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Entries in bakeries (274)

Tuesday
Oct262010

Sweet Inspiration: Dessert Travels in Turkey with Cake Gumshoe Nicholas

So, I have a totally sweet customer named Nicholas. He's basically the ideal customer: he comes in and buys stuff, and then tells me all about the delicious sweets he eats when he travels the world. Just looking at his pictures is bound to evoke some seriously sweet wanderlust. Here's what he's eaten recently

The Baklava plate from Karaköy güllüoğlu, Istanbul (not Constantinople), Turkey!

The baklava is from one of the better known baklava places, and one that is well known on TripAdvisor. Had it not been for them, I would have never found it. I have thee name under the picture in my picasa and it's located on the north side of the golden horn (if you find Ayasofia and then cross the nearest bridge you're right by it).

The plate, plus turkish tea, was about $5-6 and the baklava was amazing. Extremely fresh and varying tastes, including the chocolate baklava which tasted like a dark chocolate brownie at it's best with honey. The one right beside it in the picture was a walnut baklava and I wish I had grabbed one extra to get a better shot, but for some reason I was on a pistachio trip (which is a nut I have traditionally not liked). The other three are various levels of pistachio, from some (the triangle) to entirely (the green roll at the end).

Visit the Karaköy güllüoğlu website here.

Saturday
Oct232010

Pitt Stop: The Famous Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's, Pittsburgh PA

So, anyone who has ever talked to me (like, ever) knows that sooner or later, we're going to start talking about baked goods.

And a couple of years ago I had a great conversation with a young lady from Pittsburgh who told me a beautiful tale about a famous dessert from her town: the Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's Bakery. Actually, I believe she referred to it as "a torte worth shoving grandma out of the way to get to quicker." Oddly, I didn't ask any follow up questions.

But suffice it to say, the description left an impression, and when a customer in my Seattle store mentioned that he was headed to Pittsburgh for a visit, I left him with a very strong suggestion that he try this torte.

But he did one better: he brought me back a piece. Apparently not only had he bought one of the tortes, but had become hooked: as he confessed, he had eaten a slice that very morning for breakfast (a practice which I support, btw).

The torte itself has an interesting story, as I learned from a Pittsburgh-based dessert enthusiast

It wasn't until the 1970's though, that Prantl's began to serve its most famous item- the Burnt Almond Torte. In the midst of an unusual surplus of almonds, the Almond Board asked bakers to use more almonds in more creative ways. Henry Prantl, an original owner, traveled to California to learn and came back with an idea for a cake which he refined into the ever-delicious Burnt Almond Torte.

Well, Henry did good, and one taste of this torte reveals why it's an enduring legend in the area. It's comprised of Prantl's "famous yellow 'scrap' batter cake, creamy custard, homemade buttercream and loads of secret recipe toasted almonds", and it is very, very good. The cake itself is light, but don't you dare think it's virtuous, because the thick slab of custard contained inside not only keeps the cake moist, but adds a decadent dimension--which is then multiplied by the addition of thick, creamy buttercream and crunchy, toasty almond slivers. They may think that they're doing a good job of keeping the secret to the preparation of these delicious almonds under wraps, but I'm pretty sure I've figured it out: they mix in a heaping handful of crack.

Because this cake really is that addictive--in Mr. Spy's words, it was "an epic dessert".

Thank you Dennis for bringing back a slice for us to sample!

Prantl's Bakery is located in Pittsburgh; visit their site for locations and details. You can also buy a "travel" version of the torte online here, and if you're feeling brave, you might want to give this copycat recipe a try (though I haven't tried it).

Prantl's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Oct072010

Hummingbird Chronicles: Lemon Cupcakes Recipe from Hummingbird Bakery

English cupcakes come stateside!CakeSpy Note: This is an ongoing series of entries about (and recipes from!) London's Hummingbird Bakery by Cake Gumshoe Alexandra Levert, who is an assistant director for a French television network in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking and baking because she finds it comforting and yet challenging at the same time. She tries to combine her love of food and her love of travel as much as life will let her.

 One Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend, who has never been into cupcakes, decided to finally take a look at my Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. He started flipping the pages and landed on the lemon cupcakes page. He suddenly got all excited and said he wanted to make them. And right now. I was surprised, yet I wasn’t: he can never say no to a dessert with lemon. Suddenly, I was the one who wasn’t too excited about the idea of making them. Don’t get me wrong, I love lemon, but I always prefer chocolate to fruit in a dessert. This time though, I let him convince me and we went to the grocery store. 

