Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cocktail Buns from Eastern Bakery


Eastern Bakery Visit.
Eastern Bakery is a Chinese bakery in Chinatown, that has been on my radar for a while.  I haven't actually explored much in Chinatown in San Francisco, but, whenever I visit Sydney, it is one of my favorite pastimes, specifically, for the baked goods.  I'm not sure why I never choose to do so in my own city.
Curb Appeal.
Eastern Bakery is located at the corner with an alleyway, marked by a big red sign advertising "Chinese & American Food".

The "American Food" part is particularly amusing to me, given that the american food selection seems to be limited to ice cream bars.
Store Front.
The front windows show an array of treats, and are covered in signs of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  You can tell that they were just added on one by one.  There are also some decorations, and, super randomly, a few water bottles?

Its kinda charming, actually.
Front Window Moon Cake Display.
One entire section in front is mostly moon cakes, split open to show you the different fillings they offer.
"The Only Bakery in USA Visited By President Clinton For its Mooncake!""The Best Quality Moon Cakes For The Least Of Your Money!"
They are clearly proud of these moon cakes, and they seem to be their signature item. Eastern Bakery offers 30 (!) different styles of moon cake, and ships them all across the US anytime.

However, I didn't try those.
Inside Display Cases.
"The best quality cake in town! Fresh whipped cream cakes and fresh fruit cakes."
Eastern Bakery also make a variety of cakes, about 20 kinds, all different flavors and fillings, round or sheet cakes, in multiple sizes.  But I haven't had those either.  Yelpers seem to love the coffee crunch cake.

There is also, kinda randomly, a freezer filled with ice cream novelties, like Nestlé DrumsticksIt's-Its, and Häagen-Daz, not Asian at all.

Their "other items" include cookies, sesame balls, egg custard tarts, puff pastry "cakes" filled with many different pastes (e.g. sweet lotus, sweet adzuki bean, winter melon, mung bean, etc), pies, dim sum items like steamed buns with filling (sweet and savory), and even Chinese tamales (sweet and savory).  And cocktail buns.
Classic Pink Box.
One day, I walked by the microkitchen at my office, to see a classic bakery pink box sitting out.  My pace increased.  Usually these boxes yield one thing: donuts.  When I reached the box though, I saw that it was not from a donut shop.  Instead, it was from Eastern Bakery.

Inside? Cocktail buns.
Cocktail Buns!
Cocktail buns were new to me.  I actually didn't know what they were, but, they are a Hong Kong creation, with a fun backstory.

Bear with me, this is interesting!  The story goes, that they were invented by a bakery as a way to use day old buns.  They would grind up day old buns, mix them with coconut and sugar, and then use those for a filling for fresh buns.  The "cocktail" name comes from it being like a bartender's mix of things.  Or, so they say.

Anyway.  This was my first cocktail bun.  And my second.  And my third,  They were fantastic.
Cocktail Bun: Side View.  $0.95 each or $10.10/12.
"Sweet coconut and cream filled bun. A customer favorite!"
"Delicious, sweet, rich-to-taste coconut cream filled bun."

I think whoever ordered these got a dozen, and they weren't fully separated. Here you can see the edge where it was baked on to its neighbor.  I separated one, and dug in, not really sure what I was eating, since I didn't have the description available.  They just kinda looked like strange shaped soft rolls.

The dough was soft and sweet, a pleasant surprise.  I love Chinese sweet bread, and was thrilled that this was indeed a dessert.
Cocktail Bun: Top View.
The top was lovely golden brown, shiny.  Not crispy, but slightly crusted.

Inside was the coconut filling.  I didn't know that this was even going to have a filling, much less what it would be made of, but I was happy it had something (although, I like Chinese sweet bread enough on its own that I probably would have been happy with it plain).

The filling I liked at first, but, actually decided was too much.  Maybe it was just the ratio of filling to bread?  Maybe it was because I had already had dessert and a lot of sugar that day?  The filling was sweetened shredded coconut, quite moist, basically like a really soft macaroon.  Or what almond croissant filling would be like if it were made from coconut instead of almonds.  This totally makes sense, right?

The description mentions cream, but I didn't notice any cream.

Overall, the filling was good, it complimented the sweet bread well, but I found myself actually wanting to just eat the sweet bread, and come back for the sweetened coconut filling later.  Which was perfectly fine with me.
Cocktail Bun: End Piece.
Since we had a big box full, we also had an end piece.  This one had the shinny crust all the way around the side, since it did not have one baked adjacent to it.

I really like the soft part of the dough, so I preferred the interior pieces.  This one however had less filling, so I liked that.

