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Entries in New York bakeries (6)

Monday
Jul062009

Sweet Surrender: A Suite of Sweet Bakery Visits in NYC

Cupcake from Sweet Revenge, NYC
Have you ever wondered what a professional baker eats when they're not sampling their own goods?

Well, last month while hanging out with one of my favorite bakers in the world, Matt Lewis (co-owner of Baked in Brooklyn and Charleston, SC--as well as co-author of the best cookbooks of 2008, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and multiple magazine articles--as well as known cupcake defender), I got to find out when we toured a small sampling of some sweet shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

First, we hit up Sweet Revenge in Manhattan to taste-test their namesake cupcake, the Sweet Revenge (pictured above), which is comprised of peanut butter cake, ganache filling and peanut butter buttercream. Now, a cupcake with a description which includes "butter" three times in addition to ganache might sound like too much, but really, it's just enough. It was very sweet, but the slight saltiness of ground peanuts on top really added a nice complement and we had no problem devouring it. For visitors later on in the day (or those who are feeling particularly decadent in the daytime) Sweet Revenge is also offers cupcake and wine/beer pairings too.
The wreckage!
Next it was over to Brooklyn, where we first hit up the adorable Almondine where I scored some macarons from their gorgeous bakery case, but not before cooing over every single item in the case and hearing some very good things about their bread.
Almondine, Brooklyn NY
The macarons had that truly ethereal Frenchie way about them: slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with divinely rich filling; the standout for this little Cake Gumshoe was mos' def the pistachio.


DUMBO view, Brooklyn
After enjoying the view a bit it was across the street to the Jacques Torres shop and factory, where we not only got a free sample from the newly opened ice cream shop (more decadent peanut buttery goodness!), but also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the chocolatemaking area. Now, you definitely don't need to be told that this is an awesome thing to experience. My only regret is not picking up some of those awesome chocolate-covered cheerios.


Jacques Torres shop, Brooklyn
After some walking and talking about sweets we split ways (me off to more bakeries, Matt off to continue writing and baking up some brilliant masterpieces), but oh, what a sweet afternoon it was.

Places Mentioned:
Baked, locations in Brooklyn, NY and Charleston, SC; for information, visit bakednyc.com;

Sweet Revenge, 62 Carmine Street, NYC (212)242-2240; online at sweetrevengenyc.com;

Almondine, 85 Water Street, Brooklyn (718)797-5026; online at almondinebakery.com;
Jacques Torres, multiple locations (we went to the DUMBO one); online at mrchocolate.com.

 

Wednesday
Jun032009

City Sweetness: Bakery Suggestions in New York City?

Hipster Cupcakes hanging out ironically at the Turkey's Nest Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
One of the coolest things about New York is that it's an ever-changing city. Every time I visit, I marvel at how many new businesses have emerged, how many have shut their doors, and how some old standbys are just holding steady.

So, as you know, I am heading to Brooklyn for the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend, which is  exciting not only because I'll be selling super-sweet artwork but because Treats Truck will be parked nearby for both days of the fair (booyea!).

But where else should I wander on the days before and after the fair? What is your favorite NYC bakery? Suggestions in any borough are welcome; I'm willing to travel for sweets.

Sunday
Dec212008

Make My Cake: A Gratuitous, Sugary Love Story

Strawberry Cupcake, Make My Cake
What follows here is a love story between Cakespy and Make My Cake.

We met this bakery years ago, at its old location, near the 2 and 3 train entrance on 110th Street. The location was unlikely, near a fried chicken joint, correctional facility and a dentist office, all on the north side of Central Park. You could smell the cake from a block away, its sweet sugary scent compelling more than one early morning commuter to have a cupcake for breakfast. The cupcakes were sweet--so sweet, in fact, that they have the power to make a black coffee taste as if it's had sugar added when consumed together. In fact, the first time we visited, one of our spies had to double check as to whether or not sugar had been added to the coffee. It hadn't--the cake was just that sweet.

Make My Cake, NYCMake My Cake, NYCMake My Cake, NYCMake My Cake, NYC
Since then, Make My Cake has grown out of its space and moved into a gorgeous spot on 116th street (with another location/operations center at 2380 AC Powell Blvd.--owner JoAnn Baylor manages this spot, while daughter Aliyyah managest the 116th Street location). To us, this new location embodies everything a bakery should be: it's got a beautiful awning and entryway (exciting to walk into); it's thoughfully and sweetly decorated with cake paraphenalia, yet manages to escape looking saccharine with funny touches like a sculpture of a voluptuous little baker lady; it's got a well-stocked pastry case which lends itself to gaping and many sweet moments of indecision, and the employees are friendly and willing to offer suggestions (on a recent visit they suggested the strawberry cupcake, made with fresh strawberry bits in the frosting, in case you were interested). 
Have we mentioned that we love this place?

