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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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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?

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Events

Eat Cake for a Cause

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© Courtesy of the Cake Committee

Multitalented London ceramicist Peter Ting is also one of the most obsessive bakers I know. Looking for an excuse to indulge his baking passion and give back, he started a group in London called the Cake Committee, which hosts what I like to think of as grown-up bake sales. Members bring their best homemade sweets, mostly cakes, and select a charity to donate the profits to. The cake sales have been such a success that Ting has helped set up committee chapters (he calls them “slices”) in Singapore, Maine and now New York City. The first meeting of the NYC chapter is tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Maccarone Gallery. The $20 entrance fee will be donated to the Friends of the French Culinary Institute and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. RSVP to epaul@vlany.org to eat cake for a cause.

News

Food as Art in L.A.

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Scott Hove's cakes bite back.

© Scott Hove
Scott Hove's cakes bite back.

As a kid, I always loved to play with my food. But none of my creations ever came close to the wild food art that’s part of “Palate,” a new exhibition opening May 22 at L.A.’s Scion Gallery. The title is a play on the artist’s palette and the tasting palate. It includes Jeff Vespa’s huge Polaroids of fast-food burgers and a series of photographs from James Reynolds documenting death-row inmates’ last-meal requests. Wacky food artist Clare Crespo has crocheted a seafood smorgasbord of oysters and shrimp po’boys, and Tamara Kostianovsky uses clothing to create sculptures that resemble slabs of meat. I love the sweet and scary Cakeland collection from Oakland-based artist Scott Hove. His cakes, sculptures and installations are meant to juxtapose the sense of desire and fear with elements like teeth and horns adorning pretty pink cakes.

Baking

Reviving Freezer-Burned Ice Cream

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ice cream maker

© Michelle Shih

A few weeks ago, my house lost power for two days. My coffin freezer was pretty packed, so most things made it through okay, but the ice cream developed a granular texture. It was still good for milkshakes, but I wanted to eat regular ice cream. And I had about 10 pints of Ben & Jerry's and Häagen Dazs, so I didn't want to throw them all away (I'd bought them on sale; what can I say, I love a good deal). The Harold McGee in me thought, what if I melted the ice cream, then refroze it in an ice cream maker? Success! The zombie Cherry Garcia (pictured) was slightly denser than the original, but still delicious. Grace Parisi in the F&W test kitchen had another great suggestion: using melted ice cream in bread pudding instead of milk or heavy cream. Recipes after the jump:

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Baking

New Gluten-Free Baking

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Gluten-Free Brownies

© Photo Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

A close friend of mine has celiac disease, which means he shouldn't eat gluten—so usually no pizza, no pasta, no crackers, no beer. He's long been my (very willing) guinea pig for every gluten-free product that floats through our office. Most of these have left me very thankful for my own gluten-tolerance, but a few, like Mary's Gone Crackers seed crackers, have made it into my own pantry. The latest batch of baking mixes to get rave reviews from him is from an unexpected source: King Arthur Flour, the 200-year-old flour company, which has started to roll out its gluten-free line nationwide. According to my guinea pig, the brownies (pictured) rose up to twice the height of the batter and remained gooey and sweet even after cooling down. Most tellingly, his friends came back for seconds. For the cookie mix, he found that he got the elusive chewy texture he craved by freezing the dough into balls before baking. The only caveat: You have to buy your own chocolate chips.

From our recipe archives, here are seven great ideas for gluten-free dinners to accompany these desserts.

Baking

Colossal New Cupcake

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© Kate Heddings
Colossal red velvet cupcake from Crumbs.

 

I don't think anything makes me as happy as baked sweets—give me a brownie, blondie or cupcake and I'll be your new best friend. So I don't know what could possibly make my day more than the new Colossal Crumb—a gigantic sugar-lover's dream cupcake from Crumbs . It's four pounds, six-and-half inches tall and six-and-a-half inches wide. It comes in a variety of Crumbs' awesome flavors, like Peanut Butter Cup, Devil's Food, Vanilla Coconut, Red Velvet, and my personal favorite: Squiggle (a.k.a the Hostess cupcake). At $35 per, er, cake, it's not cheap, but it's supposed to feed up to eight people. Until you go out and splurge on this insane treat, try some of my all-time favorite F&W cupcakes:

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Espresso Meringue
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling
Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling
 

Baking

Terrific Passover Desserts

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© Quentin Bacon

I've always viewed Passover desserts as a bit like magic tricks, since no flour or leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda are allowed. But there are still plenty of fantastic desserts, from chocolate cakes to macaroons (one of the secrets to amazing unleavened desserts is in the wrist action involved in making snowy whipped egg whites). Here, five desserts for the five nights of Passover still left, like strawberry-red-wine sorbet with crushed meringue, flourless chocolate almond cakes and Mexican chocolate pots de crème (pictured).

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