Tag Archives: pastries

Big Booty Takes the Cake

While searching for bakeries within walking distance of my office downtown, I stumbled upon Big Booty Bread Company, and of course, I was first struck by the playful name.  But then I scrolled through the menu, and the Latin American-inspired pastries sounded too good to resist, particularly the namesake booty buns.

The exterior
The exterior

Escaping the harsh winds of New York and stepping into a cozy niche in Chelsea was the perfect conclusion to a long day at work, and I was immediately impressed by the relaxed atmosphere of the location, devoid of the pretentious attitude that some patisseries have.  Dining alone that day, I definitely welcomed the calm.  There was an expansive display cabinet and counter at the front of the store, while the back contained simple wooden tables, topped with flower vases.  There were also some examples of apparel hanging on the wall, and I might have to return again just to purchase a shirt that reads, I <3 Big Booty.

The seating area
The seating area

I arrived with a very clear sense of what I was going to order (having already scoured the menu), but the packed display case made me pause because all of the fresh pastries and baked goods were so tempting.  Beyond cupcakes and cookies, Big Booty also offers paleo and gluten-free options with a Latin American flavor, like a cheese bun or guava pocket.  I probably could have ordered one of everything, but I decided to stick to my original order: one strawberry booty bun (a brioche bun stuffed with strawberries and topped with sugar) and a ham and cheese empanada with chimmichurri sauce, completed with a half tea, half lemonade.

Just some of the delicious looking pastries
Just some of the delicious looking pastries

The warm empanada melted in my mouth, and the sauce added that little bit of kick to put it over the top.  The booty bun was the perfect complement, with a crunchy, sugar-coated exterior with a soft bread in the middle.  I will definitely be returning to Big Booty Bread Company, so I can sample all of the booty bun flavors because one just wasn’t enough.

My empanada, booty bun, and drink
My empanada, booty bun, and drink
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Paris is Just a Train Ride Away

Although I knew the 1 line could take me all over Manhattan, I had no idea that it could also transport me to Paris. That is, until I stepped into Maison Kayser. Nestled in Columbus Circle, this authentic French boulangerie uses traditional techniques to craft fresh pastries and desserts baked on site daily. French baker Eric Kayser opened his first New York boulangerie on the Upper East Side, and the high demand for his impeccable desserts resulted in more Maison Kayser locations opening across the city.

My first view of the boulangerie
My first view of the boulangerie

Walking into Maison Kayser – and out of the torrential downpour outside – felt like walking into heaven. Vibrant and delicate desserts were painstakingly arranged behind a glass case, and a variety of fresh baguettes and loaves covered an entire wall. The women working behind the register actually had to ask me if I was ready because I spent such a long time staring at the pastries in front of me.

The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser
The gorgeous display at Maison Kayser

Eventually, I decided upon the tarte au chocolat, brioche au sucre, and pain au chocolat aux amandes. The tarte was composed of a chocolate shell filled with a rich chocolate cream and topped with a truffle, also known as the chocolate lover’s ultimate dream.  Brioche is a light and airy French bread, and mine was covered with large bits of sugar.  My last purchase was a traditional French pastry, reinvented by combining chocolate with a thick almond paste inside a delicate pastry shell.  All three of my desserts melted in my mouth and transported me to a picnic along the River Seine in Paris.

A decadent tarte au chocolat
A decadent tarte au chocolat
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes
Brioche au sucre and pain au chocolat aux amandes

Experiencing the quality of the pastries at Maison Kayser is an easy alternative to purchasing an expensive plane tickets to France, and I cannot wait to jump back on the 1 train and do it all over again.

The breads and pastries
The breads and pastries

A Sweet Spot Near Campus

To start my search for the best bakeries in New York City, I decided to begin with a local spot, easily accessible to Barnard and Columbia students, making it that much simpler to find the sweet treat you’ve been craving.

While en route to an Environmental Science lab at West Harlem Pier, I stumbled across Chokolat Patisserie at 122nd and Broadway and was intrigued by this little bakery and the assortment of pastries I could see from outside. I promised myself that I would have to return once I had some money in my pocket, and it turned into the perfect excuse to enjoy the brisk fall weather and indulge my sweet tooth.

