Home Home Home Home Home Home Home
CakeSpy

Featured:

 

How a rainbow cake is really made
Unicorn Love: the Eating Disorder Recovery Blog

 

 Buy my brilliant books!

Buy my new book!

Buy my first book, too! 

CakeSpy Online Retail!

 

Archives
Gallery

Fantastic appliance for cake making on DHgate.com

everyrecipe.co.nz

Craftsy Writer

Entries in Cookies (171)

Wednesday
Oct292008

One Smart Cookie: Love at First Bite with Carol's Cookies

Carol's Cookies
Our love affair with Carol's Cookies began in an unlikely way.

It all began when the Starbucks (a local company, you may have heard of them) marketing people sent us a coupon to try out their new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Not prone to turning away free stuff, we ventured over to the 'Bucks, where we sampled the goods. The hot chocolate has a nice flavor--with the slightest salty aftertaste to balance the sweetness--but it's rich as all get-out, and gave a delirious sugar-high after about 6 of the 12 ounces of a small--er, "Tall". Unable to sit still and draw cupcakes after that jolt, our spy ended up taking a long walk and idly looking at the Whole Foods bakery case: it was there that Cakespy encountered the $2.99, 8-ounce (yes, we weighed it) chocolate-walnut deliciousness made by Chicago-based Carol's Cookies. Clearly, it was time to prolong that sugar high.


Carol's Cookies
Our first thought was that these were similar to the large cookies made by Levain, but upon the first bite it was clear that the resemblance was only visual--their textures and flavors, while both delicious, were very different. Whereas Levain's cookies have a delicious crunchiness to the texture,  Carol's cookies are a dream to cookie-dough lovers: lightly crisped on the exterior, giving way to a so-good-it-tingles soft, gooey interior, with pockets of caramel-y brown sugar, studded--but not saturated--with chocolate chips and nuts. The rich flavor is chased by the slightest bit of nuttiness (perhaps due to their use of wheat flour?) and a baby-bit of saltiness. 
And if they hadn't already won us over with their flavor, the indulgent cookie enhancement ideas on the site sealed the deal--once we saw their suggestion for the Breakfast of Champions--"Break up an Oatmeal Raisin with Pecans Cookie and add your favorite milk for a great way to start your day"--we knew we'd discovered a kindred spirit. 
Intrigued? Carol's Cookies are available at Whole Foods locations all over the US.

 

 

Tuesday
Oct142008

Everybody Likes (Cookie) Sandwiches: Exploration of a Sweet Trend

Cookie Sandwich, Grandaisy
(Cakespy Note: the title is a shout-out to a favorite food site, Everybody Likes Sandwiches!)


On our recent trip to NYC, one bakery trend in particular stood out for us: the cookie sandwich is showing up in a big way in bakeries. Now, it's not as if this confection is new, or as if it has ever really been out of style (as proven by America's bestselling cookie for years, the Oreo). Certainly we've seen these cookies before; however, never with the proliferation that we witnessed on this visit. What makes this particular cookie sandwich of interest is that while it shares traits with alfajores, macarons, whoopie pies, and of course Oreo cookies, they are not quite the same as any of these cookies. What we saw was generally two generous rounds (3 inches or so across) of a fairly substantial nature, with a generous dollop of filling nestled between.
Here were some of the ones we came across:

Homemade Oreo from Bourbon Street, NYC
At Bourbon Street Southern Gourmet Pantry, for instance, they had the "homemade oreo"--a sandwich cookie made of chocolate wafers filled with a rich vanilla cream. It's a strange feeling to eat a freshly baked version of something that is normally store-bought; it's hard to say if it tastes better or worse--because once it has a title like that, you've got a taste association and expectation in mind. All that philosophizing aside though, we finished it and were smiling when it was gone, which may be the most telling review we can offer.

 

Grandaisy Bakery, 72nd St.Cookie Sandwich, Grandaisy

At Grandaisy Bakery, a few different varieties were available of what they called "panini dolce" (rough translation: sweetwich!)--Nutella, lemon ginger, and chocolate cream cheese. We chose the shortbread cookie sandwich filled with Nutella and dusted with powdered sugar. This cookie sandwich was simply superlative--the buttery cookies mixed with Nutella was such a gorgeous symphony of sweet, slightly salty and richly chocolatey that the only sad part about this cookie was the moment we realized there was none left.

At Magnolia Bakery, they make a "whoopie sandwich cookie" which, like its name implies, leans more toward the cookie end of the spectrum (as opposed to the more pillowy, cakey cookie bits usually used for whoopie pies). Theirs consists of two brown sugar cookies with a dollop of maple cream cheese icing in between. (Photo left courtesy NY Daily News).

 

At Baked, they boast a coffee and chocolate variety, as well as vanilla and chocolate varieties. (Cakespy note: Though it's different than the cookies we're talking about here, it's worth noting that they do also have award-winning pumpkin whoopie pies on offer as well!). The cookie sandwiches are also available at Royale in Manhattan, though some varieties did not warrant Serious Eats' seal of approval.

Treats Truck
And the Treats Truck of course boasts cookie sandwich varieties such as Caramel Creme, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon. We didn't get to try these, but as a commenter said on Midtown Lunch, "The peanut butter cookie sandwich with peanut butter is quite possibly the greatest thing ever created. I suggest everyone buy anywhere from 1 to 39 of these cookies." Sounds like an ace review to us!

So what gives with the sandwich cookie? Was it a matter of one bakery's success inspiring others? Is it the result of a longing for nostalgic treats paired with a demand for better ingredients and quality?

While we can't answer these questions, we can quote Wayne Brachman from his book "American Desserts: The Best Sweets on Earth"--"sandwich cookies are a marvelous thing. Case in point: The Oreo chocolate sandwich is the most popular cookie in the world and has held that status for nearly a century". Wayne had it right from the start--if sandwich cookies want to make their presence known in bakeries far and wide, we say bring it on.

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug282008

Cake Poll: Oops, Make that a Cookie Poll!

Time for another poll!
It's that unique time of year that summer starts to fade into early fall; the skies are a piercing blue, days are getting shorter, and school's back in session. Even those who are long out of school are not impervious to the allure of this season, nostalgically recalling the excitement newness of a new school year, punctuated by freshly sharpened pencils and maybe a brand new trapper keeper. And what else goes better with back to school time than milk and cookies at the end of the day? 

And so, this month our Cake Poll is not about cake, but rather cookies--and the winner will get the framed original painting, featuring Cuppie and Robot making cookies, featured above! Responses may be entered in the comments section or emailed to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

 

  1. What is your favorite type of cookie?
  2. Oatmeal Cookies: With raisins, or chocolate chips?
  3. Dunking your cookies: Deliciousness, or a soggy mess?
  4. Slice n' bake cookies: Guilty pleasure, or never ever?
  5. Jumbo bakery cookies: too much, or just enough?
  6. Bar cookies: are they really cookies, or a different category entirely?
  7. Which is better: Slightly underbaked or slightly overbaked?
  8. Eating cookie dough: so wrong, or so right?

The fine print: The poll will be closed at 2 p.m PST on Thursday, September 4 (we're leaving it open for a week since we hope many of you are avoiding your computers over the holiday weekend!). As usual, the winner will be chosen at random. Entries from the US and beyond are welcome. Your info will never be shared and these questions are solely motivated by our nosy spy tendencies. Of course, if you don't win, you can always buy Cakespy artwork and gear at jessieoleson.etsy.com!


Time for a new poll--and a new prize!

 

 

 

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:

 


 

© Cakespy, all rights reserved. Powered by Squarespace.