Last week was my birthday, which, of course, meant cake (I don’t know if anyone else has this rule, but it’s one I feel pretty strongly about). This year, my cake was from the Bleecker Street location of Amy’s Bakery, which, you may have noticed, is not pictured above. That’s the view at sunset on my birthday last year, from my hotel room in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. None of my pictures from this year are that great, so I figured I’d start with that instead.
Okay, there’s the cake. In the background is a slice of coconut, which is based on a Hawaiian recipe so I figured it would be awesome. That’s why, despite my better judgement, I ordered it despite the fact that there were only a couple slices left and it was early enough that it was a good bet it had been sitting around for a while. And I have to say that I was sorry that I did. The cake, frosting and filling, which didn’t taste very strongly of coconut, were disappointingly dry and redolent of refrigerator. However, the carrot cake, pictured in the foreground, was extremely moist and sported a generous amount of some of the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. So, my trip wasn’t a complete loss, and I haven’t given up on the coconut; hopefully I’ll catch it sometime when it’s fresh.
So, back to Mexico. Last year I celebrated my birthday with three different pasteles de tres leches (for anyone keeping count, that’s NINE different leches). Two were from a fancy little bakery called Tere Cazola: the one pictured above is their cajeta version, and I also got a slice of fudge.
The third slice, the misshapen chunk shown above, is from Mega, a giant supermarket that I am strangely drawn to, especially for its bakery. I mean, how can you argue with giant slabs of cake from which you can hack off your own piece (thus explaining the weird shape of the one I got)? I can’t remember much about those cakes from long ago except that than the Mega one was the milkiest, and there’s wasn’t anything left at the end of the day.
P.S. There was one amazing piece of cake on my birthday this year. I had dinner at Casellula in Hell’s Kitchen, and among their desserts was a warm individual-sized sweet potato cake, servered with sour cream, butter pecan ice cream and caramel sauce poured tableside. Heavenly.Amy’s Bread Multiple Locations http://www.amysbread.com/ Tere Cazola http://terecazola.com/home.php Casellula 401 W. 52nd Street New York, NY 10019 212-247-8137 http://www.casellula.com
Note: Most of this post was written before Hurricane Sandy and Election Day 2012. Does that change anything? Not really. Just thought I’d mention it.
If you follow food blogs, this is probably the ninetieth recipe you’ve seen recently featuring pumpkin or some other sort of winter squash. The ingredient is everywhere these days, which is probably what inspired me to whip up this soufflé. And by the way, “whip up” is an intended double entendre; of course, I’m referring to the egg whites that are the base of this French dessert, but I’m also hinting at how easy it is to put this together.
There aren’t many ingredients: pumpkin purée, two kinds of sugar, a bunch of spices and egg whites. And if you prepare everything beforehand, it’s super-easy to finish it off right before you plan on serving it. In fact, it’s helpful to do your prep ahead of time, because then you can play with your leftover egg yolks. This recipe calls for a full dozen whites, so good luck using them all, but I usually get rid of a few by making a crème anglaise that goes with my egg white–laden dessert.
For the soufflé, I used a recipe from pastry chef Emily Luchetti’s Classic Stars Desserts. I love her books; she writes in an easy-going, friendly voice that makes them fun to flip through and read. The anglaise recipe was found in a three-ring binder from when I worked in restaurants. I have no idea whose it was or where I got it, but I tweaked it, so now it’s mine.
In terms of outcome, the results were tasty, but the soufflé didn’t rise as high as I’d expected. It also took longer to bake than the time given in the recipe; when I first cut into it, it was still pretty liquidy inside. Both of these things were most likely my fault. First, I folded room-temp whites into cold pumpkin purée, causing it to seize up instead of incorporating nicely; next time I’ll take it out of the fridge earlier. Also, my baking dish is more of a round casserole than a traditional soufflé, and it slopes out at the top a little. I’m not sure that made a difference but it was all I had, and can you blame me for wanting to use Le Creuset bakeware for such a trés Français dessert?
Recipes after the jump.
Today was the 38th annual Atlantic Antic, which stretched along about a mile of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. I, of course, went to check out the food. Here’s a bunch of stuff that I saw, and a bunch of stuff that I ate.
The first place I hit up was this table outside a church filled with way more cakes than you see here, all served by women who can only be described as “church ladies.”
I went with the strawberry cake with lemon frosting because, well, pink cake! I’m not sure how natural the strawberry and lemon flavors were but it was tasty, and it was probably one of the moistest layer cakes I’ve ever had.
Mile End Deli was also there–that’s Noah Bernamoff in the top left corner. Though I couldn’t sample their smoked meat sandwich, I’ve included this because Mile End is pretty hot right now and I’m not one to pass up an SEO opportunity.
