Cakespy Note: The photos used are all Jess' creations--they're all ssignments and baking projects!
Cakespy: What made you decide to study patisserie and baking?
CS: From what we hear, studying at Le Cordon Bleu is a very intense experience. Is it as hard/competitive as we hear?
JA: This school is definitely intense! They take what would normally take a couple years and condense it into one year (that's for the degree program). It's set up crazy but way worth it once you get to the end. The hardest part about the school is that it moves so fast that you sometimes (a lot) do not have time to perfect all the skills. You learn it, do it a couple times, and then you move on to the next thing. That always frustrates a lot of the students. Being in the this field turns everyone into a perfectionist, I think.
And yes, the school is really competitive. It's like 30 students all studying the same specialty, in one classroom... You always see people sneaking glances at your stuff and wonder what they are thinking. Than, you hear other people's grades and compare your stuff to theirs.
CS: Do you think that attending culinary school has changed the way you look at baked goods / pastries in bakeries or restaurants? More appreciative? More critical?
JA: Going to school has completely changed the way I see everything. It makes me both--more appreciative, in that I know the effort and time someone put in to get that product--and critical, in that now I know they way some things are supposed to taste and look from a classic stand-point. Although, I must say I just love old-fashioned baking (that's the best).
CS: You currently study in Scottsdale. Are there any pastries or bakeries that simply cannot be missed for visitors?
JA: Scottsdale is great! There are tons of restaurants and little bake shops, everywhere. Definitely, go to one of the school's restaurants. They have one at both campuses.
CS: What is your favorite baked good to make?
JA: I love baking anything, really. Pies, cookies, brownies, cakes, anything! As long as it tastes good, Ha! I find myself going back to making pies & cobblers, a lot. It's minimal ingredients, fresh fruit, slow-baked... how could it not be good? And they are great because the ingredients change according to season.
CS: What are your favorite baked goods to eat?
JA: My favorite things to eat? Absolutely everything, haha! I have a sweet tooth, that's for sure. I really love a great cookie with a glass of milk or a slice of pie with some ice cream. You know? The stuff that my Grandma would make.
JA: Oh wow! That's a hard question. My ultimate goal is to attempt to make as much delicious food as possible and try and bring as much joy to the people I am giving it to, as it brings me to bake it. I would love to just feed everyone, feed all the hungry.
CS: Do you have any advice for others who may be considering culinary school? Stuff you wish you knew before you started, tips, etc?
JA: If it's what you love to do, whether it be baking or cooking.. Just, go for it! School is a great way to get better and train and hone your skills. It's also a great way to network with other people in the industry. And you have to be committed, it's a tough school, it's a tough field, and it's a tough job. Just love it and do it.
Unless you live in Georgetown, chances are you've never come across Two Tartes, a small bakery / cafe near the old Rainier Brewing factory. In their ads and on their site, they dub themselves as "aggressively uncool"; our first impression was that this must be some type of hipster-speak for "we're so much awesomer than you". On our recent visit though, we learned that the title is apt--all of the employees we encountered were friendly and seemed really into their products.
Walking in on a Tuesday morning, scones and cookies were well-stocked; the rest of the assortment consisted of the odd cupcake or tart, and weren't as appealingly displayed. Asking for advice on a cookie choice, the girl behind the counter listed the varieties. We couldn't help but notice that her voice hushed slightly (in reverence perhaps?) at the mention of the "Mojo", their store specialty--a hefty coconut/chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie which is roughly as big as a salad plate.
Oh, the Mojo. Still slightly warm, the crisp edge of the cookie gave way to chocolatey bits mingled with the chewy oatiness to make some sort of a mouthfeel nirvana; the coconut didn't hit right away but was more of a complementary middle and aftertaste, adding a dimension of richness and depth to the flavor. Oh yeah--this is one good cookie. And at $1.75 for a cookie that could easily be split four ways (really), it's a bargain too.
All in all, a good trip. While we think that maybe they could let go of that aggressive uncool-ness enough to make their displays a little bit more appealing, there's no denying that they know how to make a good cookie.
