Monthly Archives: November 2010

Balthazar Bakery, New York, NY

One of the best and classiest bakeries I’ve ever encountered leaves me speechless—all the better to savor each delicious bite.

story and photos by Bakery Boy

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Huge round loaves of French rye sourdough grace the window at Balthazar Bakery.

Big, round, flour-dusted loaves crowding the storefront window transfix me before I even step into Balthazar Bakery. Displayed upright between sturdy wooden pegs, these rustic, dark-crusted disks as thick as cheese wheels resemble the kind of dense, hearty bread that has been the staff of life since the Middle Ages, perhaps since biblical times.

A narrow storefront belies the wide variety found inside.

This astounding first impression, one in a series of positive impressions, leaves me literally speechless. That the salespeople are far too busy serving a steady stream of customers in a compact showroom to talk with me much, and that the bakers bustling in back have little space to accommodate a curious visitor like me, and that I am rarely long between bites of something fantastic, all contribute to my mute encounter with one of New York’s finest bakeshops.

Chandeliers and ceiling art accent this classy SoHo bakery.

CHANDELIERS & CEILING ART There’s something special about a bakery where the showroom sports a pair of brass chandeliers and classical ceiling art like something from the Sistine Chapel. But the real works of art at Balthazar are the breads, tarts, pastries, and cakes.

The classy setting complements its sibling operation next door, Balthazar Restaurant, a French-style bistro in a former leather warehouse at the corner of Spring and Crosby Streets in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The restaurant’s high ceilings, dark wooden furniture, and shiny zinc bar lend it a look that seems to go back farther than 1997, when it opened. A dinner menu ranging from lobster risotto hors d’oeuvres to sautéed skate or grilled lamb t-bone entrees and an extensive wine list attract a discerning audience.

The small showroom overflows with baked goods.

Desserts and other baked goods, however, stand out as star attractions. The main reason this bakery exists is to supply the adjacent restaurant. Luckily, Balthazar Bakery produces far more than needed to satisfy those seated in the dining room. Which means anyone who stops in before the shelves are emptied each day by the Balthazar faithful can take home incredible baked goods.

So much great bread, so little time.

FIRST, THE BREADS Those huge boules that originally catch my eye and draw me in, known as pain de seigle or French rye sourdough, cost a hefty $24 each, although just-as-tasty medium and small versions go for $11.50 and $5.75. Other artisan loaves include pain au levain or white country sourdough ($4.25); multigrain with honey, flax, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds ($6); walnut bread ($6.50); brioche loaf ($8); potato onion ($4.75); and during harvest season some delightful cranberry-raisin-pecan bread ($8).

Artisan breads in many shapes promise Old World flavor.

I start in with a batard of still-warm and aromatic kalamata olive bread ($6.50), a mere end of which makes it out of the store uneaten, only to be finished off during a subsequent subway ride. Then I add a square-ish loaf of ciabatta laced with rosemary ($4.75) to share with relatives where I’m staying in Brooklyn. I have yet to pass up walnut bread in any form, a personal favorite since my years working as a baker in a Seattle bakery known for it, and today is no different. Finally, anticipating a long drive the next day and the need to nibble, I stash away a humble yet terrific baguette ($2.50), vowing to let few if any crumbs fall to the car’s floor.

Tempting tarts, cheesecakes, and more.

NEXT, THE SWEETS Sufficiently stocked with the staff of life, I next consider Balthazar’s selection of sweets. An apricot frangipane tart four inches across ($5.50) sets a comforting autumn tone and, at first bite, squelches any plans I have to chat up the bakery staff as I usually do. They’re awfully busy, I tell myself, so just stand out of the way and enjoy.

I save most of the apricot tart in a box and next sample an individual-serving cheesecake ($5.50) also four inches across, nearly as tall, and with a velvety creaminess consistent from outside to middle and from start to finish. Perfection…but unfortunately within minutes nothing’s leftover for later. A couple of bites of a fresh berry noisette ($5.50) with blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries on a fluffy hazelnut soufflé briefly carry me back to summer before I tuck the rest into my box. Then I dive straight into winter with a dense, chewy, walnut brownie ($3.50) that calls for a stiff shot of hot espresso as accompaniment.

Other enticing choices include coconut cake and flourless chocolate cake, whole ($25) or by the slice ($6.25); sizable cookies such as oatmeal raisin, chocolate walnut, and shortbread ($1-$2); cute little shell-shaped madeleines in lemon, chocolate, or pistachio ($2); and crunchy-sticky palmier ($1). There are also croissants (expected in the French setting) and donuts (unexpected).

