I told you all that I didn’t make it brunch with the Baked Boys, but the rest of the usual suspects were lucky enough to make it–and based on their report back it sounds like I missed a good one! Lucky for me, they did bring me some dessert samples, and I can confirm that this cookbook is as delicious as the Baked Boy’s first one! Carlos was nice enough to write up a guest post (with input from Tony and Eileen) on his experience to share with you all…so take it away Carlos!
From the wdwinfo website: “Sweet Sundays – A pastry chef or baker demonstrates 3 signature desserts and serves them. Each event includes a warm and intimate breakfast buffet complete with sparkling wines. Sundays from 10:00-12 PM in the Festival Welcome Center.”
As a newcomer to the Food and Wine Festival, I didn’t know what to expect of the Sweet Sundays treat for which we signed up months in advance at Beth’s behest and recommendation. I certainly enjoy food and wine, and given my close relationship to two proficient bakers (my wife Eileen and Beth) who are also big fans of Matt and Renato (the Baked Boys), I was quite excited about the event and its prospects. With Beth and Eileen’s seal of approval, I knew I was in for some good eats.
The Sweet Sundays plan would hit a snag before it even took place, though. Beth became rather ill with a stomach bug the night before the show, and could not join us, even though it was probably the event she looked forward to the most all week at Disney. We were saddened, but we needed to carry on. The mission was now clear for Eileen, our friend Tony G and me: sample everything, take as many pictures as possible, and enjoy ourselves on Beth’s behalf (and as much as possible to be her eyes and taste buds).
Before the actual start to the event we enjoyed a brunch buffet that included several quiches, ham, bacon, potatoes, fruit, muffins, croissants and pastries, along with coffee and juice. I had a plateful of great food, while at the same time keeping in mind that there was a whole lot of sampling left to be done. I tried not to overfill my plate, but it was 10 a.m., I hadn’t had any food yet, and so I failed miserably at this attempt at self-restraint.
Once satiated with catered goodness, the event per se began with a short welcome and introduction from Pam, a representative of the guest winery Martini®. Ms. Prosecco Pam (as she dubbed herself) talked to us a little bit about the origins of Prosecco and Asti, pointed out the various properties and differences between the two, and then invited us to drink up, and drink often. She was very informative, friendly, and good with the crowd.
After the welcome, Pam introduced Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito from “Baked” in Brooklyn NY, the Guest Chefs and the reason why most attendees were there. Perhaps to many reading this, the Baked Boys may need little introduction, but to me they were very much a new acquaintance. After another Prosecco toast and some quick prepping, Matt and “Nato” quickly delved into the first dessert. The first bit of sweet deliciousness was the “Marshmallow Chocolate Cups.” It was here that I saw a gelatin sheet for the first time (they looked really cool), learned a bit about using gelatin sheets vs. using gelatin powder, and noted the good chocolates they like to use (such as Valrhona and Barry Callebaut, who use cocoa instead of oil for their flavoring and are therefore better for baking than cooking chocolates). I also tried to follow along in a quick explanation of the exact science and criticality of maintaining the proper timing between different stages of preparation when the key to the dessert is to melt and pour and layer. A disaster can be looming if your gelatin is ready to be mixed and the chocolate is not properly melted, or vice versa. I think that my favorite part of this particular demonstration was to see a runny, translucent glob at the bottom of a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl slowly become gooey marshmallow accented with vanilla extract and salt.
Meanwhile, the audience was treated to our own sample accompanied with another glass of the Prosecco. The little Marshmallow Cup was absolutely fantastic. I had once enjoyed some great marshmallows that Beth made a while ago, and sampling these brought back the simple and absolute joy of homemade marshmallows. The little cup was the perfect tease for a second round.
The kitchen/stage was then turned over to Eric Wolitzky, Pastry Chef at Baked and a current contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef – Just Desserts. Eric quickly whipped up a breakfast “Double-Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread.” This baked treat is intended to be served as part of breakfast and not necessarily as dessert, which is why (according to the chef) there is no use of butter, but rather vegetable oil (with a lot of Valrhona cocoa powder and brown sugar). This is a really quick and delicious recipe, although for my taste I think I would have rather seen him use butter. Everything is better with butter. But to each their own, and Eric insisted on not turning a breakfast dish (prepared with oil) into a dessert (prepared with butter). The “sample” of the loaf was a piece so big I almost couldn’t even finish it, and there were still two more items to go! I tried to pace myself and ate all but a small piece of this tasty loaf, and most of the cream cheese spread (which was good enough to eat all by itself).
Next we moved on to sweet treat number three, and probably my favorite. Renato explained that his “Mom’s Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake” was not his mom’s original recipe, but a recipe that she adopted from a friend. It is likely though, as Nato indicated, that Ms. Grace started with a basic vanilla Bundt cake recipe and then, in true Sicilian flair, added olive oil and orange to the recipe. I feel that the reason this was my favorite recipe is that the mix of fresh orange zest, olive oil, and the orange juice glaze evoked some strong memories of summers in Valencia, Spain, where my mother was born and raised and where I have visited many times. The region of Valencia is all about oranges, and all of Spain is synonymous gastronomically with olive oil, so the personal experience drawn from this cake was powerful and unavoidable. We enjoyed the Bundt cake with some Asti, which was an absolutely perfect pairing that brought out the notes of orange and the peculiar taste of olive oil without sacrificing the dessert experience. The cake was rich and moist without being overpowering, and I somehow found a way to open up a secondary stomach cavity to receive yet more food on a full belly.
For the fourth and final dessert, the menu read “Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting,” but we soon learned that the chefs had decided to make a change at the last minute (however long a last minute decision has to be made in order to prepare over a hundred samples for tasting). Matt was eager to announce that they had decided to forego the maple cupcakes (the recipe is still available in their new cookbook) and instead show us how to prepare their now famous Sweet and Salty Brownies, as featured on TV. These brownies were prepared with more chocolate per serving than I have ever seen in my life, and the results were incredible. This brownie was thick and “fudgy” without being underdone, and the topping of sprinkled coarse salt and caramel sauce just brought the brownie to an over-the-top level that I have never experienced before. I could literally feel myself going into a sugar/food coma as I took each bite. Oh, and here’s a neat little trick to add to the complexity of this brownie: Matt uses instant espresso powder in the mix in order to draw out even further the intensity of the chocolate. I agree with my friend Tony’s assessment that this was the best brownie he’d ever had.
I will admit that having such a dense brownie at the end of the sampling felt like a bit of overkill on an already heavily taxed digestive system, but anything worth doing is worth overdoing, as they say, and this was certainly no exception. Matt and Renato are talented, personable, and versatile chefs, who were most gracious to sign books for Eileen and Beth, have our picture taken with them, and then chat for a while about their “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” experience and their love of food.
All the success that the Baked Boys have attained and the attention and fan base they have been building is definitely well-deserved. The experience of the tasting will linger in my memory as a very special one. Eileen and Beth’s praise of Baked was confirmed in my mind. I had high expectations, and I was definitely not disappointed.