Eastern Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waffling Leftovers: Sticky Buns

Update Review, June 2017

By now, I know that waffling is a great way to "save" day (or more) old sticky buns, donuts, cinnamon sugar knots, or any other glazed sticky bread products. All staleness vanishes, and sticky glaze turns into excellent caramelization.
Sticky Bun Transformation.
So when I had another giant batch of sticky buns that really degraded quickly past their first day, I knew exactly what to do.
The Originals: Maple Pecan Sticky Buns.
The originals were fairly classic sticky buns, rolled with cinnamon sugar between the layers, a basic dough as the base, and sticky bottom side.

I had them at my office, and we had platters and platters of them. Suffice to say, there were tons leftover, and I grabbed some, thinking they'd hold up ok for another day, and I pondered making bread pudding from more.
The Original: Maple Pecan Sticky Buns (bottom).
Of course, sticky buns are all about their sticky side. The undersides of the buns were coated in a sweet, maple syrup based sticky sauce, with plenty of halves of pecans.
Day Old Leftover Sticky Bun.
After a day, they were dry and stale. These has zero shelf life. Even warmed up, they weren't good.

So I sliced one in half, and threw it, sticky side in, to my waffle iron at 350°.
Waffled Sticky Bun.
After about 5 minutes, the waffle transformation was complete.

The outside was crispy, the inside stayed moist, and the maple syrup coating turned into liquid that infused the whole thing, and then formed a slightly caramelized layer.

It extracted fairly easily from the iron, except that ... it split apart where the rolls were. I didn't really care though, and topped it with plenty of whipped cream. And dug in. I realized about halfway through that I forgot to take a photo of the completed "dish", but, I think you get the point.

These items are always a success, as long as you don't overcook. Highly recommended as a way to salvage 1-3 day old glazed bread products!

Original Review, September 2016

A few years ago, for Christmas brunch, my mom made incredible sticky buns, following a recipe from King Arthur Flour.  Since then, I request them literally every time I visit.  It is a given that I want them for Christmas brunch annually, but I'll also ask for them for a random breakfast when I visit in the summer, or for dessert even (because really, they *are* dessert!).  We've tweaked the recipe a few times over the years, trying different cinnamon fillings and ratios, and adjusting the cooking time slightly (I like them a bit under-baked, more soft and doughy inside, and the topping more gooey and sticky).  At this point, my mom has these sticky buns nailed, and they are a highlight of my visits.
Sticky Buns: Normal Version.
Anyway, I adore these sticky buns and they come out excellent nearly every time (there was one time when we baked them too long, and the topping turned into caramel brittle and the buns were kinda dried out ...).  Pictured above is how they normally look, with an amazing cinnamon sugar topping and tons of pecans bathed in the sticky topping.

A batch is fairly sizable, and not everyone in my family is as crazy about them as I am.  Which means, I generally end up responsible for eating ... 80% of the buns?  And, their shelf life isn't exactly long.

They are incredible hot and fresh out of the oven for a decadent breakfast.  They are pretty good later that day for a dessert, topped with whipped cream or ice cream.  They are acceptable the next morning, warmed, for breakfast again.  After the second afternoon though, I generally start to turn my nose up at them, and move on to whatever new baked good my mom's oven has produced (because, well, she knows I have a sweet tooth, and she keeps me very well fed!)
Sticky Buns: Not-risen.
So that is how things normally go.  Incredible sticky buns that I enjoy for about two days, and then move on.  But on my recent visit, things didn't quite go as expected.

My mom made up the dough in advance, knowing that is the time consuming part.  She stashed the dough in the freezer to pull out and easily make my sticky buns when I arrived.  On my first day there, she pulled it out and defrosted in the fridge.  She intended to surprise me the next morning with hot fresh sticky buns.  But ... she forgot.  And we had breakfast plans the day after that with my grandfather at 4 Aces Diner.  So, two days passed, and then she remembered the dough.  She pulled it out to make the buns on the third morning.  But ... they just didn't rise.  Was it from freezing?  Was it from being in the fridge for a few days?  We weren't sure.  But I still wanted my sticky buns, so, eventually, she put them in the oven, warning me that she could tell things weren't quite right.
Sad Sticky Bun: Not Risen, Way Too Much Topping.
And ... yeah, things weren't quite right.  The buns didn't rise, didn't get as fluffy and doughy as usual.  Instead they stayed fairly deflated.  The topping amount was too much, given the significantly reduced dough surface area.  So, what we had was kinda undercooked balls of dough, with way too much filling inside the folds and on top.  They looked horrible.

They tasted decent enough, but were crazy sweet, and totally not right for breakfast.  Warmed up later in the day with a huge scoop of ice cream to cut the sweetness, they made for a fantastic dessert (in my mind), but, no one else wanted to touch them.  They were going to throw them out.

I had another one after lunch the second day, warm with ice cream.  It was still pretty good.  I had one after dinner the second day, warm with ice cream.  Still a winner.  But, no one else wanted any.  I had an entire batch of sticky buns to eat myself (save for one that the others split the first day).

By day three, I decided to get creative.  Even a perfect version of the buns never holds up to day three.

