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Entries in new mexico (26)

Sunday
Nov232014

Best of New Mexico: Homemade Blue Corn Pinon Bread

This one's dedicated to my Santa Fe friends.

If you've ever been to Santa Fe, New Mexico, you know that it is a special place indeed. The food reflect's the city's "tri-cultural" background: Native American, Mexican, and Spanish. With, of course, a touch of modern hippie and crystal-chaser in the mix. It makes for an interesting food scene, to say the least. (for my ultimate review of New Mexico sweets, check out this post!)

Two ingredients which are in frequent rotation in both baked goods and savories alike are blue corn and piñon nuts (pine nuts), respectively. One beautiful example of a delicious fusion of these ingredients was found in the beyond-locally famous atole-piñon pancakes served at Tecolote Cafe, a funky little breakfast place on Cerillos Road that is famous for their "no toast" policy. 

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Well, me and everyone in Santa Fe was saddened when Tecolote shuttered their doors earlier this year due to a lease matter. I mourned those pancakes. 

Well, I am happy to say that Tecolote has found a new home and will be re-opening soon. In the meantime, I will "toast" them with a food that is inspired by them but that will never-ever appear on their menu: blue corn piñon bread.

Made with part blue corn flour and plenty of buttery piñon both in the bread and on top, this is a beautiful loaf with a novel, slightly blue-purple tint when looked at from the right angle. Taste-wise, it's lightly nutty; the blue corn gives it an intriguing, earthy taste. With mellow little lumps of rich piñon punctuating every bite, it's an absolute delight served with butter and a little salt.

Since it's made with whole wheat flour, too, it has a firm enough structure so that it is also appropriate for any type of dish you'd make with sandwich bread. 

Blue Corn Pinon Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 1 large loaf 

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 1 cup blue corn flour, sifted
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup piñon, to taste

 Procedure

  1. Combine the water and yeast. Once the yeast begins to bubble lightly, proceed.
  2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients with the yeast mixture in the order listed, reserving 1/4 of the piñon to top the bread later.
  3. Knead, either by hand with a dough scraper or with a stand mixer, until it has progressed past a shaggy texture to a solid, slightly sticky mass. This can take up to 5 minutes by hand; less when using a mixer. It will never quite take on the smooth elasticity of wheat flour-only bread, but the extra moisture is necessary as the whole grains will absorb it. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it’s quite puffy and doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Gently deflate the dough with your hand (a gentle pressing, not a knockout punch), and shape it into a fat 9″ log (it may still be slightly sticky; I used lightly oiled hands). Place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Sprinkle remaining piñon on top.
  5. Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 2 hours or even overnight, or until it has formed a crown which extends 1 inch or slightly more over the rim of the pan. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  6. Bake the bread uncovered for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top, and when knocked lightly, yields a slightly hollow sound.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature. 

Have you ever baked with blue corn flour before?

Monday
Jun092014

The Ultimate Guide to New Mexico Sweets

In case you didn’t know it, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in New Mexico since last year. I didn’t know much about New Mexico before I came aside from the fact that it was, in fact, in the USA (apparently a leg up on some other US residents who don’t even know that!). One of the most impressive things to me about New Mexico is not its dramatic sunsets or majestic mountains or even the fact that it’s where that sandy desert Boyz II Men Video was filmed, but its unique desserts. I thought it would be interesting to give you an in-depth look at the desserts of the “land of enchantment”, including a little cultural context and a look at the ingredients which are commonly used in dessert here.


New Mexico: a brief culinary background

Many believe that the dramatic, sweeping sunsets and ruggedly beautiful landscape of New Mexico, which has inspired artists for centuries, is the reason behind the state motto “the land of enchantment”. Not to put down Georgia O’Keeffe and company, but I do respectfully submit that the cuisine is equal if not greater in terms of enchantment level.

New Mexico’s sun-baked soil and chilly desert nights provide a unique growing climate. While many crops are grown in the state, the short growing season, dry climate, and temperature variances lead to extremely concentrated flavors. Whether it’s a red-hot chile or a supersweet apple, the flavors are alive.

The colorful and zesty nature of the cuisine is certainly evident in its enchiladas and famous green chile cheeseburgers, but it carries over to the dessert course, too. They’re not afraid to embrace flavor in their dessert: let’s say New Mexico was doing chile-infused chocolates way before it was trendy.

What you have in New Mexico is a unique mash-up of cultural cuisines. Initially settled by Native Americans, colonized by the Spanish, home to many Northern seeking Mexicans, and now home to many aging hippies. Each contingent has made distinct contributions to the cuisine of the area, which shows traces of each of the aforementioned sources but is not quite any of them--New Mexican cuisine is a thing all its own. This is true of the desserts, too. Gluten-free wild blue corn pudding with Mexican spices? It wouldn’t be unheard-of.

It’s important to remember that the Native Americans were there first, and the mentality of using what the earth provides still certainly pervades the culture, including that of dessert. Early sweets would be likely to employ ingredients that were simply there: eggs, corn, honey, lard, spices, and milk--in the earliest days, goat milk, but as the industrial revolution came about, dairy from cows, too.

The influence of the Spanish and Mediterranean explorers added cooking methods and ingredients that would not have been around otherwise, making for a fusion of Spanish recipes with native ingredients: that’s where we get such dishes as bunuelos, biscochitos, and natillas.

As a side note on Native American sweets, this is one of the most difficult parts of the dessert scene to pinpoint, as many of these treats are baked at home rather than as offerings in a commercial setting. I did my best, as you will see below. 

Some of the cuisine in New Mexico can be confused with the food of Mexico, because both can tend to earthy and rich in flavor. In New Mexico, the cuisine is particularly chile reverent, and the fiery pods are used even in desserts such as New Mexican apple pie with green chile or brownies scented with red chile.

Since the 1900s, New Mexico has been a hamlet for artists of all types. This has brought an air of sophistication to the state’s dining, which has over the years led to city and hipster type interpretations using locally harvested ingredients. Trendy doughnut shops featuring blue corn and chile on their (gluten free) holey treats? Hey, it could happen.

Key ingredients

Pinon chocolate decadence

Here’s a look at some of the key ingredients which are used in New Mexico sweets. Not all of the ingredients are exclusive to the area, but you’re very likely to see them play a role in the sweets of the region. They can also give a deeper look at the way ingredients may play into desserts, giving a local flavor to even desserts or sweets such as cookies, cakes, or doughnuts. For instance, a doughnut is not a regional treat in New Mexico, but a blue corn doughnut could be unique to the area.

Blue Corn


Blue corn? Yep. This is a variety of maize which is grown in New Mexico. Mild, nutty, and lightly sweet in flavor, perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic is its color, which is indeed an indigo hue. The cornmeal is a frequent part of sweet recipes, making its presence known in quick breads, doughnuts, pancakes, and bundt cakes.

Chile

To say that chile is a vital part of New Mexican cuisine would be an understatement. Beyond condiment, chiles are sold directly from roasters on the side of the road, and are present in just about every meal. The big question is red or green? Or “christmas” - both? They are added to desserts too, including Pumpkin Green Chile pie, Red Chile Brownies, and a famous apple pie with green chile.

Cinnamon

The importance of cinnamon in New Mexico desserts cannot be underestimated. It is the dash of something that makes natillas sing; it is the extra spice that makes biscochitos warm and fuzzy in your mouth.

