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Entries in Cookies (168)

Tuesday
Aug262008

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

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

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


Bonbon Cookies from Betty Crocker

 

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


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

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

For the Cookies:
  • 1/2 c. soft butter 
  • 3/4 c. sifted confectioners sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • food coloring if desired 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Possible fillings: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, cherries...choose your own adventure!
For the Icing:
  • Mix 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tbsp cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and food coloring (if desired).
Heat oven to 350. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and food coloring (if using), thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend in flour and salt. If dough is dry, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. cream. Wrap a level Tablespoon of dough around filling.. Place 1" apart on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 min. Cool; dip tops of cookies in frosting; decorate with another topping if desired. Makes 20-25 cookies.
Saturday
Aug162008

Not Joe Mamma's Cookies: Legend of the Joe Frogger

Joe Frogger
We love the Seattle Public Library. Not only is it a feat of architecture (designed by Rem Koolhaas) and a fantastic place for people-watching, but we find some of the best literary gems there (including arguably the best cookbook ever-- Cooking in WetLeather, a biker cookbook with the tag "Ride Safe, Eat Dangerously"--but we digress.)

Proper Joe FroggerLove Cookie
Our most recent discovery though was the first edition print of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, which, packed as it is with recipes and little historical tidbits, led us to the legend of the Joe Frogger.



What is a Joe Frogger? According to Betty, they are "famous molasses cookies made long ago by old Uncle Joe of Marblehead, Mass. The cookies are as plump and dark as the little frogs that lived in the pond near Joe's cottage." Not too sweet, and with a crisp texture, they are a solid cookie indeed (picture of a "proper" Joe Frogger above left--we've taken liberties with the shapes of the others in this writeup).

But a little bit of further digging revealed a life as rich in history as the cookie is plentiful in molasses. Joe Brown, aka "Black Joe", was born in Massachusetts 1750 to a black mother and Native American father--a time when most wealthy Marblehead families still owned several slaves. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find much about his youth, but it is speculated that by the time he reached manhood he "must have been gainfully employed for his name does not appear as one of the black "drifters" forced out of Marblehead in 1788, when...Town Meeting ordered all former slaves to find work or leave". 
Joe clearly had it going on though--he married a woman 22 years his junior, Lucretia Brown, and he even bought property in the area, a house on Gingerbread Hill (!). It was a lengendary spot, converted to a rooming house which was one of the few places in town where whites and blacks mixed freely. And oh, did it have a colorful reputation (from Marblehead Magazine)--
according to Marblehead Historian Joseph Robinson, "a more uncouth assemblage of ruffians could not be found anywhere." It would not be surprising if the term "Down bucket!" originated here, that fearful Marblehead expression warning those below that the contents of the chamber pot where about to be flung out a bedroom window.
Just thinking about these antics makes us hungry--and that's where the famous molasses cookies come into the picture--they were the tavern's signature food item.
Joe Froggers
But the Joe Froggers themselves were only named after Black Joe--they were not actually his invention. The cookie was apparently dreamed up by his wife Lucretia (aka "Aunty Crese"). The cookies, which keep for long periods, were named for her husband and the amphibians who lived in the pond by the house; because they keep for a long time, the cookies were an ideal choice for travel and were frequently taken on fishing trips and even longer sea voyages. There was also a lesser-known variation, the "Sir Switchels" which were popular too, described as a "thirst-quenching blend of water and molasses, which a touch of vinegar to cut the sweetness."

Cuppie has identity crisisCuppie is a cookie?
Unfortunately it's better to be the one the cookie's named after rather than the namer--while Black Joe has an impressive gravestone and is a part of Marblehead lore, Lucretia's resting place is not known (though apparently she does get a mention in the novel The Hearth and Eagle by Anya Seton. )

 

 

But perhaps the Marblehead Magazine sums it up best: 

 

Still, as long as frogs continue to hatch in Marblehead ponds and the aroma of gingerbread fills Marblehead kitchens, the lives of Black Joe and Aunty 'Crese will be as sweetly remembered as the taste of their warm Joe Frogger.


We used Betty Crocker's version (which is vegan!); it can be found below, or in the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. 