I imagine you might know where this is headed.  What else would I do with a sad leftover that I desperately wanted to save?  Of course I waffled it, following my tradition of waffling all the things

So, Leftover Messed-Up-Sticky-Buns: Will It Waffle?  Yes!
Mid-Way Through Cooking.
I knew this idea had potential.  The cinnamon sugar coating would likely get crispy and actually caramelized when it came in contact with the hot irons.  The entire thing would hopefully cook a bit more and improve upon its under-baked state.

I threw the sticky bun in, unmodified, into a 350 degree waffle iron. (Of course, my mom has the same waffle iron I do, with adjustable temperatures, so, no modifications were needed to my technique).
Waffled Sticky Bun!
The result was certainly better than the original, but, I did accidentally leave it in a bit too long, as I was busy socializing with my family.  Rookie mistake!

The outside sugar and cinnamon did indeed turn more caramelized, into a crispy layer encasing the side of the bun.  It went a touch too dark though, so had a hint of burnt flavor to it.  The pecans on the outside sadly did burn, so I ended up scraping those off.

I think the dough did cook a bit more, but, really, it just mattered less because the whole thing was mushed down to be waffled, so the lack of rise wasn't as strange in this form.

I served the sticky bun with both whipped cream and ice cream, and preferred the whipped cream since I could dunk the crispy roll into it easier.

Overall, this was a success, and a great idea for what to do with future extra sticky buns, even ones that DO rise properly, after day two.
Read More...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thanon Khaosan Dessert Cart, Sydney

Update Review, Dec 2016

During my previous visit to Sydney, I found myself swinging by the thai dessert hawker out in front of Thanon Khaosan nearly every night.  It was the natural evolution of the previous year, where I stopped by Chat Thai nearly every night.  But on this more recent visit, I wasn't quite as ... crazy?  I visited Chat Thai for dessert only twice, Samosorn once, and Aqua S twice, all repeats from previous trips, along with a few new choices too.  So don't worry, I was going out to dessert, I just choose to have some variety this time around.

On my second to last night in Sydney, I realized I had failed to visit my hawker.  Partially because, well, it just wasn't ever that good, I just *wanted* to always love it.  I couldn't leave Sydney without trying it at least once though.  I just couldn't.

As on all my previous visits, I was overwhelmed by choice.  So many things.  Did I want a pudding?  I love puddings.  What about the crazy looking thing with corn?  Or the simple mango sticky rice, it was mango season after all ...

In the end, I impulsed shopped, and got another lackluster item.  Doh.
Taro ... Coconut ... Something.  $5.
I don't know what this was exactly.  I pointed at it, and asked if it was taro, guessing from the purple color.  The merchant said yes.  So I went for it.

I'm sure it was supposed to be "taro".  But the base, which I expected to be a real taro pudding, was just bright purple thick jello.  It didn't taste like taro.  It didn't taste like anything.  It wasn't sweet, it was just ... mush.  I do not think real taro was used here, which sorta makes sense, given the bright purple color.

On top was a thick layer of I think coconut custard/pudding/jello.  It was barely sweet, but was very salty.  Salty!  I know thai desserts often have salty components, but this was a surprise.

Overall, this was just not good.  I was in the mood for something sweet, which is why I wanted a thai dessert.  Many thai desserts are actually too sweet.  This, not sweet.  The salty component was nice, and I did scrape it off and eat it, but it was not what I was going for.  The flavorless purple jello mush however just wasn't good, and I couldn't finish it.

The $5 price seemed high, although it was a large slice.

Original Review, April 2016

As I've mentioned a few times now, Sydney has wonderful thai food.  We always make an effort to eat as much thai cuisine as possible when we are in town (like Sailor's Thai, Longrain, Muum Maam, Chat Thai, Home Thai, etc).  You may also recall that I'm a bit of a dessert fiend, and, in particular, I love trying new things.  Thai desserts, beyond the basic mango and sticky rice, are still totally fascinating to me.  A few Sydney trips back, I went to pick up a dessert from Chat Thai nearly every night.  That extreme novelty may have worn off, but, my desire to keep eating random thai desserts has not.

The Cart

Which led me to the dessert cart outside Thanon Khaosan.  Thanon Khaosan is a thai restaurant in Thai Town.  I haven't been to the restaurant, but, when wondering through Thai Town, it is pretty much impossible to not notice the dessert cart out front, piled high with just about every thai dessert imaginable.  As far as I understand, it isn't actually linked to the restaurant.
Hawker Cart.
I called it a cart, but, really, the display is built on a tuk tuk.  How cute!  The desserts are all laid out to grab, and are replenished quickly by the worker as soon as one is removed.

There is no seating, so this is a grab and go operation only.  My understanding is that even if you eat in the restaurant, you cannot grab a dessert to eat at your table.  Takeaway only.

