Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baking for safety and survival in West LA

If you're a blogger who's also a jogger and currently living in Santa Monica, you've probably resigned yourself to tinkering around with google analytics tonight instead of taking your daily post-work run.

The Great American Bakery Hunt has deemed current conditions unsafe for blogging joggers in West LA, and our reasons are twofold: Not only do the palm trees that line our usually serene streets appear precariously ready to snap in half, but there's so much debris in the air that anyone outdoors should be wearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-style protective eyewear.

If you're the kind of person who thinks they can tough it, learn from our mistakes at The Great American Bakery Hunt now and save the money on eye drops and patches later (although the latter is well-timed for Halloween.)

Plus, the weather's awful, so come inside and bake.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Teacake Bakeshop's 335-mile journey

Thanks to bakery hunter Lisa, who traveled on a 335-mile expedition to deliver some goodies from the Teacake Bakeshop for us to enjoy. She has done this on more than one occasion, but what is always amazing is that the treats arrive intact: cupcakes without so much as a lick of frosting missing, cookies without even a nibble stolen during the long journey down the 5 freeway. Does Lisa buy a separate stash of treats to snack on to protect the common good, or does she just have an unusual amount of willpower when it comes to delicious desserts in her passenger seat? We may never know. In any case, we tip our bakery hunting hat off to Lisa!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

hope in the form of a cheese danish hypothesis

Few things are better than enjoying a meal with others who passionately appreciate great food. During one of many entertaining culinary conversations at tonight's sushi meal, one diner at the table concluded that you could make a life's work out of hunting the perfect cheese danish. Here at The Great American Bakery Hunt, we couldn't agree more. The perfect cheese danish should demand our respect. But perhaps, for you, it's a different taste you're searching for: maybe you've spent your whole life seeking out that perfect pie crust you remember your aunt making, or perhaps you're hoping for a reunion with that elusive Irish soda bread recipe that defined your childhood?

This search brings us to the most challenging part of being a true bakery hunter: Nostalgia can play funny tricks on the food enthusiast's mind. It's difficult for the average, modern bakery to measure up to our taste buds-- which are hopeful, yet biased with the flavors of family ovens past. We're still so deeply in love with food memories of our pasts that we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment (otherwise known as rebound meals.)

Meanwhile, we're in a race against time where all great food traditions and recipes are at risk of being forgotten. We may run around as consumers trying to find the perfect taste, texture, and combination of ingredients, but we don't always work hard enough to fight for the food traditions that matter most to us by creating them ourselves. (Which means I'd better learn my grandmother's gumbo recipe before I do anything else.) Otherwise, I'll face the doom of rebound recipes that will never truly satisfy.

Tonight, it seemed a noteworthy blessing that I was surrounded by people who consider obtaining cheese danish in its perfect form a legitimate pursuit. And that, my friends, is what The Great American Bakery Hunt is all about. So bake, cook, eat what inspires you the most, and believe that cheese danish perfection is in the realm of the possible-- even if it means you have to make it yourself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The New School of Cooking lures vulnerable bakery bloggers with a yeast breads class

I am seriously considering an $85 yeast breads baking class (I can't afford) at the New School of Cooking in Culver City. How can they advertise yeast bread education and expect me to stay away? Thoughts?

Monday, October 19, 2009

a stormy Santa Monica invites baking opportunities

To bake or not to bake? That is the question.

The Santa Monica "winter" is approaching, and the first storms have rain-shy Californians flocking inside. After the last rain over our usually sunshine-bathed land, the local beach path was desolate. Usually home to so many outdoorsy folk, it was barren of rollerbladers, joggers, and cyclists.

In cities like Seattle, people may go about their business as usual on a rainy day. But in California, rain can mean having a usually bustling city all to yourself. Thus, bringing The Great American Bakery Hunt to this question: as stormy weather patterns rise, does baking also increase? I can't imagine where these outdoor exercise fiends escape to when the sky turns gloomy, but I'd like to think they use inclement weather as an excuse to indulge in a little home cooking.

