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Entries in pastry profiles (39)

Thursday
Oct092014

Something I Love: Hahn's Crumb Cake

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you were here right now, you might say: "I wonder why CakeSpy is singing 'Circle of Life' from The Lion King in her outdoor voice right now?". 

Well. I am singing that song because sometimes, life comes full circle in beautiful and delicious ways. Let me tell you about one such instance.

Way back in 2007, when I lived in Seattle and CakeSpy.com was a baby, I came across (and wrote a feature about) Hahn's Crumb Cake. Being a misplaced east coaster in the wild west, I was delighted to come across a company that shipped what is probably my single favorite childhood (and adult, let's be honest) treat. 

Note: if you are confused about what crumb cake is and is not, please check out this post.

Then, several years passed where a lot happened, but none of it involved Hahn's.

And then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, they e-mailed me and asked if they could send me some samples of their cake. I typed my address with haste, lest they change their mind.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

A few weeks after that, a glorious package arrived with a pleasing heft to it. Inside, it was crammed with crumb. Cake, that is. Oh-emm-gee.

Now, I am going to try to be careful with how I say this, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

This crumb cake is perfect. But it's not because it's fancy. It's perfect because it's an ideal specimen of a truly quotidien (at least in the NY metro area) foodstuff. 

Hahn's makes a higher quality version than you'll buy at most delis, but it still has that simple, unfussy quality about it that makes crumb cake so great.

Crumb cake does not aspire to be a gourmet food: its goal is to feed you and make you happy.

Lots of butter and brown sugar help ensure that it is able to do its job. The art of the cake is in the crumb: you don't want them too streusel-y. While in my opinion the crumbs simply can't be too big, they can be too hard. You want a crumb that is firm, but that will yield when you bite into it, exuding a buttery-brown-sugar-slightly salty flavor in your mouth. 

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you love a classic NY-style crumb cake or have fond memories or thoughts regarding the Entenmann's crumb cake from supermarkets, you will probably love Hahn's crumb cake as much as me.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

The package I got included a classic, chocolate, and raspberry variety. All were good; I say it just depends on your mood. I tend to veer toward the former, because it has confectioners' sugar.

Maybe I like looking like I have a cocaine problem after I eat a slice of crumb cake?

(this may be the first review Hahn's has ever gotten that mentions cocaine. I am proud to be the first.)

So--my review is, buy crumb cake from Hahn's if you want a taste of nostalgia, or if you've never tried a classic crumb cake but would like to do so. 

Enjoy! 

Buy online at crumbcake.net.

Hey! These posts may also be of interest:

Behemoth crumb cakeHow to make crumb cake

Crumb cake shake

 

Sunday
Jun232013

Sweet Story: Strawberry Sour Cream Sundae from Molly Moon's

CakeSpy Note: You know that I'm a sucker for a sweet story, especially when it pertains to the secret life of something sweet! So when I received this sweet story behind the Strawberry Sour Cream Sundae at Seattle's famous Molly Moon's Ice Cream, I had to share! 

When Molly was a kid in Idaho, her Grandma Angie introduced her to a delicious summer treat: dipping strawberries in sour cream and brown sugar. Grandma Angie holds a special place in Molly's heart partly because of her passion for politics. Molly remembers her grandmother as an energetic leader who was often working in political offices or on campaigns. When campaign volunteers were working late into the night, Grandma Angie would run out for strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar so her hardworking crew could have a special treat.

In honor of Grandma Angie, and the awesomeness of Washington strawberries, we’ve created a new sundae that is at once crunchy, creamy and cool.

We had a lot of fun making this sundae. We started with a scoop of our strawberry sour cream ice cream – a  simple combination of Remlinger Farms strawberries and sour cream - to make a richer, creamier flavor with just the tiniest bit of zing. Then we added some fresh, organic strawberries, a lightly sweetened sour cream and crunchy, golden Demerara sugar. A sundae isn't a sundae without whipped cream and a cherry on top, so we went ahead and added those too! The result is pretty to look at (all red, white, pink and sparkly) and a treat to eat.

We like to think Grandma Angie would approve.

Sorry! I don't have a recipe to share, but you can buy one of these sweet treats at all Molly Moon's locations in Seattle!

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.
Saturday
Mar162013

Pastry Profiles: the Montmartre from The French Pastry Shop and Creperie, Santa Fe

Montmartre

Now here's a pastry that makes me want to start singing "Isn't she lovely?". 

Beautiful red strawberries standing proudly at attention, gleaming under an apricot glaze. Thick whipped cream. Spongey cake. A rich layer of pastry cream. More cake to keep it all in place. That, my friends, is the Montmartre, a totally sweet pastry named after a Parisian neighborhood which I scored at The French Pastry Shop and Creperie in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

How did I choose this pastry above all the others in their delectably filled cases? Easy: I asked the employee working the counter what the very best thing was in the case. He kind of blushed, said of course everything was good, but that his personal favorite was this bad boy. And so I went with it.

I wasn't disappointed. The Montmartre was kind of like strawberry shortcake's more glamorous French cousin, with a little more sophistication and je ne sais quoi. But when it came down to it, the strawberries n cream was down-home delicious, to the very last bite. 