Make My CakeMake My Cake
Of course, appearances aside, what keeps us coming back is the cake. Owner JoAnn Baylor originally hails from Mississippi, and the cakes do seem to subscribe to the laws of Southern cookery--that is to say, don't skimp on butter or sugar; use fresh ingredients; and--very importantly--make 'em pretty. These are not necessarily subtle cakes--but they are good, with light (almost springy) cake which somehow still manages to be very rich, moist and buttery, and thick, dense, frosting with a touch of "bite" to the texture.  And sweet. In fact, just as we remembered it, so sweet that it would be overkill to add sugar to your coffee. To some, this may sound like a bad thing. Fair enough, although we can't say we understand you. But to be sure, we're not alone in our love--their cakes have captured the attention and love of not only Cakespy but actual celebrities too, including P. Diddy, Vanessa Williams and the entire NY Knicks team.
Make Make Cake, we love you.
For more information, visit makemycake2.com.


Make My Cake on Urbanspoon

 

Thursday
Jun262008

Papadopoulos Metropolis: A Cookie Adventure in Astoria, Queens

Papadopoulos Cookies
In a faraway place called Greece, there grows a unique and magical tree which yields not lemons, not olives...but cookies. Gorgeous cookies which are straw-like in appearance, and comprised of thin wafer curled around layers of rich creamy filling. They call these the Caprice cookie.


Papadopoulos Cookies
Of course, if you haven't been to Greece to prove our story wrong, you'll know that the next best place to find all things Greek is Astoria, Queens, where these magical cookies are available at various bakeries, packaged under the company name Papadopoulos. True, technically the cookie is called the Caprice, we can't help but lovingly think of them as "the Papadopoulos Cookie"--a fact possibly influenced by our own Cake Gumshoe of the same name, James Papadopoulos. And who better to follow (and talk to) on a mission to discover the Papadopoulos cookie? Head Spy Jessie recently picked his brain on the subject while riding to Queens on the back of his scooter in pursuit of the famed cookie; here's what she learned:
(Cakespy Disclaimer: For full disclosure, no, James is not actually an heir to the Papadopoulos cookie fortune. Or so he says.)

 

 

Cakespy: How does it feel to be the heir to the greatest legacy in the world: the Papadopoulos cookie?
James loves his Papadopoulos CookieJames Papadopoulos: It's humbling, really. When I walk down the street people sometimes stare, but they're always too shy to say anything. I can see it in their eyes, though -- they know.

 

CS: Can you describe what a Papadopoulos cookie is, exactly?
JP: A Papadopoulos cookie is many things (technically when I say "Papadopoulos Cookie" i mean a "Caprice" cookie, Hazelnut or Praline, made by the Papadopoulos cookie company...) but most specifically, it's one of the most delicious, delicate, and memorable cookies I've ever eaten.... seriously. I have different ways of eating them depending on my moods. Usually, I'll take it in my mouth like a cigar, start chewing and feeding it into my mouth until I've got the whole thing eaten in one fell swoop.

Dipping a Papadopoulos cookie in Diet Coke CakeCS: Can you tell us your first Papadopoulos cookie memory?
JP: I think it was when I was around 4 years old, I had eaten the last of the cookies on a hot summer day, and the filling had melted down onto the corrugated paper liner at the bottom of the tin. I realized that there was enough there to equal almost another cookie's worth of filling. It was a happy time, and I ended up covered in chocolate.

CS: What is the largest quantity of Papadopoulos cookies you've ever consumed in one sitting?
JP: I refuse to answer this question. I don't have a problem. You don't know me!!!!!


CS: What is the best thing about Papadopoulos cookies?
JP: When you think the can is almost empty, you look and find that one has broken in half and both halves are still there. Unexpected yum! The best kind!

 

Cookies from QueensCS: Can people who are not of Greek descent really enjoy a Papadopoulos cookie in the same way you can?
JP: Honestly, I don't think we'll ever know. It all goes back to that existentialist question of "are the colors I see the same as the colors you see?". But to answer your question, no.

