Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bakery Review: Village Baking & Coffee Company, Modesto, CA

Village Baking & Coffee Company - visited August 23, 2014
Last weekend I went out of town for a Hallmark ornament event (waves freak flag) in Modesto. As always whenever I go somewhere new, I look up local bakeries on yelp to see what I might go check out. Hey, we all need a hobby. In addition to baking, mine is trying out new bakeries wherever I go. It satisfies both my intellectual curiosity and my sweet tooth under the guise of "research". Yes, that's it, I'm doing research.

I got to Modesto pretty early, checked in at the Hallmark store then had a couple of hours to kill. So it was the perfect time to check out Village Baking. Since I'd left my house so early to get to Modesto before 8 am, I hadn't had breakfast yet.
Village Baking is pretty large for a bakery but they also double as a cafe that serves both breakfast and lunch. There is a plethora of display cases filled with baked goods, from breads to cakes to cupcakes and bar cookies to individual-size desserts. Needless to say, I went into sensory overload. In a good way.

Before I got too immersed in the sweet offerings though, I went with a breakfast order of pancakes and fruit with a side order of sausage. I ordered at the counter, paid for my meal and received a number on a stand which the server later used to track me down and deliver my order. The pancakes were decently fluffy and tasted good but I was disappointed in the syrup. It had the taste and texture of Aunt Jemima syrup from a plastic bottle. For someone used to maple syrup tapped from the trees of Vermont, it was a bit of a letdown. I actually ended up scaling back on the syrup and enjoying my pancakes without them. Fortunately the sausages were tasty so it saved my breakfast plate.
My breakfast order: pancakes and sausage
After breakfast, I allowed myself the sensory pleasure of perusing the display cases. Several times, the attentive counter people asked if they could help me but I demurred. I was full from breakfast so I knew I wouldn't be eating anything until later that afternoon and I wanted to choose wisely. Some moments just can't be rushed.

After indulging my visual senses for an appropriate length of time, I finally narrowed my selections down to 3: a Turtle Thumbprint Cookie, an individual apple tart and a larger-than-mini-but-not-full-size cake called Death by Chocolate. The name alone deserved a trial even though it was a larger size cake than I could finish by myself.

The cake was a bit expensive at $8.25 but greed governs the hold on my wallet and that hold loosened in the face of promised chocolate bliss. The bakery counter person packaged the cake in a separate box from the cookie and the tart which turned out to be a wise move. I had to leave the boxes in my car for half the day and it was almost a 2-hour drive back home so by the time I got back and opened my caloric treasures, the cake had softened considerably and was thinking about melting to punish me for its warm treatment in the trunk of my car.

I tried the Turtle Thumbprint cookie first. I had made something similar to it (Chocolate Turtle Cookies) for a holiday dessert party and I'm partial to anything chocolate and caramel. This had the same elements as the turtle cookies but I have to say, I like mine better. The cookie part of this Turtle Thumbprint was a bit on the dry side and was more of a crisp texture than a chewy one. It wasn't bad but it wasn't a standout for me.

Apple Tart
Then I got to the apple tart and boy, did my taste buds perk up. My jaded senses lost their cynicism and came to attention. It's still not quite the season for apples so the apples weren't particularly special but the outer crust and the inner crust holding up the apples were amazing. I can't describe it well enough to do it justice but it was like the perfect - and I mean perfect - meeting of tart crust and cake that got married and agreed on a 50/50 partnership. Sublime. The only thing I didn't like about the tart is the same thing I don't like about any bakery dessert with fruit. In order to preserve the appearance of fresh fruit, bakeries brush the fruit with an apricot glaze. It keeps the fruit from drying out and gives them a glossy appearance. That keeps them looking pretty but I've never cared for the taste of the glaze. Still, let's just say that while I probably wouldn't drive 90 miles just to go to a bakery (even I have my limits), if I ever happened to be in Modesto again, I'd make a point of going to Village Baking just to get the apple tart.

At this point, I didn't have much room for more than a bite (or three) of the Death by Chocolate cake. I had put it in the refrigerator to chill back up before I tried it which turned out to be the right thing to do. The cake is essentially fluffy chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse covered with a light(ish) chocolate ganache frosting. I'd repeat that but I'd probably gain another two pounds just typing out the words. It was good. Really good. I couldn't finish it so I ended up sharing most of it with my parents when I visited them the next day.
Overall, I'd give Village Baking and Coffee Company a thumbs up. Skip the pancakes unless you're going to bring your own syrup but they offer a great selection of baked goods and 2 out of my 3 selections hit the mark. A few days later, I'm still thinking about that apple tart.

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