Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Baked Goods from Baker & Banker

[ Original Posting: June 26, 2012 ]
At the end of our last trip to Baker & Banker, we were given some parting gifts of random leftover treats from the bakery.  I've been wanting to visit the bakery for a long time, as I love pretty much all baked goods and have heard some great things about theirs, so this was very welcome!  

I don't think I would have necessarily picked these particular items, but they were all really quite good!  We had just consumed a rather insane amount of dessert (the portion sizes on their desserts are a bit outrageous), so I only tried a few bites of each item that night to sample them before they got older, and finished the rest the next day.  It was kinda fun not knowing what any of the items were, since we didn't order them, and weren't given any descriptions!

All of the treats were all insanely decadent, so buttery, and so sugary.  I'm not sure any of them really classified as breakfast food, they were really truly more like desserts, but I really liked them!  I'll definitely be visiting the bakery sometime soon!
Almond Brioche Toast, Fig and Candied Ginger Scone, $3.25.
The scone was a very classic triangle scone, hard-style, and a little crumbly.  It had chunks of dried fig in it and was drizzled with pretty delicious sweet lemon icing.  This was decent, but not particularly noteworthy.  My least favorite of the bakery items, also the most traditional and least decadent and sweet.

Since we didn't order it, I had no idea what the toast-like thing was.  I had a few bites of it that night and thought it wasn't very good, and didn't seem to be holding up well at all.  It was kinda spongy and weird, and a little oily.  It seemed to be a very thick slice of bread, topped with some sort of mushy layer, and sliced almonds.  I assumed I'd just throw it out in the morning.

I did however look on their web site to try to determine what it was, and saw "almond brioche toast" as one of their offerings.  This was clearly it.  And then I read a slew of raving reviews about it, including one where someone mentioned warming it up in the toaster oven.  The next morning, I had a few bites of it cold, and like the night before, thought it was pretty gross.  Then … I put it into the toaster oven, and everything changed.

This thing became amazing.  Wowzer.  The bread crisped up nicely.  It was a buttery brioche with a flaky exterior crust, almost croissant-like.  Topped with a very generous layer of almond marzipan, which was sweet and had an incredible almond flavor.  So delicious.  Great flavors, and just really, really good.  So decadent, and a huge slice, but damn, it was really good.  Made for a great "breakfast" paired with nice bitter coffee!  (This falls into the same "breakfast" category as french toast ...).

But even better, was pairing it with peach foie gras mousse.  Yes, you read that correctly.  My parting gift from Chez TJ the night before was a tub of peach foie gras mousse.  I'd been spreading it on all sorts of things over the course of the day, trying all sorts of pairings, but hadn't really found anything that was working.  (The best I'd had was actually just eating the mousse by the spoonful!)  But, I thought, "warm buttery brioche … sounds like a great vehicle for foie to me!"  So … I tried it out, and it was awesome.  The buttery brioche went perfectly with the foie, and the peach and almond flavors worked together really well.  I can't even begin to imagine how incredibly unhealthy this was, but it was really quite delicious.  If you happen to somehow wind up with foie mousse and this toast at the same time, I recommend the pairing :)

The toast was my second favorite of the bakery items we received, and I'd order it again in a heartbeat, and definitely bring it home to warm it up. (Side note: thank you restaurants for sending me home with amazing treats!)
Apricot White Chocolate Pecan Scone, $3.25.  Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Muffin, $3.50.
The scone, while it looked fairly similar to the fig scone, was a completely different style.  It was also a triangle shape, but was much softer, very biscuit-like.  In fact, I'd really call this a biscuit rather than a scone.  It was incredibly buttery.  Filled with chunks of apricot, white chocolate, and pecans, all of which were flavorful and tasty, and combined together really well.   Not sure I'd get it again as I'm just not that into scones, but it was pretty good, and I enjoyed it.  My third favorite of the baked goods.

The muffin was downright incredible.  I had no idea what to expect, just saw that it was a muffin with a streusel like topping.  What I discovered was one of the most amazing muffins I've ever had.  But let me just say, calling it a "muffin" isn't really accurate.  Yes, it was a muffin shape, but it was a cake.  Or really, a fruit crisp combined with a cake.  There is absolutely no way this thing should be classified as breakfast food.  It was dessert.  It was delicious.
Inside the "muffin"
The streusel top was almost exactly like the topping from the crisp we had the night before.  It was made up of oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Great flavors, and really crispy, which was a nice textural contrast with the cakey part.  Like the crisp, this was a substantial layer, almost too much.

The cake was super moist, but there was very little of it.  I didn't mind the ratio of cake-to-fruit-to-streusel, but it definitely had far less cake than I'd expect.  It was sweet, and was the final step in pushing this into the realm of dessert rather than breakfast.

The rest of the muffin was the strawberry-rhubarb filling.  It was sweet, but the sweetness level was dialed back a little compared to the crisp the night before, perhaps due the tartness of the rhubarb.  Like the crisp, the fruit was mushy, but it worked in this case, since it was part of the muffin, and you wouldn't want the fruit to be at all crispy.

