Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lemon Pound Cake

I decided to try one more lemon pound cake from Elinor Klivans's Fearless Baking. This one turned out great. It has a tight crumb and is wonderfully dense. The lemon glaze on this cake is a great complement.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lemon Cream Swirl Pound Cake

This cake is from Elinor Klivans's Fearless Baking. The idea is really appealing: a lemon pound cake with a creamy lemon swirl wafting through the cake batter, topped with a coating of streusel crumbs. A portion of the cake batter is put in a tube pan; then the lemon-swirl filling is drizzled on top of the batter. Then the remainder of the batter is poured into the pan over the filling. After the cake bakes for 40 minutes, the pan is removed from the oven, and the streusel topping is sprinkled on. I assumed that was to allow the top to firm up and prevent the streusel from sinking to the bottom of the pan. The end result was less than stellar.

In the end, as can be seen in the photo, the creamy lemon filling sunk to the bottom of the pan (it took on a cheesecake-like texture). As can't be seen in the photo, so did most of the streusel. Don't know what to think about this one, other than that I wish it would have turned out better. (I so wanted a good lemon pound cake, though, that I tried another recipe from Fearless Baking and had much more success with it.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Brooklyn Bakery Tour

So last Saturday, a week after I'd been in Brooklyn for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I returned to undertake an adventure that had previously been discussed but never planned: a Brooklyn bakery tour. My intrepid cohorts in bakeryizing and I had quickly assembled a list of places to visit, and Ryan plugged the info into a Google map. Despite the prospect of a rainy day, we were good to go. (photo below, from left, Kent, Tracy, Ryan, Katie, and me)

Our first stop was Damascus Bread and Pastry (195 Atlantic Ave.), where the photo above was taken. Lots of great Middle Eastern stuff. At Damascus, I got a sesame cookie, reinforcing my newly discovered fondness for sesame-flavored cookies, and a pastry called a ladyfinger. It was phyllo rolled around a filling of ground walnuts, golden raisins, and some honey. This bakery is definitely worth a revisit. I didn't sample as much here as I would have liked to. I was afraid of taking the early miles too fast, as we marathon runners might say.

Next up was Adams (214 Atlantic Ave.). While on a break from crosswording last weekend, I'd walked past Adams, which was closed but had a listing of cupcake flavors on a chalkboard in the window. It was the prospect of trying one of their peanut-butter-and-jelly cupcakes that got me rolling on the bakery tour. Unfortunately, the PB&J cupcake didn't live up to my expectations. However, the Rocky Road Bar (photo below) more than made up for any disappointment I had with the cupcake. The remains of the bar in the photo is half of the size it started at. A topping of pecans and marshmallows nestles in a fudgy brownie bed that itself rests atop a crisp shortbread crust (in which I detected just a touch of salt). Extravagant and quite tasty.

From Adams, we walked a bit to get to Sweet Melissa Patisserie (276 Court St.). When we ducked in, we figured we would just be ordering and leaving. However, a sudden downpour led us to the wise decision to take a table and enjoy a treat. Katie got a chocolate-hazelnut madeline. Kent got a beesting (a custard-filled roll). Ryan and I were both torn by the choices, so we decided to split and share what we were ordering. For us, then, it was a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Decadence (I think that's the right name; Ryan's order) and a small passion-fruit cheesecake. I had really wanted to go with the chocolate-PB thing, but Ryan ordered first. As it turned out, my runner-up choice ended up being my favorite dessert of the day. The citrusy, almost-but-not-quite-orange flavor of the cheesecake was exotic, and the cheesecake was perfectly creamy. I also ended up feeling a little disappointed with the chocolate-PB item, which was plenty chocolaty but lacked a real peanutty flavor.

Sweet Melissa's also had this strawberry Celebrate Life cake. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each cake go to the American Breast Cancer Foundation. I bought a slice and tried a small piece of it, and was really impressed with the strawberry flavor in both the cake and in the buttercream. The rest of that cake is in the freezer for later.

I also had to get a supplementary passion-fruit cheesecake for post-bakery-tour consumption. Melissa Murphy, owner of the bakery, has a cookbook due out soon, The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. My fingers are crossed that it will have the recipe for the passion-fruit cheesecake.

Next up: One Girl Cookies (68 Dean St.). We knew we were getting close when we saw this promising sign hanging over the sidewalk.

When we entered the bakery, I realized that I've had One Girl Cookies before. I bought some of their bite-size cookies during a stop at Dean & Deluca a little over a year ago. I got a sampler of cookies, all of which have a female name. For instance, there's the Lucia, a square with a shortbread bottom and chocolate top sandwiching a caramel center. There's also the Lana, a chocolate sandwich cookie with a raspberry filling.

Katie examined the pastry cake carefully before deciding on what she wanted to order.

Here's the sample of treats I got at One Girl.

After One Girl, we stopped for lunch at the St. Clair Restaurant (107 Smith St.). It seemed promising, and I think I might have liked it more if I'd been served what I'd ordered.

On our way to Downtown Atlantic, we passed a kitschy antique store with a Pillsbury Doughboy in the window.

Then we got to Downtown Atlantic (364 Atlantic Ave.), which had many, many choices.

From the outside, Downtown Atlantic proudly displays its assortment of jumbo-size cupcakes.

The pastry case indoors at Downtown Atlantic.

This cream-filled cupcake was tasty, but it needed more cream filling.

I'd tried Downtown Atlantic's red-velvet cake the week before the Bakery Tour. I liked it enough to get a second piece. (It's a three-layer cake, actually. I ate one layer before I took the photo.)

Then there was a mini-chocolate cake with coconut coating the icing.

Our next stop was Betty. This bakery had loads of appealing stuff to choose from, and also had samples available of their orange-chocolate Bundt cake. For as appealing as the Bundt cake was, I went with an assortment of other items: a white cake frosted with mango buttercream; a banana cake frosted with chocolate icing; sesame cookies; and a mango tea bread. So far, I've eaten the mango tea bread, and it didn't leave me hugely impressed. I was hoping for more mango flavor. However, I did have a little taste of the mango buttercream on the white cake, and it's really flavorful. I also enjoyed the sesame cookies. 

Finally, we made our way to Trois Pommes Patisserie. It's a little hard to believe, but I was feeling a little bakeried out by this point. However, I sucked it up and tried a raspberry-filled doughnut. Certainly not as shiny and perfectly shaped as a Dunkin Donuts product, but infinitely more interesting and tasty to eat.

I left the pastry cake at Trois Pommes largely unsampled, but I'm motivated to go back there and make it a first stop next time a Brooklyn bakery tour is on tap.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sweet Potato Pound Cake, Again

My fondness for Nancie McDermott's Sweet Potato Pound Cake recipe is well documented here. I can't think of much I'd do differently with that recipe -- except for add some crystallized ginger to it. In the end, it's a brilliant addition to this cake. For this version, I added a ginger-cream cheese frosting from Julie Hasson's 125 Best Cupcake Recipes. I added some heavy cream to the icing to make it a little looser for a more glazelike consistency.