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Entries in massachusetts (10)

Monday
Feb112013

Sweet Product: Whoopie Pies From Chococoa Baking Company

Whoopie Pie ride

Not so long ago, I received an email from a place called Chococoa Baking Company, asking if I'd sample their whoopie pies.

Turns out this retail bakery (with an online and wholesale division) has made quite a name for itself in the North Shore of the greater Boston area, where they've been churning out what they call "the Whoopie"--a mini (3 bite-ish) version of the popular treat that is "A smaller, richer, triple chocolate version of the childhood treat." 

Co-owners Alan and Julie have some eclectic inspiration. For Alan, this is the realization of a lifelong dream to develop a snack food. He thanks his two heroes: first his mother, and then...former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan. Of course. As he explains it, "My mother was a great baker and always trying new recipes." As for Mr. Greenspan? He said that you do not need to develop a new product but rather improve an existing one. Nice. 

Whoopie pies

Julie, Chococoa's co-owner, is a Maine native who grew up making whoopie pies with her grandmother and mother; she felt that the classic treat could benefit from a makeover, too. 

Sure, I said, and they sent me a sample. But I don't know if they were aware of what exactly awaited their sweet treats when I received them. Because, you see, I like to get to know baked goods before I sample them. So, I unwrapped them and had way more fun with them than I ought to have.

First, I showed one my hamburger phone. Whoopie Pie Burger Phone

HAMBURGER PHONE!

Whoopie Pie Burger Phone

I showed a few my book. They made appropriate cooing sounds of approval. Whoopie pie book

I gave some a healthy snack.

Whoopie Pies and apple

I safely wrapped a few and took them for a walk. Whoopie pie

I took them to an 18th Century Garden. Bet you're wondering how I knew it was an 18th Century Garden. Whoopie Pie at an 18th century garden

I showed them statues.

Whoopie pie at statue

I showed them historical landmarks. Independence Hall Whoopie Pie

Back home, I introduced one to a naked baby. Whoopie pie and baby

One enjoyed a conversation with a cupcake. Conversational Whoopie Pie

I shared with them some of my artwork. Whoopie Pie Bacon

I showed them my unicorn collection: Whoopie pies and unicorn

They were so happy.

Whoopie Pie Hello

and then I ate them.

Whoopie pie bite

Wow, you're thinking, when did this turn into a Whoopie Pie snuff film? No, people. They're just whoopie pies. They're meant to be consumed.

And for sure, these ones were rather tasty. In the parcel, as you've noticed in the pictures, there were several different flavors of filling. I tried ones filled with vanilla cream, salted caramel cream, raspberry cream, and chocolate ganache. 

What's clear is that these are a step above your typical ubiquitous whoopie pie, quality-wise--the fillings are on par with the frostings at a high end cupcake shop, and the cake is quite nicely made--very chocolatey, and not crumbly or devoid of flavor like so many whoopie pies can be, in my opinion. 

I vote that they are a highly satisfying treat. And proof that sometimes it's great to take some childlike joy in your food, and play with it!

Whoopie Pie book

Buy your own whoopie pies to mess with! If you're in Newburyport, visit 50 Water Street, where they have a retail location; or, order online. Here's their website.

Thursday
Jan052012

Chocolate Delirium Recipe from Rosie's Bakery

Chocolate Delirium

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Judy Rosenberg, owner of Rosie's Bakery in Massachusetts and author of the newly-released Rosie's All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed Baking Book (love the title!!). Here goes:

In the old days before we became aware of all the allergies that people have towards gluten, we still baked a host of cakes that did not contain wheat flour and therefore can today be considered “gluten free”. Flourless chocolate cake has been a staple of many a great baker. Its origins are found in fancy European baking, especially that of France.

Most of today’s “gluten free” pastries involve substituting all kinds of alternative choices for wheat flour; this can require changes in the other ingredients due to the fact that the gluten in wheat flour has bonding qualities, and when it is not present, the texture of the cake can be greatly affected.

What is beautiful about the classic “flourless” cake is that no substitutions are required because there is no flour involved to begin with! The incorporation of beaten egg whites and/or whipped cream helps the cake to rise somewhat while baking. The outcome is a marvelously fudgy cake that really accentuates the flavor of the chocolate and the texture that is created when you blend chocolate, butter and sugar together.

