Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bakery Nouveau

Twice-Baked Almond Croissant
Bakery Nouveau, $3.85

One morning a few weeks a regular customer dropped by the shop where I work to pick up some to-go drinks before heading over to West Seattle for the day. When I heard that her westside plans included a stop at Bakery Nouveau I let out one of those awkward, uncontrollable squeal-sighs, like a teenage girl confronted by a photo of Robert Pattinson in his underpants. Bakery Nouveau is a heartthrob of another stripe, a wildly popular boulangerie/patisserie owned by
2005 World Cup of Baking winner, William Leaman.

As I made her drinks, my customer and I bonded over our love for Nouveau's French-style treats. Rather than just reaching for a convenient packet of yeast, Nouveau's bakers take the time to grow and nurture active cultures. This gives the breads and pastries an inherently complex flavor and appealing texture--the starchy stuff isn't just a vehicle for tasty toppings or fillings.

When she asked, "So, what's your favorite thing there?" the answer welled up from my stomach without needing any input from my brain: the twice-baked almond croissant. Since the almond croissant is my litmus test for new bakeries, I've eaten a lot of them; very few are as flaky and flavorful as Bakery Nouveau's.

And although the almond croissant is one of Bakery Nouveau's most popular items, odds are good that if you go there you'll find fresh ones on the shelf; rather than just baking in the morning, Nouveau keeps cranking out new products throughout the day. Thanks to that policy and my customer's kindness, I had a huge treat in store. Several hours after we spoke, a car pulled up in front of the shop and my customer dashed in with a huge smile and a small paper bag. In it was a fresh almond croissant; I think it tasted even better than if I'd gone to Bakery Nouveau myself.

4737 California Avenue Southwest
Seattle, WA 98116-4412
(206) 923-0534

Wednesday, May 26, 2010



Catherine Grisez is a Seattle artist known for her ability to turn seemingly intractable sheets of metal into forms so full of life that they appear to flow, swell, pulse, or grow.  Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that one of her hobbies involves giving form and personality to another challenging material: cake.

The process of creating cakepops, as I understand it, goes something like this:
   bake a cake
   pulverize it
   use frosting to glue the bits back together
   form the mix into balls
   jam in a stick
   dip in chocolate
   decorate to the full extent of your artistic ability.

Finally, kick back and enjoy the fireworks as grown women tussle over who gets the cutest cakepop.

Want to see what everyone else is eating?  Check out WanderFood Wednesday....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Confectional

Mochaccino cheesecake
The Confectional, $4

The Confectional is a tiny little nook in Pike Place Market that makes the most of its dimensional resemblance to a confessional booth.  Since 2006, the on-site bakery and retail counter has been dispensing single-serving cheesecakes with a pinch of transgression and a dollop of indulgence.  Owner Paul B. Vernano's motto:  "Forgive me chocolate for I have sinned.  I have not yet had my daily confection." 

The Confectional's products are appropriately naughty-but-nice, relying on the best ingredients available, whether from near (eggs from free-range hens) or far (rich Spanish biscuits for the crumb crusts). There are more than a dozen varieties to choose from, including the Moccachino (above), which features Colombian coffee and a dark chocolate crust.

Wait, did I say "single-serving"?  Even as well-trained an indulger as myself would have trouble polishing one off in a sitting; an individual cake is perfect for sharing.  For smaller appetites, the Confectional also offers innovative "truffles"--cheesecake balls coated with dark chocolate.

[Coincidentally, only two days after I had my first Confectional experience, I was served the exact same flavor at a fundraising dinner (below).  This time around I was able to eat about 3/4 of the single-serving cake on my own.  Maybe the third time will be the charm?]

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Indian Sweets & Spices, approx. $.75/ea

The current selection of fresh house-made mithai at Indian Sweets & Spices includes two flavors of burfi that I haven't gotten to try before: chocolate and mango!

Burfi (aka barfi, burfee) is made by cooking condensed milk with sugar until it thickens into a velvety, fudge-like solid. It is frequently mixed with fruit, nuts, or other flavors; in the examples shown a layer of plain burfi rests on top of a flavored layer. The reflective particles on top are tiny bits of edible silver leaf--a flavorless but tasteful touch.

Both the mango and the chocolate were mild but discernible, and both batches were far less sweet than much of the burfi I've eaten in the past.

Indian Sweets & Spices
18002 15th Ave NE
Shoreline WA 98115

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines

Trader Joe's

While nothing at all like the soft, sugary puddles of praline I grew up eating, Trader Joe's are delicious in their own way and much easier to come by. Almost too easy...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tokaragashi IV

Tokara, $10/3

The May "
touryanse" assortment of Kyoto-style wagashi from Seattle's Tokara sweetshop: 

"Azalea" (above) is white kinton tinted with green tea, filled with chunky bean paste. 

"Iris" steamed cake of rice and yam with a smooth red bean paste center; the design is applied with a tiny branding iron.

"Violet's Whisper"  is thickened bean paste wrapped around a ball of smooth red bean paste.