A sweet find indeed! 

The French Pastry Shop & Creperie, 100 E. San Francisco Street, Santa Fe NM; online here.

Wednesday
Oct032012

Tres Delicious: Tres Leches Cake, The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe

Tres Leches, Pantry restaurant

Let's get one thing straight. They do not make their Tres Leches cake in-house at The Pantry Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. Wait, don't stop reading! Because it still is legitimately a "homemade" baked good, made at home by the wife of one of the restaurant's employees. And on the day of my visit, it was extremely fresh--I was informed that this would be the first slice cut from this hallowed round of delicious. 

Pantry Restaurant

Yes, I said round. Personally, I'm more accustomed to a square of Tres Leches--what about you? But I digress. In terms of construction, the Tres Leches at The Pantry resembled a round birthday-style cake; it was frosted on the top and sides, with piped decorations in the frosting. But once cut into, the inside of the cake revealed more what you'd expect from the traditional "three milks" cake--a spongelike cake kept moist and tender with mass amounts of dairy. And indeed, this one was so saturated that it just about dripped when you tucked your fork into the slice. Yessssss. 

Pantry restaurant

The flavor of the cake was very good: milky, yes, but with a certain je ne sais quoi (look at me, acting all international!) to the aftertaste that made it compelling, and extremely easy to keep on eating. 

Pantry Restaurant

The Pantry Restaurant, 1820 Cerillos Road, Santa Fe, NM; online here.

Monday
Jan162012

Hello, Sweetness: Meet Chichi fregi

Image: Paperblog.frI want to introduce you to my newest obsession, chichi fregi.

I know what you're thinking. Who or what on earth is chichi fregi?

Let me tell you.

Sort of like a churro but with an (arguably) cuter name, Chichifregi is defined by Glenn and Laura Halpin Rinsky's The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional as "A small fluted fritter made from yeast dough, deep-fried and rolled in sugar; a popular French street snack."

Or, as I translated from this web page (I love the slightly odd translation), they are "large donuts Provence, traditionally long and swollen, sweet and flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water. In Provence, they are tasted at fairs, at carnivals, and in the streets."

Based on some online sleuthing it seems that the chichi fregi is often served in a circle or spiral form.

It seems that the name has something to do with Garbanzo beans (chickpeas). Starting with the Latin cicer, we go to the French "chiche", referring to chickpeas, which at one time were a key ingredient in the dough made to make the fritters.

Either way, a sweet new friend for you to enjoy.

Find recipes for it here and here.

Monday
Jan162012

Sweet Love: CakeSpy Kind of Loves Hippie Cookies

Before you read this next statement, I just want to assure you that everything is really, truly OK.

That having been said: I am having a love affair with a healthy cookie.

It's true. It's called the NRG Orb, and its Coco Orb counterpart, and both are made by Capers (affiliated with Whole Foods in Canada).

I don't know what it is about these little nuggets, which are made with a fairly virtuous cast of ingredients, including coconut, apples, dates, and maple syrup.

They're free of refined sugar, and they're vegan to boot. I know! I know! You're thinking I am a fallen Cake Gumshoe. You're thinking "did she really write that book with all the butter and sugar laden recipes?".

But the thing is, they're very, very tasty. And I have been enjoying them quite frequently as a post-lunch sweet (you know, when you just need a bite or two of something sweet) or a mid-afternoon pick me up.

Don't despair though, because I assure you that I always either precede or follow them up with something butter and sugar packed.

Find NRG Orbs at Whole Foods markets in the Northwest (from Vancouver to Seattle at least); online at wholefoods.com.

Saturday
Oct082011

Pastry Profiles: Nutella Brioche from Macrina Bakery, Seattle

Let's take a moment (it won't take long, I promise) to talk about the Nutella Brioche from Macrina Bakery in Seattle.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Nutella was invented on the principle that chocolate-and-hazelnut-make-everything-better. And based on this logic, it would follow that an already-awesome thing (Brioche) would be rendered even awesomer by adding Nutella. I know I just got pretty mathematical-scientific there, so pause for a moment and re-read that if you need to.

But joking aside, this Nutella Brioche is seriously delicious. Feathery-yet-buttery brioche gets a sweet upgrade from pearly sugar on top, and a rich-and-sweet delight awaits you as eater in form of a Nutella filling. The whole package is a wonderful way to breakfast, and pairs beautifully with coffee.

Nutella Brioche, available at Macrina Bakery; for locations and hours, visit macrinabakery.com.

Thursday
Jul212011

Pastry Profiles: Raspberry Dark Chocolate Shortbread Bar from Avenue Bread, Bellingham WA

And now, I'd like to tell you about something delicious I ate.

It was simply called a "Raspberry Dark Chocolate Bar" and it was one of the bar cookies available at Avenue Bread in Bellingham, Washington.

Just look at this thing.

It's like a shortbread cookie on the bottom (already good), buttery and flaky and dense...but wait, there's more.

On top of that buttery base, a layer of raspberry jam, lightly tart and sweet.

And on top of that jam (which might be too healthy on its own), a smattering of dark chocolate chunks and nuts.

