Licorice Candy

Licorice from Myzel's Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of Myzel's Chocolate (NYC)

Licorice from Myzel’s Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of Myzel’s Chocolate (NYC)

I love Candy, but then again, it’s difficult to think of anything made with sugar that I don’t adore.

Allsorts from Catherine's Chocolate Shop - Photo Courtesy of Catherine's Chocolate Shop (Great Barrington, MA)

Allsorts from Catherine’s Chocolate Shop – Photo Courtesy of Catherine’s Chocolate Shop (Great Barrington, MA)

And I’ve always had a particular fondness for Licorice — especially Allsorts.

But what exactly is Licorice Candy?

According to Beth Kimmerle’s book, Candy: The Sweet History, Licorice is Candy flavored with the oil extract of a European or Asian Licorice root plant.  And Licorice Extract is naturally 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Red Licorice and Licorice Root from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Red Licorice and Licorice Root from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Robin Helfand, owner of Robin’s Candy, with locations in Boston and Great Barrington, MA, summarizes the differences between Black and Red Licorice and explains why European Black Licorice is so popular.

Red Licorice Nibs from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Red Licorice Nibs from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

“Today most domestically made Black Licorice — including the classic twist enjoyed in movie theaters across the country — does include some Licorice Root essence, although anise continues to remain the predominant flavoring.  We have yet to encounter a domestic ‘Red Licorice’ made with the [Licorice] Root…..”

Dutch Zout Diamond Licorice from Robin's Candy - Photo Courtesy of Robin's Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

Dutch Zout Diamond Licorice from Robin’s Candy – Photo Courtesy of Robin’s Candy (Boston and Great Barrington, MA)

“In the 10 years since we began developing ‘Licorice Bars’ at our shops, our guests have become interested in trying more European Black Licorice — which is generally made with pure Egyptian or Sicilian Licorice root and often includes the mineral compound Salmiak (Ammonium Chloride).  Salmiak triggers the salt receptors on the taste buds and enhances the overall Licorice taste.

“Known in the U.S as ‘Salty Licorice,’ Salmiak Licorice is available in dozens of shapes and strengths — from mild Dutch Salmiakki Pastilles to firm, powerful Dutch ‘Double Zout’ Coins.  Currently, Double Zout varieties are the strongest varieties permitted for sale in the U.S.”

Robin attributes the growing popularity of Salty Licorice to an increase in the number of adventurous eaters who are eager to sample unusual, novel, and/or international foods.

Sugar Mountain - Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Sugar Mountain – Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Debby Adams, of Toronto-based Sugar Mountain, believes Licorice is much more than a passing fad.  She’s been with Sugar Mountain for 10 years and during that time, the Store has always carried an extensive selection of Licorice.  Debby reports that Dutch Salted Licorice is very popular with her customers.  And the most requested varieties are Dutch Coins and Double Salted Licorice.  She notes: “The thing we have learned about Licorice over the years is that people like very specific kinds and they don’t tend to move too far out of that flavor profile.”

Amy's Candy Bar - Photo Courtesy of Amy's Candy Bar (Chicago)

Amy’s Candy Bar – Photo Courtesy of Amy’s Candy Bar (Chicago)

The most requested variety of Licorice at Amy’s Candy Bar in Chicago is Soft Black Licorice.  The owner, Amy Hansen, thinks Licorice is becoming more popular because people are more open to trying it and discovering the nuances in all of the different varieties.  She usually carries between 15 to 20 different types and every few months she brings in a new type to try.  Amy thinks Licorice that is both sweet and salty is gaining in popularity in this country.

 

Black Licorice from Licorice International - Photo Courtesy of Licorice International

Black Licorice from Licorice International – Photo Courtesy of Licorice International

An online store devoted to Licorice?  Why not?  Licorice International also has a brick-and-mortar store in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Its most popular Black Licorice is Australian.  When I asked about the popularity of Licorice, a spokesperson for Licorice International noted: “Licorice is becoming more popular because it is more available now than it had been during the 70s through the 90s.  We started Licorice International in 2002 and worked hard to raise the visibility of Licorice.  When we have the opportunity to add Licorice products, we do, We are always on the lookout for something new or otherwise unavailable in the United States.”

While Salted Black Licorice is becoming more popular, there will always be people (myself included) who still fancy more sugary Licorice.