 

Joe Froggers


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup Shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups Gold Medal Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

Directions: Mix well shortening and sugar. Stir in molasses and water. Measure flour by sifting. Stir dry ingredients together; blend into shortening mixture. Chill dough several hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured board. Cut in 3-inch circles. Sprinkle with sugar. Place no a well-greased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on baking sheet a few minutes before removing to prevent breaking. Store in covered cookie jar. Makes 3 to 4 doz. cookies. Note: if you use self-rising flour, omit salt and soda.
Two additional notes: A few questions have come up as a result of this article. The first one is, are Joe Froggers delicious? Well. They're an old school cookie, very spicy and molasses-y, and not too sweet. We'll admit it openly though--we liked ours better with a dab of frosting on top.

The second question is "Why does Cuppie look so sad?". Well, you see, he's having a moment of identity crisis--"am I a cookie...or a cupcake?". It's a poignant moment indeed, speaking to all of those who have ever felt like the proverbial square peg.

 

 

 

Sunday
Aug102008

Tough Cookies: Not the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

How Not to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies
There's been a lot of talk lately about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Although ingredients and size are important, it seems that one vital step--the one that intrigues us most--in attaining cookie nirvana is letting the dough rest for 36 hours.

But imagine the dismay you'd feel, after those many hours, to see that your oven isn't working? This is what happened to Cake Gumshoe Phil recently--and he cleverly decided to try "baking" them in a frying pan. This got us thinking about the humble chocolate chip cookie. If the method written about in the New York Times is the absolute best one--then what is the worst? We set out with a log of dough to find out.
Here's what we did:
First, we made a batch of cookie dough (Toll House recipe!). After not letting it sit for 24, 36 or really any hours, we did the following:
1. We fried it
2. We toasted it
3. We microwaved it
4. We boiled it
* Cakespy Note: We would have grilled it too, but alas--we have no grill.
Here's how they came out:

Time to Fry some CookiesPan fried Cookies
Pan-fried cookies: As mentioned above, this idea came from Cake Gumshoe Phil. We heated up our frying pan to a medium temperature, and put a thin coating of vegetable oil in the pan to fry our cookies. We heated each side for about three minutes. Though slightly unweildy, they did remain solid enough to flip with a little finessing. Once cooled, these cookies were delicious in a guilty sort of way--slightly crispy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. Some might say health risk; we say salmonellicious.

Toaster Oven CookiesToaster Oven Cookies
Toasted Cookies: We put a couple of cookies in our toaster oven. First we tried the convection setting, which pretty much made normal cookies. Boring! We reset to "toast" to see what would happen. The result was decent--crispy on the sides, soft but not underdone in the middle--but they burnt on the top--due to the proximity to the toasting mechanism. Not excellent, but they'd do in a pinch.

MicrowaveMicrowave Cookies
Microwave Cookies: We took this as a chance to also try out the pre-existing microwave settings on our oven. We chose the "potato" setting, which was perhaps a bad choice--it was a six minute cycle but after two minutes we began to hear a strange popping sound and stopped the microwave. The cookie dough had baked...sort of. It was crispy and pockmarked, and unfortunately had fused itself to the plate. We managed to cut off the top part of the cookie, which was crackery, crispy, and as Ralphie from the Simpsons might say "tastes like burning". Most definitely not delicious.

Making MischiefDumplings
Boiled Cookies: The secret to perfect bagels is boiling them before baking, so what about cookies? We tried two batches in our boiling part of the experiment. The first batch was just boiled--we dropped them in boiling water until they rose to the surface (which they did! It took about a minute), for a sort of chocolate chip cookie dumpling. Unfortunately, Mr. Cakespy declared that they tasted "like boogers"--as you can see his is not only a looker but quite the wordsmith.

Cookie BagelsCookie BagelsWeird CookiesCookies
For the second batch, we first boiled and then baked our cookie "dumplings". As a note, as an homage to the bagel-making method, we shaped them like little cookie bagels first, but the shape didn't hold--they just became little dumpling-y rounds again. But we powered through this pitfall and put them in the oven. Once baked, they no longer tasted of booger, but the chewy skin and soft inside which makes a bagel so wonderful did not equal chocolate chip cookie bliss. That having been said though, they weren't terrible--just not awesome.
As for our final thoughts? Well, we wouldn't say we offered any serious challenges to that now-famous NY Times recipe in the taste department. However, we do have a little trouble waiting 36 hours for our cookie dough to set once we've set our mind to baking them--aren't chocolate chip cookies all about fun, simplicity and fairly quick gratification? And so perhaps we didn't suffer a total loss--super delicious or not, we had a lot more fun messing up these cookies than waiting for the dough to set on a perfect batch.

 

 

Sunday
Aug032008

Berger, Hold the Fries: Baltimore's Famous Cookies and More

Berger Cookies
You know that scene in the Wizard of Oz, after the house lands, when Dorothy opens the door and suddenly her world is in technicolor?

