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Entries in pastry profiles (38)

Sunday
Jan232011

It's All About The Cookie: Sweet Dreams Cookies from Baker Street Bread, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

Only a professional Cake Gumshoe would walk into a place known for its bread and pass right by the heavenly carbohydratey display of loaves and go right for the cookies.

But oh, am I glad I did.

I'd like to introduce you, friends, to the Sweet Dreams Cookie from Philadelphia's Baker Street Bread. It's fairly standard cookie fare at first glance, but one bite tells you why this cookie has been elevated from mere chocolate chip to "sweet dreams" status. It's comprised of the usual suspects, upon first taste: buttery cookie base. Chocolate chips. Nuts. And then...cinnamon. A simple addition, but one that adds so much to the end result, and makes you look forward to each following bite until the cookie is gone.

It's one smart and well-spiced cookie.

Sweet Dreams Cookies, Baker Street Bread, 8009 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

Baker Street Bread on Urbanspoon

Friday
Jan072011

Sweet Excess: The Exquisite Pleasure of Eating the Pumpple from Flying Monkey Patisserie, Philadelphia

Pie? Cake? Why decide, when you can eat two kinds of each, plus a 3-inch slab of buttercream frosting, all at once?

That's right: it's time for me to tell you about the exquisite pleasure that was ordering and eating the Pumpple, by far and away the single most calorie-dense offering at Philadelphia's Flying Monkey Patisserie.

But first, a 411. Per this article on MSNBC:

While the turducken, a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, once seemed over-the-top, the pumpple cake is even more decadent. One Philadelphia bakery dreamed up this ultimate fall dessert: pumpkin and apple pies baked in chocolate and vanilla cake, fused together and surrounded by buttercream icing.

This oversize creation weighs in at a whopping 15 pounds and measures more than a foot tall. And at 1,800 calories a slice, it's not for the faint of heart.

And when a couple of spies--a buddy and myself--found ourselves wandering around Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market a week or so ago, you'd better believe we made a beeline to Flying Monkey for a slice of this sweet manna.

Now, this cake is not cheap. It's $8 a slice. But the purchase price is practically worth it for the pomp and circumstance of serving a slice all alone. Here's what you can expect if you decide to make the investment:

The first thing you'll notice as you come up to the bakery case is that this cake is huge. It's over a foot tall--just think about that. This means that if you were standing next to it, it would probably come closer to the height of your knee than the height of your ankle. 

The next thing is that it's heavy. This was clear by the way the employee braced herself to hoist the cake up to the counter to cut and serve. Over 15 pounds--that's a lot of cake, friends.

Once sitting at counter level, a big knife-slash-mini machete will be taken out to cut your slice. First, they will score the cake into marked-out slices.

Since the cake is kept cold (they recommend letting it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating), they will run a mini blowtorch over the knife (the kind used for creme brulee) to warm it so that it can cleanly and smoothly cut through the mass of cake.

They will repeat the torching to cut the other side of your wedge, and then they will delicately extract it and place it in a box, if you're taking it to go. This takeaway box is about the size of one that you'd get for an entire Chinese takeaway meal, by the way.

Now, you could wait half an hour to dig in, as they suggest. But when faced with the heady scent of buttercream, our resistance was futile--we grabbed some forks right away for a taste.

Sometimes, when a dessert like this exists, it's more for the shock value, and can disappoint in the taste department. But not this cake.

Every element could have stood on its own--moist, rich, flavorful cakes giving decadent, buttery pies a bear hug, and every last inch of it enveloped in a buttery frosting swaddling. 

After our few initial bites, we hit the road, walking around Philadelphia clutching our takeaway container with the care that one might assign a newborn baby...a newborn baby that you occasionally pause to take bites of, that is.

Furtive forkfuls were eaten at random all around town, and somehow, by the next morning, waking up in our hotel, this is all that was left. Now, this cake was advertised as serving four per slice, so I suppose I'm equal parts ashamed and proud to show you this.

