Y'alls knew it was coming! The annual review of baked good offerings in NYC (and sometimes elsewhere). I traveled, I ate, I ate, and I had (for the most part) no regrets. But of course there are hits and misses, more hits than anything else though.
First Prize Pies: I had the pleasure of interviewing Allison earlier this year and have visited First Prize Pies at Smorgasburg and later on at Grub Street Food Fest. Gotta love Alison's pies! At my pie-themed birthday party we tried her hot chocolate pie. Seriously spicy! Cayenne everywhere with a dark chocolate ganache. If you're like me and have a low tolerance for spicy stuff than have it in small doses. Of course I had my fave pie, s'mores' at Super Duper Market. And then my friend Ric and I tried the people's choice candy apple pie at Grub Street and enjoyed it. This pie reminded me of a good old fashion apple pie with a candied topping that was a mild red hot.
Allison has had a big year. She's currently writing a cookbook and will have a new storefront called Butter & Scotch that will be a cocktail and dessert bar in Brooklyn opening in 2013. Congrats Allison!
Two Little Red Hens: My first venture here since I wanted to get a variety of pies for my birthday pie party. I purchased the pecan pie w/ chocolate chunks. The filling was good but probably a bit cold and better warmer/room temperature. The crust was flaky yet didn't have too much of a buttery or lard taste, so the flavor was all in the filling.
Little Pie Company: Since I love the sour cream apple crumb pie I decided to vary it up and get their pear apple crumb pie. It is very cinnamony, which tended to overpower the subtly of the pear apple filling, but the crumb topping and crust were as excellent as the one on the sour cream pie.
Momofuku Milk Bar: The crack pie is ridiculously sweet, even for me! I'm unsure what's in it besides brown sugar and a heap of butter. Overall it's a hard taste to pin down but the brown sugar comes through in all points and the filling has the consistency of blondie dough (or really the point where brown sugar and butter are melted together. The crust is very thin as is the filling which is a good thing, so it's not too thick.
I also had their candy bar pie and it was also too sugary for me. It has a chocolate cookie crust. The caramel was all over it, there was a peanut butter nougat as the filling, and the dense chocolate coating made it hard to enjoy the balance. There was a lone pretzel in the hardened chocolate top which I would've liked more of to have a sweet and salty mix alas, no. I say less chocolate and caramel and more pretzel. It's too, too sweet. Nicely done but both pies were a bit much. I'll stick with their cookies.
Puddin' NYC: In February (bitterly cold) the Ramen & Friends group went to the newly opened, and teeny tiny Puddin location in the East Village. I enjoyed the banana parfait which was more like banana pudding with crushed cookies (wafers?) atop banana pudding and cream. Their lemon tart was quite good with a marshmellow bruleed topping but was a bit more watery and not as solid nor as lemony as some may have liked. Their pudding is pricey ($7 and up) but I was satisfied.
Financier Patisserie: I have become a big fan of almond flour since doing gluten free baking last year. I had heard a lot about Financier from friends and finally had the financier -- a small buttery almond cake (made with almond flour) that is reminiscent of a Madeliene Very tasty, soft, great buttery flavor and the almond flour makes a great contrast in a slightly denser texture. The chocolate financier is really tasty, not overly chocolatey with nuts in and around it. These are great, small treats that are not too sweet with tea, cider. However, their Madeleine is fine. You get the cakey texture based on unbleached flour and theirs has a smidge of lemon in the middle along with vanilla taste. But if I had a choice I'd have the financier and/or chocolate financier.
Konditori: They have a location in Williamsburg and another one in downtown Manhattan. I have to say that the pumpkin ginger cake I had at Konditori is the first vegan baked good I have been very fond of! Although it was a bit pricey for just a corner piece of cake ($2.25) of which I received a small portion that I was given (didn't get to choose). Great texture and taste and while I was worried the ginger may be too overpowering it isn't yet clings in the after taste. There's also a brown sugar topping.