Two Tartes Bakery, 5629 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108; 206-767-8012; online at www.twotartes.com.
My name is Mellowcreme Pumpkin and I would like to comment on your recent article "Cake Poll: Fall Treats". In reading through your reader responses I notice that the confection known as "Candy Corn" has attained far more votes than me in the race to determine the superior Halloween Confection. It has brought me to only one conclusion: either this poll has been funded by "Candy Corn" or "Candy Corn" has paid off said readers for a positive response.
- There's simply no delicate way to state it other than to say Candy Corn is a Conehead. Do you really want to associate yourself with a piece of candy whose claim to fame is a resemblance to a washed-up vintage Saturday Night Live character?
- Candy Corn is skinny. They say never trust a skinny chef--I say never trust a skinny candy. Even considering Candy Corn's unbecoming "junk in the trunk", you'd still have to eat at least three of them to equal one of me.
- Seeing green: There's a lot of value put on being "green" in society these days. Well, do you see a trace of green on Candy Corn? No way. I'm the only confection in this mixed bag of candies to contain green. You know what that means? I'm practically a vegetable! Clearly I'm the healthiest choice, not to mention I have a more visually pleasing palette.
- The press agrees: According to Serious Eats, Candy Corn is "the fruitcake of halloween candy" and one of the 10 worst Halloween candies to give out. While some of you may argue that my ingredient list is the same, I don't see any pictures of Mellowcreme Pumpkins on that list, so clearly I am a confection of a higher caliber.
- I've inspired poetry: for a case in point, check out the beautiful poem "Ode to a Mellowcreme Pumpkin" by McPolack, Inc. Here's an excerpt:
Oh, sweet, sweet mellowcreme pumpkin...let's get together tonight in front of the Gilmore GirlsHave you ever seen a poem about Candy Corn? Well, have you? William Wordsworth would surely agree, I am the superior candy.
Where I will feast upon you until I very nearly hurl
They don't put nearly enough of you in the Brach's Autumn Mix.
(Cakespy Note: the title is a shout-out to a favorite food site, Everybody Likes Sandwiches!)
At Bourbon Street Southern Gourmet Pantry, for instance, they had the "homemade oreo"--a sandwich cookie made of chocolate wafers filled with a rich vanilla cream. It's a strange feeling to eat a freshly baked version of something that is normally store-bought; it's hard to say if it tastes better or worse--because once it has a title like that, you've got a taste association and expectation in mind. All that philosophizing aside though, we finished it and were smiling when it was gone, which may be the most telling review we can offer.
At Baked, they boast a coffee and chocolate variety, as well as vanilla and chocolate varieties. (Cakespy note: Though it's different than the cookies we're talking about here, it's worth noting that they do also have award-winning pumpkin whoopie pies on offer as well!). The cookie sandwiches are also available at Royale in Manhattan, though some varieties did not warrant Serious Eats' seal of approval.
And the Treats Truck of course boasts cookie sandwich varieties such as Caramel Creme, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon. We didn't get to try these, but as a commenter said on Midtown Lunch, "The peanut butter cookie sandwich with peanut butter is quite possibly the greatest thing ever created. I suggest everyone buy anywhere from 1 to 39 of these cookies." Sounds like an ace review to us!
So what gives with the sandwich cookie? Was it a matter of one bakery's success inspiring others? Is it the result of a longing for nostalgic treats paired with a demand for better ingredients and quality?
How do you enter? Just answer the below questions to be entered in the running! Responses may be entered in the comments section or emailed to email@example.com.
- Which do you prefer: candy corn or mellowcreme pumpkins?
- Fun-size candy bars: do they make you happy or leave you hungry?
- Trick-or-treaters without costumes: give 'em candy anyway, or turn 'em away?
- Halloween candy-eating method: eat it as fast as you can, or ration it out to last?
- Favorite cold-weather beverage: hot apple cider or hot chocolate?
- Fall pie faceoff: apple or pumpkin?
The fine print: The poll will be closed at 12 p.m PST on Friday, October 17. 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.
