Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

Is it possible to fall in love with a bakery?

In case you were wondering, it is.  Most definitely.

Especially so if the establishment in question is Proof, a quirky, mod little jewel box of a bakery located in Los Angeles.

The smallish scale of the actual building belies the plethora of choices here, which may be your only conundrum – what to order?  Sweet and savory, Proof has it all going on, simultaneously. Those cases and counters are jammed full of good stuff – quiches, breads, tarts, galettes, cakes, cookies (sandwiches debut at noon each day).  The menu varies to take full advantage of seasonal produce.  All that plus fresh juice and fantastic coffee, via Handsome Coffee Roasters and Cognoscenti Coffee.

This dizzying bounty temporarily distracted me from my primary purpose, a mission really, to sample their chocolate chip cookies.  I’d been referred by a friend who is adamant that the baking wizards at Proof make The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, Ever. Being a lifelong devotee of chocolate chip cookies (a sort of a unofficial ambassador, really), I decided it fell within the scope of my duties to investigate fully.  This kind of claim can’t just be allowed to hang out there in the universe, unsubstantiated.

Although self-appointed to this position, I have my credentials – I’ve tried countless chocolate chip cookies from all over (other continents, even!), and it has been super hard work.  Okay, it hasn’t been super hard work, but nevertheless, there it is.  So I marched in to Proof and requisitioned their chocolate chip cookie.  In reality, I just asked the smiling, friendly guy behind the counter for several cookies and paid my modest sum, but “requisitioning” sounds more in line with my self-bestowed title.  We took our treats to one of the little marble-topped window tables, as both of the highly-coveted al fresco spots on the sidewalk were occupied.

I’m not precisely sure if it is the Maldon sea salt, the rich chocolate, the perfect, chewy/crumbly texture, or the fact that they are just the absolutely spot-on amount of sweet, but yes, it was confirmed – these cookies are the best ever.  Swoon.  Proof also offers these same phenomenal chocolate chip cookies as the magnificent foundation for their version of the perennial summer classic, the ice cream sandwich, which features Straus organic vanilla ice cream in the center.  Double swoon.

So now that the whole chocolate chip cookie thing was resolved, we celebrated by eating more stuff, of course.  My companion, who is way more into the savory side of life (like, cheese is an acceptable dessert for him), ordered one of the specials for the day, salami and arugula on stecca.  Basically, it was a salt-flecked, slender baguette, which I’d imagine would taste fabulous with just about anything on it – truly great bread has that way of elevating good, simple ingredients to lofty heights.  He was kind enough to share, then ordered another to go.  I tried to convince him to try one of the sandwiches with beets and goat cheese, which sounded amazing, but he was already quite attached to the salami and arugula combo.  In the end, I relented, mostly because he bought another half-dozen chocolate chip cookies for me for the road (plus a latte and a coconut macaroon).

With a schedule to keep, we left reluctantly, with our traveling provisions, but not before scooping up a bag of the house-made granola and a jar of preserves from Sqirl, for gifts.   

I just knew there was no way those cookies would make it to our next destination intact.

Proof Bakery
3156 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA  90039
Phone:  323.664.8633
Proof website (and menu!), here


Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I love making these dark chocolate dipped strawberries – they always look so elegant, as if you spent loads and loads of time on them.  In reality, they are such a cinch to make, it seems almost criminal.

When selecting your fruit, choose medium-sized berries for the best strawberry-to-chocolate ratio.  If you can find some with the long stems attached, so much the better, as they are the easiest to dip.  Pick the freshest berries you can find, fully ripened but without any bruising, and make sure they are completely dry before dipping, or your chocolate will not adhere properly.

Use your favorite, highest-quality semisweet chocolate bar.  Here, I’ve used Guittard (61% semisweet), which yields great results every time.

This recipe serves two to three people.  Plan on a serving size of about five berries per person if served alone, or two to three berries per person if served as part of a dessert course.

Note:  If you are making these for a crowd, instead of doubling (or quadrupling!) the recipe, I’ve found it is simplest to make them in batches, as an abundance of chocolate can be difficult to keep at the correct consistency at one time.  Prep all the strawberries in one pass, and leave your water simmering the entire time, adding the portions of chocolate and butter together in stages to coincide with the strawberry groups (and don’t forget to prep a few baking trays or platters instead of one).

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Makes approximately 15 dipped strawberries, dependent upon size.

14 -16 ounces fresh whole strawberries, caps intact
4 – 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Rinse strawberries and pat completely dry. Gently gather stems and pull upward, so that each stem is facing away from the body of the strawberry.  Set aside.

Line a baking tray or platter with parchment.  Set aside.