Well, that's sort of how it was for us when we recently tried the Berger Cookie for the first time. Call us starry-eyed dreamers if you will, but it felt as if something changed in our lives when a parcel of the precious cookies arrived (a gift from our friend Mitch in Baltimore) at the Cakespy Headquarter doors.

(Cakespy Note: Since the cookies were shipped to us, the cookies shown in our photos may differ in appearance from cookies purchased in Baltimore! They were no less delicious though.)
Berger CookiesBerger Cookies
For those who may not be familiar with these treats, the Berger Cookie is possibly Baltimore's crowning culinary achievement: a buttery, cakey cookie with a soft, sweet, fudgy chocolate topping. The recipe was brought to America in 1835 by German immigrants George and Henry Berger; since then the bakery's ownership has changed a few times and they are now produced on a large scale--but unlike many prepackaged the cookies, they are all still made and frosted by hand, and it shows: like snowflakes, no two are alike. We think that DCist put it beautifully: 

...the extra-thick layer of fudge, which is nearly a half an inch at its thickest point (yes, we measured), is applied in an absurdly generous schmear that can barely be contained by the limited surface area of the cookie. As a result, the fudge tends to droop over the cookie in odd formations with distinctive wave patterns--like chocolaty stalagtites. What's more, the actual amount of fudge can vary dramatically from cookie to cookie.
Of course, as the article goes on to say, "This, of course, leads to dilemmas when sharing your Berger Cookies with others". Because if you're like us, when you bite into that "absurdly generous schmear", there's no turning back, and certainly no offering bites to others. The beauty is not only in taste (which one Serious Eats reader described as "almost nauseating--in a good way") but in texture--whereas on other cookies the chocolate topping may be hard and break off unevenly, the soft fudge on the Berger cookie doesn't crack when bitten, and therefore allows the perfect ratio of chocolate to cookie with every bite.
Berger Cookies, we love you. 
Buy Berger Cookies online at bergercookies.com, or check out the list of retailers in the above-mentioned DCist article. Also--what a find!--though the official Berger recipe is apparently quite closely guarded, you can find one baker's version here.

Cowgirl Cookie from Liz LovelyGinger Cookie from Liz Lovely
Of course, we realize that one cannot live on Berger Cookies alone (arguable). That's why we're glad to have experienced some other mail-order cookies recently too! We first learned about the vegan Liz Lovely cookies through our friend Imani, who has a website called Chocolate Nerd, and knew we had to try some. Not only do these cookies have heart (they're organic, they're cruelty free, they're free trade, and packaged with green materials), but they happen to be addictively soft and insanely delicious as well. We are particularly in love with the Cowgirl Cookie, whose description promised "A chocolate chip cookie so soft, sweet, and slightly baked you'll wonder why we didn't just leave it in the mixing bowl for you!"--and oh, does it deliver. A close second was the Ginger Snapdragon, a spicy confection of molasses, ginger, and delicious (it's also their bestseller). The package says a serving is half a cookie, but we defy you to let the second half sit til later. Available online at lizlovely.com.


Berger Cookies on Urbanspoon

 

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.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun182008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Zoe Lukas of Whipped Bakeshop

It ought be no secret that at Camp Cakespy, we love when cake and art overlap. But even so, we nearly collapsed from pleasure overload when we recently discovered Whipped Bakeshop, a Philadelphia-based special order bakery which specializes in cookies, cakes and treats which transcend the line between mere baked good and art--literally. However, between fainting spells over their Paris Map and iconic LOVE cookies, we found time to catch up with proprietress (and trained painter) Zoë Lukas--here's what we learned about the advantages of baking with a BFA in Fine Art, the trials and tribulations of frosting as a medium, and what Philadelphia specialties simply cannot be missed:


Cakespy: What drew you, an artist with a BFA in painting, to open a baking business?
ZL: I’ve always loved cooking and baking (in fact, most of my family does), so fusing my love of sweets and art is natural to me. In regard to opening my own business, it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time; circumstances were right, and I was done working for “the man!”

 

CS: How do frosting, dough and batter stack up against more traditional fine art media?
ZL: I see all the ingredients as another, different art medium. The main disadvantage for me seems to be temperature…for instance, chocolate decorations can melt in the summer heat, but an oil painting won’t. Also, humidity here in the mid-Atlantic is nasty, so that can affect things as well. But frosting acts like painting for me, and I also like to use food colors to paint directly onto cakes and cookies – it’s very similar to working with watercolors.

