How to Visit a French Bakery

Ahhh, France. The Louvre, the countryside…the pastries! It’s hard for me to think about France without thinking about the food. I’ve never been to France, but I definitely have this sort of idealized notion of french cuisine, especially french sweets! This video titled How to Visit a French Bakery perfectly captures all of my french bakery fantasies. Created as a collaboration between Ben and Gabrielle Blair (Olive Us) and filmmakers Tiger in a Jar, the video features three of Ben and Gabrielle’s six kids visiting a bakery in France, where they recently moved. Apparently, the Blair clan packed up and moved to France last year and are currently living in a farmhouse in the french countryside (sigh…).The video itself is beautifully shot and reminds me a bit of a Wes Anderson film. It’s fun and cute and the children are lovely and so well-behaved. If you’re like me and you daydream about visiting a charming little french bakery and eating croissants and macarons, you’re bound to like this video. For more Olive Us videos, click here. ~Erin


The Mixing Bowl: Crème brûlée by Marina Ekroos

This is the first ever “proud mama” style post that I ever written here on dessert girl. It concerns the hugely talented photographer Marina Ekroos and her new cookbook, Silmänruokaa (Visual Recipes). You may remember that a couple of years ago Marina contributed a Mixing Bowl recipe for chocolate macarons that was one of our most popular posts! Well, as it turns out, making those macarons really inspired and encouraged Marina to do more recipes and continue working on her concept of single shot recipes. For those of you who are not familiar with Marina’s work, her photographs capture the development of a recipe (ingredients, process, finished product) in a single frame, so that you get a complete recipe in one image. How cool is that? She now has an entire cookbook filled with gorgeous photos, including the macaron recipe that she created for dg, and I couldn’t be prouder! It was such a treat for me to see a dessert girl recipe in a real live book and I’m so happy to hear that Marina’s experience here was a good one. The finished product is really lovely and even though the recipes are in Finnish, I would still recommend checking it out. The photographs alone make it a great coffee table book.

To help celebrate this momentous occasion, Marina is back, sharing with us her delicious recipe for crème brûlée (see image at the top of this post), which is also featured in her book. I'm so excited that someone is finally tackling crème brûlée for this site! There is something so fun about a dessert that you have to crack open. Who doesn’t love the feeling of whacking the hard, caramelized top of a crème brûlée with a spoon? It’s such a satisfying feeling, almost as if you are excavating a cave wall, on a search for buried treasure. It’s also a great dessert for this time of year. Quite wintery and wonderful! And the perfect way to impress your friends this holiday season.

You can find the complete crème brûlée recipe after the jump. For purchasing info on the cookbook, along with information on how to buy limited edition prints from the book, click here. Thanks, Marina! ~Erin


Henteco Cookies

Do the Japanese have cute down to science or what? I can't get over how adorable these cookies are. It's crazy!! They would make great stocking stuffers or party favors for a child's birthday. Unfortunately, for me at least, they're only available in Japan, at a bakery called Henteco, which, as far as I can tell, means "quirky" in Japanese. Please let me know if that's not correct! If you live in Shinagawa in Tokyo, I would recommend heading right over there immediately to see these in person! For the rest of you, you can click here to check out the cookies in more detail. ~Erin

You can find more Henteco pics after the jump.


Emily Eveleth

I’ve always loved donuts. I know that they’re bad for you, but they’re so sugary and delicious that I find them pretty hard to resist. It doesn’t matter the kind, chocolate, fruit filled, crème filled, sprinkles, if I see I donut, I want to eat it. (Well, except for those silly glazed donuts – yawn!) I thought I understood donuts. I thought I knew them well. Then, I saw Emily Eveleth’s paintings and the donuts that I thought I’d known since childhood suddenly grew up! I had never thought of a donut as a sexual object before, but there is something so sensual and visceral about her paintings. The donuts are almost Rubenesque, more like portraits of nude women than ordinary donuts. In person, the painting are quite large in scale, which only intensifies the feeling that you’re looking at something greater than your normal, average breakfast treat. Bridging the chasm between portrait and landscape, Emily’s paintings make you look at donuts in a whole new light and I love that! You can check out more of Emily’s work via her website. ~Erin


M. Robin Cakes

Where wedding cakes are concerned, the old saying "if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all" generally holds true. There isn't much variety in the wedding cake industry. It's a traditional sweet and most bakeries don't veer too far off course in their wedding cake offerings. It is definitely a business that needs a good kick in the pants and M. Robin Cakes in Portland, Oregon, is just the bakery to do it! Instead of making run-of-the-mill wedding cakes, owner, baker, and designer Marcella Robin makes these amazing and beautiful entrement cakes, which is a European style cake also known as a torte. It is made with sponge cake and layered with a variety of creams, custards, and mousses. The cake designs are created using a jaconde, which is a decorative sponge cake. The design in not applied to the cake like frosting, but actually baked into the sponge, creating a smooth finish. It is a completely fresh approach to wedding cake design and it makes perfect sense that Marcella is not only a graduate of the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver, but that she also has a bachelors degree in sculpture. She treats her cake design in much the same way as any traditional artist.

