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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

Recipes

Marcus Samuelsson's Chicken Secrets

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Chicken Dance spotlights a fantastic Food & Wine chicken recipe every day.

Courtesy of Paul Brissman

© Courtesy of Paul Brissman

This afternoon, superchef Marcus Samuelsson stopped by the Food & Wine Facebook wall for a live Kitchen Insider chat. We learned his secret-weapon spice mix (berbere), and the chef even dished on what he ate last night: Fried Yard Bird at his restaurant Red Rooster in Harlem. Samuelsson previewed that preparation in this Food & Wine video, calling it “the crunchiest, the crispiest, the best damn chicken in all of New York City.” It involves an immersion circulator, a piece of serious cooking equipment used to cook foods sous vide at a consistent low temperature. Samuelsson then fries the meat, twice.

It’s probably best to try his fancy bird at the source, but home cooks without high-tech kitchens can still experiment with double-frying in this recipe for Crispy Twice-Fried Chicken, from Samuelsson's fellow NYC superchef Zak Pelaccio.

 

Restaurants

The Best Sellers at Michael Voltaggio's ink sack

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© Ryan Tanaka

It's one week into Michael Voltaggio surprise sandwich spot, ink sack. A twist on his original idea—a Venice beach sandwich kiosk called Fingers—Voltaggio now has lines down Melrose Avenue for his 4-inch sandwiches. Why so small? "Usually I get bored with eating a big sandwich," says Voltaggio. "Here you can eat two, three different ones. Or you can eat one, and then get in line and order two more of the same. It's kind of like a food truck that way; a food truck that doesn't move."

Which brings us to ink. sack's best selling sandwiches thus far. It's a tie. Best seller #1 is the cold fried chicken. It's made with chicken thighs cooked sous vide with piment d'esplette, then breaded in corn flakes and fried; it's served with ranch dressing (that includes curds of centrifuged buttermilk) and hot sauce. Best seller #2 is the José Andrés, aka the Spanish godfather. It's stuffed with chorizo, lomo and Serrano ham (the only meats Voltaggio doesn't prepare in house) and olives, piquillo peppers, manchego cheese and sherry vinaigrette. It's also got good old romaine lettuce, which apparently comes as a surprise to a few customers. "Some people come in with expectations of avant-garde dining. Do you want liquid nitrogen frozen lettuce on your sandwich? I don't. These are sandwiches the way I want to eat them," says Voltaggio.

ink.sack, 8360 Melrose Ave., No. 107, Los Angeles, CA.

Books

Bookstores for Food Lovers

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The September issue reveals some of the best new shops for food-obsessed readers.

Heirloom Book Company in Charleston, SC

© Courtesy of Heirloom Book Company/Photo by Andrew Stephen Cebulka
Heirloom Book Company in Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC: Heirloom Book Company
For people who want to eat their food and read about it too, this new shop has books on food and wine and out-of-print cookbooks, alongside antique kitchen tools and seeds from local chef Sean Brock of McCrady's. After-hours, the homey Heirloom hosts small in-store dinners cooked by chefs from all around the South.

London: V&A Reading Rooms
This stand-alone shop run by the Victoria and Albert Museum lures in readers with its books on design and art. It gets them to stay with a small menu of snacks (olives, lemon almonds) and organic wines chosen by Duncan Ackery to drink while (carefully) perusing the stacks.

Related:
Marvel Superheroes' Cookbook and More Comics
Healthy Italian Recipes from Cookbook Author Jessica Theroux

Wine

Wine Pairing Guide to Shrimp, Scallops, Crab and Mussels

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New York City is a sweat-slick, hideously hot, concrete-covered steambath right now, something that actually doesn’t make me think of wine so much as igloos. So maybe it’s the idea of summer—cool breezes off the water, sunlight on white sand, nothing to do but lounge around—that always gets me thinking about shellfish. Lobster rolls…crab rolls…shrimp on the grill…a big bowl of mussels in some sort of white wine sauce with a little garlic and parsley…scallop ceviche with cilantro and a zap of lime juice…anyway, you get the idea. Here are five suggestions for great summer whites to go with all those tasty, shell-covered denizens of the sea.
 
2010 Aveleda Vinho Verde Casal Garcia ($8) Vinho Verde really ought to be described with comic-book words: ZAP! POW! KA-ZING! It’s thrillingly tart, with a happy touch of fizz and a kind of cracked-oyster-shell mineral note that makes it incredibly refreshing. Casal Garcia is a classic: Chill the heck out of it, then serve with something messy like shell-on cold boiled shrimp.
 
2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling ($9) Washington’s Chateau Ste Michelle makes more Riesling than anyone else in the world—close to a million cases a year. Most of that is off-dry (lightly sweet), but I prefer the winery’s crisp, peachy, dry bottling. It’s a great crab wine—cracked crab, crab rolls, crab salad, crab-on-a-stick, you name it.
 
2010 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc ($9) Chile tends to be known for inexpensive reds, but the real secret is the country’s terrific Sauvignon Blancs. The cold winds off the Pacific give Sauvignon Blancs like this one a finely-tuned citrus zestiness, perfect for ceviche (something else they do extremely well in Chile).
 
2010 Domaine Lafage Cote d’Est ($10) This floral southern French white tastes like it costs twice the price. It’s sealed with a screwcap, handy for picnics when you realize you forgot the corkscrew. It’s also cheap enough that you could use half the bottle for steaming mussels, and still have two glasses left to drink.
 
2010 Salneval Albariño ($12) Minerally Albariños like this one are the mainstay of Spain’s Rias Baixas region. The other big industry there? Fishing, and shellfish farming—the locals raise mussels, oysters and scallops on long ropes that stretch down into the water from eucalyptus-wood platforms called bateas.
 
Related Links:
20 Fast Shellfish Recipes
16 Bargain Wines
More Value Wines
Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine off a Wine List
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

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