Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let Them Eat Bread!

Damage. Done.

Today was baked goods day and I'm feeling slightly ill.

I spent the morning driving around the city picking up various baked goodies for evaluation this afternoon with Ilenia, Lamarie, Rebecca, Jeremy and Joy. Baguettes, croissants, conchas and more - all piled up with butter, butter and more butter.

First stop: Patisserie Poupon to pickup some croissants, almond croissant, chocolate croissant, chocolate chip cookies, brioche, walnut tart and apple tart.

From there I headed down to Fell's Point to pick up a baguette, croissant and almond croissant at Bonaparte Bakery, then over to eastern Baltimore's Pastelleria Vargas for some fresh out of the oven conchas.

With the truck filling up with buttery goodness, it was back to Hampden and across the street to Puffs & Pastries, where I planned to put Anisha's croissants head-to-head with Poupon and Bonaparte's, but she only had some over-proofed nuggets that they were about to discard. I tried one and even though it was yeasty, the butter still tasted good and I swiped a couple to use as a comparison.

Last stop: Woodberry Kitchen where Spike, Isaiah and I have been discussing the possibility of them baking baguettes for us. The baguettes Bev and Isaiah are producing are more like batards but the crust covering the bread is baked to deep golden perfection. It just looks intoxicating.

The question facing our crew was simple: which tastes best? The baguette would be tasted three different ways: plain, with butter (Trickling Springs Salted) and warmed strips dipped in hot chocolate (for a proposed Chocolat Chaud & Baguette breakfast offering). The majority of the crew loved the Woodberry baguette over the Bonaparte, except in the chocolate category where they felt the Bonaparte demonstrated the sweet complexity of the chocolate better. But plain or with butter, it was the Woodberry batard that won hands down.

In the croissant competition, the surprising votes went to the Puffs & Pastry sort-of baked in a jumble 'til golden thing-a-ma-bob. In a flat out taste challenge, it beat the rest- though some of them did note that they liked it better because it was so different than the regular croissant, which some of them found to be too plain (the notion of croissant, that is).

Almond Croissant - the majority chose the Bonaparte over the Poupon. More complex and subtle in flavor than the bold and astringent-finishing almond croissant from Poupon. There's something about their almond paste that ends sharply.

The rest of the samples didn't have challengers and were more to explore flavors and the possibilities. All of them liked the Vargas concha - which is something I'm dying to bring to the menu, whether brought in by a bakery like Vargas or Hermanos Navarro, or baked in-house.

What they didn't really get into was the apple tart from Poupon. They just didn't like it.

Oh well. Time for more exploration.