From Marcella:  I can’t always predict how a design will “read” on a cake, so a big part of what I do is testing to see whether a design is truly spongeworthy. The tests are never eaten. They get wrapped, labeled, and frozen for inspiration and archiving. Instead of a sketchbook, I have a sketch pile — of spongecake.

Needless to say, I am a huge fan. When I first saw their website, I immediately jotted down the link and wrote the words "so awesome" next to it. You can check it out for yourself, right here.


PIE: A Hand Drawn Almanac

I love illustrated recipes. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you probably love them, too! And if you love illustrated recipes as much as I do, you’re also going to adore this new illustrated pie book from artist Elizabeth Graeber and Emily Hilliard, who writes the blog Nothing-in-the-House. The two recently joined forces to produce this fun, almanac-style book that provides different recipes for every month of the year. So, in January, you’ll find a recipe for Dark Chocolate and Vanilla-Bourbon Caramel Pie, which is a perfect dessert for those chilly winter nights, and, in July, summery berry tarts are featured. Each recipe is accompanied by stories and delightful drawings that celebrate the history of this classic dessert. PIE: A Hand Drawn Almanac is available at a discounted preorder rate of $13 via etsy. All preorders come specially packaged in a pastry bag and baker’s twine. After December 1st, the book will be available for $15 online and at various local shops in and around Washington DC. {Thanks, Emily!} ~Erin


Seattle Chocolates: Holiday Collection

In honor of holiday season, which is now officially upon us, I wanted to share these fun new truffle bars from Seattle Chocolates. I’ll admit that it was the cute, retro-inspired wrapper that originally caught my eye, but it was the unusual flavors that really reeled me in! The collection, which is titled Baby It's Cold Outside, was inspired by song titles and lyrics of the 1950’s, and comes in five different flavors: Hot Buttered Rum, Mom’s Hot Cocoa, Candy Cane Crunch, Holiday Cheer Eggnog, and Christmas Cookie.

I shared my bars with my friends and family and they all disappeared fairy quickly, but there were two clear winners: Hot Buttered Rum, which combines toffee and a hint of rum to recreate that warm cozy feeling that you would normally get from the drink, and Candy Cane Crunch, a delightful blend of chocolate and peppermint that also has the distinct advantage of being the only dark chocolate bar in the bunch. These two also happen to be my favorites visually speaking, especially the Hot Buttered Rum, which features an old-school skier against an aqua background. You can check out the full line of holiday truffle bars, and shop online, right here. You can also click here to find a store near you.


The Pancake Button Book

Who doesn’t love a cute illustrated recipe? It’s fun to look at, it’s arty, you can fold it up and put it inside a button when you’re done. Wait? What? Fold it up and put it inside a button? Yep, that’s right. This tiny illustrated recipe by artist Vicki Smith is bookmarked on either side by two 1 ¼ inch buttons. Once it is unfolded it reveals an oatmeal pancake recipe, told in fourteen watercolor illustrations. Fold it back up, take it on a trip, keep it in your pocket, give it as a gift. It’s miniature and therefore delightful. Click here for more info and to purchase online.


The Scone Factory

I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of jam. I generally try to avoid nondessert related sugars, so I had, pretty much, cut it out my diet. Then, recently, a friend of mine bought me some of this delicious “no sugar added” jam and I’ve been eating it with gusto ever since! Given the current jam revival going on in my house, I was really excited to hear about this scone factory installation at Meesterlijk, a design and craft fair in Amsterdam. Designed by Dutch “eating designer” Marije Vogelzang for her former business partner Piet Hekker (together they cofounded the restaurant Proef), the intent of the scone factory was to give life to Piet’s vision of bringing collaborations between small scale craftsmen and designers to city centers. Such collaborations would not only help to revive the city, but also give work to independent artists and businesses. With this in mind, Marije create the scone factory, which featured a play-shop installation, live scone baking and eating, a jam collection displayed by color (my favorite part!), and a brainstorm wall. What fun! {Thanks, Marije!} ~Erin


Emilie Vercruysse Photography

I've never been a huge fan of cute kid pics. I mean, I love seeing pictures of kids that I know, children of friends and family, but I wouldn’t normally purchase a “cute kid” photograph or even dream of putting one on my wall! Well, those days are over! The minute I laid eyes on these photos by Belgium photographer Emilie Vercruysse, I was instantly smitten. The way she captures children is amazing and not at all typical. By using unique props and the bright colors, she’s able to create images which are funny and wonderfully odd, but, at the same time, still seem so authentic and childlike. Click here to check out more of Emilie's wonderful photographs. ~Erin


Vintage Confections

I have a soft spot for lollipops. Call it an oral fixation, if you must, but, really, I think it’s more about the fact that lollipops offer a prolonged dessert experience. You don’t just bite and swallow a lollipop (unless you are that owl in the tootsipop commercials), but, instead, you get the opportunity to savor the flavors for an extended period of time. It a fairly unusual eating experience, if you really think about it. And if you’re going to have an unusual eating experience, you may as well be eating something that looks unusual, too! Which is where this lollipops from Vintage Confections come in. From striped neopilitian ice cream pops to pops imprinted with images of peacock feathers, bottle caps, and emoticons, their online shop is filled with some seriously cool candy! And with flavors like caramel crème, pink champagne, and peach cobbler, you know that they are going to taste as good as the look! Click here  to check them out and shop online.

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