Baking has always been a part of my life. Apple and peach orchards were my childhood playground. Picking strawberries or walking across hills in search of wild blackberries were my summer camp activities. And while other children were busy collecting bruises from tackle football or bicycle mishaps, I was busy tackling thorny branches to gather fresh blackberries, an activity that also stained my fingers purple - a testament to a successful harvest!
Family parties were my sock hops as they provided me a chance to dance in delight over the fabulous cakes and pies made fresh by my aunts. Aunt Mabel made the best German chocolate cake. And our neighbor, Mrs. Taylor, made a wonderful cake with a lemon filling and boiled icing.
When I was 8-years old, I baked my first apple pie. I soon advanced to lemon meringue pies and chocolate cakes and cookies and then éclairs. I vividly remember the first time I made the chocolate orange mousse at The Chef's Garden on Fifth Avenue. It was the fall of 1972. The technique, which today is a basic for me, seemed so advanced and took forever.
Great baking is more than an ability to read a recipe. Take the carrot cake recipe given to me by a co-worker in the USAF. I have prepared it for over 40 years. Yet over time, I changed the level of spice in the recipe adding some All Spice and Ginger. It took baking thousands of these cakes to get this recipe perfect. FYI: The original recipe is framed and hangs in Tony's Off Third.
With the advent of Truffles, a new door in baking opened for me. The bakery cases were filled with wonderful sweet delights. Young and old stood in front of the display case each day to pick out that one special treat. Those moments are my Norman Rockwell images.
I will confess: I LOVE desserts! And even though I've reduced my personal consumption (Wynne likes a fit man), the sweet end of the meal is still my favorite part.
To those of you who remember the baked goods from Truffles, please listen up. Tony's Off Third is a significantly better bakery than Truffles ever was. Every one of the items reflect a lifetime of stained fingers and thorny obstacles to get what I think is a perfect mix of style and taste.
The secret ingredient: It's not the location as some might think. Our secret ingredient is a fabulous team of bakers and finishers. Maryann is in charge of the bakery and boy does she love to bake. Always ready with a smile and helping hands are Curtis, Martin, Juan, Lynn and Santos. To our advantage, Elenides has become a great finisher of cakes. And Tara, our new specialty artist, has a refreshing flair for creativity.
A bakery is a place where flour, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate, and the whole glossary of baking products come together. And YES, we do use lots of fresh cream and butter. What we don't use is shortening. Baking is both an art and a science. Techniques are critical; measurements are precise. But one must have the ultimate touch to know when the process is perfect so the result will be tempting. We have that with our team at Tony's Off Third!
Case in point: We recently uncovered the apple peeling machine from years gone by. It is a fabulous instrument of black iron machinery with manually calibrated gears and blades. With baking, there are no shortcuts. In our bakery, there are no preset buttons or computerized assembly lines either. I've tested so many new kitchen innovations over the years that promise results, but none compare to what we can accomplish with a team of skilled human hands.
But the joys of a bakery are not fully realized unless we can share our creations with others. For this reason, we continue to survey our best customers and have responded to many requests. The Zebra cake is back and we have a huge new Red Velvet cake fan club.
Our list of freshly baked items continues to grow each day. To keep the pace, our bakers begin the day at 11pm the night before.
I want to remind you that we also enjoy baking your custom creations including wedding cakes, holiday treats and large party orders. Take a look at our pastry menu.
On a final note, I want to answer one question that I hear often and surprises me:
Question: Where are these pastries made?
My answer: Everything you see or purchase from our bakery and all items* on the dessert menus at Ridgway Bar and Grill and Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar are prepared and baked right here in two rooms behind the retail store in Old Naples. *Ice cream at Bayside is from Royal Scoop (Bonita Springs) and gelato at Ridgway is from Freddo Gelateria (downtown Naples).