Due to the patisserie’s proximity to campus, I had the chance to simply take a walk and clear my head without ever leaving the neighborhood or having to deal with the subway. Upon entering the space, I found it to be small, yet cozy and inviting, with sturdy wooden tables accompanied by the gentle murmur of small talk and the scent of freshly brewed tea. Because there are only three small tables within the patisserie, it is a better option to take your items to go, but if you come in at the right time, it could be used as a valuable study space.

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The rows of pastries and desserts, including flourless chocolate cake, croissants, and crème brulee, drew me in, but it was the chocolate mousse cake that eventually caught my eye. Topped with chocolate and berries, the delicate dessert offered just enough sweetness to satisfy my craving and distract me – at least for the moment – from the stress of midterms.

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While I came for the desserts, I stayed for the tea. As I am not well versed in the art of tea, I was initially overwhelmed by the rows of flavors – both traditional and unique – proudly displayed upon the blackboards, from Candy Apple Green to Hibiscus and Ginger Swiss Green. I quickly realized that the patisserie is very serious about its teas, giving customers the chance to choose the temperature and sweetness of their beverages and even the option to add bubbles or lychee jelly. Feeling adventurous, I chose the sweetened Pomegranate Jasmine Green and was presented with a steaming 16-ounce cup full of sweet yet tangy tea, with rich fruity undertones – all for only $4.

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Although there is an abundance of bakeries in New York City, I recommend keeping Chokolat Patisserie on your radar as a local and inexpensive option to quickly grab a croissant or a large cup of tea to keep you warm during the upcoming months.

The 10 Best Coffeeshops On The Upper West Side

This is a cross-post with theculturetrip.com. Check out writer Cindy Liu’s original article here!

Long considered the ‘coffee shop desert’ of Manhattan, the Upper West Side now boasts coffee and pastries to rival the Stumptown’s of Flatiron and the Blue Bottles of Brooklyn. The uniting appeal in the coffee shop explosion of recent years lies in owners’ singular commitments to both quality and happiness.

Continue reading The 10 Best Coffeeshops On The Upper West Side

London Fare: Claridge’s

I finally got my classic British high tea. When you picture Claridge’s, a famous and old London hotel, think quintessential English. The tea room might have come right out of a Downton Abbey episode, and the rest of the hotel, in all of its splendid glory, could pass as the inside of a palace with its sweeping spiral staircase and intricate marble finish. Add three hours, a red-haired waiter, finger sandwiches, and a photograph of the queen and you can pretty much imagine my level of euphoria.

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It is not easy to get a reservation at Claridge’s. We had to settle for a Wednesday afternoon, which as it turns out, is just as buzzy as it would be on the weekend. The tearoom is split into two sections, a large and airy, high-ceilinged room with a view of the lobby and a cozier backroom complete with sofas and mood lighting. We were seated in the back, at a small round table near a pillar, adorned with a lamp emitting a soft, buttery glow.

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Claridge’s is expensive, but as I found out, completely worth it. I would recommend it for a special occasion. It’s a place to get dressed up for and to take your time enjoying. It was all about the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, the food was absolutely stellar, but it wouldn’t have tasted so good if I hadn’t been eating under a black-and-white photograph of Audrey Hepburn cutting a cake in what undeniably was the very room I sat in. There was something about it that transported me back in time, gave me a respect and awe for this historic institution that made its way from the 1800s to today at the height of fashion and respectability. The grandeur of it was enough to make me dizzy.

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The highlights of the meal were definitely the seasonal finger sandwich, which consisted of a mouth watering combination of a cheesy scone, the lightest whipped cream cheese I’ve ever had, and tart, braised apples, and the rightfully famous jam, a “Marco Polo gelée infused with Calabrian bergamot and Madagascan vanilla pods.” Trust me, you’ve never had anything quite like it.

I left the hotel full to the brim with all the delicious and well-varied sandwiches, scones, and pastries, feeling very British and intoxicatingly happy.

