Monday, July 18, 2011

I Have Met My Match and its Name is Chocolate Cake

I have been experimenting with chocolate cake recipes for years.  Years. And I don't even like chocolate.  And yet somehow, creating the perfectly rich, dense and moist flour-based chocolate cake continues to elude me.  I have gone everywhere from Food TV to the Joy of Cooking to secret family recipes. Nothing seems to result in a perfect chocolate morsel. Each attempt has resulted in cakes that are close in taste but lacking in appearance, or beautiful to look at but desperately disappointing at first bite.

And so after 6 months of not baking, I regathered my courage and attempted to conquer the chocolate challenge once and for all.  I was armed with a highly rated online recipe, and a very cool new Nordicware mini bundt pan that my friend Melissa got me for my birthday.  The recipe had everything going for it - an unusual aromatic spice to add depth (cardamom), dried fruit to balance the rich chocolate, and three types of chocolate (cocoa, semisweet pieces, and dark pieces).  I tried friendly tips - mixing the cocoa with hot water first to create a paste, soaking the currants in brandy and hot water, greek yogurt and milk to ensure moistness and density, coating the baking pans with flour and butter to ensure the molds made perfect little cakes.

The result was aesthetically pleasing.  The cakes emerged perfectly, no strange sticking or deformities. . . I overconfidently posted to Facebook about my succes. And yet, at first bite. . .the little buggers were so disappointingly dry!  Chocolate cake and I are officially over.  This is one baking challenge that I just can't manage to crack. . .

But I am very open to suggestions.  Have tips? A fool proof recipe?  Please share !

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Get Your SF Pastry Fix

I'm a big, big fan of Tartine Bakery & Cafe in SF.  Nothing novel in this admission - I'm sure I'm not the only person in this city who dreams of those fluffy, buttery croissants or the weekend gougeres that come out of Elisabeth Prueitt's bakery. That said, it's become a veritable nightmare to try and enjoy this spot on weekends, or really at any sane morning hour.  There are throngs of people hanging all over it, lines out the door and down the block, and it's not inconceivable that when you make it to the counter, they're out of the best items.

And so, at long last, I am happy to report that there is a worthwhile pastry alternative in San Francisco.  You can in fact get your pastry fix on without enduring a gauntlet of long lines and crowds. This spot may not have the charm of a french style patisserie, but it offers a more distinctly San Francisco vibe.  It's called Pinkie's Bakery and you absolutely must indulge in their baked goods.  All of them.

The deceptively simple website, slightly sketchy location and somewhat spartan decor at this joint - it's wholesale, a "hipster" bakery if there ever was one - belie a dense menu of rich, buttery, wholesome pastries that will soothe your soul while filling your tummy.

My favorite was their lemon huckleberry poundcake. The gingersnap sammy cookies are also divine. And I'm told their made to order cakes are pretty special too.  Consider one for your next birthday celebration.

And if you need something savory to wash down these baked treasures, here's a double snap - Pinkie's shares a space with Citizen's Band, one of SF's best new brunch spots.  But that's a post for another time . . .

Pinkie's Bakery
1196 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA 94103