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Entries in daring baker (6)

Sunday
Aug312008

Love is in the Eclair: Some Sweet History, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

The Eclair
Until this month, eating an éclair was a matter of walking down to Le Panier and grabbing one of the delectable confections. But all of this changed with our most recent Daring Bakers Challenge (suggested by Meeta and Tony) which was to make Pierre Hermé’s éclairs. Now, admittedly we haven't made éclairs before but this recipe seemed like rather a quirky one (check it out here).

But like we always do, during all of those between-steps moments we had to do something to keep ourselves from eating the unfinished masterpieces, so we turned to discover a bit more about the sweet treat. Here's what we discovered, along with our little helper above (who we like to call Pierre Eclair):


Eclair
What is an éclair? To those who may have grown up eating the version peddled at Dunkin' Donuts, you've been living a lie. That is what would technically be referred to as a "long john"--basically a doughnut dressed up like an éclair. Not that we'd turn our nose if offered a box of them.

 

Likewise those of you who have sampled the "eclair" by Cadbury and Co. are also not eating the French pastry--these confections are a caramel coating around a chocolate center.

Eclairs, Fairway, NYCEclairs at Caffe Roma, NYC

No, a true éclair is a
"long, thin pastry made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with icing.
The dough, which is the same as that used for profiterole, is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside. Once cool, the pastry then is filled with...pastry cream (crème pâtissière), custard or whipped cream, and topped with fondant icing."

Of course, if that seems a bit long, this definition for the éclair seems rather succinct: according to the Chambers English Dictionary, an éclair is “a cake, long in shape but short in duration.”

 

Where do they come from? Like a sweet mirage, the eclair's origins are hazy. According to foodtimeline.org, "The food history encyclopedias (including the Larousse Gastronomique) and reference books all describe eclairs but provide little if any details regarding their origin. This probably means the eclair is a product of food evolution. There is some conjecture that perhaps Antonin Carême (1784-1833), a famous pastry chef for French royalty might have created something akin to éclairs."

Beautiful Eclairs at St. Honore BoulangerieEclairs at Piancone's in Bradley Beach, NJ
But wherever they may have come from, they caught on fast. They'd jumped the pond by 1884, garnering a writeup and recipe in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. You can find the original American recipe here.

Eclair 

Why are they called "eclairs"?: Like the riddle about the Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. In An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto muses that "The primary meaning of eclair in French is 'lightning', and one (not very convincing) explanation advanced for its application to these cream-filled choux-pastry temptations is that it was suggested by the light gleaming from their coating of fondant icing". Well, John might not be impressed, but we rather like the Frenchy, film-noir image that gives us--the film's hero, shot in dark, moody tones, walks into a bakery, and upon encountering the eclair for the first time, is blinded by the flash of its glossy veneer, and then completely struck by that first taste.

 

 

Enough already, how did they taste?: Full disclosure? We didn't think that these were the tastiest of recipes for the first-time éclairmakers--they tasted a little too eggy for our liking, our custard was maybe a little runny. But, they say Hermé is the best (and we believe them), so it's exceedingly possible the fault was on our end. Only one way to find out--you can check out all of the entries at daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com. We think that this website did a wonderful job on them--and the recipe is posted there too!


 

Wednesday
Jul302008

Tale of Two Confections: The Difference Between Cake and Gâteau, and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Gateau Peanut
It's the end of the month again, which brings certain things: rent is due, the calendar must be changed...and the Daring Bakers Challenge. This month, the assignment was to make a Gâteau Filbert (a challenge suggested by Mele Cotte). What is a Gâteau Filbert? Well, on first impression, it seemed to be a pinkies-out way of saying "Hazelnut Cake". But it made us wonder--is there a difference between a gâteau and a cake? It seems that we intuit differences between them--to us, a gâteau is something fancy from a French bakery, whereas cake is what your momma makes for your birthday. You can't make a gâteau from a mix...right? But is there really a difference, or is it just translation? We took some time to tackle the issue, on several criteria. (Of course, if you just wanna bake already, please continue on to find the recipe link below).

