Butter Tarts

An array of Butter Tarts from Frank's Foods - Photo Courtesy of Frank's Foods (Ottawa)

An array of Butter Tarts from Frank’s Foods – Photo Courtesy of Frank’s Foods (Ottawa)

Butter Tarts are a Canadian treasure.  As an American I don’t know much about them.  But I was determined to “get the skinny” on these treats.  (Hmm, perhaps “skinny” is not the best choice of words here…..)

Butter Tarts from the Sweet Bliss Baking Company - Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Bliss Baking Company (Toronto)

Butter Tarts from the Sweet Bliss Baking Company – Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Bliss Baking Company (Toronto)

First of all, let’s cover the basics.  What is a Butter Tart?  According to the editors from Food Network Canada, a Butter Tart is a Tart made of butter, sugar, eggs, and pastry.  They believe a good Butter Tart is characterized by a creamy and dense filling, a smooth texture, and a flaky pastry.

Butter Tarts are so popular, they’re the focus of celebrations and culinary events in Canada.  These are two interesting ones:

The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto - site of The Great Canadian Butter Tart Bake-Off - Photo Courtesy of The Harbourfront Centre (Toronto)

The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto – site of The Great Canadian Butter Tart Bake-Off – Photo Courtesy of The Harbourfront Centre (Toronto)

Among the many festivities held at the Canada Day celebration at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto — “The Great Canadian Butter Tart Bake-Off.”  Six pastry chefs competed for the Best Butter Tart Award. (Thanks to Janet Schreiber, owner of Toronto-based Phipps Bakery Café, who told me about this competition.  Phipps was invited to participate but was not able to.)

For dessert fans wishing to sample and compare different Butter Tarts, North Wellington in Ontario is your go-to destination.  It’s the site of “The Butter Site Trail.”  (I’d much rather go on a Butter Tart Crawl than a Beer Crawl, but I digress.)

Bakeries also attest to the popularity of Butter Tarts.

Prairie Girl Bakery's Butter Tart - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Prairie Girl Bakery’s Butter Tart – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Orna Quinn, of Toronto-based Prairie Girl Bakery reported “Butter Tarts have definitely become more popular, especially for those who do not like things that are as sweet or filling as cupcakes.”  She went on to explain that Mini Butter Tarts are especially popular now.

 

Frank Spartico, owner of Frank's Foods - Photo Courtesy of Frank Spartico (Ottawa)

Frank Spartico, owner of Frank’s Foods – Photo Courtesy of Frank’s Foods (Ottawa)

In Ottawa, Frank Spartico, owner of Frank’s Foods explained “Even though we sell a ton of Tarts the week before Christmas, we also sell a lot all year long.”  And Butter Tarts have torpedoed many post-holiday diets in January.

Don’t think there are only “Plain Janes” in the Butter Tart world.

Prairie Girl Bakery's Storefront - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Prairie Girl Bakery’s Storefront – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Prairie Girl Bakery also offers a Pecan Butter Tart.

Butter Tarts from Phipps Bakery Cafe - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Butter Tarts from Phipps Bakery Cafe – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

While Phipps’ Janet Schrieber said the Bakery’s most popular Butter Tart is Plain, made with homemade caramel, the Pecan Butter Tart is a close second.  And for those seeking variety, Phipps Bakery Cafe also offers a Chocolate Butter Tart, a Chocolate Pecan Butter Tart, and a seasonal Cranberry Pecan Butter Tart.

Storefront of Phipps Bakery Cafe - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Storefront of Phipps Bakery Cafe – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Janet also explained that there’s “a great debate….to raisin or not to raisin.  We used to put raisins in our Tarts but found most preferred not to have them there, so we took them out.”

Pecan and Raisin Butter Tarts from Frank's Foods - Photo Courtesy of Frank's Foods (Ottawa)

Pecan and Raisin Butter Tarts from Frank’s Foods – Photo Courtesy of Frank’s Foods (Ottawa)

Frank’s Foods decided “to raisin.”  In fact, Raisin Butter Tarts are Frank’s second most popular type of Butter Tart.  Frank Spartico noted “Raisin Tarts are the most traditional and are extremely popular with the older crowd, the one Mom always made.”  What other varieties of Butter Tarts can you find at Frank’s?  Pecan (1st place), Plain (3rd place), Maple Walnut, Chocolate Chip, and Butterscotch.

Stay tuned for other postings about Canadian desserts.

