Entries from June 25th, 2014

{Cookie Review} Tate's Bake Shop Giveaway

December 28th, 2010 · 41 Comments · Giveaways, Reviews


I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. I'm trying to squeeze as much work as I can before the end of 2010, as I'll be going to Hong Kong for a couple weeks right after the New Year.

One thing I'm attending to on my list: a review of Tate's Bake Shop cookies and cookbook. I was sent a package of cookies from the famous Tate's Bake Shop, Kathleen King's bakery in the Hamptons, along with her new cookbook that captures many of the signature items from her shop. Read on to find out how you can win a package of her cookies and the cookbook as well!

Kathleen King has been baking since she was a child, and she has run Tate's Bake Shop in Southampton, New York, for over 25 years. The menu is a comforting mix of homey selections, from blueberry muffins to rhubarb cobblers to sour cream coffee cakes. Shortly after King opened her bakery, Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, began carrying her products and is one of her biggest fans. 

The package I received included Tate's signature chocolate chip cookies, along with their oatmeal raisin and white chocolate chip macadamia cookies. These cookies have my favorite texture: thin, crisp on the edges but chewy in the center. They are made with no preservatives, and so are meant to be enjoyed quickly, or you can freeze them and bring them out for emergency munchies.

These cookies are pretty straightforward-tasty in a classic, no frills way. The cookbook is similar – clean, simple renditions of many bakery mainstays that you'd like to have on hand in your own kitchen- poundcakes, crumbles, fruit tarts, chocolate cake. I do recommend trying the chocolate chip cookie recipe first – there's always room for more good chocolate chip cookies in the world.

Thanks to Tate's Bake Shop, I am giving away a three-pack of Tate's Bake Shop cookies (as shown above) plus a copy of Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. To enter, just do the following:


1. Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment below letting me know you've done so. (If you already follow me, thanks! just leave a comment).

2. You can also follow Tate's Bake Shop on Facebook for an additional entry. Let me know if you've done so in your comment.

3. I'll take entries up until December 31st and announce the winner on Monday, January 3rd.

4. Also, use the code "cookie" at Tate's Bake Shop for 15% off your order through December 31st.

5. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.


Thanks and good luck! Hope you are enjoying the holidays!

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Merry Christmas to All!

December 24th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Cakes, Recipes


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers and your loved ones. 2010 was a sweet year for me and I hope it was a great one for you.


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{SF} Farmers’ Markets and Pop up Shops: Tell Tale Missive Two

December 14th, 2010 · 11 Comments · San Francisco, Sweet Spots, Sweet Spots


One near-axiom of opening a business is that there will always be unforeseen obstacles. The trick is whether you have the agility to sidestep these pitfalls and maintain as much forward momentum as possible.

When I first learned about Tell Tale Preserve Company, the storefront was projected to open by the end of this year. However, delays in schedules and other issues have led to a revised date of early next spring.


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A Trip to Japan at Napa CIA Worlds of Flavor

December 7th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Events


Last month I was lucky enough to attend the annual Worlds of Flavor Conference up at the CIA in Napa. This annual conference is one of the best professional forums on flavor trends, and has also been described to me as, "the best food you'll eat all year." Every year a different, current trend in world cuisine is selected, and chefs and other experts from around the world are flown in to present their techniques and philosophies; topics in the last few years have ranged from Spain to the Mediterranean to street food. This year the theme was Japan, one of my very favorite cuisines (as I'm sure it is for most of the Bay Area), so I was thrilled to go.

Above, the sprawling, handsome CIA complex. It was a particularly lovely weekend to be in Napa: the rolling vine-covered hills looked especially picturesque in the golden autumn sun, and many of the visiting chefs commented on how much they appreciated the terroir of Napa valley.

Note: All photos with the Chinese watermark are mine and copyright Dessert First. All other photos are by Terrence McCarthy, courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America.