It quickly became my place to swing by to grab a dessert on my way back to my hotel in the evening, like you do.
So. Many. Choices.
I'm not entirely sure how many different items are offered, but it must have been at least 20.  Treats abound, you just may have no idea what you are getting nor how much it will cost.  No items have prices, nothing is labeled.

Expect taro, pandan, sticky rice, tapioca, and lots of sweet coconut milk.  Maybe some mango, jackfruit, or durian too.  So many goodies.  All for <$5.

The Food

Taro, Glutinous Rice Balls, Coconut Milk Pudding. $5.
The first one I went for was a soupy pudding, with colorful balls inside.  I asked the shop keeper what it was, and she said "taro".  Clearly, there was more than taro here, but I love taro and I love puddings, so, this sounded great to me.

Ojan took the first bite and said, "Why is there a potato in here?"  Um, clearly he didn't know what to expect from taro?  There was no potato.

Anyway, inside our container was purple, yellow, and green glutinous rice balls.  They were soft and mushy, and, although pretty, I didn't really like them.  They had no flavor, and the texture just wasn't very great.  Why would I want those?

But there were also cubes of taro, also purple, but since I love taro, I really liked those. Nicely cooked, good starchy flavor, yum.

There were also a few shreds of fresh young coconut, which I really liked.

The broth was a sweet coconut milk, and it went really well with the taro.  But wow, it was sweet.  Sweetened condensed milk perhaps?

This was served at room temperature, or, I guess, street temperature, which was a bit unfortunate.  It would have been much better cold.

Overall, not a huge success, but, I still ate all the taro, slurped up all the coconut milk, and walked away with quite a sugar high, so, that was a success to me.  This dessert was similar to the desserts from Chat Thai.
Green Tapioca with Corn and Cream. $5.
Next came another pudding-ish concoction, again in a clear plastic container.  When asked what this was, the shop keeper said "tapioca".  Not so great with the descriptions.  Again, I like tapioca, so, sure.

The tapioca was green (pandan perhaps?), tiny little balls, all mushed together thick.  Not a pudding really, just, a fairly solid mass of green tapioca balls.  Hmmm.

Oh, and there were corn kernels in there too.  The first time I had corn in a dessert I thought it was strange, but, it wasn't too strange to me at this point.  The sweet corn was a nice texture contrast with the tapioca.

On top was a thick cream, I assume coconut although it didn't taste particularly coconuty.

Overall, this wasn't very sweet, and it wasn't creamy, so, not a winner for me.
Black Rice with Longan and Coconut Milk. $5.
Next I went for another one with lots of sweet milk on top.  This was ... pretty good.

The rice was nicely cooked, some a bit all dente, but none soggy.  There seemed to be a mix of two types of black rice (or maybe only some of it was hulled?)

Along with the rice were some pieces of longan, cut in half, and there were probably about 5 of them total.

On top was a sweet coconut milk, similar to the sweet milk from the first one, although it didn't seem quite as sweet to me this time.  Perhaps the rice helped balance it more though, since it had a heartiness to it that the glutinous balls did not?

Overall, I liked it.  The rice was good, the textures were good, I liked the creamy sweet milk on top.  It was quite comforting and tasty.  But, I did want something more mixed in to the rice.  Amusingly, I found myself wanting ... corn in it.  Or just something to add some variety.  That said, I had absolutely no problem finishing it, which was a bit ridiculous, as it was a full pint of sweetness.

A few days later though, I had the version from Chat Thai again, and realized just how much better it was.  I did like the rice in this one more, but, the Chat Thai version has taro cubes, corn, and other goodies in it to break up the consistency, and the sweetened condensed milk on top is also salty, which greatly adds to the depth of flavor.
Coconut Cake?
And finally,  one that was not a pudding.  This was picked by a co-worker of mine.

When asked what it was, she told us, "Custard Cake".  I think it was coconut?

This item was not sweet at all, and the texture somewhat reminded me of the persian chick pea cakes that Ojan's family sometimes has.

This was far too savory for me to even consider a dessert and I did not like it.
Read More...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Koi Palace Express, SFO

While I do a fair amount of airport dining, I don't usually dine at the San Francisco airport, particularly landside (not sure I've EVER done this actually), as it is my home base, and I usually just head home for food once I arrive.  But on a recent flight I was delayed taking off in Boston, and by the time I arrived in San Francisco, it was dinner time, and I didn't have anything waiting at home.  It seemed easier to just get a bite at the airport.

I was in the International Terminal, which has two landside food courts (North and South).  I actually almost went to Wendy's, as I haven't had Wendy's since I was in high school, and fondly remember my order of Biggie Fries, Small Chili with Cheese, and a Junior Vanilla Frosty (each from the $1 menu at the time).  But the International Terminal has been trying to bring in better options, and more local offerings, so I needed to check those out.

I headed to Koi Palace Express, an offshoot of the popular Koi Palace in Daly City.  They also have a second Express location airside in the International Terminal.

