought up the idea of the Treats Truck, that was it. I was instantly in love.

CS: What was the first baked good you ever sold on the truck?
KI: Hmmm, I know I had frosted Sugar dots (picture below), Chocolate chippers, oatmeal cookies and brownies on the truck that first day. I don't remember what was the very first cookie sold off of the truck. Aw, I wish I remembered!


Treats from the Treats Truck
CS: Does the treats truck play music to attract customers? If so, what kind of music? Or, if not, what music do you listen to inside of the truck?
KI: The truck does not play music. Most of the time, the streets provide the background soundtrack for the day. Oh, occasionally I park near a guy who plays the keyboard and sings Frank Sinatra.

CS: Please finish this thought for us: An ice cream truck pulls up next to the Treats Truck at a red light, and revs its engine. What happens when the light turns green?
KI: I nod at the driver, we lock eyes in a meaningful way, he looks my truck up and down, nods back, shrugs and speeds away. A note, "speeds away" for an ice cream truck is probably going 25 miles an hour.

Cakespy Note: We just know that Ice Cream Man's quaking like Jell-o in his boots.

CS: Do you think that one day the cultural icon of the ice cream truck may be unsettled by the concept of a treats truck?
KI: I think we'll have both. Don't you think?

CS: (Nods Gravely) Yes.

Inside Vanilla Conecake
(photo of Treats Truck cone cupcakes c/o flickr user nycblondieandbrownie)

CS: Your ice cream cone cupcakes have been getting a lot of interest lately. Why do you think they're so popular?
KI: Well, they make people smile! I know I love them because they are yummy and fun and have lots of icing and sprinkles. A cupcake in a cone? It is a special treat, no two ways about it.

Kim of the Treats Truck
CS: Not only are you the proprietress of Treats Truck, but you're also an actress and artist. This begs the question--how do you do it all?
KI: Well, there are only so many hours in the day, but the idea is that there will be many days ahead. Right now, I am working full time running the Treats Truck. In the earlier stages of the business, I did both. In the future, I will be able to return to working on projects in the theater. Right now, the treats need my full attention, and I love it.

Treats from the Truck!
CS: You reference the "kitchen sink" crispy and cookie on your list of favorite treats. We've never had kitchen sink cookies. Can you explain the "kitchen sink" aspect to us?
KI: "Kitchen sink" to me means you can put lots of crazy ingredients together. In a way, it is the idea of opening your cupboard and seeing what you can throw in. If I feature a "kitchen sink" crispy or cookie, I may put a mix of candy, pretzels and cereal in the mix. The next time it could change. It is a license to play.

CS: Are some baked goods more popular in some neighborhoods than others?
KI: Yes, as a matter of fact! Some neighborhoods love anything with peanut butter (especially midtown) and one neighborhood in Brooklyn really goes for crispy squares with whole wheat cereal and fruit in it and anything with jam. I bake more of certain items depending on where I'm going. It's fun to try out new specials on the different neighborhoods and see who is especially into them.

Treats Truck
CS: What's next for The Treats Truck?
KI: I would love to have two trucks with regular street schedules by the spring, as well as appearances at special events, and I would like to open a store in the next year or two.


Are you in NYC? Check out their schedule here and start being a Treats Truck groupie today! Not in NYC? Admire them from afar (and coming soon, buy a t-shirt!) at treatstruck.com.


Sunday
Aug312008

Love is in the Eclair: Some Sweet History, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

The Eclair
Until this month, eating an éclair was a matter of walking down to Le Panier and grabbing one of the delectable confections. But all of this changed with our most recent Daring Bakers Challenge (suggested by Meeta and Tony) which was to make Pierre Hermé’s éclairs. Now, admittedly we haven't made éclairs before but this recipe seemed like rather a quirky one (check it out here).

But like we always do, during all of those between-steps moments we had to do something to keep ourselves from eating the unfinished masterpieces, so we turned to discover a bit more about the sweet treat. Here's what we discovered, along with our little helper above (who we like to call Pierre Eclair):


Eclair
What is an éclair? To those who may have grown up eating the version peddled at Dunkin' Donuts, you've been living a lie. That is what would technically be referred to as a "long john"--basically a doughnut dressed up like an éclair. Not that we'd turn our nose if offered a box of them.

 

Likewise those of you who have sampled the "eclair" by Cadbury and Co. are also not eating the French pastry--these confections are a caramel coating around a chocolate center.

Eclairs, Fairway, NYCEclairs at Caffe Roma, NYC

No, a true éclair is a
"long, thin pastry made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with icing.
The dough, which is the same as that used for profiterole, is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside. Once cool, the pastry then is filled with...pastry cream (crème pâtissière), custard or whipped cream, and topped with fondant icing."

Of course, if that seems a bit long, this definition for the éclair seems rather succinct: according to the Chambers English Dictionary, an éclair is “a cake, long in shape but short in duration.”

 

Where do they come from? Like a sweet mirage, the eclair's origins are hazy. According to foodtimeline.org, "The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs but provide little if any details regarding their origin. This probably means the eclair is a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture that perhaps Antonin Carême (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to éclairs."

Beautiful Eclairs at St. Honore BoulangerieEclairs at Piancone's in Bradley Beach, NJ
But wherever they may have come from, they caught on fast. They'd jumped the pond by 1884, garnering a writeup and recipe in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. You can find the original American recipe here.