 Over 50 chefs from Japan, ranging from kaiseki masters to tempura specialists, flew in to participate in the conference. A huge number of these chefs are starred Michelin chefs from Tokyo and Kyoto, making this event a real once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of talent. From top left, clockwise, just a few of the chefs: Yoshihiro Takahashi, Yoshihiro Murata, Masahiro Kurisu, and Hiro Sone.


Japan is famed for its gorgeous, refined aesthetic, and its food is no exception. There's not much that needs to be said here, as the presentation says it all. Many of the demonstrations highlighted the importance of presentation in Japanese cuisine, how the selection and placement of the various components is as important as the taste of the final dish. Japan is such a visual culture.


Steady, unerring precision. I found it interesting that many "modern" food concepts here, such as using local, seasonal products and simple preparations, have been part of Japanese cuisine for decades. Although a small country, Japan boasts thousands of microregions that have their own climate and local edibles, and every region has its own specialties. You can only find some ingredients in certain areas – and only at certain times of year. In Japan, seasonality is practically built into the cuisine, and has never been discarded. Fascinating that in the US we lost this sensibility and are just now regaining it.


The list of guest speakers was equally impressive. From top left, clockwise: Harold McGee, Ruth Reichl, Thomas Keller, Elizabeth Andoh.

A surprise cameo from Iron Chef Sakai! Although he was not there to cook, chef Sakai nevertheless turned heads wherever he went and cheerfully posed for photographs with starstruck culinary students.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto, who clearly hasn't lost any of his flair for the dramatic from his Iron Chef days: he brought a smoker carved out of ice on stage (I think he was just showing off; I'm pretty sure this isn't found in his restaurant kitchens).


More food porn. Most of these dishes were prepared before our eyes on the demonstration stage – truly mesmerizing art. Many of the dishes shown here are prepared kaiseki style – kaiseki is the Japanese version of haute cuisine, the ultimate in showcasing ingredients of the season. Every element of the dish, from the garnish to the serving platter, are all chosen to convey a certain message  – the beginning of fall, for example, or the harvest moon. It's like eating poetry.

Chef Yatsunori Yashima, famous yakitori master and owner of three yakitori restaurants inTokyo and Fukuoka, demonstrating the cooking technique over bincho-tan, or charcoal. You must fan the meat constantly to keep the heat high and cook the meat evenly. As his fan stayed a constant blur over the skewers, chef mentioned that the temperature could reach up to 900 degrees. We ate some really good yakitori for lunch that day.


I have to mention, that of all the sessions I saw during the conference, the one standout that blew everyone away was a soba-making demonstration by Yoshinori Horii, an eighth-generation soba maker from Tokyo. I wish there were a video I could put up, because watching him turn flour and water into a perfect dough was like watching a dance – effortlessly graceful.


The speed with which he rolled and stretched out the dough into a flawless sheet, and then folded and cut it into noodles, was spellbinding. The only demo that received a standing ovation. For anyone who's ever made pasta, or any pastry dough, it was so amazing to watch a master in action.


The tasting hall, where all the conference attendees congregated at dinner to taste dishes prepared by the visiting chefs. Obviously everyone was looking forward to this! Listing all the wonderful things I tasted would take another post in itself – just look at the food porn photos at the top of this one for an idea!
We also were served lunch from the chefs as well: I had more finely prepared sushi, meat, and noodles than I'd probably eaten in the last couple of months. Unexpectedly, I ate more pork belly in those two days than the entire rest of the year. One standout pork belly dish: Chef Ivan Orkin's ago dashi shoyu ramen. So. Good.


Chefs and culinary students of the CIA helping out during the lunch and dinner hours.
The CIA looks like a really fab place to learn how to cook!

So obviously I could go on and on about all the fabulous sushi and ramen, etc, but since this is a pastry blog (no booing, please!) I'll wrap up with a summary of the two pastry-oriented sessions I attended. Three pastry chefs from Japan, along with three American pastry chefs, demonstrated classic Japanese desserts as well as Western takes on Japanese flavors.