It ... was mediocre, generic food court food, and served at airport prices.  Not recommended.
Hot Wok Table, Dim Sum, Sushi.
The majority of the offerings were served from a steam table, as combo meals or individual entree, like any other generic Chinese food court offering, with items such as orange chicken, kung pao chicken, mapo tofu, etc, served with fried rice or lo mein.

They also had dim sum items available, again pre-made, on display in steamer baskets, including har gaw, pork bao, sui main, and sesame balls.  , They do make xia long bao to order.  The menu also listed other cook-to-order noodle dishes and rices, but they didn't have descriptions, and I never saw anyone order these.

The cold case had pre-made sushi rolls, seaweed salad, mango pudding, and drinks.

I'll admit, I was skeptical, as this looked like any food court asian offering, and really nothing like Koi Palace.  Do they even have sushi normally?
BBQ Pork Bao. $6.50.
After my long flight, what sounded good to me was simple, comforting, fluffy carbs.  So I got the BBQ Pork Bao, served 2 to an order for $6.50.  Ooph.  Not exactly dim sum prices.
Pork Bao: Inside.
The bun was good, soft, not dried out, not slimy, slightly sweet, very fluffy.  It tasted reasonably fresh.

But I didn't like the filling.  I was expecting BBQ pork, you know, little bits of pork in a strangely red sauce.  This was more like minced pork with onions?  The flavor just wasn't at all what I wanted.

Since I didn't care for the filling, I didn't really want these, even though I thought the dough was well done.  Would not get again.
Soy Sauce Chow Mein. $4.25.
My travel companion also sought simple comfort food, and for him, this was chow mein.  While most folks got this as the side to their combo meals, he went just for a side of the noodles.

The noodles were served from the steam tray, but were decent.  Basic noodles, not mushy, simple soy sauce flavoring, a few bits of green onion.  I thought this was really boring, but he seemed to enjoy, and they were good for what they were.
Mango Pudding. $6.50.
Finally, I wanted a sweet treat.

I was going to get the sesame balls or egg tarts, but, they really looked like they had been sitting there for far too long, so I opted for the mango pudding from the fridge instead.  Plus, I love pudding of all types.

It was thick and gelatinous, more like jello than what I think of as pudding.  It had some little bits of mango that I enjoyed, but was very, very sweet.

Overall, it was fine, but, I really wanted coconut milk, whipped cream, or something to compliment the otherwise boring pudding, so I brought it home, and added coconut whipped cream.  I enjoyed it much more this way.
Koi Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Read More...

Friday, June 16, 2017

RXBAR

"Whole Food Protein Bars with Real Ingredients."
Yup, another day, another type of snack bar to review.  RXBAR is a line of high protein bars made with real ingredients, gluten-free, soy free, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I often roll my eyes at these sorts of things, but these truly are made with real ingredients, or, as they say, "like eating 3 egg whites, 2 dates, and 6 almonds. With no B.S."

RXBAR currently comes in 8 varieties, all with egg whites, different nuts, and dates as the base.  The flavors sound pretty good, like peanut butter, coconut chocolate, maple sea salt, mint chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, and more.
Coffee Chocolate.
"Our Coffee Chocolate protein bar brings two favorites together in one delicious bar. Four core whole food ingredients, infused with 100% real chocolate and the perfect balance of coffee make this bar an instant favorite of both coffee and chocolate lovers. With no added sweeteners and only a hint of caffeine (5mg.), this is your anytime, chocolate and coffee break."

I tried the (now discontinued) coffee chocolate flavor.

The ingredients in this bar really are real ingredients, as promised: egg whites, almonds, and cashews for protein, dates for sweetener, cacao and coffee for the flavor, and a hint of salt.  That is it.  No random protein isolates, no scary ingredients.

But, as you can imagine, what do you get when you combine just those things?  Yup, you get a very strange texture and flavor, like the original Clif bars (or, at least how I remember them).  Dense, gummy, just ... odd.

There was a bit of crunch from bits of nuts, and some decent flavor from the coffee and chocolate, but, yeah, this was not for me.

On the plus side, it did have 12 grams of protein with no crazy ingredients, and was a decent 210 calories, but I didn't want another.
Read More...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Batter Bakery

Batter Bakery is a local San Francisco bakery that I desperately want to like more than I do.   Batter Bakery makes a number of breakfast baked goods, including scones, muffins, quickbreads, coffee cake, and "morning bars".  They also make dessert items, such as cookies, brownies, shortbreads, and cupcakes.

They care about sourcing, with ingredients coming from local farmers, and selections varying with the seasons.  They try to take a slightly healthier focus on baked goods, with whole grain flours used in many items.  They sell at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market, and through Good Eggs, along with at their retail locations, including a cute little kiosk.

But ... I've been turned off by a few things.  The first is actually the service, at their now-closed Polk Street store.  I visited many times, and the staff were always very unfriendly.  This ranged from being visibly annoyed answering any questions, to barely offering up a "hi" when customers enter the store.  Second, the prices.  They seem higher than comparable places around town.  And third, the most important: the goods just aren't very ... good.  Everything seems dry and over cooked, and ingredients aren't well distributed inside.