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Roni-Sue Chocolates and Rhonda Kave (a/k/a Roni-Sue)

truffles and more truffles

Truffles and more Truffles – from Roni-Sue Chocolates – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

I’m always fascinated reading about people who transitioned to dessert-related occupations as second careers.  I also like hearing about successful entrepreneurs whose social consciousness impacts their businesses.

Roni Sue Chocolates with painted gate

Storefront of Roni-Sue Chocolates – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

And when I signed up for a truffle-making workshop at Roni-Sue Chocolates, I was almost as interested to hear Roni-Sue’s story as I was to learn how to make truffles.  (Roni-Sue Chocolates is known for its truffles, buttercrunch toffee, and “Pig Candy” (chocolate-covered bacon).

Roni Sue

Photo of Roni-Sue – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

While Rhonda, a/k/a Roni-Sue, had been making chocolates, she was a passionate hobbyist, and not a professional chocolatier. Although she describes herself as a “serial careerist” she spent several years working to help the victims of domestic abuse.  And when she decided to open up her chocolate store, she chose the Essex Market, a diverse, community-oriented market located in NYC’s Lower East Side.  Her second location, a free-standing store, is a few blocks away.

MOHO Chocolate Bar

A MOHO Chocolate Bar – Photo Courtesy of MOHO Chocolate

Her social consciousness led her to become a partner in a Belize-based bean-to-bar chocolate operation, MOHO Chocolate.  The cacao beans are grown by local farmers in Belize.  And all of the fermentation, roasting, and other processing is handled in a central processing facility in Belize, helping farmers maximize their crop while also keeping money and jobs in this Central American country.

MOHO chocolae bars and other products

MOHO Chocolate Bars and other MOHO Chocolate Products – Photo Courtesy of MOHO Chocolate

As Roni-Sue notes, MOHO Chocolate utilizes an interesting business strategy.  The chocolate bars are sold in a MOHO store located in the tourist area of Belize.  Who are the customers? For the most part, passengers on cruise ships that dock there—not repeat customers.  These bars are sold in this country only when one of the MOHO partners comes back from a trip to Belize—and they’re sold in one of Roni-Sue’s locations—until they run out.

SONY DSC

Beer and Pretzel Caramel Truffles – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

But let’s get back to truffles.

Cocktail Collection Truffles

A Box of Cocktail Collection Truffles – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

Roni-Sue uses MOHO Chocolate for the interior of her truffles and for her hot chocolate.  (She obtains the chocolate in 4 pound blocks.). For the outside coating of her truffles she prefers Callebaut or Valrhona chocolate since they’re a bit smoother.

a display on Harvey Wallbanger truffles

Harvey Wallbanger Truffles – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

What kind of truffles does Roni-Sue offer?  A huge variety.  How about my personal favorite—the Harvey Wallbanger truffle made with Valrhona white chocolate, vodka, Galliano, and orange-infused white chocolate ganache?  Or a “Frida” truffle with dark chocolate, espresso, Kahlua, and Dulce de Leche?  Or a Beer & Pretzel Caramel truffle?  The list goes on.  And seasonal specials – such as Rose truffles for Valentine’s Day, round out the offerings.

showcase with truffles

A Showcase of Truffles – Photo Courtesy of Roni-Sue Chocolates (NYC)

I’ve been dreaming of truffles!

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Buche de Noel Cakes

Caramel Chocolate Buche de Noel Cake, from Dufflet Pastries - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

Caramel Chocolate Buche de Noel Cake, from Dufflet Pastries – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

Since cake decoration is not my forte (a gross understatement to be sure), I’m quite impressed with elaborate cakes.  And a great example of a fancy (and labor-intensive) cake is the Buche de Noel.

Buche de Noel Cake from We Take the Cake (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) - Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Buche de Noel Cake from We Take the Cake (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) – Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

A Buche de Noel Cake resembles a Yule Log.  Yule Logs were burnt by ancient Europeans to commemorate the Winter Solstice and today Buche de Noel Cakes help usher in the Christmas season.

Prolific Oven_Yule Log
So what is a Buche de Noel made of?  Often a sheet of a Sponge Cake which is spread with a filling and then rolled up lengthwise.  Icing or Chocolate Ganache, covers the log.  Striations in the icing resemble bark and mushrooms (made out of Buttercream or Meringue) and other decorations complete the outdoor scene.

Honey Nougat Buche de Noel Cake from Dufflet Pastries - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

Honey Nougat Buche de Noel Cake from Dufflet Pastries – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

 As you’ll see, Buche de Noel Cakes are available in a variety of classic as well as modern flavors.