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes

Recipe by Tarek Malouf, from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook 

For the base:

 

  • 120g of plain flour
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 1½  teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest, plus extra to decorate
  • 40g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 120 ml of whole milk
  • 1 egg 

 

For the lemon frosting:

 

  • 250g of icing sugar (sifted) 
  • 80g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
  • A few drops of yellow food colouring (optional but pretty!)
  • 25 ml of whole milk 

 

For the cooking process:

 

  • A 12-hole cupcake tray lined with paper cases 

 

So here is what I did:

 

  1. First, I preheated the oven to 325°F or 170°C. 
  2. Second, I sifted the flour and put it in a large bowl with the sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and butter. Then I used a handheld electric whisk, although you can also use a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment, to beat the first batch of ingredients together. I beat them on slow speed until I was certain all the components were combined. I gradually poured the milk in and continued beating so that everything was mixed in well. I added the egg to the first mixture and beat it in with the rest for a few minutes until it formed a nice, smooth blend. Now the next part tested my cupcake skills for the first time: spooning the mixture into the paper cases. To do so, I took two spoons: one to pick up a bit of the blend and the other to push it out of the first spoon and into the mold. I repeated that same action until all 12 paper cases were about 2/3 full. The tricky part was to try and keep the tray as clean as possible, by not letting any of the mixture fall anywhere but in the cases. It was harder than it looked, but I did it. One cupcake point for me! 
  3. I put the tray in the oven for 22 minutes, since the recipe said to leave it in for 20 to 25 minutes. What I did was I set my timer for 20 minutes, and then when it rang, I took a fork and inserted it gently into one of the cakes. When I took the fork out, there was a slight trace of cake on it, so I knew I had to leave them in for a few more minutes. So I waited a little bit, checked again and they were fine. I took them out of the oven and let them cool down completely. 
  4. After about 30 minutes, it was time for me to make the icing. First I beat the icing sugar, butter, lemon zest and food colouring with the same handheld electric whisk, but this time on medium-slow speed until the ingredients were well combined. Then I turned the whisk down to a slower speed while I poured the milk. After that, I turned it to high speed and beat the mix for about 5 minutes, until the frosting became fluffy enough. As Tarek Malouf said in his book: “The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.” 
  5. Then my now-favourite, yet the riskiest part of the whole process finally arrived: it was time to put the frosting on the cakes. The thing about cupcakes is that they are supposed to look pretty and appetizing, and this was my first time trying to do so. The best advice I can give you is just dig in but do it gently. Take a good amount of the frosting with a spoon, a knife or a small spatula and spread it evenly while rotating the cupcake. This will give you more control over what the end result will be like. And voilà! Your first cupcakes. MY first cupcakes! 

 

So what do they taste like, you ask? Well, the thing about Hummingbird cupcakes is that they are never too sugary, which is good for people who don’t have a sweet tooth. I found the lemon ones very flavorsome, yet quite subtle in taste. Lemon is not something you need a lot of in order to get the full taste experience. And it was the case with these cupcakes. 

Final words: In order to make the recipes with as much precision as possible, I would recommend using a weighing scale in order to measure some of the ingredients. I didn’t have one when I made this recipe, and I found it really affected the texture and consistency of the frosting. It was a bit too liquid, not overly but just enough for it not to stick to the base properly. Remember: You need good tools to make great cupcakes!

Tuesday
Sep282010

Sweet Mini-Series: Hummingbird Bakery Chronicles, by Cake Gumshoe Alexandra

CakeSpy Note: This is the introduction to a series of several entries about (and recipes from!) London's Hummingbird Bakery by Cake Gumshoe Alexandra Levert, who is an assistant director for a French television network in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking and baking because she finds it comforting and yet challenging at the same time. She tries to combine her love of food and her love of travel as much as life will let her.

Alexandra's Spy Report

I recently went to visit my Australian friend and her boyfriend in London, England. Upon my arrival, as I reached into my bag to give them a little souvenir from my trip to Prague, she handed me a book… Something called Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I was immediately intrigued by it, seeing as the cover adorned lovely cupcakes and a few other desserts. You see, I’ve been obsessed with cupcakes for quite a while now, and seeing this picture of the beautiful and perfect sweets didn’t help my obsession. When I finally opened the book, I remember being completely enamored with the variety of desserts being described and also with the beauty of their presentation. To my great surprise, my friend told me the bakery was actually in London itself, and that we could go to one of the three locations during my stay. How marvelous!

