Bake For Good: A Sweet Adventure with King Arthur Flour

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good


A few months ago I get an email from King Arthur Flour asking if I'll join their "Bake For Good" event in Seattle. Now, without even knowing what that was, my initial impulse was to say "yes! YES!". You see, I am a big fan of King Arthur Flour. One of the benefits of being a blogger is that you're allowed to be a groupie for things like flour companies. 

Only there were two problems. One was that I don't live in Seattle any longer, and they weren't paying for airfare. Second (bigger issue) was that I would be in Bali on the days of the event. So with a heavy heart I had to say no. I realize that you probably feel terrible for me that I had to turn something down because I would be in Bali.

Happily, there was a solution which made everyone happy: an event a couple of weeks later, in LA. I said yes, bought a plane ticket, and proceeded to not look up anything about the event I was attending. 

A few days before, I acquinted myself with the event, and was very impressed with what I found. 

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

What is Bake For Good? 

According to the King Arthur blog, "Bake for Good is the umbrella name we give to everything we do here at King Arthur Flour to make the world a better place – through baking."

Loved it already. Don't you?

So, as part of their do-gooding outreach, King Arthur Flour decided to do several events, tour-style in the midwest and on the west coast, where they are not as well known. This had a double benefit--people in these areas could learn about their fantastic products, and they could do some good while they were out and about. 

On this particular tour, they would meet up with bloggers for two days in each city. The first day they taught us how to make bread and pies, and then we immediately put our newfound knowledge to work and baked up a storm. 

The next day, we took our baked goods to a shelter, and rounded it out with a full dinner. Let me tell you, this was a fantastic treat for them as well as for us. There was nobody who didn't win in this equation. 

Now that I have given you the basics, I will tell you about my adventure. 

Day 1: Meet, greet, bake. 

Day 1 started out bright and early, at 7.30 AM. As I approached the group, one lady said "Hello, Jessie!". I returned the greeting, cautiously. How did she know my name? Turns out, Susan Reid, one of the King Arthur Flour bakers and editor of The Baking Sheet newsletter, had done her homework. She not only knew everyone's name and face, but details about us (that I was from NJ, for instance). This was very impressive and just a little creepy--but in an awesome, how can I be more like that? kind of way. 

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

The group was composed of seven talented food writers and bloggers including myself. I was lucky enough to meet Julianne of Beyond Frosting, Nicole of Pinch My Salt, Jennie and Corelyn of Garlic My Soul, Farley of Over Over Under and LA Weekly, and Jessica of Beer and Baking. I already had a good opinion of these people going into the event, but it only became a better opinion once I got to know them better. Good people!

They warmed us up by letting us taste the still-warm chocolate chip scones you see above. Good. Good. Good.

We started out our baking with a bread tutorial from Robyn, another of the King Arthur Bakers. This woman was like a baking encyclopedia. She knew everything. She showed us the proper way to mix bread dough, knead, and shape it. Really, it was a great bonding experience. 

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

In spite of knowing everything, she was very inclusive of people who knew less. One thing I've always felt a deep shame about is my lack of proper training--I can get it done, baking-wise, but I don't always follow the proper procedure. When I asked things like "Is it OK that at this point I would normally just use my hands to mix the dough?" which were clearly NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER, she lovingly would assure me that I was doing fine without turning into a crazy pastry chef who yells "sacre bleu, you are doing eet all wrong!". 

BTW, I made copious notes. 

Under Robyn's tutelage, we quickly found ourselves making rolls...and then a braided loaf...and then a mega-braided (6 strands, baby!) loaf. Say what?

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

Yup. We did good.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

After a break, we were back to the dough and it was time for pie.

Pie Time

Now, unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know that People Are Scared Of Pie Crust. I don't see why--I'm not. But at the same time, while it's turned out fine, I've never been properly trained.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

Robyn showed us not one right way but two, and explained that there isn't one way. Before we knew it we were rolling and patting our crust into the pan with delightfully visible butter in the crust. 

But the coolest parts, to me, were these.

1. Robyn showed us how to peel an apple with high speed. First, peel the top, and don't lift the peeler. Drag it down and peel around the bottom. Now, bring the peeler in strokes along the sides, letting it lift between strokes. Seriously. So fast. 

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

2. She showed us how to flute the crust. I never knew how to do this pointy style.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

3. Susan stepped in and showed us how to do a lattice crust. She told us that the way I have always done it--right on the pie--is not necessarily incorrect, but that to keep things from getting messy, it's easier to do it on an upside down pie plate. How right she was! Plus, this has an amazing "voila" moment when you transfer it. It's exhilarating and fun.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

We baked up our treats and felt very satisfied. We packed them up for day two, and retired to dinner.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

We all went to a place called Little Beast for dinner. It was adorable - the amount of mason jars present in this restaurant was up through the stratosphere. Pinterest would love this place. But more importantly, it was freaking delicious. I had a really amazing chocolate mousse for dessert. It was served in a mason jar, natch.

I wore a sequined unicorn dress, if that matters.

There was a moment of stress when someone suggested the table share desserts. "I cannot tell a lie," I bravely confessed, "I do not share dessert." so I had this baby all to myself. I'm pretty sure everyone else was jealous. 

Photo via Beer and BakingDay 2: Sharing and caring

The next day was a bevy of doing good and meeting others who do good.

We started by visiting Homeboy Industries. Seriously, if you have never heard of this place, you need to. They do fantastic and inspiring things.

In a nutshell, Homeboy "serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with a continuum of free services and programs, and operates seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites."

Former gang members--some previously jailed--are given a second chance by working at this world class bakery, working their way to recovery. As they gain experience and skill, they also gain entry back into the "real" world. We got to speak to several of the bakers and they were all amazingly inspiring, having come from the bottom to where they are today. Without a doubt every single person was a hard worker, and thankful for the opportunity. 

King arthur flour trip

And equally as important as their message...the cookies are great! 

After leaving Homeboy, we headed over to PATH to cook a dinner for the residents. We created a number of Susan's recipes, including mac n cheese, Spanish rice, lime-scented chicken, and veggies. We worked together in the tiny kitchen and made it happen, serving our wares along with the bread and the pies we'd made the day before. Talk about a good feeling, especially when we saw the smiles on the residents' faces. The shelter residents, I learned, rarely see food of this caliber, much less homemade desserts.

IMPORTANT: We all felt good at the end of the day. 

Photo via Beer and Baking

- - - - - -


King Arthur Flour Bake For Good

You didn't think I'd leave you hanging, did you? Here are the tasty recipes we made. Both are courtesy of King Arthur Flour.


Yield: 1 large loaf, about 18 servings.

  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water*
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules

*Use the lesser amount in summer or humid climates; the greater amount in winter or drier climates.

  1. Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead — by hand, or using a stand mixer — to make a smooth dough. It won't be particularly soft nor stiff; it should be smooth and feel bouncy and elastic under your hands.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container. Cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it's very puffy, 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a fat 9" log. Place it in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  4. Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it's crowned 1" to 1 1/2" over the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, till it's golden brown. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 195°F to 200°F.
  6. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature.

King Arthur Flour Bake For Good


For the crust

  • 2 1/2 cups Perfect Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 7 to 10 tablespoons ice water


  • 8 cups sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider or undiluted apple juice concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced in small pieces


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  2. Cut in the shortening until it's in lumps the size of small peas.
  3. Dice the butter into 1/2" pieces, and cut into the mixture until you have flakes of butter the size of your fingernail.
  4. Add the water, two tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough
  5. When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, transfer it to a piece of wax or parchment paper. It's OK if there are some dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you'll add just enough water to bring the dough together without creating a wet spot.
  6. Fold the dough over on itself three or four times to bring it together, then divide it in half and pat it into two disks 3/4" thick.  
  7. Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.  
  8. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan that's at least 2 inches deep. This will make serving the pie easier after it's baked. 
  9. Combine the sliced apples and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples, and stir to coat them. Stir in the boiled cider or apple juice concentrate.
  11. Roll out half of the pastry to a 13" circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the rim of the pan by an inch all the way around.
  12. Spoon the apple filling into the pan. Dot the top with the diced butter.
  13. Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11" circle. Cut decorative vent holes, if desired. Carefully place the pastry over the apples.
  14. Time to preheat the oven to 425°F.
  15. Roll the overhanging bottom crust up and over the top crust, pinching to seal the two.
  16. Flute the edges of the pie, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up the crust while the oven finishes heating.
  17. Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 40 minutes more, until you see the filling bubbling inside the pie. Check the pie after half an hour of baking time, and cover the edges with foil or a pie shield to keep them from browning too quickly.
  18. When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and cool it completely before slicing.