In the morning light, it seemed like it could have been a mistake. But oh, it felt so right the night before.

Want a slice of this pie-and-cake mashup? You can get it at Philadelphia's Flying Monkey Patisserie; find them online here, and check 'em out on Twitter here.

Thursday
Jan062011

Cake Byte: Chimney Cakes Opens in Chicago

Images from the Chimney Island Yelp pageHow to stay warm during the cold Chicago winter? Well. You could hunker down by a fireplace...or you could hit up newly-opened Chimney Cake Island!

Per CakeSpy reader Amy:

A bakery selling something called 'chimney cakes' opened up around the corner from me recently. Chimney Cake Island. I couldn't find any mention of the chimney cake on your site so I thought I'd pass the word along. Apparently chimney cakes are Romanian (?). I plan to stop into the shop this weekend.

Well, Amy, you are right about the cakes being associated with Eastern Europe. As I found out on that handy-dandy site Wikipedia,

Kürtőskalács or kürtős kalács is a Hungarian pastry also known as chimney cake or stove cake or Hungarian wedding cake. It is baked on a tapered cylindrical spit over an open fire. Originally from Transylvania, it is famous as Hungary's oldest pastry. Kürtőskalács is sold in bakeries, pastry shops and even street vendors are selling them on street corners, carnivals and fairs.

Kürtőskalács consists of a thin yeast pastry ribbon wound around a wooden cylinder, heavily sprinkled with sugar, thus becoming a helix shaped cylindrical pastry or a pastry roll that sometimes tapers very slightly towards the end. The pastry is baked on a hand-turned, tapered, wooden spit, rolled slowly on the wooden cylinder above an open fire. The dough is yeast-raised, flavored with sweet spices, the most common being cinnamon, topped with walnuts or almonds, and sugar. The sugar is caramelized on the kürtöskalács surface, creating a sweet, crispy crust.

In Chicago? Please report back with your thoughts on this intriguing new bakery! Find them online at chimneycakeisland.com!

Tuesday
Jan042011

Sweet Fusion: Cookie Bread from Fuji Bakery, Seattle

I'd like to talk about a beautiful bit of fusion that is going on at a Seattle-area bakery called Fuji Bakery.

Now, if you've ever visited this bakery, you probably think I'm going to talk about how their offerings are a mix of Japanese-meets-French baked goods. And that would be a very natural thing to assume.

But you're wrong. I'm going to talk about how they've combined bread and cake into a form that they call "Cookie Bread".

That's right. Cookie Bread. Please, can we make this an official baked good category? It sounds so much better than "scone" or "quick bread" or "sweet roll".

It looks like a scone, but in fact, it's very light--almost like the texture of Challah bread. The raspberry white chocolate variety (the "Frambo") was lightly tart but totally sweet, what with its swirled  little bits of white chocolate and lightly crunchy sugar topping.

Of course, as previously mentioned, it was rather light in texture, so I found that adding a thick slather of butter kept it from floating away. And, of course, made it even more delicious.

Seek out some sweet Cookie Bread of your own--Fuji Bakery has two locations, in Seattle and Bellevue. Find them online at fujibakeryinc.com.

Fuji Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Nov022010

Happy Overload: Peanut Butter Crispy Nanaimo Bar from Savary Island Pie, West Vancouver, BC

If the subject of Canada comes up in conversation, chances are you're going to hear all about my deep and undying love for the Nanaimo Bar

If you don't know what a Nanaimo Bar is, then clearly you've been wasting your life up until today. It's a no-bake bar composed of three layers of pure pleasure: base of graham cracker crumb, cocoa, coconut and nuts all held together with butter, a middle layer of rich, buttercream custard, and a top layer of firm chocolate. They're messy, they're hella buttery, and they are pretty much the most delicious and decadent thing you could dream of eating.

And while I've embraced variations in the past, recently I came across one that stopped me in my tracks: the one at the Savary Island Pie Company (not a typo; pronounced the same as "savory" or, you know, since they're in Canada, "savoury") in West Vancouver.

