“Sad. My surprise failed.” I punch into my phone on Friday morning. I’m grouchy, disappointed and exhausted from staying up until midnight the night before to bake my mom and brother special raspberry white chocolate macadamia nut blondies for Mother’s Day and my brother’s birthday.
I don’t stay up past 10:30 on a school night.
Even for a new episode of “Top Chef.”
The blondies that required me to delay my bedtime were supposed to be perfect – the ideal collusion of sweet and salty, the optimal texture of chewy in the center and crispy around the edges, and, of course, the proper density for a bar-type item.
They were not supposed to be over an inch thick.
And they were not supposed to end up looking like a giant raspberry-speckled sheet cake.
I’m disgusted with myself and spend the whole day ruminating over my botched batch of blondies.
“Do I need to take out an egg?” I wonder.
“Should I have used less flour? More butter? Or just a bigger pan? Do Pyrex pans from Target even come bigger than 9x13? And if they do, would I want to risk uneven baking by using one?”
I’m not sure. About any of it.
And it’s driving me crazy.
I want to get back in the kitchen right away and try again. And again. And again – until I finally get the recipe right and make the ultimate raspberry white chocolate macadamia nut blondie that will spur everyone who consumes one to gasp and moan and take pornographic pictures of it to put on their blogs – just like I do on Saturday afternoon when I bite into my first chocolate chip cookie from Bakelab, a wholesale and retail bakery in Los Angeles.
“She gets it.” I think, as I move on from the ultimate chocolate chip cookie to the sugar-coated ginger cookie that is both chewy and crunchy, sweet and spicy, familiar and unique all at once.
“She is sure.”
“She” is Pastry Chef Kristin Feuer, the apron (and brains) behind Bakelab, which specializes in modern interpretations of classic desserts like the snowball, 7-layer bar and s’more.
And she has spent more than just a day ruminating over how to perfect the recipes for an iced oatmeal cookie that is reminiscent of the signature Mother’s version, or a peanut butter sandwich cookie that contains a dollop of creamy peanut butter in the center.
Feuer was trained at Le Cordon Bleu and has worked at Clementine in Century City, LaMill Coffee Boutique in Silver Lake and Providence in Hollywood, but it’s her passion for baking that is perhaps most impressive. For her, sugar is not just a sweetener, a spatula is not just a tool to scrap the bowl of a mixer, and a freezer is not just a place to store cookie dough until it’s aged long enough to bake. The sugar is her paint, the spatula is one of her paintbrushes, and the freezer is a means to creating the beautiful picture she envisions in her head.
In short, Feuer is an artist.
And her cookies, cupcakes, snowballs, cakes, bars, and brownies are her works of art.
I can’t help but blush when she gives me and the other food bloggers and media attending the complimentary Bakelab cookie party on Saturday a demonstration of how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Even with my occasional kitchen mishaps and blondie blunders, prior to her lesson, I thought I knew my way around a cookie. Cream softened butter with sugar, add the eggs and vanilla, fold in the flour/dry ingredients, and then pour in the chocolate chips – I can do it with my eyes closed.
But there’s more to the perfect cookie than that. Butter and sugar should only be creamed for one minute and thirty seconds, the vanilla should be added before the eggs so it penetrates the butter, and the flour should be mixed in two seconds longer than when it’s first incorporated to generate the right amount of gluten for optimal chewiness.
“Gluten, what?” I think, feeling like I’m back in high school Calculus and Mr. Weyrauch is lecturing about derivatives again. My inch and a half thick blondies seem like an even bigger “fail” now that I know that my butter was the wrong temperature, I didn’t cream it with the sugar for the proper length of time, and I added the vanilla after adding the eggs.
Feuer doesn’t flaunt her expertise though. She wears an apron/lab coat that has been silk-screened with her doodles. She tweets about eating gummy cokes and having “sweet teeth.” And she giggles when she recalls a request that she received from a Playboy bunny for pink snowballs to serve at the Playboy Mansion.
She’s charming – the girl you want to invite over for pizza and wine and “Sex and the City” reruns on a Saturday night. Especially if she’s bringing the dessert.
Bakelab’s cookies are the best I’ve had. Even though I instruct the others attending the party to slap my hand away if I eat too much, I clear every crumb off my sample plate.
And then go back for a second peanut butter cookie and two samples of Feuer’s pristinely frosted cupcakes (also divine) as well.
Because she gets it.
And while I still don’t know how to fix my blondies, I am sure that I will be ordering an assorted box of her goodies while I figure it out.
Bakelab treats are available for order online at http://laurelavenuebakery.com/ or http://laurelavenuebakery.foodoro.com/store/ and by phone at (310) 330-9055. Treats are available for nationwide shipping and are also sold at the following vendors:
Yummy.com in Playa Vista, Santa Monica and West Hollywood
Oaks Gourmet in Franklin Village, Los Angeles
Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City
Bakelab will also be donating pink elephant cookies and snowballs to the EAT MY BLOG charity bake sale at Zeke’s Smokehouse & BBQ on Saturday, June 19th.