Step 1: We started old-school--by consulting the dictionary. Here's how they're defined:

 

Cake: a sweet, baked, breadlike food, made with or without shortening, and usually containing flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, eggs, and liquid flavoring


Gâteau: a cake, esp. a very light sponge cake with a rich icing or filling.
OK, so it seems there is a difference, albeit a subtle one. (Of course, it bears noting that when consulting a French dictionary, the definition becomes a bit more complex--for it seems that cake translates not only to gâteau but galette as well--the gâteau generally accepted as a raised cake, frequently with icing, whereas galettes are generally flat, crusty and sometimes filled--also including crepe or cookielike varieties.)

Step 2: Culturally Speaking...we soldiered on in our journey, and found the following nuggets in An A to Z of Food and Drink by John Ayto:

 
Cake. The original dividing line between cake and bread was fairly thin: [in] Roman times eggs and butter were often added to basic bread dough to give a consistency we would recognize as cakelike, and this was frequently sweetened with honey. Terminologically, too, the earliest English cakes were virtually bread, their main distinguishing characteristics being their shape--round and flat--and the fact that they were hard on both sides from being turned over during baking...
Gâteau. English borrowed gâteau from French in the mid-nineteenth century, and at first used it fairly indiscriminately for any sort of cake, pudding, or cake-like pie...Since the Second World War, however, usage of the term has honed in on an elaborate 'cream cake': the cake element, generally a fairly unremarkable sponge, is in most cases simply an excuse for lavish layers of cream, and baroque cream and fruit ornamentation....
Step 3: Etymologically Yours...also from Johnny A.'s book, we learned the respective histories of each moniker:
 
Cake is a Viking contribution to the English language; it was borrowed from Old Norse kaka, which is related to a range of Germanic words, including modern English cook.
Gâteau is the modern French descendant of Old French guastel, 'fine bread'; which is probably of Germanic origin.
Perhaps the more direct Germanic lineage of the word "Gateau" would explain why of the two it seems more closely related to the torte?
Step 4: In which we show cute pictures. By now you're probably drowsy, so maybe it's more effective--or at least more interesting--to illustrate the point with pretty pictures of each (Left, layer cake; right, gâteau):

Posterior View (nice behind!) of Vegan CakeL'Opera
Step 5: Denoument. And finally, before we decorate our gateau, our intuitive thoughts (read: might not be accurate, so feel free to offer alternative views) on this important issue:
  • It seems to us that while a Gâteau is a cake, a cake is not necessarily a gâteau.
  • Cakes are more likely to have a buttercream frosting, whereas gâteaux are more likely to have a rich buttery between-layer ingredient, and generally has a thinner icing.
  • Like many French things, a gâteau is just fancier. At least, we've never seen a Gâteau Funfetti in the cake mix aisle.
  • Alas--a gâteau takes longer to make, and goes stale quicker. Not that we have any problem getting it into our bellies before it goes stale...
  • Regardless of name or origin, both are exceedingly delightful.
An Expanse of DeliciousGateau
Step 6: Fin. Our cake--er, gâteau--is made. OK, so we broke some rules, trying to combine aspects of both the cake and the gâteau. First, ours were mini--but this is just 'cos small things are cute. We decorated them with fancy little fan-thingies we bought at the gourmet grocery, but of course, in the spirit of celebrating diversity in cakes, we decided to forgo the filberts, instead using an all-American topping of peanuts to go with all of that chocolate. The filling/praline topping, which you may notice is conspicuously absent, ended up coming out a little bit...shall we say runny (our fault), though we're certain it will taste great if poured over the finished product or perhaps dipped au jus style--because it was a bit dry without. You can find the recipe here and other versions of it here.

 

 

 

Sunday
Jun292008

Dough You Love Me: A Laminated Pastry Dough FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Danish Pastry Time

It's late June, and high time for another Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge? A Danish Braid. What, never heard of Danish Braid? Well, neither had we, but let us tell you, it's one doozy of a recipe (check it out here), prominently featuring laminated dough--a component which can strike fear into the hearts of even accomplished bakers. OK, to be fair though, perhaps it's not so much difficult as it is time consuming and trying on one's patience, what with its multiple between-step chillings and wait periods. However, rather than using these lag times to say, watch Law & Order or to read In Touch Weekly we instead took it upon ourselves to become better acquainted with the world of laminated doughs--here's a bit of what we learned:

 

You say that Danish Dough is a laminated dough. What precisely does that mean?
According to Baking911.com, "Laminated Dough" is made by encasing butter in dough, and taking it through a series of folds, rolling and turns to produce layers of butter in between sheets of dough. The leavening in these doughs is mainly derived from the steam generated by the moisture from the butter--the laminated fat traps water vapor and carbon dioxide formed during baking, and as steam expands in the oven, it lifts and separates the individual layers.