And then, on top of that, a rich crumb topping which was sweet and lightly salty.

Are you on your way to Bellingham yet?

As a bonus, this establishment also offers sweet pretzel-y looking cinnamon twists, all sorts of other carbohydratey treats, and it's right down the street from Mallard Ice Cream and Sweet Art.

Everything about this bar cookie and this establishment spells "WIN".

Avenue Bread, various locations (I visited 1313 Railroad Ave. in Bellingham); online here.

Avenue Bread & Café on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jun222011

Pastry Profiles: Fisher Fair Scones of the Pacific Northwest

Recently, Fisher Flouring Mills celebrated their 100th anniversary. Why is this of interest, exactly?

Because, for anyone who has ever attended the epic Puyallup Fair in the Seattle area, you may know them as the makers of the famous Fisher Fair Scones. Let's take a few minutes to learn a bit of the backstory behind this company and their signature product, shall we? I'd like to thank Nick at Team Soapbox who was so helpful with getting me much of this information.

The Fisher Flour Mills opening invite, from 1911First off, why the Pacific Northwest? This company, which initially focused mainly on flour, settled in Seattle in 1911 because it was “the most promising city on the coast.”

The Fisher booth in 1923How did they start making scones as a fair food? William H. Paulhamus, president and general manager of the Puyallup Fair (Western Washington State Fair) pitched the scones idea to Fisher and said he’d donate jam made from his raspberry farm in Oregon. The scones debuted at the fair as a chance to showcase and promote the company's flour flour. They were a success, going for just a few pennies each. Today, they are still a Northwest favorite and a tradition of Washington fairs.

Current CEO Mike Maher has a long history with the company, too:

“My connection to the fair goes back three decades. As a teenager, I started working in fair operations for Fisher, driving the trailers to each venue, training staff and making scones for customers myself. I learned quickly about the magnetic appeal of a fresh-baked scone slathered with whipped butter and raspberry jam. It didn’t take long before I became hooked on the idea of delivering smiles to our customers, one fresh-baked bite at a time.”

Michael Maher began with the company in 1978 (then Fair Scones, Inc.) and has risen up the ranks as the company has grown over the past 30-some years.  

Current CEO MikeHow did current CEO Mike rise to floury fame? Mike’s career began as a high school student in Portland, OR when he was hired by Fair Scones, Inc. to work its concession booth at the Rose Festival.  From 1979 to 1984, he worked summers as a concession manager, operating various events in Oregon,Washington, and British Columbia.  After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1985, he came on board full time as the general manager, overseeing all festival operations.  In 1995 Mike became vice president—operations and directed the company’s expansion into retail scone products and wholesale baking to the airlines.  In the late 1990s Mike led three specialty food company acquisitions and expansion into private label products.  He was named president and COO in 1999.  He joined the Board of Directors in 2003, and was later promoted to his current post as president and CEO.

Old Fisher Flouring Mills truckHow did the scones gain such popularity? What started as a promotional tool eventually expanded to became a signature food item at 39 fairs and festivals throughout the Northwest, but the company is still family-owned (and even the Fisher family still has a stake in the company) committed to local community. Today, Fisher owns the raspberry farm in Oregon and still uses the same simple jam recipe (berries, sugar & pectin) to accompany the scones. The scone recipe has remained largely unchanged, except for a few tweaks to the salt and sugar amounts to accommodate modern tastes.

The scones represent the company’s commitment to a tradition of local, Northwest deliciousness by utilizing local ingredients and tastes—showcased at local fairs. This commitment has now come full circle in a world where people are thinking and shopping local.

Some more little tidbits of interest, sent along by Nick of Team Soapbox:

  • Fisher Scones debuted at the 1915 Puyallup Fair, in the very same corner booth under the grandstand where they are still sold today.
  • The scones originally were free or just a few pennies, promoting Fisher Flours.
  • Today, Fisher serves up more than 40 tons of raspberry jam each summer to top the scones.
  • 1.5 million scones are sold each year
  • This fall, Fisher will serve its 100,000,000th (yes, one hundred millionth!) scone at the Puyallup Fair. 
  • Mike Maher, Fisher’s CEO started out by making scones at the fair himself. Mike’s been with the company three decades. Nobody's sure how many scones he’s eaten.
  • Fisher supports Northwest farmers through a partnership with Shepherd’s Grain, a cooperative of 33 local farmers who use sustainable agriculture farming methods. They’re also connected with the Food Alliance of Oregon, which provides the most comprehensive third-party certification for social and environmental responsibility in agriculture and the food industry in North America.
  • For almost 100 years, Fisher Scones have been a tradition at fairs and festivals throughout the Northwestern United States. These triangular shaped biscuits, baked fresh and smothered in honey-whipped butter and tart raspberry jam, have created unparalleled loyalty.
  • Scones can be yours year round, at home. Fisher brand scones are available by a home mix line; on the mix subject, this year, the company plans on introducing new packaging for the scones (and new all-natural Pancake & Baking Mix, Biscuit Mix, and Cornbread Mix).

Want to continue getting sconed? Check out their website here, and find them on Facebook here.

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