Homemade Bread, Macarons, Almondine, and Bouchon (again)
This is to back track everything that has happened the entire week or so. Starting with some homemade bread.
I made this bread before I actually ate out with my aunt (the one who’s visiting from Hong Kong) from my earlier post, at Chung Moo Roo but since I don’t really have a real recipe for you to write about except that it’s a very close derivative of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread from The Bread Bible except that I used whole wheat flour (about 15 – 20% total) to make it healthy.
My aunt is somewhat of a health conscious person, so that’s why I did that. However, I did make it a bit “bad” by making a barely sweetened chocolate paste for the swirl portion of the bread. All I did was use about 1/2 cup of unsweetened Valhrona cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter and mix it up to a paste and let it solidify to a paste.
They came out really well, since my aunt loved it. The only criticism she gave me was that she didn’t like the chocolate. It’s not that it was too sweet or too bitter; it’s the fact that she doesn’t really like chocolate that much. The good news is that she ate 95% of the entire batch, which was the two pans of bread that you saw. Nevertheless, I’m happy about that. (If you want the basic recipe, just e-mail me and I’ll send it to you.)
In exchange for my bread, she brought a ton of pastries from Hong Kong that I’m totally enamored with. However, most of them have been kind of bashed up so I don’t know if their photogenic enough to make it to this blog…but it’s mostly Cantonese pastries from Kee Wah Bakery. I know there’s one in Los Angeles, California but I’m not planning to go there anytime soon, since it’s been 7 or 8 years since I’ve been there and I don’t really love L.A. but that’s my opinion. The other pastries are the traditional wife cake from a bakery that does not have a website nor does it have an English name, so I’m not going to attempt to translate it for you but I might post up a photo in the near future.
(since my D.C. trip was over and my aunt and her son flew back to Hong Kong yesterday afternoon)
On Tuesday, I went to SoHo for no real apparent reason and went to Ceci Cela originally for their croissant, since Robyn did mention that it was pretty good. However, as I perused their pastry cases I saw MACARONS! I didn’t even know they sell macarons since it wasn’t mentioned on their website or by anyone else. Since I have an obsession with macarons amongst a hundred other foods, I bought a package of macarons that contained a dozen of them for $15. (You will see them a bit later with photos and analysis.)
I did not want to eat in there just because when I look at the back of the patisserie, it looked pretty dim. So, I schlepped myself all the way to Dumbo, Brooklyn. I know there’s no logic behind this but considering the fact that I am a “wandering eater” I did this unintentionally to try Almondine Bakery‘s chocolate cupcake ($2.50), which you have probably seen before either by looking at my Flickr page or from my Update post. Here’s the photo again…and other views of the cupcake.
As you can see, the cupcake looked pretty dry from the innards shot. It’s quite unfortunate since it had a good ratio of frosting to cake (as Robyn commented on flickr). The cake had a nice hint of chocolate, tender, again dry for the most part except that thin layer that touches the slightly sweetened, almond accented frosting. The bright red-orange white chocolate curl was a nice aesthetic touch but didn’t really do much in terms of texture. The odd thing is that when I was noshing on my cupcake, a lot of people are ordering their cakes. I’m wondering, would their cake be a better choice than their cupcake? Hmmm…I’m asking you people who have tried it. PLEASE do comment on this if you have.
All of the cookies have a low ratio of filling compared to the cookie. Most of them lacked flavor. All I’m tasting is almond and sweetness of the sugar used in the cookie. But at least the cookies were crisp on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside.
The one with the most flavor was the raspberry due to the fact that the jam was quite tart, bright and sharp that one can detect it’s raspberry instead of being confused if the filling is supposed to be the former or strawberry, which had happened on a few occasions when I was with Robyn on our macaron hunt a little over a week ago. The ones with the least flavor were the lemon and pistachio. The lemon didn’t really taste like lemon; only detected a very faint hint of lemon but the dominant flavor was almond. The same goes for the pistachio. I was really disappointed with these macarons.
After being induced into a sugar coma, I walked out of Almondine and to the nearby docks in Dumbo. Even though it looks gorgeous, it was terribly chilly and windy. But still, I took some cityscape photos of downtown Manhattan. I think it looks straight to Chelsea Piers but I could be wrong.
On Wednesday morning, I didn’t really have breakfast (unless you consider a cup of coffee and a banana breakfast) and it was 10 AM. I went to, as you can guess by now, Bouchon Bakery, for a chocolate almond croissant ($2.95) and a large cup of coffee ($2.15).
This is arguably the most decadent croissant I’ve sank my teeth into as of recent. It’s packed with two sticks of chocolate, wrapped with flaky, buttery layers of dough, topped with a thin layer of almond paste in the center, then layered with almond slices then snowed with confectioners’ sugar at the end of the process. Yep, it’s really decadent. It tastes good but my small tiff is that it’s a bit too dense but at the same time it’s not a true croissant since it’s embellished with so many things.
For today, the weather is absolutely crappy. It’s windy, cold, and rainy. Heck, the winds were bad during the morning hours that my umbrella broke and I had to buy one from a local Duane Reade as an emergency replacement. Obviously I don’t want to go out walking around the city for a different place to eat, so again, I went to Bouchon for lunch.
This time I went for their Ham and Cheese Croissant ($7.75), Focaccia ($5.25) and a large coffee. Yes, I need my coffee and I was hungry.
I did request the ham and cheese croissant to be pressed. Even though it’s warmed, the cheese didn’t melt. The good part is that the ham was not dry like last time when I had their baguette version, as you’ll see here. The croissant was very flaky and buttery. It’s really indulgent and I needed it since I feel like crap for the entire week.
To my surprise, Bouchon seemed like they added a new item, the focaccia bread. It’s basically focaccia bread leaden with olive oil, topped with lots of garlic that slowly roasted to a soft, candy-like state, thinly sliced potatoes, and rosemary. It’s a pretty large piece they’ve given me, about 3 1/2 inches deep, 5 inches wide and 7 inches long. The flavors worked nicely but I don’t see the point of adding the potato slices. They don’t really contribute much in terms of flavor, since the sweet roasted garlic, rosemary and olive oil are the dominant flavors of this chewy bread. I really loved the edges since they’re really crunchy. I should’ve asked them to warm up the bread so it’ll be crunchier and it doesn’t actually feel cold in my mouth. They stored the focaccia in the refrigerated savory foods case, which I thought it was kind of an odd way to store focaccia.
That’s basically it. I’ve updated this blog to the fullest extent possible and now, back to studying for an upcoming test and writing my history paper. Oh joy… Have a great weekend!
Ceci Cela Patisserie
55 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
85 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10021