A few years ago my sons and I were in New York City. When I asked Taylor what he wanted to see - Statue of Liberty, the WTC/Ground Zero, the Empire State Building? - he said Carlo's Bakery. What? That annoying reality show? So, we figured out the subway routes and schedules to get to Hoboken (it's across the river in New Jersey) and read somewhere that you need to get there early, which we did. And there were a few people standing around in front, but not what we were told to expect. 'Where's the line?' we asked, and someone pointed across the street to this huge mass of people. By the time we found the end of it over a block away we decided it wasn't worth the wait and bought a cannoli in Little Italy instead - and no waiting!
But one thing I learned from that is that New Yorkers (or maybe it's just the tourists) go overboard about bakeries. One that might be making a legitimate bid to be the 'next-big-NY-bakery' is Ovenly in Brooklyn. A couple of friends, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, got together and have turned their passion into what sounds like a very popular place. And I was fortunate enough to receive their hot-off-the-presses cookbook, Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery,
from GoodReads. And their signature seems to be the mix of sweet and salty in their mouth-watering goodies. When they use chocolate they prefer it to have at least 60% cocoa content, so it's on the bitter side, and many of the recipes are topped with a light sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
I'll admit I was skeptical. Some of the recipes are a bit involved and intimidating for a novice like me, so I found some of the easier ones and dove in - and they were very good! One in particular, the "Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies," which they claim is not just "the perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie," but "the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Period." Okay, that might be stretching it a tad, but it was really good! The chocolate didn't taste bitter at all, and - although I didn't put salt on all the cookies - it's an interesting and perhaps even addicting combination.
The book gives some background on Agatha and Erin and how they got started, as well as some "essential tools and ingredients," which is kind of nice for really ambitious bakers. Recipes fall under the following categories: scones & biscuits; quick breads & coffee cakes; muffins; cookies & shortbreads; pies & tarts; brownies & bars; cakes & cupcakes; baking for the holidays; fillings, frostings & sauces: and bar snacks. Some recipes (like the above mentioned chocolate chip cookie) specify to follow the instructions exactly, while many others suggest variations and encourage experimentation. The pictures are beautiful (as is the book) and make me want to try lots of recipes (although many of them contain coffee and alcohol, and I abstain from both). Nonetheless, I plan to keep working my way through the others as well as I can and hopefully still stick to my diet and lose weight. But that shouldn't stop you from making them!