Saturday was my birthday (yay!) and when Shane asked what I wanted to do to celebrate, I decided it might be fun to head up to Boston and visit Flour Bakery! I'd received the Flour cookbook for Christmas, and it's quickly become one of my favorites. It only seemed fitting to head to the bakery itself, especially since Boston is only about an hour away. Flour has three locations - we visited the Central Square location in Cambridge. We arrived around 9 am on Saturday morning - ready to consume lots of pastry :)
Inside, the bakery was busy but not so crowded we couldn't find somewhere to sit. The vibe was warm and the service was fast.
I thought this quote was cute!
We resisted the urge to ask for one of each of the items from the case, but it was tempting...
We wound up choosing three items to share initially. I stayed away from anything with nuts (neither of us are fans) and limited myself to just one item with fruit since I knew Shane wouldn't help with that one.
First up was the brioche au sucre (top left), which was basically just a brioche roll with a crackly sugar coating on top. For something so simple, it was great - really tender and rich. The second item was pain aux raisins (top right), a brioche pastry filled with pastry cream and golden raisins. It was my favorite of the three. Lastly, we tried the chocolate brioche, which was another hit. I could tell they'd chosen a really high quality chocolate to fill the brioche, it was dark and worked well with the rich pastry.
We'd definitely established that we loved the brioche dough, but still wanted to try a few more things. We were too full to eat anything else though so picked several additional items to bring home with us.
Craqueline - brioche (apparently we didn't get enough) filled with chopped candied oranges and finished with a crackly almond topping. I loved the visual appeal of this one, but the oranges in the filling were too bitter for me.
Lemon-Ginger Scone (right) - my other favorite item, alongside the pain aux raisins. It had the perfect balance of lemon and ginger flavor.
Oatmeal-Maple Scone (left) - I forgot to write down what this one was, but I think it was the oatmeal-maple scone. It wasn't a favorite but I can't put my finger on exactly what I didn't like about it.
Banana Bread - it's called "Flour's Famous Banana Bread" in the cookbook so I pretty much had to try it, right? I had to pick around the nuts (and there were quite a few) but I could still tell it was great banana bread - super moist and full of banana flavor.
One thing we didn't try? The sticky buns that Flour Bakery is so well known for (they were featured on an episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown and won). They looked amazing, but there were just too many nuts to make it worthwhile for us to buy. That said, the beauty of owning the cookbook is that I can make my own nut-free version! :)
As if all that sugar and pastry wasn't enough, I decided to make Flour's vanilla cream-filled doughnuts over the weekend as well :) They were one of the first recipes I flagged in the book and unfortunately, they're only sold at the bakery on Sunday so we didn't get to try them.
I've made doughnuts a few times in the past, but this was definitely the most successful of any of my attempts. The dough comes together quickly in your stand mixer, rests overnight, and couldn't be easier to work with when it comes time to roll/cut the doughnuts. Once they're cut, the doughnuts proof for a few hours, and turn into fluffy and soft little rounds.
The frying is always the scariest part for me. I've had trouble cooking other doughnuts - often the outside is crisp and golden but I bite in to discover the inside is still raw. No such issues with this recipe, though. The doughnuts are fried for just 2-3 minutes per side then rolled in sugar, which forms a crisp coating on the outside once the doughnuts cool.
Before filling them with cream, I decided to try one plain, and was blown away. These doughnuts are phenomenal! The crispy outside gives way to a light, tender interior - for a minute I almost forgot I was eating something that was fried. Because I loved them so much plain I only wound up filling two, and those were good as well, but if you want to save yourself the extra effort you can definitely skip the filling. The doughnuts were made on the Martha Stewart show recently and you can find the recipe (along with a video that you may find useful) here. My doughnuts didn't puff quite as nicely as the ones they made on the show but I didn't mind one bit.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the special birthday cake that Shane baked for me. In previous years I've often made my own cake, but Shane volunteered this year and I was all too happy to let him take on the task! Ignore the mess in our kitchen and apologies for the pictures, it was well after dark on Friday before the baking began.
He was very serious about his mise en place - all of the ingredients were out and ready to go before he got started.
I'll be in big trouble if I don't tell you about the two eggs he cracked simultaneously - each with just one hand. No worries - the cake was egg shell free!
The instructions said to beat for 3 minutes, so he pulled his iPhone out, set the timer and did exactly as instructed. And then, when the beating was done he savored the best part of the process - licking the beaters :)
Had to catch those drips off the side of the bowl after filling the cake pans too!
I was rushing to tidy the house the next day since we were having family over for a party and I didn't get any pictures of the frosting process. I do know it was pretty stressful for Shane - he kept telling me the cake wasn't living up to his vision. In the end once he had the whole cake frosted, and the decorations piped, I think he was pleased. I know I was impressed! Not only did the cake look great, it was delicious!
It was a decadent weekend, but if you can't splurge on your birthday, when can you? :)