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Wednesday
Jul092008

Cakespy Confidential: 72 Glazed and Confused Hours of Cakewalking in Los Angeles

Donut from Randy's, LA

Randy Newman may have had it wrong about short people (Cake Gumshoe Median height: 5'3") but he sure had it right about LA: We love it! Sure, the city is perhaps best known for its contributions to cinema, but it's also host to one of the most eclectic bakery scenes we've ever seen. From donut joints to panaderias to shops with daintily decorated cupcakes, this sprawling city has it all--and on our recent long weekend in the City of Angels, we set out to try as many spots as we could. Armed with suggestions from our friends Chris and Sandy, we headed off into the palm-tree lined sunset and set to our sweet sleuthing.
Cakespy Note: With only 72 hours, clearly we weren't able to visit every sweet spot in the city--our short-people bodies can only stand so much--but please pass on any suggestions or spots we must hit next time!

Taking a bite of LARandy's Donuts
DAY 1: Our first stop, shortly after pulling out of the rental car lot, was the gorgeously iconic Randy's Donuts, which boasts a donut the size of a small house atop a takeaway stand on the side of the highway. Feel like it looks familiar? It's with good reason--check out here to see all the movies and films in which it's played a role. There we indulged in the unlikely but, as we learned, addiction-inducing, honey-wheat flavor combination on our donut (pictured top). So far, so good.

Raw Desserts, Euphoria, Santa Monica
Feeling the urge to eat something un-sweet for the moment, we headed over to Santa Monica, where we settled on Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, an eatery catering to the raw, vegan crowd--not a touch of the food had dairy or had ever been heated above 115 degrees. The food was good, although we must admit that there might be a learning curve to eating raw--the textures on some of the items were a bit dense and dry for our tastes. But all was forgiven when we got to dessert--a trio of (raw) dessert truffles, including a coconut fudge, goji berry, and cookie dough truffle, which were dense, rich, not too-sweet and made us very happy.

Cupcakes, Vanilla Bakeshop, Santa MonicaDulce de Leche Buttercups from La Brea Bakery
Feeling virtuous and...yes, slightly euphoric, we headed back to dairytown--by way of Vanilla Bakeshop, where we tried out a vanilla bean cupcake--and really, perfection is the word that comes to mind. Across the street, Yummy Cupcakes was already closed, so we hit up Whole Foods, where we browsed wares from La Brea Bakery and others. We drifted over to the pier for some roller coasters and recognized the pier right away from Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead--heading back to the hotel, we drifted off to sweet dreams.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Santa MonicaJack N Jill's, Santa Monica
DAY 2: The next day, we started out with LA's coffee chain, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where our Seattle coffee tastes were satisfied, if not wowed, by the coffee. Breakfast was a delight at Jack N Jill's, a cafe which we loved if not completely agreeing with their typestyle choices. As a bonus to breakfast-eaters, an alluring counter display of cupcakes is right by the register--cos we understand that sometimes you need dessert, even after breakfast.
Red Velvet slightly unwrappedCarrot Cupcake moments before eating

That's when the day hit hyper-awesome mode, because that's the point at which we met up with the awesome Jen and Erica of All-Mighty, a company specializing in everything cute, and everything Boston Terrier. Our first stop was Auntie Em's, a cafe which was featured on Bobby Flay's Throwdown. Apparently Bobby's cupcakes won, but you could have fooled us--the red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes we tried were simply superlative, and possibly as large as a baseball mitt. Of course the food wasn't bad either.
Jen gave us a roundabout tour of her city, leading us by Eat My Cupcake in North Hollywood (alas, closed when we dropped by), and then to the very cool neighborhood of Silver Lake, where we hit up the Cheese Shop of Silver Lake (home of Cake Monkey's Frosting Sandwiches!), refueled at Intelligentsia (great floors, great coffee, pastries from Delilah). (As a side note, we nearly died cooing over all of the cuteness and coolness that is present at Giant Robot, a gallery and store with plenty of cake and pastry-themed stickers, stationery items and tees--and, of course, lots of other cool stuff). We were too full at this point, but the cake offerings at Town & Country looked awfully good too.

Erica, me, Danny (aka Mr Cakespy), Jen and StinkyAll-Mighty offices, LA
We also got to tour the All-Mighty offices, which are incredibly awesome--yup, these girls are a serious inspiration.

Cupcake and Movie Shoot!Crumbs Bakery, LA
By the time we left the offices, we cake gumshoes had found our appetites again, and so headed over to Crumbs Bakeshop in Beverly Hills, where we picked up the "Artie Lange", which we were informed by the friendly employees, is what the namesake eats every day for breakfast--four of them, that is. Artie has good taste, but he is also a very big man, and now we know why.

Cupcakes, OP Cafe, Santa MonicaCupcake from Sprinkles, LA
DAY 3: We began our day by hitting up the OP Cafe in Santa Monica, a small and unlikely breakfast and lunch cafe perched across the street from a large office park. We were pleasantly surprised by their gorgeous array of baked goods: the cupcakes were delicately and daintily decorated, and were some of the prettiest we saw on the trip (photo above left).

