aching teeth, foodie pen pals, speculoos cookie butter, sugar coma, sugary goodness, trader joes

Foodie Pen Pals: July

This month’s box from Foodie Pen Pals came from baker-to-be, Ariel, of Having My Cake and Sharing It 2, based in San Fransisco.The box was filled with a few things to satisfy a sweet craving. First was the pancake/waffle mix from Jack and Jason’s, which fulfilled my request for something local to her. Sadly, The Missus and I haven’t had a morning off together since I received the box on the 23rd. Hopefully, that will change soon. There were also some Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nibs that haven’t been opened yet.

What we have already eaten though are the Trader Joe’s ‘Way More Chocolate Chip Cookies’ (I think we went through the entire container over the course of two days). The first night we spread the other treat in the box, Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter, which you want to compare to peanut butter, right on top of the cookies.  We couldn’t get past three each before our teeth began to ache with the overwhelming sweetness of the combination. I don’t think you could eat more than a few without it happening, the cookie butter is both weird and addictive, but also insanely loaded with sugar.

However, I don’t believe I’m going to let that stop me from cutting a little cream cheese into the cookie butter and making some stuffed chocolate pancakes with the mix from Jack and Jason’s.

Don’t judge me.

So, thank you very much to Ariel for this box of sugar coma goodness. And, if you happen to be interested in seeing what I’ve sent to my pen pal for July, go visit Lorraine at Just One Cupcake.

Advertisements
Standard
cracking out on sugar, delicious musings, good shepherd food bank, maine bakers, pop up bakery portland maine, sugar highs, sugary goodness

Pop Up Bakery: Portland

This past Saturday, Sharon Kitchens of Delicious Musings, held her Portland Pop Up Bakery in the front of Akari. If you missed it, I feel kind of bad for you. Not only did you miss supporting a good cause, like the Good Shepherd Food Bank, but you also missed some fantastic locally made treats.

While the offerings were different than the ones Sharon sold at the Rockland Pop Up, like the Muppet Cupcakes that I had my heart set on, she still had a nice variety of baked goods up for the taking.


Simply Stroops are simply fantastic. Buttery, crunchy caramel filled waffle cookies. Who knew they were being made right here in Maine? And for the low, low cost of $1, they were a steal.

Planet Dog (pictured in the background), had some doggy treats on hand, which I’m sure were fantastic for any four legged friend. We, however, have cats so I skipped over those. It would be nice, though, to see a locally made cat treat that isn’t the nip.

Black Dinah Chocolatiers, from Isle Au Haut, were also represented on the table with a few boxes of their Caramel Collection.

Recent Cupcake Wars participant, Alysia Zoidis, brought some goods from her Fore Street shop, East End Cupcakes. Truthfully, I wasn’t in the mood for cupcakes, but they looked as tasty as ever.

El Rayo had some of their Pepita and Rice Krispy squares. But, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the sizable brownies brought from Scratch Baking Co.. The flavors were plain chocolate and chocolate peppermint. I took one for later and ended up warming it in the microwave, topping it with some Gorgeous Gelato Panna Cotta. It was simply awesome.

But, my favorite little treat came from one of our own local bloggers, Erika of Vin Et Grub. Her Macarons, filled with lemon curd, came with a an option of pepper or pine dusting on top. I purchased five pepper and one pine (mostly because I was pretty skeptical of the flavor combination). In the end, however, it was the pine that I enjoyed the most. The texture of the Macarons were perfectly light and airy. Her lemon curd was also neither too sweet or acidic. Who knew she was such the baker?

Kate, Dawn, Professor A. and I spent a good hour or so chatting with Sharon, in between her waiting on happy buyers. I love that she’s doing something like this because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good bake sale? What’s even better is that she’s doing it for a really great cause. To quote her blog, Sharon wrote:

The events in Portland and Rockland raised several hundred dollars for Good Shepherd Food Bank, a clearinghouse for donated food that is distributed to food pantries, soup kitchens, group homes, and shelters. The organization is behind Mainers Feeding Mainers, Cooking Matters for Maine, and the Feeding Maine Youth: BackPack Program. Wow!

