Hi, remember me? I started a new blog, posted a few recipes, then got a fabulous job, and promptly dropped off the face of the earth. I still bake and cook things regularly. I also have not lost my talent for eating delicious things, which is probably the most important. So, in my very best Old-Spice-Guy voice, let me tell you all about The Treats You’ll Love.
Let’s start with Smitten Kitchen’s Double Chocolate Banana Bread, which is basically the love-child of a brownie and traditional—but better—banana bread. I have started somewhat intentionally cutting back my raw banana consumption just so the bananas I continue to buy will get a little speckled, and then, dang, I will be forced to make this quick bread. Again. And again. Bummer.
And because it is a quick bread, which is in the same general category as muffins and scones, you can eat it for breakfast and it’s totally legit. (Even though it’s pretty much chocolate cake with bananas in it.) I like adding a pinch of ginger along with the cinnamon, as there are few things I think aren’t improved by ginger. The batter is, as always, one of my favorite things about this recipe, but no, I don’t intentionally leave at least a half-cup of it in the bowl each time I make this goodness. I would never.
Now let’s talk about treats that you want that are made by other people.
After months of bleak gray skies and bitter winds, New York has finally had a few days that feel legitimately springy. Crocuses, (Croci?) those early heralds of warm weather to come, are starting to bloom, and from the high windows of my office building south of Central Park, I can see that the park is beginning to take on a greenish tinge.
HALLELUJAH! What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than ice cream? And I’ll take any excuse to visit Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn.
The above photo documents my first taste of the glorious wares proffered by those scoop-masters called “Amployees,” who are (almost always) more than happy to have you taste their latest and greatest concoctions before making your final choice. Typically, I would choose frozen yogurt and other chilly treats before ice cream, but the mad geniuses at Ample Hills have completely won me over with their creative flavors chock-full of STUFF. And by stuff I mean cookies, candies, cereals, fruits, chocolates, and even salty snack foods. Many of their mix-ins are made in house, and I’ve yet to pick a favorite because they keep inventing new and wonderful things! My first love was the strawberry, shown above, for it’s sweet, perfect simplicity. Then I fell hard for the Snap Mallow Pop, a toothsome marshmallow base full of crisp, carmelized rice-crispy clusters. Then I tasted Nonna D’s, a cinnamon and cream cheese ice cream with crispy oatmeal cookies, and thought I knew ice cream nirvana. (Incidentally, my father-in-law just tried this flavor for the first time, ordered three large scoops, then went back for a pint to go—which he ate all of when we got home about an hour later. It’s that good.) And then, on my most recent visit, I tried The Commodore, a salty honey ice cream full of house-made honeycomb candy and chocolate covered potato chips. I had my doubts, but it is divine. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. There’s a reason this place scores a 27 with Zagat.
When it comes to cupcakes in the city, you can keep your too-sweet Magnolia and too-huge Crumbs. I have two beloved favorites: Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side and Georgetown Cupcake in SoHo.
I’ll start with Two Little Red Hens, a bakeshop that makes absolutely gorgeous cakes, and cookies, cheesecakes, and other baked goods that I can only assume are delicious, because any time I stop in, I make a b-line for the cupcakes as big as my face. They also have minis, for the days when I want a variety of sweets, as well as small cakes that are perfect for a birthday celebration for two. I credit Two Little Red Hens for restoring my faith the cupcakes with their Brooklyn Blackout, a hefty pudding-filled, dark-chocolate-buttercream-topped delight. The cake here is moist and tender, while the frostings are sweet—but not too sweet—perfection. The bakers here don’t get crazy with inventive flavors, but they have mastered the classics (don’t miss the banana with chocolate and PB swirled frosting!); the Red Velvet has enough chocolate flavor and a cream cheese frosting with just enough tang. They also offer both Swiss and American buttercreams, with the Swiss being light and almost meringue-like and the American rich and, well, buttery. But if you’re going, don’t miss the Brooklyn Blackout; it’s an NYC legend.
Georgetown Cupcake in SoHo is a transplant from D.C., but we definitely won’t hold that against them. Treats here are cupcakes only, in one size only, but with their variety of creative, ever-changing flavors, dense cake, and decadent frosting, you won’t be left wanting much else—other than a big glass of milk. One of my dear little friends shows the dangers of such frosting, above, with the perfect chocolate mustache. Seasonal flavors are nearly always worth trying (the lemon blossom is a particular favorite; it’s subtle lemon- and floral-flavored, with a tangy cream cheese frosting that is the stuff dreams are made of) and the cheesecake cupcakes with their tiny cookie crusts are rich but worth it. Georgetown is also awesome with their social media; Facebook fans and Twitter followers are privy to insider information about the FREE flavor of the day! This freebie is a great way for Georgetown to test out new flavors and bring more traffic in to the shop—because once you’re there, how can you get just one cupcake? Ask for the daily flavor by name, and if you’re in one of the first 100 people to ask that day, you’ll get it wrapped and ready to go.
This has been the first installment of New York Treats posts; please join us again soon here at Homemade Manhattan to learn more about my favorite spots for breads, bagels, cookies, and other wonderful treats. Until then, happy munching!