To learn more about Homeboy Industries and PATH, click on the respective hyperlinks. 

To learn more about the Bake for Good program, visit the King Arthur site.  

Bali Diary: What is Palm Sugar?


When you go to Bali, you'll probably notice pretty quickly that the sugar is different there. 

Personally, I noticed it the first time that I was brought a coffee in a cafe. They delivered it with a small dish of what looked like the darkest brown sugar I'd ever seen. 

As I was looking at it, fascinated and slightly confused, someone who had been in Bali longer than me looked over knowingly. "Palm sugar," she said. "I never use refined sugar at home, but this doesn't seem to affect my blood sugar as much." (People in Bali, usually tourists, talk like this).

Palm sugar. Interesting. I started to notice that it was everywhere. See it behind that lovely (cookie-included) latte?


At some cafes, palm sugar was served as a simple syrup, which resembled pancake syrup. At others, in a dish, like my first experience. Interestingly, in stores and at open air markets, it was sold in thick, fat little cakes, sometimes dome-shaped, sometimes in cones. It was shaved or cut into portions, which reminded me of a story I'd heard about the early United States, wherein Colonial ladies of the house would have special shears specifically designed to cut sugar, which was at the time purchased as large cones. 

So what is palm sugar, exactly?

Palm sugar is derived from the palmyra or sugar palm (and has a relative, coconut palm sugar, which is made from the coconut palm--so if you look it up, you may come across this term, too). Once cut, the flower buds produce a sweet yet very liquid sap; this sap is collected and boiled until it has reduced to a sticky sugar consistency. From that point, it can be either bottled as a liquid, or whipped and then dropped into molds so that it will solidify. Sound familiar? In my opinion, this process has quite a similarity to the process of making maple syrup or sugar.

Taste-wise, palm sugar is slightly mellower than granulated sugar, and in my opinion, has a flavor that is like molasses-meets-honey. It's very flavorful, and is a singular flavor when used simply, as in the coconut pancakes served at Seniman Coffee, where only a few ingredients allow every flavor to shine.

Photo via Wikipedia commons

Why are there so many variances in color?

Another thing I noticed is that palm sugar can have quite a large variance in color, from honey yellow to a deep, dark brown. Basically, this boils down to (ha ha) how long and how high the temperature was when the sap was reduced. As I observed, even the same brand or vendor would have no two portions of sugar that were completely "cookie cutter"--because this isn't a highly processed sugar, there is a little bit more variation from batch to batch. 

At home, I found it easier to find the lighter colored palm sugar. Personally, I found the difference in flavor subtle; when using it in a dish that employs the sugar for sweetness in addition to other flavors, the type wasn't important. However, when using it in coffee or in a recipe where it is a primary flavor, the difference from light to dark palm sugar would be like the difference between light and dark brown sugar; the darker the sugar, the more caramelly and intense the flavor. 

Seniman coffee, Bali

How to use palm sugar

To the best of my research, you can swap equal amounts of palm sugar for granulated or brown sugar. Because of its different density, however, for best results you will probably want to weigh your ingredients rather than packing in a cup. This is for baking, however; if you're using the palm sugar in coffee or to sweeten your oatmeal, say, just use to taste. Consider the recipe you're using, as the palm sugar will impart a flavor. 

Is palm sugar healthier?

In Bali, a whole lot of people seemed to think so. Here's an article about it, if it interests you. I'll be honest, it only interests me marginally, as I don't necessarily think people eat sugar of any sort for its health benefits, anyway!

Have you ever used palm sugar in baking? I'd love to hear what you made and how it came out. 

Love from Bali, 


Bali Diary: Love Letter to Magnum Gold

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

I realize that it may sound funny that I had to travel so far to find something which has apparently been under my nose for some time in the United States.

But sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and it took me going all the way to Bali to discover the Magnum Gold.

Actually, technically, it's the "GOLD?! Magnum Ice Cream Bar". GOLD?! might, upon first thought, seem like a deeply stupid name. Truthfully, it did to me. But my tune has changed.

Because as it turns out, it's quite accurate to the experience of eating a bar. Because here's what happens, in simplified terms:

Step 1: You wonder "Gold? What's so gold about it?". Shake your head. It's just an ice cream bar, man.

Step 2: Open the bar and take a bite. Exalt as you take the initial bite and discover that the yellow chocolate covers dark chocolate, which gives way to ice cream with delicate swirls of salty caramel. Think, "holy sundae, is this good." Exclaim "GOLD!".

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

So really, the name does make a lot of sense after you try the bar.

The weird thing is that while they exist in the US, I had never heard of them. But apparently Bali has caught the news that something good is happening with this bar, because they are EVERYWHERE there. There are signs in the supermarkets for them, and they are a prominent offering at mini-marts, ice cream vendors, and food markets.

At the Padang Padang beach, there was even an ice cream vendor toting them in a cooler full of dry ice. My friend and teaching BFF in Bali, Jan, flagged him down and bought one. She offered to get me one, too, but I felt that the name was kind of stupid and declined, instead electing to pose for a photo in front of a particularly large rock.

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

But the moment I saw her dig into the treat, I knew I must have my very own. So later that day, at a pit stop on the way to Uluwatu, I grabbed my own Magnum Gold.

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

Upon first bite, I was hooked. Rich chocolate that melted in your mouth, with a satisfying white and dark chocolate flavor. The chocolate flavor subsiding into and melding with the creaminess of the inside. No mere vanilla bean ice cream in here--it was swirled with salted caramel. They were delicate swirls, but certainly they were the certain something that took the bar from "good ice cream truck offering" to "I want to eat my weight in this thing".

After I got a Magnum, many of my other Bali BFFs followed in kind. You see, it's the type of thing that you want once you see someone else eating it. 

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

The experience made watching a beautiful sunset with monkeys all around even sweeter.

Thank you, Bali, for so much. But at this moment, thank you most for introducing me to my newest love. Because you know what they say: "Make new desserts, but savor store-bought, one is silver but the other's Gold."

Actually, nobody's ever said that until now, but the main point here is that you have to try this ice cream bar.

Love from Bali,


Bali Diary: This is Not a Nanaimo Bar

This is not a Nanaimo bar. I’m not messing with you. It’s really not.

It’s part of a strange phenomenon which has haunted me in Bali: I keep on finding Nanaimo bar lookalikes which are not actually Nanaimo bars.

These lookalikes are three layer bars with a crust, soft and custardy midsection, and a chocolate topping. But in spite of these compelling attributes, they are not Nanaimo bars. 

I realize that I probably sound crazy, or at least you think that I am having a mirage of sorts because I’ve been in Bali too long and all of the coconut juice is going to my head. But this is seriously happening. 

To illustrate with an example, take a look at this. Looks like tray of Nanaimo bars, right?


BUT THEY ARE NOT NANAIMO BARS. They are actually a raw food sweet, made with cashew and honey, coconut butter, cacao, coconut oil, and dates. You can get them at the hyper-stylish health food cafe Clear Cafe in Ubud.

Raw chocolate bliss bar

Weirdest of all? They taste nothing like Nanaimo bars. Not a nanaimo bar

This made for a very strange experience. I mean, imagine biting into what looked like a bar of chocolate and it tasting like an apple. That would be weird, right? Well, it was weird biting into something that looked so much like a Nanaimo bar that tasted nothing like it. 

Not a nanaimo bar

Initially, it tasted "wrong" to me--but not because it was not a well made treat. It was more a matter of shock, which made it difficult to determine at first if it was actually good. But don’t worry, I rallied. And a few bites in, once I had talked myself out of expecting the taste of Nanaimo bars, I realized that it was actually quite good. The dates and cashew coconut flavors came together in a naturally sweet treat with just a bit of bitterness (good bitterness) from the cacao to cut through the sweet and rich flavors.

But, you know, not a Nanaimo bar. 

Mint chocolate spirulina slice

The second one somewhat resembled a top heavy chocolate mint Nanaimo bar. But once wasn’t a Nanaimo bar. 

It was a raw chocolate mint spiralina slice from Kafe, another healthy restaurant. Yup. Once again, hippie food. The crust was not as firm as a Nanaimo bar, and the fillings were quite soft. The chocolate in particular was mousse-like. It was a lovely dessert, and raw to boot. It was a highly pleasant dessert… 

Mint chocolate spirulina slice

but NOT a Nanaimo bar!