Great job, Sharon.

Standard
cupcake tasting, cupcakes, portland bakeries, sugary goodness, y-lime gourmet

A Cupcake Revision


(photo from Y-Lime Gourmet’s Facebook)

Five months ago I wrote:

Between the two tastings Kate, Dawn, and I consumed 24 cupcakes from 13 bakeries. I think that is more than enough cupcakes for me for a while (though I will probably do a single review of Y-Lime in the near future to be fair).

It took me nearly five months to come back around to cupcakes after that final tasting. There were other sweets, sure… Cakes, brownies, whoopie pies. Whatever, they weren’t cupcakes. Well, as promised, I finally got around to picking up a few cupcakes from Y-Lime’s Gourmet. Granted, these were picked up and eaten a month ago at Picnic but, sometimes life gets in the way. Right? Right.

The selection at Picnic had a holiday theme, for the most part. The flavors there were: Cinnamon Eggnog, Peppermint Mocha, Pistachio, Turtle, Espresso and Chocolate Pomegranate.

I chose the Chocolate Pomegranate right off the bat. The use of fresh pomegranate seeds, nestled atop a dollop of ganache, then vanilla buttercream, intrigued me greatly. When you bit into the cake, the fresh sheets popped and released a lovely tart and tangy juice that balanced the rich dark chocolate cake very nicely.

I also went with her Turtle cupcake, which had all of the required components of caramel, chocolate and pecans. This, of the two, was my hands down favorite for the sheer fact that the caramel was not only drizzled on top, but the cake itself was topped with a caramel buttercream. Again, the base was a deep, rich chocolate cake that was dense, but had a wonderfully moist texture. But, it was everything that lived on top of the cupcake that made me smile, particularly the caramelized pecans. Sometimes it’s the little things that can take a good bit of food and turn it into something great.

So, this brings my tally to 26 cupcakes from 14 local bakeries and where does Y-Lime fit in the mix? Right at the top. Not only are they just really satisfying cakes, but you can tell the care and attention that owner Emily Roper puts into crafting each cake.

My Overall (adjusted) Top 5

  1. Scratch Baking Co.’s Black Forest Mega Cake: The one I wanted MORE of.
  2. Y-Lime Gourmet Turtle: The one I wanted to recreate.
  3. Scratch Baking Co.’s Banana Cream Pie/Y-Lime’s Chocolate Pomegranate: The ones that spoke to my inner child.
  4. East End Cupcakes Vanilla with Chocolate: The one I want to share with my love.
  5. Sugar Hill Bakery Chocolate Chocolate: The one I want to have on a bad day.

Standard
cake face, cupcakes, eating until your belly hurts, end of a trend, homework assignment, katie made, one fifty ate, rosemont, scratch baking co, sugary goodness, tulips cupcakery, two fat cats

Cupcake Capacity

3 Local Bloggers
7 Bakeries
12 Cupcakes
– 2 Vanilla
– 3 Flavored
– 3 Chocolate
– 4 Gluten Free and Vegan
1 Hour to taste, note and judge

I have to be honest, I didn’t partake in the celebration of cupcake mania that swept larger towns like New York City, San Fransisco and Boston. Truthfully my favorite cupcake remains, to this day, the ones my mom would make when I was in grade school. Every year, on my birthday, I would bring in cupcakes baked into ice cream cones. It looked like this:

But not as fancy. Kids I went to school with got as excited as I did for my birthday because of these cupcakes. So, to me, anything that fell short of this awesomeness wasn’t really worth eating. Though, I do have to admit that I hold a sizable soft spot for red velvet cupcakes–even buying them from Starbucks when I get a craving. So, when cupcakes took America by storm in ’09 and stretched their sugary arms well into 2010, I shrugged my shoulders and ate brownies, instead.

But, everyone should have sugar binge every once in a while and I felt due. It also helped that A., over on Portlandfoodmap.com had recently updated his list of bakeries and the new places inspired me to ask Kate and Dawn over for a collective sugar coma.