I am always thrilled to be able to introduce my gluten free customers to cakes that have been enjoyed for the past 35 years by Rosie’s customers and that I know have stood the test of time!

Here’s a melt-in-your mouth, not-too-sweet, flourless chocolate cake from Rosie's All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed Baking Book that makes a welcome dessert for all chocolate lovers, including those who are gluten intolerant. I like to serve this cake with whipped cream or coffee ice cream, and occasionally I will throw some toasted chopped almonds or walnuts on top. If you don’t want to bother with the Chocolate Ganache, just dust the cake with cocoa powder and you still have a winner. After the guests have gone, I have been known to crawl into bed with a small piece that I have heated in the microwave and topped off with a little more ice cream.

Rosie's-Bakery-All-Butter,-Cream-Filled,-Sugar-Packed-Baking-Book-2D

Chocolate Delirium
makes 12 to 16 servings

 

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (or a combination of 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 8 ounces semisweet), chopped into small pieces
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
  • chilled Chocolate Ganache (there's a recipe in the book, or use this one)
  • Whipped Cream (page 119) or ice cream of your choice, for serving

Procedure

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment circle or pan insert.
  2. Melt the butter with the sugar and coffee in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add the chopped chocolate to the butter mixture and stir. Turn the heat off, cover, and let sit until the chocolate has melted, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir with a whisk until smooth. Set aside.  
  4. Whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolks in a small mixing bowl. Pour this mixture in a stream into the chocolate mixture while stirring vigorously with the whisk until blended.
  5. Whip the cream in a small mixing bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form, about 40 seconds. Stir the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated.  
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center is set but still slightly spongy in texture and a tester inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 1 ½ hours.  
  7. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for several hours.  
  8. Remove the side of the pan and flip the cake onto the rack. Remove the pan bottom and the paper. Place a second rack over a large piece of aluminum foil. Flip the cake right side up onto the rack.
  9. Pour the Chocolate Ganache over the top of the cake and use a frosting spatula to spread it evenly over the top so that it drips down the sides. Then use the spatula to lightly spread it around the sides of the cake. When the glaze sets, carefully lift the cake off the rack with a metal spatula and place it on a cake plate.
  10. Serve with Whipped Cream or the ice cream of your choice.

 

Monday
Jan022012

Teeny's Tour of Pie: Petsi Pies, Somerville MA

CakeSpy Note: This is the second in Teeny Lamothe's Tour de Pie series on CakeSpy! Teeny is touring the country, learning how to make pies at some of the nation's sweetest bakeries. She'll be reporting here on each stop! This stop: Petsi Pies of Somerville, MA!

Where: Somerville, MA at Petsi Pies

When: November 1st through December 16th

Why: I knew that I needed to have at least one month in Boston or the surrounding area because that's where my boyfriend just happens to be going to grad school. I figured if I could combine my love for pie and my boyfriend's love for eating pie, I would be good to go. I was very persistent, perhaps to the point of badgering, but Rene McLeod, owner of Petsi, seemed more than happy to have me. They're also the place to get pie in Cambridge and Somerville. What began as an extra set of holiday hands turned into a full blown love of this Somerville shop and all the people that work there... I'll be back if I can. 

How: The few weeks before Thanksgiving were filled with figuring out the day to day routine of the bakery. Their full time baker for the scone shift (which is the evening shift that makes, bakes and boxes all of the wholesale) was out of commission for my first week, so I was able to step in and lend a hand with all of the scones and muffins that get sent out to the surrounding cafes and coffee shops. The second week I learned all there was to learn about crust before the Thanksgiving chaos ensued... and after that it was madness! We had over 2,000 pies to make in less than a week, and everything went swimmingly. I think if you can survive something like Thanksgiving pie making in a pie shop you reach automatic 'fast friends forever' status. The final few weeks were filled with a much more lackadaisical baking schedule. I think my time at Petsi Pies was absolutely wonderful. I was rather hesitant in the kitchen when I first started, but I was made to feel like a baker from the first day I walked into the shop. Over the month and a half I was there I became steadily more confident. I was put on the schedule, I was given a list of things to accomplish each day that I worked, and for the first time I felt as though I made friends. Plus, I survived my first Thanksgiving as a pie baker; the pie holiday, when millions of people who aren't necessarily pie eaters indulge for the day. 