What we thought was a Nanaimo Bar was actually referred to as a peanut bar--because you see, the bottom layer was not the chocolate crumb mixture, but instead it was like a peanut butter cereal treat.

It does bring up the important question: is it ok to mess with the perfect balance of a classic?

In this case, when you're doing a sort of scotcheroo-meets-Special K bar-meets-rice-krispie-treat-Nanaimo Bar-mashup, it's so, so very OK.

The crispy crunch of the base adds a wonderful texture contrast to all the soft creaminess on top, and the peanut butter offers a satisfyingly savory dimension to the flavor. 

All things considered? A successful riff on a sweet treat that I wouldn't dream of sharing with Mr. Spy (though he was quite satisfied with his raspberry rhubarb pie).

You can find this magic at the Savary Island Pie Company, 1533 West Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC.

Savary Island Pie Company on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Sep052010

Sweet Love: Ode to the Vegan Oat Bar, Caffe Ladro, Seattle WA

Vegan Oat Bar might not sound like the sort of sweet that would inspire a sonnet, but it is. Let me prove it with a terrible one:

Oh vegan oat bar
beautiful morning sweet
what a lovely thing you are
for me to happily eat

You may not have butter, eggs, or milk
but I don't feel deprived
'cos unlike some pastries of your ilk
you don't taste contrived

You're so sweet, tart, and nutty
when push comes to shove
I have a confession, buddy
I think I'm in love.

Reading that poem, I hope that two things have come across. First, that I should never pursue writing poetry professionally. But more importantly, what I hope that it's conveyed is that this bar is a very special treat which is worthy of love and affection. It's good--seriously good. Starting with a rich cookie base, it has a layer of rhubarb which adds a tart layer of flavor and soft, lightly gooey center, which is all crowned with a generous oat-and-crumb topping which is sweet, lightly salty, rich, and startlingly addictive. Not just "good for a vegan treat", this bar is so good that you'll never miss the butter. And as someone who generally firmly believes that the secret ingredient is butter, and lots of it, this is a bold statement.

This is all to say--this is one sweet treat worth seeking out.

Vegan Oat Bar, available at Caffe Ladro in Seattle; for locations, visit their website.

Wednesday
Aug182010

Taiwanese Dream: Say Hello to the Pineapple Cake

First off, my apologies to all of you poor souls who don't have a person who regularly brings you sweets from Taiwan. Cos you're really missing out.

Luckily, I have the lovely and amazing Kairu, who drops by my store from time to time, often with sweet and exotic treats. She's the one who introduced me to nougat from Sugar and Spice, and now, my latest obsession, an unassuming little treat simply called Pineapple Cake.

As Kairu presented me with a couple of them, she said "the first ingredient is butter, so you know it's good".

How right you are, dear Kairu. These flaky, buttery little parcels contain a sweet surprise within: a sticky, sweet, and perfectly complementary pineapple filling. There's nothing complicated about these sweets--but that is part of their charm. Or, as Mr. Spy put it, "they're like a much better version of Fig Newtons".

Perhaps these sweet little morsels don't solely warrant a trip to Taiwan--but if you or a friend are headed that way, they're worth seeking out.

The ones we sampled were branded as being from Sunny Hills, but the website didn't seem to work. However, you can find a great roundup of information, as well as a recipe to make them at home, on Zester Daily.

Tuesday
Jul062010

South of the Border: A Sweet Suite of Treats from Mexico

CakeSpy Note: We just spent a long weekend celebrating the USA; now that it's over, why not celebrate some of the sweet treats from our neighbor to the south, Mexico? Here's a profile on some sweet treats which are popular in Guadalajara, Mexico, which is where Cake Gumshoe Aislinn lives. Here's her report:

So, initially I went scouting for the prettiest pan dulces I could find, but of course I couldn't find "biscocho."  On an interesting note, though, my husband, who is Mexican by origin, says that (at least in our region in Mexico) "biscocho" is also a slang word for a cute girl.