The Rescue Baker: TRB is a site developed to aid people who have baking emergencies and figure out a way to fix them. I tried TRB's goods at IACPNYC this past spring. Her campfire cookie were a take on s'mores with chocolate chips and marshmallow cookie was a bit hard and too crunchy for my taste. However, the lemon bundt cake was delicious and the perfect cake moisture and lemon flavors. Flourless chocolate cake had too much dark chocolate for me which made it hard to finish. But I look forward to delving into more of The Rescue Baker's recipe ideas and informational posts.
Brownies & Cream: This was a nice little storefront that opened up this year and unfortunately closed in Forest Hills. Ah well, it was nice having a new bakery in Queens. Whenever I visited my friend in Forest Hills we always stopped by (support local businesses!) I had their tiny cupcake. The salted caramel icing was oily and the cake was super dry. On the flip side, their blondie was very good. Nicely dense and fudgy in texture but sugary and sweet like a blondie should be with a good balance of buttery flavor. I also had their red velvet French macaron, very good, a bit crispy on the outside meaning it may have been overbaked a tad but it was still chewy and the flavor for the macaron was definitely red velvet with a good cream cheese filling. Hopefully the owners may be able to open another place in the near future.
Bubby's: I love the food at Bubby's and they are known for their pies. But the last time I visited, too stuffed from their delicious entree, I had their peanut butter jelly cookie. Peanut butter can do no wrong in my mind so the cookie had jelly on top like a thumbprint cookie. Not a fan of the jelly used (it may have been raspberry), but overall a very good cookie.
Robicelli's: I tried various goods from Robicelli's at the Great American Bake Sale this year and then went to Dekalb market (three times) and tried some more stuff. Three words: Apricot pecan scone! Amazing. Wonderful scone, not too crispy inside and out but wonderfully moist and not too sweet. Pecans within and apricot glaze on top. I'm a convert!
At Dekalb market I tasted the Rue McClanahan cupcake which was a peach cake with cream cheese icing and peach topping. Good and moist, lots of great sweet flavors. But I didn't taste much peach in the cake. Had a bit of the lemon blueberry cupcake. Good but it seems the main differentiation is in the topping and not so much the cake unless they do very 'light' touches within the cupcake batter.
Allison Robicelli has done a lot for Sandy Relief in the past few months and helped create Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen (BRiCK) that I had the pleasure of working at a couple times and wished I could have gone more. Great group of people that did great work for those in need during a crisis.
Sweet & Simple: The Great American Bake Sale strikes again in introducing me to great bakers. Michelle Jaffee donated a bunch of her fudgy brownies to the bake sale. She's located in CT and I was so happy that she agreed to an interview! I purchased her deluxe brownie box thinking I could eat much of it myself, I could not. But I shared! And everyone I shared it with LOVED the brownies. From her traditional brownie to her peanut butter to her raspberry to her walnut brownie every one is made with love, just like her tagline says, and lots of chocolate! High quality chocolate at that! My favorite is the walnut brownie and you must have these with milk. Just don't even argue with me. Order online, wait for a lovely wrapped package, and enjoy chocolate heaven.
Coolhaus: One of the few food trucks that comes uptown to where I now I work I get Coolhaus whenever I can! They have huge portions when it comes to their ice cream sandwich and it is good stuff. Mainly I try their cookies. The potato chip & skor cookie. A solid cookie. I didn't really taste the salt from the potato chips but they did add a good crunch factor to that with the candy bar in the cookie. I've had their ice cream and try not to go too wild though their flavors run the gamut but are always good. Next time you see a Coolhaus truck, just go for it.