Ten dollars got you a small version of their sandwich, plus a dill pickle and a scoop of potato salad. Did I mention that this was from MILE END? I ate the pickle, which was excellent.
Other places mostly selling things I couldn’t eat included the hundreds of stands offering various Caribbean cuisines, plus miles and miles of soul food.
I did find one Caribbean joint selling coconut cheesecake. Now you’re talking! I know nothing about Plum Tree except that they were really nice and got extra points for giving me free samples.
I carried this slice of cheesecake around for most of the afternoon and was so excited to finally eat it that I forgot to take a picture until I was about halfway through. But it was as good as it had looked when I first bought it–a little more more eggy and custardy than your normal cheesecake, it had a really nice essence of the coconut, plus a graham cracker crust.
Lest you think I only ate cake, there was also this spanikopita from Sahadi’s, which is also my favorite reason to go to Brooklyn. These were warm, crisp and flaky, and filled with a creamy spinach-feta mixture. I also had some falafel, which had obviously been fried long before and is barely worth mentioning.
Next door to Sahadi’s is Damascus Bakery, my second favorite reason to go to Brooklyn. Their pastries are amazing. I had the cheese knaffee, which is also known as kanafeh.
Close-up of the knaffee, which is kataïfi wrapped around a sweet cheesy filling and then, like most Middle Eastern pastries, soaked in a rosewater-scented syrup. It was messy and delicious.
Also occurring on Atlantic Avenue this weekend was the opening of the Barclays Center and three sold-out Jay-Z concerts. Neither of which are really pertinent to this post, but that’s two more SEO opportunities right there!
I found this strange pastry in a bakery on Roosevelt Avenue, somewhere between Corona and Woodside, following a Mets game (they won, in case you were wondering). It was basically two thin layers of cake sandwiching a thick layer of very enticing pink stuff that turned out to be some sort of hard, yet creamy, strawberry-flavored gelatin. No one who was with me really liked it, which was fine–more for me. Here’s what it looks like from the other side (and I’m sorry there aren’t any pictures of the full slice; I’d eaten most of it before I thought to snap a few shots):
Has anyone out there had any experience with this sort of cake? It’s not anything I’d seen before, and I’d love to know what it is. Please hurry with your answer–we’re on the edge of our seats.
During my trip to Cleveland a few months back, I was asked to choose a restaurant for a family dinner. I could have picked someplace new, hip and trendy, but when local favorite Geraci’s, a basic red-sauce Italian joint, was suggested, I jumped at the chance to try their famous pizza. Having just seen a feature on them on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (a show I love for its content just as much as I hate its host), I was curious to see if they’d live up to the hype.
Geraci’s is the type of place so frequented by locals that when you sit down, the server asks if you want a menu instead of just handing one to you. Our hosts for the evening, my cousins Mel and Lois, didn’t–there was no question that they would be sharing the antipasto and a large pepperoni pie.
Geraci’s is famous for its pepperoni, which, as you can see in the picture below, is smaller and cut thicker than most. I can’t attest to its taste, but if the crowds lining up to get in are any indication, not to mention the folks raving about it on TV, I can guess it’s pretty spectacular. And on a side note, this will probably be the most pornographic picture of meat you will ever see on this blog.
Not as well-versed with Geraci’s as my cousins, my grandmother and I needed menus, and I have to admit that I grappled with the desire to order eggplant parmigiana, my usual go-to in Italian fare. But I’d gone there to try the pizza, so my grandmother and I ended up splitting a large pie with mushrooms (file with Guy Fieri under the category of “Things I Hate”) and onions on her half while mine featured green olives, which I can never resist if they’re available.
At Geraci’s, your pizza arrives at your table whole and is then sliced in front of you by your server, four “cuts” for the small pie, eight for the large. Even the large pie is not very big–at least by NYC standards–and I managed to eat 3/4 of my half, which works out to be . . . well, you do the math.
With its thick, bready crust, this is definitely not a NY-style slice, and not being a pizza aficionado, I can’t really compare it to other styles. Also, it’s been too long since I was there to properly describe its taste, but the fact that I don’t have any notes suggests that I was too busy enjoying my dinner to take any. I also devoured my remaining slice straight from the fridge the following morning and remember enjoying that as well. The one thing I can say for certain is that I now understand why locals are willing to wait in line for Geraci’s homestyle Italian favorites.
One final note: I don’t usually post personal photos on 5CentsPlain, but I couldn’t resist this one of my cousin Mel and my grandmother, the real reasons for my trip to Cleveland (and you thought I’d only gone there to eat). Aren’t they the cutest?!Geraci’s Restaurant 2266 Warrensville Center Road University Heights, OH 44118 (216) 371-5643