CS: Do you feel that your art background has given you a leg up in your baking business? How so?
ZL: Absolutely! I feel I can use all my creative ideas to help make someone something really unique, with the added benefit of it being a great-tasting dessert. Being able to solve problems creatively is also huge - I like to think I work out of the box so to speak. Like, if I can’t find what I need at the cake decorating store or online, why not try the hardware store? For instance, I bought some stainless steel on ebay and a jeweler friend of mine helps me make custom cookie cutters.

CS: Currently, you work primarily by special order--but you are no stranger to retail, having worked in a few retail bakeries in the past. Do you think you'd ever be interested in opening your own retail operation?
ZL: Yes, I do think eventually I will have a retail shop. I like working with the public, and seeing how happy a simple cupcake can make someone can really make a baker’s day.

CS: Who are some of your inspirations--artistic, culinary, or both?
ZL: Wow, there are so many. Some favorite artists include Mark Rothko, Jess, Agnes Martin, Jasper Johns, Gerhard Richter, Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud (duh), Johannes Vermeer, Edouard Vuillard…boy, I could go on forever! (Cakespy Note: The "duh" by Wayne Thiebaud was inserted by Zoë, but even had she not, we would have included it.)

Culinary inspirations include my mom (who’s always making something good), my brother Jeff, who’s a professional cook, and I have a bookcase full of baking cookbooks. My husband teases me about bringing them to bed to read. Some favorite authors of cake decorating and dessert cookbooks are: Lindsay Shere, Margaret Braun, Maida Heatter, Alice Medrich, Kaye & Liv Hansen, Regan Daley, Peggy Porschen---again, I could go on for quite some time.

I love to wander about the pages on flickr and etsy – there are so many creative people out there who are a great source of inspiration. I have lots of friends who are artists too, and they are a constant source of ideas and support.

CS: What is your favorite baked good to make?
ZL: Hmmm – I love fruit crisps and crumbles, and fresh or baked fruit tarts – they always look so tasty and luscious once they’re all done.

CS: What is your favorite baked good to eat?
ZL: I think the answer to that is simply, “yes.” Though do love a fresh sour cherry or peach pie with streusel topping, or the perfect creamy/crispy crème brûlée.

CS: Where do you get your recipes?
ZL: Some are handed down family favorites, some are cookbook recipes that I have made my own by adding/changing ingredients.

CS: What are some emerging trends in baking or certain baked goods gaining in popularity right now, in your view?
ZL: Cupcakes have been “in” for a while, but they seem to be staying around, and I see fancy 

ones like mojito, chai, green tea, etc. all over. It’s fun and relatively easy to
 experiment with a mini cake, and it’s the perfect little thing to treat oneself to, which is why I think bakers and buyers both like them.

 

Vegan baking/bakeries have also been popping up, and using fresh, local (when possible), quality ingredients and baking from scratch is an emphasis for many cooks and bakers alike (including me).

CS: We're keenly interested in regional specialties or baked goods which seem to be popular in different areas of the country. Can you clue us in on any Philadelphia or PA area baked good specialties?
ZL: Well, the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish and Mennonite) are well known for their homemade treats, and things like whoopie pies, apple dumplings, fresh fruit and shoofly pies, yeasted coffee cakes and doughnuts are all popular.

Though not a “sweet,” the soft pretzel in Philadelphia is not to be missed – Fischer’s in Reading Terminal Market make the best ones in my book! There are also a number of Pennsylvania Dutch vendors in the Terminal selling everything from fresh cheeses and meats to homemade breads, jams and jellies (can you say apple butter?), and of course all sorts of tasty bakery items. (Photo left: Pretzels from the Reading Terminal Market--not by Whipped Bakeshop).

Cakespy Note: Stay tuned--three of our spies just visited the Reading Terminal Market and a Cakewalk is imminent!

CS: So, it sounds like the Reading Terminal Market is a can't-be-missed spot in Philadelphia?
ZL: Reading Terminal Market is not to be missed for its sheer variety of foods and beautiful seasonal fruit and produce. Buy some great ingredients and go home and bake something yourself – it’s truly satisfying!

Cakespy Note: After publishing, a few more places occurred to Zoë which we simply had to add: a classic Termini Bros. cannoli, chocolates from Naked Chocolate.... and Foster's Urban--it's like the art supply store of cookware shops in Philly.