I don't know quite what to make of this phenomenon, my sweet friends. What can I say other than traveling is weird and wonderful? I can say resoundingly, though that it was an overall delightful and wonderful experience to encounter a whole new world of Nanaimo bar lookalikes so far away from home.

Love from Bali,
- - -
Places mentioned:
Clear Cafe, Hanoman Street, Ubud.
Kafe, Hanoman Street, Ubud.

Bali Diary: Seniman Coffee is Amazing

Seniman coffee, Bali

I really need to tell you about this experience I had in Bali. I mean, I've had a lot of experiences that have been great here, but one of my favorite things day to day has been the fact that they give you cookies with your lattes. It starts every day out right.

Of course, that was until now. Seniman Coffee has raised the bar, and I don't know if cookies will be enough anymore. Because they give you the thing pictured above with your coffee. Please, allow me to explain.

Seniman coffee, Bali

So, I go to Seniman Coffee, a popular spot with expats and a place that every person in Portland would probably faint from happiness if they saw it, and order a latte.

A few minutes later, a little tray is delivered to me with three separate segments. One contains a latte (duh). One contains a cup of water (nice touch). The third contains what looks like a cigar or thin, mini burrito. I'm intrigued.

Seniman coffee, Bali

What's this? I wonder.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I take a bite.

Seniman coffee, Bali

Holy crap! It's delicious! It's like a pancake, wrapped burrito style, and it contains a coconutty mixture. Oh my god! I love this thing. I actually had the willpower to put it back on its tray so that I could take a photo to show you all.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I grab the closest server. "What is this?" I ask.

As it turns out, it's a traditional sweet called jaje dadar, which is said to be frequently doled out with coffee (though this was the first I'd ever seen it).

It's simply a crepe-like pancake prettily wrapped around a mix of coconut and palm sugar. But it is so, so good. I want this experience to happen every time I order coffee. Also every time I visit an ATM. Actually, I would like someone to follow me around and dole these out at regular intervals.

Seniman coffee, Bali

It's a fantastic two-bite treat, and I am so delighted that I've had it. This is definitely the best coffee accessory sweet that has been delivered to me in Bali. 

Seniman coffee, Bali

Oh, and the latte was pretty good, too. The theme at Seniman is "Imagine you know what you are doing", and when I'm there, I don't imagine, I know--I'm eating something awesome.

Love from Bali,


Mentioned: Seniman Coffee, Ubud. Online here.


Bali Diary: Black Rice Pudding is a Thing Here

Black rice pudding

I'll be straight up with you: I'm not really a cereal person. On a restaurant menu, I totally glaze over the cereal or grain section in favor of more exciting choices such as pancakes or eggs or French toast. Or a vanilla kreme filled donut. You know.

But I have discovered a treat in Bali that really revs my engine in the morning (yes, I just said that), and its name is Black Rice Pudding. It's wonderful, sweet, and provides me with ample energy for doing tons of yoga. This is actually me:

Yoga in bali


I know, I totally rule, right??

But back to the rice pudding. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a beginning of the day treat. The pudding can be eaten as a porridge-like morning food, or as a more rice pudding-y dessert. Black rice sweetened with palm sugar and wrapped in banana leaves can also be found at the markets for a traditional treat.

But to keep things fairly simple, I'm going to stick with the breakfast version, because it's my favorite time to enjoy this sweet treat. Plus, if it's technically breakfast, then it's ok to order dessert, too.

Black rice pudding

So what should you expect when you order black rice pudding?

The black rice is lightly boiled and then served in any number of slight variations on this basic method: with palm sugar-soaked coconut milk and bananas on top. I don't know how these fairly virtuous ingredients do it, but when they come together, they will make you want to keep eating until you burst open in some sort of carbohydratey explosion.

Black rice pudding

One of my favorites so far was from famed restaurant Casa Luna (home of a literary festival and a bakery--I felt very at home), where they serve it in a big bowl, made in the exact way detailed above. The rice itself is sort of al dente textured, but it softens as you eat it--almost like how Grape Nuts start out gravelly but then turn nice and soft in the milk. As the rice became soaked with the sweet coconut sugar mixture, each kernel became a vessel for transporting a mini burst of awesome in my mouth. There were just enough bananas to keep things interesting, but not too many so as to be distracting. This was a thoroughly happy food to eat. 

But you don't have to limit yourself to Casa Luna for consuming this delicious treat. It's a common item on menus, and can typically be made any time of day. 

Black rice pudding

I found a good-looking black rice pudding recipe in case you're intrigued. And I found another one that is like a tricked out version. It sounds about right to me, and I am going to give it a try when I am back home. Although more and more, Bali is starting to seem like home!

Love from Bali,


Mentioned: Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, Bali. Online here.

Bali Diary: There Are No Ovens Here

Bali oven

In just about every way, Bali is heaven on earth. They have gelato-filled chocolate shells, fresh fruit everywhere, $5 an hour massages. Adorable kids to work with (here's a pic of me and my kindergarteners decorating cookies, btw).


But I think I’ve found the chink in its armor of heavenly perfection: people in Bali don’t have ovens. 

It’s true, people. Upon arriving in Bali, my volunteer group had a Balinese cultural orientation, which included a simple cooking lesson by the volunteer house cooks. Something prominent was not in the kitchen: an oven.

When I asked where the oven was, the response was surprise:  “we don’t have that. Only businesses.” 

Wh-WHAT? I must have looked aghast, because they went on to say that in Bali, an oven isn’t a typical home amenity. Most cooking is done on a stovetop—in fact, from my observation, on a heated coil surface. 


In  turn, they  were absolutely gobsmacked when I said that in America—and many other western countries, for that matter—an oven is not only standard, but a given—like, of course your apartment or home has an oven. It would be deeply strange to rent an apartment in the US that didn’t have an oven. 

I thought initially maybe they were pulling my leg, and that most people actually did secretly have ovens but just didn't talk about it. But it's seriously not a thing to have an oven here. It would be the exception rather than the rule, and is considered a luxury item, as opposed to the absolute necessity it is in the United States.


It's not something that I feel I need to revolutionize, but it is a cultural difference that seriously amazed me.


Considering the lack of ovens, it makes the country’s cuisine even more incredible, and it explains why many places offer flatbreads such as tortillas or roti: they’re made on the griddle and don’t require an oven to cook. It also explains why most Balinese desserts are puddings, ice creams, or cakes or pancakes cooked on a hot surface or griddle. In general, they are not baked in the oven.

Of course, this is not to say that having an oven in Bali is out of the question, but as previously mentioned, it’s not a standard part of the deal. 

But what if you want cake?


Don't panic: baking does happen in Bali, where you can find delightful baked goods…but it's mostly done at commercial locations. Restaurants and bakeries will have ovens, which they use to make anything from pizza to banana bread to American style and French style pastries. In fact, an adorable cafe called Kué is so Frenchy it seems out of place in Bali, but adorably so.


At home, sweets like black rice pudding with shredded coconut or fresh fruit with yogurt or dessert pancakes with ice cream will be favored. Hey, as long as there's dessert, I'm happy.

Love from Bali,


Bali Diary: Chilly and Raw Desserts


Listen. Teaching kindergarten in Bali is tough work. It's very rewarding, but it's also exhausting--you have to be "on" the entire time, and you definitely have language barriers. But it is so special when you can break through, and I have found that the best way (for me) is through visual arts.

But don't worry about my work load too much, because my life is also punctuated by dessert after delicious dessert. I guess now would be a good time to tell you about a few of the desserts I’ve been eating in Bali. Today I’ll focus on a couple chilled, and a couple of raw desserts. No particular order: you’re just freewheeling, Bali-style, with me.


First up, we will talk about the “Cloud 9” from Alchemy (remember, I told you about them last week). That's the pretty bit pictured at the top of the post. This raw cake or, as I would call it, pie, was a most interesting specimen. Made from cashews, irish sea moss, and citrus, it had a lovely berry topping. The taste wasn’t what I expected, which was cheesecake-esque, but once my taste buds acclimated it was quite a subtle and lovely cake. 


We’ll take a break from raw and talk about a chilly dessert I had, from Funny Monkey (an outpost of Clear Cafe). Bali It was a kind of milkshake-y smoothie thing. I’d been passing this place every day for a week or so and was oddly fascinated by their vacuum-packed sweets (containing healthy and/or raw desserts of every type, packed as if they were salami in the refrigerated aisle) in their "to go" section.