Nonetheless, I found several other kinds of cookies and a pan dulce that are very common here in Mexico.  I wish I could send you many more, because there are many delicious options for baked goods here, but it's a start!

First, we've got a "concha" (shell), named for the pattern of the sugar topping.  Conchas come in white, brown, pink, and yellow.  They are supposed to be different flavors, but the only difference is that the brown topping sometimes tastes a teeny bit like cinnamon (although my husband swears the brown ones taste better than the other colors and therefore will ONLY eat the brown ones).  The bread itself is fluffy and voluminous, but with a different texture than, say, a croissant.  Pan dulce tends to be denser and no where near as sweet as European or American baked goods.  They are meant to last several days and to be eaten with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate so that the bread softens up a little in the mouth.

Note: authentic Mexican hot chocolate does NOT have chili in it, and if you ask for chocolate / chili combination, Mexicans look at you like you're speaking an alien language.

Next up is a "budin" (pudding), which comes in the shape of a pig.  The budin usually comes in the shape of a pig and is sometimes slathered with a thin layer of chocolate on top.  The budhin is very dry and has a taste and texture reminiscent of bread.  I am sure these have several different names in different regions, because when one looks for a "budin" recipe, most of the results are pudding recipes.

The third cookie (pictured top) is actually called a cookie ("galleta").  I happened to pick the colored sprinkle cookie ("galleta con grangea") because it makes me happy, but the cookie cookie also comes in chocolate or vanilla and is sometimes topped with pecans ("nuez").  The cookie taste like a crumbly shortbread cookie, but without the butter flavor.

The last one is a "vidrio" (glass pane).  The vidrio is another cookie I imagine has several different names.  The vidrio also comes in several different forms or shapes: round multicolored, square multicolored, or triangle in chocolate and vanilla.  The cookie itself is much sweeter than the others and has almost a sand-like texture as it falls apart in your mouth.

Note: Upon further reflection, I also retract my earlier statement.  If I had to guess from the taste and texture, I'd say most to all of the cookies that are made with fat are probably made with vegetable shortening.

Want to learn more about Mexican sweets? You'll find some information in this history of Tex Mex / Mexican food, recipe links and info here, and in case you were wondering, yes, there was a Mexican Pastry War.

Monday
Jun142010

Whiskey Me Away: Chocolate Whiskey Cake from Columbia City Bakery

It's always five o'clock somewhere, but really, any hour that you devour the chocolate whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery is a happy hour indeed.

This loaf cake is actually pretty simple: it starts with a dark as night, exceedingly dense and rich chocolate cake, which is then topped with a crowning glory of sweet-but-with-a-bite whiskey-espresso icing glaze.

Something happens when these flavors come together: the chocolate, the whiskey, the sugary glaze with a buzz of espresso: it might just make you tipsy with pleasure overload.

Oh, is this ever a happy cake.

Chocolate Whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery, 4865 Rainier Ave. South, Seattle; also frequently available at the Broadway Farmer's Market; find out more online at columbiacitybakery.com.

Monday
May312010

Hip to Be Square: Square Cupcakes at Columbia City Bakery, Seattle

Like, OMG! A square cupcake!

Wait, wait. Before you accuse me of being too easily impressed, allow me to assure you that this cake, from Seattle's famous Columbia City Bakery, has more going for it than just an unexpected shape: it's also a deliciously decadent and dense carrot cake. Proving that sometimes subtle sweetness is all you need, this cake derives much of its flavor and sweetness from the natural flavor of the carrots, which are then made even better when paired with a rich, buttery, cream cheesy frosting piped into a cute nubbly texture. Add a few nuts on top for crunch, and you've got yourself a winner.

It's so hip to be square, when you're a cupcake.

Square cupcakes (!), available at Columbia City Bakery, 4865 Rainier Ave S., Seattle; online here.

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