CS: Your creations are so highly personalized. Can you walk us through your process? Do you consult with a customer and respond to their needs, or do you pitch these creative cookie and cake ideas (Like the LOVE Cookies etc) to them?
ZL: It really depends on the customer, but it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes a client wants my ideas and asks me to design something for them, sometimes they have an idea, and I sketch it out for them, adding my own personal touch. The LOVE cookie was first designed by me on

 Valentine’s Day for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), and it was recently featured in DailyCandy Philly, and it has proven to be a well-loved design.

 

CS: What's next for Whipped Bakeshop?
ZL: I am making the wedding cake for the couple who play Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross, and their cake is going to be decorated with layered paper stars and flowers in red, white, and blue, and will be surrounded by dimensional folded paper stars.

I am also working on travel/resort themed cookies for The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and I am going to be making cookies based on a variety of famous paintings from different periods for a private client who is having an event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I am really excited about all of these projects.
I am also working with my good friend Laura Blumenthal, who is a local ceramist, on a project called “Whipped and Thrown,” and we are planning on offering gift collections (think cake plates and platters) of cupcakes or cookies that relate to the images on the pottery. These are going to be great, because once the dessert is eaten, you will have a beautiful piece of functional pottery left to use for years to come.

Want more? You can ogle over photos of Whipped Bakeshop's baked goods (and, if interested, contact Zoë) via whippedbakeshop.com.

 

Friday
May092008

Hello, Biscochito: A Primer on New Mexico's Official State Cookie

Biscochito
Before a few weeks ago, we had never even heard of the biscochito. But then, one of our spies had the good fortune of meeting with an extremely talented writer who hails from New Mexico (buy her books! here!); when we asked what baked goods were popular in the area, she mentioned this cookie. Intrigued, we tested out a recipe. We were instantly hooked by the taste--to us, it kind of tasted like a mexican wedding cake cookie crossed with pie crust and a melange of spices including anise and pepper--and eagerly set out to learn more about this magical cookie which has claimed the heart of New Mexico (in fact, it's their official state cookie). Let's get better acquainted with the biscochito, shall we?

First off, what is a biscochito?
According to Miguel Hambriento, who wrote The Foods of Old Mesilla, they're "heaven's own little cakes blended delicately of sugar and spice, flour and wine and other secret ingredients, shaped by the swift fingers of the linda señora into small diamonds and baked until they are the delicate brown of the maiden's cheek kissed by the New Mexico sun".

However, if you're seeking a less poetic explanation, it's an anise and cinnamon flavored shortbread cookie which often contains wine. It's frequently made with lard, which gives it a melt in your mouth texture, but shortening and butter are used, more frequently in this day and age.

 

What's up with this cookie's name?
Depending on where you look, it may be referred to as the bizcochito, biscochito or biscocho. There's a bit of debate over the name of these cookies. In general, it seems that they're referred to as biscochitos in the northern part of the state, biscochos in the southern part of the state. But wait, that's not all. In 1989, when New Mexico House Bill 406 declared the bizcochito as New Mexico's Official State Cookie, there was a battle over how to spell the cookie's name--biscochito or bizcochito. Several lawmakers got on the House floor to press for the "s" or "z". Eventually the Senate returned it as bizcochito.

Of course, as one wise biscochito maker says: "it is the taste that gives a biscochito the name, no matter how you wish to say it."

 

What's the story behind this cookie?
Biscochitos were introduced to Mexico by Spanish explorers in the 16th Century. In Spain they are called Mantecosos (according to our spanish dictionary, the word mantecosa means "buttery" in Spanish--love it). This cookie has long been associated with celebrations, sometimes being called the "Original Mexican Wedding Cookie", frequently served in a diamond shape to represent purity (just think about it--ew). Today, they make frequent appearances at weddings, quincenieras, baptisms and Christmas parties.

Are biscochitos hard to make?

Well, the recipe is fairly straightforward; however, as bakers well know, sometimes it's not just the recipe but your technique. As one wise New Mexican lady put it, "You must have the hands (manos) to make a delicious biscocho that will melt in your mouth. Most people will try and make good biscochos but they will turn hard on them". (Source: Osito's Biscochitos)

What should I drink with biscochitos?
We'll defer once again to the expert Hambriento, who says: "Biscochos go with vino like an egg on an enchilada". Sounds good to us, Hammie. OK, maybe milk or hot chocolate for the kids.

 

 

Where can I buy these cookies?

