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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Baking

5 Ways to Ruin a Cake

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Here, Baked co-owner Matt Lewis explains how you can do wrong by his number-one passion in our new blog series called What Not to Do.

Malt-Ball Cake by Baked

© Tina Rupp
Malt-Ball Cake by Baked.

This is my relationship with cake: Cake is kind of my obsession, and I probably eat too much of it. I much prefer cake to cupcakes (the frosting/sponge/filling ratio is more to my liking), and I prefer cake for breakfast as opposed to a post-dinner sugar binge (cake goes extremely well with that first hit of coffee). I will eat almost any type of cake—but I really like dark-chocolate versions. As much as I want to love every cake, though, it's not always easy. Sometimes we do things to cake that we normally wouldn't do to things we love. Here, five ways to ruin a cake:

1. Put toilet-paper rolls in it. The disturbing trend of treating cake as a Michael's craft experiment is kind of gross and completely unappetizing. Do people actually eat cakes filled with chicken wire? Would the food world rise up if this trend started hitting other foodstuffs (i.e., salmon molded into the shape of your favorite cat, or pork chops twisted into a Prada purse)? Leave cake alone.

2. Experiment with food coloring. Perhaps I worry too much, but I think ingesting a cake that is neon red is not good for you—and I really do think some food colorings/gels add a slightly weird chemical-ish taste to cakes and icings (especially in large quantities). I love some of the natural brands, like India Tree, and I really appreciate the lighter shades that less food coloring imparts—they just seem more eatable.

3. Fetishize frosting. Bad cake cannot be covered up, and good cake should not get lost in mounds of frosting. Frosting should complement a cake, not overpower it in sweetness or in weight. By the way, icing shots are gross (think of salsa shots). Let's not encourage this trend.

4. Bake it to clean out the pantry. This goes for almost any recipe. Make sure you use fresh ingredients—baking soda and baking powder lose their potency over time, and old spices are ineffective and will impart an "off" taste. Also, if you are making a chocolate cake, make sure to start with a really good chocolate, since it is the star of the show.

5. Roast it. Most ovens are off by a few degrees at best, and wildly inaccurate at worst. Buy a cheapo oven thermometer to gauge your true oven temperature and adjust accordingly. Oven temperature is key to good baking. Overly hot ovens can cause cakes to be crispy on the outside and goopy on the inside, while your cake might not rise properly in a cooler oven.

Matt Lewis is the co-owner (with Renato Poliafito) of Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He doesn't eat enough leafy greens. Oh, and he co-wrote two cookbooks: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Baked Explorations. He is currently very behind on his third book, due out in October 2012.

Related: Malt-Ball Cake Recipe by Baked
More Wonderful Cake Recipes

Baking

Greenspan’s CookieBar Launches Delivery

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© Courtesy of CookieBar.
WANTED: Joshua Greenspan spotted trafficking in deliciousness.

Author and baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan, with son Joshua, just started New York delivery for CookieBar, their pop-up series and online bakery service. Testing production on a seriously small scale, Joshua personally messengered orders in Manhattan last Friday and will continue in the coming weeks.

Just four signature flavors are available, but anyone who’s tried the crumbly, butter-rich pucks at one of the temporary shops in the last two years will be eager to order two dozen at a time—the approximate minimum. “We did favorites: World Peace; Espresso Chocolate Chip, really chocolate shard—it has pieces of hand-chopped chocolate in it; Sugar-Topped Sablés; and Coconut Limes,” says Dorie. World Peace Cookies are all Valrhona chocolaty and touched with fleur de sel, while the other flavors are tall, with smooth, browned edges that come from being baked in metal rounds. Here, Dorie and Josh delve into the real-world details of an artisanal food business and what legendary artist already scored one of the cookie deliveries. 

What’s the delivery process?
J: The minimum order is $48, but generally people have been ordering two-dozen cookies. They're $2 each, or $2.75 for World Peace.

D: And there's a $5 delivery charge, but you don't have to tip the deliveryman.

J: There was only one delivery where I actually had to go up four flights of stairs and knock on somebody's door and personally hand them a bag, so I'm not too worried about it.

D: You did have a delivery to a famous artist and you got to tour his studio.

