Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Francois Payard Bakery

210 Murray Street 
New York City, NY 10282
(212) 566-8300

Howard and I aren't strangers to Francois Payard, our first visit being his Las Vegas location for brunch and later on for late night munchies. But remember, we were here on a macaron tour, and we've never tried Payard's macarons before. He has multiple locations scattered around New York City and we went to visit the Tribeca location.
This was a tiny shop across from Shake Shack, but don't be fooled, the line here is just as long. Workers from all of the offices nearby were popping in for breakfast, lunch, or cravings. Or maybe they were picking up celebration cakes. They had everything from oatmeal cranberry cookies and flourless chocolate walnut cookies to tarts, éclair, and roulés.
All of the desserts here looked beautiful, they were bright in colours with sparkly finishes. Howard almost had to hold me back. They even had macaron ice cream sandwiches in pistachio raspberry, coconut mango, chocolate sorbet, and strawberry cheesecake flavours.
We finally narrowed it down and tried the green apple honey and passion fruit macarons. I was so excited that I ate the green apple honey before snapping a photo, but you can see that we did originally have it in the paper bag from the cover photo above.

The green apple honey macaron was well made but while we could taste a hint of honey, but green apple flavour felt very artificial. It almost reminded me of apple Jolly Ranchers. The passion fruit macaron was also filled with chocolate which over powered the fruit's flavour, but it was still a good combination of flavours.
Since the bakery is so close to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, we wandered over to admire the waterfront.
I bet the Statue of Liberty would like some macarons . . .

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Class Cakes

World Class Cakes is a collection of globally-inspired desserts. The idea behind this book was to compile recipes from various countries that have been passed down from generation to generation. Despite the title of the cookbook, there are more than just cake recipes, it includes pastries, tarts, bread, and cookies too.

World Class Cakes
250 Classic Recipes from Boston Cream Pie to Madeleines and Muffins
Written by Roger Pizey
Foreword by Marco Pierre White
Photographs by Šárka Babická

ISBN 13: 9781937994167
ISBN 10: 1937994163
Publisher: Race Point Publishing
Hardcover: 288 Pages

Roger Pizey is a celebrated baker and patissier with over twenty years’ experience. He trained for two years with Albert Roux at Le Gavroche before joining Marco Pierre White as his Chef Patissier. In the foreword, we learn that Marco tried Roger's Tarte Tatin (recipe included in World Class Cakes) and made the smart decision of offering Roger jobs at Harvey's, The Restaurant, Mirabelle, and Criterion. As Marco was becoming the first British chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, Roger was creating the desserts for his restaurants. Roger also worked as Head Chef at Criterion Restaurant before returning to pastries at Petyon and Byrne. That's an impressive resume!

The recipes in this book are introduced either with a brief originating history, an account of Roger's first discovery of it, or tips on preparing it. The ingredients and instructions are easily labelled and written. There are some British phrases or terms that were kept from the original publisher, but they're easy enough to figure out. Best of all, there are lots of great photos in this book, one for each recipe!  The cover itself showcases the Devil's Food Cake and to show you more samples, here are the ones that adorn the book itself:
Have a look at that back jacket cover in the photo above.
The front endpapers.
And the back endpapers.
Guest chefs lend a hand in the book and share their favourite recipe. You'll find creations from Donovan Cooke, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, Thierry Busset, Paul A. Young, Mark Hix, Lucas Glanville, Richard Corrigan, Nancy Silverton, Rachel Allen, Shannon Bennett, Marco Pierre White, Oliver Peyton, and Christopher Farrugia.
One of the neat thing is the city guides in the book. If you travel to eat, you'll like learning about new places and I personally think that they're quite brave to include this guide, especially since this information can change on a monthly basis! There are "Where to Eat Cake . . ." features for Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin, Singapore, Stockholm and Copenhagen, Rome, New York City, Paris, Harrogate, Madrid, Melbourne and Sydney, London, and Vienna. Most of the bakeries are classic establishments, so they probably will stand the test of time.
I've been wanting to use my leaf baking molds and my matcha powder, so I was very pleased to come across this recipe for green tea cakes.