But when push came to shove I settled for the free samples of the vacuum packed stuff and invested in the “Coconut Dream” which had coconut cream, frozen yogurt, and pineapple. I know—it really sounds like health food. But the coconut was creamy and rich enough that it passed for a really pleasant (if somewhat healthy) dessert. Plus, it was cooling on a very balmy bali evening. 


Back to raw. I need to tell you about this choco-citrus tart I had at SOMA. I had ended up here after an event called “Ecstatic Dance”, which is basically a yoga dance party at the nearby Yoga Barn, where I have been spending a fair amount of time in Bali. My friend got flatbread or something boring, and I got this splendid thing.


It made me reconsider my personal dislike of chocolate and citrus, because it was like a fancier, more refined version of lemon meringue pie in a chocolate crust. 


OK, now, back to chilly. Gelato Secrets was certainly part of my destiny—I knew it from the moment I saw the cute pink sign. When I went, they had a lovely selection of little chilled pastries, including mini baked alaskas and gelato sandwiched between gingerbread men cookies. Of course, they also gelato and sorbetto, including the prettiest of the batch, the rich purple dragonfruit. Did I go for the prettiest? No, I went for the creamiest. I got the panna cotta flavor, because I have fond memories of just such a flavor from Bottega Italiano in Seattle. This was just as good—so creamy. No gritty texture, no milky or low-fat flavor. This tasted like licking sweet caramelly cream. 


On a return trip to Gelato Secrets, I got their gelato cupcake, which was chocolate and vanilla gelato in an edible chocolate cup. I didn't realize the cup was chocolate until they gave it to me in a container. I loved life, and Bali, so much at that moment.

I don’t know if this one was raw, but I do know it was vegan. It was a sorbet from Atman, a cafe with a couple of gelato/sorbetto stands flanking the main restaurant, where they serve their lattes with tiny heart-shaped cookies.


The girl behind the counter saw me looking at her display and drew me in. I opted for the soursop, which I was told was made like so: mash the fruit, add a little sugar, and chill it. That’s it. It tasted way better than the hippie food it sounds like. It tasted like eating the sweet essence of fresh fruit. 


OK, that’s it for now. If it’s cold where you are, then maybe the desserts matched your weather; if it’s hot, I hope reading about them refreshed you.

Places mentioned:



Gelato Secrets

Clear Cafe

Atman Kafe

Love from Bali,


Bali Diary: The Lattes Come With Cookies Here

Kopi desa latte

I have a latte love for a nice cup of coffee. And in Bali, they really take the cake. Well, more like the cookie.

Because, friends, I have something so wonderful to tell you. And it's not that I made a traditional flower offering, although I did do that, too: Bali

The thing I have to tell you is this: In Bali, they give you a cookie with your coffee. Coffee and cookies

It’s seriously the cutest and best thing ever.

I’ve had a latte almost every day I have been here; I’m not typically a latte drinker, but these small ones are more like a cafe au lait in New Orleans, and they’re really nice. And not every location does it, but certainly enough times that I have taken note, the latte has come with a cookie. Some other types of coffee too, but once again, inconsistent. The latte seems to reliably come with a cookie as opposed to a Bali coffee or espresso. 

Here are some of my favorites so far. 

Atman Kafe, Bali

At Atman Kafe, they deliver your latte with a cute little heart shaped cookie.

Cookie with latte, atman

It’s a crumbly, shortbread-y cookie with a salty-sweet flavor that crumbles in your mouth and makes you want to eat many, many more. 

At Kué, the cookies are tiny anisette biscotti. 


They’ll give you two of them.


Their crispy nature makes them well-suited to dipping in the pretty tricolor coffee (which mixes slowly as you drink it; it's quite amazing), or I like to use them like a chip and treat the foam on the latte as dip. It pleases me to do so and I will continue, no matter what you say. 

Kue, bali

At Kopi Desa, they give you a miniature crispy chocolate chip cookie. You can also note how prettily they wrap the napkin around the spoon. This also happens a lot here. Kopi desa latte

Once again, it’s a dipper, and turns the perfect texture for putting in your mouth when gently dipped in your latte. 

I know this is just a few samples, but I just need to tell you, I love that this is a thing in Bali.

Listen, USA. If Bali can make cookies with lattes a thing, can’t we? I hope that every coffee shop owner in the nation (and perhaps world) will view this post and take note.  

F.r.e.a.k. coffee

Places mentioned:

Atman Kafe


Kopi Desa

Latte love from Bali,


Bali Diary: Kopi Desa and Cafe Vespa


Helloooooo from Bali, everyone!

I have been having a wonderful time so far volunteering teaching kindergarten. But don't worry, I have still been eating, and I even had a chance to create a batik painting (above, you're welcome).

I'm staying in an area of Bali called Penestanan, which is a stone's throw from the now-famous Ubud, which was prominently featured in the novel Eat, Pray, Love. The novel's presence is evident in the town, with cocktails named in its honor and even an ice cream place called Eat Soft Love. I assure you I am not kidding.

But I digress. As a volunteer, we are located between two coffee shops: one called Kopi Desa, and one called Cafe Vespa. Both are adorable, and may be of interest to sweets lovers who find themselves in Bali. Since I've visited both a fair amount of times to use their wifi, I think I will tell you about them.

At Kopi Desa, they will fill basic foodie needs with sandwiches and noodles at extremely cheap prices. But happily, they also have ice cream, so they will make sweet beverages. They also make sweet banana pancakes, which you can pair with ice cream for tasty results. You can eat well here for under $3 US.

And they have young coconuts, which they serve like this. OMG CUTE!

But I guess while I'm cute overloading you, I shouldn't forget to show you how they make a latte. OMG! Cute! Cutest latte ever. Kopi Desa, bali

Down the street, you'll find Cafe Vespa, which is a little fancier, and the food follows suit in caliber and prices.Bali

They have beautiful fresh fruit, and a tantalizing bakery case.

Photo via Trip Advisor

Everything is very well executed, from the homemade banana bread and daily muffin specials to the decadent cream cheese frosting topped carrot cake. Carrot cake from Cafe vespa, bali

This is a typical Balinese thing, I have noticed: everything has a wonderful attention to detail. Everything is good. How do they do it for crying out loud?

And the brown sugar is SO dark brown! Bali

They also make a very pretty latte.

Latte from cafe vespa

Perhaps most importantly, they serve scoops of an ice cream called Sacred Scoops, which is made locally and boasts this roster of ingredients: 

Yes, you read that right. Blessings. What does ice cream made with blessings taste like, you wonder? Don't worry, I found out.

Honestly, my only complaint is that the cone was so small, but it was quite nice. It was completely gluten-free and vegan, with a "rice cone" and a surprisingly creamy ice cream with absolutely no grittiness, just smooth strawberry flavor. It was slow to melt, which made it perfect for a hot day, and tasted so fresh that I could practically feel the fruit smiling at me. I am pretty sure I could taste the blessings. The love frequencies too, now that you mention it.

So far it's been a pretty sweet 2 weeks in Bali, and I am discovering more great places to tell you about every day. Stay tuned, sweeties.

Places mentioned: 

Kopi Desa

Cafe Vespa

Sacred Scoops (purchased at Cafe Vespa)

Sweet Find: Alchemy, Penestanan, Bali

Photo via Alchemy Bali

I have a confession to make: in Bali, I've been eating...

health food.

You heard me right, but I want to assure you that everything is OK. I haven't abandoned you. Because as it turns out, even health food can be naughty every now and again.

I'm talking raw desserts. They have no leavening, so they're usually nice and dense, often luxuriant with coconut oil as a key ingredient.

And--I know, you wouldn't expect this from me--fresh fruit is amazing here. Stay with me.

The establishment which has inspired my healthy kick is none other than Alchemy, a raw and vegan cafe in Penestanan, a neighboring area to the more famous Ubud. Seriously, everything here is so good.

Alchemy, bali

We'll start with their breakfast parfait bar, OK? You start by picking a type of yogurt or milk, and then get to add on five toppings (you can get more for an up-charge). Alchemy, bali

Choosing is difficult with a rainbow of fruits fresher than I've ever tasted, nuts, muesli, dried fruits, and--my favorite--the raw coconut whipped cream. I don't know how they make that stuff, but I don't care if it's vegan or gluten free or raw: I could eat it by the bucket. 

Alchemy, bali

So here's what you might get after you choose.

Alchemy, bali

Afternoons, they have a full menu and juice bar. Everything is made to order, and incredibly fresh - like, you can taste the trees the fruit came from, and the sweet air of Bali. 

