Have you ever had a bad baking day? If you have, you’ll know that they can be as devastating as a bad hair day from hell. Most people don’t bake only for themselves. At least, I don’t. I’ve always been very aware of the people I bake for, and I firmly believe that the touchy-feely idea that people can taste the emotions you had while making the food is true. So when I have a bad baking day, it’s almost always when the product is going to someone–or many someones–I care about. On top of that, these people usually know I went to pastry school and was a pastry cook, and so should be capable of making a decent cake. All in all, bad baking days are a dogeared and food-splattered recipe for extreme embarrassment in the cookbook of my life.
This past Saturday, I was making the birthday cake for a very dear friend of mine’s birthday party. I wanted it to be spectacular, because the birthday girl is pretty darn spectacular herself. I ended up deciding to do cupcakes, and I set out to do two different flavors as soon as I woke up Saturday morning, a chocolate cupcake recipe from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri and a white chocolate cake recipe from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow of Fran’s Chocolates. I’d had success with the devil’s food cake recipe in Malgieri’s book twice last fall, and one of my chefs at pastry school used to work for Fran Bigelow and helped with the production of the photos and drawings in the book (if I remember correctly, the hands in the drawings at the beginning of the book are hers), so I trusted both books to have good recipes. Continue reading
Wow. It’s taken me two weeks to recover from Las Vegas and write about something here, especially Vegas itself. It was my first time there, though, so I suppose that explains the odd exhaustion. That and I’d intended to write a post about the food there and felt like I had come home with much less material for a post than I’d hoped for. When I agreed to accompany Baker Bee on the trip, I had grand plans of making the most of the time that he was off at the CES convention and visiting every pastry destination on the strip, sampling and photographing along the way. Once I was there, all I found myself doing during the day was walking, walking, walking, and with all the walking I never felt like indulging in a pastry when I found one. And that is when I decided to go online and read Vietbet Sportsbook review to see if I could play Vietbet on my phone while I was waiting for Baker to finish his work.
However, I will mention the two culinary highlights of the trip for me: the vegetarian crepe at Jean-Phillippe Patisserie inside the Bellagio and pretty much everything at Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian.
The crepe was not what I expected from the description, and I was slightly wary considering I hadn’t had a crepe I liked in Europe last summer, not even in Paris (I’m way too picky about crepe texture, apparently), but this one was heaven: a beautifully cooked crepe, soft like I like them, enfolding a potent thick, tomatoey sauce in which small chunks of several different Mediterranean vegetables also proclaimed their presence. Beneath that was a bed of melted Swiss cheese, and a lightly-dressed salad of mixed greens and cherry tomatoes (if I’m not remembering something wrong) on the side. This was beautifully presented–even the disposable plate and utensils were pretty classy, looking like a square glass plate and actual shiny metal flatware, despite their plastic pedigree. I really wanted to go back there and try the pastries with Baker Bee along to help taste a few of them–theirs were by far the most elegant, interesting, and meticulous that I saw on the Strip–but it was not to be. Next time. Continue reading
To finish off writing about the Christmas treats I made, here’s my last big project of the season (that I managed to get to: Rainbow Cookies from Sherry Yard’s fantastic book The Secrets of Baking.
These were hugely popular with everyone who received them. How could they not be, looking that adorably festive on a cookie tray? Everyone wanted to know what they were, and thanks to Yard’s engaging storytelling in her second book, I had details to give them on their Italian origins.
They’re very pretty, of course, but they taste much more sophisticated than you might expect. It helped that I used a couple of aging bars of very dark Michel Cluizel (my absolute favorite chocolatier in the world) chocolate in the glaze, but the cake’s sweetness and almond flavor are very light and subtle. It was only when I tasted one that I realized there was no almond flavoring in the recipe, only almond paste and almond flour, and I think from the photo in the book I was expecting something with the concentrated flavor of the extract. Continue reading