Archive for January, 2011


Blueberry crumb bars

Somewhere in the world, it’s not winter and the streets aren’t piled high with dirty snow spotted with dog pee (grumble grumble). Those warmer places must be enjoying a bountiful crop of blueberries, because they’ve been on sale lately, inspiring me to try this Smitten Kitchen recipe.

The “bar” part of the recipe is butter and egg integrated into flour, baking power, lemon zest, and sugar. You break the (very cold) butter into bits with butter knives, a fork, or a pastry cutter. I consider this process cardio, because you have to go at it for about 10 minutes before the mixture gets to a sand-like consistency. To avoid the manual labor, you can probably also cut the butter into tiny cubes, then pulse them in a blender with the other ingredients.

Next time I’d add at least another cup of blueberries and more sugar to the filling. You’re not supposed to mess with baking recipes, but this is too much bun around too little burger. And based on my limited experience with Smitten Kitchen recipes, they’re conservative with the sugar.


This sushi cake is fish-free, thankfully

Our friends-of-friends at Eat Me. Drink Me. created this birthday cake using rice krispy treats posing as rice, licorice as seaweed, marshmallows as shrimp, etc. Even the cake part is in technicolor. Everything except the chopsticks was edible. Amazing!


A summery lemon souffle counters the winter doldrums

A lemon souffle at Kinkead’s that tasted more like an omelette left me with a hankering. Thankfully I came across this recipe for lemon “spound” cake (similar to a souffle) and had a bag of Meyer lemons that needed a home. Try it with regular lemons if you can’t find Meyer, but maybe compensate with a touch more sugar.

Although delicious, these had me yearning for more tartness, which is why I added the blueberry sauce. (Note: I tried the recipe a second time with 2 extra tablespoons of lemon juice, using 1 Meyer lemon and 1 regular one, but alas, still not mouth-puckering enough for me. Additional note: Don’t follow my lead by modifying baking recipes–they often don’t turn out when you mess with the science.)

Luckily blueberry sauce is very quick and easy: toss a handful of blueberries with at least 1/4 cup water into a saucepan on high heat. Turn the heat to low after you bring it to a boil. Add sugar and fresh lemon juice to taste. Keep it simmering until it’s the consistency you want, bearing in mind that it will be slightly thicker when cool. Don’t forget to taste constantly so you can fine-tune the sweet & sour balance. For those who prefer not to wing it, try this recipe from the Contessa.


Le Pain Quotidien calls this a madeleine. What would Proust think?

Yes, this almond-apricot “madeleine” is made of the same buttery, spongy cake you know and love. But that looks like a muffin to me. I thought that madeleines were supposed to be shaped more like shells, not mushrooms.

That niggly detail aside, this was delicious–a lot more moist and flavorful than any other madeleines I’ve come across, which are typically vanilla or lemon-flavored. If you want to try making them, they’re pretty straightforward. Here’s a good recipe. The thing is you need the proper pans, and unless you’re French or a die-hard madeleine eater, it seems like a waste of cupboard space.


Kinkead’s lemon dessert sampler: a feast for the eyes

Our trip to Kinkead’s was inspired by Groupon. In fact, too many overpriced, underwhelming meals as of late have been Groupon-driven, making me reconsider the “bargain” aspect of these deals.

Anyway, Kinkead’s is a DC institution, so I figured it was time we tried it. I remember a friend raving about their profiteroles eons ago. That wasn’t on the dessert menu, but the lemon sampler and creme brulee trio jumped out. We ended up splitting the former.

It was hard not to marvel at the artistry of this dessert–even the table next to us stopped mid-conversation to ooh and aah.

The lemon pudding cake was essentially a souffle that we found overly eggy. We were equally unenthused about the lemon meringue tart. (Does anyone actually crave lemon tarts? No, because they all taste about the same.) Our fave? The vanillla chiboust with lemon and mandarine granitas, a shot glass of vanilla cream topped with tart ice shavings. I’ll take a bowl of that, please.


Trader Joe’s Peppermint Hot Chocolate

I bought this as a hostess gift one year and it got rave reviews, so I tossed it into my cart on a December trip to Trader Joe’s. It was an impulse buy, one I’d wished I’d left in the candy aisle right before the registers, aka the graveyard of reconsidered purchases.