One of the more famous types of laminated dough is Puff Pastry (which makes mille-fueilles), which rises solely on the steam and has a bit more butter; however, Danish dough, its close laminated cousin, gets an added lift (literally) from yeast.

 

Additionally, as smart and cute Cakespy reader E-Dizzle clarifies:

There are three basic laminated doughs: Puff pastry has no yeast, and is used to make yummy things like palmiers, cheese twists and any sort of super-flaky tart or crust. The dough itself isn't sweet, so it can be used for sweet or savory pastries.

 

Croissant dough and danish dough are very similar, both containing yeast. But croissant doughs are considered very "lean" (crazy, I know) because the detrempe (which I just call "the doughy bit") has only flour, salt, water and yeast. Danish dough, however, is considered "rich" because it contains eggs and dairy, and sometimes sugar.



In the recipe, there's a term called "détrempe". What is that?
We think we figured it out though: détrempe refers to the dough part of the pastry, before the second part, the "beurrage"--the butter part--is added, which is what "laminates" it (in shiny buttery deliciousness).
Croissants at Belle Epicurean at their stand in the University MarketHello, Carbohydrates!
So...in layman's terms, what is the difference between Danish Dough and Puff Pastry (two of the laminated doughs cited above)?
Puff Pastry has more butter and no yeast--the resulting pastry is flaky and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. Danish dough contains yeast, which we find gives it a slightly chewier and less flaky texture.

 

Carbohydrates!If they were to have a faceoff, which would win--puff pastry or danish dough?
Really, would you ask us to choose between a flaky puff pastry or a delicious Danish? Apples and oranges, we tell you. Surely here's enough room in the world for all sorts of dough. Vive le carbohydrate!

What are some examples of pastries made with Danish Dough?
Well, the Danish, naturally--but pinwheels, envelopes and turnovers are frequently made using this type of dough. Also, though not always, a lot of kolache recipes call for a Danish-y dough.

Kolaches, Great Harvest Bread, Ballard, SeattleWhoa, sidebar: what's a kolache?
According to Wikipedia, Kolache (also spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky, from the Czech and Slovak plural koláče) are a type of pastry consisting of fillings ranging from fruits to cheeses inside a bread roll. Originally only a sweet dessert from Central Europe, they have become popular in parts of the United States (strangely, they seem to have a big concentration in the American midwest, with kolache havens occurring in Oklahoma and Texas, which both boast annual Kolache festivals; however, Montgomery MN cites itself as the "Kolacky Capital of the World". Fighting words, anyone?). A picture of a kolache we found in Seattle at the Great Harvest Bread Company's Ballard location, is pictured left.

 

Can puff pastry and Danish Dough be used interchangeably?Columbia City Bakery Fruit and Cream Danish

We can't say for sure since we haven't tried, and really there would be nothing wrong with the flavor combinations per se--in fact, we've even seen Danish that has had the distinct look of puff pastry (see left, photo of a cream-and-fruit Danish from the Columbia City Bakery in Seattle). Will we be making this leap in the future though? Don't look out for it--our fear of ruining a delicious recipe is too great. Though perhaps this just means we're pastry prudes who badly need to take a walk on the wild side.

 

Why does it take so long to make my own dough?

Well, they say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and similarly, good Danish Dough must not be rushed. While the waiting periods (a half hour here to chill, another half hour there) may seem fussy, we advise that you wait it out--the taste of your baked goods will reward you at the end. And plus, all of those waiting periods leave you so much time to find cool stuff on the internet or even to drop by the nearest bakery to pick up an appetizer sweet.
Why are so many laminated doughs braided, slit or otherwise disfigured on top?
Though this can add visual appeal, it is mainly to let excess steam out while baking.
...speaking of which, shouldn't you be checking on your Danish braid about now?
#$%! Be right back.

Pastry Time!
(Several moments pass; we return to our questioning, with the slightest bit of sugary glaze and fruit filling still clinging around the corners of our mouths--see left).

