Saturday, October 9, 2010

One Bite At A Time

Cupcakes are all the rage these days.  Sophisticated urbanites will line up at chi-chi boutique bakeries, for the privilege of paying several dollars to indulge in a single-serving revisitation of an ordinary childhood delight.  Cupcakes have the one-portion pastry appeal without the pretentiousness of a chocolate ganache bombe or a passion-fruit-mousse tartlet on pâte brisée...  Pure, uncomplicated sweet comfort, and you don't even have to open the box of cake mix.  And the best part: no leftovers.

Cupcakes have become so popular that a whole industry has sprung up around them.  Chains such as Crumbs have popped up all over the place.  It is nearly impossible to walk 10 Manhattan blocks without coming across either a franchise or an independently-owned "original" cupcake shop.  Everyone wants a flash back to the third grade.

Except me.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy a sweet treat as much as the next person.  I, too,  enjoy the appeal of being transported back to a more carefree time in my life by simply biting into a hand-sized mound of frosted, moist, crumbly goodness.  And I do happen to like cupcakes.  

But, because in recent times I have been operating on limited capacity, I find most cupcakes to be way too big.  I usually start a meal with the more substantial meat-and-veggies dishes.  By the time I'm interested in eating sweets, I rarely have room for more than a few bites.  Modern-trend cupcakes indulge in using oversized mega-muffin tins, are formulated to peak in super-tall mounds, and are frosted with thick layers of a mixture comprising of 100% butter and 100% sugar.  So, appealing as they may seem in theory, the mere thought of having to face such a large dessert is off-putting from the start.  Most of the major cupcake retailers have a few miniature versions of their more popular flavors, but in order to acquire them, you must purchase at least a 6-pack.  Fail on two counts: I resent being strong-armed into settling for the more ordinary flavors just because I don't want to commit to a behemoth cupcake, and if I wanted to buy six goddamn mini-cupcakes, I would have bought a big one instead.

Enter Barrington Bites in Great Barrington, MA.  They specialize EXCLUSIVELY in bite-sized cupcakes.  They do NOT make "full-sized" cakes.  They offer more than 50 flavors, available on order.  When you walk into their location and want a cupcake, you only need to buy one.  Each one is two bites for me, or one modest gobble for Husband.  We had a vanilla chai-spice one and a double chocolate one.  They were both outstanding.  One of the dangers of miniature baked goods is that you have to be very precise about ratios and baking time and temperature, or you will end up with a dry and overbaked cake.  Barrington Bites have a very moist cake that's not excessively dense, the frosting is sweet and fatty, but whipped enough that it doesn't squash the cake, and an ideal balance of cake to frosting.  The flavorings in the batter and frosting were fragrant and intense without being overwhelming.  And they were small enough to eat the whole thing without exceeding my ability to enjoy it.

Here is a small picture I lifted from their website.

Barrington Bites is currently located inside The Chef's Shop in Great Barrington.  I look forward to seeing their business grow enough that I can find them in Boston or Manhattan.

I think the two-bite dessert concept is right on target.  Two-bite brownies have great appeal, but I balk at paying $5 for a box of 25 two-bite brownies.  I'd be happier paying a dollar for a single one.

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