By closing time if not before, all this bread will be gone, snapped up by the Balthazar Bakery faithful.

According to Balthazar Restaurant’s menu, bakery-fresh options prepared for the table range from warm chocolate cake with white-chocolate ice cream to a caramelized banana ricotta tart; pavlova consisting of baked meringue with warm seasonal berries, chocolate pot de crème with toasted coconut cookies, an apple tart tatin with crème anglaise and vanilla ice cream, plus others (each $9, served).

ENOUGH, ALREADY! As a born-to-the-role bakery fanatic with a history of checking out every bakery I find, I’m not one to say “stop I’ve had enough” very often. At Balthazar I had to apply the brakes. Every item I saw, smelled, or tasted made me want to try others. I quickly and contentedly consumed a week’s worth of my normal bakery-research calories in a mere half-hour. And yes, I can hardly wait to go back and try some more!

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Balthazar Bakery: 80 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012 (corner of Spring and Crosby Streets in SoHo); www.balthazarbakery.com; 212-965-1758; Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-8 p.m.  Balthazar Restaurant: www.balthazarny.com; reservations 212-965-1414.

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Been there yourself? Care to add your thoughts? Want to suggest another bakery? Leave a comment below.

Panaderia España, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Bakeries in Puerto Rico are more than just shops where you dash in and out. They’re where neighbors and friends gather to linger, talk, read, and eat.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

My taxi driver René Lopez, a former baker, shows off torillas (omelette pies full of eggs, onions, and potatoes) at Panaderia España, where he once worked. Photos by Bakery Boy.

I only discovered Panaderia España through coincidence and a friendly taxi driver.

This terrific bakery (panaderia) wasn’t anywhere near my beachfront hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the capital of this U.S. territory in the Caribbean. I shot past it on a busy highway coming from the airport without even noticing and certainly wouldn’t have found it on my own.

By chance though, a taxi driver named René Lopez showed up at the San Juan Marriott Resort to take me across the city for a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery. Cabbies can be the best guides, because in their line of work they go everywhere, see everything, and get an earful of reactions from all the people they usher around town.

Cheesecakes, éclairs, cakes, custards, fruit gels, and pies brighten Panaderia España showcases.

On our way to Bacardi we talked about rum, naturally. René told me what to expect at Bacardi and about two other distilleries on the island, Don Q and Ron del Barrilito. Afterwards, while heading back, I mentioned that I write about bakeries. It turns out René worked as a baker for nine years before switching to taxis. If I didn’t mind a short detour, he said, we could swing by his former workplace and he would show me around.

I rushed right past without noticing it from the highway, but found it later through luck and the right cabbie.

EUREKA! This lucky find is a bakery blogger’s version of a gold miner hitting pay dirt and shouting Eureka! An off-the-beaten-path bakeshop and an inside connection don’t come along every day. So we changed course toward the Isla Verde section of the city and soon entered the bustling Panaderia España, a neighborhood anchor since 1972.

José Rodriguez Lopez, one of several Panaderia España co-owners, with a fruit-topped Hummingbird Cake.

The entire staff and many of the customers were genuinely happy to see their old friend René again. One co-owner, José Rodriguez Lopez—upon hearing that their baker-turned-cabbie had brought a journalist along who could tell more travelers about the place—seemed very happy at the prospect.

With bilingual René serving as interpreter, José wanted me to know that newly appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, dropped in one day. Her visit involved tag-along journalists, and the positive attention it brought apparently made José glad to have me there, even though I was tailing a taxi-driving baker instead of a renowned judge.

Variety is vital at popular Puerto Rican bakeries.

José showed me around. Hundreds of hot Spanish-style loaves—long, thick, soft, pale bread to be loaded with garlic-butter or put to work sopping up soups and sauces at any meal—crackled as they cooled on racks. Thinner, denser baguettes destined to become Cuban sandwiches were just going into the oven.  A team of bakers filled fruit pies as well as breakfast pies (with eggs, ham, and cheese), squirted custard into éclairs, shook powered sugar or drizzled melted chocolate onto doughnuts, sliced cheesecakes into neat wedges, arranged fresh strawberries on chocolate tortes, stacked and frosted layer cakes, rolled cinnamon-sugared puff pastry into what I call elephant ears (I forgot to ask what they call them, but oregas de elefante seems unlikely), and much more.