The Good Batch: The Good Batch is known for stroopwafels and other dutch items. While they had a presence at Smorgasburg I was introduced to their goods via Robicelli's at Dekalb Market. I purchased the Honey Bears which is a sandwich cookie but the texture makes me think of a small whoopie pie. The Honey Bears are vegan (no dairy or eggs) and has peanut butter and oats cookie (cake like texture) and a honey, sea salt, peanut butter filling. It is peanut butter to the MAX!!! Need milk with it for sure because it's so thick. Cookie is moist but not delicate and has a harder texture, but maintains a great sweetness and peanut butter flavor, especially from the filling. This will make you thirsty with the salty and sweetness. Particularly from the peanut butter and sea salt sprinkled atop the cookies. Didn't get too much honey and think they should change the name so it better captures how intense the peanut butter is in this cookie sandwich/whoopie pie.
Runner & Stone: Another introduction via the Bake Sale! Those at the sale raved about the almond croissant and having tried it at Smorgasburg I can tell you the hype was very much earned. What makes the Runner & Stone croissant stand out from a typical almond croissant is the fact that it is made with almond flour and not necessarily filled with an almond paste. It's not so much flaky as it may be more reminiscent of a scone/cake. Either way it's light and fantastic for those of you who do not like that almond paste/extract taste. I just wish they would open a storefront in Queens so I don't have to travel to Brooklyn to always get the goods.
Dough: During the Bake Sale I had seen many people carrying some huge doughnuts at Brooklyn Flea. It was then I was introduced to the new staple. I would try them when visiting Smorgasburg for the first time this summer with Angela (Mind Over Batter). Angela's son had 2 cinnamon sugar donuts and loved them. I enjoyed the hibiscus with a glaze and a leaf on it. Delicious! Thanks to Angela for snagging it for me. :-) Later on when passing the main location I tried the lemon poppyseed doughnut, unfortunately it was pretty lackluster. The glaze was too lemony (read: tart) even for me! Overpowered the whole thing and the doughnut wasn't as chewy as it should've been but a tad on the dry side. Not good for a huge yeasty doughnut.
Melt Bakery: While I had tried the deep fried pumpkin pie from Melt Bakery a couple of years ago at Grub Street I had yet to try their staple, ice cream sandwiches! Julian (co-owner) was at CookOut NYC on Governor's Island and thankfully his ice cream sandwich helped me during a spicy emergency with some ridiculously hot sauce.
I was bummed to hear that Melt won't be doing deep fried pies anymore but they will be focusing heavily on their sandwiches and I have to say those are perfect. My favorite is the the lovelet (red velvet cookie with cream cheese ice cream). For the most part Melt's cookies have more of a cake like texture so that you can actually get a good balance when biting into it. They have a range of flavors yet some cookies may be hard/chewy like you may be used to (example: Jack = pumpkin ice cream with a molasses cookie). But for the most part they are a nice balance of hard/soft on a hot day.
Culture NY: Congrats to Jenny and Gino Ammirati on the arrival of their new baby this year! And big thanks to Jenny for the interview soon after she had the baby, so kind of her. Culture's staple is the original yogurt with key lime topping (key lime syrup and a type of pudding and graham cracker dusting) delicious! Not too tart and not overly sweet but a great melding of flavors that really make you feel like you're having the perfect frozen yogurt. You will not be able to have anything quite like it and so you better take yourself to Brooklyn to get some Culture.
Macaron Parlour: By now you know I'm going to say I tried their macarons at the Bake Sale this spring. But Macaron Parlour also opened up a storefront this year also. Yay! Macaron Parlour has a never ending array of macarons, some of which include bacon. But my faves are the red velvet and earl grey macarons. The trick to a tea flavored macaron is to capture that essence without overdoing it and the earl grey does just that. The red velvet is one of the best red velvet macarons I have had and trust me I venture out for those. Another new fave of theirs is the salted caramel which also has a nice caramel cream inside. Delicious and light and perfect. Love, love, love.