Scones ($3.85)

"Think you don't like scones? Try one of these. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. Filled with flavor, these scones are a Batter favorite! " 
Scones come in 4 standard flavors, plus a rotating seasonal special fruit and savory variety.

The scones are all large size, very dense, crumbly style, square shaped.  I've tried many, and agree that they are crisp on the outside, although, they really generally seemed burnt to me.  I never liked any, and found the ingredient distributions were often off.
    Buckwheat Walnut Fig. 
The first time I tried the Buckwheat Walnut Fig scone, I did not like it.  My tasting notes were simple: "Not very good.  No real flavor in the scone body, dry."

Yet, I didn't consult my notes before visiting another time, and picking the same scone.  Whoops.  I think the nuts and figs just kept calling out to me. 

My notes the second time were much improved: "I enjoyed this.  It wasn't the best scone I'd ever had, but it was pretty good.  Good heartiness from the buckwheat, slight tang, well spiced.  I liked the sweetness and slight chew from the bits of fig, and the crunch from the nuts.  Worked well as a standalone scone, no jam required, and didn't need to be warmed up."
Weekly Savory: Mushroom, Ricotta, Pancetta.
This was the weekly seasonal savory special.  I stopped in at Batter Bakery around lunchtime, and thus, a savory scone jumped out at me, rather than my standard pick of sweets.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from such a savory scone, but I thought it might be like a biscuit?  It wasn't.  Sure, the scone base wasn't sweetened, but it was still very much a scone.  Like their others, very dry and crumbly.

The outside was very, very dry, and a bit burnt.  Inside was moist at least, but the outside was just way overdone.

The balance of ingredients was also totally off.  In my entire scone, I found one little glob of ricotta.  There was no cheesy aspect to the scone at all.  Also lacking? The pancetta.  There were just a few tiny little bits of pancetta.  The pancetta that was there was absolutely delicious, super crispy little nuggets of salty goodness.  But not nearly enough.  The mushrooms were earthy and actually were in the correct quantity for the scone, but unfortunately for me, I didn't actually like them much.

But where everything went wrong, well, besides being overcooked and not having the right balance of any of the tasty ingredients, was with the herbs.  I'm not sure what herbs were in here exactly, but there was way too much of them.  The herbs overwhelmed everything.  And what is worse, is that some came in giant sprigs.  So not only did they ruin the taste, but biting into little sticks inside your scone is not enjoyable.

For some reason, I kept trying with the scone, even once I realized I really didn't like it.  I bought it home and heated it up.  It was better that way actually, but still, I wouldn't ever get another one of these.
Weekly Seasonal Fruit: Plum Spice.
My scone came in a plastic bag.  I think the bag is partially responsible for the texture, as the top seemed a bit gummy.

Inside was moist, almost doughy, which I actually liked, but isn't really ideal for a scone.  The scone didn't really have any crumb to it as a result, although the bottom was dried out and almost burnt, and did crumble.  Inside was a layer that contained slices of plum, very moist, very tart, lots of them.

I'm not entirely sure what all of the spices were that made up the "spice" component of "plum spice", but there was at least nutmeg, as it had a vaguely soapy taste.  The spicing existed mostly on top.

Overall, I didn't really like this, mostly because I didn't care for the plum, or the bottom of the scone.
Weekly Seasonal Fruit: Apple, cinnamon, cheddar.  $3.
Ok, I need to learn to stop trying their scones.  They just really aren’t very good.

The scone base was very plain, no tang.  That is not to say that it was flavorless, as the cinnamon was very, very strong.  Too strong.  The texture was also not great, no crumb to it.  But it also wasn’t a moist cakey style scone.  It seemed rather overcooked, although not burnt, just dried out.

Inside were chunks of apple.  They were a perfect size, and well cooked, not too mushy, not too crisp.  Decently distributed throughout.  That part was done well.

I never found any cheddar.  I didn’t taste it, I didn’t find any melted anywhere.

I’d clearly never get this again.

[ No Photos ]
  • Meyer Lemon Currant: Very large, dense, crumbly scone.  It weighed a ton!  Pretty strong citrus flavors, a nice buttermilk sour component as well, but nothing really special.  Didn’t reheat very well.  Got a really heavy buttery mouthfeel.  Still worked well as a conduit for tasty jam though! [ Frozen and reheated: Did not work well, was very crumbly and just too buttery, with a strange mouthfeel. ]
  • Weekly Seasonal Fruit: Raspberry Ginger: Just dry, no real flavor, serious meh.
  • Weekly Seasonal Fruit: Strawberry Poppyseed Scone: Nice crunch from the poppyseeds, good flavor and moistness from the strawberry.  My favorite of their products.

Muffins ($3.45)

Muffins come in three varieties, I only tried one.