Which artist?
D: LeRoy Neiman—he just had his 90th birthday. He did, and still does, a lot of sports paintings. I remember as a kid when the Olympics would show and he would do live paintings. They would say, “OK, back to LeRoy.” Somebody ordered cookies for him as a gift, so Joshua got to tour the studio and see 50 years of paint on the floor.

How did you work out packaging for such beautifully crumbly cookies?
J: What we learned is that we are still looking for packaging. We're looking at custom boxes.

D: You're straddling the need to protect the cookies and the fact that you want people to open the box and say, “Wow!” You also don't want people to open the box and see crumbs. We have these gorgeous designs for the most fabulous boxes you've ever seen, and no one says they're buildable.

Any pop-ups in the works?
D: We'll be at the NYC Wine & Food Festival at SWEET to benefit Share Our Strength on September 30.

J: The hope is that we'll also have something pop-up in September, maybe during Fashion Week, and at least one or two more times before the end of the year.

Many people dream of opening a food business. What’s it like so far?
D: There were so many times I thought, I'll just open a little cookie business. For anyone who bakes, it really is a dream, and then at some point you think, this is crazy. I won't do this. Then you have a kid, and the kid says, “You know, Ma, I always give your cookies to my friends, and they think you should open a shop.” And you think, I'm old enough to know better. We'll get the kinks out, but between the dream and actually getting the cookies out, it's a whole lot of practical stuff. It's good to have help, though. Thank you, Joshua.

(Orders for this week have to be placed today.)

Related: F&W's Best Cookie Recipes

Baking

Write a Pieku for Print

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© Tina Rupp
As American as Cherry-Berry Pie.

Last week, Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin (@fwscout) challenged Twitter followers to write a "pieku" for the November issue: "While developing a story on Pie, we created a new literary form: the Pieku, haikus abt pie. Anyone want to try writing 1 for print?"

The offer still stands through July 31. Tweet the hashtag #pieku @fandw @fwscout with your own pro-pie haiku to be eligible. For pastry envy and inspiration, here's a sampling of the poetic Tweetstorm:

@cettedrucks: tucked in crust, bubbling/crimped edges, lattice top or/a la mode. slice served.

@ashleyzink: Grandma taught mom how; Her pie recipes passed down; I'm the baker now!

@rthnnthrntn: dearest apple pie / my tastebuds are so thankful / but my hips are not

@melagustin: Buttery, flakey / Cradling sweet juicy cherries / This is my heaven

@ddavila: Fresh Key Lime Pie Dream Bright & Light Whipped Cream Delight. So Tart & Tangy

@Justinchapple: berry pie, good pie; peanut butter, better pie; pumpkin pie, favorite

@msvallis: Crust not overworked, blueberries firm and lemon tart, eat you in a day

Events

Nationwide Sugar Rush for a Cause

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Great American Bake Sale


Bloggers around the country are turning off their computers and getting their hands floury this weekend to raise funds for Share Our Strength, a D.C.-based nonprofit that fights childhood hunger. The Great American Bake Sale, now in its ninth year, has raised over $6 million to date to support S.O.S.’s mission to make sure no child in America goes hungry. A huge network of fantastic bloggers are hosting bake sales, like the folks behind Peanut Butter and Julie in Nevada, Green Eats in Durham, NC, What’s for Dinner Mom? in Alaska and Rhubarb and Honey in St. Louis. You can find a bake sale near you on the Great American Bake Sale website.

Chefs

It's Official: Lemon Meringue Pie Equals Spring

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© kate krader
Gramercy Tavern's Springtime Lemon Meringue Pie.

Spring officially started on Sunday, March 20. But for me it begins today, when Nancy Olson and her awesome pastry team at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern introduce their lemon meringue pie to the menu. Of course it’s amazing—a towering piece of pie that’s roughly 50 percent sweet-tart-velvety lemon curd and 50 percent toasted, pillowy meringue with some extra percent flaky-crisp pastry.

