Bake Attack!

I got into a baking kick recently, which is to say I acted on a series of sugar-filled impulses and ended up with a lot of warm, delicious goodies.  Lucky for coworkers, there is a limit to the amount of homemade baked goods one household can consume.

Whoopie Pies

First up, after my delightful reintroduction to whoopie pies, as well as owning a cookbook devoted entirely to whoopie pies AND a whoopie pie pan, I felt it was my duty to try my own.  The endless possible flavor combinations made it overwhelming at first until I realized there was really only one option: chocolate and peanut butter.

These whoopie pies were fantastic!  The chocolate cakes epitomized everything you’d want in a chocolate cake.  The peanut butter filling is mindblowing.  Combined, damn.  I can’t wait to make other flavors.  With that said, I probably won’t use the whoopie pie pan again.  The cakes came out with a weird, football shape that I ended up having to cut off.  But just look at how cute and delicious this is!

whoopie pies complete

Chocolate Chip Cookies

After a strange completely normal urge to make chocolate chip cookies, I pulled up the definitive chocolate chip recipe from Serious Eats, including the 5,300+ word picture-full experiment/analysis/thesis on what makes them the best.  I’ll let you read all about it, but let it be known that browned butter, overnight chilled dough, and sea salt are all in play.

These were devoured.  There’s some serious baking skills on my team at work and few things have been snatched up as quickly as these cookies.  They’re perfectly chewy, full of chocolate chips, deep with browned butter flavor, and exciting with crunchy sea salt.  They don’t joke around.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

And finally, as Evelyn’s company does every year, it was time to come up with an entry for the pumpkin bake-off.  One year she entered pumpkin Twinkies.  This year we were sure she’d dominate with Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes!  The recipe is straightforward but the results are downright impressive.  I didn’t document any of the prep, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

The two keys to success here are making your own whipped cream and getting those authentic green straws.  As for the cupcakes themselves, they weren’t really pumpkin-y enough.  Maybe increasing the pumpkin puree in place of some of the oil would do the trick.  As for the bake-off, these still weren’t enough!  We’ll have to dig real deep for next year’s competition.

pumpkin spice latte cupcakes

Foodie Day!

Last week our neighbor mentioned something along the lines of seeing my incredible food photos and wanted to set up a “foodie day”.  After thinking about it, I realized that a relatively average day for me is not quite the norm for others.  So then I did what anyone would do and ran 14 miles.  Anyway, we had a plan set out for Republic of Sandwich (my new favorite spot in Austin) followed up by Cow Tipping Creamery (my forever favorite spot in Austin).  Here’s how things played out.

My foodie regular day began with a short run and then met up with Jeff at Easy Tiger to try a real pumpkin spice latte.  PSLs, as they’re known on sosh med, can be made one of two ways: 1) with pumps of non-organic, non-local, non-natural, non-delicious syrups; or 2) with homemade pumpkin syrup made from real pumpkins.  Easy Tiger makes theirs with option 2.  As someone whose coffee order is “iced coffee, no room”, this ranks in the top 3 of all coffee beverages in Austin.  The other two will not be named at this time to avoid spoilers in an upcoming post.

Easy Tiger Pumpkin Latte, photo courtesy of the inimitable Jeff Amador

Easy Tiger Pumpkin Latte, photo courtesy of the inimitable Jeff Amador

With coffee in hand and no food in my belly, I made my way over to Joe’s Bakery, which routinely finds itself atop most “best breakfast taco” lists.  Egg-and-potato wins every time.  The tortillas… OH! the tortillas!  A great snack to hold me over before Foodie Day officially began.

Joe's Bakery Breakfast Taco

After breakfast an idea popped into my head that can be described as nothing but humbly brilliant.  The pieces fit so snugly: it’s raining + I’m near La Barbecue + people don’t like to wait in lines in the rain = go get La Barbecue for foodie day!  This meant a change in plans, but everyone involved was on board.  I arrived 15 minutes after opening and was 12th in line.  I ordered a lot of meat for three people including a pound of brisket, three ribs, a half pound of pulled pork, and a half pound of turkey.  We had leftovers.