Green Tea Pound Cake
Recipe from World Class Cakes
(Serves 10)

2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of matcha/green tea powder
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup of sugar
4 eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F and grease and line a 10 x 3 1/4 x 3 1/4 deep loaf pan with parchment paper. Or in my case, grease silicone molds in the shape of leaves.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and matcha powder together in a bowl.
  3. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the eggs, mixing in a little bit of the flour halfway through.
  4. Add the rest of the flour into the batter and mix until fully combined.
  5. Pour the batter into your loaf pan or silicone molds and bake in the preheated over for 30 to 35 minutes, since cakes were individually sized, I baked for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Let the cake(s) cool for about 10 minutes and turn out to cool on a wire rack.
Now that autumn is here, we've watched the green leaves change colour. I liked that this cake had a crunchy exterior, but a soft and firm texture on the inside. They're really lovely tea cakes to enjoy with a hot beverage. Not quite as crunchy as a biscotti and not too sweet as other cakes, the only thing I didn't get was the brilliant green colour that the cookbook's photograph achieved. Perhaps it's the brand of matcha powder we're using, it's quite subtle, but the flavours are there. It's better than eating green colour dye!
It's feeling a little bit colder these days. Heck, we even saw some flurries when we drove out west during the weekend, but I do like how the cooler weather keeps the kitchen nice and manageable when the oven is on.
After plating this for my dad and Howard to try, it reminded me of all the little squirrels foraging for nuts in our neighbourhood right now.

Disclaimer: The Public Relations and Marketing Manager of Quayside Publishing Group reached out to us and provided the review copy of World Class Cakes. No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Takahachi Bakery

25 Murray Street
New York City, NY 10007
(212) 791-5550

Despite having visited New York on an annual basis, we love that there's so many neighbourhoods and places to explore in Manhattan. We never stopped by this little corner before and I wish with all my might that something like this would pop up in our home town.
Takahachi Bakery should be on your list of bakeries to visit the next time you're in New York City. They have a great combination of sweet and savoury items available.
Similar to some of the bakeries in Toronto, you can grab a tray, tongs, and pick up the items you wanted. They also had a grab-and-go counter for quick lunches, beverages, or snacks.

At the back of the bakery, they have an area where you can sit and enjoy your purchases while looking on at the bakers through the big windows at the back. They're making everything fresh!
And they have macarons, so they were a must-visit for our macaron tour! We were so full from lunch, so I told Howard we would only get one from each bakery to try. Err... that suggestion went out the window pretty fast.
I couldn't resist! They had lots of our favourite flavours. Black sesame, green tea, passion fruit, and honey ginger. We liked every single one of them. There wasn't a miss in terms of the flavours of the macarons. Each shell had the nice and light meringue cake interior - no hollowness here! The fillings were delicious and were not overly sweet either.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Fat Radish

17 Orchard Street
New York City, NY 10002
(212) 300-4053

We weren't sure what to expect, but I had seen so many lovely photos of the restaurant and now I knew why. We walked in to a small foyer decorated with bikes, wine bottles, plates, plants, and bouquets. White subway tiles alone one wall with a large sink and cabinets. Opened shelves, exposed brick, and chalkboards. The bar appeared as we ventured in with swing-out chairs and then a simple and airy dining room. There's some natural light from the sun roof, window shutters, and easy lighting along the walls with greenery peeking in. Everything looks rustic, casual, and fashionable. At one point, Howard mentions that it does feel like we're eating in an enclosed park or garden.
The food here is known to be created with well-sourced, seasonal ingredients and there isn't any particular focus as we spot naan, curry, and soba among scotch egg, celery root pot pie, and kale Caesar salad.

Service wasn't the greatest. We stood by the bar, unsure if we were supposed to grab a table ourselves or if we were to be seated. Even though the bartender spotted us, she made no effort to help or call someone over. Finally, one of the servers came over to seat us and later came back with the menus. Things started to get better once we ordered as our meals, I even spotted a few smiles from our server. Then the food arrived!
I love seared tuna salads so I went ahead and ordered the Seared Block Island Tuna with watermelon, cucumber, and thai chili vinaigrette. This was light, refreshing, and delicious. I enjoyed the sweet flavours from the watermelon, the crunch from the cucumber, and the sweet and salty vinaigrette with just a little kick of heat. My only quibble would be that the presentation could have been improved on and that the tuna could have been cleanly sliced.
Howard ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger with duck fat fries and house pickles. The burger was pretty good, I was lucky enough to have a bite of it - just one before it was quickly taken away from me. But those fries! I liked the fries the best! Fries, wedges, whatever you want to call them, I enjoyed stealing about half of them and dunking it in the upside-down white top hat ketchup holder.
A lovely spot for lunch or brunch, the Fat Radish turned out to be the first restaurant where Howard and I ate as an engaged couple! To celebrate, we clinked our glasses of water together. Of course, I had no idea this would happen when I made the reservation the previous week!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ABC Cocina

38 East 19th Street 
New York City, NY 10003
(212) 677-2233

For our next day in the city, I had made lunch reservations at ABC Cocina. Originally, I wanted ABC Kitchen, but I couldn't get a reservation because it was fully booked! This probably worked out for the best and it didn't matter in the end because we really enjoyed the atmosphere in the adjacent restaurant and the food was great.

