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Entries in bakeries (273)

Saturday
Feb272010

Sweet Harmony: Opera Cake From Dalloyau, Paris

Dalloyau in Paris is renowned for their Gateau Opera, and I'm here to tell you why.

But before I do that, how about a little backstory on the baker behind the cake?

Dalloyau was founded in 1802 by Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau. He was no stranger to fancy food--both his father and grandfather had worked in royal kitchens. However, he was a visionary in that he was able to forecast that with the revolution coming and the end of court life, there would be a rising interest in food from the middle and upper classes--and he was there to feed them, with his concept of a "maison de gastronomie" which specialized in takeaway dishes that could be prepared by cooks.

Well, the concept certainly took off, and Dalloyau began to create quite a nice niche for itself. And pastry and sweets were a big part of it--according to the Dalloyau website, in 1883, founder Jean-Baptiste's great grandson, Achille Henri Dalloyau created the first modern ice cream store--and established the pastry union.

And as for the Opera cake? Well, according to an article in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas,

The elegant opera cake premiered as the Clichy, introduced by Louis Clichy, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Years later, the renowned Parisian patisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as L'Opera. This classic gateau is composed of exquisitely thin layers of biscuit viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The top of the cake is iced with a very thin chocolate glaze, creating a pleasantly firm texture. This cake is traditionally square or rectangular with the sides of the cake exposed to reveal its tempting layers.

And Dalloyau's storied version is very, very good. The rich coffee flavor infuses every bite, adding a deep, dark layer of flavor to every other piece of it: the biscuit, the chocolate, and the rich, smooth buttercream. Not to get too poetic about it, but this is sort of the kind of dessert that makes you want to close your eyes and say "mmmm" for a very long moment.

Today, Dalloyau today is comprised of over 500 employees, counting amongst their ranks "97 cooks, 100 pastry cooks, chocolate makers, confectioners, 4 ice-cream makers and 4 bakers"--all the better to make more Gateau Opera to share with the world.

Gateau Opera from Dalloyau, available at Dalloyau boutiques and cafes; for more information, visit dalloyau.fr.

Saturday
Feb202010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Trip to Breckenridge, CO With Rainy Day Gal

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth.

The fam and I are back from a visit, and a ski trip, with Husband's folks in Colorado. High, dry, cold Colorado.

Here's a few things I learned about living at 10,000 feet:

1) You always feel dehydrated, even after downing 3 gallons of water in one day. Yup. I counted.

2) It's dry. Your nose will bleed. Your skin will chap. You feel like you can never breathe quite right. You will look like you have pneumonia when you don't.

3) It's freaking cold. Our first day on the mountain the wind chill was -12. Husband wore one of those embarrasing but effective neoprene face masks. I may have laughed at him a little. And then my throat froze so I stopped.

4) It makes for some fantastic damn skiing. and, finally:

5) It's hard to bake anything correctly. Cupcakes collapse into hockey pucks. Cookies melt right into the baking pan. And a chocolate cake will turn out more like a pan of brownies.

That last part being said, I was curious: how great could bakeries be at this altitude? Even if you make all of the flour, butter, and baking time adjustments, would the baked goods two miles high measure up to those down at sea level? Lucy, my dear ma-in-law and I bundled up and set out on a quest. 

Part 1: The Adventure

Our first stop? Clint's.Our concierge pal Nate tipped us off that they had some rockin carrot cake. And if you've ever met me you know that I could eat my weight in carrot cake any day of the week. It's a cute two-level sort o deal, with sweets and coffee upstairs and the more savory junk downstairs. I think all restaurants should be divided this way. I would always know exactly where to sit. I was a bit taken aback at the pastry case---everything was wrapped in cellophane. I don't know about you, but to me saran wrapped baked goods are a bit drive-thru coffee stand. It then dawned on me that this was a result of the dry atmosphere in this neck o the woods. Those loverly croissants would dry out quicker than a wino in jail if not for that tacky yet effective cellophane. But we weren't here for the pastries, my friends. We were here for the goods.