....and we have a winner! Our winner was JEAN from New Jersey! Jean entered in our comments section and most definitely prefers Candy Corn! While Mellowcreme Pumpkin may not approve, we were more than happy to see the piece of artwork go to such a sweet home!
You know those little ad words that google oh so sweetly places at the top of your email browser? Well, recently one of those intrigued us, because it was for a type of baked good we'd never heard of before: the navy bean pie. Now, upon first thought the idea of a navy bean pie isn't necessarily attractive, but then again, when you really think about it, does "sweet potato pie" or "zucchini cake" really sound delicious at first? So, we decided to give these bean pies a try.
OK, so what are they? According to Wikipedia, a bean pie is a "sweet custard pie whose filling consists of mashed beans—usually navy beans—sugar, butter, milk, and spices." But beyond that, where do these pies come from? While the bean pies are associated with soul food cuisine, a very interesting wrinkle is that they are also associated with the Nation of Islam movement: its leader, Elijah Muhammad, encouraged their consumption in lieu of richer foods associated with African American cuisine, and the followers of his community commonly sell bean pies as part of their fund-raising efforts. And as trybeanpie.com says,
"The Navy Bean Pie is a nearly century old recipe that originated in the Holy
City of Mecca.
The Bean Pie was introduced in America around 1930 in the community known as Black Bottom Detroit, the Black community. It was originally formulated as a healthy alternative for sweet potato pie."
OK, and so now that you're educated, how did they taste?
First we tried the "Original" bean pie. The texture was on par with that of a pumpkin pie, slightly custardy and not overly sweet; surprisingly, the beans did not lend any grittiness to the chewing process--had we not known that these were bean pies, we might not have known what they were (but of course, that would not have stopped us from continuing to eat it). We ate ours plain, but bet it would attain a few degrees of additional deliciousness if paired with vanilla ice cream or a thick layer of whipped cream.
No doubt about it, it was a dark Monday this week, what with the financial crisis and all-time stock market lows. Needing a bit of reprieve, we took to the road to clear our minds and get some sweet relief by way of sugary carbohydrates. Heading a mere 45 minutes out of Seattle, it was if we'd escaped these urban worries: with a pastoral backdrop including ponies, cows, farms and mountains, we set to tasting some delicious baked goods. Without consciously seeking it out, we ended up gravitating toward doughnuts on most of the trip. But in retrospect, doesn't it make sense? After all, when you split it in half, sharing a doughnut is like sharing a smile. Here's a recap of our adventure:
We walked up to our first stop, Sky River Bakery, only to meet disappointment--apparently, they're closed Sunday and Monday. Now, will you allow us a slight rant? (Thank you). These are awful days for a bakery to be closed--Sunday being the perfect day for a leisurely morning cinnamon roll, and Mondays being a day on which we could all use a sweet lift. That aside, we will grudgingly admit that it looked like a cute place from the outside. Sky River Bakery, 117 1/2 W Main St, Monroe, WA 98272, (360) 794-7434; online at skyriverbakery.com.
Luckily for us, before we pulled away we spied the word "PANADERIA" across the street; while we don't speak Spanish, we know that this vital word means deliciousness awaits. Though it was a dimly lit grocery filled will all sorts of Mexican groceries and sundries, they had a surprisingly full case of Conchas, pan dulce, and other hispanic specialties. The concha, while perhaps not the best we've ever tasted, certainly did soften the blow of our first stop being closed. La Talpita, 118 W. Main St, Monroe, WA.
At this point, if you'll allow, we'd like to give a shout-out to one place for savory fare, just because its very presence astounds us: Old School BBQ, a roadside barbecue joint housed in an old school bus. As if that wasn't cool enough? It's right next to the Reptile Museum (at which, in case you were wondering, you can get espresso too). If that doesn't sound like a recipe for complete awesomeness, we don't know what does. Read about one foodie's experience at Old School BBQ here. We couldn't find the address or phone number, so we'll include the contact info for the Reptile Museum: 22715 State Route 2, Monroe, WA - (360) 805-5300.