A few places will ship biscochitos within the US. Try out one of the following websites: biscochitos.net, goldencrown.biz, or santafebiscochitos.blogspot.com.
How can I make these cookies?
If you want to be a purist, here's the lard version:

Biscochitos from a Trusted Source
  • 1 lb lard (no substitutes!)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsps aniseed
  • ½ cup sweet table wine
  • 6 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1-2 tsp cinnamon for dredging
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream lard with sugar and anise seeds. In separate bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy; add to creamed mixture. Add dry ingredients and wine to form a stiff dough. (add more wine as necessary.) Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

The next day, preheat the oven to 350º F. Have ready 2 ungreased cookie sheets.

Let dough stand at room temperature till soft enough to roll out; divide into quarters and roll to 1/8” thickness. Cut out with 2 ½”-3” cutter and bake 10-15 minutes, or until cookies are pale blond on top, golden on bottom. Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon while still warm. Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies.

However, if you're queasy about lard, we won't tell if you try this one; for vegans, we weren't able to find a recipe, but any suggestions? 

Sources used:

 


 

Sunday
Apr202008

Of Macarons and Madeleines: A French Cookie Faceoff

Oh no!
Over the past week, we asked you, our readers, which fancy French cookie you preferred: the macaron or the madeleine. Both cookies are steeped in tradition and lore--while the macaron has a place amongst royalty and in fancy tea salons, the madeleine was immortalized by Proust and also has its own rich history. At the end of our poll, the vote, while certainly not a landslide--was decidedly in the macaron's favor: 169 vs. 123 out of 292 votes.

But what did all of it mean? Like the spies we are, we delved on both sides of the ring to find out more:

So Popular!
Team Macaron: What is it about these l'il Luxembourgers? Here's what some experts had to say:

Lydia, who is planning on entering a pastry program very soon, sums it up nicely: "Macarons are like fairy cookies. They probably eat them in Middle Earth and Oz."...but don't think she's talking about their relative the coconut macaroon, for she goes on to say "I'm actually offended when someone thinks I'm talking about a coconut macaroOn in such glowing tones." Owch. Of course, Lydia has also had the privilege of eating macarons from Pierre Herme, which may explain why she's such a devotee.

 

For Veron, who runs the macaron-and-cupcake-makin' business Petites Bouchées (best business ever?), it's the variety and possibility that appeals: "With macarons, the flavors , color and uses are endless - your limit is your imagination. You can just sandwich them simply or make them part of an elaborate dessert. As she goes on to say, while perhaps an acquired taste, they do ultimately hook you: "When I first brought macarons in [to work], it took a while before the container became empty maybe because a lot of people are not familiar with them. Nowadays, on my way to the breakroom to leave some macarons I get stopped on the way so they can have first dibs."



Macaron on Unicorn

Team Madeleine: However, not all of you were sharing the love of that sweet-sandwich. So, heading over to the other side, here's what our experts had to say:
Allyson, whose skill is evident on her fantastic site ReTorte, cites texture and a low-key, nonfussy nature in the Madeleine's favor: "First of all, they're more cakey (or they should be)...Macaroons involve a lot of effort for little reward, in my humble opinion."

For Kelly, soon-to-be culinary school grad and brand-new pastry chef at A Voce, prefers the shell-shaped cookie: "I'm a bigger fan of the madeleine. I prefer their texture and flavor. As you well know, crispness has its place in cookie-land: i.e. biscotti. But in this case, I have to opt for the soft madeline. I believe the madeline's capability to stand on its own makes it superior to le macaron, that needs something like coffee and tea to compliment them. Even look at the petit four 'Sarah Bernhardt,' that macaron base needs that cream center and chocolate coating. Plus, macarons don't remind me of children's book series the way madeleines do...."
Oh no!
However, as Cake Gumshoe Phil (who is getting his PhD in literature) reveals, literary connections don't always bring on good feelings: "Like most people who are expected to have read Proust, I have a rather tortured relationship with him and madeleines. As almost everyone knows Proust's dipping of a madeleine into his tea recalls his aunt and his childhood, it becomes a moment of connecting to his past. Proust, of course is intimidating. It's long, complex and oh so French. Madeleines, while still being French however, are rather delicious in their petite nature and simple flavor. Yet, as much as I like them, the very site of a Madeline brings into me an anxiety over finishing Proust: " 'Have I read enough to actually talk to people about the book? Will I ever finish it? Do people actually read the whole thing? I really, really, really need to get back to that- I'll start tomorrow.' "