On the stovetop, heat a small saucepan of water to simmering.  Place chopped chocolate and one tablespoon of the butter in a small, heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl on top of the simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted, adding more butter as necessary (up to 2 tablespoons) to achieve dipping consistency (chocolate should be smooth and shiny).  Remove from heat.

Grasp a strawberry by the cap or stem and dip into the chocolate, turning to coat evenly. Let excess chocolate drip off for a few seconds, then place on prepared tray.  Repeat with remaining strawberries until all are fully coated, stirring and reheating chocolate mixture as necessary.  Refrigerate tray, uncovered, for about two hours or until chocolate is set.

Strawberries can be stored in an airtight container lined with parchment and refrigerated. They are best eaten within 24 hours.

Juice Maids

Last week, I was in the Los Angeles area for a family event and spent some time in Pasadena.  After a few hours and tons of walking, my bag-carrying sidekick and I popped into Intelligentsia, intent on grabbing a couple quick, iced pick-me-ups to go.  While waiting for the coffees, I poked around in their refrigerated case and discovered the cold pressed juices from Juice Maids.  I’m halfway wishing I hadn’t seen that juice, because I’ve been obsessing about it ever since.  But I’m a sucker for fresh watermelon juice, and this one was their No Sleep Till Brooklyn (watermelon and lime). Sublime.

That juice was so seriously amazing, it was gone in a flash.  How I wish I had bought a few more jars so I could have tried some of the other flavors!  The next morning,  I jumped online to find out where to get my fix, as I was now nowhere near Pasadena.  A little quibble here about the Juice Maids website – there is no index of the retailers that carry their products.  Thwarted, sigh.  A few days later and back at home in the desert, I was still thinking about the juice, but found that currently, delivery is only available in the immediate LA area.  Double sigh.  I began to reason that a two-hour drive for juice was not really that far.  Crazy, right?

Except this juice is just that great.  What makes it so special?  Well, they source the best organic produce and then utilize a Norwalk Juicer to extract the juice, without  heat, which yields raw juice of a very fine quality and exceptional taste. Their site claims it will “knock your socks off”, and they totally delivered on that promise. The juice I sampled was simply outstanding.

Juice Maids are big on their custom cleanses.  They’ve got three – the Heavy Metal Detox, the Classic Rock Cleanse and the Baby Blues Cleanse.  If you’ve never done a cleanse before, this is a fuss-free way to try it.   In addition to the juices and supplements, you’ll get phone and email support from their resident expert, Danielle.  If you aren’t looking to do a cleanse, but just want to partake of some fabulous juice, you can order a crate to try them out.  With three crates to choose from, you’ll have your pick of eight 16-ounce or four 32-ounce juices or nut milks.  The juices come packaged in reusable mason jars with clever kraft labels, tucked inside crates that are also reusable.  Smart and eco-friendly.

This may be contrary to the general Juice Maids cleansing mission, but as a “detox in order to retox” kind of gal, I’ll readily admit that I’m into the juice primarily for the superior taste, and to use them as cocktail mixers.  If I can feel even the teensiest bit virtuous while imbibing in deliciousness, well then, bonus (yes, extra points are awarded).

Their menu is divided into four main sections – Greens, Veggie, Nut Milks & Smoothies, and Sweet.  Due to our household No Nuts! Ever! policy (which is pretty stringently enforced) those containing nuts are off my list, but each of their categories offer plenty of variety.  Juice Maids have been creative with the names of their juices, too, which adds a fun little twist to the mix. Perfect Day, anyone?  View their full menu to pick your favs, here.  

The following is a list of the eight juices I hope to be bringing back from my next trip, and the spirits I’ve planned on pairing them with.

  1. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – tomato, celery, horseradish, tamari, worcestershire powder, cayenne, salt, lemon [pairing with pepper-infused vodka]
  2. Gold Dust Woman – pear, ginger [pairing with rye whiskey]
  3. Sun Zoom Spark – berry, plum, pineapple [pairing with cachaça]
  4. She’s Like a Rainbow – strawberry, apricot, peach, orange, mint [pairing with champagne]
  5. Astral Plane – cherry, apricot, pineapple [pairing with vodka]
  6. No Sleep Till Brooklynwatermelon, lime [pairing with light rum]
  7. Butterfly Collector – strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, plum [pairing with tequila]
  8. Black Betty – blackberry, peach, orange [pairing with gin]

It’s completely likely that after all of this cocktail experimentation, I’m going to need a cleanse.

Update:  Juice Maids temporarily closed in December 2012, but recently announced a new partnership with Juice Served Here to include brick-and-mortar shops.  Updates can be found here.