The pie is the brainchild of GT pastry sous chef Alex Ray, whose grandmother made it for every holiday. Ray obsessed about everything from the meringue (she went classic, not Italian, which is made with boiling-hot sugar syrup) to the pastry (she went with sweet pastry, as opposed to more savory pâte brisée) to the burning question of whether to serve the pie with ice cream. And if so, what flavor. At press time, the answer was salted-cashew ice cream. “But that’s negotiable,” says Olson. “If someone wants vanilla, we can do that. This is Gramercy Tavern, it’s like Garanimals here. Mixing and matching is our game.”

Recipes

Mariah Carey Pregnancy Food

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A Mariah Carey pregnancy food favorite: Pork chops

© Kana Okada
A Mariah Carey pregnancy food favorite: Pork chops

Being pregnant with twins seems to have grounded singer Mariah Carey, who at one point reportedly ate a diet of only purple foods.

She’s giving in to her pregnancy cravings by cooking and eating comfort foods like “smothered pork chops, collard greens, red beans and rice and pecan pie with homemade whipped cream,” says her husband, Nick Cannon, in an interview with People magazine.

Check out more super-satisfying recipes in our Southern Comfort Food slideshow.

Baking

Skull Cake

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© Kristin Donnelly
Skull cake.

I would never have called Wilton, the bakeware maker, edgy. The company has entire categories of cake decorations devoted to Dora the Explorer and Spider-Man and makes 15 different kinds of heart-shaped pans. So I was shocked when they sent me an incredible cake mold that forms a three-dimensional skull. It’s part of their Halloween line “for grown-ups” that also includes a skull-shaped ice mold. I made the skull cake last weekend and brought it to a party, where we set it in the middle of the table. As a centerpiece, it straddled the line between hip and gruesome until we sliced it; then, it was nothing more than pumpkin-spice cake.

In honor of Halloween and my new cake pan, here is a slideshow about the history of skulls and another about making skull cake.

Restaurants

Eco Treats at NYC’s New Museum

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© Photo Courtesy New Museum

Maury Rubin, the baker-owner of Manhattan’s irresistible City Bakery, has expanded his eco-visionary Birdbath Bakery Café to the lobby of the New Museum on the Bowery. Seasonal, local salads and sandwiches like turkey-meatball sliders and Rubin’s cult pretzel croissants will be delivered to the New Museum by bicycle-driven cargo rickshaw. Rubin has also created a New Museum Cookie, a chocolate-chip cookie with quinoa and mango, exclusively for the museum outpost. Customers who arrive by bike or skateboard get a 25-percent discount. The funky space with communal tables was designed by Brooklyn-based Uhuru studio, an eco-avant-garde furniture collective.

Style

Latte Art Made Easy

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F&W’s features intern, Chelsea Morse, has always been fascinated by latte art. Here, she divulges an easy way to recreate milk-foam design swirls at home:

If I tried, I bet I could remember the first latte I ever had with a heart-shaped design in the milk foam. (I can only hope that I didn’t assume the barista was flirting with me, and that I kept my amazement to myself.) Many milky coffee drinks later, I’m still thrilled to see a flower or a tree design atop my beverage; the extra effort to transform something delicious into something beautiful makes my day. Iceland-based artist Megan Herbert’s new culinary stencils are a simple way to produce the whimsical designs at home with a little cocoa or powdered sugar. She suggests them for cake, cookies or coffee—you could make a pretty gorgeous brunch spread. She offers a frosty woodland scene and a knitting-pattern stencil right now, sold as a set. I’m already thinking about using them this Christmas.

Recipes

The Best Way To Bake

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For our July story, "The Year of the Pastry Chef,"  we had the honor of featuring some incredible desserts from some of the country's best pastry minds, including Christy Timon and Abram Faber of Clear Flour Bread in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who gave us the recipe for their amazing airy baked doughnuts. A model professional baking recipe, it used baker's percentages and required an accurate scale and instant yeast, two things that aren't often found in home kitchens, but make for more reliable results. In the magazine, we adapted the doughnuts for home cooks, swapping in easier-to-find active dry yeast, scaling back the portions, and converting weights to cup measures, but Timon and Faber were rightfully concerned that our version wouldn't be as fail-safe. We think we came pretty close, but were we right? For the sake of comparison (and for those who prefer scales), the bakery's original recipe comes after the jump. Which would you rather use?

[More]

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