And this big ol' slab-o-cake (pictured at the top of the post too) did not disappoint. It was perfectly moist, despite all of the obstacles to keep it that way. The cream cheese frosting walked the fine line between too sweet and too cream-cheesey with ease. The side was coated with chopped walnuts, which I adore. It gives it such good crunch and texture, plus cuts the sweetness of the frosting nicely. The frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect. Nothing bugs me more than too little frosting over too much cake. Nate, thank you for bringing this carrot cake into my life. Clint's, kudos for a job well done. With our bellies full of sweet, nutritious (a main ingredient is carrot, after all) cake, we put our jackets back on and ventured to our next destination.

Mary's Mountain Cookies. It's a cute little shop, and by little I mean about 6 feet by 6 feet. They make cookies and nothing else. I always admire that in a bakery--stick with what you're good at. Diversity is overrated. They had the usual suspects: snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter. But they also had intriguing sandwich numbers stacked with buttercream frosting, and these naughty dipped cookies that weighted a quarter pound each (pictured above). Holy fat cookie, Batman.

In the end, we took home three varieties: cranberry white chocolate chip, double fudge white chip, and a "White Out"--two snickerdoodles hugging a hefty dollop of vanilla buttercream. Being that our palates were still sugared-out from carrot cake, we decided to wait for the troops to come back from skiing before sampling these beauties.

Meanwhile, we moved on. Word on the street was that there was a cupcake joint in town that was not to be missed. And I'm always game for a new cupcake joint. But, sadly, it was not our day. Our path was blocked by a man-eating, frosting-throwing, Jaba the Hut-sized Snow Cupcake! It took all of our efforts to dodge his attempts to devour us in his huge, snow-frosting-blob of a mouth. Then we moved on...

 ...and arrived at Breckenridge's own Rocky Mountain Cupcakes. It's a sizeable shop with a rustic, ski-lodge sorta feel. They had quite a few varieties to choose from--all beautiful, perfectly frosted, and topped with something interesting. Ready for some cupcake porn? Here we go. They had flavors including chocolate coconut...

...strawberry snowflake (have you ever seen a cuter cupcake?)...

...key lime...

...chocolate chai...

...butterscotch...

...and the cutest red velvet I've ever laid eyes on. Which ones to pick? We debated a while.

In the end, we settled on strawberry (because it was cute, plus I wanted to know if it actually tasted as pink as it looked), chocolate chai (for my dear ma-in-law, who loves her some chai), key lime (pretty, and an intriguing cupcake flavor), and "Double Diamond" (for husband--double chocolate).

Part 2: The Tasting

We meandered home, and set the bakery boxes on the counter, warmed our toes, and then twiddled our thumbs and waited for the gang to get home so we could sample our loot.

Lu and I drifted off into a warm mid-afternoon nap, dreaming of skiing cookies and snowboarding cupcakes. When we awoke, much to our dismay, one of the cookies was missing. Gone. Finito. Never to be seen or heard from again.

It was, sadly, the double chocolate white chip. The one I had picked out for myself. The one I had been looking forward to all afternoon. Scanning the fam, they all had mysterious chocolate crumbs at the corners of their mouths. Little devils.

Luckily, the other two cookies more than made up for it. The cranberry white chocolate chip was amazing--buttery and soft, crunchy at the edges, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The "White Out" was absolutely insane: two of the best snickerdoodles I have ever had sandwiched with a vanilla buttercream, emphasis on the cream. It was delicious. It was divine. It weighted about two pounds.

We had no trouble finishing either cookie and moving on to the cupcakes.

The chocolate chai was the obvious winner. Moist, rich chocolate cake covered with a creamy chai-flavored frosting. Totally yummy.

The strawberry? Let's just say it tasted very, very pink. I'll leave it at that. The key lime and the double chocolate were fairly yummy, although both left something to be desired in the cake department. Overall? Decent cupcakes. Not spectacular, not terrible. Middle of the road. Except for the strawberry. That was far off the road in the ditch. But the others? Inventive, pretty and just fine.

The final word? When we go back to Breck next year, I will do two things:

1) Eat my weight in Clint's carrot cake.

2) Sample every cookie Mary's has to offer. They know how to make a seriously yummy cookie, even at 10,000 feet.

Well, I'm off to recover from traveling with an 11-month old, hit the grocery because last night we had to eat bratwursts from 2007, and hopefully put a dent in the mountain of laundry we brought back from the mountain. Thanks to the lovely bakeries of Breckenridge, CO for the delicious treats. I will not thank you, however, for my post-vacation waistline.