La Barbecue Spread

And finally, with barbecue acquired, on the way home I received an insider tip from Jeff that there was a new Red Rabbit special donut available!  So I swung by our local amazing grocery Wheatsville and snagged three donuts, including two of the gingerbread specials, before finally making it back home.

Red Rabbit Gingerbread Donut

The pre-Foodie Day latte and breakfast taco hit the spot before diving into the barbecue feast.  I love everything they make at La Barbecue, but the brisket steals the show consistently.  The little gingerbread man rounded (donut pun!) things out perfectly.  To me, it was just a regular day, but I was happy to share and enjoy with others on their special day of eating.

And because no post can have too many babies, here are a few of the Foodie Day participants working off their meals.

Wes and Walker

Cape Whoopies on Goldbely

My eyes were recently opened to a site called Goldbely, offering much-wanted, doubtfully-needed specialty foods.  Their whole purpose is to make regional favorites more accessible to people who have fewer than one personal jet.  Some of the more interesting options include Philly cheesesteaks from Philadelphia (duh), crab cakes from Maryland, and bagels from New York.  As for my first foray into Goldbely I took advantage of a coupon to Cape Whoopies.

Cape Whoopies Goldbelly All

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Magic Chocolate Flan Cake!

While waiting in line at the grocery checkout we chanced upon a copy of “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen” issue full of ATK’s best recipes.  Once home and flipping through the pages, one of the last pages caught my eye: Magic Chocolate Flan Cake.  In true ATK fashion, there was a lot of trial and error and ultimately an explanation of how it works.  But I didn’t read any of it.  I just wanted to start making something called Magic Chocolate Flan Cake!

magic chocolate flan cake slice cross section

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I Eat, You Eat, We Eat

Time for another for a food round up before a big weekend of eating. Like last time, here’s just a taste of the noteworthy places I ate that I think you should eat too.

Last Friday Evelyn and I went out on a fancy date to the newly-opened La V out on East 7th. The space is beautiful, the service was great (thanks Courtney!), and the food was fantastic. We shared everything and the real standouts were the “grilled baby octopus” (amazing; the best octopus we’ve ever had) and “veal two ways” (exceptional and truly memorable; veal cheek and sweetbreads). The meyer lemon cream dessert might be Ev’s favorite dessert in Austin. The menu changes weekly, so over time everything will phase out to make room for new, seasonal dishes.

And as you’ll notice there are no photos because, and this is important, sometimes most times every time, the company you’re with deserves your attention more than a future blog / Facebook / Twitter post audience. That important fact is something I need to remember much more often.

The next day we met up with friends at Curly’s Carolina, Texas to get Q’ed up. I followed my own advice and got “The Texan”, a brisket-on-bread-and-nothing-else sandwich, and topped it with some wasabi cole slaw. Banana pudding rounded things out for good measure. It was incredible.

curlys brisket sandwich

After a few days of recovery I stopped by Guac N Roll, who sets up shop at The Draught House on Wednesdays. I tried an experimental tamale featuring Adelbert’s Brewery Naked Nun, Tillamook cheddar, queso fresco & Anaheim peppers. Not quite as good as the standard tamale, but the regular tamale is the best tamale I’ve ever had, every time I have it. But I love that they continue to try new things.

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And finally Ev and I went for a walk back over to The Draught House the next night to get a post-dinner snack. We grabbed some always-delicious Chicken Kara’age –deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet-spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro (bleh), mint, onion, jalapeño– and the daily special “Broccoli Two Ways” –shaved stalk & dehydrated florets, togarashi candied peanuts, nori paper, yuzu, mixed herbs, Thai coconut dressing. Both were great and hit the spot.

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And now, if you’ll excuse me, we have guests coming to town, so it’s time to loosen the belt a notch.