Thursday, June 27, 2013

Field Trip LA! - musings on 3 types of bakery

series of posts from visiting interesting little (and large) cafes, food-related establishments and other places of inspiration.

A world away from Bezian's stall and sourdough, while I was nearby Riverside we happened upon the shop of the winner of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars show, Casey's Cupcakes. This was an extremely pink and candy-striped store.

Despite what one might read online, cupcakes seem to be alive and well on the high street in California at least, when we arrived there was a line outside the door.

I am not interested in running a purely cupcake-based business, though I sometimes think it would be a smarter move than a more diversified business. With sponge bases and frostings you could switch up the flavourings and decorations and have a simplified supply model for ingredients and packaging, as well as regular processes to perfect. A little easier than the logistics of doing various pies, bread and cakes anyway.. hmm. Well, perhaps it would be easier to make money, but I wouldn't be doing this for the money, I have to also enjoy it. :)

A little more up my street (and not only because they were giving away mini chicken empanadas at the door, honest!) was Porto's, a Cuban bakery we visited in Downey. This is a huge bakery with two vast banks of counters filled with savoury pastries, croquettes, sandwiches, fresh cake slices and whole cakes.

It was my friend's birthday that day so we wanted to pick up a treat. After being tempted by the idea of getting a selection of slices to try a few different types of cake we plumped for a whole mango cheesecake. There is something special about having a full round of cake to cut and share at a celebration. They wrote 'Happy Birthday' in beautiful script, that's one thing I'm definitely going to need to practice...

My trip to the US would not have been complete without a visit to a doughnut (sorry, donut) shop! We tried donuts with peanut glaze and one filled with jam. It struck me again, looking at the huge amount of choice, that, like the cupcake shop, the basic recipe and processes are the same for many of the products and the impression of diversity and choice given largely through how they are decorated or through adjustments to the base recipe.

This chain was crammed both front and back. This sneaky photo of the back room shows the packs of sugar and buckets of super speedee glaze (pdf). The glaze is made of sugar and maltodextrin which is a common artificial sweetener and filler. I wonder if it's being used to make the sugar go further, or to reduce calorie content in the finished product?

Huge choice of brewed coffee too

Doughnut alternatives at the till

One other place I would have loved to visit while in LA was the La Brea bakery, started in 1989 on South La Brea Avenue by Nancy Silverton. It became an iconic bakery, home of sourdough and is now a huge business supplying part-baked breads to businesses all over California. I gather that the bakery has reopened nearby the original location this year. Unfortunately my schedule didn't allow for it this visit, so we’ll just have to go back :)

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