CS: You cite Hazelnut as being the finest Papadopoulos cookie flavor. What makes it so superior to, say, chocolate or praline?
JP: Well hazelnut and praline are the filling in the chocolate wafer tube. The hazelnut has a much better flavor, in my opinion, to the others. That brings us to the next question though...

CS: Papadopoulos cookies kind of resemble Pirouline cookies. How do they stack up for you, as a Papadopoulos?
JP: Pirouline and other "wannabe" Papadopoulos cookies pale in comparison. They may LOOK the same, but the amount of creme inside, the crumbly texture of the outer cookie shell, the construction, and overall taste of a Papadopoulos cookie is light-years ahead of anything you'll ever come across.

Titan, Astoria, QueensOmonia, some fried and honey soaked dough = delicious 

CS: When we were in search of Papadopoulos cookies, we hit up two Queens bakeries: Titan and Omonia (examples of their other baked goods are pictured respectively above). If you had to suggest just one of the two to our readers, which would you suggest and why?
JP: Well the bakery at Titan is more of a supermarket type bakery. They make a lot of different confections and do it pretty well and at a reasonable price. I'd have no problem getting something for myself from there. Omonia, though, is where I'll go if I want to get something to bring to a friend's house or when Greek family visits -- there's a little more attention to detail, especially when it comes to cremes/ fillings, and even packaging. Luckily for us, however, Papadopoulos cookies are the same no matter where you buy them :)

 

Papadopoulos CookiesCS: Any final words to add on the joy and beauty of the Papadopoulos cookie?
JP: Yeah, I just finished the last one in the tin we bought during our adventure in Queens (seriously.. just now, not kidding). When do we get more?

Postscript: James also added in a later conversation: "There's talk on the internet that Hazelnut and Praline papadopoulos cookies are, in fact, the same thing. Complete and utter #$%&*!#."
Interested in buying the Caprice (Papadopoulos) cookie? Though they seem to taste best when purchased and eaten in Astoria, they are available online; click here to check 'em out. 
Interested in visiting the bakeries mentioned? Titan can be found at 2556 31st St.,
Astoria, NY; (718) 626-7771.
Omonia (pronounced "Ammonia") is located at 3220 Broadway, Astoria, NY; (718) 274-6650 .
Interested in finding out more about what a real, live Papadopoulos does? Check out James' website at jamespapadopoulos.com.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun112008

Pie Story: An Epic Journey to find the Nesselrode Pie in Canarsie, Brooklyn

Teena's Cake Fair Pies
Cakespy note: this picture is not Nesselrode Pie. More on that later.

It all began innocently enough: with a book. This time, it was in Barnes & Noble, where amongst the "Northwest" section of cookbooks, there was, inexplicably, a cookbook of classic New York City foods. Curious about the anomaly, we picked it up and looked through the table of contents for the desserts. The usual suspects were present--rice pudding, crumb cake...and nesselrode pie.

We'd never heard of Nesselrode Pie.

According to the author, Arthur Schwartz, this pie is extinct, though it still lives on in the memories of older New Yorkers. And it seems so--as an excellent New York Times article by Bernard Gwertzman confirmed in 2004, "Like baked Alaska and Charlotte Russe, it seemed to have gone to the equivalent of food heaven." In fact, at the time of the article, the pie was only available at one New York City bakery--Teena's Cake Fair of Canarsie, Brooklyn.

So what is this Nesselrode pie? Going back to our guy Schwartz,

 

Nesselrode is named after one Count Nesselrode, as are a number of dishes that
are made with chestnuts or chestnut puree.


The pie...however, was popularized by Hortense Spier, who started her business not as a pie bakery but as a brownstone restaurant on 94th St. between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West. The restaurant closed before World War II and Mrs. Spier baked her specialty pies for other restaurants after that. Besides the nesselrode, there was a lemon meringue, a banana cream, and a coconut custard. By the mid 1950s, these were, indeed, the standard pies served in New York's seafood restaurants and steakhouses. When Mrs. Spierr died, her daughter, Ruth, and daughter-in-law, Mildred, continued the business.

Nesselrode pie is really a classic Bavarian cream -- in a pie shell, of course -- which is to say a custard base into which gelatin is blended for stability and egg whites are folded for added volume and lightness. The flavoring ought to be candied chestnuts and rum, but chestnuts haven't been a major part of the pie for a long time. The following recipe uses a product called Raffetto's "Nesselro" fruits, which does indeed contain a trace of chestnut, though the first ingredient listed is, of all things, cauliflower, which apparently has a similar texture to chestnuts when candied. The remaining ingredients are candied fruits. You can use a mix of candied fruit -- tutti
fruiti -- if you cannot find the Raffetto product.