Chocolate

Everyone knows that Spanish explorers loved drinking chocolate (at least, that was an interesting tidbit I remembered from History class). Chocolate remains a rich tradition in the area, with traditional drinking chocolates readily available and a wide variety of locally made chocolate available. In Santa Fe, there’s even a self guided “chocolate trail” including a number of fine local purveyors.

Dairy

One of the state’s largest sources of income is through its dairy products. This translates into the dessert arena, where many dairy-rich desserts can be found regularly at restaurants. It wouldn’t be New Mexico without flan or tres leches cake (or both) on the menu.

Piñon

You may call it a pine nut, but in New Mexico, this is not reserved as an ingredient for pesto. It’s a way of life, with the scent of piñon roasting a part of the landscape and street vendors advertising the new batch. Though fairly expensive as an ingredient, it’s not unlikely to see it used in desserts, such as chocolates, pancakes, or ice cream.

Peanuts

The conditions for growing Valencia peanuts--characterized by three or more small kernels to a pod and a bright red skin--are a small, sweet peanut which can be roasted or boiled. If the baker is using local ingredients, these unique peanuts contribute a slightly different peanutty flavor in New Mexican sweets.

Pecans

Pecans for pie

Although we usually will think of Louisiana when we think Pecans, it’s one of New Mexico’s top agricultural crops. This makes pecan based desserts a stronghold, whether it’s a rich pecan pie, pecan-studded cookies, or a rich caramel turtle chocolate cake.

Piloncillo

This is a type of unrefined cane sugar which resembles brown sugar in color, but has more similarity flavor-wise to palm sugar. It is purchased as a cone, which can be shaved or cut.

Pistachio

Grown in the desert, pistachios are actually one of New Mexico’s top harvests. Though a popular ingredient globally in dessert, its presence is prominent in New Mexico desserts, from lemon pistachio white chocolate doughnuts to delicious and unique pistachio brittles.

Prickly Pear

Nicknamed “indian fig”, the prickly pear is the sweet-tart reddish fruit from a cactus which grows in the dry areas of the southwest (prominently in New Mexico and Arizona). It is a key ingredient in imbibements such as margaritas, as well as in dessert course treats such as sorbets, ice creams, and sauces.

Sweet Specialties of New Mexico

These are the treats you’ll see often enough to take notice in New Mexico. Some are unique to the area, and others simply proliferate in a big enough way to bear mention.

Apple pie with green chile

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

In New England, there is a saying that “apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” In New Mexico, it’s green chile that adds a little spice to the life of apple pie. It’s a commonly seen specialty in restaurants and cafes, and a recipe has even been shared in the Smithsonian.

Arroz dulce or Arroz con leche

Photo via Wikipedia commons

You’ll recognize this dish if you see it: it’s rice pudding. The version favored in New Mexico has a distinctly Mexican inspired flavor; it’s almost like the pudding version of horchata. It’s made with milk, sometimes raisins, and always spiced with cinnamon.

Atole

Corn is the base of this traditional beverage of Mexico and Central America. Corn flour is combined over heat with water, piloncillo, cinnamon, vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit to make an earthy, hot beverage which is commonly served as an accompaniment to tamales during the holiday season. 

Biscochitos

Biscochito, Golden Crown

As the Official State Cookie of New Mexico, this delicately flaky anise-scented cookie demands civic respect. There are variations on the recipe: sometimes they’re made as circles, sometimes as diamonds, sometimes trefoils. The spelling is sometimes of debate, too: you’ll see them as biscochito or bizcochito (see lore, below). But most old-school bakers will agree on at least one thing: the secret to the melt-in-your-mouth texture, which simply cannot be substituted without sacrificing authenticity, is lard.

Blue corn pancakes

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Using blue corn in pancakes is a trend which is generally credited to Tecolote Cafe, whose atole pinon pancakes have been featured on the Food Network and beyond. It has spread far and wide, though, and is a frequent occurrence on breakfast menus.

Buñuelos

Photo via Wikipedia commons

These lightly sweetened doughnut-esque fried bits of dough are not unique to New Mexico; you’ll find variations of them as widely flung as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. In New Mexico, you’ll often see a version which seems like a relative of the sopaipilla; the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. They are typically sweetened with sugar and cinnamon; sometimes, a sugar cane glaze is employed for maximum deliciousness.

Capirotada

Greer Garson's capirotada (7)

Photo via Flickr member Joel Kramer

This variation of bread pudding is characterized by its addition of cheese and spices--a cinnamon-rich mixture which makes it sort of like bread pudding meets cheesecake with a dash of horchata. There’s no part of the equation that is wrong.

Chile chocolate


Chocolates scented with chile are an everyday occurrence in New Mexico. All chocolate shops will stock some variation on the theme, whether it’s straight-up dark chocolate with ancho chile or a more involved confection with pinon, caramel, and chile. Brownies will also commonly contain chile.

Chongos

Chongos photo via Wikipedia Commons

Apparently “chongo” is a Spanish term used similarly to the term “chignon” which is referred to a particular twist of women’s hair. Certainly there is a twist involved in the dessert, which is made with cheese curds which are “twisted” and served with a sweet syrup.

Dulce de calabaza

Calabaza para preparar dulce de calabaza tradicional del día de muertos en México

Pumpkin is treated with a method somewhat similar to making candied citrus to make this unique confection. It’s candy-like on the outside yet remains soft on the inside, making it a singular dessert. You won’t so much find it at bakeries as you will as a snack at flea markets, or if you’re lucky, someone’s grandma made it for you.

Dulces membrillo

Dulces membrillo via Wikipedia commons

From the Spanish by way of Portugal, Dulce de membrillo is made of quince fruit, sugar and water, cooked over a slow fire. It is sweet and mildly tart, and similar in consistency, flavor and use to guava cheese or guava paste. It is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into thin slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese, often served for breakfast or as a snack, with manchego cheese or mató cheese. It is very often used to stuff pastries.

Empanadas dulces / empanaditas

Sweet Empanadas, Sweetheart Coffee

Hand pies stuffed with all manner of sweet fillings are a common sight in New Mexico. Typical fillings include dates, apples, peaches, or quince. They can be small or quite large. 

Flan


You know flan: a decadent cooked caramel cream custard which is popular in a variety of cultures. Perhaps owing to the combination of dairy production and Mexican and Spanish influence in the state, flan is extremely popular in New Mexico. It's as standard on dessert menus as chocolate cake.

Fry Bread

Mmm... fry bread with honey and cinnamon

Also called Navajo fry bread, this is a staple that comes with a sad story. After being ousted from their land, Native Americans had to make due with what they had. Government supplies of staples were often rancid; making due with the minimal ingredients they had, fry bread was born. It has become a sacred tradition, and some say “it is to be consumed by the people until the earth has again become purified.”

Horchata

Juan More Taco - Lunch

You'll see your fair share of horchata in New Mexico. This beverage made from soaked ground rice comes across as “milky” but it’s typically not made with actual dairy. It’s typically sweetened with sugar and scented with cinnamon. It’s a common street vendor beverage and is a common beverage offering at restaurants in New Mexico.