There were challenges to this as many of the newer bakeries in town are without a storefront and, for logistical reasons, have a minimum dozen order that needs to be met and all cost around $24/dozen. For it being just the three of us, and for wanting a wide variety of flavors, we had to avoid some that we were really intrigued by, like Cupcake Cha Cha, Buttercup Cupcakes and Sugar Hill Baking. So, we’ve made a note to try and obtain some of their cakes if we do something like this again and, this round, we opted to purchase only from those that sold retail around town and in South Portland. The one person we received cakes from that is lacking a storefront was Cakeface, and I know her personally so the arrangement was easy and convenient (cupcakes delivered to your door!).

But, enough about the process, let’s get on with the development of my Type II.


Battle: Vanilla
Katie Made Vanilla vs. Tulip Bakery Madagascar Vanilla

Results:

  • Katie Made, even though it was the first one tried, turned out to be the most commercial tasting of them all. The cake was a bit dry and the frosting was pretty damn sweet. It was, for lack of a better comparison, similar to ones that I’ve had from grocery stores.
  • You could tell that the Madagascar Vanilla, from Tulips, was going to be the polar opposite the second you picked it up with your hands. The cake had a great, moist crumb to it and the frosting was flecked with whole vanilla bean, which stood out over only a slight presence of sugar.
  • Winner: Madagascar by Tulips Cupcakery


Battle: Fruit Flavored/Filled
One Fifty Ate Apple Spice with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting vs. Scratch Baking Co.’s Banana Cream Pie vs. Pumpkin by Tulips Cupcakery

Results:

  • One Fifty Ate’s cupcake was probably the most down home one out of the batch. It wasn’t the prettiest, being the shorty of the group, but it was one of the tastiest. It was akin to eating a moist, but not too dense apple cake with a perfectly made brown sugar and cream cheese frosting–something I love to spread on apple and pumpkin cakes this time of year. There was a bit of a nut crunch hiding beneath the frosting (Pecan or Walnut) that was a pleasant little surprise and added texture. While I was hoping to score a ‘Ricchio’, I would gladly take this in it’s place any day.
  • “Huh..” “Hmmmm..” The first moments of Dawn biting into the Pumpkin cupcake from Tulips wasn’t overly encouraging. When we inquired what was prompting to her ponder so loudly, she just said, “Tell me what you think because I want to see if you get what I’m getting.” So, I bit in and got pumpkin, a bit of spice and a slight bitterness like uncooked flour. Then, as it finished, I got it. At the end, the whole thing tasted like a pumpkin pie filling that someone had added a bit of batter too. While the cupcake started off nicely , it did kind of turn to paste at the end. The frosting, which I think may have been cream cheese based, was passable and not much of a stand out.
  • Scratch Baking, in South Portland, needs to put a sign over their pastry cakes that says “We Do NOT Fuck Around.” Because they don’t. Like One Fifty Ate, it’s a bakery that I just don’t travel to though it’s phenomenal and worth every bit of hype it receives. The last time the Mrs. and I were there, we had their version of a Ring Ding which, of course, was eons better and kept us floating on a sugar high for the better part of the day. But, I wasn’t there for a Ring Ding or Bagels (though I did pick some up there and at One Fifty), I was there for cupcakes and they offered exactly two. Banana Cream Pie is actually one of my least favorite things in the world. I don’t like banana pastry cream or anything that’s filled with it and I was sure that I wouldn’t like it here. And I was wrong, wrong, wrong. First off, the cake itself is fucking amazing. The other cupcakes we had were cake, this was a cloud. Light and airy with an amazingly delicate crumb that was filled down the middle with a very subtle banana cream. Then a whipped cream frosting reeled me in and, even though we were five cupcakes in, had me wanting another section of this.
  • Winner: Scratch Baking Co.’s Banana Cream Pie


Battle: Chocolate
Two Fat Cats Chocolate vs. Rosemont Bakeries Chocolate Guinness vs. Scratch Baking Co.’s Black Forest Cake

Results:

  • Two Fat Cats wasn’t thrown into a fair fight here. We had only one representation of a standard chocolate cupcake, while the others were technically flavored with other things. So, when we tried all three, Two Fat Cats seemed kind of standard all around. It was simple and enjoyable, both texturally pleasing and nicely executed, but it wasn’t memorable. It was a decent chocolate cupcake. I’d actually like to include their Red Velvet if this gets done again.
  • Oh, Guinness, how you’ve brought shame into my life. I don’t know what was more shocking to my older brother, the day I came out or the day I told that I thought Guinness tasted like crap. I believe both occurrences happened when I was 20. Thirteen years later and neither thing has changed. Still gay and I still can’t stand Guinness. Granted, as you know, I don’t drink beer, period, so the heavier and darker the beer, the more I’m going to be turned off by it. And my distaste was right there the second I bit into it, the bitterness of the stout. Blech. I got a bit of the chocolate notes off of it, and it’s frosting is a perfectly done ganache, but I just couldn’t shake the bitterness in the cake. Which, I’m sure if it were any other cupcake from them, I would have enjoyed it…as long as it wasn’t made with beer.
  • This was by far the largest cake of the group, perhaps coming in around the size of a new born baby’s head. It definitely won for the most appealing with the inclusion of a cherry on top. But, when you’re labeled ‘Black Forest MEGA Cupcake’ you better shine on all levels. And, just as they had done in the previous round, Scratch’s representation in the chocolate category was outstanding. Again, normally the fruit filled thing isn’t so much for me but the jam inside was wonderfully tart and added a bit of density to the surprisingly light cake that encapsulated it.
  • Winner: Scratch Baking Co. Black Forest MEGA Cupcake


Battle: Vegan/Gluten Free
Cakeface Mocha Chip Mocha vs. Cakeface Hazelnut Mocha vs. Cakeface Spiced Chocolate vs. Cakeface Hazelnut Maple

Results:

  • Well, needless to say, Cakeface takes this battle. I wanted to have an alternative bakery in here and it definitely helped knowing someone with their own business and offered to deliver. So, this isn’t a shun of the others in town who also bake for specialty diets, it was purely a matter of convenience and cost for me.
  • The Mocha Chip Mocha, sadly was the least favorite of mine. In fact, for the three of us, it seemed that we were really missing a lot of the mocha. It was chocolaty, the crumb was good, but I wanted a bit of a coffee flavor in there, too. It did pair nicely, however, with my jumble cup of house blend.
  • There was an interesting thing that Kate pointed out when we sampled the Hazelnut Mocha: It smelled like freshly baked banana bread. Biting into it, however, completely dissolved that notion. The texture seemed a bit denser than the first one–probably from the hazelnut flour she’s using–but it wasn’t heavy. It did, however, suffer from the same lack of coffee flavor in the frosting and it would have been nice to add another flavor layer in there.
  • I had one Spiced Chocolate cupcake sitting on my counter right now. In fact, I’m probably going to stop right now and go get it…..Sorry, just needed a refresher. So, this was easily one of the best of the night, in my opinion. The cake.. the cake on this one was, dare i say, buttery. Even the next day, it’s retained it’s melt-in-your-mouth consistency. And what’s actually putting the spice in it? I’m guessing cinnamon, ginger, a bit of chili and/or cardamom.
  • I will say that when I opened the box for the Hazelnut Maple, I was worried. The smell that drifted out was so heavy and sweet that I was worried that this wasn’t going to be good. But, as I have learned from eating washed rind cheeses, don’t let the smell frighten you. This was a maple praline in a paper wrapper masquerading itself as a cupcake. Again, the hazelnut flour made for an nice textural base.
  • Winner: Spiced Chocolate

The Top 5:

