Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Unbaked Treat

If you came here looking for this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays treat, it'll be up a little later. Due to some poor planning, my Bee Stings are currently cooling.

A couple months back I blogged about my first, and so far only, trip to Omnivore Books on Food, a magical new bookstore in San Francisco. They have a lot of author events there, so I put myself on their email list to keep myself aware of any I may want to attend. When I received the May list of events, I noticed one I wanted to attend: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the authors of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and owners of Baked bakery in New York City. Unfortunately, the “Baked” event was in the evening, and although I am an optimistic planner, the reality is I rarely feel like staying in the city after work - even to hear the creators of possibly the most awesome brownie I’ve ever baked speak. Fortunately, I pass Book Passage in the San Francisco ferry building twice every weekday (not to mention all the times I go in to browse); I check out their listings, too, and noticed that Matt and Renato would be there at 12:30 pm on a Wednesday. I decided attending that event would be a pleasant way to spend a lunch break.

I went, and Matt and Renato were delightful. They spoke briefly and then encouraged audience questions. It was fairly sparsely attended, so there were only a few questions (including mine). It was fun to hear about their experience of leave their previous professions, opening a bakery (and a second one), writing a book, and rising to baking fame. Here are a few highlights from the event:

• They brought brownies! Seriously, they were FedExed from the bakery in New York.
• Matt and Renato are eternally grateful to Oprah for selecting their brownies as a “favorite” in her magazine one month and increasing their mail-order sales exponentially; they said they have a photo of her in their office. And also to Martha Stewart for featuring them early on.
• They feel that the “American” bakeries have basically evolved into cupcakeries (often with vintage décor), and they wanted to get back to more of a classic bakery with a modern aesthetic. They do like cupcakes in moderation, though, and have some on their menu. (I hadn’t really thought of it before, but in the year – officially tomorrow – I’ve lived in Marin, I can think of three bakeries that have opened and all have been cupcake-centric and not that great. In fact, one is already closed.)
• Matt and Renato admitted to a few missteps in their time as bakery owners and one was called the “chocolate chubby,” which was a chocolate cake made with lard. They said they were a bit deceptive, as they did not specify on the menu that it had lard in it, and there were some upset people when they found out. They also mentioned that non-vegetarians shouldn’t be afraid of using lard, as it creates a delicious cake, and they may put the chocolate chubby in their next book (which is to be about regional desserts).
• The Root Beer Bundt Cake. A couple months back I participated in a bake-along hosted by Megan of My Baking Adventures and Nic of Bakeologie, and we baked the Root Beer Bundt Cake from Baked. Despite having two cups of root beer in the batter, plus another quarter cup in the frosting, the root beer flavor was imperceptible. It was a fantastic chocolate cake, though. I asked if there was a way to get it to taste more like root beer and less like chocolate, as I do want to make it again, but I crave the promised root beer punch. Matt and Renato recommended using a natural root beer with less sugar and more spice, getting your hands on some root beer schnapps, and adding more root beer to the frosting. I definitely want to make this cake again, so I am going to try it with their suggestions. You can find the recipe here on Megan’s site.
• They said that if you have moderate baking skills, they next thing you bake should be their Sweet and Salty Cake.

I would say I have moderate baking skills, and I am anxious to try the cake, but instead I made their Dark Chocolate Ice cream. I’m happy I did, as I had yet to make a successful chocolate-based ice cream, and as Mr. Penpen put, this one is “insanely good.”

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream from Baked, New Frontiers in Baking
8 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), finely chopped
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder*

Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and set aside.** Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until just combined. Mix the cream, milk, sugar, and cocoa powder together in a small*** saucepan and bring to just a boil. When warm, remove from hit and slowly whisk a third of the chocolate mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Add the remaining two thirds in separate batches, then return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and reads 170 degrees on a thermometer. Place a mesh strainer over the bowl containing the chopped chocolate and pour the warm mixture through it. Let sit for one minute, then whisk until combined.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least four hours. When thoroughly chilled, whisk again until the mixture is thick and frothy. Freeze the mixture in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions, until it looks like a very thick pudding. Scrape into an airtight container and freeze for at least six hours.

*The notes in the book say they initially used King Arthur’s black cocoa for this recipe, which was incredibly intense, so they recommend using only one tablespoon of that brand and three of regular unsweetened cocoa powder. I used Vahlrona, which was the darkest cocoa powder I had on hand, but I’m now dying to try this black cocoa.
**The instructions say to place the chocolate pieces in the bowl of an electric mixer, but they never specify to use the electric mixer, simply to “whisk.” I normally whisk ice cream custards by hand, but I went ahead and used the whisk attachment, since I figured there must be some reason the recipe said to use the mixer bowl.
***The instructions say to use a small saucepan, but I had to switch in the middle. I recommend using a three-quart sauce pan so you have room to stir the mixture.


Unknown said...

I'm so jealous about the cool author events at not one, but two, bookstores near you! I really need to move. No one cools comes to RI very often :) That ice cream looks terrific, especially when you sandwich it between 2 cookies!

Jaime said...

YUM! those look so good. can't wait to see how your bee stings turned out!

Pamela said...

How cool that you got to be a part of that small group and have some questions answered. Insanely good ice cream, huh? It does look fantastic and I will have to give it a try!

Elyse said...

How exciting! I love Baked! Definitely one of my favorite cookbooks. I'm a fan of the "whole deal" bakeries, none of this cupcakery thing. And you must try their sweet and salty cake...they were right: it's fabulous!! I really need to check out that bookstore. I doubt I'll feel like it after work today, but maybe later on in the week!!

Megan said...

You know, I'm glad you asked them about the cake - because I'd really like to try it again. And root beer schnapps would definitely add something to the mix.

Now I have to go look up the Sweet and Salty cake.... it sounds interesting.

Hanaâ said...

That sounds like so much fun! Isn't it cool to be able to ask questions to the authors themselves? Your ice cream cookies look great, btw. And I'm not even a big ice cream fan :o)