So Pretty!
But if you're still undecided? Of course, there is also the school of thought that they're just from different worlds and that individuals will generally relate to one more than the other depending on who is doing the tasting. As Aran of the lovely site Cannelle et Vanille says: "I see the madeleine as the 'stout' girl vs the 'ecole superior' refined macaroon. Madeleines are soft and bumpy, dipped in coffee, making a messy table from spilling milk.... and the macaron with its thin crunchy exterior and refined almond crumb is like the perfect, slim daughter of a diplomat... the macaron has travelled the world and can be filled with matcha ganache, passion fruit... she has experience in the ways of the world as the madeleine is a sweet country girl."
Beautifully put indeed--after all, who wouldn't admire that sleek, refined macaron? Perhaps we all want a piece of that glamour.
Or perhaps what it really comes down to, all things considered, is cuteness. Which one is more adorable? Well, as proven from the unicorn's preference, cuter crowd of friends, and batting lashes, we suspect we know what really threw the vote.


Mad et Mac

 

Sunday
Apr062008

In Defense of the Coconut Macaroon: Ode to an Ugly Cookie

Macaroons

Cakespy Note: Although the terms macaron and macaroon can be used interchangeably for the French version of the cookie, to avoid confusion we have referred to the French version as macaron and the American version as macaroon below. Additionally, thank you to Cake Gumshoe Christine, who made the cookies pictured above.

 

In magazines, online and in fancy restaurants these days, it's hard not to run into the macaron--you know, that delicate little French sweet-burger of a cookie. And while yes, the macaron does have a certain je ne sais quoi, we at Cakespy can't help but feel for their ugly little sister, the coconut macaroon. It's quite different from its French counterpart--usually a lumpy, coconut-rich confection, often dipped in chocolate. No, they're not pretty, but there's something unpretentious and charming in their unabashed excess: they're extremely sweet, extremely rich, and extremely...coconutty. And so, we'd like to take a few moments to rediscover the coconut macaroon, and why it ought to be loved:

 

 

First things first: how in the world are these two cookies related? While they don't look or taste the same, they are indeed part of the same family tree. While there is evidence of meringue-type cookies going as far back as the 1500s, the macaron in its current form is accepted as taking shape in the late 1700s when two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth were seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution, and paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaron cookies. However, these original macarons were simply cookie rounds--it wasn't until the 1930s that fancy tea room Ladurée began serving the cookies in a new way, with a sweet ganache filling between two of the traditional rounds. Naturally, the sweet filling and flavor and texture contrast caught on, and the l'il Luxembourgers began to take the world by storm (read more about the Frenchie ones in this fantastic writeup by one of our favorite foodies, Robyn Lee).

 

 

However, veering on a different path than Ladurée, the cookie also gained popularity with the Italian Jewish population because it requires no flour or leavening (the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, like yeast, baking powder and baking soda—instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during Passover. Naturally, due to a high level of deliciousness, it gained popularity all over Europe as a year-round sweet, and regional variations popped up. The coconut macaroon seems to have gained popularity first in Glasgow, Scotland; it is most likely from here that it hopped over the pond and captured the hearts of Americans.

So, that's the story of the macaroon, or at least the best we could piece it together (our sources listed below). But more importantly, why should you love the coconut macaroon? Well, here are several points in its favor:
Transportability: With its lumpy texture and dense shape, this is an easily transportable treat, ideal for packing in a lunch or carrying in a bag for an on-the-go snack. Try doing that with a macaron, we dare you--those babies are so delicate they'll crack if you look at them wrong. So high maintenance!
Shelf Life: The French macaron, with its meringue-y outer shell, is not only delicate, but it goes stale very rapidly; in our opinion, its texture and taste are severely compromised if they are not consumed the same day they are made. On the other hand, coconut macaroon seems to last longer if stored properly; we've had fantastic macaroon experiences even two or three days after baking. Whether it's due to their higher fat content or its denser texture, we don't know, but we like the idea of a cookie that's not gonna love us and leave us the very next day.