Alchemy, bali

But most importantly, they have a generous case of raw desserts. They are all delightfully dense. This makes me happy, especially when the dessert in question is a smoothly luxuriant chocolate mousse cake or a cacao truffle or even a spirulina slice which looks surprisingly like a Nanaimo bar. 

Here are just a few (photos from their website). All of these desserts are raw.

It's all good, too. The only problem is that they don't do espresso here and gosh that would be nice with these sweet treats. Guess we'll have to leave that to Kué up the street--more on that later. 

And--how cute is this--if you get something small to go, they will wrap it in a banana leaf. It's a good reminder: OMG! You're in Bali! Awesome!

Alchemy, bali

If you don't think you'll be making it to Bali anytime soon, they do have a number of recipes on their site!

Alchemy, Penestanan, Bali. Online here.

Sweet to Eat: Caramels by Liddabit Sweets


Are you hungry? A lot, or just a Liddabit?

Well, either way, Liddabit Sweets is well worth a look. This Brooklyn-based confection operation has a splendid roster of sweets, and a convenient Chelsea Market retail location where you can go in NYC and buy them all. And a book, so you can try some of their finest recipes in the comfort of your own home. 

Listen, most of these photos are from their website because whoever took their photos is better than me. Thanks in advance youse guys!

They make fancy, expensive homemade candy bars (they're expensive for a reason--check out their "candy bar economics" here). And brittles. And turtles. And honeycomb candy. And fancy caramel corn. But seriously, at this moment, we are here to talk about the caramels. 

Tasting them very quickly shows that these people know what they are doing, are confident in their abilities, but aren't afraid to have a little fun. 

So what makes their caramels so great? They're fancy, but not too fancy. They're still accessible to all sorts of palates, bringing to mind the nostalgia of those cubes of caramel, but tasting even better than your idealized version of them.

So what's on the caramel roster?

Everyone, at this point, has been exposed to salty caramel as a flavor, so it's hardly new. But it's delicious anew when you have a particularly toothsome specimen in your mouth, and Liddabit Sweets' version does just that. They have them plain, and chocolate-covered. Try both to see which you like better.

They do have creative flavors, too, that you probably have NOT seen before, such as stout gingerbread (stout the beer, not stout like Santa Claus), apple cider (like a caramel apple spice), beer-n-pretzel (sweet and salty!), and black truffle caramels made with truffle oil (the kind the special pigs find, not the chocolate kind). It's a good mix of high and low on the menu. 

And then there's my favorite, the fig-ricotta caramel. Oh, hi. When I tasted it, I was surprised by the flavor. It tasted figgy...but somehow not mellow. Creamy, yes, but with a little...something.

Well, I looked it up on their site, and as the description notes, 

Loaded with sweet bits of dried fig and touched with balsamic vinegar, these caramels are one of our most sophisticated treats. A delightful addition to a cheese plate, they're also great with a sip of port - or just on their own.

Dude! That's it! Vinegar!


The vinegar is quite a brilliant addition to these caramels. It performs, flavor-wise, a similar function to salt, in that it takes away the "sweet and nothing else" characteristic that lesser caramels all too often posess. It also, similarly to salt in caramels, makes them intriguing and makes you lustful for another bite right away. I wonder if they make a special jumbo half-pound size of these caramels? 

If you are a caramel lover like me, I don't believe you will be disappointed by these unique sweets.

Liddabit Sweets, shop and look online here, or go to the retail location in the historic Chelsea Market.

Oh My Tasty: Church of Cupcakes, Denver CO

Church of Cupcakes

I tell you, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. And so here is a tale that involves not only delicious cupcakes, but my big burly dad, a tricycle, and maybe a little sweet gosel. Yep: here is the tale of how my big burly dad found himself fixing the cupcake trike at Church of Cupcakes in Denver.

I was in Denver, among other reasons, to visit the Craftsy HQ. I have written a number of scintillating articles on important subjects such as How to Make Nanaimo Bars and How to Make Crumb Cake and How to Make Butter at Home for these people, and I wanted to meet them. It was a great experience! Here I am with the editorial staff I usually work with. Cute, right?

My dad was with me in Denver, and since we were a little early for my appointment with Craftsy, we decided to get our cupcake on. Naturally, we headed over to Church of Cupcakes. Don't you already love them based on the name?

We knew we'd found the place when we saw this outside.

Church of Cupcakes

Well, technically I've already been here, but it had a different name the last time I went: Lovely Confections. That name was sweet, this one is cheeky. I love them regardless of the name. 

As we got there, we saw proprietress Porsche fiddling with the cupcake tricycle, their mobile cupcake delivery system.

Church of Cupcakes

Immediately, my manly-man dad stepped in to see what he could do.

Dad at Church of Cupcakes

My dad is a tinkerer. When we were little, he was a garbageman--wait, I think you're supposed to use the word sanitation worker now?--and he loved to collect...well, junk. But he'd turn the junk he collected into treasures, such as the coolest bikes ever, which he pieced together from a wheel found here, handlebars found there. Seriously, they were the coolest bikes on the block, as well as the next block over. 

While he tinkered, Porche met Porkchop the pug for the first time (she's long admired him on facebook), and I ogled the cupcakes. 


Oh, what cupcakes. We picked up a box of four: vanilla-vanilla, pumpkin ("Oh my Gourd!"), chocolate-salted caramel, and honey. Not long after, me and daddio busted into the box. He had the salty caramel frosted chocolate; I had the lavender-infused cake with honey-lemon frosting. 

I should also pause to tell you how funny and cute everything is in Church of Cupcakes. Cute tees, glitter everywhere, funny puns. I am in love!

Church of Cupcakes

Tees Church of Cupcakes

Listen. I'll be straight up with you, and I would say the same to my dad: he's not what one might call a "mindful" taster. This puppy was gone in 2 bites.

But from his expression, and the fact that he said "that was very good" or something to that tone, it must have been great. The taste I was gifted was awesome: dark chocolate. Light, buttery sweetness. And yummy salt. Perfection.

Church of Cupcakes

And listen. The lavender-honey-lemon variety. Believe it or not, I had without thinking about it chosen the exact thing I had chosen last time. And it was still so, so good.

It had a soupcon of lavender, but it wasn't perfumey by any means. It was delicate. But gawd, was it buttery. The honey-lemon made it taste slightly fancy, but it still had the simple appeal of vanilla. It was a cupcake that made me smile. 

Church of cupcakes

The other two varieties were devoured by my sweetest guy (not Porkchop). He ate both in about 2 bites (so like my dad!) but proclaimed them beautifully done.

Here I am with the owner.

Church of Cupcakes

I think that if you are in Denver, you need to visit. It's sweet and cute there! Perfect.

Church of Cupcakes, 1489 Steele Street, Denver; online here.

CakeSpy Undercover: Angelo Brocato, New Orleans


It's probably about time that I tell you about my trip to Angelo Brocato in New Orleans. It's been there since 1905, so it's about time you made it over. 

Listen, I forget how I learned about this place. Probably on a website, or in a guide book. That is to say--it's not an unknown place. But I am here to tell you that when you read about it on a website or a guide book, you must listen to what the people say. You must go to Angelo Brocato in New Orleans.

It's a little out there. It's not on Bourbon Street, it's not in the Garden District. But it's worth a jaunt. 

When you get there, you'll see this sign outside. Don't you love it already?

Angelo Brocato

When you go inside, you'll be greeted by a big bakery case, and next to it, a big gelato case. And then, there are chilled desserts.


Bakery case Gelato

What will you choose? I'll tell you what we chose. Maybe that will give you some ideas.

We'll start with the cassata.


Let's make that two.

Two cassata

If you've never heard of the stuff, Cassata is a traditional Sicilian treat. It starts with sponge cake which is drenched in liqueur, then layered with a cannoli-esque cream then sealed in with marzipan and candied fruit. I don't know if that tells you how delicious it is, though. It's rich and surprisingly not over-sweet, delicate yet substantial. The one at Angelo Brocato is wonderful, and full of almond-y flavor which works beautifully with the cream. This marzipan was so good I wanted to marry it. great as the cassata is, it's even better with gelato.

Cassata with gelato

On to the ricotta cheesecake.

Ricotta cheesecake

It's just gently sweet, crumbly and somewhat dry--not in a bad way, but you definitely want some coffee or tea with this guy.

Next up was a "Greek cap", basically a puff pastry stuffed with almond cream. It tasted like the best part of an almond croissant, all condensed into a little hockey puck shape.