Heading back to Beverly Hills, we stopped at super-famous Sprinkles before getting our Rodeo Drive on. At $3.25 a pop for a simply frosted cupcake they're pricey--but then again, this is Beverly Hills. We tried a Chai Latte and a Red Velvet cupcake--and were not disappointed (photo above right). Hitting up Rodeo Drive, Head Spy Jessie thought it would be a great idea to be purchased a Tiffany & Co. Cupcake pendant as a present, but he didn't take the bait. Quel dommage!

Joan's on ThirdBob, let me help you!
Next up was Joan's on Third, where we were hoping to find some celebrities along with our cake, but alas there was no Paris Hilton to be seen. However, the bakery department was worth the visit alone: majestic hi-hat cupcakes (above left), gorgeously decorated cakes, and decadent "Bouchon" bites--too good. The bakery manager didn't much care for our taking photos, but we did it anyway when she turned to get our order.

It was at this point that we reasoned that no trip to LA would be complete without a trip to Bob's Big Boy in Burbank--unfortunately, it turned out to be Bob's Big Disappointment--were we at the wrong spot for the huge Big Boy sculpture? This one wasn't that much bigger than a Cake Gumshoe. However, we did help him with his burger (above right).
Next on our list had been Dots Cupcakes in Pasadena, but unfortunately time had gotten away from us and they were already closed. Luckily, we were able to drown our sorrows at Bob's Donut and Coffee before turning in for the night and our early flight back to Seattle.
Just another perfect day...we love LA!
Places mentioned:

 

All-Mighty (Not cake but just as sweet!): Shop online at all-mighty.net.
Auntie Em's Kitchen, 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041, (323) 255-0800; online at auntieemskitchen.com‎.
Bob's Coffee and Donut, 6333 W 3rd St # 450, Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 933-8929.

Cake Monkey Bakery (Special order only) 877.640.CAKE (2253); online at cakemonkey.com.
Cheese Store of Silver Lake‎, 3926 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 644-7511; online at cheesestoresl.com‎.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, multiple locations; online at coffeebean.com.
Crumbs Beverly Hills, 9465 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills CA, 90210, (310) 550-9811; online at crumbsbakeshop.com.
Delilah Bakery‎, 1665 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213) 975-9400; online at delilahbakery.com‎.
Dots Cupcakes‎, 400 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 568-3687; online at dotscupcakes.com‎.
Eat My Cupcake, 5227 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601, (818) 509-2910; online at famouscupcakes.com‎.
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea‎, 3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 663-6173; online at intelligentsiacoffee.com‎.
Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, 2301 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90495, (310) 392-9501; online at euphorialovesrawvolution.com.

Jack N Jills, 510 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 656-1501; online at eatatjacknjills.com.‎
Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 478-1819; online at giantrobot.com‎.
Joan's on Third, 8350 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, (323) 655-2285; online at joansonthird.com‎.

La Brea Bakery, 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA; (323) 939-6813‎.
OP Cafe‎, 3117 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (310) 452-5720; online at theopcafe.com‎.
Randy's Donuts, 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA 90301; 310.645.4707; online at randys-donuts.com.
Sprinkles Cupcakes Inc‎, 9635 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 274-8765; online at sprinklescupcakes.com.
Town and Country Bakery & Cafe‎, 3823 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 667-3331; online at towncountry.com‎.
Vanilla Bakeshop, 512 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 458-6644; online at vanillabakeshop.com‎.
Yummy Cupcakes‎, 313 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA; (310) 393-8283‎.
Whole Foods Santa Monica, 2201 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA - (310) 315-0662; online at wholefoods.com.

 

 

Wednesday
Jul092008

Cake Byte: The Results of our Giveaway!

Carnie Cuppies

Show's over, folks--the cake poll is closed, and we've chosen a winner from over 250 responses (the total between comments left and responses emailed!).

And the lucky winner is Maddi from Florida!

Let's learn a bit more about Maddi, shall we?

 

  • Her ideal time for cake-eating is late morning, almost noontime--"It makes a great breakfasty snack!"--and she always enjoys hers with a glass of ice cold milk.
  • As for her cupcake color choice? Pink frosting every time--a girl after our own hearts.
  • As for the part of a sheet cake she likes best? The middle.
  • As for cake a la mode, she's not committing quite yet: "It depends on the cake, but I myself will never turn down a good scoop of vanilla ice cream."
  • As for grocery store cakes, living near a grocer with a particularly good bakery section, she's not opposed--but as for ice cream cakes, "now...those are a a whole different story."
  • When it comes to temperature, she'll take her cake room temperature.
  • As for baking vs. decorating, her favorite part is the decorating: "Despite how labor intensive it is, it's a labor of love!"
  • And finally, when it comes to her special occasions, cakewise it's usually a semi-sweet white cake is the norm for most occasions in my family, but once in a while chocolate will make a comeback.

Congratulations Maddi, and thank you for everyone's responses! We loved learning more about you and your cake references--even though we are not able to respond to every entry, we read every single one!

 

Til next time--stay sweet!

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul062008

{Bitter}Sweet: A Cake Poll and Cakespy Book Giveaway!

Cake Poll and Giveaway!

