Category: review (page 1 of 9)

Up your dessert game with Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson
I’ve been a fan of Joy Wilson’s gorgeous blog Joy the Baker for awhile. Though I don’t read it daily, I like to pop over, skim through her posts, and get some inspiration when I’m thinking about creating a new recipe. Joy has a wonderful voice, her photography is drool-worthy, and you can’t beat her fun and creative recipes.

Her first book, Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes, was published in 2012, and now she’s back with a gorgeous followup, Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats.

I think the title says it all, and it doesn’t hurt that one of the most decadent cakes from the book is front and center on the cover (just look at those pretzels!). With 125 recipes (and wonderful photos to match), there’s a little something for every baker. The book is broken into 5 sections:

Brunch
Cookies, Brownies and Bars
Pies, Crumbles and Cobblers
Layer Cakes, Cupcakes and Skillet Cakes
Ice Cream Social

I’ve already made note of a couple pies I want to make (Hello, Apple Pie with Cheddar-Bacon Crust????!!!!!), and the books already looks fantastic on my cookbook shelf.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Cookie-inspired beers from Flying Dog Brewery in time for the holidays

Flying Dog Holiday Collection of beers and cookies

A couple weeks ago I received one of the latest creative collections from Frederick Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery: The Holiday Collection.

Since I’m on the brewery’s media mailing list, I often get a bottle of a new beer every now and again, and when it makes sense, I bake with and write about them. But this package was surprising and different from many of the others. Within, there were 4 bottles of beer and a box of Otterbein cookies. The press release explained:

Introducing The Holiday Collection: 4 Otterbein’s cookie-inspired craft beers in a brand new variety 12-pack.

A Baltimore mainstay since 1881, the Otterbein’s cookie recipes have been passed down among 5 generations. Pairing tradition with innovation, the beers were inspired by and meant to pair with these iconic cookies.

Opening the box was a bit like Christmas morning. I unwrapped each carefully packed beer, reading the amusing label copy (Flying Dog never fails to make their beers fun), and within a bakery box were multiple bags of crispy cookies.

I sat down and sampled each beer, along with the cookie designated for each, and here are my thoughts:

Imperial Hefeweizen, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Sugar Cookies
This beer was my favorite out of the 4. It hit all the right hefe notes, with a little more spicy punch and an amazing aroma. And the sugar cookie did not disappoint. All of Otterbein’s cookies are extremely thin, but they don’t lack in flavor. This particular sugar cookie had a great crunch, was buttery, and had some toasty notes. Out of the 4, I feel like this was the best beer and cookie pairing.

Roasted Peanut Brown Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
According to my press sheet, the particular yeast strain used in this beer gives it some roasty peanut notes, which I thought was rather clever. At first, I didn’t pick up the peanut flavor, but it sort of “bloomed” on my tongue (just a little homebrewer speak there). Sadly, the flavor began to dissipate as I continued sipping the beer and I was left with just a nice brown ale. The chocolate chip cookie was also crispy, but there was something off about the chocolate. I think it was milk chocolate, which I’m not a fan of, especially in cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Stout, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
For an oatmeal stout, this beer was a bit thin and seemed more like a porter. I unfortunately didn’t pick up any raisin in the beer, and I think an imperial-style would have been better for this particular flavor profile. As for the cookie, they were wonderfully spiced and crispy and quite the delight to nibble.

Oak-Aged Hazelnut Scotch Ale, inspired by and paired with Otterbein’s Ginger Cookies
This beer is another one that uses specific ingredients to get a unique flavor: in this case, the malts provide the hazelnut character. But I couldn’t pick up any hazelnut. For an oak aged beer, this also was a bit volatile when first poured (all I could taste was the barrel), but after letting it sit a few minutes, it settled and was pleasantly nutty (just not hazelnutty). The ginger cookie delivered on the ginger and had that wonderful Otterbein crunch, but the pairing fell flat for me. I think a molasses-based cookie would have worked better.

Though not every beer and cookie pairing worked for me, I enjoyed seeing Flying Dog flex their creative muscle and have fun. They’re the kind of brewery I’m always excited to see more from, and as a baker, I really like the fact that they fostered such a great relationship with a well-loved Maryland bakery.

Disclosure: I received the beers and cookies from Flying Dog brewery to sample, however my opinions are my own.

Stepping into David Lebovitz’s Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchen by David LebovitzI might be a little late to the David Lebovitz fan club, but I fell in love with The Sweet Life in Paris when I read it 2 years ago. As a former French student, it was fascinating to see what life is like in Paris outside of the confines of a text book, and the sprinkling of recipes was a nice touch.

Now we have a more intimate invitation to join him in My Paris Kitchen, and wow. What an invitation. The book is absolutely stunning — the photography is mouthwatering, but somehow ernest (nothing feels flashy). And with 100 recipes, ranging from savory to sweet, to choose from, there’s definitely a little quelque chose français for everyone.

While I’ve had a copy of this book for a bit, I haven’t cooked from it just yet, simply because I’m a bit overwhelmed and awed by the recipes. But I do look forward to making my first selection and feeling like I have David at my elbow, guiding me.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Fried & True: Stepping away from the oven and up to the skillet

Fried and True

Though it’s not baking related, I HAD to share this new book, Fried & True by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (with a sassy and thoughtful foreword by Whoopi Goldberg). The big pull for me, I have to admit, was that this book contains THE recipe for some of the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, from Federal Donuts in Center City, Philadelphia.