Cake Bakeshop's Buche de Noel Cake - Photo Courtesy of Cake Bakeshop (Manhattan Beach, CA)

Cake Bakeshop’s Buche de Noel Cake – Photo Courtesy of Cake Bakeshop (Manhattan Beach, CA)

 While the Cake Bakeshop (Manhattan Beach, CA) offers a classic Buche de Noel with Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Cream, there’s a twist.  A small gnome stands guard over the Cake and winter scene.  Cake Bakeshop Owner Laura Mandracchia said she’s toyed with the idea of offering different flavors, but her classic Cake is getting more and more popular.  Laura also believes that Buche de Noel Cakes overall are gaining in popularity — not just traditional, fun versions like hers, but also the super fancy types.

Fleur de Cocoa's Buche de Noel Cake - Photo Courtesy of Fleur de Cocoa (Los Gatos, CA)

Fleur de Cocoa’s Buche de Noel Cake – Photo Courtesy of Fleur de Cocoa (Los Gatos, CA)

 Craig Anderson of Fleur de Cocoa (Los Gatos, CA) isn’t sure if Buche de Noel Cakes are becoming more popular but his kitchen staff told him Costco is now carrying them.  So perhaps they are more popular (and more mainstream).  Fleur de Cocoa’s namesake, and most popular, Buche de Noel Cake contains Dark Chocolate Mousse and Chocolate Sponge Cake lightly soaked with Grand Marnier.  But there are three other varieties, including one with Dark Chocolate Marion Berry Mousse, Marion Berry Coulis, and Dark Chocolate Sponge Cake.

Three Chocolate Buche de Noel from Douceur de France - Photo Courtesy of Douceur de France

Three Chocolate Buche de Noel from Douceur de France – Photo Courtesy of Douceur de France (GA)


Six types of Buche de Noel Cake are available at Douceur de France (Marietta and Roswell, GA).  The most popular Buche de Noel Cake is the classic Chocolate Buche.  Other varieties include: the Three Chocolate Buche; the Ardechois (Chestnut Bavarois [similar to a Mousse], with a center of pears sautéed in vanilla and honey, all encased in a gingerbread cookie crust; and the Madagascar (Vanilla Cream with Hazelnut Cremeux [similar to a Pudding] on top of a crunchy Almond Paste Crust with Hazelnut Streusel on the side.  The co-owner, Danielle Beaudet, had this to say about Buche de Noel Cakes:  “I have noticed that recently Buche have become much more popular in the U.S.  When I first moved here, almost no one knew about them.  Now we are literally making hundreds for our Atlanta clients!  Most Americans, I think, prefer the traditional Chocolate Buche de Noel…”

A Slice of Dufflet Pastries' Buche de Noel Cake - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

A Slice of Dufflet Pastries’ Buche de Noel Cake – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)


Toronto-based Dufflet Pastries has been offering Buche de Noel Cakes seasonally for 35 years and they’re an annual tradition for many families as well as a mainstay at many office holiday parties. While some of Dufflet’s flavors and designs change each year, the Hazelnut Buche de Noel has been a best seller for many years — at Dufflet’s stores as well as through its wholesale division.  This is a Hazelnut Sponge rolled with Hazelnut Mousse and glazed with Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate Ganache. Also on the Buche de Noel line-up is a gluten-free Caramel Chocolate version, with Chocolate Sponge, Caramel Whipped Cream, Bittersweet Chocolate, and Gold-Dusted Chocolate Leaves.

Madagascar Buche de Noel from Douceur de France - Photo Courtesy of Douceur de France (GA)

Ardechois Buche de Noel from Douceur de France – Photo Courtesy of Douceur de France (GA)


So many Buche. So little time.

 

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Jelly Donuts

Donuts from Breads Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Breads Bakery (NYC)

Donuts from Breads Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Breads Bakery (NYC)

It’s traditional to cook with oil during the Hanukkah holiday and there’s no better way to mark the holiday than to enjoy Jelly Donuts — also known as Sufganiyot.  (I’m all over celebrations that involve Donuts!)  This year Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 6th.

While Jelly Donuts are thankfully available year-round, here’s a sampling of special holiday-inspired Jelly Donut offerings:  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Donuts.)

Federal Donuts' Mini Jelly Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, PA)

Federal Donuts’ Mini Jelly Donuts (and other food) – Photo Courtesy of Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, PA)

Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts is offering mini Jelly Donuts, known as Chanukah Minis.  (There’s more than one way to spell Hanukkah.)