[ No Photo ]
Cherry Bran.

This was a little on the dry side.  It had a nice hearty flavor from the bran, but was not very flavorful, and was pretty boring tasting.  The cherries were inconsistently distributed throughout, some in big clumps, and other areas missing cherries completely.

It was not a bad muffin exactly, but certainly not worth going out of your way for it.  Didn’t reheat very well the next day.

Coffee Cake ($3.85/slice.)

Coffee cake comes in 2 varieties (sour cream rhubarb or pecan buttermilk), available by the slice or round.  Since I don't like rhubarb, I only tried one.
Pecan Buttermilk Coffee Cake.  $3.85.
I went in one morning, really in the mood for a muffin.  It was 9am, and the store opened at 8:30.  Yet, no muffins.  Could they really run out that fast?  They are a bakery!  I inquired, and was told that they didn't bake any muffins that day.  Boo.  The other breakfast offerings were quick breads and scones.

I love scones, but I haven't ever been impressed with Batter's scones, and I don't like quick breads very often, so that left one choice: coffee cake.

Coffee cake is also not something I ever normally order, but it looked a bit better than the quick breads.

Batter got the "cake" aspect of this right.  It was seriously sweet.  It was good cake, very moist, and, I think would be perfectly good as a cake.  But for breakfast?  It was a bit much, even for me, and I eat pie for breakfast.  I did like the topping, a crumble top with pecans, but it too was sweet, so it didn't help cut the overall sweetness.  Inside the coffee cake were a few pieces of fruit, I think apricot?  Peach?  They were just little slivers in the very center, and added additional moisture.

Overall, this was better than I expected, but really not what I had in mind for breakfast.  I'd recommend it as a mid-afternoon treat with a cup of coffee perhaps.  Or, if you like cake for breakfast, by all means, go for it.  $3.85 price for a large slice of coffee cake, like most of their other prices, seemed a bit high.

Bars ($3.75-$4.25)

Batter Bakery makes a lot of assorted bars, including several types of brownies, and even a gluten-free and a vegan option, plus a couple fascinating sounding "morning bars".

On one visit, I saw that they had these two types of morning bars, a standard nut and seed granola bar (crispy hard style, vegan, gluten-free) and one called a "breakfast bar".  It looked softer, more like a cookie, but in bar shape, and, given the name, it claimed to be acceptable for breakfast.  I grabbed one to eat the next day, even though I don't generally find granola bars to be all that interesting.  I've also tried several of the brownies.  I haven't liked any.
Breakfast Bar.   $3.75.
"A hearty, chewy snack bar filled with oats, oat bran, dried fruit & nuts."

The base was oats, with raisins, dried cranberries, and dried apricot bits.  It wasn't dry exactly, but it also wasn't very moist.  Basically, yes, just a soft granola bar.  I'm not sure why I expected it to be more than that.  It was nicely spiced, but besides that, why would I want this?

It would have been better with nuts for some crunch and some other dried fruit.  Oh, and chocolate chunks.  Or ... something.  Just too boring as it was.

[ No Photo ]
Carmelita. $3.95.
"An oat brown sugar crust filled with caramel, chocolate, and pecans. Decadent and delicious!" 

This was a many layer bar with nuts, chocolate, coconut, caramel ... basically everything.  It sounded great.  But, it wasn’t particularly interesting. 

I tried one again a few months later, as it sounded so good.  But, again, it just wasn't great.  I love all of the ingredients, not sure why it doesn’t come together for me.

[ No Photo ]
Devil’s Food Brownie. $3.95.

"Dense, fudgy and packing a serious chocolate punch, these brownies will make any chocolate lover drool." 

Meh.   It was very rich, very chocolatey, but just a brownie, and, like many of their items, a bit dry.

Cookies 

Batter makes an assortment of cookies, including gluten-free ones, and a large range of shortbreads.

I never seek out cookies, since they are my least favorite category of dessert (or, I argue, aren't *really* desserts), but cookies are what people bring in all the time to my office, so I have been able to try many from Batter that way, including their signature Sand Angel.  They are all hard style cookies, and I haven't really cared for them.
Decorated Shortbread Cookie.  $3.25.
I was really craving a sugar cookie with icing, which is funny, because cookies are very rarely the sort of treat I crave.  But I'd just depleted the supply from my freezer of iced sugar cookies from Suzie Cakes that I actually liked, and I just couldn't get the idea of iced cookies out of my head.

Batter Bakery didn't have sugar cookies, but they did have iced shortbreads, which seemed close enough.  Again, cookies are rarely the treat I choose, and of cookies, shortbreads are near the bottom of the list for me.  I love the butteriness, but, they are kinda boring.  This was certainly a strange pick for me.  But they had royal icing as decoration on top, so I hoped that they would meet my craving needs.