Hot chocolate

Kakawa

Sure, you can find the Starbucks or Swiss Miss types of hot chocolate in New Mexico. But you can also find a more exotic and luxuriant Mexican/Spanish style of drinking chocolate. According to cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland, “Both hot chocolate and atole are traditional accompaniments to tamales. Mexican hot chocolate is far, far superior to the American version. First, they make it from real chocolate. Then, they spice it up with canela, vanilla and sometimes a kick of chile. If you can’t find ancho chile powder, try regular old red chile powder; just don’t use a powder that contains anything except ground chile peppers.” 

Jamincillo

Have you ever heard of milk fudge? Or perhaps penuche? If so, you have an idea of what jamincillo is; if not, let me explain. It’s made with milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and pecans. The first four ingredients are heated and lightly caramelized; once they reach a level of firmness, they are either rolled or pressed into a pan to form confections.

Marquesote


This is a simple and classic sweet in Mexican and Salvadorean traditions. Made with yeast, it’s sweeter than a typical bread, and with a more delicate crumb owing to cornstarch, but less sweet than a cake (so it is often called “Mexican cake bread” which seems to tell it like it is). It can be served simply, with confectioners’ sugar as a breakfast item, or gussied up with fruit or syrups. You'll often see variations on this type of cake bread in the panaderias which are so common in New Mexico. 

Mexican wedding cakes

Mexican Wedding Cookie, Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

They exist under many names and in many different cultures: Russian teacakes, snowballs, kourabiedes, Armenian sugar cookies.

They’re extremely popular in New Mexico; bakeries and restaurants always seem to stock them. Variations will include Bocaditos de miel de abeja (honey drops) and yemas de nueces (nuts and yolks, referring to some key ingredients).

Molletes

Molletes are better known as a sort of open faced breakfast sandwich, but there is a lesser-known dessert version. Sometimes referred to as molletes de coco, these are sweet buns filled with a sweet mixture, usually a creamy custard. They can be appointed and garnished with rum, coconut, icing, and pumpkin seeds.

Natillas

Photo via Wikipedia commons

In my opinion, the best way to describe natillas is to call it “rice pudding, but without the rice.” It is a relative to the French îlles flottantes, or floating islands. Cooked on the stovetop, natillas have more milk and fewer eggs than their French cousin, which makes it thinner and creamier.

Paletas

Papaya Paleta from La Newyorkina, NYC

To call paletas “ice pops” would be a disservice and an understatement. Far from the frozen sugar water sticks of color, paletas are rich in flavor, made with fresh juices. They’re extremely vibrant both color and flavor-wise. They’re a popular item in the summer in New Mexico.

Panaderia fare

Conchas, pan de huevo, marranitos, bigotes: all of your favorite pan dulce favorites from Mexican panaderias can easily be found in New Mexico.

Panocha

Photo via Wikipedia commons

Panocha is a pudding made from ground sprouted wheat and piloncillo. It is traditionally eaten during Lent. The sprouted-wheat flour itself is called "panocha flour". But listen to me right now. Do not google images for it, because you'll learn that it's also slang for something else. 

Pastellitas Indios

Pastelito

Almost like a garibaldi biscuit, this pastry is like a pie that has been flattened on purpose: it has dried fruit condensed to a sticky-sweet filling between flat pastry crust. It's way better than it sounds. 

Sopaipilla

A signature New Mexican treat, this is not necessarily sweet. Literally “little pillow”, this fried bread is typically served with honey, which is why I give it honorary sweet status. It’s served alongside savory meals, though, but I consider it sort of like a sweet respite during a savory meal.

Tamales

True, they’re more famous for being a savory dish, especially popular around the holidays. But here's a secret: give them a sweet filling and they’re a dessert! You’ll find fruit-filled varieties throughout the state, with fillings ranging from cheese to fruits.  

A particularly interesting variety of tamale is called kneeldown bread. Also called Navajo tamales, this is a sort of sweet tamale, but don’t be misled by the name. Made from corn, fat, and water, it derives its sweetness naturally, from corn, but is baked hard, like a cracker, and sometimes stored all winter long. It’s named for the prone position assumed to make it.

Tres Leches Cake

Literally “three milks”, this cake is beloved all over, but has a strong presence in New Mexico--along with flan, it's as ubiquitous as chocolate cake on dessert menus. The style can vary, but if you ask me, a good one is made with a spongey cake to absorb all of the milk, and is so saturated that it almost sops a bit when cut into. 

Pastry profiles

A sampling of regionally famous and interesting desserts I've sampled or heard about from trusted sources in New Mexico. I believe that these desserts are unique in that they all offer a distinct sense of place while you're in the Land of Enchantment.

Atole Piñon Pancakes, Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Though the restaurant is closed for the moment (they lost their lease and are looking for a new spot), their pancakes are legendary. As wide as a salad plate and satisfyingly thick, one pancake really will do. It’s flecked with plenty of blue corn and studded with piñon.

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Apple Pie with Green Chile and piñon, Daily Pie Cafe, Pie Town

This is probably the most famous pie in New Mexico, as it is the only one I can think of which has been featured in the Smithsonian. A thick double crust plays house to spicy apple slices flecked with green chile and pinon.

Blue Corn Doughnuts, Whoos Donuts, Santa Fe

Whoo's Donuts

Picture a cake doughnut. Now, change everything: make it with blue corn to give it an ever so slightly gritty texture and nutty flavor, and top it with a sticky sweet raspberry jam spiced with a whisper, not a shout, of jalapeno. It sounds a bit much but truly, it’s a thing of delicious beauty.

Caramel Pinon Ice Cream, Taos Cow, Taos

If you like dulce de leche ice cream, chances are you’ll love this creamy, mellow yet sophisticated flavor. Caramel ice cream gets a rich expansion of flavor thanks to a smattering of pinon nuts, which round out the flavor and make it more interesting.

Chocolate Pecan Pie, Cafe Pasqual’s

Cafe Pasqual's, Holiday Pie Mania, Santa FE

Pecan pie is great, but like a great many things, it is improved by chocolate. The name may not insinuate its greatness, but one taste of this sweet and flavor-filled pie will make you a believer. It’s a beloved dessert at a beloved restaurant.

Custard empanadas, Leo’s Bakery, Las Cruces

Fruit empanadas are one thing. But fruit and custard? Amazing! The custard empanadas are a popular and interesting item to try at Leo's Bakery in Las Cruces. 

Eclairs, Charlie’s Spic N Span Cafe, Las Vegas

A giant cream puff sign will put you in a pastry mood even before you walk in the door, but the eclairs are what keep the crowds coming. Technically, these are not eclairs, but large, elongated cream puffs with chocolate icing...but really, who’s complaining?

Fruit filled burritos, Michael’s Kitchen, Taos

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. But sweet, not savory.

Ice cream sundaes from Vanilla Moose Ice Cream, Aztec

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

To call the owner of Vanilla Moose “zany” would be an understatement. She concocts a mile-long list of mini sundaes with any number of toppings from pretzels to pineapple upside down cake, and serves them with a smile. Free mini cones for babies and dogs.

New Mexican wedding cake, Mary and Tito’s, Albuquerque

Mexican wedding cake

I know I just spent all this time explaining that Mexican wedding cakes are actually cookies, but this exceptional cake happens to have almost the same name as the cookie but actually be a cake. Confused? Don't be. Focus on the cake, which is really quite incredible. I'd describe it as being like hummingbird cake, but without the bananas. 