Psycho Donuts' Donuts - Photo Courtesy of Psycho Donuts (CA)

Psycho Donuts’ Hanukkah Offerings – Photo Courtesy of Psycho Donuts (CA)

Psycho Donuts, based in San Jose and Campbell, CA, is commemorating the holiday with two special Jelly Donuts as well as a Custard Donut.

Outside of Breads Bakery

Breads Bakery’s Storefront – Photo Courtesy of Breads Bakery (NYC)

For those seeking variety, New York City’s Breads Bakery features Strawberry, Dulce de Leche, Chocolate, and Vanilla Sufganiyot.

Hanukoncrete from Shake Shack - Photo Courtesy of Shake Shack

Hanukoncrete from Shake Shack – Photo Courtesy of Shake Shack

And if you want the taste of Jelly Donuts — in a cold dessert?  Never fear — Shake Shack has you covered, with its Hanukoncrete.  A Concrete is a dense custard and this special holiday Concrete includes vanilla custard, strawberry purée, and Glazed Donut pieces.

Here’s to indulging in Jelly Donuts!

 

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E&C’s Snacks: Entrepreneur Profile

Oatmeal White Chocolate Hunks from E&C's Snacks - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

Oatmeal White Chocolate Hunks from E&C’s Snacks – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

A recipe is locked in a safe for more than 30 years, unseen by anyone except the recipe’s creator.  A nephew urges his aunt to start a business, selling her baked treats.  A cookie is called a “Hunk” because it is square in shape.

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Hunks - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Hunks – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

What do these three statements have in common?  They all describe the cookie company, E&C’s Snacks.

Ellen Redmond and Casey Webber - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

Ellen (Ella) Redmond and Casey Webber – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

Ellen (Ella) Redmond created a cookie recipe in high school.  Family and friends adored these cookies.  In fact her nephew, Casey Webber, had been eating these cookies since he was a baby.  Years later she changed the shape of the cookie (to a “Hunk”) and sent a batch to Casey, who was graduating from college.  Casey convinced Ella to go into business with him, selling the Hunks.  And Casey became the first person to see the recipe in more than 30 years!

E&C's Booth at the July Specialty Food Show in New York - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie)

E&C’s Booth at the July Specialty Food Show in New York – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)


I met Ella and Casey at the Specialty Food Show in New York last month and sampled their very tasty cookies.  I also took home a “Hunk two pack.”

Heavenly Hunks from E&C's Snacks

The array of Hunks – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Prairie Eden, MN)

The recipe was recently tweaked so all of the Hunks are gluten-free.  Flavors include Original Oatmeal, Oatmeal White Chocolate, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal Raisin.  And the most popular flavor is Oatmeal Chocolate Chip.  (Since Chocolate Chip Cookies are so popular, this is probably not surprising.)

I asked Casey about their plans for new flavors and if these new flavors would also be gluten-free:  “Moving forward, everything will be gluten-free.  We have a couple of flavors in mind but nothing concrete yet……I can say, though, that we’re playing around with peanut butter, dark chocolate, cranberries, and toffee.  So the new flavor will most likely consist of one or two of these ingredients.”

An Early In-Store Demo - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

An Early In-Store Demo – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

E&C’s Snacks is based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and distribution is primarily in the Midwest.  However, they’re planning on “expanding in small circles eastward and we plan to have a presence on the East Coast in the coming months.”

Ellen (Ella) and Casey by the production line - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

Ellen (Ella) and Casey by the Production Line – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie, MN)

This is what Casey had to say about their biggest challenges:  “Our biggest challenge right now is making the Cookies.  The growth has been very rapid and with a new business there’s no track record, so we can only get so precise in our forecasting.  Aside from that, we’re just trying to find time to sleep.”

Two Hunks - Photo Courtesy of E&C's Snacks (Eden Prairie)

Two Hunks – Photo Courtesy of E&C’s Snacks (Eden Prairie)

 

I hope these entrepreneurs find time to sleep and I look forward to hearing about E&C’s new flavor.  I’ll check back with them.

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Gelato

il Laboratorio del Gelato's Pistachio Gelato - Photo Courtesy of il Laboratorio del Gelato (NYC)

il Laboratorio del Gelato’s Pistachio Gelato – Photo Courtesy of il Laboratorio del Gelato (NYC)

Since it’s summer my thoughts are turning to warm weather desserts.  Well, if the truth be told, I think about summer treats even in the heart of the winter, but this is an especially good time to pay attention to one of my favorite desserts – Gelato.