FULL DELI René insisted we order hot-pressed Cuban sandwiches. “They’re the best in San Juan,” he assured me—dense, chewy submarine-shaped buns smeared with butter (yes, it must be butter, he said) and stacked with slices of cured ham, roast beef, and Swiss cheese. Before those were ready I was biting into a jelly roll-style guava-and-cream-cheese pastry (there’s a mango version too) and contemplating the head-still-on whole roasted pig sprawled on a bed of vegetables and rice, paella style, behind steamy showcase glass.

Whole roasted pig, seen paella style on a bed of vegetables and rice, is typical of beyond-just-bakeries Puerto Rican panaderias.

Yes, bakeries in Puerto Rico go way beyond the usual sweets we know on the mainland. They’re open from early in the morning until late and night and serve a full roster of breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods like you’d find at a great deli.

If you can make out the chalkboard menu in one of my photos, that is indeed pulpo a la gallega (octopus Galician-style, as found in northwestern Spain), lechon asado (roast pork), fabada (bean stew), and camarones enchilados (shrimp in a spicy chili sauce) in the mix. Sweets have their place, but Puerto Rican bakeries are more like full-scale restaurants known for variety.

There’s even a well-stocked and climate-controlled wine room, something many Puerto Rican bakeries have. They figure people who appreciate good food will also appreciate good vino.

All day long, Puerto Rican bakeries fill with patrons who linger at long communal tables to talk, eat, and watch the world go by.

LINGER Conversations are part of the true panaderia experience too. Like Panaderia España, many have dozens of long tables that are filled at all hours with people talking, eating, reading newspapers or books, and watching the world go by. They’re like community centers, neighborhood watering holes, diners, and bakeshops all rolled into one.

Thanks to a taxi driver with a baking past, Panaderia España became my first Puerto Rican bakery experience. It wasn’t my last. Others offered a similar wide variety and likewise teemed with customers any time I happened upon them. Look for more about them in future posts.

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WHAT’S THAT SLOGAN? My high-school Spanish is pretty rusty. I do my best, rifling through a Spanish-English dictionary for key words and tossing proper grammar to the wind. But I was stumped by one slogan printed in red on a white box of goodies I left Panaderia España with. The large print was easy enough: Panaderia (bakery), Reposteria (pastries), Licores (spirits or liquors). The name España, scrawled across an outline of Spain, was obviously “Spain.” A subhead came to me quickly too: Especialidad en Productos Españoles (Specializing in Spanish Products).

The fine print at the bottom, however, threw me. I turned to René, my trusty taxi driver, who broke into a grin at the sight of Tu hijo cuenta con la major defensa contra las drogas… cuenta contigo ¡¡no le falles!! It’s an anti-drugs public service message, he explained, along the lines of a missing child’s face on a milk carton. Roughly, it reads, “Your son has the best defense against drugs, counting on you, don’t fail!”

Oh. Not exactly a message I expected to find on a bakery box. But okay, here’s to drug-free Puerto Rican kids who prefer to get their kicks from baked goods!

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José Rodriguez Lopez and his crew make these pillow-y cloud-like loaves by the hundreds.

Panaderia España: Centro Comercial Villamar, Avenue Baldorioty de Castro, Calle Marginal, Isle Verde, Puerto Rico 00979-6196

Call 787-727-3860 or 787-727-0528

(no website)

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Lara’s Bakery, Harlingen, TX (guest blog)

My pal Lisa Battle, blogging for Livability.com, discovers the joy of Lara’s and other panaderia (bakeries) way down south in Texas.

Lisa Battles (guest blogger)

It’s probably going to be quite a long while before I get to Harlingen, Texas—located in the Rio Grande Valley near the southern tip of the Lone Star State—to taste my way through its Mexican-style neighborhood  bakeries for the Bakery Boy Blog. So when I learned that my Nashville friend Lisa Battles recently visited there and blogged about a couple of neighborhood panaderia (Spanish for bakeries) for Livability.com’s Best Places to Live Blog, I decided to let her story fill in for now.

Marrinitos (little pigs)

Lisa found Lara’s Bakery and quickly became enamored with the pan dulce (sweat breads), marrinitos (cake-like treats formed with piglet-shaped cookie cutters and rich with molasses), and pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”). The latter are  loaves either molded or decorated to resemble skulls, bones, and other spooky shapes in celebration of the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead.