One thing is for certain: The Santa Monica Farmer's market on Arizona experiences slower than normal sales on these rainy days-- so it's a great time to get a potential deal and support your friendly, local farmers. If you can get past getting a little damp, it may be the perfect time to buy that exotic ingredient you've been eying every Wednesday.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday night date with butter pecan cupcakes

After a truly epic Friday happy hour, I went directly to the grocery store and purchased the necessary ingredients to make some butter pecan cupcakes.

Included in my purchase was the 18-egg "Family Pak", which holds the promise of many baking experiments to come. While I'm clearly not buying 18 eggs for a family, the cashier asks no questions and probably just assumes I'm a single woman who eats an excessive amount of eggs. (In addition to my baking aspirations, I was probably subconsciously influenced by watching the morning news, where CBS announced earlier that it was National Egg Day.)

Most importantly, sometimes you just need a Friday when you can come home, enjoy a night free of social obligations, and make your entire studio apartment smell like a combination of dark brown sugar and vanilla.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Late night Los Angeles desserts: an ongoing investigation

Some things in life are inevitable. This includes dessert cravings that always strike after most bakeries have closed their doors for the night. It's a most unfortunate situation to find yourself in: perhaps it's 10 pm after a late dinner, and you're determined to take the edge off by satisfying that sweet tooth of yours. But everywhere you look, it's closed doors and mounting frustration. You think to yourself, "This is America. What kind of a country do I live in if I can't even get a quality piece of pie or chocolate chip cookie right now?"

But not all American city-dwellers are plagued by these night owl woes. While bakery hunters in New York are spoiled by an abundance of late night options (including cocktails & cupcakes sold by nocturnal bakery hunting-savvy establishments), Los Angeles seems to offer few late night dessert options. If I had the resources, I'd put an end to this madness. With a little political clout, I'd be able to tie public transportation initiatives to late-night bakery reform and we'd all be happier, greener, and more sugar-high Angelenos.

But until then, I'll be searching for late-night bakery hunting opportunities and will not rest until I find them. This is a work in progress at The Great American Bakery Hunt, so we'd appreciate any advice you can offer. (Please consider the baked good that will truly satisfy the late-night craving, all things fresh and worth savoring. Packaged apple strudels from the 7-11 don't count.)

The late night baked good timeline of Los Angeles seems limited to establishments that still close around 10 or 11 pm, including Mani's on Fairfax, Crumbs, & Urth Cafe.

But let's not forget the longtime LA landmark Diddy Riese. Simple, cheap, and undeniably appealing, you can snag a giant ice cream cookie sandwich for only $1.50 until 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays (12 pm the rest of the week.) You'll have to make it to Westwood Village at the end of your night to get one, and brave horrific parking scenarios to access these treats. But let's face it, there's nothing like reliving those college years via people-watching UCLA undergrads while butter pecan ice cream oozes out of your chocolate chip walnut sandwich and down your arm.

But let's just assume you've passed the 10 pm, 11 pm, 12 pm, or 1 am cutoff. Your heart starts to sink and desperation approaches. The bright yellow light of Denny's starts to beckon you, but you know their Oreo cheesecake will sit unsatisfactorily in your stomach, crushing your dessert dreams like a cartoon anvil. You consider buying a candy bar from the 24 hour grocery store and calling it a day, but it feels like giving up. Luckily, you've got until at least 2 am before you have to raise the white flag and sulk to your bed in defeat, nursing a sugar packet. So you head to Swingers, the late night diner establishment: You wouldn't expect it, but their butter pecan cupcake has the power to speak straight to your late-night baked-good lovin' heart (depending on the location, Swingers is open most nights until between 2 am & 4 am.)

A Special Note to our Readers: This is a part of our ongoing investigation into the void of late-night bakeries in Los Angeles. Want to help support the cause for late-night baked goods in our fair city? Send us some tips and we'll spread the word! Write your local Congressman! More importantly, always keep some homemade cookie dough in the freezer for nights when the craving hits hard.