Gelato Sandwiches from Black Dog Gelato - Photo Courtesy of Black Dog Gelato (Chicago)

Gelato Sandwiches from Black Dog Gelato – Photo Courtesy of Black Dog Gelato (Chicago)

Unlike its American cousin, Ice Cream, Gelato is typically made with milk instead of cream and is denser since less air is incorporated into it.  This explains why Gelato seems to be more intensely flavored than Ice Cream.

 

Gelatiamo Gelato - Photo Courtesy of Gelatiamo Gelato (Seattle)

Gelatiamo Gelato – Photo Courtesy of Gelatiamo Gelato (Seattle)

So what’s happening in the world of Gelato?  Well as you’ll see below, some mighty interesting flavors abound.  And some hard-core Gelato fans are enjoying their frozen desserts even in colder weather.

 

il Laboratorio del Gelato's Store - Photo Courtesy of il Laboratorio del Gelato

il Laboratorio del Gelato’s Store – Photo Courtesy of il Laboratorio del Gelato

Manhattan-based il Laboratorio del Gelato boasts over 200 flavors, some quite exotic, but owner Jon Snyder said the classics – Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel, and Espresso – are the most popular.  Jon brought up a very interesting point about the seasonality of Gelato.  When you’re buying a cup of Gelato to eat on the street, seasonality is certainly a factor.  But when you’re enjoying a dessert of Gelato at a restaurant, it doesn’t matter as much if it’s cold outside.  il Laboratorio del Gelato’s primary business is wholesale, with sales to restaurants and gourmet stores.  Jon thinks the key tend is the production of small batch /artisanal Gelato.  And he was one of the pioneers of the artisanal Gelato trend.  In the early 1980’s he started the Gelato company, Ciao Bella, which he sold in 1989.

A scoop of gelato from Gia Gelato - Photo Courtesy of Gia Gelato (Jersey City, NJ)

A scoop of gelato from Gia Gelato – Photo Courtesy of Gia Gelato (Jersey City, NJ)

Angela Ratliff and Debbie Brackett, of Jersey City-based Gia Gelato, report that some current and trending Gelato flavors include German Chocolate Stout (German Chocolate Cake with German Stout Beer); Mexican Chocolate Chipotle; French Chocolate and Brandy; and Banana Praline.  And they note “Maple Bacon was last year’s rave, but it’s still trending this year.”  While Gia Gelato’s customers enjoy Gelato year round, this is the high season.

Delce Gelateria's Store - Photo Courtesy of Dolce Gelataria (NYC)

Delce Gelateria’s Store – Photo Courtesy of Dolce Gelataria (NYC)

 

Dolce Geletaria, based in Manhattan, offers special flavors in different seasons and Dolce’s Salvatore Potestio believes Gelato demand is seasonal.

Gorgeous Gelato's Gelato Panini (Hot Slices of Bread Pressed with Cold Gelato) - Photo Courtesy of Gorgeous Gelato (Portland, ME)

Gorgeous Gelato’s Gelato Panini (Hot Slices of Bread Pressed with Cold Gelato) – Photo Courtesy of Gorgeous Gelato (Portland, ME)

 

You can find Gorgeous Gelato, some 300 miles away from Manhattan, in Portland, Maine.  Donato Giovine, the proprietor of Gorgeous Gelato, remarked that the most popular flavors are Gorgeous (vanilla base with chocolate and caramel), Dark Chocolate, and Oreo.  As an Affogato fan myself, I couldn’t agree more with Donato when he said Affogatos are underrated.  An Affogato is a delicious combination of espresso and Gelato, usually vanilla.

Black Dog Gelato's Store - Photo Courtesy of Black Dog Gelato (Chicago)

Black Dog Gelato’s Store – Photo Courtesy of Black Dog Gelato (Chicago)

Chicago-based Black Dog Gelato must have adventurous customers as its signature flavor is Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel.  Black Dog’s Reeny Hofrichter said that other popular flavors include. Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel, Oreo Mint, Mexican Hot Chocolate (with cayenne and cinnamon), Sesame Fig Chocolate Chip, and Strawberry Balsamic.

D'Ambrosio Gelato's Espresso Coffee Gelato - Photo Courtesy of D'Ambrosio Gelato

D’Ambrosio Gelato’s Espresso Coffee Gelato – Photo Courtesy of D’Ambrosio Gelato

Marco D’Ambrosio of D’Ambrosio Gelato, in Seattle, believes Gelato is becoming more popular in this country because it is perceived as a healthier dessert – has less fat than ice cream.  And Marco also thinks Gelato is benefitting from the focus on the quality of desserts (or any food), instead of on the quantity. Which is D’ Ambrosio’s most popular Gelato flavor?  A traditional Pistachio, made with Sicilian pistachios.