For those who are intrigued, or just cauliflower enthusiasts, if interested in buying your own "Nesselro", it is manufactured and marketed by Romanoff International, Inc., the same people who market the caviar found in suparmarkets. It is distributed through Haddon House.

 

Teena's Cake FairJessie 040
But really, we're just telling you this to explain why, at 6 a.m. this morning, our Head Spy Jessie emerged from the JFK terminal after a red-eye flight to head not to a hotel, not to a friend's home, but to Canarsie, Brooklyn, in search of the coveted Nesselrode Pie. After two train transfers, a bus ride, and a 1.5 mile walk with luggage in hand, she found herself on the stoop of Teena's Cake Fair, shortly after they opened for the day, eager to see this mythic baked good.

But like many epic tales, the story's ending was to be bittersweet. "We don't regularly carry that pie in the summer," the employee explained, "too hot. We usually just have it for the holidays". Of course, this makes sense. While yes, it's true, a request could have been put in ahead of time and saved our spy a trip, we really just wanted the satisfaction of seeing it in the bakery case; alas, that joy was not to be found this time. And so, our heroine Spy humbly ordered a black and white cookie, which at 7 a.m. was still warm and freshly frosted--and upon the first perfect bite (half chocolate, half vanilla frosting), reflected that maybe it's just as well that there was no Nesselrode pie--for isn't the journey half the fun?

Teena's Cake Fair is located at 1568 Ralph Ave., Canarsie, Brooklyn, (718) 763-9100; the closest Subway stop is the end of the line on the L Train. Nesselrode Pie is only available around the holidays.
 
For those interested in making a Nesselrode Pie, the recipe can be found at Arthur Schwartz's website, thefoodmaven.com; there is also a link to buy his book on the site!

 

 

Thursday
Dec272007

Vive la Second Banana: An Ode to Magnolia Bakery's #2 Dessert

It's got to be hard being the #2 dessert at the Magnolia Bakery. We imagine it's sort of like having a really famous sibling (who knows the name of the Olsen twins' other sister, for crying out loud?). This is the plight of the Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery; delicious as it is, what is its place really, with those famous cupcakes in the spotlight? At Cakespy we feel its pain, and want to give this sweet dessert a long-deserved moment in the spotlight. And so here, we offer this sweet ballad to Magnolia's #2 treat:
Dearest Banana pudding,

How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

We love the way you hang out in the bakery case, slightly chilled and a little aloof...don't you know that playing hard to get just makes us want you more?

We love your inviting, pale yellow hue. 

We love the symphony of textures that you award us with in each spoonful: the rich, creamy pudding, with cakey Nilla wafer bits which have become soft and absorbed the banana flavor; the ever so slight hint of a crunch that some of the Nilla wafers still retain.

We love your sugary, heady banana scent. 

We love your little white takeout cup, like a takeaway coffee to the unknowing, but bearing a much sweeter and richer treat. 

In fact, dear pudding, the only part we don't like is coming to the last spoonful; you always leave us wanting more.

Oh, banana pudding! For you, we'd gladly wait on that line all night until the cupcake bouncer deigned to let us in; even more happily, we'd breeze right by those ubiquitous little frosted treats, making a straight path toward you, sweet, wonderful you. 

Eternal love and sweetness,

Cakespy

Cupcake Eating Cake


To try this ambrosial treat, visit the Magnolia Bakery at 401 Bleecker St., New York City; online at magnoliabakery.com.
Cakespy Note: Not in NYC? Happily, the Magnolia Bakery's Cookbook, More From Magnolia by Allysa Torey, contains the recipe. Although it takes a while to prepare due to letting the mixture set at various stages, it's extremely easy to make; we've copied the recipe as it appears in the book (below).
Magnolia's Famous Banana Pudding
I started making this pudding when I was in my early twenties and cooking at a Tex-Mex restaurant and bar. Customers loved it, so when we opened the bakery many years later, it seemed like a great idea to serve it there. It remains the second most popular dessert (after the cupcakes) at the bakery.
Ingredients:
-1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
-1 1/2 cups ice cold water
-1 (3.4oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix (they like the Jell-O Brand)
-3 cups heavy cream
-1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)
-4 cups sliced ripe bananas
Directions:
-In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about one minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerated for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set. 
-In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
-To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours--or up to 8 hours, but no longer--before serving.

 

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