Peanut mexican wedding cakes, Glenn’s Bakery, Gallup

Typically, mexican wedding cakes are made with almonds or pecans, but this interesting version makes use of New Mexico's peanut bounty. Not many cookies feature peanuts--they all seem to have peanut butter--but these make a case for more peanut usage in cookies. 

Pinon biscochitos, El Meze restaurant, El Prado

Looking for a fancy version of the state's down-home official cookie? Look no further. Delicately flavored with pinon, the biscochitos at El Meze restaurant, owned by famed NM food historian Fred Miller, are really something else.

“Potato” ice cream, Cowgirl Cafe, Santa Fe

Photo via Trip Advisor

There’s no actual potato in this dessert, which is named for its looks rather than its flavor. Ice cream is rolled in cocoa and presented as a baked potato, down to trompe l’oeil pat of butter. It’s a favorite with children, but beloved by adults, too.

SPAT (pinon caramel truffle), Chocolatesmith, Santa Fe

Named for the shoe covers favored by turn-of-the-century dandies (I don't really see the resemblance but I can let it go), these chocolates are rich in caramel and slightly salty pinon. They're a unique treat at a purveyor which features many New Mexican ingredients in their delicious chocolates. 

Tres leches cake, The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe

Pantry restaurant

The Pantry restaurant is famous for breakfast in Santa Fe, but here's a little known fact: one of the employees' wives makes their tres leches cake in small batches at home and supplies the restaurant. This cake tastes like love, and oozes milky goodness when the tines of your fork hit the cake.

Lore and interesting bits from New Mexico

The curious case of the biscochito

Pretty much everyone I've emailed or spoken to spells the state cookie "biscochito". But we're all doing it wrong: the official word is that it's "Bizcochito". As I learned here

In 1989 New Mexico House Bill 406 declared the bizcochito as New Mexico's Official State Cookie.  The battle over the state cookie was not about adopting it but how to spell it.  Several lawmakers got on the House floor to press for the "s" or"z".  Eventually the Senate returned it as "bizcochito".  To this day the Senate version prevails, but as we all know, it's the taste that gives a biscochito the name, no matter how you wish to say it. 

Pastry Pilgrimage: Pie Town

 Pie Town

Pie Town is located in a relatively remote part of southern New Mexico, and is very much the small frontier town. When I went there, I was told jokingly that its name is inspired by the fact that the town is "exactly 3.14 miles from the middle of nowhere."

As the legend goes, the town gets its name from an enterprising local who began to sell sundries and snacks, notably pies, to travelers passing through. Without much else to discern the town, it began to be referred to as "Pie Town". The name caught on, and has held strong.

Interestingly, pie has not been a constant in the town that bears its name. There have been long stretches when no pies, or worse, not very good pies, have been sold.

Today, two of the small handful of retail businesses in Pie Town are pie related: the Good Pie Cafe and the Pie-O-Neer. The former is only open seasonally, so you'll have to wait until spring to sample their pies; as the Pie-O-Neer advises, "our days and hours change like the weather"—that is to say, call ahead if you're planning a trip to try them out.

A recipe for the road

It would be inhuman to close without at least one recipe, right? So here's a recipe for some biscochitos!

Pinon Biscochitos - from Fred and Annette of El Meze Restaurant

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup butter; softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp anise seed; finely ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups pinon nuts; finely ground
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup water

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees. 
  2. Cream butter and shortening together with mixer or in food processor. Add sugar and anise seed and blend until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. 
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, ground nuts and salt together. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until smooth. 
  4. Add enough water to form a stiff cookie dough. Chill dough for 1 hour or longer.
  5.  Cut chilled dough into 6 pieces (keeping pieces in the refrigerator until ready to use). On floured surface, roll out cookie dough until 1/8” thick. Cut out with 1-1/2” round cookie cutter. Press pinon nuts on top of each cookie. Sprinkle heavy with raw sugar. 
  6. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Cookies need to soft brown color, not white.

Well, that was a totally sweet tour of New Mexico sweets, sweeties! If you have anything to add or thing I got something wrong, please feel free to chime in to make this guide even better!

Tuesday
May272014

Sweet Art: Hipster Unicorns Invade Santa Fe

I've had the craziest day in Santa Fe.

It started in the morning when I went to BODY for a yoga class. It was a dreamy class, but when I exited...there was a veritable sea of unicorns outside!

Well, I rubbed my eyes, shook my head, and chalked it up to a lack of caffeine so I headed over to the Betterday coffee shop, a known hipster hangout and fine purveyor of coffee.

But you wouldn't believe what I saw there... More unicorns! And these ones looked suspiciously like hipsters.

Starting to think that perhaps I was going crazy, I thought I would escape for a while in the soothing dark of a matinee. So I headed over to the Cocteau theater, which happens to be owned by George Martin of Game of Thrones fame.

But I wasn't alone... The Jean Cocteau appeared to have been taken over by yet more fashionable unicorns, and these ones were reading the Santa Fe Reporter, using iPhones, and even name-dropping.

Sensing that I was experiencing some sort of unicorn-induced hysteria, I decided to seek sanctuary at the Cowgirl BBQ nearby, where I figured I would at least see some people in cowboy hats acting southwest-y, and the horses on the wall would not have horns.

Well. I'm sure that you saw this coming, but the hipster unicorns had infiltrated the Cowgirl, too!

Maybe to those who have spent more time in Santa Fe than me, this type of thing is commonplace. But for me, it was a pivotal moment: I felt like I finally understood why they call New Mexico the "land of enchantment".

Monday
Oct142013

CakeSpy Undercover: The Vanilla Moose, Aztec NM

I need to tell you about the business that may just be my favorite soft serve ice cream joint on earth. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

And please know that this statement does not come lightly, as I was born and raised by the Jersey Shore, a soft serve mecca if ever there was one.

But in the most unexpected place--Aztec, New Mexico, in a region called "Four Corners" given its proximity to the spot where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah all meet--there is a most magical ice cream spot called The Vanilla Moose.

Here's what you'll see as you drive up. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

There are picnic tables leading up to the burger shack-style order window. You can drive through, too, but that's definitely not as much fun as walking up. 

Soft serve is what's on the menu here, vanilla and chocolate, and it's done right. It's creamy and smooth, with none of the "ew"-y grainy texture that can characterize lesser varieties of soft serve (and like I said, I know). But if a plain ol' cone is too boring for you, that's ok, because they have a number of different ways to dress it up, as you'll see on the menu. Vanilla Moose, Aztec

By the way, the menu boasts "spoiling dinners since 1983" and "as always, free doggie & baby cones". Seriously, don't you love them already?

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

There are floats, cones, shakes, and especially sundaes. Now, don't get me wrong, because we got a shake and it was most excellent--chocolate with almond syrup and almonds inside and on top of the shake, thankyouverymuch--

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

But. In my opinion, the true joy here is the sundaes. We sampled several, so I feel well qualified to tell you about it. They are served in several sizes, but I found the "junior" size to be just right. It's like a small ice cream, but when topped with a number of different textured and flavored additions and whipped cream and a cherry on top, it's the perfect amount. 