Gelatiamo's Gelato - Photo Courtesy of Gelatiamo (Seattle)

Gelatiamo’s Gelato – Photo Courtesy of Gelatiamo (Seattle)

The most popular flavor for Seattle’s Gelatiamo, is Chocolate, followed by Coconut. Maria Coassin, Founder and Owner of Gelatiamo, also believes Gelato is becoming more popular in this country.   However, Maria wishes that all Geletarias would make Gelato the right way, instead of taking shortcuts, resulting in sub-par products. 

 

Gelato from Bottega Italiana Seattle - Photo Courtesy of Bottega Italiana (Seattle)

Gelato from Bottega Italiana Seattle – Photo Courtesy of Bottega Italiana (Seattle)

As its name implies, you can find Bottega Italiana Seattle in Seattle.  Bottega Italiana’s Tiernan Gillan has been working with Gelato ingredients such as herbs, bee pollen, and foraged finds for the last several years.  Tiernan has also been creating spirit and beer-inspired flavors without the use of alcohol, which is the real challenge.  And the most popular flavors?  Sea Salt Caramel with Chocolate, Stracciatella (Chocolate Chip), Strawberry-Basil, Pistachio, Hazelnut, and Chocolate.

Gelato from Gorgeous Gelato - Photo Courtesy of Gorgeous Gelato (Portland, ME)

Gelato from Gorgeous Gelato – Photo Courtesy of Gorgeous Gelato (Portland, ME)

And as July 19th is National Ice Cream Day, Happy National Ice Cream Day, all!

 

 

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2015 Fancy Food Show (also known as the Specialty Food Show)

Summer Fancy Food Show logo - image courtesy of the Specialty Food Association (NYC)

Summer Fancy Food Show logo – image courtesy of the Specialty Food Association (NYC)

The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest specialty food show in North America, with 2,400 exhibitors and 180,000 products.  In other words, it’s a glutton’s paradise.

In the dessert arena, I didn’t notice any brand new trends – gluten free desserts are still very well represented; salted caramel continues to find its way in all types of desserts; and chocolate is again paired with spices, especially different varieties of peppers.

These are a few of the interesting or unusual products I saw/tasted:

Chuao Chocolatier's Strawberry Waffle Wild Bar and other Products - Photo Courtesy of Chuao Chocolatier (CA)

Chuao Chocolatier’s Strawberry Waffle Wild Bar and other Products – Photo Courtesy of Chuao Chocolatier (CA)


Chuao Chocolatier’s Strawberry Waffle Wild bar.  This is one of Chuao’s breakfast-inspired flavors, with waffle pieces and strawberry pieces enrobed in milk chocolate.  The other breakfast-themed bar is the Cinnamon Cereal Smooch Bar.   Chuao’s marketing slogan for these two chocolate bars is “Eat chocolate for breakfast” (sounds really good to me).

Organic Coffee Barnanas - Photo Courtesy of Barnana (Santa Monica, CA)

Organic Coffee Barnanas – Photo Courtesy of Barnana (Santa Monica, CA)


Barnana snacks — no, this isn’t a typo.  Barnanas are dehydrated Banana pieces with additions.  The Organic Original variety is sprinkled with Banana Powder and, as you might have guessed, the Organic Coffee version is dipped in a (sweetened) Organic Coffee coating.

■ Kathi German Bee Sting Cake Mix, imported by Niche Gourmet — all you need to add is butter, water, and heavy whipping cream.  What is a German Bee Sting Cake, you might ask?  A yeast dough with a cream or custard filling topped with a layer of honey-almonds.  And its memorable name might be due to the honey in the cake.

Meli's Monster Cookies' Trade Show Booth

Meli’s Monster Cookies’ Trade Show Booth


■ “The Original” cookie — produced by
Meli’s Monster Cookies.  This “Monster” will not cause nightmares, is gluten free, and is chuck full of rolled oats, crunchy peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms and peanut butter M&Ms.

Softer than Brittle logo - Image Courtesy of the Softer than Brittle company

Softer than Brittle logo – Image Courtesy of the Softer than Brittle company


Softer than Brittle is a peanut brittle without dairy, gluten, cholesterol, or preservatives.  And as an added health benefit — since it’s softer than traditional brittle, it’s easier on your teeth.