Nutrition: Coconut is very high in Manganese, a mineral that is part of many different enzymes working throughout the body. Manganese deficiencies can cause weight loss, nausea and vomiting, poor growth, and abnormal reproduction. Clearly, you don't want any of that! By simply adding some sugar, egg whites and flour to your coconut, you have thus created a pleasurable way to increase your Manganese intake.
Brownies, combining with: Though perhaps you haven't thought much about browniefication (the art of combining brownies with other baked goods), clearly the coconut macaroon is a fine choice when you're considering what cookie addition might give your brownies a little "oomph". As proven by the Macaroon Brownie at Dish D'Lish in Seattle, it is a marriage made in heaven. Try that with a macaron.
Pop Culture: Coconut macaroons have made several appearances in film and TV:
  • They play a major role in the 1994 black comedy "Freaked" when one of the main characters complains of the coconut being "skimped on" in his macaroon. So sad!
  • In the first Season of The Sopranos, Tony tries to play peacemaker by presenting his mother with a box of macaroons, which he knows to be her favorite. Though it's clear that Livia Soprano wants those cookies, she's one manipulative mom and ultimately turns them away. Quel dommage!

Where can you buy coconut macaroons? Online, here are a few spots: coconutmountain.com will ship coconut macaroons anywhere in the US from New Hampshire; Tripician's, who have been making macaroons since 1910, will ship them anywhere in the US from Southern NJ; The Macaroon Shop in Avon-By-The-Sea, NJ, will also ship within the US; online ordering is not available, but their contact information can be found at macaroonshop.com.

How can you make coconut macaroons? Well, you could use the recipe listed in this previous post from the Sweet Melissa Cookbook, which we've tried and is fantastic (photo top); or, you could give this exceedingly rich and delicious one a try (we love the sweetened condensed milk--so bad, but so good), from the Barefoot Contessa:

Coconut Macaroons
  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
  3. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

 

Tuesday
Apr012008

No Fooling: Sweet Ideas to Make April Kinder

They say that April is the cruelest month. But at Cakespy, we have the perfect idea for making the month a bit kinder--sweet treats in the mail! The perfect thing to put a sparkle in the eye and a spring in your step, no matter how many April Showers you're up against. To that point, we've assembled a list of some of our favorite new discoveries in the world of shippable baked goods--delectable treats to send off, care-package style to friends and family...or perhaps to your entitled and deserving little self. Of course, once you taste these treats you might not want to share the care--but hey, sometimes you've got to be cruel to be kind.


Sugar cookie from the Sweet Tooth FairyThis is what love looks like.
The Sweet Tooth Fairy: Have you ever bitten into a cookie and had to pause and sit down before continuing? If so, then you'll understand why we're so in love with their sugar cookies, which are dense, crumbly, and frosted with a rich, decadent frosting that will keep you coming back for more. We love their rich little cake truffles too--blurring the lines between fudge, cake and truffle, these are little gems of pure pleasure in your mouth. As a bonus, everything was beautifully and securely packaged in their parcel. Sugar cookies are $28 per dozen (but they're BIG); cake truffles are $15 per half-dozen; these and more are available online at thesweettoothfairy.com.

Cakespy Note: If cake truffles intrigue you, learn more about the art of cake truffles from a very talented friend of ours, Bakerella! She'll be showing Martha (you know, THE Martha) how it's done this thursday on Martha Stewart Living--find out more here!

Ginger White Chocolate Cookie, Sugarlicious NYMoody Brownie
Sugarlicious NY: Specializing in old-school treats like cookies and brownies, these are classic home baking with a modern makeover, from beautifully designed packaging to classic flavors with just a little something different thrown in. Our favorites? The surprisingly subtle and pleasing "Red Hot" Brownies (brownies with a touch of chili and cinnamon), and the Ginger White Chocolate Cookies. Of course, old favorites like chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies are on hand too. Cookies are  $18 per dozen; $24 for 9 generous brownies; these and more available at sugarliciousny.com.


Walnut CookiesChocolate Spice Cookies, Jennie and Vera's
Jennie and Vera's Cookies: (photos above care of Jennie and Vera's with thanks) Jennie and Vera's cookies are like little works of art, equally easy on the eye as they are on the palate. From the "walnut"--which looks like a shelled walnut and a macaron had a baby (and oh, what a baby: a cookie composed of ground walnuts, filled creamy walnut filling flavored with Croatian walnut liqueur) to the chocolate spice cookie, which marries Hungarian paprika with black pepper, ground chocolate and cocoa, we're pretty much hooked. Anyone you send these to is very lucky indeed! Prices range depending on cookie style; available online at jennieandverascookies.com.

BiscuiteersBiscuiteers
But if you're in the UK, don't despair--we have a good one for you too: Biscuiteers! Basically a biscuit-and-telegram service, you choose your cookie (sorry, biscuit) and your message, and it's sent to the recipient of your choice. Far less expected and much sweeter than flowers, in our opinion! Prices range from £8.00 for an individual message and treat, and go up from there; available online.


DSC05525

 

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