It's that time again: our monthly cake poll and giveaway! Our giveaway this month is pretty awesome--the winner will receive a copy of our first ever book--an illustrated collection of Cakespy illustrations entitled {Bitter}Sweet: A Study in Contrasts. Each page has a "sweet" scene (cupcakes acting cute!), contrasted with another "bittersweet" image (cupcakes in peril!) on the accompanying page! It's a sweet collection including 32 pages, packed with illustrations in full color--perfect for any lover of cake, illustration, or, you know, both. Learn more about the book here.
Cover for Books I'm making!!!My books!
As for the poll? This time, we've got cake on the brain! It must be the time of year--Cakespy's birthday is coming up on August 1--we already have all sorts of birthday cake visions floating in our mind!
CAKE POLL: CAKE PREFERENCES!
  1. What's the best time of day to eat cake?
  2. What's your favorite beverage to accompany cake?
  3. There's a plate of frosted cupcakes--all the same flavor--but frosted in pink, white, yellow, blue, green, and lavender. Which would you reach for first?
  4. On a sheet cake: Do you prefer and end, middle, or corner piece?
  5. Cake a la mode (with ice cream on the side): simply perfection, or simply too much?
  6. Grocery store birthday cakes: guilty pleasure, or simply never?
  7. Do you like your cake cold, room temperature, or warm?
  8. When baking a cake or cupcakes, which part of the process do you like best: the baking, or the decorating?
  9. What kind of cake do you like to make (or eat) for your most special occasions?
How can you put your name in the running? It's easy! All you need to do is this:
  • To satisfy our nosy tendencies (we are spies, after all), fill out the above Cake Poll! You can leave your responses in the comment section, or send your responses via email to jessieoleson@gmail.com.
  • At 12pm PST on Wednesday, July 9, the Cake Poll will be closed. The winner will be chosen at random, not based on their responses. The prize will then be shipped to the lucky winner within 48 hours, via the most economical method.
  • As for our fine print: The results of this poll will be used for entertainment and Cake Gumshoeing purposes only; we may summarize the results of this poll in upcoming posts. Your private information will not be shared with any outside parties. Also, we've elected to leave the cake poll open to all US Territories, Canada and abroad--so even overseas cake enthusiasts can take part!

 

Sunday
Jul062008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy

Cuppies at Pike Place
Looking to add a little sweetness to your life this July? Well, if you happen to be in Seattle, head over to Ballard--there are not one but two Cakespy Art Shows up this month!

Cupcakes, in acrylicMulti Layer Cake, in AcrylicCupcakes in AcrylicLemon Cake in Acrylic
The first option is Sweet Posie, which is tucked behind Anchor Tattoo near the intersection of Market and 24th--it's one of the tiniest and cutest little cafes we've ever seen, and they have killer Red Velvet Cupcakes. And all through July, they have original Acrylic paintings by our dear Head Spy Jessie! A bit of a change of pace, but the lovely texture of acrylic paint is so tantalizingly like frosting to work with--and it's clear from these delicious paintings! Sweet Posie Cafe, 2315 N.W. Market St. Seattle, WA 98105. Phone: 206-784-0303. Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays; online at sweetposie.com.


Cakespy Art at Venue!Cuppies looking at Magazines
The second option is Venue, an awesome art gallery and retail space just off of Old Ballard Avenue. Cakespy original watercolors (featuring the beloved  and mischievous L'il Cuppie character) are available at Venue's retail store, but this month Cakespy is the featured artist. What does that mean? That means you should get over to Ballard this Saturday evening for the Art Walk--a bunch of the Cakespy crew will be on hand, as will heaps of cupcakes and freely flowing wine! If that doesn't sound like a good time, we don't know what does. Venue, 5408 22nd Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98107; online at venueballard.com.

 

 

Thursday
Jul032008

Happy and Sweet: Have the Best 4th of July Ever, From Cakespy

4th of July trompe-l'œil

It's time for a Cakespy Confession: we don't like holidays
The traffic's bad. The crowds are obnoxious. And all of our favorite bakeries are closed for the day. 
Cupcake Burger
However, what we do love is sweet stuff, and causing mischief--and so, in an effort to make the 4th of July more fun, we've concocted some trompe-l'œil treats to make this 4th of July the sweetest one yet! 
Here's what we suggest this Fourth of July:

For the main course, why not try a sweetburger? Ours were made by slicing an unfrosted cupcake in half, and inserting a round of "patty" of chocolatey goodness cut from a brownie, and instead of healthy lettuce, a healthy dollop of vanilla buttercream with a drop of green food dye. We garnished the top of the cupcake "bun" with some chocolate sprinkles, adhered with sugar water. 
Twinkie Hot Dog
If you're not a burger person, perhaps you'd go for a Twinkie "Hot Dog"? (Cakespy Note: Anyone who's seen UHF will appreciate this one, we hope.) We made ours by first slicing a twinkie lengthwise (but leaving it connected at the bottom, so it would resemble a hot dog bun), then inserting sugar cookie halves so that the slightly browned edges showed outward (though we think a log of cookie dough would do as well!). We then covered up the "gap" between cookie halves with a pipe of yellow frosting. So bad, but so good. 