Places Mentioned:

Clint's Bakery and Coffee House, 131 S Main St BreckenridgeCO

Mary's Mountain Cookies, 128 South Main St., Breckenridge, CO

Rocky Mountain Cupcakes, Main Street, Breckenridge, CO

For Jenny's full review, visit her website.

Thursday
Feb182010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Deluxe Cakes and Pastries, Iowa City

Dear Deluxe Cakes & Pastries in Iowa City,

I've never met you, but I love you.

I realize that this may seem sudden, and I may be coming on strong.

But there are several reasons why I've decided we're soul mates. Care to hear?

Your cakes. Like this one, a 4-layer cake consisting of dark chocolate soaked in coffee syrup and layered with milk chocolate mousse and raspberry. If it tastes a third as good as it looks, I could die happy after eating this.

Your cupcakes. You have cupcakes in a delicious range of flavors, and you decorate them so sweetly. Who doesn't love a cupcake that looks like a bunny is diving into it (shown top)? I'd eat this for Easter...and beyond.

Your Doughnuts. Every Saturday morning, you fry fresh yeast doughnuts. I would get up early for these. Really, I would.

Your Petits Fours. Petits fours are by nature an adorable thing, but yours are especially cute, and I've never had a carrot cake or red velvet petit four. Needless to say, I would like to change this.

Your Tiramisu. Really, I think the picture speaks for itself.

In closing, Deluxe Cakes & Pastries, I would like to say that should you decide to relocate to Seattle, I would very much appreciate it. But if that's not possible, I look forward to stalking--er, visiting--you on my next pastry road trip.

Want more? If you're in Iowa City, you can visit Deluxe Cakes & Pastries at 812 S. Summit Street, Iowa City; even if you're not in Iowa, I bet you'd get a thrill out of checking out their website at deluxecakesandpastries.com or visiting their blog at deluxebakery.blogspot.com.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Amuse Bouchon: The Bouchon Ho Ho, Bouchon Bakery, NYC

It's time to talk about the fanciest Ho Ho you'll ever meet: the Bouchon Bakery Ho Ho.

I'll admit, when I first encountered this $5.25 log of chocolate and buttercream at Bouchon Bakery's Columbus Circle location, I was, to put it mildly, conflicted.

On the one hand: Awesome! It's a Ho Ho! But Fancy!

But on the other hand: Hey! This Ho Ho costs more than $5! What are they trying to pull?

And while tasting it was delightful, it actually made me even more confused.

On the one hand: This is a well made baked good. Each bite is exquisite, obviously made with fine ingredients, redolent with rich, dark chocolate cake, rich buttercream all enrobed in a decadent dark chocolate.

But on the other hand: Somehow it seems with every bite that nostalgia is playing a game with you, because it tastes so right...but isn't all of the wrongness of the original what makes it so wonderful?

Faced with a sweet dilemma, a piece of said fancy Ho Ho was presented to Cake Gumshoe Margie (um, also my mom), whose eyes widened upon the prospect of such a fancy version of a childhood favorite. Her esteemed opinion?

"It's very good...but if anything...it tastes just a little too fancy".

So, where does this leave us?

On the one hand: When we make bad stuff good, there's an appeal that can't be denied, something deeply rooted in nostalgia that appeals to our developed tastes.

But on the other hand: Unfortunately, as it seems, as much as we might want these treats to grow up with us, sometimes we can't get past the fact that the bad is sometimes what makes these treats so good.

Of course, in conclusion, I would like to say that you wouldn't have to twist my arm too hard to buy another one of these deliciously decadent treats--because never has existential musing been so sweet.

What do you think? Is making junk food gourmet a good or a bad thing?

The Bouchon Ho Ho, available at Bouchon Bakery; for locations, visit bouchonbakery.com. Call to ensure availability.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Love in the Mail: Cookies from Abigail's Bake Shop

Homemade Oreo Cookies from Abigail's Bake ShopThe most beautiful words in the English language? Cookie Sampler.

That's what I received recently from Abigail's Bake Shop, a special-order bakery based in Raleigh, NC. Locals can order from a full menu of cakes and pastries; for the rest of us, they'll ship cookies. And oh, those cookies.

The parcel which arrived was packed to the brim with cookies: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip and chocolate chip walnut cookies, peanut butter and peanut butter chocolate cookies, old fashioned sugar cookies, iced heart cookies, homemade oreos, and...cute...a single brownie in the shape of a heart.

