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Entries in san francisco (34)

Sunday
Jan062013

Pastry Profiles: Almond Croissant, La Boulange, San Francisco

La Boulange

I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm an expert on almond croissants.

But as someone who has eaten many almond croissants in life (it's kind of my job, you know), I have sampled enough to know what works and what doesn't. 

And the version from La Boulange in San Francisco works.

In case you don't know the establishment, La Boulange is a small bakery-cafe chain in the San Francisco area. Well, it was a small chain. Until it was purchased by Starbucks last year for $100 million. 

Yes: One Hundred Million Dollars. Pardon my pun, but that's a lot of dough.

I have been a big fan of La Boulange since before the takeover--one of their locations is just a few blocks away from SpySis's apartment. So far, not much has changed following the purchase. The pastry offerings seem the same, and that is a good thing, because in my opinion, they are exquisite. Especially the almond croissant. I mean...look at this.

Almond Croissant, La Boulange

Almond croissant is possibly the cleverest and most delicious use of day-old croissants, wherein you split the buttery treat, coat the inside with almond paste, and re-bake. At La Boulange, they not only use a nearly obscene amount of almond paste inside of the croissant, but use more on top, which not only makes it almond-y heaven but also acts as "glue" to hold on an armadillo-like coating of almond slices.

Those almonds on top crisply crunch when you bite into the treat, giving way to a soft, pillowy interior, gooey with almond paste, and then another light crunch when you reach the toasty bottom of the croissant. 

Just looking at the pictures make me want to cry, just a little, because I don't have one right now to eat.

La Boulange

But I'll always have my memories. And hopefully, following the Starbucks takeover, not one thing changes about this recipe.

La Boulange, various locations in the SF Bay area; find one online here.

Wednesday
Mar212012

Gelat-O-Clock: La Copa Loca, San Francisco

La Copa Loca

Recently, while visiting SpySis in San Francisco (where she manages a fashion boutique), I had a craving for ice cream. This happens often.

Now, I really wanted to visit Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, which had been suggested by Anita Chu.

But when we got there, they had the saddest sign up: "SOLD OUT". What?!?

La Copa Loca

So, we did a quick search on where to find frozen sweets, FAST, and what came up was La Copa Loca, a gelato place in the Mission. I love gelato, so this was very acceptable. 

Now, I should tell you that the selection of flavors was beautiful--surprisingly thorough for a small space, including Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Panna Cotta, Mexican chocolate, chestnut, and more.

I got a combo of deliciousness: French vanilla bean, and pumpkin (a special that day).

The French vanilla was a standout, lightly eggy and very rich, incredibly creamy in that "it-is-gonna-coat-your-mouth-but-that's-a-good-thing-because-you-don't-want-the-flavor-to-end" sort of way. The pumpkin gelato was sweetly spiced and acted as a beautiful complement to the rich vanilla--together, the two flavors were almost like eating the beating heart of pumpkin pie in frozen form, and man, was that a nice experience.

La Copa Loca

Sadly, while SpySis's dog, Hamilton, was eager to be SpyDog, he did not get any gelato. Maybe he'll talk to me again one day.

La Copa Loca Gelato, 3150 22nd street, San Francisco, CA 94110find La Copa Loca on Facebook here.

Tuesday
Jan312012

Gelat-o-Clock: A Visit to Gelato Classico, San Francisco

Gelato Classico, San Francisco

When it comes to Gelato, the setting is a big part of the experience. It is, as I like to say, a “strolling food”, so all the better to have sweet surroundings while you stroll and enjoy your treat.

That having been said, in San Francisco, I felt it necessary to try some gelato in the so-italian-it-hurts North Beach. It's touristy, but it's fun. I also love Stella Pastry there, by the way.

So after consulting the best source for fast information (um, twitter), I learned that Gelato Classico was the place to hit. So after touring Tcho, I strolled on over for some gelato.

I chose a scoop of the crème brulee paired with the dark chocolate. I'll tell the truth, with flavors like tiramisu, chocolate-hazelnut, a good-looking vanilla bean, and many others, it was not an easy thing to decide. But here's the happy thing: It was a good decision.

I strolled my gelato over to the park, where every single person around me proceeded to say “Omigod where did you get that?”. I think I may have single-handedly caused a big rush at the gelato place in this way, because it really was a sunny and perfect type of day for a chilled treat.

Gelato Classico, San Francisco

The caramel-vanilla crème brulee flavor didn't have the toastiness of crème brulee, tasting more like a caramel-vanilla, but that was just fine with me, because this is a good flavor combination. The dark chocolate was delightfully rich, but not so fudge-like that it left a slick on my teeth. The gelato was solidly good, but it was the experience of strolling with it in North Beach that truly made it magic.