Some highlights? The brownie sundae was a study in balance, with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream playing beautifully off of the chocolate-rich brownies (made by owner Pam) and the rich fudge sauce. When it slightly began to melt and all of the flavors came together...perfection. Good with nuts, too. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

The peanut cluster sundae was ideal for this sweet-and-salty dessert lover. Creamy vanilla ice cream was coated with caramel and crunchy salty roasted peanuts, then (why not) it was all topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry. It was just indulgent enough, and the saltiness made each bite completely tantalizing, making you want more sweet, and then the taste of sweet made you want more salty. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

During a week-long stay in the area, we went four times. The owner, Pam, who took over the business from her mother, and her employee were both just stellar, dealing with simultaneous drive-through and walk-up customers with ease, speed, and friendliness. On a visit when there was no line, Pam came 'round the counter and sat with us and talked about New Mexico, spirituality, cross-country moves, and of course, her role as one who brings sweetness to many lives. She's a pretty cool lady. Tell her I said hi if you go. 

And, speaking of which, yes, I do think you should go. Aztec is an interesting little town, with Native American ruins which are fascinating to tour, and it's just a stone's throw from uber-cute Durango, Colorado. It's worth a visit if you find yourself in that part of the world.

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

But please, make sure you visit The Vanilla Moose. I'll warn you, they're closing in about 2 weeks (a little before Halloween) for the season, but they'll be back in the spring, and the spring after that, and it's my sincere hope that they are there forever. Because we need places like this to make us pause from being so busy in our everyday lives, and savor some sweetness just for a few minutes.

OH! And remember how I told you they do free doggie cones? Guess who we brought on one of our visits...

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

Yeah, this happened. Porkchop loves The Vanilla Moose, too! Wonder what emotions he felt while eating his cone.

 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

The Vanilla Moose, 1721 West Aztec Boulevard, Aztec NM 87401. On Facebook.

Thursday
Sep122013

Carb Lover's Delight: Golden Crown Panaderia, Albuquerque

Golden Crown Panaderia

When I tell you about Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque, it's probably going to sound strange. 

You see, from the best I can tell, they have four specialties there: 

1. Empanadas

2. Biscochitos

3. Bread

4. Pizza

Golden Crown PanaderiaGolden Crown Panaderia

Yep. Empanadas and biscochitos, okay. Bread...all right. The pizza is a little bit of a curveball. And yes, in case you're wondering, they do have other stuff--like mexican wedding cake cookies and a variety of other pastries. Here's there menu so you can ogle. But we zeroed in on the stuff that we were told was the best.

Golden Crown Panaderia

Now, I don't know about you, but I might not have high hopes for, say, the pizza at such an establishment. But the most incredible thing is that they do all of four things things amazingly well. 

But since this is a dessert and baked goods site, I am going to assure you that the pizza is well worth a try and start talking about the sweets now, ok?

Biscochito, Golden Crown

First, the biscochitos. We were extremely delighted when, upon entering the bakery, the employee just gave us each a biscochito. If you've never tried one, they're a flaky, almost pie crust-esque spiced cookie, often made with lard, which is the official State cookie of New Mexico. Their biscochitos were perfect. Golden Crown Panaderia

They simply crumbled into a sweet, melty oblivion in your mouth, and the lightly crunchy dusting of sugar and spice was gentle, not overpowering, letting the flavor of the rich but slight cookie shine. 

Now, I should tell you for future reference that if you ever buy biscochitos, you must eat them immediately. It's not that they won't keep, but they will crumble. I have purchased biscochitos before and taken a short walk with them and somehow they've turned into a pile of crumbs. Be warned.

Next up were the empanadas. We got apricot and cherry. They have a number of flavors, though--raspberry, apple, lemon, et cetera. Nothing crazy, but a nice variety of flavor options.

Golden Crown Panaderia

The fillings were OK. Like, serviceable. But sort of along the lines of one of those TastyKake hand pies. Fancier of course, but still of that ilk. The apricot tasted better than the cherry, we thought. But either way, the fillings are really just an excuse to have something to wrap the crust around.

Golden Crown Panaderia

But dudes, dudettes, the crust. The crust was similar to the texture of the biscochitos, making me wonder if it was a biscochito crust or perhaps just a lightly doctored biscochito dough altered for a sturdier texture. Golden Crown PanaderiaLike the cookies, they were dusted with sugar and spice. The crust was perfect. It was flaky, lightly nutty (perhaps owing to the spice?) and like the biscochitos, just melted in your mouth. This is the type of crust you're willing to travel for. 

Golden Crown Panaderia

Get yourself to the Golden Crown. I think you'll enjoy their crust quite a bit, be it on an empanada or a pizza.

Golden Crown Panaderia, 1103 Mountain Road, Albuquerque NM. Online here.

Saturday
Jun152013

Sweet Discovery: Mexican Wedding Cake, Mary and Tito's Cafe, Albuquerque

 

Mexican wedding cake

 I'd like to share with you the most interesting dessert I've had in a while.

It's called Mexican Wedding Cake. But this is kind of a funny name, for a few reasons.

First off, when I think "Mexican Wedding Cake", I think of a cookie--a snowball sort of cookie. Not an actual cake.

Second, it doesn't really look like a wedding cake. It actually more resembles a Hummingbird cake, with walnuts and pineapple and cream cheese frosting...but without the banana. It's baked in a bundt type pan.

Third, we're not in Mexico. We're in New Mexico, at an eatery specializing in New Mexican food. It can't be denied that New Mexican cuisine is heavily influenced by that of Mexico, but they're not *quite* the same. Although to this last point, I feel as though at least one of the employees referred to it as "New Mexican Wedding Cake".

But who really cares about the name when a cake tastes this good?  

 

Mexican wedding cake

 As previously mentioned, it's a nice, dense, sort of Hummingbird-esque cake, but without the banana. It is dense with spices, fruit, and buttery cakey goodness. When I say dense, I mean it. It's almost gooey, like the texture of a baked pudding. Upon reflection, it's like having a glimpse at the evolution between fruit cake and fluffy layer cakes, with delicious results. And the frosting, oh, the frosting. Here's a posterior view to give you an idea:Mexican wedding cake

 It's somehow light, almost with the texture of whipped cream, but rich in cream cheese flavor. It's applied thickly, and you'll be so glad it is. This is a very, very special cake, served in an unassuming spot (picture below): 

What a find!

As I learned from the fantastic site NM Gastronome, (owner) Antoinette has been making this cake for better than 30 years (though she doesn’t look much older than 30 herself) and says she’s made it thousands of times.  You won’t find any better in New Mexico.  You won’t find anything close.

As I learned from the same post,

In the February, 2013 edition of Albuquerque The Magazine  celebrated the Duke City’s best desserts. The fabulous Mexican wedding cake was recognized as the “to die for dessert to remember.”  I’m not too sure what that means, but if it means the Mexican wedding cake is unforgettable, the honor is certainly well deserved.  It’s certainly one of the very best desserts in New Mexico. 

You've got to try this one if you find yourself in Albuquerque! 

Mary & Tito's, 2711 4th Street, N.W. Albuquerque, NMMary & Tito’s Facebook Page.