My experience at The Hummingbird Bakery

The location I went to is situated on Wardour Street, a small side street in SoHo. I could see the white and pink hummingbird sign by the entrance from far away. When I went in, I found it as adorable as I thought I would: Cupcake pop-art on the walls, cookbooks on shelves, dessert trays and, most importantly, endless rows of cupcakes. I went there on a Saturday, so the bakery was packed and extremely busy. I queued for my chance to finally get one their sweets, but when one of the girls working there asked me what I wanted, I couldn’t even choose! Vanilla with vanilla frosting? Too easy.  Vanilla with chocolate frosting? Too common. Orange blossom? Maybe some other time. Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting? Perfect! I bought my cupcake along with two notebooks as souvenirs for my friends back in Toronto. Then my friend and I walked to Trafalgar Square and devoured our desserts in seconds! The cake was moist and flavorful, the frosting was simply delicious, and the two put together made it one of the best cupcakes I have ever had. My friend had also bought the raspberry cheesecake and after having only a spoonful of it, I can honestly say it was incredible.

The final word?

So, if you are ever in London and are looking for a little (or big) something to satisfy your sweet tooth, I definitely recommend The Hummingbird Bakery. Now, I am back home and eager to try some of the dessert recipes. Stay tuned to hear about my attempt to make some cupcakes of my own.

In the meantime, check out Hummingbird Bakery online!

Thursday
Sep022010

Huckleberry, But Not Finn: Huckleberry Cupcakes for September at Cupcake Royale

What's a ton funner than climbing a mountain, and many times more delicious?

The Blue Mountain Huckleberry Cupcake from Cupcake Royale, that's what.

That's right: it's September, and it's time for a new flavor of the month. Here's what they have to say about the new variety:

Our fine friends over at Foraged and Found collect these delicate little woodland wonders and bring them to us fresh and direct. Baskets of sparkling huckleberries, packed with sweet Pacific Northwest goodness, fill our bakery in anticipation of being baked up into the perfect cupcake. So, that's we do with them, and we top it off with a huckleberry buttercream that's as pretty as it is delicious.

These are blue mountain huckleberries. They're a little different from the ruby red gems you might be picturing. They're  a bit sweeter, akin to a very fancy wild blueberry...only better! They make for one super delicious cake, and one beautiful hue for a buttercream!

Which just goes to show that a sugar high is better than, say, a Rocky Mountain High, any day of the week.

You can find this flavor all month long at all four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and hours, visit cupcakeroyale.com. Stay updated on their daily goings-on and the progress of their upcoming Bellevue location via Twitter!

Friday
Aug132010

Dough-Eyed: Cookies and Controversy from My Dough Girl in Salt Lake City, Utah

Which would you like first? The good news or the bad news?

The good news: My Dough Girl Cookies, a bakery in Salt Lake City, makes amazingly delicious cookies. I mean, like, really good. Fat, chewy, buttery, and flavorful morsels, sweetly packaged in the cutest retro sleeves. I recently had the good fortune to try several when SLC-based Cake Gumshoes Rob and Carol came to Seattle for a visit and brought me four specimens for me and Mr. Spy to sample.

We tried the "Lilly" (lemon sugar cookie with lemonheads and lemon glaze), which was bright and sunny and -- surprise, crunchy!--from the addition of sweet-sour lemonhead candies, the "Sandy" (the special flavor of the month, with macadamia nuts, zucchini, and milk chocolate), which was an unlikely, but oddly addictive combination--

--as well as a rich, filled chocolate cookie, and what I think may have been the "Betty" (oatmeal cookie with fruit bits), which was moist, buttery, and not at all as healthy-tasting as it may sound. In a good way.

The bad news: My Dough Girl Cookies won't exist for much longer. You see, one chubby little white guy doesn't like this Utah-based bakery's name very much at all--the Pillsbury Dough Boy. As it turns out, owner Tami Cromar recently received a cease and disist" order from General Mills, saying that she'd better change the name of her bakery.  According to The Salt Lake Tribune

The national company, which owns Pillsbury, said the name is too similar to its iconic Dough Boy character and represents trademark infringement. The letter also suggests that because My Dough Girl sells frozen take-and-bake cookie dough — just like Pillsbury —the Utah product could tarnish the company’s reputation.

Rather than fight, Cromar has decided to comply with the request, which includes a gag order that forbids her to talk to news media. She referred calls and text messages from The Salt Lake Tribune to her attorney, Catherine Lake. Calls to Lake’s office also weren’t returned.

But don't despair, because there's more good news: Although the name will change, the cookies will not. As the article goes on to say,

"I have to stick to baking so cookies can still be a part of all our futures,” Cromar wrote earlier this week. “ If the Dough Girl fights, there will be no cookies."

And that would be seriously bad news.

Whatever you want to call them, you can find 'em at 770 South 300 West, Salt Lake City, Utah; online here.

My Dough Girl on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Aug082010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondies: Delicious Blondies from Oddfellows Cafe, Seattle

In Seattle, there is a place called Oddfellows, and it is classified as both a cafe and bar. What does that mean, exactly?

Well, basically it means that you can belly up to the bar and get a delicious bar cookie to go along with your beverage. And my newest obsession? The Oddfellows Blondie.