Normally a parcel of this magnitude would last several days, but luckily it was in the hands of professionals, and several Cake Gumshoes set to professionally sampling these goods.

The highlights?

The "signature" sugar cookies, which were lightly crumbly on the edges and the just-baked side of cookie dough in the center;

the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which likewise were crumbly on the edges but dense and chewy inside, with a wonderful, well rounded peanut butteriness that was sweet and salty and matched perfectly with peanut butter's bff, chocolate;

and...of course...the homemade oreos.

Now, it can be a hard thing to wrap one's mind around the idea of a "homemade" sweet that is usually store-bought--sometimes, even if it is technically better quality, it comes up lacking because it doesn't have that nostalgic flavor. 

Happily, we had no such problem with these oreos, which came in regular creme-filled and mint creme-filled. The cookies were not extremely oreo-like, but more dense and cakey--this was a very good thing.

And the cream--creme?--actually managed to pull off that sweet, singular paste-like texture of classic oreos, and with a wonderful, sweet and creamy flavor that might just outdo the original.

Oh, Abigail's Bake Shop, what a delight it was to find you.

Ready to order a bushel of cookies for your own household? Thought so. You can find out more (and order online) at abigailsbakeshop.com. Additionally, you can keep up to date via their blog, Facebook and Twitter!

Monday
Feb152010

Sweet and Petite: Mini Empire Bakery, Seattle

The revolution is coming, and it is tiny.

Yes, indeed: Mini Empire Bakery is slowly but surely making Seattle sweeter, one mini pie, cupcake, and "scookie" (scone-cookie) at a time.

Mini Pie Revolution Logo

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of cakes and pie slices the size of saucers, but there is something nice about pint-sized treats: you can eat four at once and totally feel good about it.

Mr. Spy and I recently attended their debut at Porchlight Coffee in Seattle's Capitol Hill, where they were serving up mini (cupcake-sized) pies in cranberry pear, bourbon pecan, and apple chai flavors (some of which were even vegan). And they're adorable. I mean, just look at this:

Adorable! And though small, the taste was mighty: deliciously flaky crust and thoughtfully, well-spiced fillings that left you wanting more--in a good way. The perfect sort of small bites for an after lunch or dinner treat.

Currently this is a custom-order and wholesale business (oh, and have I mentioned that the bakers are as cute as the goods? Pictured above), but there are undoubtedly big things in store for this small-scale baking operation, with some whisperings about a possible retail bakery. If this is the mini revolution, consider CakeSpy part of the tiny entourage!

For more information, including how to place a special order and retail locations, visit miniempirebakery.com.

Saturday
Feb132010

Je t'aDorie: Cookies from Dorie Greenspan's CookieBar Pop Up Shop, NYC

Regret: I did not have time to visit Dorie and Josh Greenspan's pop up shop, CookieBar, in NYC on my recent visit.

However, the earth does seem to balance itself out, and when I visited the Serious Eats offices, they happened to have a box of sweeties from the shop.

What does this mean? I got to try Dorie Greenspan's cookies, that's what it means (ok, ok, she also had some stellar bakers helping with the baking: per Serious Eats, helpers included Johnny IuzziniBradford Thompson, and Megan Fitzroy, along with volunteers fromThe French Culinary Institute.

I had chosen at random, and the one I chose, as it turned out, was the coconut lime cookie. It was a good decision.

Now, let me tell you about eating it. The first thing that hits you? The butter. The rich, tongue-coating buttery flavor.

And then a powerhouse of a sweet duel, from the sugar and the coconut, blossoming in perfect harmony with the butter and then giving a subtle sweet taste, which is then countered by the bright ray of zingy lime sunshine.

And then a small sea of more subtle flavors: the nuttiness of the coconut as an aftertaste, the lightest touch of bitterness (from zest perhaps?).

And finally--finally--the salt. And all Dorie stalkers--er, fans--know how important that is. As she says in Paris Sweets ,

salt is pastry's unsung hero...a pinch is enough to balance the sugar in a tart crust, underscore the flavor in any chocolate dessert, give caramel that certain je ne sais quoi.

In a word: perfection. Or should I say parfait?

Alas, the CookieBar was only open through February 12, but you can read all about it here, or read a comprehensive roundup of the deliciousness that was CookieBar at Serious Eats.