And as for side dishes? Ours are tooth-numbingly sweet, comprising 
4th of July trompe-l'œil
of a Faux-tato Potato Salad--a melange of coconut flakes and white chocolate chips held together with a thick dollop of vanilla buttercream--and, of course, no 4th of July would be complete without some baked beans--Boston Baked Beans, that is, straight from the package. 
Of course, if all else fails, just pour a package or ten of Pop Rocks into a batch of cupcakes and their frosting--just like fireworks in your mouth!
Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul012008

Sweet Ups and Down Lows: Lessons Learned at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn

Renegade Craft Fair, Brooklyn, NY
As many of you know, Cakespy recently went on the road--our own Head Spy Jessie went to Brooklyn, New York to vend Cakespy artwork, tees, notecards and more at the Renegade Craft Fair, a highly regarded indie craft and design fair. However, we're far from professionals: it was first time we'd ever done a fair like this, and as such there were naturally definite highs and lows--and some serious lessons learned. And so, in no particular order, here are some of the things we learned, both negative and positive:


Cupcake from Kumquat Cupcakery, BrooklynI love Bored, Inc. So much it hurts
People are awesome!: It was a veritable who's who of bloggers, artists, writers and cool dudes who stopped by the Cakespy booth--including (but not limited to!) Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake (who brought us wonderful cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery, and did a video interview--check it out here); Robyn from Serious Eats and The Girl Who Ate Everything; Ann and Jack from Redacted Recipes; the cool girls from Bored, Inc.; illustrator Julia Rothman; Grace from Design*Sponge; illustrator David Miller; cool Cakespy customer Kimberly from Staten Island; and so, so many more.
My booth, complete with Mosquito net, Renegade Craft Fair, BrooklynAll that was left of the Canopy after the Rain 
Always be prepared for rain (or, don't buy the cheap canopy): When we saw that there was a steep added fee to rent a canopy for the fair, we figured "Pshaw, we'll get the cheaper one...it won't rain!". Well, it did rain--poured, in fact--and our canopy was flat-out destroyed (see above for "before" and "after" pictures). Major thanks to the two kind souls who helped us hold it up in the rain while we frantically packed up our merchandise in plastic, and to the forgiving customers who came back after the storm and bought stuff anyway!

People are Strange: One response to the Cakespy booth? "I like pie better than cake. In fact, I have always preferred pie, even in the womb. I was a pie-gote (ie, a pie-zygote)." You know what though? He still bought a tee shirt. So maybe strange but awesome.

Scone, Balthazar, NYCBalthazar doesn't suck: Would you believe that we'd never tried super-famous Balthazar's goodies before this trip? We'd always kind of found them snobby from afar and never given them a fair chance. But we finally broke down with one of their scones, and were pleasantly surprised: this baby was buttery, moist, crumbly and...well, pretty good. 

Don't go for another round: When going for drinks the night before the fair starts, reject the urge to have one final round. Trust us. But if you do, at least in your carbohydrate-starved state the next morning, you can feel comforted by the fact that...

New York Bagels really are the best: They say it's the water, but in our opinion even a Seattle bakery which imported a NY-style water filtration system can't quite create the same deliciousness as a New York bagel. Our all-time NYC favorites? Absolute Bagels, Murray's Bagels (remind us to tell you about the time we saw Tim Robbins there!), Pick-A-Bagel (only the one on 23rd and 3rd), and Bagelsmith in Brooklyn (Cakespy Note: Alas, in spite of every review, like, ever, we only like-don't-love H&H Bagels).

SPF 70 sunblock is opaque: With most sunblocks, you can apply them to your skin, and while white when applied, they will dry clear. Not so with SPF 70. This stuff is more like a shellac--albeit, an opaque white shellac, as our Head Spy Jessie found out the hard way, spending much of day one covered in the white, streaky stuff (apologies to anyone who was frightened off).

Don't Mess with Jeffrey's Brownie.Penny Licks, Brooklyn 
Change is a good thing: A new bakery opened on Bedford Avenue last year called Sweet Farm. The first time we went, it kind of sucked; the second time we went, they were much better; this time, it was gone entirely, but in its place was the even-better Penny Licks, which was nicely stocked with a variety of cakes and pastries, including a huge variety of delicious vegan options (doesn't Cake Gumshoe Jeffrey's expression say everything? He's not sharing, no way)--though it's worth noting that many of the vegan options apparently come by way of Vegan Treats, and that their hours are weird for a bakery (they open at 11am).

MetalsugarI love the Cupcake Girls
Cupcake (crafts) are taking over the world: At the craft fair, we were in good cupcake company, with talented vendors MetalSugar, who had very cool silver cupcake jewelry for sale, and The Cupcake Girls, who were vending a bevy of cool cupcake crafts, including bulletin boards, paperclips (they say they're mushrooms but they look like cupcakes to us!), and all sorts of other cuteness!

People are so talented: Even if they weren't selling baked good related products, we have a collective design crush on several of the other vendors, including Foxy & Winston, Sian Keegan, My Paper Crane, and so many more! 

Treats TruckCraft Fairs are delicious: This must have been the most delicious craft fair we've ever been to, what with "food court" surroundings provided by Treats Truck (think ice cream truck, but with baked goods!) and Mr. Softee

Dressler is delicious: One of the more delicious experiences while in the city was when Head Spy Jessie had dinner with the Redacted Recipes crew; we went to Dressler, a cool Williamsburg restaurant where everything, from the watermelon-ricotta salad to the showstopping Caramel Trio dessert (a trinity of awesome including salted caramel ice cream, caramel panna cotta and a buttery caramel nut tart), was absolutely wonderful. Highly recommended!