And, they did.  Was it a remarkable cookie?  Not really.  But it was exactly what I wanted.  The shortbread was buttery and sweet, a lot sweeter than I'm accustomed to for a shortbread actually, but since I wanted a sugar cookie, this was a good thing.  The icing was just basic royal icing, but again, it is what I wanted.

Buttery, sweet, fresh enough.  The price seemed crazy high at $3.25 for a single cookie however.  It wasn't particularly large.  I know the decorating takes extra effort, but if I wasn't really craving this, I would have never paid that much for a single cookie.

[ No Photos ]
Assorted Cookies.  $3.25.
Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread
Not very buttery, good flavor from hazelnut, crispy shortbread, not really my thing.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
"Chocolate cookie with peanut butter swirls and chunks of peanut butter cup".  

I love chocolate and peanut butter, but I didn’t love this cookie.  It was hard and crisp, and I prefer softer cookies.  The bites with chunks of peanut butter cup or peanut butter swirls were good, but these things were fairly sparse and inconsistent in the cookie, there just wasn't nearly enough peanut butter flavor to it.

Coconut Macaroon
Decently moist, decently sweet, but fairly generic.
Sand Angel
"Batter's signature, secret recipe cookie. A chewy, cinnamon-y cookie similar to a cross between a snickerdoodle & a molasses cookie. " 

Again, a huge hard crunchy cookie.  If it was softer, this could be a great cookie!  The cinnamon flavor was really strong, yet there was a great molasses undertone, with bright ginger backing it all.  Much better when heated up in the toaster oven to soften it up some.  If they just cooked it less, I would absolutely love this thing! 

Cupcakes ($3.25)

Batter's final offerings are cakes and cupcakes.  I've never had a full size cake, but I've tried several of the cupcakes.  I didn't really like them either.

Devil's Food
"Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream."
The chocolate cake was fairly moist, but again, like many of their products, not that intense of a chocolate flavor.  Chocolate buttercream was light and fluffy and a pretty good chocolate flavor.

German Chocolate 
"with Coconut Pecan Frosting."
Another dense chocolate cupcake that wasn’t very flavorful, but was nicely moist.  The frosting was a caramel base, but included mushy pecan and coconut flakes.  The frosting didn’t have any real flavor, not even a nice sweetness, and the mush level of the coconut and pecan were really unappealing.

Red Velvet
"with Cream Cheese Frosting"
My favorite of the cupcakes.  Cake itself was kinda flavorless but decently moist.  Frosting had a nice cream cheese flavor.

Vanilla Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream 
The cake was very dry and plain tasting.  Frosting had a nice chocolate flavor and was light and fluffy.
Read More...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Davigel Liège Waffles

Davigel is a wholesale French distributor for hotels, restaurants, and catering.  Their product line is astounding.  They carry fully cooked entrees ranging from chicken curry, to lasagna, to moussaka, to boeuf bourguignon, and everything in-between.  They have raw seafood and meats of all types.  They have cheese, vegetables, and even chopped herbs.  They have a slew of appetizers and side dishes.  They have savory pastries and desserts of all types.

I haven't been able to find out much about Davigel online, as the website is entirely in French (or Italian), but they distribute through the wholesale company my office purchases from, which is how I got my hands on some when I was running a catered event.

I picked Davigel for the liège waffles, given, well, my obsession with waffles.  I'm not sure if they actually produce the items, or only distribute, as the country of origin is listed as Belgium.   Catering waffles might not sound appealing, but I'm not talking about frozen Eggo waffles.  I know liège waffles can be really good, even when not fresh (my office in Sydney has some they use for catering that I adore, and they are always a highlight at the Sheraton on the Park executive lounge when they show up).

The Davigel waffles are distributed frozen, with instructions to simply thaw for 30 minutes.  They can be served cold, and heated in the microwave or oven.  I tried some warmed, and at room temperature.
Gaufre de Liège (Liège Waffle).
"Particulary moist waffle, which does not dry. Ideal for buffets, brunch, or create your own dessert."

Our catering team served them warm, and I grabbed one right when they came out, so I was able to try one warmed up first, although I really don't generally think liège waffles need to be served warm.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Just like I knew was possible, these waffles were quite enjoyable, even though not a fresh baked waffle.  They were crispy, dense, and had a great level of sugar and caramelization (aka, the hallmarks of a liège style waffle).
With Nutella!
They were fine plain, but I asked to have Nutella served on the side (this is how my Sydney office serves them at catering events, as little liège waffle sandwiches with Nutella and chopped nuts inside, and I always love that combo).  The Nutella was a huge hit, although you could tell people felt a bit guilty at breakfast.  They would also be good dusted with powdered sugar.

I had one later cold as well.  It was fine then too, and they held up throughout the day (well, as long as they lasted!)

The individual waffles aren't particularly large, and somehow manage to clock in nearly 500 calories, and 25 grams of both sugar and fat each ... without any toppings.  Oooph.  I guess that is the margarine kicking in ...
Read More...