Chef Mitsuharu Kurokawa was one of the visiting pastry chefs and another person I was extremely impressed with. He is an eighteenth-generation confectionery maker and his family owns Toraya Confectionery, one of the oldest confection makers in Japan. Kurokawa heads up the Japanese branch of this shop in Paris. Not only was he extraordinarily skilled, but he also spoke English, and as the other two pastry chefs from Japan did not speak English, he also acted as their interpreter, describing their techniques as they demonstrated their craft. A very humble and talented young man.


This is one example of what Chef Kurokawa's family company makes: oshimono, or sugar colored and pressed into wooden molds to form intricately detailed candies. A mixture of sugar, potato starch, and mochi powder is combined with a little water and the combination quickly pressed into a mold before it dries. You must work quickly to pack in the sugar evenly. Otherwise, it'll fall apart when you unmold it.

Chef Akihiko Saka is the Japanese equivalent of a pastry career changer: he worked for a mayonnaise company for years before deciding he wanted to go into confectionery. Today he owns his own pastry shop in Tokyo. Here he is shaping his own version of mochi into seasonal forms.

Here, Saka's creations: a cherry blossom for spring, a peach for summer, a chrysanthemum for fall, and a santa hat for winter. Japanese sweets, or wagashi, are strongly tied to the passing of the seasons, and different flavors and shapes of these sweets appear at different times of the year. The skill required to make these is impressive – Chef Saka made these in minutes, and Chef Durfee mentioned that he had trouble forming a chestnut, supposedly the simplest of shapes to make.


Chef Hirofumi Ohta, a second generation confectionery chef, works on carving his nerikiri, soft mochi-like sweets made of a sweet dough covering a red bean filling, into delicate flowers. You can see chefs Bill Yosses and Stephen Durfee watching from behind.

Ohta's chrysanthemums. The roses in the background are made from long ribbons of the same dough.


Local pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner also participated in the pastry workshop. Falkner has long been a champion for molecular gastromony and unusual flavors, so not surprising that her dessert, a sundae of red bean and genmaicha ice creams, yuzu fudge and soy caramel sauces, and frozen red bean "rain" was a perfect encapsulation of Japanese flavors meet American pastry.


Chef Durfee of the CIA did his own tribute to Japanese pastry with a melon parfait: a melon formed out of melon puree to echo the Japanese tradition of modeling sweets in the forms of fruits and flowers; atop an almond cake with royal icing cookie with melon balls.


All in all, these were three of the best food days I've enjoyed all year and I'm humbled by the opportunity to have seen so many masters of the craft up close and in action. And itching to get over to Japan so I can have some more of their food. I'll end with a recipe for passionfruit mochi, by pastry chef Bill Yosses – just a tiny little taste of Japan.

Passionfruit Mochi

adapted from recipe by Bill Yosses

340 Mochiko sweet rice flour

400 Passion fruit puree

320 grams sugar

40 grams glucose or corn syrup

Adzuki (red bean) filling


Combine all ingredients together in a microwaveable bowl.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for about 5 to 6 minutes.

Scrape mochi onto a cutting board dusted with cornstarch.

DIvide into about 32 pieces. Roll each piece flat. Use a cookie cutter to cut round discs from each piece.

Place a small scoop of adzuki bean filling in the center of each disc. Pull dough around the filling and pinch to seal, forming a ball.

Freeze until ready to serve.


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The Best of Baking Cookbooks 2010

December 1st, 2010 · 14 Comments · Cookbooks, Reviews

2010 has been a very good year for cookbooks, and a very, very good year for baking cookbooks indeed. I can’t buy bookshelves fast enough to keep up with my ever-multiplying book collection.

Here, then, a bakers’ dozen of my favorite baking cookbooks from this year – it was diffcult to choose! Hopefully some of them will find their way under your Christmas tree or next to your mixer!


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