We walked in and told the group of hostesses that we had reservations and were welcomed to wait at the bar as they set up our table. The dining room was quite full as we wondered where we would be seated. The back of the restaurant was divided with what we presumed to be ABC Kitchen on the other side. Sitting at the bar also allowed you a glimpse of the open kitchen in the corner.
I was really looking forward to this meal since it was our first experience at a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. We've tried some of his recipes at home before and I like how he has light preparations and incorporates Asian flavours into his food. But, we were here for Latin inspired food!

These are one of those times that I wished that my descriptions matched those of the great food writers out there so that I could properly praise the dishes we tried.
To start, we had peekytoe crab and corn fritters with chipotle mayo.
I cannot get enough of tacos and ordered the crispy fish tacos with aioli and cabbage-chili pickle. Howard's parents make great pickled cabbages but we would have never thought to use it in a fish taco! Loved the idea and also noted that they did not go easy on the heat, we liked the spiciness of it.
This crispy chicken salad with summer vegetables and spicy mustard vinaigrette was surprisingly good! Popcorn-sized chicken tossed in fresh greens, the perfect summer salad!
This deceptively simple dish was the star of our meal. Sweet corn with queso de mano cheese and lime. It was so good.
Finally, we tried the chipotle chicken tacos with grilled jalapeno salsa. Also spicy, this taco helped end our delicious meal.

I have to say, we look forward to returning some day or trying another Jean-George restaurant! Or better yet, open up a place in Toronto!!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery

380 Lafayette Street
New York City, NY 10003
(212) 533-3000

As one of the most talked about restaurants this year, we made reservations to eat at Lafayette on our second day of vacation. This place was pretty grand for New York standards, the restaurant was large with ample seating on the main floor and up by the windows. The patio was open and filled with guests as it was such a lovely day.
There's a beautiful bar...
and a spacious dining room. No elbow to elbow sitting with the people at the next table! We were seated in the banquettes by the large windows.
I ordered the East Coast Halibut with sweet corn and sauce poivrée. I liked the corn, mushrooms, and tomatoes more than the fish itself, but can say that while the halibut was nicely cooked, there just wasn't a lot of flavours.
Howard tried the Dry-Aged Strip Steak Frites with béarnaise butter. I was more interested in his shoestring fries, yum! The steak was medium rare as ordered and satisfied his craving.
One of the main reasons I wanted to eat here was the accompanying bakery.
Right near the entrance of the restaurant, you can come grab-and-go or quickly eat at the limited seating in this area.
Have a look at those tarts! Fresh Fruit, Honey-Spiced Custard, Raspberry and Pistachio, Double Chocolate and Caramel Pear, and Passion Fruit Cheesecake.
As for the éclairs, they had Lemon Meringue, Chocolate, Butterscotch Coffee, and Peaches and Cream that day.
What about the petits gâteaux? Blond Desir, Accro du Caramel, Yoshi, Charlotte Noir, and Dauphine.
To start off our macaron tour this year, I knew we'd have to make the difficult choice of choosing which flavours to eat. They had Blueberry, Passion Fruit Caramel, Birthday Cake, Chocolat, Lafayette, Strawberry and Black Pepper, and Pistachio Cherry.
We went with Lafayette, Passion Fruit Caramel, and Birthday Cake. The Lafayette was chocolate and lemon, we liked the pairing of their namesake macaron. The Passion Fruit Caramel was also delicious, but we were not fans of the Birthday Cake macaron. I don't recall it tasting like confetti cake, it was just unpleasant. Some of the macaron shells were also hollow, so they lost some points for us.
Even though we were full from lunch, we couldn't resist trying the Yoshi since it reminded us of Super Mario. A Jasmine tea mousse with apricot compote and a petit beurre base, this was a very creamy cake, I don't think you could finish it alone in one sitting, so I'm glad we shared it.