Hipster Cupcakes and Sweets waiting for the L Train

 

Sunday
Jun292008

Dough You Love Me: A Laminated Pastry Dough FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Danish Pastry Time

It's late June, and high time for another Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge? A Danish Braid. What, never heard of Danish Braid? Well, neither had we, but let us tell you, it's one doozy of a recipe (check it out here), prominently featuring laminated dough--a component which can strike fear into the hearts of even accomplished bakers. OK, to be fair though, perhaps it's not so much difficult as it is time consuming and trying on one's patience, what with its multiple between-step chillings and wait periods. However, rather than using these lag times to say, watch Law & Order or to read In Touch Weekly we instead took it upon ourselves to become better acquainted with the world of laminated doughs--here's a bit of what we learned:

 

You say that Danish Dough is a laminated dough. What precisely does that mean?
According to Baking911.com, "Laminated Dough" is made by encasing butter in dough, and taking it through a series of folds, rolling and turns to produce layers of butter in between sheets of dough. The leavening in these doughs is mainly derived from the steam generated by the moisture from the butter--the laminated fat traps water vapor and carbon dioxide formed during baking, and as steam expands in the oven, it lifts and separates the individual layers.

One of the more famous types of laminated dough is Puff Pastry (which makes mille-fueilles), which rises solely on the steam and has a bit more butter; however, Danish dough, its close laminated cousin, gets an added lift (literally) from yeast.

 

Additionally, as smart and cute Cakespy reader E-Dizzle clarifies:

There are three basic laminated doughs: Puff pastry has no yeast, and is used to make yummy things like palmiers, cheese twists and any sort of super-flaky tart or crust. The dough itself isn't sweet, so it can be used for sweet or savory pastries.

 

Croissant dough and danish dough are very similar, both containing yeast. But croissant doughs are considered very "lean" (crazy, I know) because the detrempe (which I just call "the doughy bit") has only flour, salt, water and yeast. Danish dough, however, is considered "rich" because it contains eggs and dairy, and sometimes sugar.



In the recipe, there's a term called "détrempe". What is that?
We think we figured it out though: détrempe refers to the dough part of the pastry, before the second part, the "beurrage"--the butter part--is added, which is what "laminates" it (in shiny buttery deliciousness).
Croissants at Belle Epicurean at their stand in the University MarketHello, Carbohydrates!
So...in layman's terms, what is the difference between Danish Dough and Puff Pastry (two of the laminated doughs cited above)?
Puff Pastry has more butter and no yeast--the resulting pastry is flaky and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. Danish dough contains yeast, which we find gives it a slightly chewier and less flaky texture.

 

Carbohydrates!If they were to have a faceoff, which would win--puff pastry or danish dough?
Really, would you ask us to choose between a flaky puff pastry or a delicious Danish? Apples and oranges, we tell you. Surely here's enough room in the world for all sorts of dough. Vive le carbohydrate!

What are some examples of pastries made with Danish Dough?
Well, the Danish, naturally--but pinwheels, envelopes and turnovers are frequently made using this type of dough. Also, though not always, a lot of kolache recipes call for a Danish-y dough.

Kolaches, Great Harvest Bread, Ballard, SeattleWhoa, sidebar: what's a kolache?
According to Wikipedia, Kolache (also spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky, from the Czech and Slovak plural koláče) are a type of pastry consisting of fillings ranging from fruits to cheeses inside a bread roll. Originally only a sweet dessert from Central Europe, they have become popular in parts of the United States (strangely, they seem to have a big concentration in the American midwest, with kolache havens occurring in Oklahoma and Texas, which both boast annual Kolache festivals; however, Montgomery MN cites itself as the "Kolacky Capital of the World". Fighting words, anyone?). A picture of a kolache we found in Seattle at the Great Harvest Bread Company's Ballard location, is pictured left.

 

Can puff pastry and Danish Dough be used interchangeably?Columbia City Bakery Fruit and Cream Danish

We can't say for sure since we haven't tried, and really there would be nothing wrong with the flavor combinations per se--in fact, we've even seen Danish that has had the distinct look of puff pastry (see left, photo of a cream-and-fruit Danish from the Columbia City Bakery in Seattle). Will we be making this leap in the future though? Don't look out for it--our fear of ruining a delicious recipe is too great. Though perhaps this just means we're pastry prudes who badly need to take a walk on the wild side.

 

Why does it take so long to make my own dough?

Well, they say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and similarly, good Danish Dough must not be rushed. While the waiting periods (a half hour here to chill, another half hour there) may seem fussy, we advise that you wait it out--the taste of your baked goods will reward you at the end. And plus, all of those waiting periods leave you so much time to find cool stuff on the internet or even to drop by the nearest bakery to pick up an appetizer sweet.
Why are so many laminated doughs braided, slit or otherwise disfigured on top?
Though this can add visual appeal, it is mainly to let excess steam out while baking.
...speaking of which, shouldn't you be checking on your Danish braid about now?
#$%! Be right back.

Pastry Time!
(Several moments pass; we return to our questioning, with the slightest bit of sugary glaze and fruit filling still clinging around the corners of our mouths--see left).

