Category Archives: Bakeries

Milk Bar’s French Toast Muffins

All the wonderfulness of French toast -- in a convenient muffin form.
All the wonderfulness of French toast — in a convenient muffin form.

I love this delectable Christina Tosi recipe for “French Toast Muffins” for so many reasons:

  1. It lets you make a load of “French toast” in one fell swoop.
  2. It is a genius use of all those odds and ends of various bread loaves on the verge of freezer-burn at home.
  3. It’s easy enough for kiddos to do, making it an ideal way to spoil mom with breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. In fact, it’s featured in the “Milk Bar: Kids Only” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2020), of which I received a review copy.

You probably know Pastry Chef Tosi as the founder and owner of the phenomenon known as Milk Bar bakery, as well as for her judging prowess on TV’s “MasterChef.”

Her creations at Milk Bar are beloved for their nostalgic effervescence and joyous kid-like appeal. So, a cookbook like this is a natural. It’s sure to entice kids into the kitchen with recipes such as “Coco Cabana Cereal Squares,” “Compost Pancakes,” “Donut Shakes,” and “Corn Dog Waffles.”

She even instructs how to judge if baked goods are done, by employing cocktail umbrella toothpicks to demonstrate, as well as trouble-shoots problems such as cupcakes or muffins sinking in the middle (You’re opening and closing the oven too much.).

For “French Toast Muffins,” you rip up bread slices into small pieces “as if you were feeding ducks in the park.” (One of the best recipe directions I’ve ever read, by the way.)

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Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze

Meyer lemon juice and zest flavors these cute little cakes.

When a good friend gifts you a few late-harvest Meyer lemons from her backyard tree that have ballooned into the size of oranges, you know you need to do something special with them.

Not just halved and squirted over fish on the grill. Not just sliced to garnish glasses of iced tea. And not merely juiced to make mundane lemonade.

Nope, these babies were made for “Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze.”

This easy-breezy recipe for individual cakes is from “Sweet” (Artisan, 2013) by Pastry Chef Valerie Gordon.

A monster-sized Meyer lemon.
A monster-sized Meyer lemon.

She owns one of my favorite bakeries in Los Angeles, Valerie’s Confections, which I always make a point of visiting whenever I’m in town just so I can snag a slice of her impeccable rendition of the iconic Blum’s coffee crunch cake.

For this recipe, Meyer lemon juice and zest are incorporated into this cake batter, along with creme fraiche (I actually used plain yogurt instead) for tang and moistness. The batter gets distributed amongst large muffin cups that are buttered but not lined.

Once they are baked and cooled, turn the cakes upside down to dunk the flat sides into a glaze flavored with Meyer lemon juice and pomegranate juice. You are left with precious little cakes simply too cute to resist.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 29

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.

Winner Winner Chicken, San Mateo

Chefs Jeremy Cheng and Chef Randy Magpantay couldn’t have been more excited to finally open their Winner Winner Chicken after conceiving of the Nashville-style hot chicken establishment in 2018.

Only, they opened it in March 2020 in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center. Five days later, the pandemic put the kibash on it.

Fortunately, with the Bay Area seemingly turning the corner now in this health crisis, Winner Winner Chicken has been able to sling its specialties for the past couple of months. I was invited in by the fast-casual eatery a week ago to try some menu items gratis, which I ferried home as takeout.

It’s a family operation, with Cheng and Magpantay, and their wives, behind the counter overseeing the ordering and cooking. Cheng and Magpantay are veterans of the South Bay’s Avenir Restaurant Group, which includes Nola in Palo Alto, Milagros in Redwood City, and Town in San Carlos.

At Winner Winner Chicken, you can choose how incendiary you like it, from Classic (no heat) to Medium (starting to heat up) and Spicy (That’s hot) to Extra Spicy (Hot as cluck).

Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.
Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.

I went with medium, though I think Magpantay dialed it down a bit and gave me medium-light (which you can request, by the way) that offered up a modest amount of heat on the palate.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 28

Bake Sum's inventive Croissubi.
Bake Sum’s inventive Croissubi.

Bake Sum, Berkeley, Plus San Francisco, Redwood City, and Oakland

Imagine impeccable French Viennoiserie with crisp, buttery layers to get lost in — but flaunting inspired Asian flavors.

That, in sum, is Bake Sum.

This Berkeley-based bakery, which has amassed a huge following during the pandemic, was co-founded by local baker, Joyce Tang, who had the wholesale bakery Chinoiserie, and previously supplied pastries to Boba Guys.

Each week, Bake Sum offers one set pastry box ($35) filled with about half a dozen treats, as well as a specialty bun box, Gochujang sourdough loaves, mochi bites, and cookies.

Sign up for its newsletter ahead of time because it drops Monday morning with that week’s offerings. It pays to be quick on the draw because the baked goods, especially the pastry box, sell out quickly. Pick up your order on Fridays or Saturdays at the Bread Project in Berkeley; Fridays at Golden Goat Coffee in San Francisco; Saturdays at Grand Coffee in San Francisco; or Fridays at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City.

Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it's like a musubi in croissant form.
Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it’s like a musubi in croissant form.

Last week’s pastry box included a Croissubi, a unique riff on a traditional ham and cheese croissant that paid homage to Spam musubi. Just on its own, this was one beautiful croissant — shattering into deep golden shards upon the first bite. Add in the novelty of thin slices of Spam wrapped in nori, and get ready for your taste buds to take a French-Hawaiian ride. Crispy Parmesan cheese and flecks of togarashi dot the top to add more umami, savoriness and just a hint of spice. It is every inch like a nostalgic ABC Store musubi transformed into a perfect French croissant.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 27

Veal and oyster mushroom paella from PintxoPote, which I finished cooking at home in less than 20 minutes.
Veal and oyster mushroom paella from PintxoPote, which I finished cooking at home in less than 20 minutes.

PintxoPote, Los Gatos

Los Gatos’ PintxoPote is a sliver of a restaurant that has managed to survive this incredibly challenging year, despite not having the ability to provide either outdoor or indoor seating.

Instead, the Spanish-Basque restaurant has persevered, largely through the support of a loyal clientele that orders takeout, along with the fact that Chef-Owner Hector Figueroa and his wife Angie Lipsett have operated the restaurant all on their own without any staff, and without taking any salaries.

If you haven’t yet discovered this charming Spanish restaurant, it’s high time that you did.

Right now, the restaurant is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. The takeout menu for the week usually posts on Thursdays.

A saute of fava beans, asparagus and peas that comes with the paella.
A saute of fava beans, asparagus and peas that comes with the paella.

Figueroa, whose grandparents hailed from Spain, is a former tech engineer. When you pick up your order at the doorway, you can spot him in the kitchen, as Lipsett hands you your food.

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