We might return to try some of the other items on their lunch or dinner menu, but we wouldn't return for the macarons.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Butter Baked Goods

Today is Chocolate Cupcake Day. Yes, it's a thing. Chocolate cupcakes are our favourite, they're easy to make, stay moist, and you can pair it with almost any flavours and it still tastes great. Or, you can add a hint of salt with it if you want to cut the sweetness. Basically, we find that chocolate is versatile (we're sure others agree)! To help us celebrate this national holiday, we enlisted the help of Butter Baked Goods.

Butter Baked Goods
Nostalgic Recipes From a Little Neighborhood Bakery
Written by Rosie Daykin
Photographs by Janis Nicolay
ISBN 13: 9780449015834
ISBN 10: 0449015831
Publisher: Appetite by Random House
Hardcover: 272 pages

Butter is a bakery in Vancouver, opened by Rosie Daykin (an interior designer), in 2007. Her vision was to restore the nostalgia of homemade baked goods. We think she succeeded from viewing photos of the bakery online and flipping through her cookbook. Pastel pinks, greens, and blues, Butter Baked Goods is like a chic grandmother. The cover alone gives me cake stand envy. That rose wallpaper you see in the background? Endpapers. And there's a soft green ribbon that serves as a bookmark, which I know that they use to tie up their treats with.
There's nine chapters of treats: muffins, scones, cinny buns and loaves; drop and sandwich cookies; rolled and cut cookies; bars and slices; butter creams and frostings; cakes; cupcakes and whoopie pies; pastry, pies and tarts; and confections. The recipes go by measuring cups and spoons, so the only thing I would wish for would be the weight measurements beside the ingredient list.
Recipes I'll want to try: Pineapple Coconut Scones; Apple Bacon Cheddar Scones; Banana Chocolate Loaf; The Gingerstamp; Smartie Pants Bar; The Campfire Bar (makes me want to go out and purchase a better kitchen blowtorch); Butterscotch Crispy Bar; Triple Lemon Layer Cake; The Quintessential Butter Tart; and Butter's Famous Marshmallows.
I also want to give a nod to Janis Nicolay and Kelly Hill. The photographs are lovely, delicious looking and the layout and design is beautiful and thoughtful. There's a photo for every recipe and even some for process and procedures. Overall, this would be a great gift for those starting out in the baking world.

So I made some chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes, only making slight changes here and there to make due with what I had in the kitchen. They might look different from the version in the cookbook, but we can attest to how yummy the cupcake itself is!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Butter Baked Goods
(Makes about 28-30 cupcakes)

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter (plus 1/2 cup more if you include the optional step)
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup of whole milk
1 cup of sour cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F) and prepare your cupcake pans by placing the cupcake liners in.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl (preferably one with a spout).
  3. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the peanut butter, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium to high speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Scrape the sides of the bowls as needed.
  5. In a measuring cup, whisk the milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract together.
  6. Turn the mixer to low and alternate adding the dry ingredients and the liquid ingredients. Begin and end with the dry ingredients in three parts, the liquid ingredients in two parts.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner about three-quarters full. This part is optional (I skipped it), use a small teaspoon to push in 1 teaspoon of peanut butter into the center of the batter. Make sure it is fully covered by the cupcake batter.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted, comes out clean. If you included the optional step, don't insert your tester into the middle, do it on the side. Otherwise, you'll just hit warm, gooey peanut butter.
  9. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
The following recipes are not in Butter Baked Goods, but an improvised version since the original called for a peanut butter butter cream and a deep dark chocolate butter cream. I didn't feel like doing a double stacked swirl of frosting on the cupcakes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
(Makes enough to frost 18-20 cupcakes)

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups of icing sugar
1/4 cup of smooth peanut butter
5 (approximately 1/4 cup) Lindor Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Truffles, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons of whole milk
  1. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, icing sugar, and peanut butter together.
  2. Melt the chocolate and peanut butter truffles over a double boiler or in the microwave at 10-15 second intervals. Pour into frosting and mix.
  3. Add in the milk for a smoother consistency.
Chocolate Ganache
1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon of whole milk
  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave at 10-15 second intervals. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add in the milk and mix until incorporated.
1/2 cup of Rice Krispies

Final steps to assemble the cupcakes. Pipe the chocolate peanut butter frosting onto the cupcake, swirls look best! Then, create the chocolate ganache as you want to work quickly with it so that it doesn't cool and harden. Pipe zig-zags of chocolate ganache over the chocolate peanut butter frosting. Sprinkle Rice Krispies liberally over the frosting.
Eat! Howard's colleagues had the joy of eating some of our Chocolate Cupcake Day treats. I heard everyone from his department ate two and left only 10 for lucky passersby.