Eclair 

Why are they called "eclairs"?: Like the riddle about the Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. In An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto muses that "The primary meaning of eclair in French is 'lightning', and one (not very convincing) explanation advanced for its application to these cream-filled choux-pastry temptations is that it was suggested by the light gleaming from their coating of fondant icing". Well, John might not be impressed, but we rather like the Frenchy, film-noir image that gives us--the film's hero, shot in dark, moody tones, walks into a bakery, and upon encountering the eclair for the first time, is blinded by the flash of its glossy veneer, and then completely struck by that first taste.

 

 

Enough already, how did they taste?: Full disclosure? We didn't think that these were the tastiest of recipes for the first-time éclairmakers--they tasted a little too eggy for our liking, our custard was maybe a little runny. But, they say Hermé is the best (and we believe them), so it's exceedingly possible the fault was on our end. Only one way to find out--you can check out all of the entries at daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com. We think that this website did a wonderful job on them--and the recipe is posted there too!


 

Thursday
Aug282008

Cake Poll: Oops, Make that a Cookie Poll!

Time for another poll!
It's that unique time of year that summer starts to fade into early fall; the skies are a piercing blue, days are getting shorter, and school's back in session. Even those who are long out of school are not impervious to the allure of this season, nostalgically recalling the excitement newness of a new school year, punctuated by freshly sharpened pencils and maybe a brand new trapper keeper. And what else goes better with back to school time than milk and cookies at the end of the day? 

And so, this month our Cake Poll is not about cake, but rather cookies--and the winner will get the framed original painting, featuring Cuppie and Robot making cookies, featured above! Responses may be entered in the comments section or emailed to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

 

  1. What is your favorite type of cookie?
  2. Oatmeal Cookies: With raisins, or chocolate chips?
  3. Dunking your cookies: Deliciousness, or a soggy mess?
  4. Slice n' bake cookies: Guilty pleasure, or never ever?
  5. Jumbo bakery cookies: too much, or just enough?
  6. Bar cookies: are they really cookies, or a different category entirely?
  7. Which is better: Slightly underbaked or slightly overbaked?
  8. Eating cookie dough: so wrong, or so right?

The fine print: The poll will be closed at 2 p.m PST on Thursday, September 4 (we're leaving it open for a week since we hope many of you are avoiding your computers over the holiday weekend!). As usual, the winner will be chosen at random. Entries from the US and beyond are welcome. Your info will never be shared and these questions are solely motivated by our nosy spy tendencies. Of course, if you don't win, you can always buy Cakespy artwork and gear at jessieoleson.etsy.com!


Time for a new poll--and a new prize!

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug282008

Cuppie Capers: The Party

The Party

Tuesday
Aug262008

C'est Bon: The Famous Bonbon Cookies of 1955-1960

Bonbon cookies
1955-1960 was certainly an eventful series of years. Sputnik I was launched; Alaska and Hawaii were proclaimed the 49th and 50th states; Truman Capote published the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, which would later be made into a film by the same name.

And during these years, there was one cookie that spoke to the times more than any other: the Bonbon Cookie. At least that's what Betty Crocker says. And other than the fact that she's not actually...well, real, she's never led us astray. According to her Cooky Book (1963), the treats are described as being real trailblazers on the cookie frontier:


Bonbon Cookies from Betty Crocker

 

"candy-like cookies in vogue--women were fascinated by these beautiful and delicious cookies which were baked as cookies, served and eaten as candies. Excitement over Bonbons brought more candy-cookies, Toffee squares and Cream Filberts, for example"


And if that doesn't pique your interest, the photos in the book will (above)--in pastel tones worthy of Marie Antoinette's court, these are without a doubt cookies for ladies, a pinkies-out affair. We had to make them. Turns out, they're amazingly easy--and rather delicious.
 
Chocolate innardsBonbon Cookies being made
A few notes:
  • They are rather on the sweet side--so for those who like a less-sweet cookie, you might want to leave off the frosting, or opt for a more savory filling for the cookies, such as chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut; we used chocolate chips, but then again we're not scared of sweet cookies.
  • In keeping with the spirit of this dainty cookie and the era from which it harkens, we elected to make ours Tiffany Blue, garnishing them with white sugar pellets in white to offer the same color palette as that iconic box with its white bow. We found that adding a drop or so of green with two or three drops of blue food coloring reached the signature tone nicely.
  • To attain the desired round Bonbon shape, we used a small ice cream scoop to spoon out our dough; while in the scoop we inserted 2-3 chocolate chips, pressed them down, and then reformed the dough over it to secure the filling.
Here's the recipe:

Bonbon Cookies in Tiffany Blue
Bonbon Cookies
Created by Mrs. Joseph J. Wallace, Whitehall, Montana

For the Cookies:
  • 1/2 c. soft butter 
  • 3/4 c. sifted confectioners sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • food coloring if desired 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Possible fillings: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, cherries...choose your own adventure!
For the Icing:
  • Mix 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tbsp cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and food coloring (if desired).
Heat oven to 350. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and food coloring (if using), thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend in flour and salt. If dough is dry, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. cream. Wrap a level Tablespoon of dough around filling.. Place 1" apart on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 min. Cool; dip tops of cookies in frosting; decorate with another topping if desired. Makes 20-25 cookies.
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