We’ve heard it before. The end-all, be-all dream come true scenario for office drones across the country. You quit your day job to explore your passion and pursue the things that really make life worth living. For some it’s art, others, writing. In the case of Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, it’s anything baked.
Their new…I’m reluctant to call it a cookbook since it’s all about deliciously sweet concoctions fresh from the oven. Let’s call it a bakebook. Their new ‘bakebook, Baked Explorations – Classic American Desserts Reinvented was featured at an event hosted by the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Like many people, I first heard about this decadent bakery via The Food Network. Claire Robinson of Five Ingredient Fix raved about her favorite sweet and salty treat on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. It was Baked’s aptly named Sweet & Salty brownie. A base of rich, fudgy brownie topped with a layer of gooey salted caramel and capped off with an additional slab of said brownie goodness — sea salt sprinkled on top to balance out the sweetness. I was literally drooling, and this proved difficult considering I was on the treadmill at the time. Dangerous. I know, who watches The Food Network at the gym? I do. It’s oddly satisfying. After seeing that brownie, I was ready to run right over to their Red Hook bakery, if only the conveyor belt I tread upon would stretch so far.
The concept of that exquisite brownie stayed with me and when I heard about their book signing and event I knew I had to attend. I sit now with an autographed copy of their book on my desk, open to that very recipe, naturally. It’s apparently their most requested recipe due in part to the praise it garnered from The Food Network. I thought it would be a most original comment as I introduced myself and blabbered on to the kind and gracious authors of the book and owners of Baked. I fawned, they autographed, obliged, and couldn’t have been more charming. They even indulged my friends and me when we asked how they managed to scrounge up the courage to leave their steady jobs behind and head out into the unknown world of small businesses and big dreams. While they didn’t have the magical answer (Dammit! Is there one?) they put an emphasis on patience, timing, and probably more patience. The best piece of advice I took away from this impressive duo was that if you’re interested in something, go after it. Try it out and see if it’s really for you. Conduct explorations of your own, whether baked or not.
But what’s an event revolving around a bakery without a bit of gnosh? The boys from Baked certainly did not disappoint. My jaw dropped when I laid eyes upon this gorgeous specimen of a bundt cake — Chocolate Ginger Cake to be exact. The dense cake, thick ganache, and bits of candied ginger caught my attention like a moth to the flame. A delicious, chocolatey-ginger flame. Those tantalizingly scrumptious squares are some of the bakery’s featured treat bars which range in flavors from coffee and chocolate-peanut butter to lemon-lime and an homage to the minty grasshopper cocktail. We were lucky enough to snag a few bites of the Coffee Crisp and PB Krispy Bars, which took decadent to a whole new level. I love Baked’s emphasis on chocolate — the guys even mentioned that fruit does not make it very high on their list of baking ingredients. As it should be. Chocolate is the epitome of dessert. It’s also incredible how they’re able to turn simple basics like a brownie and childhood favorites like a crispy rice treat into elegant, adult fare. The PB Krispy Bar, with its chewy-yet-oh-so-crispy bottom layer, delicate, creamy peanut butter center, and dense topping of chocolate ganache yields such an insane amount of flavor and texture that the synapses in your brain are likely to misfire. In a good way.
Their new book is brimming with mouthwatering recipes that I can’t wait to test out. Obviously I’ll be giving that Sweet & Salty Brownie a go, but I’m also intrigued by their Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Cheese (crazy, right?), Cowboy Cookies (featuring chocolate chunks and PRETZELS. Yes please), and the ultimate flavor combo that is the Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. In the meantime, I think I’ll be carving out a well-beaten path between my apartment and their bakery.