Big Girl Bakes Hard

We’ve been noticing a grim trend in bakeries over the last few years: things just don’t taste like they should. We’re finding a sensory void where butter should be, natural vanilla is being replaced by synthetic vanillin, and cheap, industrial mixes and canned fillings are being fobbed off as the work of skilled bakers. Take a good, close taste of what’s passing for a corner bakery nowadays. Except for the tippity-top echelon (and price point), it’s a pretty scary world out there in cookie-land.

Of course, it was bound to happen. The cost of the baker’s bag of tricks—flour, eggs, butter, milk and sugar –has skyrocketed, along with rents for Westchester’s commercial spaces. Meanwhile, bakeries have lost customers to supermarket chains and Costco, places where they’ve got cake frosting machines (and licensing deals) to reproduce trademarked cartoon figures in flavor-free, chemical goo. What corner bakery can compete with Dora the Explorer? It’s a no-brainer. Given their situation, bakeries are taking any help they can get, and if that means substituting shortening for butter, cans of filling for fresh fruit, and vanillin for vanilla, so be it.

That’s why we were pleased to see someone breaking out of the death spiral in modern baked goods. Regina, Aimee and Jody Milano have started Bronxville-based Big Girl Baking Company, whose motto is “Truth in Baking”. It’s an apt phrase to describe Big Girl’s products, all of which are delicious, and go a long way toward redeeming our faith in bakers

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Recently, we had the pleasure of tucking into a beautifully-packaged basket of Big Girl goodies. (Folks, did we ever say we hated our job?) Of the cookies, we loved our nut-and-seed studded Trail Mix Crunchers; our chewy, dried cherry-studded Black Forest Chunks, and our delicate Sables du Chocolate. While all were yummy, it was the ginger snaps that we fought our tenaciously clutching husband for. These chewy, gritty-with-sugar, seriously snappy gingersnaps, whose buttery hot ginger notes struck our cookie-loving soul, were perfect—balanced, un-cloying and packed with flavor.

Even more sophisticated than the cookies are Big Girl’s biscotti, which are delicate, crumbly morsels offered in thoughtful flavor combinations. Our favorite was lemon-pine nut, but we look forward to trying black pepper-fig, fennel-golden raisin and anise seed. They’re the perfect thing to munch with a cup of tea, if you can wait long enough for the water to boil.

Best of all, Big Girl offers no trademarked cartoons characters replicated in goo. So how does Big Girl do it? They’re avoiding the expense and headache of a bricks and mortar store and are, for the most part, only available online on their cute, jazzy website. Without rents to account for, these tasty baked goods are a bargain, even counting shipping. Or, for those who need an immediate fix, Chocolations in Mamaroneck carries the whole Big Girl line –excepting their fluffy, pecan-encrusted miniature cheesecakes, which require refrigeration.

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