The book contains more than 50 recipes for fried chicken, and yes, if you didn’t think it was possible to make fried chicken 50 different ways, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong you are.

Fried & True is broken up into the following sections:

  • Southern Inspiration
  • American Originals
  • Pacific Rim
  • Sandwiches, Wings, Li’l Bits, and Special Diets

And it offers a little something for everyone, including delicious side dishes such as biscuits, hash brown casserole, smothered cabbage, as well as recipes for rubs, sauces, brings and more.

I was happy to see that the book doesn’t skimp on food photography … almost every other page has a stunning photo of fried chicken and sides. Of course, excellent photography adds to the visual appeal of flipping through a book, but I also think it’s extremely helpful to be able to look at food photos for guidance. Does my chicken look like that? Yes? Ok then … time to eat!

The front of the book, even before diving into the recipes, has a full photograph tutorial showing how to break down a full chicken, as well as a spread explaining the variety of fats and oils that can be used (I totally geeked out while looking through the book for the first time on the couch with Ray, exclaiming, “Ohmigod, it includes the smoke points!!!” I’m such a nerd.)

My only criticism is that paperbacks don’t always make for the best cookbooks because they’re hard to keep open without weighing them down with something, and then things can become awkward. But if that’s the only beef I have with this book, then I can look past it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Visiting Kittie’s Cakes in Columbus

Cupcakes from Kittie's Cakes

Cupcakes, starting at the far left and going clockwise: Angry Buckeye, Stout Mocha, “Hot” Chocolate and White Lavender

While in Columbus a couple of weekends ago for my cousin’s wedding, we stopped in to check out Kittie’s Cakes based on a friend’s recommendation. Nestled in the German Village area of Columbus, the shop is one of the coolest bakeries I’ve seen! There is such a clear aesthetic, from the baked goods to packaging and decor. Ray and I were both wowed.

We selected 4 mini cupcakes to take on the long drive home with us, a couple of bottles of Stumptown cold brew and 2—wait, make that 4 because Ray took one bite of his and declared that we had to get extras—cheddar bacon scones.

And Ray was right. The scones were buttery and crumbled just the way a scone should. I loved the salt sprinkled on top and the balance of bacon and cheddar throughout. What a treat.

8 hours later, once we got home and unloaded the car, we dug right into the cupcakes. We ordered the White Lavender, Stout Mocha, “Hot” Chocolate and Angry Buckeye.

White Lavender: A white cake baked with Ohio lavender with vanilla buttercream. This was possibly the most fragrant of the 4 cupcakes, with the cake smelling distinctly of lavender and the buttercream having a wonderfully warm vanilla scent. Both the cake and the frosting textures were perfect, which is a big deal for me.

Stout Mocha: A chocolate stout cake with espresso buttercream and a chocolate-covered espresso bean on top. While this flavor isn’t new, we were both blown away with how it tasted—it really delivered. I could actually smell the beer in the cake, and taste it as well. Ray was able to pick up some fruity esters in the stout cake, which definitely impressed him.

“Hot” Chocolate: A chocolate cake with a spicy milk chocolate ganache filling, topped with a milk chocolate buttercream and crushed red hots. I was fascinated at how dark this cake was (same with the Angry Buckeye). The milk chocolate frosting was super creamy, and we found that the ganche filling left our mouths with a nice slow burn. That said, we both thought it could have been amped up even more.

Angry Buckeye: A chocolate cake with a spicy peanut butter filling, dark chocolate buttercream and a dollop of spicy peanut butter. I sampled this cupcake alone, due to Ray’s peanut allergy. This chocolate cake was like the one before it, but I was floored at how dark the dark chocolate buttercream was—it’s almost black! The buttercream was perfection, and I really appreciated the spicy peanut butter filling. It wasn’t too sweet, and instead had a really great nutty flavor.

Overall, we both agreed that Kittie’s Cakes might be one of the best bakeries we’ve been to. From the taste of their baked goods to the look of their shop, we were instantly smitten. If you find yourself in Columbus, definitely stop by, and go early! Kittie’s focuses on the freshest of goodies, and they often sellout early.
Kittie's Cakes on Urbanspoon

T-shirt awesomeness from Johnny Cupcakes

Bake-o-saurus Johnny Cupcakes tshirt
In June I placed my first order with funky fresh apparel company Johnny Cupcakes, snagging the Bake-a-saurus t-shirt. I’ve been eyeing JC’s products for awhile, but have been hesitant based on the price of most non-sale items.

And then this adorable t-shirt went on sale, combining my love of cupcakes and dinosaurs, and I couldn’t pass it up for $20 plus shipping. And I’m happy to say the shirt looks great and came with a ton of little freebies, like stickers and buttons. Also, I loved the quick thank you note written on the custom Johnny Cupcakes mailer.

So, if you’re looking for some cute cupcake gear, definitely check Johnny Cupcakes out. The shipping is reasonable and quick, you get a great product, and you can tell that your package was handled with care, just the way you’d handle your most precious baked goods!

Disclosure: I was not offered free or discounted merchandise from Johnny Cupcakes to write this post … I was just really impressed with my t-shirt, the packaging, and shipping time. All opinions are my own.

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