Archive | August, 2011

Big Sugar Bakeshop for a Big Sweet Tooth

9 Aug
Big Sugar Bakeshop’s double coconut and Belgian chocolate cupcakes.

Moist red velvet cake topped with vanilla buttercream.

Located in Studio City, California, Big Sugar Bakeshop presents a wide array of decadent baked goods. Though all their sweet treats are equally irresistible, I especially love Big Sugar’s hand-crafted cupcakes. Everyday, the bakeshop offers seven unchanging cupcake flavors in addition to five daily specials. With its airy dough and rich cream cheese frosting covered in confetti-like shavings of tender coconut, double coconut remains my favorite cupcake flavor. Having visited several bakeries throughout Los Angeles, I strongly recommend Big Sugar for its high level of products and customer service. No matter what item you choose to indulge in, I can guarantee that you will enjoy every last bite.

Citrus-Almond Biscotti

6 Aug

Recipe adapted from William Sonoma’s The Art of the Cookie

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted, slivered almonds
The zest of 1 orange

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white with 1 teaspoon water; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the 2 eggs and almond and vanilla extracts and beat on low speed until the eggs are incorporated. Beating on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Add the almonds and the orange zest until just distributed.
3. Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece into a 4 1/2-by-7-inch log and transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 4 inches apart. Brush the tops of the logs with the egg white mixture and lightly sprinkle them with granulated sugar.
4. Bake until the tops of the logs are light brown, 18-20 minutes. Remove the cookies and leave the oven on. Using a serrated knife, cut each log into 10 slices about 3/4 of an inch thick. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the sheet and bake until the biscotti are golden brown, 10 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Biscotti have never been my favorite cookie. Always rock-hard and stale, I have had several unpleasant experiences with biscotti in the past. This recipe altered my negative perception of the traditional Italian cookie. The savory almond contrasts perfectly with the tangy orange zest, creating an ideal consistency and flavor balance. Unlike the others I had tried, these citrus-almond biscotti are beautifully crisp and golden brown on the tops and barely moist on the insides. You can substitute the almond and citrus for various fruits, nuts, and chocolates based on personal preference or seasonal availability of products. If you are impartial to biscotti because of a sour past experience, I strongly encourage you to try this recipe. I can assure that you will not be disappointed.

Le Petit Gouter

3 Aug
In celebration of my 16th birthday, my family and I spent a weekend in Paris. We toured the breathtaking city of lights, visiting museums and monuments galore. But by far the most memorable aspect of Paris was the food, specifically the pastry. Host to countless patisseries and chocolatiers, Paris offers a wide array of meticulously-crafted pastries and desserts. I visited some of the city’s most acclaimed pastry shops, sampling numerous sweet treats.

The Parisians are known for their impeccable attention to detail, especially in the culinary arts. Each individual pastry is assembled to perfection; a dessert-lover’s fantasy.
La Patisserie des Reves, the most innovative of all the boutiques I encountered, offers original creations unavailable at mainstream pastry shops. Individual glass domes encapsulate each pastry, allowing the viewer to closely admire the pastry as one would view a masterpiece in a gallery. Their most well-known piece (pictured above), the paris-brest, combines eight airy hazelnut cream puffs into a single seamless wreath. My family and I picked up the paris-brest and walked to a nearby park to enjoy the dainty dessert. Each one of us tore off a bite-sized puff and popped it into our mouthes, relishing the delicious moment.
French chocolates exceeded my expectations. The Patrick Roger Chocolatier presents the finest, most diverse variety of homemade chocolates available in Paris. From rich truffles dusted in chalky cocoa powder to rustic dried fruit and nut clusters dunked in creamy milk chocolate, Patrick Roger crafts all its specialty chocolates on a daily basis to ensure only the highest-quality products for its customers.