 

Monday
Jun032013

Sweet Surprise: Key Lime Pie from Zia Diner, Santa Fe

Key Lime Pie

Sometimes, you find sweet dessert finds where you least expect them. For instance, I would not have thought that Santa Fe, New Mexico, would be a great place to get an authentic slice of Key Lime Pie. Turns out, I was wrong, because they're selling the good stuff right at the Zia Diner, not far from the central downtown area. How delightful to be surprised like this!

As I entered the building to meet a friend, I was greeted by a case full of baked goods. I was informed by the hostess that their sweets are all made on site, and that they're all very, very good. I had a long and loving look at this cream puff: 

Cream Puff, Zia Diner

Before sitting down for some savory food. After dinner, though, you can bet your bottom dollar we were ready to see the dessert menu! When asked what was good, the waitress said that if there was any part of us that held love for key lime pie, we simply had to get theirs. "Is it made with real Key Limes?" I asked. Apparently, yes. She also told us that Floridians have a way of testing a pie to see if it's authentic from the get-go: they look at the color. Artificially tinted or regular-lime only impostors will not have the correct color, which is kind of a custardy yellow (not green!). She also told us that Floridians approved of this pie. But would a Spy?

Key Lime Pie

Yes! Oh my! This pie was very, very good. Shockingly tart on first bite, but subsiding as it warms in your mouth to an even, tart-sweet richness. Zingy citrus--this pie tastes like sunshine. A very nice texture, sort of like that of panna cotta--it didn't collapse when cut into, but wasn't stiff or too firm, either. Soft...yielding. 

I was very impressed by this Key Lime Pie, not only because it was delicious but that it was proof that sometimes, even a professional dessert detective can be pleasantly surprised by a sweet in the most unexpected place! 

If you're not in or near Santa Fe, however, you can enjoy the dessert gallery on their website (why doesn't every restaurant do that?).

Zia Diner, 326 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe NM; online here.

Saturday
Apr202013

CakeSpy Undercover: Momo and Company, Santa Fe

Momo and Co

This is what a gluten-free cupcake looks like at Momo and Company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is a totally gluten-free and mostly vegan bakery near the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, downtown.

How did they get there? So glad you asked. Per their website,

What happens when you put together a native New Yorker with an affinity for baked goods (bordering on obsession) and a native New Mexican who has a passion for Boba tea?…you get Momo & Co! Leslie Thompson, founder of Momocakes Vegan, Gluten-Free Bakery and Carola Kieve, lover of all things Boba have teamed up to bring 100% Gluten-Free, (Mostly) Vegan goodies and the 1st ever All Natural Boba Tea Bar to Santa Fe, NM.  Initially our journey was a personal challenge to be more mindful of what was going into our food and beverages but along the way we’ve learned that many people need to eat allergen-free foods as a necessity .

While eating gluten-free may be a necessity to some, it need not equal suffering--for anyone. So it makes me so glad that places like Momo and Company exist, where gluten-free treats are available for those who can't eat gluten, but delicious for everyone.

By the way, this is what two gluten-free cupcakes look like at Momo. 

Momo and Co

On my recent visit with my friend Judi, we each got the breakfast sandwich (I know, not sweet) on gluten-free bread. Hey, the bread was pretty good and held together quite well (I've had trouble with gluten-free bread falling apart on me in the past). 

The cupcakes, made with a proprietary blend of flours (each of their baked goods has a slightly different mix to ensure the best flavor and texture), are among some of the better gluten-free / vegan varieties I've tried. The cake held together (once again, I have had trouble with that) and on the chocolate-chocolate cupcake, little studs of chocolate added extra delight. The frosting had a little bit of a "crust" on top, which I like--the only bad part is that it made it solid so if cutting the cupcake in half, the frosting comes off in a chunk. But this does not affect the flavor--just the visual. 

Cupcakes aren't the only sweet on the menu--they also have sticky buns with chocolate:

Momo and Co

as well as chocolate chip cookies, mexican wedding cake cookies, a waffle bar with plenty of sweet toppings...

and of course the savory / sandwich menu.

Momo and Co

Momo and Company, 229a Johnson Street, Santa Fe; online here.

Wednesday
Apr172013

Pastry Profiles: Chocolate Tart from Tree House Pastry, Santa Fe

Tree House Pastry

Tree House Pastry Shop and Café is not easy to find. It's in an unlikely spot--inside of a mall, across from an insurance agent. But it's worth seeking out, particularly for their chocolate tart. It's both vegan and gluten free, but don't be scared off when I say that, because there is nothing virtuous at all about the taste of this devilishly decadent tart. Does the secret lie in the crust, made of crushed candied walnuts? Or is it the dense, lusciously luxuriant slab of chocolate topping, which is so thick that it will coat your teeth? Or is it the secret addition of raspberries which add a little tart burst to all taht chocolatiness? Either way, after a few bites, you don't care so much about the ingredients as you do that it keeps on finding its way to your mouth.

Treehouse pastry

I wouldn't go quite so far as to tell you this tart alone is worth a trip to Santa Fe, but...I am saying that if you are in Santa Fe, this tart is worth seeking out. Or maybe it will make you strongly consider Santa Fe for your next vacation. 

Tree House Pastry Shop and Cafe, 163 Paseo de Peralta (inside of the DeVargas Center), Santa Fe, NM 87501; online here.
Monday
Apr012013

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe Bakery Roundup

There are a few things you should know about New Mexico. First off, it is part of the United States. The license plates helpfully point this out: “New Mexico, USA”. Second, it is one of the few states with an Official State Cookie (the biscochito—or is that bizcochito?). Third, it's a fantastic place to get fat, or, as I told one diner manager who looked at me funny when I ordered a sopaipilla and a slice of tres leches cake (no dinner to go with it, thankyouverymuch) a great place “to carb-o-load for a marathon you're never going to run.”

Here's where I've carb-o-loaded and sugar-rushed, and I think you should, too. 

Whoo's Donuts

Donut Stop Believin'. Santa Fe is not, strictly speaking, a donut town. In fact, there's only one non-chain donut shop in town. But one is all they need, because clearly, Whoo's Donuts are the best. This is where you'd get flavors such as blue corn with strawberry-jalapeno glaze, white chocolate lemon pistachio (pictured above) or salted caramel. You'll pay for them—most doughnuts are $2 or more—but they are so. Freaking. Good. 

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Chocolate Smith

Time for Chocolate. If chocolate is more your speed, you're in luck. Check out the "Chocolate Trail of Santa Fe" for a self-guided tour, or just read on. I'd start right after visiting Whoo's Donuts and go next door to ChocolateSmith and get something sweet like a mendiant, some bark, or a truffle. It's owned by the same people who own Whoo's Donuts, and everything, from the salted caramel truffle to the spicy chocolate bark, is made with love and care and is completely tasty. 

Kakawa

Not too far away, Kakawa Chocolate House is also a fantastic spot for chocolate, most notably drinking chocolate. They actually create historically accurate drinking chocolates there, in case you've ever been curious what Aztec chocolate tasted like, or what flavor of cocoa Jefferson might have favored. Oh, they also make a nice array of sweets on site, such as this delightful (and large) lemon pistachio macaroon.

C.G. Higgins also does truffles and chocolates, including some unusual flavors.This is more like the old-fashioned confectionery shop in town, but with some more updated flavors. Intrigued by the blue cheese and cherries jubilee truffles, I stuck kind of safe and tried the himalayan sea salt. Sweet. Salty. Yum. They also have a respectable hot chocolate (though in my opinion, that's something you look for at Kakawa). Also, just FYI, you could get some Chile Pecan Brittle here, too.