Ovenly: Super Duper Market this summer was a fun place to go in and get out. I was introduced to Ovenly and got to try their chocolate chip cookie, which was huge and thick and moist and really good. Salt being the thing in baked goods nowadays Ovenly's cookie also had a dash and the chocolate chips were well spread out in the large cookie but tasted bittersweet/dark. I also had some candied maple thyme pecans, a savory sweet mix but the maple comes through mostly and then the herbs. Ovenly just opened a shop in Greenpoint earlier this year.
Miette: Another find at Super Duper Market that is unfortunately not available in NYC, but is a San Francisco based bakery. I went a little overboard and purchased the lemon shortbread cookies (has lemon zest in it that is very light but definitely can taste it in the shortbread). The shortbread is crispy yet not overly dry and has a good moistness to it that makes it chewy as well.
Also snagged the chocolate sable shortbread cookies, very chocolatey. You get more than a dozen tiny cookies (like 16 or so) in a nice sealed clear baggie. The owner has a new cookbook out with Chronicle Books and said she's trying to find an NYC storefront. Hope it works out as I think it'd be a nice addition to NYC.
Jemez Food Shack: While on my conference tour on the west coast my friend Iris stopped by a Native American food shack in Pueblo Jemez. I had an amazingly tasty and freshly made cherry fruit pie. Wonderfully flaky cinnamony crust with a great filling. A big rectangular slice that was so tasty and cheap! I wish there was a way for me to order this online or lead you to it, alas you must go to New Mexico to see for yourself.
PierNYC: This Ramen & Friends outing lead us to PierNYC on Roosevelt Island. What I had read about when searching the menu was the huge red velvet whoopie pie and I was eager to try it. It was a popular item that sold out with our big group. Turns out the whoopie pie is made by Ally Cakes makes the dessert for PierNYC. May I reiterate that the whoopie pie was large. Perhaps this added to the fact that the cake (aka pie) was overcooked and dry. The filling was not cream, it was icing with a stiffer texture than what should be accompanied by a whoopie pie. Pretty disappointing, but I was very happy with the service at PierNYC and the fact that we weren't charged for a lackluster dessert. (See Melt Bakery for red velvet.)
City Baking (gourmet bakery) Corporation: I don't normally review storebought goods so much but this was pretty disappointing. I purchased the blondie from Interchurch cafeteria because it looked moist. It's pretty much cake disguised as a blondie. The taste just didn't meld much with blondie and the brown sugar wasn't there. The website touts it as a chocolate chip cookie but a bar and it's not, brown sugar should be more evident and the texture was too much like a Duncan Hines cake for me to think blondie. The chocolate and nuts within overwhelmed the taste of the cake which is quite forgettable and light.
The Brownie Boy: After having treats from The Brownie Boy repeatedly at Smorgasburg I was glad to do an interview with him. This is a new bakery one man show. Now Mario knows his blondies and brownies. First up is the dulce de leche, great texture a mixture of dense half-baked inside that worked. The sea salt on top was a nice add to the brownie and the dulce de leche wasn't too heavy yet the chocolate is subtle. It all worked really well at a good size and price.
His brownies and blondies are all reminiscent of what you'd want, dense, sweet, with high class flavors. Looking forward to more of what he has to offer.
Schmackary's: Heard about this place thanks to Yoshie (R&F) since it's in midtown West. The hype is worth it. Had the sch'mores cookie and caramel apple crisp. Both chewy/moist and full o' flavor! The s'mores cookie was pretty intense and messy with toasted marshmallow being on top. It had graham cracker base with chocolate and had toasted marshmallow (not in pieces but like a frosting) that was delicious. Another milk warning(!) The apple crisp was like a pie in cookie form with an oat cookie that has white chocolate and chunks of cinnamon apple and caramel on top. Absolutely filling and delicious. These cookies served as my dinner and I have no regrets.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: Stopped by the newly opened bakery and just went crazy. The mini passonfruit chocolate eclair was tasty but nothing too memorable with a passionfruit cream filling and chocolate flakes on top that were a good mix. Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of eclairs because of the rough exterior of the dough.