It's clear your mind is on other things now. So...where can I learn more about laminated doughs?
Well, we recently saw a great show by Alton Brown explaining all about Puff Pastry (and boy is he cute!), or you could also turn to puffpastry.com, a site operated by Pepperidge Farms which has recipes, forums and information on laminated doughs; for more information on all things laminated dough (both Puff Pastry and Danish Dough), also visit baking911.com!
Postscript: The chewing resumes, the light dims, and yes--our spies realize that really and truly, homemade Danish Dough--especially when filled with fresh preserves (we chose cherry)--is a thing of beauty.

 

Thursday
Jun262008

Papadopoulos Metropolis: A Cookie Adventure in Astoria, Queens

Papadopoulos Cookies
In a faraway place called Greece, there grows a unique and magical tree which yields not lemons, not olives...but cookies. Gorgeous cookies which are straw-like in appearance, and comprised of thin wafer curled around layers of rich creamy filling. They call these the Caprice cookie.


Papadopoulos Cookies
Of course, if you haven't been to Greece to prove our story wrong, you'll know that the next best place to find all things Greek is Astoria, Queens, where these magical cookies are available at various bakeries, packaged under the company name Papadopoulos. True, technically the cookie is called the Caprice, we can't help but lovingly think of them as "the Papadopoulos Cookie"--a fact possibly influenced by our own Cake Gumshoe of the same name, James Papadopoulos. And who better to follow (and talk to) on a mission to discover the Papadopoulos cookie? Head Spy Jessie recently picked his brain on the subject while riding to Queens on the back of his scooter in pursuit of the famed cookie; here's what she learned:
(Cakespy Disclaimer: For full disclosure, no, James is not actually an heir to the Papadopoulos cookie fortune. Or so he says.)

 

 

Cakespy: How does it feel to be the heir to the greatest legacy in the world: the Papadopoulos cookie?
James loves his Papadopoulos CookieJames Papadopoulos: It's humbling, really. When I walk down the street people sometimes stare, but they're always too shy to say anything. I can see it in their eyes, though -- they know.

 

CS: Can you describe what a Papadopoulos cookie is, exactly?
JP: A Papadopoulos cookie is many things (technically when I say "Papadopoulos Cookie" i mean a "Caprice" cookie, Hazelnut or Praline, made by the Papadopoulos cookie company...) but most specifically, it's one of the most delicious, delicate, and memorable cookies I've ever eaten.... seriously. I have different ways of eating them depending on my moods. Usually, I'll take it in my mouth like a cigar, start chewing and feeding it into my mouth until I've got the whole thing eaten in one fell swoop.

Dipping a Papadopoulos cookie in Diet Coke CakeCS: Can you tell us your first Papadopoulos cookie memory?
JP: I think it was when I was around 4 years old, I had eaten the last of the cookies on a hot summer day, and the filling had melted down onto the corrugated paper liner at the bottom of the tin. I realized that there was enough there to equal almost another cookie's worth of filling. It was a happy time, and I ended up covered in chocolate.

CS: What is the largest quantity of Papadopoulos cookies you've ever consumed in one sitting?
JP: I refuse to answer this question. I don't have a problem. You don't know me!!!!!


CS: What is the best thing about Papadopoulos cookies?
JP: When you think the can is almost empty, you look and find that one has broken in half and both halves are still there. Unexpected yum! The best kind!

 

Cookies from QueensCS: Can people who are not of Greek descent really enjoy a Papadopoulos cookie in the same way you can?
JP: Honestly, I don't think we'll ever know. It all goes back to that existentialist question of "are the colors I see the same as the colors you see?". But to answer your question, no.

CS: You cite Hazelnut as being the finest Papadopoulos cookie flavor. What makes it so superior to, say, chocolate or praline?
JP: Well hazelnut and praline are the filling in the chocolate wafer tube. The hazelnut has a much better flavor, in my opinion, to the others. That brings us to the next question though...

CS: Papadopoulos cookies kind of resemble Pirouline cookies. How do they stack up for you, as a Papadopoulos?
JP: Pirouline and other "wannabe" Papadopoulos cookies pale in comparison. They may LOOK the same, but the amount of creme inside, the crumbly texture of the outer cookie shell, the construction, and overall taste of a Papadopoulos cookie is light-years ahead of anything you'll ever come across.

Titan, Astoria, QueensOmonia, some fried and honey soaked dough = delicious 

CS: When we were in search of Papadopoulos cookies, we hit up two Queens bakeries: Titan and Omonia (examples of their other baked goods are pictured respectively above). If you had to suggest just one of the two to our readers, which would you suggest and why?
JP: Well the bakery at Titan is more of a supermarket type bakery. They make a lot of different confections and do it pretty well and at a reasonable price. I'd have no problem getting something for myself from there. Omonia, though, is where I'll go if I want to get something to bring to a friend's house or when Greek family visits -- there's a little more attention to detail, especially when it comes to cremes/ fillings, and even packaging. Luckily for us, however, Papadopoulos cookies are the same no matter where you buy them :)

 

Papadopoulos CookiesCS: Any final words to add on the joy and beauty of the Papadopoulos cookie?
JP: Yeah, I just finished the last one in the tin we bought during our adventure in Queens (seriously.. just now, not kidding). When do we get more?