Greek Cap

Are you still hungry? I'm still hungry. How about some chocolate and hazelnut gelato? Gelato

It's so smooth and creamy--I think this is my favorite gelato since Capogiro in Philadelphia.

So, basically, to summarize. Before:

All of it



And it was such a joy to do it. Please, let me urge you strongly to visit Angelo Brocato--as soon as humanly possible. It's old school, it's quality, it's a joy. I hope they do it for a hundred years more and longer.

Angelo Brocato, 214 N. Carrolton Street, New Orleans. Online here.

Ten Sweets I Crave in Seattle

Nanaimo Bar

It's a funny thing about moving away from a place. Sometimes, you're surprised by the things you miss once you leave.

Listen. I lived in, and loved sweets in Seattle for eight years. Eight years! During my time living in the Emerald City, I pretty much knew every bakery and wandered the streets trying to find new ones--constantly. 

As such, it would have been impossible to declare favorites when I lived in Seattle, because I was so constantly trying new things. But since moving away, I actively miss some desserts...these ones rise surface as the things I wish I could have again, and which I actively seek out when I am back in town.

So this is in no way a "best of" list, or a comprehensive one. It's just a loving ode to some of the sweets I find myself thinking about most. Enjoy!

Biscuits from Wandering Goose Cafe

The Wandering Goose Cafe opened after I moved away, but it is now it is one of my favorite places not only in Seattle, but on earth. And my favorite thing there? The biscuits. I am not sure how to explain the glory of these biscuits to you, other than to say that they're craggy, somewhat scone-like, and just about as full of butter as a foodstuff can possibly be. You can get the biscuits split with butter and jam, or gussied up in any number of ways. The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is the "Big Trouble", which is composed of a toasted biscuit topped with peanut butter, banana slices, and honey. Heaven on a plate. On my last trip to Seattle, I had it for breakfast 4 out of the 5 days I visited.

Biscuits from Macrina


 Yep, I am a biscuit lover. And Seattle is home to so many biscuits I miss. I love Macrina's. Somewhat fluffier in texture and less craggy in appearance than the Wandering goose version, they're different but equally delicious. They have a sweet version, with a thumbprint of jam in the middle (strawberry or marionberry) or a savory ham and cheese one. Deciding which one is better is decidedly difficult. I miss these biscuits when I'm away.

Chocolate drop cookies, Three Girls Bakery, Pike Place Market


This is sort of like a Berger Cookie, if you've ever tasted one. The chocolate drop is a crumbly cookie topped with a huge dollop of rich fudgy topping. It's not necessarily a fancy cookie, but it does it for me. The cookie melts, with just the right amount of salt, and the fudge keeps you coming back for more bites. I love this cookie.

Top Pot Doughnuts

Pink Feather Boa Doughnut from Top Pot

I love Top Pot Doughnuts. The cafes are always stylish, and the doughnuts are always good. Listen. I rarely bother with yeast doughnuts, so I can't tell you much about the ones at Top Pot. But I can tell you that the cake doughnuts are pleasingly hefty and with a perfectly crispy exterior which leads to a soft, feathery interior. They're fancy-ish, but still accessible to those who prefer an old school, no-frills doughnut. They just make me happy. 

Cupakes are a tie, so this is in two parts:

Pink frosted cupcakes from Cupcake Royale

Dance party with Holly Hobbie at Cupcake Royale, Capitol Hill

Cupcake Royale does something magical to create their cake, which is spongey but also dense at the same time, so it has a certain delicate nature but a satisfying weight and a flavor which satisfies. I've never tried a cake with quite this texture before. It's even better, of course, when you top it with a crack-filled buttercream and call it "Dance Party with Holly Hobbie", which is the cupcake's proper name. It is a food that always makes me smile, and I miss it like a friend.

Hummingbird cupcakes from Trophy Cupcakes

Hummingbird Cupcakes, Trophy Cupcakes

At Trophy Cupcakes, purveyor of pinkies-out cupcakes in the Emerald City, the variety I always hope to find is the Hummingbird. The banana cake should not be confused with banana bread--it's more delicate, with a finer crumb, though it's still very banana in flavor. Plus, I've never seen banana bread so awesome as to have a huge dollop of cream cheese icing on top like these little cakes. 

Hummingbird cake from Kingfish Cafe There's Cake in there, I promise!

Kingfish Cafe is famous for its Red Velvet cake, but once I tried the Hummingbird there, I was hooked. It's huge--about the size of your head, and covered in whipped cream and caramel and strawberries to the point where you wonder where the cake is. Dig through the toppings, because while they don't hurt, the real treasure is to be found in the cake, scented with banana and delicately sandwiched between generous layers of cream cheese frosting. I'd be lying if I told you I couldn't finish a slice by myself, as huge as it is. Whenever a friend asks where I'd like to go for dinner in Seattle, I suggest this establishment--mostly so I can order dessert. I hope they never stop making these cakes, though it's been a while since I visited (boo).

Panna cotta gelato from Bottega Italiano

I don't know if Bottega Italiano actually offers other flavors, because rarely have I even looked. The panna cotta is where it's at when you visit this tiny gelateria on the First Avenue side of the Pike Place Market. It's so creamy, so dreamy, so perfect, that I never crave much else. A secondary flavor is mere formality.

Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo Bar

True, Nanaimo bars are actually from Canada. But Seattle is close enough that you'll see them somewhat frequently (at least, more often than most other American cities, I'd warrant a guess). I love Nanaimo bars so hard. I think that they are a perfect food. If you want to learn more about them, or learn how to make them, you can search this site or check out my tutorial on Craftsy. 

Pink frosted cookies

Pink Frosted Cookie

Truthfully, this is an odd choice to put on the list because when it comes down to it, I don't enjoy eating the commercial variety of the pink frosted cookies all that much. I love bakery versions, which are all sort of riffs on the commercial ones. But what I really miss (I'm getting to it, promise) is seeing these cookies everywhere. They're ubiquitous in Seattle, and you can find them in grocery stores and gas station mini marts and unexpected places. They're very special, and have a sweet place in my heart. 

Coconut cream pie from Tom Douglas

Le Famous Coconut Cream Pie

I like to tell people that even if coconut cream pie isn't their #1 choice, Tom Douglas' version (available at the Dahlia Bakery and several of his restaurants) might be the one to make them a believer. It's coconut through and through, with the creamy stuff in the crust, cream, topping, and flaked as garnish. And it's the good stuff, fat flakes which are clearly well-sourced because they're just so, so tasty. Try it--this pie is legendary in Seattle, and for good reason.

Bonus: Old School custard

Birthday Cake Custard, Old School Custard, Seattle

Oh, I love custard! Old School Custard will top it in all sorts of ways, but my favorite is the vanilla version, with rainbow sprinkles. Really, this custard is perfect: unbelievably creamy, like you're licking the top of a pail of milk where cream has risen to the surface. Well, if that pail also had sugar inside of it and optional sprinkles as garnish, I suppose. Anyhow. I miss Old School Custard! 

What sweets do you miss when you're away from your hometown, or someplace you lived?

Sweet Las Vegas: CakeSpy Does the Bake-Off, Volume Two

Remember how last year I went to the Pillsbury Bake-Off and it was basically the best experience of my life? spite of the fact that I hugged the Pillsbury Doughboy with a little too much ferocity and got some funny looks, they invited me back this year. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I hugged that Doughboy again. 

FACT: is a very cool thing and a big honor to be invited as a media guest to the Bake-Off. I am now going to try to give you a behind the scenes look at exactly how cool it was with a day by day review of what went on in Vegas. For more about the recipes of the Bake-Off, visit this post I wrote for Craftsy about the Cakes of the Bake-Off, and check back every five seconds at Serious Eats till they post my "snapshots from the Bake-Off" post. 

Day 1: Saturday 

I departed for Las Vegas from the Albuquerque airport. This is a pretty short flight, about an hour and a half, and I had a chance to catch up on some important world events in a little magazine called In Touch Weekly.

While I was flying, the worker bees were setting up 100 individual cooking stations in the event room, where in a few days 100 bakers would be competing for a million dollar prize.

Setting up bake-off

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, there were people holding "Bake-Off" signs at the airport, which made me feel like a VIP from the get-go. A few of us loaded up into a van, and off we went to the hotel. On the way I met Kelsey from The Naptime Chef who I think is the bee's knees. 