Trader Joe’s products are usually a decent value, but this is $4.99 for 8 oz, and we only got 4 servings out of it. By comparison, a 12 oz bag of Ghiradelli chocolate chips is less than $3 at Target, and goes a lot farther when making hot chocolate. You don’t get the nicely designed tin or peppermint zing, but you do get a richer chocolate flavor (and you can always stick a Starlight mint in it, to similar effect). Or if you’re a food hoarder like me and stockpiled TJ’s Minty Mallows, that does the trick too.

Lactose-intolerant folks, be warned: this TJ’s product contains nonfat milk powder.


Super Tacos & Bakery: Taqueria meets patisserie

Just the name Super Tacos & Bakery alone begs the question: how can you be good at tacos and cake? And do you have a lot of customers who follow up their tacos with a slice?

The natural thing to try would’ve been the tres leches or flan, but the ol’ lactose intolerance had me going for a safer choice: chocolate cake. Unfortunately, they were out, so I got this bread pudding.

You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s huge and weighs almost a pound. Call me a size queen, but for $2.75 that’s a bargain. When it comes to bread pudding I don’t like to be reminded that I’m eating bread. This ate more like cake. Actually it could’ve been sweeter–a brandy sauce or custard would pair well. Still, it’s a pound of bread pudding. I’m intrigued enough that I’d try their other cakes.


Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Reinvented Classics

This episode is noteworthy because (correct me if I’m wrong) it features the only DC restaurant so far, Founding Farmers. I was super psyched when they opened in my former hood–Foggy Bottom desperately needed more restaurants to fill the void between Johnny Rockets (student-friendly burger joint) and Marcel’s (fancy French place that I’ve never seen anyone under the age of 40 enter, unless they were an escort).

Food critic Tom Sietsema skewered this place in a 2009 review, and having been there 5 times, I tend to agree with his opinion of the food. That shouldn’t stop you from going there to try the Devilish-Eggs that were called out by Robert Irvine, though. And to Founding Farmers’ credit, they’re green, it’s a fun atmosphere, and they offer a new vegan menu (the chocolate stout waffles were tasty enough that you won’t miss their non-vegan cousins). Judging from the Yelpers and crowds constantly spilling out onto the sidewalk, people are going to continue mobbing this place, reviews be damned.

Anyway, back to the reason we’re here: where to get the 2 desserts featured on the show.

Image from

Cheesecake Lollipop Tree – DavidBurke Townhouse

133 E 61st St.

New York, NY 10065


Churros Con Cajeta – La Casita Mexicana

4030 East Gage Ave.

Bell, CA 90201


Flying Monkey’s Pumpple Cake

What came first, the Pumpple Cake or the Cherpumple? Well, I guess they’re really the same thing–a cake with a pie baby inside–but Flying Monkey’s Pumpple just looks a whole lot more palatable. It’s a layer of chocolate cake with pumpkin pie, topped by a layer of vanilla cake with apple pie, all coated in a buttercream icing. Now that’s a dessert made for sharing, no matter what part of the pie-cake divide you’re on.

Why stand in line to see the Liberty Bell or Ben Franklin's privy when you could be eating this Pumpple? Flying Monkey also conveniently has a location in Reading Terminal Market.

Watching them make the Pumpple on Outrageous Foods, you could see that quality ingredients go into it, whereas the Cherpumple looks more like a sad sack, the kind of thing you’d find contestants scarfing down in an eating competition. No offense to Cherpumple fans, or anything.


Ringing in 2011 with a flashback to 1986

You often hear people talking about smells can trigger memories. The same must go for taste, since the 2011 cake from Durham’s Guglhupf bakery brought me back to the Swiss Colony petit fours of my youth. (As a kid, they epitomized exotic French desserts, so small and perfectly formed.) Must’ve been the alternating layers of mousse and layer cake. All it lacked was that chocolate-y coating.

The orange-cranberry cheesecake and raspberry brownie were good, but unmemorable. Still, if you’re ever in the Triangle area of NC, this bakery is worth a visit–an oasis of buttery goods off a nondescript road. There’s a bakery/patisserie where you can order breads, croissants, and desserts to go, as well as a sit-down cafe.

Plus, the Asian supermarket is right next door, so you can nip over for a tin of Cafe du Monde chicory coffee (sometimes used to make Vietnamese coffee) to go with your takeaway treats.