I sure look forward to next summer’s Fancy Food Show.

 

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2015 Chocolate Fest at the 92nd Street Y

 

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffees from Laurie & Sons - Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffees from Laurie & Sons – Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

At the 2015 Chocolate Fest at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, chocolate was not the only game in town.  Chocolate Fest attendees could also sample wine and cheese that pair nicely with chocolate.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  I totally ignored the cheese, tried a sip of a spirit made from cacao pulp (Solbeso), and lunged for the Chocolate.  And I was thrilled to see there were a variety of White Chocolate treats on display.

And what did my lunging yield? 

These novel, interesting, and tasty items:

Making Laurie & Son's Toffee - Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Making Laurie & Son’s Toffee – Photo Courtesy of Laurie & Sons (NYC)

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Dark Chocolate Toffee Minis – Dark Chocolate+ Licorice+ Toffee, along with star anise, Pernod, and black Hawaiian lava salt.  The company behind this treat is New York-based Laurie & Sons, with its line of “Not-too-Sweet Candy Snacks with a Touch of Surprise.”

FIKA's truffles - Photo Courtesy of FIKA (NYC)

FIKA’s truffles – Photo Courtesy of FIKA (NYC)

From FIKA, the Swedish-style coffee bar in New York City, a Lingonberry and Dark Chocolate truffle, which is covered in red-colored sugar.  What are Lingonberries you might ask?  Small red berries that are even tarter than cranberries.  Also worth noting is FIKA’s Key Lime Pie truffle, with White Chocolate.

Cashew Brittle in White Chocolate, a delicacy produced by M.P. Frederick, Confectioner, was also available for sampling.

 

Chocolat Moderne's Lemon Up Bar - Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

Chocolat Moderne’s Lemon Up Bar – Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

Chocolat Moderne’s Lemon Up is a White Chocolate Bar filled with a tart caramel that is made with fresh lemon juice.  Also available for sampling from this New York City-based Chocolatier was Solbeso Mi Mucho – a bar made with Valrhona’s Dulcey (blonde) White Chocolate, and a caramel with sea salt, unsweetened Chocolate and Solbeso – the spirit distilled from the pulp of Cacao.

The Voila Chocolat Store - Photo Courtesy of Voila (NYC)

The Voila Chocolat Store – Photo Courtesy of Voila (NYC)

And for do-it-yourselfers, New York City-based Voila Chocolat was there with information about its chocolate making classes/chocolate event space.

On a sugar high from all my “sampling,” I left the tasting, convinced all was right with the world of dessert!

 

 

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Mindy Segal and Cookie Love

 

The Cookie Love Cookbook - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

The Cookie Love Cookbook – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

I recently attended a talk on one of my favorite topics – Cookies!  Mindy Segal, author of the recently published Cookie Love cookbook and owner of Chicago-based HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar, provided the “Cookie Scoop.”

Mindy Segal, author of Cookie Love

Mindy Segal, author of Cookie Love – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Mindy is well qualified to discuss Cookies.  She is a pastry chef by profession, has owned her restaurant for 10 years, and perhaps most importantly, is an ardent Cookie fan.  As Mindy puts it “Cookies don’t save the world but they save the mood.”
 

Fresh baked rugelach - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Fresh baked rugelach – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

While Mindy created plated desserts for several years she decided to “let the young kids do this” and instead focused on her craft.  She baked Cookies every day and came up with a variety of different techniques.  In fact, when she opened her restaurant, the pastry case was filled with mostly…. You guessed it, Cookies!

Mindy Segal in Her Restaurant - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar

Mindy Segal in Her Restaurant – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar

Her mind explodes with ideas for Cookies.  Nutter Butter-type Cookies, Oatmeal  Cookies, Milano-type Cookies, Thumbprint Cookies…….the list goes on and on.  Mindy also likes creating “Dessert in a Sandwich Cookie.”  How about a Banana Cream Cookie?

Hot Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Hot Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

She’s a seasonal baker – in February she developed a number of Chocolate Desserts and her restaurant is now featuring a spring collection of nostalgic desserts.

Blackberry Turnovers with Brown Butter - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant & Dessert Bar

Blackberry Turnovers with Brown Butter – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar

These are a few of her Baking/Cookie tips:
— After you beat hot fudge with a mixer and it’s aerated, it makes a great frosting
— And continuing the hot fudge theme…..hot fudge and jam make a wonderful rugelach filling.  When it bakes, the hot fudge will ooze out a bit, but that’s OK.
— Brown butter is a fantastic addition to desserts.  At the restaurant, brown butter is prepared in advance so it’s always on hand.
— Goat butter (not goat cheese) imparts a mild delicate tang to baked goods

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

I asked Mindy which Cookies were particularly popular now.  She thought Egg White Cookies (since egg whites provide a rich texture they can replace dairy, wheat or other ingredients) and French Macarons (of which she is not a fan).  But as she remarked “You can’t get away from Chocolate Chip Cookies – they’re number one.”

HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

And for those of us wondering what enables a restaurant to survive and flourish, since so many fail, Mindy summarized her own rules: she owns only one restaurant; she’s there six days a week; and when she’s not there, a trusted person, such as her husband, the manager, or the pastry chef, is.

Box of Cookies - Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Box of Cookies – Photo Courtesy of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar (Chicago)

Mindy believes “There’s a Cookie for everyone” (well, there are probably hundreds for me, but I digress) and “Cookies are tiny little nuggets of happiness.”  I couldn’t agree more!
 

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Banana Cake, Banana Bread, and Banana Cupcakes

Banana Colada Cake from Phipps Bakery Cafe - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Banana Colada Cake from Phipps Bakery Cafe – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Even though I sometimes prefer gooey, rich Cake, when I think about Cake with Banana, Banana Bread usually first comes to mind.

Starbucks' Banana Nut Bread - Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks’ Banana Nut Bread – Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

And why not?  There’s certainly nothing wrong with a good, classic Banana Bread.  For home bakers, it’s a good way to use up overripe Bananas.  And we want to purchase, in addition to bake, our Banana Bread.  As reported by Bloomberg News, after Starbucks purchased French-style bakery, La Boulange, it stopped selling its Banana Nut Bread.  What happened?  You guessed it. Customers missed the Banana Nut Bread and Starbucks brought this classic back.

Banana Caramel Cupcake from Kara's Cupcakes - Photo Courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes (CA)

Banana Caramel Cupcake from Kara’s Cupcakes – Photo Courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes (CA)

Of course, as with so many other desserts, Banana Cake has gotten fancy.  Not just layer cake fancy.  But fancy in terms of the added ingredients.

Paradise Cake from Kara's Cupcakes - Photo Courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes (CA)

Paradise Cake from Kara’s Cupcakes – Photo Courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes (CA)

Alfredo Garcia, of California-based Kara’s Cupcakes, summarizes the evolution of Kara’s Banana offerings.  First, there were Banana Cupcakes.  Then Banana Caramel Cupcakes joined the line-up.  And after Kara’s expanded its Cake line, passion fruit filling and toasted coconut flakes were added to Banana Cake and Paradise Cake was created.  Alfredo remarks “We feel Banana Baked Goods have always been popular, but we are now seeing more creative ways of offering the delicious treat.”

Banana Cupcakes from The Sweet Stash - Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Stash (Nashville)

Banana Cupcakes from The Sweet Stash – Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Stash (Nashville)

And alcohol pairs beautifully with Banana Cake.  The Whiskey Banana Cupcake is the most popular Banana item for Nashville-based Sweet Stash.  Whitney May, who owns The Sweet Stash with her husband, says “We find Banana is a polarizing flavor for the masses.  It seems like people either love it or hate it. But I think the whiskey [in the Whiskey Banana Cupcake] brings more people to the dark side…”

Even though Banana Cake is popular, Chocolate Cake isn’t going anywhere. 

Phipps Bakery Cafe's Chocolate Banana Cake - Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Phipps Bakery Cafe’s Chocolate Banana Cake – Photo Courtesy of Phipps Bakery Cafe (Toronto)

Janet Schreiber, owner of Toronto-based Phipps Bakery Cafe has this to say “Although anything with Bananas is popular, I would have to say the most popular Banana Cake would have to be the Chocolate Banana Cake.  Probably because chocolate is such a popular dessert ingredient.”

Banana Cake from Piece of Cake Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Piece of  Cake Bakery (Portland, OR)

Banana Cake from Piece of Cake Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Piece of Cake Bakery (Portland, OR)

Marilyn DeVault of Portland, Oregon-based Piece of Cake Bakery also agrees that Banana Cake is not as popular as Chocolate Cake. She offers up one of her Banana Cake secrets:  Mash your own Bananas instead of using commercially prepared pre-mashed Bananas. 

I’m tempted to make Banana Bread this weekend.  Maybe I’ll include some ground hazelnuts and Chocolate Chips for good measure.  That’s the problem with writing about Desserts – I want to eat them all!

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