At Todos Santos Fine Chocolates, you'll find silver, gold, and...chocolate? Believe it. This small-batch chocolatier is noted for making chocolates that resemble milagros, small charm-like offerings to saints in Hispanic folk culture. These are done with edible gold and silver leaf, though, making them tasty offerings to your mouth!

Finally, don't forget CocoPelli: It's off the beaten path, in a mall, but the chocolate is all made by hand. Nice choco-covered fruit and nuts and truffles...and they make cakes and pastries, too! A sweet spot.

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French Connection. For a small city, Santa Fe has a surprisingly large amount of French bakeries. Le yum!

Macarons, Clafoutis, Santa Fe

Probably the most famous is Clafoutis, which is always, always crowded. Go there for breakfast, brunch, or lunch for a delightful Croque Monsieur (i'd tell you to get something else, but that's what I've gotten every time and I can't bear to order differently). Or just go to the bakery case and get one of everything. They are somehow able to make macarons at the high altitude, which is a bit of a miracle, and they're good--so are the croissants, the Opera cake, et cetera.

Montmartre

The French Pastry Shop and Creperie makes crepes both sweet and savory, and they also have a counter case full of Frenchie stuff to go. On past expeditions here I have tried their delectable sables and their blissful Montmartre pastry.

Cafe Mamou, Santa fe

Chez Mamou is another French spot in town, and they boast a beautiful array of French pastries. You'll find single-serve mont blancs or almond paste stuffed chocolate cakes, as well as croissants, brioche, and tarts. According to one of the handsome French-speaking gentlemen who work there, however, the best of the bunch are the lemon and apricot tarts. I haven't tried those yet, but have tried the clafoutis, studded with dark cherries and marzipan, and a chocolate almond thing that I'm not 100% sure of the name, but know it was delightful.

Swiss Bakery, Santa Fe

The Swiss Bakery might not sound French, but, after all, aren't fancy French pastries referred to as Viennoiserie? So yeah, it's going to come off as French. The best item in the case, according to one of the employees, is the Napoleon. I would tend to agree, although I haven't tried everything there. Just look at that thing. This particular one was stuffed with strawberry and kiwi. I know that might not sound amazing, but it really was. 

Also equipped with French pastries is Le Chantilly, a cafe with bakery offerings such as croissants, eclairs, and Napoleons.

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Ice Cream and Frozen Treats After enjoying some of the local spicy and chile-rich dishes, you're probably going to need something cool. I hope someone will challenge this statement with proof of delicious ice cream around town, but as it stands...there really aren't any notable local ice cream shops. Taos Cow ice cream at the station At The Station coffee house, they have ice cream from Taos Cow; likewise at CocoPelli (mentioned above).

Gelato, Ecco Gelato, Santa Fe

There is, however, gelato. We'll start with Ecco Coffee and Gelato. A little more milky-icy than some other gelati I've tried, it's nonetheless fantastically flavored stuff. I got the stracciatella and pumpkin, which was serious pumpkin; a friend got the stracciatella with nutella. Yumsies.

Mangiamo Pronto, a casual Italian eatery, also has gelato which is quite good, and they are opening a gelateria next door to expand their currently small but very good offerings.

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Cookies, Cakes, n Pies: For the classic American treats, you have plenty of options too. 

Dream Cakes, Santa Fe

Dream Cakes Gourmet Cupcakes has a humble storefront but good gravy are these cupcakes good. Moist , butter-packed cake that makes you want to swoon. If they have it, please try the "Southern Belle". It's a rich pecan cake with cream cheese frosting--pictured above. You will not regret it.

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

The Chocolate Maven has it all, from cookies, cakes, and pies , to breads. They have a restaurant too, actually, but I've never gotten past the pastries. I've known and loved their Russian Teacake cookies and tarts, cupcakes, have ogled (but I will confess, not tried) their pies, and have truly enjoyed their croissants, which are crispy, light, buttery, and when filled (for instance, with almond paste), they are filled generously.

tres leches cake, cocopelli

CocoPelli, mentioned above, specializes in chocolate but they also bake their own cupcakes. And my oh my, was the Tres Leches Cupcake nom-worthy.

Dulce, Santa Fe

Dulce, in spite of the name, offers little dulce de leche and mainly, pretty standard American bakery fare. Not that this is a bad thing! Scones, cookies, a very nice Red Velvet cake.  

Sage Bakehouse

For carb-rich treats and wonderful breads, visit Sage Bakehouse. Dudes, dudettes, this place is pricey. But their bread is pretty amazing, and their cookies and pastries are made with love, care, good flour, and the taste reflects it. 

You'll also find some very tasty stuff at Treehouse Pastry and Cafe. It's in an unlikely spot—the mall, across from an abandoned allstate insurance agent, but damn, do they have a fine pastry case. The shortbread cookies were solid, and I hear the cupcakes are a great, but really, the highlight was the chocolate tart. It's both vegan and gluten free, but you don't suffer at all for its lack of ingredients. It has so much to offer flavorwise that you don't really care what's in it—it just tastes SO good. The secret may lie in the crust, which is made of crumbled crushed candied walnuts. It really reminded me of a sweet treat I love from Chaco Canyon raw and vegan cafe in Seattle.

Which leads nicely into more Vegan and / or Gluten Free options. 

Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll

If you're gluten free and/or vegan, Revolution Bakery has all the classics--cookies, cinnamon rolls, scones, and other tasty carbohydrates, but modified to be safe for your belly, heart and soul. 

Body Cafe also has a very nice array of house-baked (or, if you're raw, not-baked) vegan, gluten-free, or raw options for their sweets. Raw truffle, or vegan cheesecake? You'll find it here.

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Non-Bakeries that Have Good Stuff

When I'm in Santa Fe, I love Whole Foods. To be specific, though, I like the one on Cerillos Road, not the one on Cordova Road (I specify this because there are two Whole Foods markets like 2 blocks away from each other). I like them as a grocery store, but I also like the fact that their bakery often has a sort of “best of” selection from area shops. You'll see doughnuts from Whoo's, sweets from Sage Bakehouse and Chocolate Maven, and more. They also do a rather respectable job with their in-house baked goods, in particular their Chocolate Decadence cake, which is better than many restaurant versions I have tried!

A visit to the Farmer's Market is a highly good idea. It's on Tuesday and Saturday. Tuesday is smaller and slower but an easier pace, perfect to check out Cloud Cliff Bakery, ogle at pretty produce, buy some peppers which were being roasted while I watched, and buy this slice of prune-filled pie.

Pastelito Pastelito

 

It was made by a lady who just had two types—apricot and prune. The “pies” were rather flat, and reminded me of garibaldi biscuits. Apparently, these are sometimes called Pastelitos Indios and are common with Native American cookery.They also have a farmer's market “cafe” which had Whoos doughnuts and other goodies (some of them gluten free, since it's a big concern in Santa Fe).

If you stop nearby the farmer's market, you'll see a restaurant nearby called The Junction. I didn't eat there but when I walked in to try to sneakily use their restroom, I looked at the menu and the hostess told me that their apple pie was--not joking--some of the best in town. She said that on her birthday, she craved that instead of cake. Well, I'll just say that I took note of that.