Gelato Classico, 576 Union Street. More info here.

Gelato Classico Italian on Urbanspoon

Monday
Oct242011

Tour de Sweet: CakeSpy Coming to San Francisco for Book Tour, October 29th and 30th

San Francisco, you're in for a treat. And it's not of the Rice-a-Roni variety.

No, it's a far sweeter treat: CakeSpy is coming to the Bay area as part of the best book tour ever--Tour de Sweet, a bakery book tour!

Oh, this is going to be awesome.

First off: CakeSpy on TV! I will be on TV on Friday, October 28. I'll update you with details as they become available.

And then, I will stop at bakeries and make sure to have books to sell you and then sign for you. And I promise to draw either a cupcake, unicorn, or robot, in every sold copy. Where will I be stopping, you ask? 

  • On Saturday, October 29, I will be hitting up Teacake Bake Shop, an adorable bakery with a few locations. You'll find me at their Burlingame location from 2pm til approximately 4pm. 
  • On Sunday, October 30, I'll be making things sweeter at famed bookstore Omnivore Books. I'll bring rainbow cake, too! It kicks off at 3pm and will go on til 5pm. 

Now, I know we haven't specifically talked about it, but I will wear a Halloween costume if you want me to. I have this adorable ride-a-unicorn costume which I think you might like just as much as I do.

For the full Tour de Sweet schedule, visit this page!

Thursday
Sep082011

Gobba Gobba Hey: Matcha Gobs with Lemongrass-Ginger Filling Recipe from a Sweet New Gob Cookbook

Photo: Gobba Gobba HeyTrue Story. Recently I received an email from an esteemed publisher you may know of called Bloomsbury, asking if I'd be interested in a review copy of their new release, entitled Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cookbook. It was written by Steve Gdula, who owns a gob (um, whoopie pie) business by the same name in San Francisco.

As a lover of the Whoopie Pie or Gob (it's a geographical thing), even though I wouldn't call them "the new cupcake", I was beyond delighted to receive this sweet book in the mail, and even more delighted when I found the writing style to be engaging, the business backstory to be interesting, and the recipes to be delectable.

But one of my favorites from the book? Matcha Green Tea Gobs with Lemongrass-Ginger Filling. NOM!

And they were kind enough to allow me to reprint the recipe here. Lucky you! here goes:

Matcha Green Tea Gobs with Lemongrass-Ginger Filling

Recipe courtesy Gobba Gobba Hey

For the batter

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup highest quality Matcha Green Tea powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar, sifted
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

For the filling

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 12 tablespoons cream cheese, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemongrass-ginger syrup (steps to make below)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the lemongrass-ginger syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-inch pieces fresh ginger, sliced into four or five rounds, skin peeled
  • 1/2 cup lemongrass (about 3 stalks), outer husk and bottom tip removed, sliced in rounds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Rau Ram leaves (optional)

Procedure

  1. Make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line three 8x13-inch cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, matcha powder, baking powder, baking  soda, and salt. Whisk together until they're evenly green in color.
  3. In another large bowl, cream the sugar and butter with a mixer on medium speed. Add the egg yolks to the creamed ingredients and mix on medium. Add the egg whites and vanilla, and mix on medium-high until the mixture looks like a dense pudding.
  4. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the egg mixture, mixing on medium speed after each addition. Then add the sour cream, and mix well. 
  5. Using a tablespoon or pastry bag, drop 1 1/2 inch rounds of batter on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between each round. Bake 8 minutes, or until the gob domes have risen. Remove the gobs to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Make the filling, part 1. First, make the lemongrass-ginger syrup which you'll set to the side. Place the sugar, ginger, and water in a saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the lemon juice and the rau ram leaves, if using, to the syrup, and stir well. Remove the pan from heat and set aside, covered, to let the syrup steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain out the lemongrass, rau ram leaves, and ginger and lemon seeds and pulp, and reserve the syrup for the gob filling. This mixture will keep, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to a week with the rau ram, 2 weeks without it.
  7. Make the filling, part 2. Cream together the butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed.
  8. Add the vanilla, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of the lemongrass-ginger syrup, and confectioners' sugar; beat on medium high, scraping down the bowl as needed to reincorporate the ingredients. Taste and add another teaspoon of lemon juice or another tablespoon of lemongrass-ginger syrup if you'd like.
  9. To frost your gobs (I love saying that), flip the baked gob domes over on a cookie sheet and match up similarly shaped and sized domes. Add 1 tablespoon of filling to the flat side of an overturned dome, then place another dome on top, sandwich-style. Allow the gobs to fully set by refrigerating them on a baking sheet for at least 1 hour. Wrap the gobs in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
Thursday
Aug112011

All you Knead: Sweet Treats from Knead, San Francisco

In San Francisco, there is a place called Knead. And on a recent trip to the area (to visit Humphry Slocombe), SpySis pointed out that while this is an eatery, there is a pastry counter in the back. It looked amazing...so did the specials...but they were between lunch and dinner and there was nothing there!