Observations: I felt very settled at Petsi Pies and very much like an official baker. I loved coming into work, and having a list of things to accomplish before I left for the day. I also learned every aspect of being a baker. I learned the basics of making a Petsi Pie, of course, but I also learned a slew of their other pastries as well. I was in charge of apple cake and brownies, almond bars and brioche. Baking at Petsi made me realize that I was a baker of many things, and that there is an ease and a sense of fun that comes with spending time in the kitchen. 

Thanksgiving Dinner Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups shredded turkey
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups prepared stuffing 

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large saucepan and cook chopped onion until tender. Stir in celery and carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the sweet potatoes and simmer until tender. Stir in turkey, poultry seasoning and peas. Salt and pepper to taste. Add cranberries and take off heat. Pour into a crust lined pie dish. Cover the filling with the stuffing, like you would with a crumble. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until crust and stuffing are golden brown. 

Monday
Nov282011

CakeSpy Undercover: Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

Not long ago, when I was in Boston for my Tour de Sweet Book tour, I happened upon a bakery that had a name I liked: Sugar Bakery, located in West Roxbury.

I liked the look of things once I went inside, too. They had whoopie pies:

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

and cupcakes:

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

and cookies:

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

and something really magical called Alpine Cake, which I want to try next time.

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

but on this trip I kept it simple and got the toasted anise cookie with icing and rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, if you must).

Sugar Bakery, West Roxbury, MA

Not only was this cookie pretty to look at, but it was sweet to eat: buttery-crumbly, slightly softer than a typical biscotti and fatter, and scented with anise, but not in an overpowering way. It was a perfect post-breakfast cookie after a massive morning feast at the nearby Rox Diner, and ideal when paired with milky coffee.

So you know what I say? Go to Sugar Bakery in West Roxbury.

Sugar Bakery, 1884 Centre Street, West Roxbury MA. Online here.

Sugar Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday
Nov212011

Sweet Find: Nokodi Cookies from Tabrizi Bakery, Watertown MA

Chickpea cookies, Tabrizi bakery

While I was on book tour in Boston, I took a little jaunt outside of the city to see what I could see. Happily, I was rewarded, sweetly, with a type of cookie I'd never tried before: Nokodi, spied at Tabrizi Bakery, a Persian bakery in Watertown.

I'd never heard of Nokodi before I walked into this sweet little spot, where I was greeted by the baker having what sounded like an oddly friendly shouting match with a--customer? Friend? Co-worker? who was standing by the counter. 

At the bakery, these tiny clover-shaped cookies are simply labeled "Nokodi - Chickpea Cookies". The website reveals that the ingredients include chickpea flour, flour, vegetable oil, sugar, vanilla, and cardamom. 

But this doesn't come close to explaining the exquisite, spicy, meltaway quality that these cookies have when you eat them. They're almost powdery in texture, but when paired with a spicy mint tea, they're a thing of great beauty, not overly sweet but rather nutty-tasting, and decidedly addictive.

Tabrizi Bakery, Watertown MA

Of course, the small shop, which is in a state of charming dissaray, also boasts a variety of other Middle Eastern cookies (Berenji, rice flour cookies; Gerdeui, walnut macaroons; Nazok, flat cookies with seeds and honey) as well as sweets such as baklava, Bami (a small ball oval shape cooked in corn oil dipped in honey syrup) and Zolbi (Golden color pretzel shaped, dipped in honey syrup cooked in corn oil). They also have imported canned goods and snacks.

Overall, a sweet destination if you're in the Boston area!

Tabrizi Bakery, 56 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown; online here.

Thursday
Nov172011

CakeSpy Undercover: Black and White Cookies from Antoine's Pastry Shop, Newton, MA

Antoine's Bakery, Watertown MA

This is your brain on black and white cookie.

But not just any black and white cookie--the unique version at Antoine's Pastry Shop of Newton, Massachusetts.

Let's get one thing straight, right from the get-go: this is not a traditional black and white cookie. It has a buttercream frosting, for one thing, and a coarse-crumbed, slightly dry cake texture on the cookie part. But I found it delightful. It somehow managed to taste like grocery-store birthday cake meets big old-fashioned bakery cookie, and to me, this made for an enchanting taste of nostalgia: like all sorts of childhood treats and forbidden pleasures all rolled into one.

