Every holiday season my family asks me to bake “my” apple pie. I never thought it was anything spectacular because the grocery store down the street sold the same pie with neater lattice tops. When I baked, I followed the instructions from the book in the pantry, added water to the pre-mixed dough package, and popped the dessert into the oven. Easy as pie, as they say. The more I made the same recipe, however, the more I deviated from the original directions. I’d eyeball the nutmeg and leave the skin on the apples. It became sloppier than the store-bought brand and I almost always burn the edges. Still, when I pull the bubbling parcel of cinnamon and fruit out of the 350 degree oven, there is never any doubt in my mind that it is my pie.
That’s the wonderful thing about baking—the rules only exist as a springboard for better ideas. Tasting one chocolate chip cookie does not mean you know what every chocolate chip cookie will taste like. With over 200 participants in this year’s Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer week, some of the desserts share the same titles. The similarities in the sweets stop at their names because each participant’s recipe is unique to that bakery or restaurant. The strawberry shortcake at Sweet Caroline’s, for example, is made with a buttermilk biscuit and ice cream rather than the traditional cake base and frosting. Formaggio Kitchen and Aragosta Bar & Bistro both carry olive oil cakes—desserts that provide a mouth full of soft cake that leaves you feeling airy rather than heavy.
Even the miniature carrot cakes and brownie bites from Paradise Bakery are so full of flavor that each bite feels like a sampling from a high end restaurant; the bakers have even dyed the frosting pink in honor of Boston Bakes.
It’s the little touches like a different colored frosting or unique approach to tradition that makes the desserts featured in this year’s Boston Bakes so special. The creative minds behind every breathtaking bite took an established recipe and improved upon it to produce something completely new. It doesn’t matter if it happens in an industrial kitchen or a private home, the process is the same. It starts with a little care and experimentation and eventually something new rises from the batter. Each corner cut or ingredient added transforms classic recipes into desserts that are equal parts unique and delicious and worth trying more than once.