However, SpySis was kind enough to share a picture of a previous delicious experience and to describe it for me. When I asked "what is it in this picture, SpySis?" her response was:

A huge Cream puff, and a confection that was like a crème brulee, with a caramelized top, but it was like a custard on the inside, but cakey on the outside, very sweet on top. It could be eaten with hands but they were indeed sticky hands afterward. It was all very very good.

Well, I trust that sister of mine and think you should too. Find Knead at 3111 24th Street, San Francisco; on Twitter here.

Friday
Jul292011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Courtney of Bananappeal, San Francisco

Images c/o BananappealEverybody has a story, but some are more interesting than others. For instance...a baking business centered on the deliciousness of bananas, that all started when the proprietress slipped on a banana peel? Yup, believe it. I was able to catch up with Courtney, the talented and hilarious banana-whisperer behind the San Francisco-based boutique baking business Bananappeal, who dished on her sweet story:

Tell me, baby, what's your story? I have been a baker ever since I was a little girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. In high school I started my own catering company with my best friend. We worked weekends and employed our friends to help out for bigger events and actually had a pretty great following for 4 years. After high school, I attended Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, NY. Although Cornell gave me a hospitality business background, I still wanted to go to pastry school and I enrolled in Napa Valley's Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Afterwards, I was homesick for my college friends who mostly all ended up in NYC working in restaurants. I moved to NYC and took a job working the pastry line at Danny Meyers' restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. Needless to say, I quickly got burnt out working the line there and found myself missing California, specifically Napa. I moved back to Napa in 2008 and took a position as concierge at a boutique luxury resort called Auberge Du Soleil. I actually got paid to drink wine and eat out so I could acquire knowledge to share with hotel guests. After a year and a half, I left Napa to take a job working for Food Network's Tyler Florence and moved to San Francisco, where I currently reside. It was not long before I got the itch to bake again and I decided to start my own company.

I've got to ask, even though everyone else probably does (sorry). Why bananas? Soon after moving to San Francisco, I was walking my shaggy Old English Sheepdog, Wrigley, through Golden Gate Park when I slipped on a banana peel....no really, when I decided to start my own baking business, I knew I had to differentiate myself from other competitors. I have always loved bananas and whenever I dined out, I always found myself saying "This dessert would be so much better if it had bananas in it!" Also, I feel as though bananas are very under-appreciated. After all, they are available year round, they are inexpensive, and for the most part, they are thought of as unglamorous fruit! I want to change that with Bananappeal. Bananas are delicious and they marry well with so many other flavors. Bananas deserve more credit. RESPECT THE BANANA!

Have you ever tried a banana flavor combination that didn't work out? Honestly, I have yet to encounter a flavor combination that hasn't worked well with bananas. If you think it will taste well with bananas, I find that it most often does.

What is your most popular product so far? There is something about the Banana Salted Caramel Frosted Cake that keeps people coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths...

What is the difference between banana bread and banana cake? I think that experts will provide varying answers to this one, but I can speak based on my recipe for my banana cake only. In my experience, banana bread is typically denser and has a firmer crumb while banana cake is more tender (usually because banana breads use flour that has a higher protein content). Also, there is the obvious difference in that banana bread is typically baked in a loaf pan while MY banana cakes are all baked in vintage inspired mason jars.

Do you ever listen to Bananarama while baking? Duh! "Cruel Summer" plays on repeat on my playlist while I bake dressed in my banana suit and I have dance parties in my kitchen. Sometimes my baking gets interrupted though because I have to take a call on my banana phone.

One of your taglines is "giving bananas the credit they deserve." Do you feel that bananas are under-appreciated? Hell yes! See above.

Tell me your thoughts on plantains, because they look like bananas. The only plantains I eat are fried (commonly called tostones) and come alongside mofongo. Spoiler Alert: plantains are NOT a substitute for bananas, especially in baking applications.

