Category Archives: Bakeries

20th Century Cafe’s Sacher Torte

It's every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks -- Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.
It’s every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks — Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.

My introduction to this magnificent chocolate creation known as Sacher torte came not in Vienna, where it originated, but if memory serves me, in San Francisco — at Alice Medrich’s legendary Cocolat bakery.

Sitting down to a dark, dense, chocolately slice with a glass in which equally dark filtered coffee was slowly dripping into it was the epitome of elegant adulthood. I almost felt as if I had to hold my pinkies aloft to enjoy each and every bite.

One of the most famed European cakes around, it was first created in 1832 by 16-year-old Franz Sacher, then later gained an outsized following at the Hotel Sacher, established by his son Eduard.

It looks so fancy. And it tastes so fancy. But at its heart, it’s really just a double-layer chocolate cake that’s covered entirely in a dark chocolate glaze and hiding a filling of apricot preserves.

So, if you can make a chocolate cake, you can definitely make a Sacher Torte. Especially if using the recipe from Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake (Artisan Books) by pastry chef extraordinaire Michelle Polzine with food writer Jessica Battilana.

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Head Over Heels For Upside-Down Clementine Cake

Sliced clementines decorate the top of this upside-down cake so very prettily.
Sliced clementines decorate the top of this upside-down cake so very prettily.

No matter if winter has brought torrential rain, hail, sleet or snow to your doorstep, this simple little golden cake is pure sunshine sure to brighten any day or mood.

“Upside-Down Clementine Cake” is the quintessential one-pan cake — with the bonus of cheery, bright slices of clementines dotting it.

The recipe is from “Petite Patisserie: 180 Easy Recipes for Elegant French Treats” (Rizzoli). Inspired by the treats at neighborhood patisseries, this sweetly designed book is by Christophe Felder, who for 15 years was the pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Hôtel de Crillon in Paris before opening his eponymous pastry school in Alsace; and Camille Lesecq, a former pastry chef of Le Meurice in Paris. Together, the two also operate the patisserie, Les Pâtissiers, in Mutzig, Alsace.

The book starts out with a series of foundational recipes that others build upon. The rest of the book is divided into chapters not by specific dessert categories, as you might imagine, but by the days of the week. Only in the world of Felder and Lesecq, the week has not seven days but eight, with the addition of “Funday” — a concept that I can completely get behind.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 19

A Friday special at the Village Bakery.
A Friday special at the Village Bakery.

The Village Bakery, Woodside

The colonel’s got nothing on The Village Bakery, when it comes to a grand bucket of fried chicken.

The Woodside restaurant and bakery’s newest offering is “Fried Chicken Fridays.” And if last Friday’s experience was any indication, it’s already a hit. When I went to go pick up my order, the entire bar was covered with takeout bags, most for the chicken.

For $34, you get an actual bucket containing eight pieces of fried chicken, as well as containers of coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, and two buttermilk cheddar-chive biscuits.

Oh, yes!
Oh, yes!

It’s designed to serve 2 to 4. The chicken alone is definitely more than two people can finish in one sitting. As such, you might want to order another biscuit or two ($5 each) to go with the leftovers the next day. Crunchy on top and fluffy inside, the buttery biscuits are definitely hard to resist.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 18

Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.
Tandoori lamb chops and garlic naan from Jalsa Catering & Events.

Jalsa Catering & Events, Milpitas and Bay Area

Its name means “celebrate,” and pre-pandemic, Milpitas-based Jalsa Catering & Events was all about that, catering lavish weddings and festive parties all over the Bay Area.

But of course, with large events — and pretty much gatherings of any sort — verboten right now, Jalsa has pivoted to being a meal delivery service instead.

The company was co-founded by Vittal Shetty, who for years was the corporate chef of the Bay Area’s Amber India restaurants; and Reshmi Nair, who was Amber India’s director of events and catering.

Delivery (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and pick-up are available on a schedule that depends on what city you live in: Monday and Friday, there’s delivery to San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Gatos, and Monte Sereno. Tuesday and Sunday, it’s Palo Alto, Los Altos, Atherton, Redwood City, San Mateo. Thursday, it’s San Carlos, Hillsborough, and San Francisco. Saturday, it’s Fremont, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Dublin, Hayward, and Danville. And Wednesday, pick-up is available at its Milipitas commercial kitchen.

A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.
A side salad of pomegranate, mung bean, onions and corn, with crisp taro chips.

You don’t know necessarily when the food will show up at your doorstep between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., but everything heats up well enough in the microwave or a skillet if you want to enjoy it hours later, as I found when I was invited to try some of the food gratis.

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Time to Treat Yourself

Kokak Chocolates -- the tiny treats with huge flavor.
Kokak Chocolates — the tiny treats with huge flavor.

Kokak Chocolates

Carol Gancia gave up a gig as producer of KQED’s “Check, Please! Bay Area” for an even sweeter assignment — chocolate maker.

In June, she opened her Kokak Chocolates in San Francisco’s Castro District, specializing in small-batch, single-origin heirloom chocolates.

And what phenomenal chocolates they are — as I recently discovered when I received samples to try.

Gancia crafts her confections with a rare heirloom cacao variety in Ecuador, known as “Nacional,” which traces its origins to the earliest-known cacao trees 5,300 years ago. These old-grown trees are now protected by the Cacao Preservation Fund.

Complex and boasting a long buttery finish, the chocolate stars in truffles made with thin shells and incredibly silky fillings. The Mango Lemongrass, decorated with a Mondrian-inspired design, explodes with profound floral notes. The Passion Fruit made me think I was in Hawaii for a second with its taste of the tropics. The Hazelnut-Caramel tastes like a pound of hazelnuts was somehow squeezed inside a two-bite bonbon. Its flavor is that intense.

These are elegant truffles that will make your eyes and taste buds pop with surprise and delight.

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