Cake from The Station

Also nearby the farmer's market is The Station, a coffee shop where they not only, as previously mentioned, have ice cream from Taos Creamery, but a beautiful array of pastries made on site. Pick up a slice of almond clementine cake? Don't mind if I do. I also enjoyed how they used coffee ice cubes in their iced drinks. Nice touch.

Not to confuse you, but the Santa Fe Baking Company is not actually a bakery--it's a cafe-restaurant. And, you know, a pretty good one. Their breakfast burrito, for instance, is beloved. But luckily they DO have their own selection of baked-on-site goods, including muffins, scones, brownies, cookies, et cetera. 

Bobcat Bite Chocolate Chip Cookie, Bobcat Bite

If you do travel all the way to Santa Fe, you must go to Bobcat Bite, a very famous burger place and beloved by locals and travelers. But save room for dessert, because they make their own cookies there!

Cafe Pasqual's, Holiday Pie Mania, Santa FE

Cafe Pasqual's is nationally famous, and with good reason: they offer some delicious eating at their restaurant. But you know what's great? Their desserts. They're house baked and Southwest influenced but also rooted in Americana. For instance, a chocolatey pecan nut pie, which combines pecans, native to the area, and a Kentucky classic? Yes please.

And OMG, the banana coconut cream pie from Jambo Cafe. This is a sort of African-Carribean fusion cuisine restaurant, and everything you eat is so freaking good. But save room for this pie. Please. 

Chocolate Cream Pie, Harry's Road House, Santa Fe

Harry's Road House is a popular people-pleasing spot, and they have a nice array of house-made desserts. Including chocolate cream pie, chocolate cake, and cookies and other sweets. 

Tesuque Village Market is not a bakery, but they do have some fantastic baked goods. Among the sweeter surprises? Sticky buns that would do a midwest potluck proud. 

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 Let's Carb-o-load for Breakfast 

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you're in Santa Fe, promise me you'll go to Tecolote Cafe at least once. Blue corn pinon pancakes will make your head spin with their awesome amazingness, and they offer a bakery basket or a tortilla with egg dishes. Go for the basket!

Tune Up Cafe

You'll need breakfast more than once while you're in Santa Fe, unless you're only staying for a few hours. Why not try the Tune Up Cafe? In addition to delicious pupusas and all sorts of tasty savory fare (including a popular breakfast side of fried bananas with cream), they also make all their own baked goods, so please, for me, try one of their wedding cake cookies. It will make you look like a cocoaine addict after you eat it, and it's apropos, because I suspect they are crack filled. They are really, really good. 

Pantry restaurant

The Pantry is a fantastic spot to get breakfast AND sweet treats. Their pancakes are light and fluffy and worth the visit; their sopaipillas are a fine specimen (see below). They also have their own proprietary tres leches cake, which is baked by an employee's wife. Yum!

El Tesoro, Santa Fe NM

OMG El Tesoro. Go for breakfast, stay for the muffins. LOOK AT THAT THING.

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An Unexpected Sweet Spot

Who knows what adventures await you after all of that delightful carb-o-loading? Here's what happened for me. All that breakfast worked up an appetite for a trip to the bookstore. Collected Works is a great bookstore, where they carry my book and Judi's and will probably carry my next book, too. They have a fantastic collection of cookbooks, and while reading about desserts from the area, I got intrigued by a writeup about the fantastic carrot cake at a place called Mission Cafe and Sweet Shop. I decided to walk over.

Well, it's been closed for three years, but it so happened that I walked by the Oldest House in the USA. No kidding! And guess what? They sell baked goods there! The caretaker, Evelyn, baked everything herself. Pick up a brownie, scone, and a couple of biscochitos? Well, OK.

Now, as Evelyn told me, when it comes to biscochitos everyone has their own variation and secret ingredient. She wouldn't tell me hers, but she assured me that she used the vital one: lard. When you make these cookies with butter, they are just not the same. Sorry! She also said that when she was young, biscochitos were most commonly baked in a sort of trefoil form. But today, she bakes hers as stars so that people can refer to them easily, and they won't break as quickly.

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Sopaipilla Nirvana

To the uninitiated, a sopaipilla is a pillowy piece of fried dough. It's not technically dessert. It's a fried bread, but it's not a doughnut. It's neutral (or should be), and is served with honey. It's used as a side, to sop up soups, stews, or sauces, and it's just delicious. It's typically served as a side dish in New Mexican cuisine. Occasionally it's an automatic side, but often you have to order. They don't break the bank, though—the most expensive ones I came across were $2 for a basket of 2. Though not a comprehensive list, because there are so many restaurants that offer them, here are some that I've known and loved in Santa Fe.

Horseman's Haven Horseman's Haven

First up, Horseman's Haven. What an oddball spot. It's in a gas station and kind of looks forbidding from the outside, like a place where bar brawls break out. But inside it's not a dive bar, but instead a family friendly restaurant. And every day at three pm, they start up their fryers to make sopaipillas. Now, it's odd that they only start making them at three. Why? I asked the waiter. It was 2:58 and I had time—there were no exceptions to the rule, apparently. He didn't know. “that's just how it's done here” was the basic response. The sopaipilla here was fresh. A little greasy. With a nice thread of honey served on top, it was a pleasing side to a meal. It definitely made me hungry for more.

Tia Sophia

The next sopaipilla stop was Tia Sophia's, where the sopaipillas are one of the specialties. Theirs was wonderful: soft but chewy, chewy but not tough. It was like biting into a cloud. If clouds were made of fried dough that you could pour honey on and eat.

Sopaipilla from the Pantry

Time to continue carb-o-loading, so off to The Pantry Restaurant I went. Here, I tried their sopaipilla, which was very yeasty and slightly sweet. Very different from the other ones I'd tried so far, lighter and less evident that it was fried, but very good. 

Maria's

I was starting to feel a serious sopaipilla jones by this point, so hit up a place called Maria's with my friend Judi, who is a famous author and also has a passion for pastry. In fact, we met in a case involving a pastry. The sopaipillas at Maria's were respectable, but (in my opinion) slightly inferior to the ones at Tia Sophia's. I enjoyed the crispiness of this variety, however.  BTW, Maria's specializes in Margaritas. I tried Judi's, but in general margaritas are a one or two sip type of drink for me. Better (for me) was the Margarita cheesecake. We tried that, along with the kahlua cheesecake. It was muy delicious. 

Tortilla Flats Sopaipilla

When it was time for more sopaipillas, I hit up Tortilla Flats, where they make a yeasted sopaipilla. Nice and lightly crispy, this one was airy on the inside. They only begin frying at 11 am. The manager informed me that this is because the quality is superior when they have ample time to rise, and “we are not making them in the middle of the night!”.

Finally (for now), I have also wholeheartedly enjoyed the sopaipillas on offer at Gabriel's, a restaurant famous for making guacamole tableside. Their sopaipilla was like a delicious pillow, more substantial than some others but perfect for sopping up honey and sauces. I loved it. 

Whew!

Now. I can't say I have been to every single place in Santa Fe, but I firmly believe I've visited a lot of the good ones. And if this writeup doesn't make you hungry for some sweet Southwest adventure, I don't know what's gonna give you an appetite!

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