Pan de Muerto ("bread of the dead")

Livability.com is a website that ferrets out “the best places in America to live, work, play, explore and belong,” and then celebrates whatever makes them special. Here is a link to Lisa’s bakery-related blog post: http://livability.com/best-places-to-live-blog/longing-warm-harlingen-mexican-sweet-bread-cold-day

Meanwhile, I’ve been brushing up on my Spanish as I prepare to write blog posts about several panaderies I sampled during a recent trip to Puerto Rico. Stay tuned and feel free to suggest bakeries anywhere that you think I should check out.

– Bakery Boy


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LARA’S BAKERY 403 West Polk Street, Harlingen, TX 78550; 956-423-1219 (no website)

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Bakery Boy Blog featured on Livability.com

Livability.com, the website that pinpoints “the best places in America to live, work, play, explore and belong,” has tipped its hat to the Bakery Boy Blog on its Best Places to Live Blog.

Here is the link to Livability’s post about the “sweet” life of bakery blogging: http://livability.com/best-places-to-live-blog/bakeries-7-livability-cities-bakery-boys-favorites.

Apparently glad to discover my all-about-bakeries blog, Livability noticed that seven of the bakeries I’ve featured so far are located in communities it considers among the nation’s Most Livable Cities.

On the site you’ll find useful information about terrific cities you might want to live in, including stories about residents, businesses, shops (bakeries too of course!), parks, attractions, amenities, housing markets, and more. The site explores each community’s unique personality and highlights what makes the place special.

Thanks for the mention, Livability.com. If someday we find ourselves exploring the same town at the same time, the first round of petit fours will be on me!

Bakery Boy

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Here are links to my earlier posts about bakeries in places designated Most Livable Cities by Livability.com.

Sweet Life Patisserie, Eugene, OR

Simple Kneads in Greensboro, NC

The Sweetery in Anderson, SC

D Square Donuts in Auburn, AL

WildFlour Bakery in Abingdon, VA

Muffin Man Bakery in Abingdon, VA

Niedlov’s Breadworks in Chattanooga, TN

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The Boozy Baker, A Spirited Cookbook by Lucy Baker

All 75 recipes in this tipsy cookbook include strong spirits, the results not of a barfly lifestyle but of one food writer’s devotion to never wasting a drop.

by Bakery Boy

Why bake with booze? It’s a question Lucy Baker gets asked a lot now that she’s written her first cookbook, The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets (2010, Running Press, $18.95).

“I really like to bake,” says the Boston-area native and Brooklyn resident, who insists it’s pure coincidence that her last name matches her profession. “I often find myself with a little leftover wine or a couple shots of liquor at the bottom of a bottle, so I find ways to use it in recipes. I figure there’s no sense letting it go to waste.”

A morning person, 40-mile-a-week jogger, and marathon runner who answered my call bright and early, proving she’s no night-owl booze-hound, Lucy also points this out: “Alcohol—from spirits, such as bourbon and rum, to liqueurs like amaretto and crème de menthe, to wine and beer—imparts a subtle, sumptuous warmth that deepens the flavors of desserts and makes them taste even more decadent, luxurious, and sinful.”

That’s why her cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, brownies, mousses, and other tasty creations include stiff belts of bourbon, brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, or the high-impact flavors that come with cognac, crème de cacao, framboise, Jägermeister, sake, schnapps, stout beer, and other potent beverages.

“I think baking with booze if fun, plain and simple,” she adds. “Besides, people have always looked for consolation in the bottle and in the cookie jar, so why not combine the two?”

Lucy Baker

BORN TO BAKE Lucy grew up baking brownies with her mom and snacking on cookies with her dad, positive experiences she says made choosing her career path easy.

A freelance food writer and recipe tester, she contributes two columns to the online food website SeriousEats.com (Mixed Reviews, a hands-on and critical look at boxed mixes on the market, and Edible DIY, a guide to edible gifts you make yourself). For three years she helped edit cookbooks for publisher HarperCollins, and she has written articles for Edible Brooklyn, Publishers Weekly, Popular Mechanics, and Time Out New York.

The Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing she earned at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, helps explain the pleasant storytelling nature of her cookbook.

FAVORITES I was drawn first to Lucy’s recipes for Molten Chocolate Orange Cake, a gooey mess in the trendy “lava” category, loaded with bittersweet chocolate and Grand Marnier, and Bottoms Up Pineapple-Tequila Cake, partly because I had just bought the perfect pan for it and partly because I had a couple of inches of tequila left in a bottle and appreciated finding a hangover-free use for it.