Postscript: James also added in a later conversation: "There's talk on the internet that Hazelnut and Praline papadopoulos cookies are, in fact, the same thing. Complete and utter #$%&*!#."
Interested in buying the Caprice (Papadopoulos) cookie? Though they seem to taste best when purchased and eaten in Astoria, they are available online; click here to check 'em out. 
Interested in visiting the bakeries mentioned? Titan can be found at 2556 31st St.,
Astoria, NY; (718) 626-7771.
Omonia (pronounced "Ammonia") is located at 3220 Broadway, Astoria, NY; (718) 274-6650 .
Interested in finding out more about what a real, live Papadopoulos does? Check out James' website at jamespapadopoulos.com.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jun242008

Cakewalk in the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

Chocolate Shoofly Pie
Philadelphia. Just the mere name of the city (never "Philly" to us) invokes all sorts of richness--in history (the Liberty Bell! Ben Franklin!), in culture (Isaiah Zagar! Gina & Matt! Art Star!)...and in baked goods. And nowhere is that baked good scene as concentrated and eclectic as at the famous Reading Terminal Market, a historic covered farmers market in the heart of the city. From Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced strudels, pies and sticky buns to rich Italian cannoli, flaky baklava and some decidedly cosmopolitan cupcakes and pastries at a variety of different vendors, the market is a veritable treasure trove of sweetness--really, the hardest part is deciding where to start. Here are some of our favorite spots:

(Cakespy Note: Our suggestion would be to visit the market between Wednesday and Saturday; many of the Amish and Mennonite vendors are not open Sunday through Tuesday).

 

AJ Pickle PatchKey Lime Pudding, A J Pickle

 
AJ Pickle Patch & Salads: AJ Pickle Patch & Salads is an oasis of deli salads and specialties, but what caught our attention were the glistening rows of puddings and cobblers, all available by the container: the hardest part is deciding whether we'd like to go for banana, key lime, or raspberry pudding--or perhaps a cobbler. Open Wed.-Sat; (215) 627-8067.

The Basic Vegetarian Snack BarSweet Potato Pie, The Basic Vegetarian, Philadelphia
Basic Four Vegetarian Snack Bar: Basic Four looks like a great stop for a veggie or vegan lunch, and a small but respectable offering of desserts, including muffins, breads, and specials such as the sweet potato pie they had the day we visited. Open seven days; (215) 440-0991.

Bassett'sBassett's Ice Cream
Bassett's Ice Cream: One of the oldest vendors in the market, they've been in the same spot since 1893--and clearly they're doing something right, with creamy, melt-in-your mouth flavors like cinnamon (perfect with apple pie), Butterscotch Vanilla or delightfully boozy Rum Raisin--or, if dairy isn't your thing, try the pinkies-out Champagne sorbet. Open seven days, (215) 925-4315; online at bassettsicecream.com.
 
Lemon Meringue Pies, Beiler's BakeryCinnamon Rolls! at Beiler's
Beiler's Bakery: Though we have some issues with their presentation (in an effort to make their goods easy to take on the go, many items are unattractively plastic-wrapped), overall this is one of our favorites in the Market, featuring Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like whoopie pies, strudels, and pies, including our favorite, the Shoofly Pie, which comes in chocolate as well as the classic molasses flavor. Open Wed.-Sat.; (215) 351-0735.

Onion Chocolates by Mueller Chocolates, PhiladelphiaChocolates, Chocolate by Mueller, Philadelphia 
Chocolate By Mueller: A gorgeous chocolate counter which we found delightfully unpretentious--more like, say, Li-Lac in New York City than a Godiva or fancier (read: expensive) chocolatier. Sensationalist items like chocolate-covered onions and denture-shaped chocolates round out their display. Open seven days, (215) 922-6164; chocolatebymueller.com.
Dutch Eating Place: This lunch counter boasts the comfort foods that make Pennsylvania Dutch Country famous--but what is most interesting to us is the apple dumplings, covered in a thick pastry dough and perfect warm with ice cream. Unfortunately, while they're available to-go as well, some of the magic fades away when the delicate pastries crack on top, so travel with care if you go down that road. Open Wed.-Sat..; (215) 922-0425.

Fair Food Farmstand, Reading Terminal Market
Fair Food Farmstand: Though the emphasis is on fair-trade produce and whole foods, they do have a small sampling of sweets, including all-natural sticky buns and organic jams. Good for a quick fix. (215) 627-2029.

Famous 4th St. Cookie Co.4th St. Cookie Co.
Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.: Cookies, cookies, cookies! We could smell this place before we saw it, and the anticipation is warranted--especially when the cookies are just out of the oven. Open seven days, (215) 629-5990; online at famouscookies.com.

Go, Carbohydrates!
Fisher's Soft Pretzels: We love New York hot pretzels, but we'd be lying if we didn't say that in a streetfight, Fisher's Soft Pretzels might come out on top. Wonderful. Open Wed.-Sat.; (215) 592-8510.

Cupcakes, Flying Monkey PatisserieGorgeous Brownie Spread at Flying Monkey Patisserie, Philadelphia
Flying Monkey Patisserie: Definitely the cool kid on the block, Flying Monkey is a delight for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, with rows of happy cupcakes frosted in pastel hues, gooey brownies coated with decadent toppings, and "forbidden cereal treats"--aka the Rice Krispies treats mom never made (and you know we're into that). As a nod to New Zealand, we also became acquainted with the Anzac biscuit here. Open seven days, (215) 928-0340; online at flyingmonkeyphilly.com.