This was my favorite of the baked goods, and I'd get this again any day.  I've really never had anything quite like it before.  I enjoyed it cold as it was, but it was even better when I warmed it up and just went all the way to dessert-vile and served it with ice cream.

I finally went back to the bakery to try a cookie.  I was being indecisive about which type to get, and the cashier recommended the chocolate chip, saying it was the best chocolate chip cookie ever.  I couldn't resist a recommendation like that!
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie. $3.
This was a huge cookie.  I wish I had a reference point here to show the size.  It wasn't really my style of cookie at all - thin and crisp.  It did have nice big chunks of chocolate and a strong brown butter taste to it.  Ojan liked it more than I, although he thought the butter flavor was too strong.

[ Updated May 9, 2013 ]

To thank me for working on a feature for him at work, Emil promised to reward me with "something delicious".  I had no idea what to expect.  Would it be dessert?  Wine?

In fact, it was neither, but instead, baked goods.  It is almost like he knows the best way to bribe me!  I arrived at my desk one morning to find boxes upon boxes of baked goods.  I can do a number on a box of baked goods, but I think he mis-estimated the size of my stomach.  I still managed to try them all out, and of course found others to share them with.

Like last time, since these were a gift, I wasn't able to select the items I wanted most.  Thus, I've still yet to try some of their most amazing sounding and looking treats, specifically, the insane-o sticky buns.  Re-reading my last post however, I do want to go back to the bakery for that almost brioche toast again, and I look forward to some of their seasonal muffins as stone fruits in particular come into season.  This batch was all fun to try, but there weren't any homeruns.
Pecan and Walnut Streusel Muffin, $3.50.
This wasn’t a muffin I’d ever pick.  I like fruit in my muffins, or more complicated, hearty bases like cornmeal or bran.  This was basically just a plain muffin with some chopped nuts in it.  With streusel topping of course :)

Like the other muffins I've had from Baker & Banker, it was again fairly moist.  The streusel on top was the same as the others, crispy, fun to break off into pieces, and it had nice flavor from the oats and brown sugar, but it was a bit hard and burnt.

Overall, the muffin was just kinda boring; it really needed fruit or additional flavoring.  It was much better warmed up.

And like all of their muffins, it was a giant size.

Would not get again.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Muffin. $3.50.
I've heard that this is their most popular muffin, so I was eager to try it out.  Plus, it looked similar to the amazing strawberry rhubarb streusel muffin I'd loved last time.  I dove into it first.

Alas, it was clearly a different recipe.  It was still very moist, particularly from the pockets of cream cheese, but didn’t have nearly enough blueberries for my taste.  One thing that made the strawberry rhubarb one so spectacular was that it was just bursting with fruit, and this one really had only a few berries.

The streusel on top was, like the nut one I had in this batch, hard and a bit burnt.  The parts that weren’t burnt had really good flavor, I think from brown sugar.  It was still a good muffin, just nothing like the previous one I’d had!

Since I had so many of these, I tried to keep one overnight.  It didn't keep well at all.  Even when re-warmed, it just tasted stale.  The cream cheese chunks kept it moist, but it didn't work out very well overall.  The crisp on top was still tasty.

I'd consider getting this again, if only to see if perhaps this batch and its lack of plentiful blueberries was a fluke.  This muffin *should* have been great!
Apricot White Chocolate Pecan Scone.  $3.25.
I had this one last time as well.  It seemed pretty similar, a large, crumbly scone.  I didn't love it last time, but I recalled the flavors being pretty good.  This time, it just did not have much flavor. The dried apricot was just tough little chunks, I didn’t actually find any white chocolate.  There wasn’t much other flavor.  I tried warming it up, but it was actually worse that way.

Would not get again.
Parmesan and Pink Peppercorn Scone. $3.25.
This was the first savory baked good I had from Baker and Banker.

Unlike the sweet scones, it was round rather than triangular, and very crumbly.  I'd likely call it a biscuit rather than a scone, although, I guess I don't really know the technical difference.

It did indeed have some pepper on the finish, but it was not that cheesy.  It wasn’t bad, but I felt like it needed … something.  Perhaps some additional flavor (rosemary?), some kind of topping (since it was very biscuit like, gravy?), or even better,  turned into a breakfast sandwich with an egg inside.  But alone, it didn’t quite have enough oomph for me.  It was tastier when warmed up, as the cheese melted a bit.
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Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie. $3.

And, another monster cookie.  Even though I didn't like it last time, I tried it again anyway.  Seriously, I'm incapable of resisting baked goods, even when I'm pretty sure I won't like them!

It was slightly less crispy this time, but still very thin, and just not my type of cookie.  I like gooey cookies.  It was again absolutely loaded up with huge chocolate chunks, and had a very strong brown butter taste.  I totally understand how this cookie has its place, and see how people would love it, but it just isn't for me.


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