Later I tried the Cherry Pie with Scotch and Walnut Crumbles (I’m a scotch fan and walnut trees grow on my parents’ farm); the Red Wine Caramel Tart (my wife likes red wine and I never pass up caramel anything); and the Blueberry-Port Slump with Almond Dumplings (because I raise blueberries and always look for new ways to bake them). Everything turned out well.

Eventually I’ll make the Dirty Girl Scout Cookies, Dark and Stormy Hermits with Raisins and Rum, Boozy Baked Apples, and Pink Elephant Milkshakes, if only for their fun names.

Lucy tells me two other favorites suit the current season. “With fall’s colder weather here, give the Bourbon Apple Crisp a try. Bourbon always seems like a fall-y type of liquor to me, all toasty and warming,” she says. “And wherever you are for Thanksgiving or whoever you’re sharing the holiday with, the Coconut-Sweet Potato Pie is a good choice, with coconut rum in the crust and in the filling too.”

My compliments—and cheers—to the chef!

Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake from The Boozy Baker (see recipe in separate post)

SAMPLE RECIPES Lucy and her publisher, Running Press, graciously agreed to share two recipes from The Boozy Baker with the Bakery Boy Blog.

– Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake (click here to see recipe in separate post)

– Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate-Beer Sauce (click here to see recipe in separate post)

DRINK WITH THAT? As a bonus suiting the theme, The Boozy Baker also includes 25 drink recipes for stirring up cocktails that pair nicely with some of the book’s baked goods. A few examples:

Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate-Beer Sauce (see recipe in separate post)

Ginger Highball—goes well with Gingery Peach Cobbler

Orange Sidecar (including cognac or brandy and orange liqueur)—goes well with the puffy and golden Sidecar Souffle

Clearly Cosmo (vodka and cranberry juice, shaken and stained)—goes with the fudge-cake-like Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Orange Liqueur Cream

Double Mint Fizz (gin, lime juice, crème de menthe)—goes well with the heavily minted and pie-like Grasshopper Tart with Chocolate Chips

Beer Margaritas (light beer, tequila, grand Marnier)—goes well with the summery-zesty Margarita Meringue Pie

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BONUS RECIPE: MAKE YOUR OWN VANILLA EXTRACT

Sneaking a swig of vanilla extract from her mother’s pantry as a child—it didn’t taste at all the way she expected, warm and sweet like its aroma—was part of Lucy’s journey to professional foodie. Here’s her Boozy Baker recipe for concocting your own.

Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract

3 vanilla beans

1 cup bourbon

Rinse a clean, empty jam jar or a mason jar with boiling water to sterilize it. Set aside. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a small, sharp knife. Add them to the jar. Pour the bourbon over the vanilla beans and screw the jar’s lido tightly. Give the jar a few good shakes. Place the jar in a cool, dark cabinet or closet and let it steep for 8 weeks, shaking occasionally. The extract will darken over time. Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract can be used in place of store-bought vanilla extract in any recipe. There is no need to remove the vanilla beans. Makes 1 cup.

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Running Press

A review copy of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets by Lucy Baker was provided by Running Press, a division of Perseus Books Group; (215) 567-5080.

 

RECIPE – Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake from The Boozy Baker

Lucy Baker, author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets (click here to see a separate post ) shares this recipe involving the famously sweet southern elixir in its name.

Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake

Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake

This sugary whiskey lends itself to baking, yielding a subtle hint of whiskey without overpowering the other flavors. What could be more Southern or comforting than incorporating it into red velvet cake? —Lucy Baker

Makes 12 to 16 servings or 24 cupcakes

For the cake:

3 cups cake flour

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup Southern Comfort

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

For the frosting:

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup Southern Comfort

Chopped toasted pecans, for garnish (optional)

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter, or spray them with nonstick spray. Dust them with flour and tap out the excess.

Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, Southern Comfort, vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack, and then remove them from the pans and cool completely.

To make the frosting: Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add 6 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, the milk, and the Southern Comfort. Beat on low speed until creamy. Gradually add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, until the frosting has reached the desired consistency.

Place one cake layer on a plate and spread it with about one-third of the frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the cake with chopped pecans, if using.

Shake It Up: For a bolder flavor, substitute Tennessee whiskey, such as Jack Daniels, for the Southern Comfort.

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Excerpted with permission from The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets by Lucy Baker, published in 2010 by Running Press, a division of the Perseus Books Group; (215) 567-5080.

RECIPE – Beer Profiteroles from The Boozy Baker

Lucy Baker, author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets (click here to see a separate post) shares this recipe involving that most basic of alcoholic beverages, beer.

Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate-Beer Sauce

Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate-Beer Sauce

If this recipe seems a bit intimidating, crack open a cold one before tackling the first step. The end results—scoops of beer ice cream nestled in pastry puffs and dripping with beer-infused chocolate sauce—are well worth it. If you’re short on time, substitute store-bought coffee or vanilla ice cream for homemade. Or, for a dessert Homer Simpson would love, use purchased donut holes in place of the puff pastry. The ice cream can be made up to five days ahead, and the profiteroles will keep well for a day or two stored in an airtight container. —Lucy Baker

Makes 6 servings

For the beer ice cream:

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

5 large egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (8 ounces) chocolate stout, or other dark beer

For the profiteroles:

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

For the chocolate beer sauce:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons chocolate stout

To make the beer ice cream: Combine the heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is barely simmering (you will see steam rising from the surface, and small bubbles at the edge of the pan). Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until thick and pale yellow. Very slowly whisk 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Then transfer the egg mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the cream mixture and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without running.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the vanilla extract and stout. Chill for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To make the profiteroles: Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine 1/2 cup water, milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the flour, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly. Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Spoon the mixture into a large, zip-top plastic bag and snip off one of the corners. Squeeze 12 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them an inch or two apart. Bake until puffed and golden, about 22 minutes. Turn off the oven, set the door slightly ajar, and allow the profiteroles to rest for another 5 minutes.

Remove the profiteroles from the oven and prick each one with a toothpick to allow steam to escape. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the chocolate-beer sauce: Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine the cream and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until just barely simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts. Stir in the stout.

To assemble the dessert, cut each profiterole in half crosswise. Place a scoop of ice cream on the bottom half of the profiterole and sandwich with the top. Drizzle generously with the chocolate-beer sauce and serve.

Shake It Up: Substitute another richly flavored beer, such as India Pale Ale, for the stout.

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Excerpted with permission from The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets by Lucy Baker, published in 2010 by Running Press, a division of the Perseus Books Group; (215) 567-5080.

RECIPE – Fig Hazelnut Frangipane Tart from Sweet Life Patisserie

Sweet Life Patisserie of Eugene, Oregon (click here to see an earlier post) agreed to share this fig tart recipe with Bakery Boy Blog readers.

Fig Hazelnut Frangipane Tart (photo by Becky Luigart Stayner)

It was love at first sight. A memorable first bite sealed the deal. By the second bite—a dizzying blend of the delicately mushy fruit, an earthy nuttiness, and a sweet apricot glaze, all spread like a romantic picnic on a slightly crunchy bed of shortbread—I was contemplating a long and satisfying relationship. By the third bite of Fig Hazelnut Frangipane Tart from Sweet Life Patisserie, I wanted to try baking one myself at home.

Luckily, Catherine Reinhart and Cheryl Reinhart, the two sisters who own and operate this terrific bakery in Eugene, Oregon, were willing to share. Turns out it’s fairly easy to make.

“You can even substitute other fruits and nuts,” Catherine says. “Apples, cherries, cranberries, and pears (even canned pears) work as well as figs. You can switch from hazelnuts to pistachios, almonds, or walnuts. My personal favorite combinations are fig-hazelnut, pear-walnut, cranberry-pistachio, and cherry-almond.”

Thanks, Sweet Life, for the inspiring recipe. If my attempt doesn’t work out as pretty as yours, which seems likely, I’ll just come back and get more Fig Tart from you!

Bakery Boy

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Fig Hazelnut Frangipane Tart (serves 6-8)

Shortbread crust (makes one 9-inch tart)
– 1 cup flour
– ¼ cup sugar
– 4 oz cold salted butter, cut into small chunks

Combine flour, sugar and butter until dough comes together. Press or roll into a 9” fluted tart tin. Bake until light brown, about 25 minutes.

Hazelnut Frangipane Filling
– 4 oz salted butter at room temperature
– ½ cup sugar
– 1 cup finely ground hazelnuts
– 1 egg plus 1 yolk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 to 2 pints of fresh figs

Whip butter and sugar until light. Add nuts, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until fluffy. Smooth into baked shortbread shell. Slice figs in half and arrange artfully on top of frangipane filling. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Apricot Glaze
– 2 to 3 tablespoon apricot jelly

Warm jelly and brush it over top of tart.

Serve at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Recipe reprinted with permission from Sweet Life Patisserie, 755 Monroe Street, Eugene, OR 97402; www.sweetlifedesserts.com 541-683-5676

Photos by Becky Luigart Stayner of Sunny House Studio