Antoine's Bakery, Watertown MA

Of course, if my Proustian recounting of cookie-eating days past sort of love for this treat doesn't appeal, you could always go for the old-school bakery standards, such as sfogiatelle, butter cookies, or eclairs and cream puffs.

Antoine's Bakery, Watertown MA

The appeal of a place like Antoine's isn't that they are "the best" - it is that they are good, and that they are a neighborhood tradition. I'm not saying this in a backhanded compliment sort of way--it's just kind of the way it is. Antoine's is a solid and dependable sort of place, and if you find yourself in Newton, I vote that you go in for a taste of something sweet.

Antoine's Pastry Shop, 317 Watertown Street, Newton, MA.

Antoine's Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Sep292011

CakeSpy Undercover: Sylvester's, Northampton MA

Photos: Margot L.CakeSpy Note: This is a sweet dispatch from Cake Gumshoe Margot L.!

Recently I traveled to Sylvester's, in Northampton, MA.  

I had their Strawberry Chocolate Chip Waffle, which was awesome!  The waffle was one of their many daily specials - others included pear-walnut bread french toast.  In previous visits I've also had their blueberry pancakes and have sampled a chocolate milkshake, one of their many specialty drinks.  

Sylvester's is located in the Pioneer Valley, home to the Five College Consortium, which consists of Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Sylvester's extensive list of coffee and specialty crafted drinks even includes a drink named for each one of the five schools!  My favorite is the "Smithie's Last Resort" which involves two shots of espresso.

Sylvester's is named for former building owner Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the Graham Cracker.  It's a popular restaurant, especially on weekends for brunch, which can mean a long wait - but it's always worth it!  I've eaten breakfast, brunch, and lunch at Sylvester's and have yet to find anything on the menu that I don't like!

Sylvester's Restaurant, Northampton MA; online here.

Thursday
Jul072011

Sweet Find: Chilmark Chocolates, Martha's Vineyard

So, I have relatives who live on Martha's Vineyard. They live their year-round, so I guess that makes them "townies", or "Islanders".

And in spite of me asking them "have you hung out with Carly Simon and/or James Taylor lately?" every time we talk, they still love me enough to have introduced me to a sweet island treasure: Chilmark Chocolates.

It's true. While recently visiting SpyFamily in New Jersey, the Vineyard division of the family brought with them a box of assorted truffles by Chilmark. At first sight, it appeared to be a fairly regular box of chocolates.

But like some guy once said about a box of chocolates "you never know what you're gonna get". And in this case, it was a sweet surprise: old-fashioned, but exquisitely executed chocolate truffles and confections, including milk chocolates, dark chocolates, enrobed truffles, and flat bark-type chocolates. The chocolate was not especially fancy, but more like an exquisite version of an everyday brand, and in that way it became a sort of sublime experience. There is just something about these chocolates.

They have a sweet story, too; as I learned from this 1987 New York Times article,

CHILMARK CHOCOLATES began four years ago (CS Note: that would be 1983), the product of a young woman's passion for making fine chocolates. It has evolved into a social experiment in which about 30 workers with disabilities make and sell chocolates, using equipment adapted to their needs.

''Both the chocolates and working with the disabled were sort of trial-and-error,'' said Jan Campbell, the 25-year-old founder of this cottage industry in Chilmark, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard. ''We learned both as we went along.''

The chocolates, which are hand-dipped or handmade, are Ms. Campbell's invention. She learned the basics five years ago from her father, Malcolm, the vice president of the Van Leer Chocolate Corporation in Jersey City. Soon, she had turned her hobby into a business, making chocolates in her parents' kitchen and selling them in the farmers' market on Martha's Vineyard.

All I can say is, next time I visit the Vineyard Division of SpyFam, I'm going to forgo spying on Carly Simon's house and head straight for the sweet stuff at Chilmark Chocolates.

Chilmark Chocolates, 19 State Rd. Chilmark, MA 02535

Saturday
Jun252011

CakeSpy Undercover: Pie in the Sky, Woods Hole MA

There are a few reasons you should love Pie in the Sky, a bakery in Woods Hole, MA. I'll share with you a handful of these reasons, OK?

They are conveniently located right next to the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. Everyone knows that baked goods taste better on a boat.

Pie, pie, pie! They have plenty of it, but (I will confess) it is some of the other items that excited me more on a recent visit!