However, the Madeleine's were amazing! They are made upon ordering and in teeny tiny size you can get ten for $4.50. Warm, light and fluffy not dense like some can be and lemon zest is in there somewhere because you can taste it as soon as you take a bite. The powdered sugar just makes it all come together and they really are best eaten quickly! Get your own batch because you will not want to share.
Cake Bites: It being the season I had the pumpkin spice gluten free and vegan cake bite which is basically a cake pop without the stick. The texture reminded me of a nice moist, carrot cake with the perfect melding of pumpkin spices to melt in my mouth. The coating was white chocolate with a ginger sprinkling but the true powerhouse is the cake inside. Delicious. Also tried samples of their mocha, which was good but a bit too coffee like for me. I liked the peanut butter yet it was too gel-like.
Fat Witch Bakery: Known as NY's Legendary Brownie they are worth the hype! Pumpkin season brings forth the limited, and popular, pumpkin brownie. a thin chocolate brownie layer than a thick pumpkin layer then a thin graham cracker like layer that is delicious and made fresh every morning! Fat Witch was so nice to hold two for me free of charge after I was unable to get there in time to purchase these delicious confections. I had had their brownies and blondies at my brownie/blondie party in 2010 when Joy purchased them and was already a fan but now I'm a SUPER fan not just for their generosity but for the taste of that amazingly fresh and perfect brownie and pumpkin mix. More please.
Ivy Bakery: A well run, one woman show Ivy Bakery was hit hard after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. I had tried Daniellan's trademark Buttermilk Pie and it is creamy goodness with a crust! Try her ooey gooey bar and it'll remind you of the pie in bar form. And the pumpkin cupcake! Another must-try since I love pumpkin anything. Daniellan is going to be offering classes for pie crusts and starting January 8th for truffles! So check out Ivy Bakery on Facebook to learn some baking tips and/or just lounge around and have some sweet goods or savory ones.
Hill Country BBQ: One of the best cupcakes I have had hands down! The cupcake has a whipped peanut butter frosting with Reese's pieces and salted peanuts atop a golden cake (perfectly moist) and inside jelly! Peanut butter will overwhelm no matter what but if you love it and it's light in texture everything balances out. It was delicious and I can see why Godiva Sweetest gave it the award in 2012 as a challenge winner for Best Cupcake at the NYC Food & Wine Festival. Deservedly so, I say.
Brooklyn Treat Shoppe: I got to work with ToniAnn at Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen (BRiCK) a couple times post Sandy. ToniAnn was a regular fixture baking desserts in large quantities for the meals that went out for BRiCK. She also donated some items one of which was a dulce de leche cake. I don't use acronyms often but OMG people that was the BEST yellow cake I have had in a very, very long time. It reminded me of the boxed cakes in texture in that it had a great balance of moisture you can get when adding pudding into the mix but it was NOT boxed cake it was an original. The dulce de leche frosting was perfectly smooth and we were eating that thing with our hands. Yes(!), we went carnal on that cake it was so good. I cannot wait to taste more of ToniAnn's confections in the New Year.
Francois Payard Bakery: And in the last few days of 2012 I had a couple French macarons from FPB. The vanilla bean is a goodie. Vanilla bean cookie and frosting. Passion fruit was good but I couldn't discern what the filling was exactly. After having had many macarons and especially those from Macaron Parlour I have to say FPBs are good but not on the same level. The cookie itself felt a bit tougher than it should as I am used to having the nice crunch/crackle of a French macaron exterior with a delicate softness that makes it easy to break apart and chew. This may have been due to temperature. I'd definitely try the vanilla bean again.
So that was my year in baked goods. Who knows how much weight I have gained from all this experimentation and tasting and whatnot, but for delicious desserts there are never any regrets...ever! Every year it seems new places pop up so I'm eager to try more in 2013 and beyond. Happy eating!