We stayed at a hotel called the Aria Resort. I'll tell the truth: I'm not much of a fancy hotel person. They kind of intimidate me. But when I got to my room and discovered you could operate the curtains with a remote control...well, I will tell you that this kept me amused just about til dinner time. 

Dinner was at the in-hotel restaurant, and it was then that I got to see how many of my friends old and new were at the Bake-Off: Alice of Savory Sweet Life, aforementioned Kelsey of The Naptime Chef, Marla of Family Fresh CookingJeff HouckJenny Flake, Julie of The Little Kitchen, Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen, Nicole of Baking Bites, and...AND! OMG! BAKERELLA! I haven't seen this girl for ages and it was such a pleasant surprise to see her. YES! 

In case you don't remember, me and Bakerella engaged in a war of sweetness a few years back. It included this video she made. Seriously!

Love that lady. 

Day 2: Sunday

Pillsbury does this neat-o thing for the media guests called the Food News Seminar. This is an all-day seminar about the state of the food union, and you have demos and talks from leading food experts. 

Jon ashton

Highlights: an engaging presentation from my new favorite Liverpudlian (sorry John, Paul, George and Ringo), Jon Ashton and a fascinating presentation on supermarket trends from "The Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert. Seriously, can I tell you how happy I am that this dude exists? I am a big time lover of supermarkets, and can happily wander the aisles for hours considering how many types of off-brand pop tarts there are or why the cream cheese is in the butter aisle in some grocery stores and the cold cuts area in others. I think I've found my soul twin in this regard!

During a break, I got to visit with Bakerella and Tina, the winner of last year's Bake-Off. Aren't you amazed by how attractive we all are?

I also got to ogle some GE appliances that I can't afford during their presentation on their newest lines.

At dinner, I sat between Elise Bauer and Christina Verrelli, the winner of last year's Bake-Off. Talk about inspiring and interesting women. Elise of Simply Recipes is probably my new favorite person. She's interesting, funny, and really curious about and interested in all things food. 

Day 3: Monday. Bake-Off Day. 

It's Go Time. The day started out early--at about 6.30 a.m. I should probably tell you from the get-go that this is what I was wearing.

Photo via Elise of Simply RecipesIt began with a breakfast which was open to contestants and observers, which was interesting. The observers were more psyched, the contestants more nervous. 

The Bake-Off started with a merry band of percussionists playing kitchen utensils.


The entrants / contestants were then led on to a floor with all of the prepared baking stations.Bake-off

They got to work. And after 20 minutes or so of acclimating themselves, we the media guests were allowed to circulate and chat.


I got to see my BFF Brett, who was a third time entrant in the Bake-Off. For those in the know...this was his final chance. It's not a spoiler now: he didn't win a million bucks. But this hazelnut torte he dreamed up is a winner, in my book. So is Brett!


I also got to witness stressful moments like this:


Each person had the chance to bake their recipe a few times, so they could decide which one came out best to deliver to the judges. So you'd walk around and see signs like this:




But then, as the items were baked and the bakers delivered them to the judges, the left-behind ones were re-labeled...



Now, I should mention that as each entrant delivered their recipe to the judges, everyone paused to clap. Isn't that so sweet?



Oh, and Padma Lakshmi was walking the show floor too. No big. 


After the baking was done, we left the judges (who were sequestered) to it, and we all did our own thing for a few hours.


And then there was the awards ceremony. After much pomp and circumstance the winner was announced...


Glori Spriggs! Her recipe for loaded potato pinwheels was declared the winner. Learn more, and find the winning recipe, here.

Wow, what a trip! It was, once again, basically the best trip ever. I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have been invited again, and to have the chance to report on this wonderful event for youse-all. 

Last year, my meeting the Pillsbury people led to a recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake appearing in my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. Wonder what this year's Bake-Off will lead to...stay tuned!

To see all of the SWEET recipes from the Bake-Off, click here. 

CakeSpy Undercover: The Vanilla Moose, Aztec NM

I need to tell you about the business that may just be my favorite soft serve ice cream joint on earth. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

And please know that this statement does not come lightly, as I was born and raised by the Jersey Shore, a soft serve mecca if ever there was one.

But in the most unexpected place--Aztec, New Mexico, in a region called "Four Corners" given its proximity to the spot where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah all meet--there is a most magical ice cream spot called The Vanilla Moose.

Here's what you'll see as you drive up. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

There are picnic tables leading up to the burger shack-style order window. You can drive through, too, but that's definitely not as much fun as walking up. 

Soft serve is what's on the menu here, vanilla and chocolate, and it's done right. It's creamy and smooth, with none of the "ew"-y grainy texture that can characterize lesser varieties of soft serve (and like I said, I know). But if a plain ol' cone is too boring for you, that's ok, because they have a number of different ways to dress it up, as you'll see on the menu. Vanilla Moose, Aztec

By the way, the menu boasts "spoiling dinners since 1983" and "as always, free doggie & baby cones". Seriously, don't you love them already?

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

There are floats, cones, shakes, and especially sundaes. Now, don't get me wrong, because we got a shake and it was most excellent--chocolate with almond syrup and almonds inside and on top of the shake, thankyouverymuch--

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

But. In my opinion, the true joy here is the sundaes. We sampled several, so I feel well qualified to tell you about it. They are served in several sizes, but I found the "junior" size to be just right. It's like a small ice cream, but when topped with a number of different textured and flavored additions and whipped cream and a cherry on top, it's the perfect amount. 

Some highlights? The brownie sundae was a study in balance, with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream playing beautifully off of the chocolate-rich brownies (made by owner Pam) and the rich fudge sauce. When it slightly began to melt and all of the flavors came together...perfection. Good with nuts, too. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

The peanut cluster sundae was ideal for this sweet-and-salty dessert lover. Creamy vanilla ice cream was coated with caramel and crunchy salty roasted peanuts, then (why not) it was all topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry. It was just indulgent enough, and the saltiness made each bite completely tantalizing, making you want more sweet, and then the taste of sweet made you want more salty. 

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

During a week-long stay in the area, we went four times. The owner, Pam, who took over the business from her mother, and her employee were both just stellar, dealing with simultaneous drive-through and walk-up customers with ease, speed, and friendliness. On a visit when there was no line, Pam came 'round the counter and sat with us and talked about New Mexico, spirituality, cross-country moves, and of course, her role as one who brings sweetness to many lives. She's a pretty cool lady. Tell her I said hi if you go. 

And, speaking of which, yes, I do think you should go. Aztec is an interesting little town, with Native American ruins which are fascinating to tour, and it's just a stone's throw from uber-cute Durango, Colorado. It's worth a visit if you find yourself in that part of the world.

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

But please, make sure you visit The Vanilla Moose. I'll warn you, they're closing in about 2 weeks (a little before Halloween) for the season, but they'll be back in the spring, and the spring after that, and it's my sincere hope that they are there forever. Because we need places like this to make us pause from being so busy in our everyday lives, and savor some sweetness just for a few minutes.

OH! And remember how I told you they do free doggie cones? Guess who we brought on one of our visits...

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

Yeah, this happened. Porkchop loves The Vanilla Moose, too! Wonder what emotions he felt while eating his cone.


Vanilla Moose, Aztec

The Vanilla Moose, 1721 West Aztec Boulevard, Aztec NM 87401. On Facebook.

CakeSpy Undercover: No Regrets Bakery, Alvord TX

No Regrets Bakery

Last week I found myself driving along a long stretch of highway in Texas, several hours between here and there.

And then, unexpectedly, I see a sign along the highway: "Bakery ahead". Did I really see that? Yes, I did, because there's another one: "bakery ahead" with a little arrow pointing to the left.

You can bet your bottom silver dollar pancake we pulled over at the next turn signal.

What we found, quite unexpectedly, was a gluten-free, no-refined-sugar bakery, smack dab in the middle of Texas. No Regrets Bakery is the name.

No Regrets Bakery

"No offense", I said to one of the owners, Casey Harris, "but you're kind of out of the gluten-free belt."

She was kind enough to laugh at this, acknowledging that it was certainly the truth, but that their trailblazing had been rewarded: this was their first anniversary, and they'd gained a cult status with locals and those not-so-local. Turns out that just because this type of bakery isn't common in Texas doesn't mean that there isn't a demand. 

