Category Archives: Bakeries

Indulge In Scandinavian Brunsviger (Brown Sugar “Focaccia” Cake)

A sweet version of focaccia that's a specialty of Denmark.
A sweet version of focaccia that’s a specialty of Denmark.

Is it focaccia?

Or is it cake?

It’s kind of both. And boy, is it dang delicious.

It looks exactly like focaccia with its dimpled top, which creates perfect crevices to hold the buttery, sweet syrup that gets poured over its entire surface before baking.

Take a taste, and it’s as if pancakes drenched in butter and syrup were transformed into focaccia instead.

“Brown Sugar ‘Focaccia’ Cake,” otherwise known as brunsviger, hails from Funen, the third largest island in Denmark and the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson.

It’s a featured recipe in the new “Scandinavian from Scratch” (Ten Speed Press, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

Described as a “love letter to the baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden,” it was written by Nichole Accettola, an American chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who lived in Denmark for 15 years and now runs Kantine, a Scandinavian bakery in San Francisco.

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Biscuits With A Little Something-Something

Magnificent biscuits with a novel ingredient.
Magnificent biscuits with a novel ingredient.

These crispy-all-over, supremely decadent tasting biscuits are unlike others.

Because they have a novel ingredient that you might just guess from my cheeky photo.

Yes, duck — as in fat.

There’s no butter or shortening in these babies. Just a generous amount of lavish duck fat along with buttermilk.

This fabulous biscuit recipe is from “Still We Rise” (Clarkson Potter, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Erika Council, creator of the Southern Souffle blog and chef-owner of Bomb Biscuit Co. in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward historic district where Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

As she writes, this book embodies the “gospel of biscuits,” the heritage and heart these rounds of little more than flour, fat, and dairy have carried over generations, especially among Black home-cooks who proudly perfected them for their families.

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My Top 10 Eats of 2023

(Wallpaper by @mydarlin_bk)
(Wallpaper by @mydarlin_bk)

This was the year I returned to mostly indoor dining. That in itself was a triumph after doing nothing but takeout through fraught 2020 and opting for outdoor dining primarily in skittish 2021 and 2022. How wonderful to lean ever closer to “normalcy” again.

This is my annual list of the most memorable bites or dishes I enjoyed in 2023. It pained me to leave off a few places that have since closed (San Francisco’s Afici that will forever spoil me for its clever use of Chinese scallion pancakes instead of the usual blini for caviar service) or tragically were destroyed in the devastating Maui wildfires (Pacifico On the Beach for its imaginative mahi mahi Wellington, and Papa’aina’s dazzling and so intentional tropical fruit plate).

It’s an important reminder to really savor and appreciate the restaurants, bakeries, and other establishments that enrich our lives so much. Without further adieu, here is my Top 10, in no particular order:

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Troubadour Bread’s Exquisite Metamorphosis From Day to Night

In the daytime, you might get Italian salumi sandwiches. But at night, this stunner is on the menu at Troubadour.
In the daytime, you might get Italian salumi sandwiches. But at night, this stunner is on the menu at Troubadour.

By day, Healdsburg’s Troubadour Bread & Bistro is a sandwich shop, albeit an extraordinary one. But come night, it morphs stunningly into a veritable Michelin-starred dining experience.

Yes, the popular downtown cafe, where you can pick up a pumpkin seed dukkah-dusted chicken salad on heavenly bread baked by sister bakery Quail & Condor, transforms into Le Diner, four nights a week. That’s when it serves a French-California prix fixe worthy of blinding the radar of those discriminating inspectors.

That’s because there’s major talent behind this endeavor in the form of the husband-and-wife team that opened Troubadour and Quail & Condor, Executive Chef Sean McGaughey and Executive Pastry Chef Melissa Yanc McGaughey. They both worked previously at nearby Michelin three-starred SingleThread Farms & Restaurant. He was its chef de cuisine, and she was its hotel baker.

Look for the sign for Troubadour in downtown Healdsburg.
Look for the sign for Troubadour in downtown Healdsburg.

The couple also heads up the kitchen team at Molti Amici, founded by Jonny Barr, a former general manager at SingleThread, whose wife Tiffany Spurgeon, another SingleThread alum, runs front-of-house at Troubadour’s Le Diner.

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Zingerman’s Gingerbread Coffee Cake

The ultimate gingerbread cake.
The ultimate gingerbread cake.

It may be called “Gingerbread Coffee Cake,” but it boasts no mountain of crunchy streusel on top like you might imagine.

Instead, this coffee cake actually has brewed coffee in it.

Along with a bountiful array of invigorating spices.

So much so, you won’t even miss the absence of a crumb topping.

This cake is so extraordinary that when Zingerman’s Bakery made the decision not to include it in its first cookbook, “Zingerman’s Bakehouse” (Chronicle Books, 2017), regulars were aghast.

Fortunately, the beloved 30-year-oled, Ann Arbor, MI bakery rectified that omission by featuring it in its newest cookbook, “Zingerman’s Bakehouse’s Celebrate Every Day” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

The book is a collaborative project by the team at Zingerman’s that includes managing partner Amy Emberling, marketer Lindsay-Jean Hard, editor Lee Vedder, and marketing manager and food photographer Corynn Coscia.

The idea for this cookbook grew out of the pandemic, when people were eating out less, and desiring to cook and bake more at home. The Zingerman’s staff used that time to write down more of its best-loved recipes to share.

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