One of their specialties is Popovers (pictured top). For one thing, not many bakeries offer popovers as a standard item, in my experience, so this is unique. And these ones are delicious: HUGE, but airy inside and delicious when split, liberally slathered with butter and jam, and eaten in furtive little bites til all that carbohydrate is gone, baby, gone.

They have Almond Joy Croissants. Almond Joy Croissants!

They have cannoli in two varieties: regular, and "inside out" (with chocolate filling and white chocolate chips). One of each, please.

They have their own version of the Magic Cookie Bar--the "Wonderbar". And these ones are big, fat, and delicious.

Pie in the Sky, 10 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA. For more information, visit their website here.

Thursday
Dec232010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Adie Sprague of Treat Cupcake Bar, Needham, MA

Question: you're in Needham, MA and have a hankering for a delicious vegan and gluten-free cupcake. Where do you go?

The answer is clear: Treat Cupcake Bar. This sweet shop has an established following for their cupcakes, which can be ordered in a great variety of sweet flavors or built on command by choosing your own cake, frosting, and toppings--and now, they've added a sweet selection of vegan and gluten-free flavors to their regular offerings, including Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, Orange chocolate cake with orange chocolate frosting, Mint chocolate cake with mint chocolate frosting, and Vanilla coconut cake with vanilla frosting and coconut topping.

Curious to learn more about the process of veganizing and de-glutening the product to the point of perfection? Here's an interview with baker Adie Sprague:

CakeSpy: Are all the new flavors both gluten-free AND vegan?

Adie Sprague: Yes, all the flavors are both gluten-free and vegan. We do this because we have separate equipment used for these products. It becomes easier to keep these products safe from contaminants if each of the recipes is free of all those allergens.

CS: I'm sure that developing recipes which don't employ common cake ingredients is tricky! Can you tell us some of the biggest challenges when it came to developing vegan and/or gluten-free recipes?

AS: It has gotten much easier to make gluten-free and vegan items, as there are increasingly more products to work with. At times, it’s difficult to develop new flavors because we’re doing products that are free of gluten, dairy AND eggs (that's a lot of cake ingredients)! Usually people substitute just one element of a recipe, for example they may substitute another ingredient in place of flour to make a gluten-free dessert, similar to a flourless chocolate torte which is delicious, but primarily made of eggs. At Treat Cupcake Bar, we must substitute them all. There are, however, many gluten-free flours and starches (i.e. rice, bean, potato), a plethora of different milks (rice, coconut, soy), and multiple ways you can substitute for eggs. The more of these products that become available (and with increased quality), the easier our job gets. We just play with all possible substitutions until we find something we like!

CS: How do you avoid cross contamination for gluten-free products? I understand this is very difficult for kitchens!

AS: It certainly can be hard in a small kitchen, but do our absolute best in keeping our gluten-free and vegan products separate from our other products, including dedicating a special section of the kitchen to this kind of cupcake creation, decoration, and storage. We use a separate table, mixer, and utensils for gluten-free/vegan cupcakes only, and we label them by color so that employees know, when washing & sanitizing, to keep these separate and send them directly back to the allergen-free table. When the cupcakes are done, they are placed on a dedicated gluten-free/vegan sheet pan on parchment and kept separate from our other creations. We make training employees on this importance a priority so that they are able to handle all products coming out of the kitchen. We acknowledge that you can never be 100% sure, but we’re confident in the system we follow and have many happy, regular customers who come in especially for our gluten-free and vegan treats!

CS: How do these treats differ, taste-wise, from your existing (dairy, gluten-containing) recipe for cake?

AS: People do ask if they taste the same, and they don't. We didn't take our chocolate cake recipe and then turn it into a gluten-free/vegan product. We started from scratch and made a great GF/V cake. Our regular chocolate is denser and buttery, similar to a brownie, whereas our gluten-free/vegan chocolate is a little fluffier with a rich, dark flavor.

CS: What's your personal favorite of the new flavors?

AS: The Chocolate Orange! It’s rich and chocolaty with a hint of orange flavor, and a layer of dark chocolate between the cake and frosting to give it another texture when you bite into it. The mint is made similarly, but there's just something about the orange! :)

Want more? Duh. If you're in Needham, MA, you can visit them in person at 1450 Highland Ave., Needham; even if you're not in the area, you can still visit Treat Cupcake Bar online here.

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