 

 

Hershel's East Side Deli: A classic Jewish Deli, the crowds clamor for the pastrami and comfort foods--but our eyes were glued on the Jewish Apple Cake. We didn't try it--can any readers pass on feedback? Open seven days; (215) 922-6220.

Pastries at Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties, PhiladelphiaKamal's
Kamal's Middle Eastern Specialties: A few spots boasted baklava, but theirs was by far and away the nicest display, featuring baklava with various fillings, as well as Konofah, Kataifi and a variety of other Middle Eastern sweets. Open seven days; (215) 925-1511.

Le Bus BakerySnowflake buns
Le Bus Bakery: We found Le Bus to be a good breakfast-bakery--chock full of carbohydrate-rich treats like muffins, scones, and dense artisan breads. They're a bread supplier to many of the nicer restaurants in the area. Open seven days, (215) 592-0422; online at lebusbakery.com.

Chocolate Croissant, Metropolitan BakeryMetropolitan Bakery
Metropolitan Bakery: A nice mix of homey and fancy, with chocolate croissants living side by side with raspberry crumb bars, cookies, scones and cakes. Everything we tried was wonderful--it seemed like everything had a little something unexpected, some extra spice or garnish to make it just slightly more delicious. Open seven days, (215) 829-9020; online at metropolitanbakery.com.

Old City Coffee
Old City Coffee, Inc.: Coming from Seattle, Old City's dark coffee brews were up to snuff--none of that watered down swill that passes for coffee in so many East Coast coffee places. They also had a small but nice array of quick breads and cookies--many of which were made on site. Open seven days, (215) 592-1897; online at oldcitycoffee.com.

DSC08465
Spice Terminal: Not a bakery, but a great spot to pick up sweet accessories, spices, and garnishes. After ogling over their wares for twenty minutes, we finally settled on candied violets and rose petals--a perfect and elegant topping for our next cake. Open seven days; (215) 592-8555.

 

Termini Brothers Bakery, PhiladelphiaTermini Bros. 

Termini Bros. Bakery: As you have probably gathered by our recent post about the Ravioli pastry, we're pretty much in love with Termini Bros. Bakery--completely old school (they've been around since the twenties), and full of classic Italian delights like cannoli and butter cookies, but also more American-homestyle treats like brightly frosted cupcakes and layer cakes, as well as the unexpected--but intriguing--chocolate covered bananas. Open seven days, (215) 629-1790; online at termini.com.

For more information on the Reading Terminal Market, visit readingterminalmarket.org.

 


 

Saturday
Jun212008

Holy Ravioli: Falling in Amore With a Sweet Treat From Philadelphia's Termini Bros. Bakery

"Ravioli" Pastry, Termini Bros. Bakery, Philadelphia
Picture, if you will, two of the greatest masterpieces of Italian cookery--the cannoli and the calzone.

Got it? Now, imagine that these two beauties get married and have a baby. An unholy, but wholly delicious, cheesy and carbohydratey baby.

The "Ravioli"Termini Bros. Sign
It is with that vision that we introduce our newest obsession, the "Ravioli" pastry from Termini Bros. Bakery, a venerable institution of sweetness in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market. In appearance it resembles an enormous half-moon ravioli, though its sheer size is more empanada or calzone-esque. But the physical resemblance to aforementioned savories is where the similarities end--once you take a bite, this baby is all sweetness. Its slightly sweet pastry casing encloses a hefty dose of decadent cannoli cream, rich, dense, and studded with chocolate chips.
And man, is it delicious. But eaters beware--this is a seriously substantive sweet, and is perhaps best enjoyed with a buddy. If you ate it all by yourself (and trust us, you probably will if no one is around) cardiac arrest might ensue--although really, there are far worse ways to go.
And til that moment, this is most certainly amore.

Are you in the Philadelphia area? Termini Bros. Bakery has a few locations (we went to the Reading Terminal Market one); visit termini.com for more information.
Wanna try making them? While we weren't able to locate a recipe for the "Ravioli" pastry per se, we're going to try to make our own by combining two recipes--one for cannoli cream filling found on cooks.com, and one for sweet empanada dough, found on laylita.com. We haven't done it yet but we'll let you know how it turns out.

Pastry Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼- ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks butter or 16 tbs, cut into 16 pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-4 tbs cold water


Preparation:

  1. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.
  2. Add the butter, eggs and water until a clumpy dough forms.
  3. Knead the dough for a few minutes.
  4. Form dough into 2 balls, flatten into thick discs, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas, use round molds or a small plate or cup as a mold, you can choose how large based on whether you want small or medium sized empanadas .
  6. Use the empanada discs immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to use later.You should get about 15-18 medium sized empanada discs or 25-30 small empanada discs.

Cannoli Cream Filling

  • 3 c. very dry ricotta
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Chocolate chips
Drain ricotta in a colander until very dry, overnight or longer if necessary. Mix with sugar and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer at high speed for 8-10 minutes. Fold in some chocolate chips and use to fill cannoli or between cake layers. Fills about 15-18 cannoli.


Termini Brothers Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

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