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Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito: Baked

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Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito are the founders of the baked bakeries and the authors of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking nominated for an IACP award in the Baking category.  In Baked, Matt and Renato not only showcase the recipes for many of the wonderful baked items from their bakeries, but they also keep you well entertained in the process.

As part of our salute to the IACP nonimations,  Matt and Renato share how they started Baked.  They also share the recipe for their Lemon Lemon Loaf....

How I Got Baked

By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Baked was born in a flash.  It was conceived and developed in a fit of temporary insanity.   There was no computing of numbers compressed into a detailed business plan, there was no exacting science to choosing a location or constructing a layout.  No, Baked, was a lightning bolt and it struck fast.  It blinded us.   It lulled us into emptying our bank accounts and leaving cushy advertising jobs for a world of long hours and no pay.  No, we didn't really think about any of that, we were too focused on changing the idea and concept of "American Bakery".  Let me explain.

We have always considered ourselves to be a dessert people.   We are those types of people that eat dessert with every meal (we skip the appetizers), and we have no guilt about serving brownies for breakfast (do you really think pancakes are any healthier?).  Every overseas excursion or continental trip is planned around sampling the local bakery, chocolatier, or ice cream shop.   We are not interested in the Monet's, we are interested in the croissants.

During these travels and tasting, some troubling patterns started to emerge: 

1.    Cakes that are shaped like shoes, purses, golf clubs, or horses (etc., etc., etc.,) might be sculptural or artistic, but they often taste like cardboard and toothpaste.  I don't understand this food trend.  Would you ever order a steak in the shape of your favorite cartoon character?

2.    "Grandma's Kitchen" is now officially the most gratuitous stereotype ever.  Just because you open a bakery, does not mean it has to evoke the look and feel of a faux grandmother nostalgia.  You know the look -lime green antique mixer, miles of lace, cracked pottery pie plates, rusted muffin pans, and Jadite cake stands.  Both of our grandmother's are from Italy.  They rationed sugar.  They cussed.  How do you translate that into a design?

3.    Cupcakes are adorable and whimsical and annoying and much too often, terrible.  How did this trend happen?  How did the cupcake come to represent "American Desserts"?  Why is no one showing the same sort of love and affection for brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cream pie? 

**It should also be noted that there were a few bakeries that I encountered that did not fit into any of the above patterns.  In fact, there were a good many that blew my socks off.   Tartine in San Fran is an obsession.  And my business partner and co-author, Renato Poliafito, hearts Flour in Boston.  We both agree that the cupcakes are pretty darn good at Sprinkles in LA (they get extra points for a modern design scheme). **

So you see, Baked was a feverish response to the overtly homey, grandma's- in -the-kitchen, cupcake mania.  It is a loving tribute to American baking without being too serious.  We respect the brownie and cherish the chocolate chip.  Whoppie Pies are our religion.  We welcome new flavors and we won't make a cake in the shape of your favorite Gucci dress.  

Image
Photo by Tina Rup
Our cookbook is simply an extension of our bakery and we promise we rigorously tested each and every recipe (and we enlisted many a friend in this process as well).  The Baked book is not meant to be a tome or an encyclopedia, but it is meant to be approachable and solid and fun and beautiful.  Perhaps you will be glad to know that we did finally go back and retroactively complete a business plan.  Our days are just a little bit shorter, and we are drawing an okay salary.  We opened another store in Charleston, SC and we have many ridiculous and exciting things on the drawing board.   Stay tuned.

Lemon Lemon Loaf

From Baked by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008.

Sometimes simplicity speaks volumes. Our lemon loaf recipe is very straightforward. We o not add poppy seeds, pecans, or any other extraneous ingredient. We really feel that the most important aspect of a lemon loaf is the zingy lemon flavor, and we accentuate it by using a combination of freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly grated lemon zest, and a mildly sweet lemon syrup. The sour cream gives this loaf a subtle tang and a dense, moist crumb that cannot be achieved with yogurt. If you want to increase the lemony goodness of these cakes, add the simple glaze after the syrup has set and the cakes are cool. This loaf freezes extremely well, so you can double the recipe and make a few extra loaves.

Baked Note:  For zesting purposes, we always recommend using an organic fruit, free of chemicals or pesticides that might reside deep in the rind.

Yield : 2 (9-by-5-by-3-inch ) loaves

For the lemon cake

  • 1½ cups cake flour
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup grated lemon zest (from about
  • 4 lemons)
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the lemon syrup

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • For the lemon glaze (optional )
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, or more if needed
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Make the lemon cakes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the sides and bottom of two 9-by-5- by-3-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.

Sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor running, drizzle the butter in through the feed tube. Add the sour cream and vanilla and pulse until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Sprinkle in the flour mixture, one third at a time, folding gently after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F., and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and invert the loaves onto the pan. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the loaves.

Brush the tops and sides of the loaves with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cakes cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

(The soaked but unglazed loaves will keep, wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap and frozen, for up to 6 weeks.)

If you like, make the lemon glaze in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. If the mixture is too stiff, add up to another 2 tablespoons lemon juice and whisk again, adding small amounts of lemon juice and/or confectioners' sugar until you get the right consistency. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

The glazed loaves will keep for up to 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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