  1. Scratch Bakery Co.’s Black Forest Mega Cake–A perfect mix of good chocolate, tart cherries, creamy frosting and a cherry on top. Also for having the name “MEGA” in it.
  2. Scratch Bakery Co.’s Banana Cream Pie–It made me a believer of banana pastry cream, which had always turned me off. This is a cupcake I would go out and buy again. Weekly, if I could.
  3. One Fifty Ate Apple Spice with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting–It was homey and simple and so unlike the other cupcakes we ate. It showed that a good cupcake doesn’t have to be bells and whistles and fancy piping. The flavor has to be balanced–sweet but not cloying–and the texture has to be slightly crumbly, but not dry. This is my first impression of One Fifty Ate and I like it.
  4. Cakeface Bakery Spiced Chocolate– I ate the better part of four cupcakes yesterday, I have remnants of all twelve in boxes on my counter and this is the one I reach for. As far as a chocolate cake base, it comes a close second to the one from Scratch on the cake alone. Which I find hilarious knowing the major difference between the two batters. If I woke up tomorrow and found out I had to give up my wheat and dairy, I’d console myself with a dozen of these.
  5. Tulips Cupcakery Madagascar Vanilla–An upscale play on a classic. So far from what my mother baked us growing up (I’m looking at you Duncan Hines), yet a flavor combination that I’ve never strayed from. Just a nicely done vanilla cupcake.

Now as Food Network Magazine (yea, if it’s food related, I’m reading it) calls for our cake to not come in cups, but on sticks, I believe it’s time for the mass hysteria over these childhood favorites to come to an end. Thank you, Magnolia Bakery, for starting it all… but we’re moving on.

Two Fat Cats on Urbanspoon
Scratch Bakery on Urbanspoon
158 Pickett Street Cafe on Urbanspoon
Rosemont Market on Urbanspoon

Standard
candy canes, caramel anything, fleur de sels, holiday candies, sugary goodness

Christmas Munchies

I sit here, partially encrusted in chocolate and wayward caramel, with the faintest hint of candy cane dust clogging my nostrils. In fact, if you were to run your finger along my counters, thousands of sticky sweet microbes would instantly adhere themselves to you. This is the one time of year when, instead of baking armloads of cookies, I dip those arms into pounds upon pounds of chocolate and corn syrup.

To choose one over the other is merely an issue of space over preference. Working with almost no counter space caramels and chocolate enrobed things occupy less space then a dozen cookie sheets sprawled out on every clear surface in the kitchen. Very little of this will actually be consumed by anyone living under this roof… instead, it will go to relatives and co-workers to keep them sugared up, and their teeth slightly aching, over the next week.


Fleur de Sel Caramels from Epicurious.com

* 1 cup heavy cream
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup water

* Special equipment: parchment paper; a deep-fat thermometer
Preparation

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Using the “Chocolate Dipped Anything” recipe for tempering chocolate from Mark Bittman from the NYTimes.com, I took some Deli Style Pretzel Crisps and slathered them in the tempered chocolate and topped half with pulsed bits of candy canes. The true gem of these are the crisps, themselves. Full of a hearty snap and just enough salt, they provide a wonderful base for their sweet counterparts.

In the face of all that I know and hold dear, I made fudge with Fluff and I have no shame about it. Sure, I can pull off the Fleur de Sel with no issues, but I was not in the mood to push my luck and copped out completely. I am now in possession of five pounds of candy cane laden fudge that would kill my dentist with the mere mention of a whopping five cups of sugar that were used to make it(I made double the recipe below, without nuts)

Never Fail Fudge

* 2 1/2 c. sugar
* 3/4 tsp. salt
* 1/2 stick butter or margarine
* 1 5 oz. can evaporated milk (2/3 c.)
* 1 Jar (7 1/2oz) Marshmallow Fluff
* 3/4 tsp. vanilla
* 1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate pieces
* 1 /2 c. chopped walnuts

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside. In large saucepan combine the first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Increase heat to Medium and bring to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly for 5 minutes (use Soft-Ball test). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Add nuts. Turn into greased pan and cool. Makes 2 1/2 pounds.

The only things left now, if I can fit them in, are a few batches of Peanut Butter Buckeyes(a batch made w/Tahini for a friend w/a nut allergy, though we’ll see if it translates) and Biscotti for my partners aunt and mother. Then I fall into detox next month after all of this sugary goodness.

Merry Christmas!

Standard