No Regrets Bakery

So, No Regrets Bakery has come along to fill it. But why start an oasis of gluten free, non refined sugar, low glycemic index baked goods? As the owners say, 

"This bakery is our way of paying it forward, our blood sugar came back high twice and that was enough to scare both of us. We changed our lifestyle and diet, lost a lot of weight (60lbs and 40lbs) and our blood sugar stabilized at low normal. My husband never stopped craving sugar so I started manipulating recipes to replace the refined sugars and then started removing wheat flours to remove the simple sugars, replacing with gluten-free flours to make a baked good with higher protein and more complex carbohydrates. I started as a cottage industry out of my home and then received a call that a restaurant wanted to carry my products and No Regrets was launched with the location on HWY 287 in Alvord, TX."

No Regrets Bakery

I realize that the idea of a gluten-free, "paleo-friendly" Hostess style cupcake might frighten my sugar-loving friends. Or that the idea of a birthday cake made with coconut flour might sound downright strange. Or that the idea of homemade protein-rich bars full of flax and berries might just sound like hippie food that isn't worth your time.

No Regrets Bakery

Listen, I don't really care how they do it, because the most important thing here is that what they make at No Regrets Bakery tastes good. 

Here's the raw/vegan cherry vanilla bar, filled with dried cherries, dried cranberries, flaxmeal and vanilla stevia. 

No Regrets bakery

It was actually a very good bar. Homemade versus store bought, when it comes to granola type bars, makes a big difference. This one had a really nice tartness from the cranberries, too. I approve.

Fruit bar, No Regrets Bakery

We also got a "Chocolate Pecan Bar", made with cocoa powder, toasted pecans, dates and dried cranberries. It tasted like a Lara Bar, but better. 

No Regrets Bakery

We also got one of the "power balls", with almonds, almond extract, unsweetened coconut, maca and agave. It was a decadent and tasty little morsel. 

No Regrets Bakery

And they were giving out slices of birthday cake because of the aforementioned anniversary! This cake did not taste like deprivation at all. The chocolate masked any coconuttiness from the coconut flour, but it definitely tasted lightly nutty in a good way. The frosting, which is agave-sweetened, didn't have a weird or artificial taste, which pleased me. I can deal with a cake like this, if this is what gluten-free cake can be.

We also picked up a doggie cookie for Porkchop the pug. I don't think he cared that it was corn and wheat free--he just ate the thing. 

Overall, this was a magical stop in Texas. Hit them up if you find yourself on highway 287! Or, help them out with their fundraising goals to open a second location in the Dallas metro area

No Regrets Bakery, 8879 Highway 287 North, Alvord, TX. Online here.

CakeSpy Undercover: The Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

I first heard about the Buttermilk Drop in a New York Times article, gloriously entitled "A City Drenched in Sugar". I had known that New Orleans was a city famed for its sweets, but I don't think I really knew until I read this article. Not only King cake waited for me in the Big Easy, but doberge cake and snowballs and doughnuts, too.

Actually, a particular type of doughnut called the Buttermilk Drop.

As I learned from this site, the buttermilk drop is a doughnut unique to New Orleans which gained fame at the now defunct but still beloved McKenzie's Pastry Shoppe. It is, on the surface, not an incredibly unique treat. It looks like a doughnut hole, but it's bigger. But not quite as big as a full-sized doughnut. But one taste will tell you that this is a very special doughnutty morsel. Rich in buttermilk, yes, which gives them a perfect delicate crumb yet substantial texture, which is gorgeously and generously coated in a thick glaze. 

I can understand why New Orleans would simply not stand for this doughnut disappearing.

Today, from what I gather, you can get buttermilk drops at two places: Tastee's, which apparently purchased the rights to a number of McKenzie's recipes, and The Buttermilk Drop Cafe

I recently tried them at The Buttermilk Drop Cafe, an establishment with an interesting story. Owner Dwight Henry first gained fame as a maker of sweet treats, then gained local celebrity status when he put incredible effort into helping re-open businesses in his Seventh Ward neighborhood following Hurricane Katrina.

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

And then, he was "discovered" when the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild was filming in his neighborhood, and ended up being featured in the movie. So basically now, in addition to being famous for making doughnuts, he's being featured in New York Times Magazine style shoots

Well, I will tell you, I was intrigued.

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

So when you walk into The Buttermilk Drop Cafe, I was greeted by an odd sight. A large room with ample seating space...but no seating. A menu that seemed to invite sitting and staying a spell...but nowhere to sit and stay. Cool artwork on the wall and even ceiling. 

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

A large case greeted us, but only a portion of it was filled. All of what filled it looked good though: DOUGHNUTS. Glazed and cake, vanilla and chocolate, in rounds and braids... Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

and, of course, the famed buttermilk drops.

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

From behind a small glass window, a friendly girl took our order. It was alarmingly affordable. The doughnuts and buttermilk drops were all well under a dollar each, which was refreshing. 

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

We got a few buttermilk, a few chocolate, and of course several buttermilk drops.Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

The doughnuts were very, very good. Light in texture, with a solid buttermilk flavor, and most importantly, drenched in a highly delicious glaze.Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

But the real star was the buttermilk drops. Was it the power of suggestion, that I was ready to love these best because I had heard so much about them? Perhaps. But d-a-m-n were they fine doughnuts.

The texture of the buttermilk drop is perfect. Like I said before, it's a delicate crumb, but a substantial doughnut in nature. I love the size, too. It's more serious than a mere doughnut hole, but not quite a full size doughnut. It is the perfect snacking size. And the glaze was so liberally applied that it kind of fused into the drop's crust...oh, heaven.

Buttermilk Drop Cafe, New Orleans

So what am I saying here? Get yourself to the Buttermilk Drop Cafe. I was impressed by how "real" the place has remained even following its fame. Weird about the seating, but you can deal. This is an experience that must be lived by doughnut lovers.

The Buttermilk Drop Cafe, 1781 N. Dorgenois Street, New Orleans. Online here.


Carb Lover's Delight: Golden Crown Panaderia, Albuquerque

Golden Crown Panaderia

When I tell you about Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque, it's probably going to sound strange. 

You see, from the best I can tell, they have four specialties there: 

1. Empanadas

2. Biscochitos

3. Bread

4. Pizza

Golden Crown PanaderiaGolden Crown Panaderia

Yep. Empanadas and biscochitos, okay. Bread...all right. The pizza is a little bit of a curveball. And yes, in case you're wondering, they do have other stuff--like mexican wedding cake cookies and a variety of other pastries. Here's there menu so you can ogle. But we zeroed in on the stuff that we were told was the best.

Golden Crown Panaderia

Now, I don't know about you, but I might not have high hopes for, say, the pizza at such an establishment. But the most incredible thing is that they do all of four things things amazingly well. 

But since this is a dessert and baked goods site, I am going to assure you that the pizza is well worth a try and start talking about the sweets now, ok?

Biscochito, Golden Crown

First, the biscochitos. We were extremely delighted when, upon entering the bakery, the employee just gave us each a biscochito. If you've never tried one, they're a flaky, almost pie crust-esque spiced cookie, often made with lard, which is the official State cookie of New Mexico. Their biscochitos were perfect. Golden Crown Panaderia

They simply crumbled into a sweet, melty oblivion in your mouth, and the lightly crunchy dusting of sugar and spice was gentle, not overpowering, letting the flavor of the rich but slight cookie shine. 

Now, I should tell you for future reference that if you ever buy biscochitos, you must eat them immediately. It's not that they won't keep, but they will crumble. I have purchased biscochitos before and taken a short walk with them and somehow they've turned into a pile of crumbs. Be warned.

Next up were the empanadas. We got apricot and cherry. They have a number of flavors, though--raspberry, apple, lemon, et cetera. Nothing crazy, but a nice variety of flavor options.

Golden Crown Panaderia

The fillings were OK. Like, serviceable. But sort of along the lines of one of those TastyKake hand pies. Fancier of course, but still of that ilk. The apricot tasted better than the cherry, we thought. But either way, the fillings are really just an excuse to have something to wrap the crust around.

Golden Crown Panaderia

But dudes, dudettes, the crust. The crust was similar to the texture of the biscochitos, making me wonder if it was a biscochito crust or perhaps just a lightly doctored biscochito dough altered for a sturdier texture. Golden Crown PanaderiaLike the cookies, they were dusted with sugar and spice. The crust was perfect. It was flaky, lightly nutty (perhaps owing to the spice?) and like the biscochitos, just melted in your mouth. This is the type of crust you're willing to travel for. 

Golden Crown Panaderia

Get yourself to the Golden Crown. I think you'll enjoy their crust quite a bit, be it on an empanada or a pizza.

Golden Crown Panaderia, 1103 Mountain Road, Albuquerque NM. Online here.