If a banana-genie appeared and was prepared to grant three wishes for your business, what would they be right now? 1. A rotating banana for the roof of my delivery van (a.k.a. the Banana Van). This was originally in my business plan, but I had to let go of the dream because it didn't fit in my tiny start-up budget! 2. A pair of elves with tiny, tiny hands to help me *hand tie* all of the twine around my jars. Yes, I spend a LOT of time tying twine. Say that 10 times fast. 3. For Oprah Winfrey to start her show up again, try my cakes, and shreek, "I love Bananappeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllll!!!!!!" and then watch as her guests squeal from excitement as Oprah employees distribute samples throughout the audience. Best. Day. Ever.

Want more? The website, www.bananappeal.com, is still in the oven baking! In the meantime, please find them on Facebook.

Thursday
Jul072011

De-leche-ious: Tres Leches Cake, DeLessio Market, San Francisco

Not all tres leches cakes are created equal. Some are more cakey, some are more bread pudding-y, and some are just like a dairy filled-sponge.

A very fine specimen, however, can be found at San Francisco's DeLessio Bakery, part of (a significant part of, that is) a gourmet grocery store. A beautiful array of sweets will greet you—cookies, scones, breakfast treats, and the like—but it was the Tres Leches that caught my eye. I am used to seeing it served kind of like a pudding, but this was firmly in cake territory, and were very prettily decorated.

It's a cake with a nice pedigree, too, per the bakery's description:

We soak our very best yellow cake with a sweet-creamy mixture made with Straus Family cream, flavored with Tahitian vanilla bean and dark rum. Toasted meringue, made with Organic Valley eggs, is the finishing touch.

Nom! A sample was given, and the cake was thick and creamy with all of the various types of dairy included, but still very much retained the character of a cake—it wasn't one of those “what is this exactly” types of dessert experiences.

It is my firm belief that when something is done well it can make you a believer in that genre of dessert, and this might be the tres leches that made cakespy a believer.

Tres Leches Cake, DeLessio Market and Bakery, San Francisco. Online here.

Tuesday
Jul052011

Hello, Bella: Gelato from Ciao Bella, San Francisco

Gelato is delicious, right? This is, like, fact.

Ciao Bella Gelato has a lot of things going for it. They have a great quality product, interesting flavors, and a good distribution throughout the US—you can buy their products in upscale markets all over. I think they do a pretty good job of maintaining a high quality product while also being readily available in upscale markets throughout the us, making for an accessible gelato experience we can all share. 

While for me nothing necessarily sets them apart from other gelato I have tried—it is not, like, close your eyes and dream gelato—it is a solidly enjoyable experience, and what it does have at the Ferry Building is the exquisite experience of being able to enjoy your little cup of creamy joy on the dock looking at the bay bridge in the distance. There are some experiences that simply can't be beat, and where the gelato might not sparkle above and beyond all others on its own, the experience makes it more than worthwhile.

Ciao Bella, various locations (I visited the Ferry Building location); online at ciaobellagelato.com.

Ciao Bella on Urbanspoon

Saturday
Jul022011

Cookie Chronicles: Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, San Francisco

Now I am going to tell you about the strangest place I went in San Francisco. 

It was called the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.

I learned about this treasure from Anna Roth's new book West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food from San Diego to the Canadian Border , which is hot off the presses, which I leafed through in one of my new favorite bookstores, The Booksmith, on Haight Street. It's an ode to eating on the Left Coast, and it has plenty of sweet tips. One in San Francisco fascinated me beyond all others though:

and so the next day, SpySis and myself went down to Chinatown to find this place for ourselves. Ross Alley is a strange little spot, hard to find in spite of a fairly central location—it's kind of 'round the corner and very unassuming. But round the corner and there it is, smelling like vanilla and sugar.

You walk in and it's like walking into a David Lynch movie—a bunch of old Asian women (and one man, when we visited) pressing and folding fortune cookies in the back (and a stern sign that it is “50 cents to take a picture”--I paid up, there was someone strictly enforcing it) and a very straightforward (no cute displays here) retail area up front, selling fortune cookies by the bag, less than $5 for a huge bag. They had vanilla, chocolate, and swirl, and even ones that were filled with “adult fortunes”. We didn't pick up one of those, but a bachelorette party behind us did.

They had free samples of unfolded cookies too (pictured top), and they tasted...well, like Fortune Cookies. Personally I'm not a huge fan of fortune cookies, finding them to be too wafer-cardboard-sweet for my tastes, but SpySis said they had a leg up on regular varieties. Of course, it's very possible that this is because of the experience surrounding this cookie; it was definitely a unique sweet experience.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, 48 Ross Alley, San Francisco.

Also, buy the aforementioned West Coast Road Eats: The Best Road Food from San Diego to the Canadian Border book by Anna Roth here.

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