Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Joy Of Baking (aka Kawa, Surry Hills)...

One of the great things about being in your late twenties, is that you begin to stop caring about what people think about you. With this liberating irreverence in the very primped face of public opinion, I am going to do something decidedly uncool and begin with a Sound Of Music ism: 'When the lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window'. Maria knew it then, and I know it now: just as one avenue exhausts itself, a new opportunity always comes to take its pretty place. You see, my sweet little Surry Hills terrace is an ovenless set up, not a good situation for a food blogger, especially one who likes wholesome home made old school cake. One who loves cake. One who Lives Cake. Nevertheless, just as this (oven) door closed on me, so many sweet windows of freshly baked opportunity came a-knocking. There are several little treat spots 2 or 3 minutes from my front door, but none as sweet as the Crowning glory of Crown Street, Kawa Cafe, Surry Hills. It's a place I have come to for years now, even before I lived locally. They do wonderful organic sandwiches, spicy soups, moorish breakfasts and rich dinners, but that isn't what this tale is about. Cake+Knifeonians, I am talking cake. I am talking frickin seriously good cake. I am talking old school, quaint-cookie-cutter-baked-by-the-farmers-blonde-wife-sticky-sweet-mushy-wholesome-dainty-DirtyRich-tap-squish-bite-soft-iced-in-so-so-white-creamy-luscious-lick-stick-trick-nut laden treatsicles on towering cake stands with big shiny lids that collect little droplets of moisture from your very baited breath. To hell with class. There's no need to pretend. It's time you all knew. Knew all about the wonderful, the wanton, the wicked, the delightfully, darkly decadent things they are getting up to with SugarChocolateCream down here. I know how much you like your virtual treats, so, I give you, with sticky fingers, another little sugared indulgence, together, now: three...two...yum...

Heidi Klum? Pfft. She ain't got nothing on that Brownie. That is pure cake working the camera, baby. This brownie is intensity masquerading as chocolate. It is die hard, straight up, Chocolate-Rush-Stick-To-The-Top-Of-Your-Mouth-Molten-Mushy-Soft-Aching-Waking-Taking texture. Jeeee-sus. Most brownies are like parking inspectors, too dry and too hard to bite into, not this little slab o' choc. It is beguilingly baked, the top layer is a composed, hardened shell of chocolate that is the backbone of some very wickedly mushy insides. It is harder to get a brownie to feel right than to taste right, I think, this ticks both brownie boxes brilliantly. The texture is amazing, a little stay on the edges with a lot of give beneath, it sinks into your mouth, it melts into it, it just softens and illuminates into some kind of delicate, light, buoyant chocolatey luminescence.

The softness of the inside is broken up beautifully by crunchy clusters of hacked up nuts. I am very sensitive to sugar, so I can only ever eat about a quarter of this, but I adore it. Most brownies taste too floury or too sweet, they don't have enough chocolate in them, not enough richness or enough body. This brownie is rich, they must use a good butter in the baking, because it has a strong buttered taste without ever being too sickeningly rich. Tatsu loved this. We relished it for a long while with some BonSoyed Chai to wash it down. So good. Brownies are epic cakeing, there is something wonderfully no nonsense and not at all delicate about them. They are for when you feel like a SweetRich mouth punch, when you want a sugar rush in a big, bad way. They are all the way desserting. Brownies: The Johnny Cash of cake. As much as I love cash, the brownie isn't my favourite Kawa, treat. No, it's the next little Ring of Fire that flamboyantly, deliciously and without fail, walks my lovely line.

No, not Tats. The next photo down. That little mouth mesmerizer down there is Joy's Famous Oat Cookie w White Chocolate Ganache. Holy Shit. Did anyone else just feel something inside their brain burst? I don't even like white chocolate and I have been eating these things for years. They are the Holy Spirit as Biscuit. They are Courage as Cookie. They are Titan as Treat. There isn't much I wouldn't do for one of these beautifully buttered up bounty of bliss babies. The anatomy of this cookie is a simple but mysterious affair. You have two little, oatish, wholesome, dried fruit flickered, delicately based biscuity discs, they are moist, chewy, soft, achingly textured. You would go ga ga about the cookie itself, even without the divine filling that is Confection as Crack, and I am addicted.

