NY Bakeries I visited this past week.

Sometimes the Canadian Baking Fairy takes the show on the road and when I do, we visit bakeries.  Levain Bakery, on the Upper Westside was a real treat.  It is the cutest little shop that you can’t miss because on a Saturday morning the line-up is out the door and up the stairs.  Do not be deterred though, the line moves quick.  I ordered a bombolini (an Italian doughnut), a chocolate brioche and an oatmeal scone.  The scone was a last minute decision because people in the line-up were raving about it.  My favorite was the chocolate brioche.  It was not fancy and the chocolate chips gave the appearance of it being very pedestrian but it was not.  The chocolate was divine and the bread was perfect.  My companions had a blueberry muffin that melted in your mouth.  A very fine crumb, indeed.  Enjoy the pictures.  We sat in the sunshine outside the bakery on a brick planter box.  The perfect way to gather strength for a walk in Central Park.

Fit for tea with a Queen. Hungarian Shortbread.

Today the Tuesdays with Dorie group baked Hungarian Shortbread.  Essentially it is a shortbread crust with jam sandwiched between the two layers.  I used a jar of quality strawberry jam although the recipe calls for homemade rhubarb jam.  This is a delicious bar and begs you to sit down with a hot cup of tea to enjoy it with!  Or if you are having the Queen for tea, you might like to serve this.  By the way, this cup and saucer is one I picked up at the Buckingham Palace gift shop last year.

The fun thing about this recipe was the new technique included in the method.  The dough is chilled or frozen and then grated into the pan.  It was very quick and although it looked somewhat peculiar at the start (felt like I was make a lasagna or some other casserole covered in shredded mozzarella) the result was worth it.  This was a new technique for me so I checked out Gale Gand’s website.  She was the pastry chef that contributed this recipe.   On her website she explains that “Grating the shortbread dough into the pan gives it a lighter, more open texture;”.  There is certainly a lovely crumb on the top of this square.  Delicious!

Simple recipes often have some important techniques.

I’m back and ready to go with lots of new information to share with you.  This morning I decided to go back to an old favorite and play around a bit.  Normally I am purist when it comes to baking.  I like the best ingredients and I usually follow the recipe closely.  I have been known to make mistakes in the method because I thought I already knew how to do it.  This recipe is an example of that.  I baked the cake a month or two ago realizing part way through I had not followed the instructions.  Oh well, it all ends up in the pan. Right?  Wrong.  The first photo is the cake when I did not follow the method exactly.  The second shot is today’s cake.

I followed the method exactly but I sifted the flour as per a secret I read about that Julia Child swore by.  Plus I soaked the maraschino cherries in amaretto for 30 minutes before putting them in the batter.  I love maraschinos but they seem to lack the flavor I recall from my childhood.  I expected a bigger difference in the two cakes.  I thought the first cake had an uneven top but really the second cake looks no different.  Did it make a difference to the cake by sifting?  The distribution of cherries is no better in the second cake despite dredging in flour and being very careful when I folded them into the batter.

Two important techniques come from the method of this simple recipe for Cherry Cake (, Five Roses Flour, 22nd Edition – an old Canadian favorite from many prairie kitchens).  The first thing is the addition of dry ingredients and wet ingredients.  Why should we start and end with the dry?  The second thing is dredging fruit in flour before mixing it into the batter.  I am going to explain the theory behind these two techniques, next wek.Image