It's clear your mind is on other things now. So...where can I learn more about laminated doughs?
Well, we recently saw a great show by Alton Brown explaining all about Puff Pastry (and boy is he cute!), or you could also turn to puffpastry.com, a site operated by Pepperidge Farms which has recipes, forums and information on laminated doughs; for more information on all things laminated dough (both Puff Pastry and Danish Dough), also visit baking911.com!
Postscript: The chewing resumes, the light dims, and yes--our spies realize that really and truly, homemade Danish Dough--especially when filled with fresh preserves (we chose cherry)--is a thing of beauty.

 

Wednesday
May282008

L'Operation: Learning to Love (and Make) the Opera Cake

L'Opera
L'Opéra (Opera Cake), like its namesake, is a pinkies-out affair: deeply layered, intricate--and a huge time commitment. With multiple alternating layers of ganache, buttercream and sponge cake, it's certainly not a light dessert, but when done well, it is indeed a delicious one. And this month, it was the Daring Bakers Challenge (a challenge dedicated to Winos & Foodies). Though it was specified that the cake ought to be light in flavor, we felt that in our case this would be a cheat--aren't you supposed to learn the rules before you break them? While the original thought was to make the classic Opera Cake and then another variation afterward, perhaps we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into in terms of time and effort--and well, let's just say only one cake was made, and in perhaps reverse Cakespy behavior, our classic Opera Cake is decidedly non-mischievous, and in doing so we actually ended up breaking the rules. Oh, the shame! (Though, to see some beautifully creative entries that did follow the rules, visit here). 


L'OperaBut happily for us spies, all of those between-step moments gave us time to reflect on L'Opéra and its grandeur, as well as recall some of the slices we've known and loved in the past--because although making an opera cake is a major feat and ultimately tastes crazy-delicious, one thing that we've learned from the arduous process of making it is that sometimes it's just better to have it already made for you--simply so you don't have to wait.
Here's what we learned in those in-between moments:
First off, what is an opera cake?
We think we couldn't possibly say it better than pastry diva Dorie Greenspan:
The classic Opera Cake is a work in six acts. There are three thin layers of almond cake, each soaked in a potent coffee syrup; a layer of espresso-flavored buttercream; one layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache; and a topping of chocolate glaze. Traditionally, the cake is decorated with its name written in glaze across the top and finished with a piece of shimmering gold leaf.

L'OperaOpera Cake's Origins:

"L'Opera" is said to have made its grand debut in the early 1900s in Paris at the Exposition Culinaire. It was introduced by Louis Clichy, which is why the cake may be referred to as Gâteau Clichy. It wasn't until many years later, when Parisian pâtisserie Dalloyau reintroduced the cake as "L'Opera," (after the Paris Grand Opera), that it became immortal. And really, as the Balduccis description says, "The name makes sense, as the cake is comprised of several layers, similar to 'acts' in an operatic presentation."
A note on the presentation: We feel as if we heard somewhere that only cakes that meet certain standards of preparation are marked as "Opera" on the top, however this might just be a daydream. Any thoughts?

 

Some Great Opera Cakes (made by other people):

We'll defer once more to Dorie Greenspan, who says, "The greatest Opera Cake is made at Dalloyau. There, executive pastry chef Pascal Niau makes a cake as sleek and smooth as an opera stage and as gloriously delicious as La Boheme is affectingly beautiful."

Sign, La BergamoteThough--alas--we haven't had the pleasure of tasting aforementioned Opera Cake, we do recall where we first were acquainted with the sweet. It was in Paris, at a pâtisserie in the the Saxe-Breteuil Market with a red awning, although we we cannot recall the name of this spot of sweet awakening.

Since then, we have sampled the opera cake at a few places stateside; here are a few that made an impression:

 

In New York, we were delighted by L'Opéra at Tisserie (857 Broadway; online at tisserie.com) which was rich, smooth, and layered in rich flavor, but we absolutely swooned over the version at La Bergamote (169 9th Ave b/t 19th St & 20th Sts; 212- 627-9010).

Opera Cakes at Ken's Artisan Bakery, Portland ORIn Portland, OR, one of our spies fell en amour with the Opera Cake at Ken's Artisan Bakery: it was somehow rich but not heavy, silky-smooth, and we loved the handwriting on top (hey, details matter!) -- (338 NW 21st St.; online at kensartisan.com).