 

http://www.claridges.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Claridges/Restaurants_and_bars/Afternoon_tea/ClaridgesAfternoonTea-NEW2014.pdf

 

Danes and Danishes

A natural place to start in our exploration of Scandinavian food cuisine is with the pastry that has, in English, become synonymous with Denmark: danishes.

 

Ironically enough, the Danes call danishes “wienerbrød,” which literally translates to “Vienna bread.” Unsurprisingly, the name comes from the pastry’s origins in Austria. As the story goes, the mid-1800s brought massive baker strikes in across Denmark. To stay in business, bakeries hired foreign workers who, unfamiliar with Danish recipes, made pastries and bread from their home countries. One of these became especially popular among Danes, who tweaked the recipe and gave the pastry the name Vienna bread.

 

Although obviously an homage to these origins, the name can also be understood within the context of the booming agricultural trade in Denmark at the time. The increase in trade led to an influx of foreign goods, many of which were considered exotic and exciting. The name, then, also gave the pastry an exotic flair.

 

It might go without saying that danishes in Denmark are nothing like the prepackaged food-shaped-objects living for months at a time in vending machines across the United States. Danish wienerbrød has a delicate and flaky texture, with a generous amount of filling, often either chocolate, custard, or some type of high quality fruit jam. It’s difficult to look graceful while eating a genuine danish, but it is well worth the humiliation if you ever have the opportunity to try one.

 

While wienerbrød is quite ubiquitous in bakeries all over Denmark (and all of Scandinavia, for that matter), they are far from the only pastries gracing shop windows. The options, in fact, are too numerous to mention in such a short post, but here are some of the most significant (and, in my taste, delicious).

 

Fastelavnsboller
Fastelavnsboller is a pastry that is almost exclusively available in late winter. It is the traditional food item to accompany a holiday called fastelavn, which is similar to Halloween in the US. Children dress in costumes and knock on houses in their neighborhoods one Sunday afternoon in early February. When the door opens, the children sing a song in which they ask the homeowners for buns (festelavnboller, in fact!) to eat, although often small amounts of money are given instead. Some sources say that the tradition started as a socially sanctified way for less fortunate families in Denmark to receive public food support as food supply dwindled after a long, cold winter. However, its proximity to lent may also indicate that the sweet is a holdover from the Fat Tuesday tradition that officially subsided when Denmark became Protestant in the 15th century.

 

The pastries come in many varieties, and there is an especially large diversity when all of Scandinavia is considered (as all have similar traditions). Danish fastelavnboller are generally sweet pastry buns filled with cream and a bit of jam, and topped with more cream frosting or chocolate. The buns in other Nordic countries, however, tend to be more like normal wheat rolls.

 

Kanelbulle
A favorite among Swedes is the kanelbulle, or cinnamon bun. Americans are generally familiar with cinnamon buns, but it may come as a surprise to many that they have roots in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. Little information is available about the pastry’s specific origins, but it seems to be clear that by the 1920s they were hugely popular all over the world. Today, the buns often play a prominent role in the Swedish cultural institution of fika (which Amanda is exploring in her blog series “Fika Fridays”).

 

Scandinavian cinnamon buns are typically smaller and not quite as sweet as those Americans are accustomed to. They also often include cardamom, and instead if icing, large sugar crystals are often out on top of the buns. IKEA offers very reasonably priced Swedish-style cinnamon buns in their restaurants and food sections, if you happen to find yourself at one. This coffee and kanelbulle were only 10 DKK, or about $2!

 

Hindbærsnitter
Hindbærsnitter is a pastry that, despite its convoluted name, has quickly found a place in my heart here in Denmark. Its original attraction is its surface similarity to Pop-Tarts, but unsurprisingly they are so much tastier. The name translates to raspberry cutting, alluding to the jam filling. This filling is between layers of thin shortbread. On top, there is usually white frosting or glaze and rainbow sprinkles. Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

 

So, now we’ve explored Danishes in Denmark, along with other local pastry favorites. Any questions? Do you have a favorite Scandinavian pastry? Let me know in the comments!