This butterscotch-chip and nut-studded bar cookie is a bit of brown sugary, buttery bliss--pleasingly dense without being leaden, assertively but not aggressively sweet, soft and chewy, but firm enough that it doesn't crumble. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if there was a blondie to make brownie devotees question their allegiance, this might be it.

Oddfellows has a rotating selection in their bakery case; call first to ensure availability. But even if they don't have these, they're bound to have something good. You can find them at 1525 10th Avenue (b/t Pike and Pine), Seattle; online here.

Sunday
Jul182010

Sugar and Spice: Almond Cardamom Cookies from Traveler's, Seattle

Down the street from CakeSpy Shop in Seattle's Capitol Hill, there is a sort of hippie food, tea, supplement and gift shop called Travelers. They have a sort of cult following for their chai tea (not to be confused with tai chi, although many of their patrons do that, too).

Now, there's nothing wrong with their chai--nothing at all. But the reason I go there is for the cookies. In particular, the almond cardamom variety.

Chewy, rich, spicy, and lightly sweet, this is kind of like oatmeal cookie meets spice cookie, and both sides become more delicious as a result of their union.

It's the type of cookie that you could probably psych yourself into believing it's healthy, but really, it's not.

It's a simple cookie, but a very good one: and when paired with a spicy chai, it might just whisk you away to a faraway place, if just for a few moments.

Travelers, 501 E Pine Street, Seattle; online here.

Travelers on Urbanspoon

Saturday
May292010

Word on the Sweet: Street Treats, a new Mobile Bakery in Seattle

So. I've never jumped into a cab and said "follow that vehicle!".

But the moment may be coming, now that Street Treats, the newest addition to Seattle's mobile food cart network, is just about to launch (as soon as next week, pending inspections!). Because wherever they are, I want to be. (OK, maybe it won't be necessary: they'll have a set schedule, so stalking them will be far easier, if less dramatic).

You see, Diane, the self-taught baker behind the sweets--er, scenes--happened to drop by my store the other day with a platter full of awesome.

And after enlisting some brave friends--including a cast of writers and foodies including writers from Mango Power Girl, Absinthe & Oranges, and the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog to aid in the sampling of said treats, I can say with certainty that the reactions are just as sweet as the treats.

Two of the unanimous favorites featured lime:

The bar cookies with a brown sugary crust, a healthy dollop of lime curd, and a fat topping of coconut and crumb;

and the lime-poppyseed cookies, which were bright and dazzlingly buttery, and a welcome respite from the more expected lemon-poppyseed combo;

and not far behind was this weighty, oh-please-don't-let-it-end cookie, which featured white chocolate chunks and a white chocolate-orange infused filling;

and this carmelita, which satisfies sweet, salty, chocolatey, and buttery cravings...all at once. (pictured top)

The standouts were ably backed by an assortment of the usual suspects, including blondies, chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, and molasses cookies, as well as a moist, dense carrot cake cookie sandwich with a sweet, equally dense cream cheese filling.

Oh, and they'll also be featuring treats made by other local heroes like High 5 Pie and Half Pint Ice Cream!

Find out more at streettreatswa.com; keep updated on the daily goings-on by following them on Twitter!

Wednesday
May262010

Get Sconed: A Delightfully Carbohydratey Treat from Heavenly Pastry and Cake, Seattle

Scones are, in general, not to be trusted.

Oh, they look great in the bakery case, in all of their buttery, carbohydratey glory, often prettily glistening with various glazes or topped with fat granules of sugar.

But in general I tend to agree with America's Test Kitchen when it comes to the flavor reality: as they put it, "scones served in a typical coffeehouse are so dry and leaden that they seem like a ploy to get people to buy more coffee to wash them down."

But when I recently encountered the jam-filled variety at the Heavenly Pastry & Cake booth at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market, I had a glimmer of hope. For one thing, it looked more biscuit-y than many American bakery varieties--it seemed more like a British scone (or at least a cousin to my favorite Grand Central Baking treat, the Jammer).

Happily, these scones tasted just as good as they looked: the texture was somewhere between cakey and biscuity, yielding but not  falling into the crumbly or spongy pitfalls that often plague lesser scones. The raspberry filling offered a nice texture and taste contrast to the butteriness of the main event, and almost (but not quite) made them taste healthy. 

Heavenly Pastry & Cake says on their menu of their scones that "we give these humble pastries the respect, and flavor, you deserve"--and after having tasted, I tend to agree.

P.S. Though they're not sweet, the pretzels ought not be missed, either.

Heavenly Pastry & Cake, retail storefront coming soon in West Seattle; they can also be found at several area Farmer's Markets. For more information, visit heavenlypastry.com.

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