In Seattle, our hearts belong to Belle Epicurean; their "Opera Slice" is made with almond Jaconde sponge cake, layered with espresso buttercream and Frangelico ganache--which is to say, it's nutty, rich, and completely decadent (1206 4th Ave.; online at belleepicurean.com).

In San Francisco, our spies have been wowed by the Opera Cake at Tartine. It's true, everyone loves this place, and with with good reason: their opera cake is chocolate-y, rich, and gorgeously smooth (600 Guerrero St. at 18th Street; online at tartinebakery.com).

Some Great Variations: If you love the idea of L'Opera but want to get creative, check out Opera Macarons here, and if you want to really drool, read about a Green Tea Opera Cake here, and try one out here!

 

 

Sunday
Mar302008

Cutting (Cake) Corners: Cakespy Experiments with a Daring Bakers Challenge

Mischief
In case you didn't know it, the Cakespy team is part of a group called the Daring Bakers. Each month, a challenge is posted for members, and each member posts their results on the same day on their websites. This month, we were encountered by a challenge that was tres exciting to us: the Perfect Party Cake by Dorie Greenspan. But--and here's a moment of honesty--when we started looking through the recipe, it seemed awfully...involved. (Of course, at Cakespy, as much as we admire fine baking, we are the first to call ourselves expert tasters, novice bakers). And so, making like Shary Bobbins in the Simpsons, we decided to see how much we could get away with by "cutting every corner". But truly, this was an experiment of curiosity rather than pure brattiness. Though we suspected that our end result would be less than bakery-caliber, we wanted to know--would it be completely inedible? Or would it be, you know, kind of ok? Here's how it went.


Here's the original recipe, and the ways we messed around with it in blue italics:

For the Cake
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (we used all-purpose)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (we used soy milk)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (we left this out)
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature (we got impatient so we nuked it)
  • ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract (we left this out--no lemon handy)

For the Buttercream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice from 2 large lemons (we left this out)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing (we left this out--just frosted it, plain and simple)
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

 

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet. (We didn't have parchment or waxed paper so we just buttered those babies and hoped for the best.)

To Make the Cake

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. (since we had no lemon zest, we just added it to the butter and proceeded to step #4)
  4. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
  5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. (we just added the flour mixture).
  6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
  7. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
  8. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
  9. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
  11. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. (ours came out just fine! yess!!)
  12. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months). (We put it in the fridge to kind of speed up the process, but then got nervous about it cooling unevenly and took it back out again to do it Dorie's way).
CakeCake 
To Make the Buttercream
  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
  2. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. (Ours did, sort of).
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
  5. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
  6. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
  7. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. (It did curdle, but we beat on and it did come together again--whew!).
  8. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. (We had no lemon juice to add).
  9. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

Sweet Cake MischiefSweet, Sweet Mischief 
To Assemble the Cake
  1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
  2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. (We just put it on a plate).
  3. Spread it with one third of the preserves. (We skipped this, and just applied the buttercream to the sides and top).
  4. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
  5. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
  6. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
  7. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top. (We didn't use any coconut, but we topped it with our favorite melty mints, which made it very happy-looking and, you know, covered a multitude of sins).
DSC06586
And so, having broken half of the rules in the recipe, how did it all turn out? Well, if we're completely truthful, our result was more "charming" in that only-a-mother-could-love-it kind of way, as opposed to say, showstoppers like this or this (both entrants who *ahem* followed the recipe...or, more so than us anyway). While the taste was good--certainly, our plates were cleaned without effort or complaint--it wasn't truly great. Ultimately, each step or ingredient that we deemed unnecessary during the baking process showed its importance in the final result--it lacked the certain je ne said quoi that the lemon likely lends to the final product; the presentation, while "rustic", lacked the panache and beauty that the preserves and strawberry would have given.
So, would we do it again? Well, OK, we might not be completely converted to following the recipe exactly--but we'll likely try much harder next time. After all, a lot of thought, testing and tasting goes into these recipes--and by people far better at baking than us--and hey, it's the least we can do to try to honor that expertise if we want a truly delectable baked good.