The White Chocolate Ganache peeps out at you between the cookie encasing, it is a rich, smooth, creamy white, and in one of the true joys of caking, it smooshes out a little from the sides, just as all Good Fillings Should. It doesn't taste too sweet, it's more of a buttery, creamy melting thing that happens in your awed mouth. The ganache reminds me of a great carrot cake icing, it has a slight sharpness to the sweetness, and a hell of a lot of depth, it sinks into your taste buds and sets up happy home there forever. These are So good. I buy them as little treats for friends, and if you pop by too late in the day, there's a chance they'll be sadly sold out. They take a good long while to eat, even though they're so small, they are dense as all hell, and so rich, you have to linger for a while to take it all in. It's a good thing Cookie Monster lives on Sesame St and not Crown, the rest of us would never stand a chance.

Macadamia shortbreads are also up for grabs. As is a truly heroic range of herbal and black teas. The chai is really well made, sweetened with honey and Beautiful Bon Soy. It's not my favourite brand of chai, but the way they froth it up makes it a much more decent cup than most. Fresh juices are always intense and frothy, and they have a really unusual frappe I have been wanting to try: Poached pear with vanilla?! But, hey, there's still more cake...

The buttery, luscious little Ginger Nut Slices just want you to bite into them. They have a shortbreadish like base that is smothered in a smooth and caramelicious looking gingery stickysomethingorother. If you still have room after the brownie and cookie, why not order one of these? But the true Kawa-Crowd favourite, isn't any of these...

They sell out, almost every day, of these little creamed coconut cakes. At The Goods, which also stocks the same cakes as Kawa, a man comes in every single day for one of these little sponged, coconutted dainty-as-a-doily-delights. They are gentle and creamy, and taste moist, lusciously buttered. I tried one the other day, I am not a coconut fan and I loved it. It's a delicate little sponge dream, so 1950's and innocent. The girl in the line in front of me bought 5, I asked her about that (she was skinny and I wanted in on her secret!), and she said once a week she comes in to get them for her friends at the office. This is the iPhone of cake, it seems, everyone has one or wants one.

And who is responsible for all of this Surry Hills Sugaring? The wonderful Joy bakes all of these treats you have been salivating over. She bakes for Kawa and for The Goods which is a one minute stride down, on the same road but on the other side, towards Oxford st (2 doors down from Mad Mex). Joy's folks were pretty bang on when it came to picking names. This Aussie WonderBaker keeps many local people in a transsugarfixaton. I talked to her about her cakes, and loved her patent and well earned pride in her baking talent, she knows how good and how in demand her treats are. These are the products of recipes she has been honing for years, and she's keeping total mum on the recipes. Which is a good thing, I can control all of this cake craziness by purchasing only one little thing at a time and sharing it. I would never account for my control being alone in a kitchen with a freshly baked tray of the cookies, or a whole, lonely slab of brownie that really wanted someone's mouth to play with it.

Bloody Hell. Marie Antoinette lived in the wrong age, poor sucker, she never even got to sample a bite of Joy's joys.

Kawa happens at 346-350 Crown St, Surry Hills. They cater as well (ph: 1300 322 837).

I will do a piece on their food some time in the future. Even if cake isn't your thing, this is a great spot for healthy, organic, inspired food. It's also the best sidewalk sitting on Crown St. It catches the sun, is a good people watching spot, lots of cool cats go here (ie. people who will never ever admit in public how much they love the Sound of Music).

Ps...I was going to call this piece 'Kawa-Bunga, Dudes!', but it seems not caring about what people think has some limits. Thank god for that, eh.


Trish said...

I couldn't get past the photo of the brownie, so dense and probably each bite is incredibly rich, but I think I could definitely give finishing it a go.....Where would you say has the best brownie? Would you say nuts add or detract?

amanda said...

hey trish, my favourite brownie of all time is one i make by tweaking a version of a jude blureau recepie, you use an amazing quality chocolate and instead of sugar you put brown rice syrup and pure maple syrup in, i love brazil nuts smashed, i dont think they detract from the brownie, i think the hardness of the nut makes the smoshiness of the chocolate smooshier. that recipe is under the chocolate label. i generally prefer homemade brownies, if you mess around with types of flour they can be so moist! x a