Friday
Feb122010

What Boys Like: Butch Bakery in NYC

Photo Credit: Butch Bakery, NYCIn my humble opinion, there are few guys who don't enjoy cupcakes--but a lot of them won't admit it because they find it hard to get past the whole...you know, cute thing. 

But I'm sure that they'll rejoice at the prospect of a more metrosexual cupcake-maker: NYC's Butch Bakery. Started by stock market alum David Arrick who took things into his own (manly) hands. Per DailyCandy,

His new venture, Butch Bakery, peddles big, boozy cupcakes with XY-approved patterns like camo, wood grain, and houndstooth. Manly flavors include rum-soaked Madagascar vanilla cake with cola Bavarian cream filling (Rum & Coke), chocolate beer cake with beer-infused buttercream and pretzels (Beer Run), and peanut butter cake with banana Bavarian cream and crumbled bacon.

No store front (yet) but the sweet treats are available for delivery in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

For more information, visit butchbakery.com.

Sunday
Feb072010

Sweetie Pie: PiePops and More for Valentine's Day from High 5 Pie

Don't get me wrong, if someone shows up with a big ol' box of chocolates, I'd never refuse them.

But I might just do happy backflips if someone brought me a Valentine's Day parcel full of flipsides, PieJars, Slab Pie (you may know it from the TV) and -- like, OMG--PiePops (yes, those are pie lollipops, in the Luxirare and Bakerella tradition) from Seattle's High 5 Pie.

Per proprietress and her royal Pie-Ness Dani Cone, there's some sweet stuff going on for Valentine's Day--on the menu will be some romantic

heart-shaped flipsides and Piepops! Yep, those are pie-lollipops! And, we're now going to offer our "as seen on tv" Slab Pie by special order, too! Folks can place a special order this week for Valentine's Day (or whenever they want).

Don't know about you, but I'm certainly giving the pie pictures above the look of love.

High 5 Pies are available at all Fuel Coffee locations; for more information, visithigh5pie.com. Also, keep updated with them via Twitter and their blog, and you can also buy proprietress Dani Cone's awesome book on Northwest coffee culture, Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture.

Sunday
Feb072010

Sweet Love: A Bakery and Baking Blog Crush on Cupcakes and Sundry Cupcakery, Toronto

It's happened again. Like a ray of buttercream sunshine straight to the heart, CakeSpy has another bakery crush. This time it's a double dose of delicious, because Cupcakes and Sundry is not only a custom order baking business, but also a delectable baking blog.

So who's behind all of this sweetness? Head baker Stephanie is a teacher by day, baker and blogger by night. What moves her?

I've been in love with cupcakes all of my life. In March 2008, I started making cupcakes as a hobby in my little apartment kitchen. Every week I'd pump out a different flavour for my friends and colleagues to try and to judge. Everyone has their personal favourite; mine strawberry angel food cake (picture on photo page) and a new flavour the peanut butter colossal.

I like to swirl and sprinkle, dip and glaze, fill and layer, pipe and top or just make cupcakes simple and sweet. Birthday, holiday or any occasion cupcakes are a perfect dessert after any meal.

And now that you have the backstory, howsabout the goods?

On the menu, you can build your own cupcakes using various cupcake flavors, fillings and frostings--love that. And oh, what an array of flavors--the chocolate chip cupcookie with cream cheese frosting sounds pretty good to me--or perhaps some vanilla cake with boston cream filling and chocolate frosting for a sort of Boston cream pie shout-out? Oh, you lucky Canadians who can order Cupcakes and Sundry wares!

Of course, for those not in the Toronto area, instant pleasure is available via the Cupcakes and Sundry blog, where you can follow Stephanie's day to day adventures, and you have access to some of the recipes she loves. Don't know about you, but within five minutes I was able to find a bunch of baking ideas I wanted to try--including Snickerdoodle cupcakes, cotton candy cupcakes, coffee and doughnut cupcakes, Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes, macaroons, and -- OMG-- these: 

Yup--Cupcakes and Sundry deserves to be loved.

You can check out Cupcakes and Sundry in several ways: if interested in ordering, visit the order page; if you want to keep up with the baking adventures, visit the blog; if you want some seriously sweet pictures to tempt you, visit the Flickr page.

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