 

Friday
Feb292008

Well-Bread: A Daring Bakers Challenge, and Seriously Sweet Sandwich Mischief

 

Sandwich Project

Breadmaking is an all-consuming process, both physically--and, in our opinion, emotionally as well. It involves patience (let the dough rise!), attention (is that yeast proofed?), proximity (don't let it rise in drafty spaces !) and yes, even a little tough love (punch the dough!). But when all is said and done, it's worth the effort: one needs only to take a hot, fresh loaf out of the oven and taste a piece, heated as though from within, upon which butter will melt like a fading apparition, to see why breadmakers are so dedicated to their art. The sense of accomplishment a baker feels upon completing successful loaves is simply incomparable--this much much we can attest to, having completed this month's Daring Baker's challenge (Julia Child's French Bread Recipe, suggested by Breadchick Mary and I Like To Cook's Sara).



However, if you're at all like the Cakespy crew, this moment can be short-lived, quickly giving way to thoughts like "How can we turn this bread into a dessert?". After all, the breadmaking process does work up an appetite. But what to make? Bread Pudding? French Toast (or, if you're feeling fancy, pain perdu)?While both are sweet choices indeed, after the physical work of making the bread, both just sounded so...hard. It was then that the answer came to us: why not fry up some sweet sandwiches? Quickly we assembled a grouping of sweet fillings and fried up our loaf, grilled-cheese style, in a griddle; here's how it all came out:


Cake Frosting SandwichCake Frosting Sandwich
Frosting Sandwich: Our first experiment was a cake frosting sandwich. It seemed like a pretty safe bet; after all, bread with butter never fails to satisfy, and this is pretty much sweet butter, right? So we buttered up two slices and spread a thick frosting smear (pink, of course) in-between. The end result was a little runny, but was extremely delicious--the pinch of salt in the bread added a perfect complement to the sweet, creamy frosting. This one could be habit-inducing.


Cookie DoughSandwich Project
Cookie Dough Sandwich: When Atkins Dieters have nightmares, they probably look like this: a soft, rich spoonful of warmed cookie dough sandwiched between freshly baked bread slices, lightly buttered and fried. The resulting combination is a study in sinfulness: carbohydratey, slightly salty, rich, and sweet--all at once. As you might imagine though, moderation is key with this sandwich: a little goes a long way.


<span class=Sandwich
Couverture and Coconut Sandwich: This combination was dreamed up in the grocery store, where these two toppings were sold next to one another in the bulk aisle. It turned out to be a serendipitous pairing indeed--the coconut, which was not sweetened, added the slightest crunch to the velvety melted couverture (not tempered--eek!), as well as offering a nice contrast to the extreme sweetness. As noted above though...small bites of this rich little guy.


More <span class=Sandwich Project
Melty Mint Sandwich: Ah, melty mints, is there a cuter thing in the world than thee? It's impossible to not smile when greeted with this chocolate-chip sized version of nonpareils. But does all of this cuteness mean a tasty sweetwich? As we discovered, the heated chips (which retained their shape for the most part during the frying, protected by the bread) made soft explosions as they melted in your mouth, and the sprinkles added a delightful texture to the mix: pleasuretown, ahoy.



Sandwich ProjectSandwich Project
Tofu Cream cheese, sweet coconut and pear sandwich: Thrown together with what was left in our kitchen, this combination was dense, rich, and lending to the toffutti cream cheese, a bit savory--and overall, deeply satisfying. Though it might have tasted even better on a slightly saltier bread to balance out the sweetness of the coconut (which we'd sugared for this version), all in all, we'd add this one to our lunch box. Vegan, to boot--we even used butter substitute for the frying!

So, adventure over, what have we learned?

The hardest part of this experiment was actually getting past the mental block that sandwiches ought to be savory; there was a certain part of the whole "sweet sandwich" concept that was hard to wrap the mind around. But really, most of the experiments were quite good: the sweet fillings were balanced by the texture and taste of the bread, lending an element of surprise and newness to both elements. Does this mean that fast-food joints ought to consider changing format? Well, perhaps not; in their extreme richness and sweetness, these sweetwiches are probably not a main-ticket item. But as an add-on or impulse item? Well, let's just say that when you start seeing the mini dessert-sandwich revolution picking up speed in chains across the country, remember where you saw it first.


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