Candy at The Candy Store - Photo Courtesy of The Candy Store (Ottawa)

Candy at The Candy Store – Photo Courtesy of The Candy Store (Ottawa)

Meredith of The Candy Store in Ottawa sums up Licorice preferences this way: “There tends to be two camps when it comes to popular Licorice flavors — one side is all for the Salted (Dutch) Licorice — the other is for the sweet (think Allsorts).  So it really depends on the person and their preferences.  We did carry up to 12 flavors of Licorice at one point in the store but have since decreased to around 3 or 4 varieties to free up space for some other products.  Licorice doesn’t tend to be a flavor that becomes trendy or hot at some times more than others simply because it us such a polarizing flavor. For most people, either you like it or you don’t so I find it hard to convince non-lovers to give it another chance.”

Candy at Candyality - Photo Courtesy of Candyality (Chicago)

Candy at Candyality – Photo Courtesy of Candyality (Chicago)

Another interesting Licorice trend was reported by Terese McDonald, founder of  Chicago-based Candyality stores.  “This spring, soda pop flavors of Licorice came to the market — Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Grape Crush, Hawaiian Punch, and A & W Root Beer.  They have been a big hit, especially the Dr. Pepper flavor.”  Terese notes that Licorice has always been very popular at Candyality, and it’s known for having Chicago’s first “Licorice Bar.”

Allsorts from Sugar Mountain - Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

Allsorts from Sugar Mountain – Photo Courtesy of Sugar Mountain (Toronto)

I think it’s time for some Allsorts!

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Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Since they’re available year-round, I take Bananas for granted.  And while I really like Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes, I think I take them for granted as well.  So the time has come for me to give Banana Desserts their due.

Banana Cream Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory - Photo Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

Banana Cream Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory – Photo Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

It’s not surprising that Bananas would find their way into Cake and Cupcakes.   This tropical fruit is very versatile and pairs beautifully with Chocolate, Caramel, Rum, Coconut, and so much more.

Banana Split Cupcake from H Bake Shop - Photo Courtesy of H Bake Shop (NYC)

Banana Split Cupcake from H Bake Shop – Photo Courtesy of H Bake Shop (NYC)

Interestingly, I came across many more Banana Cupcakes than Banana Cakes. Hmmm….are Cupcakes more popular than Cake, overall, or are Banana Cupcakes just more popular than Banana Cake?  Further investigation, preferably involving the sampling of Banana Cake, is needed!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake from For the Love of Cake - Photo Courtesy of For the Love of Cake (Toronto)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake from For the Love of Cake – Photo Courtesy of For the Love of Cake (Toronto)

But regardless of which is more popular, people sure like their Banana Baked Goods — particularly when paired with a thick Cream Cheese frosting or rich fillings.

Banana Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA)

Banana Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA)

Lynn Magnoli, owner of Los Gatos-based Icing on the Cake Bakery, said “Our fresh Banana Cake is our #1 selling Cake.  It is well known and famous, with cream cheese icing,”

Banana Chocolate Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Banana Chocolate Cupcake from Prairie Girl Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Prairie Girl Bakery (Toronto)

Toronto-based Prairie Girl Bakery offers two “Everyday” Banana Cupcakes — a Banana Cupcake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing and a Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing (the more popular one).  And some “Treats of the Week” (specials) feature Banana — such as a Banana Caramel Cupcake.  As Orna Quinn, Prairie Girl Bakery’s Catering Manager, notes:  “As these [Banana] Treats of the Week have been well received, we can imagine creating new treats that involve Banana.”

Sweet Elizabeth's Cakes - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Elizabeth's Cakes (Philadelphia)

Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes (Philadelphia)

Elizabeth Paradiso, co-creator of Philadelphia-based Sweet Elizabeth’s Cakes, explains: “Our Roasted Banana Cake is super popular!  We make it seasonally, usually around Easter/Springtime and around deep wintertime.  While the Cake is a hit, it’s not the most popular flavor we create.  I think one of the draws of this Cake is the Nutella Buttercream we pair it with.”

Bananas Foster Cupcakes from NoRA Cupcake Company - Photo Courtesy of NoRA Cupcake Company - Middletown, CT

Bananas Foster Cupcakes from NoRA Cupcake Company – Photo Courtesy of NoRA Cupcake Company – Middletown, CT

On the line-up at NoRA Cupcake Company (Middletown, CT): a Fat Elvis Cupcake (a Banana Cake filled with Marshmallow Fluff, topped with a peanut butter icing that is then rolled in candied bacon bits) and a Bananas Foster Cupcake (a Banana Cinnamon Sugar Cake, filled with Caramel, topped with a Vanilla Whipped Frosting that is drizzled with more Caramel as well as Pecans).  Other Banana Cupcakes include a Choco Nutty Nana and a Banana Split.  NoRA Cupcake’s Carrie Carella reports that the Fat Elvis is the most popular Banana Cupcake.

Espresso on Banana Cupcake from Butter Lane Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Butter Lane Bakery (NYC)

Espresso on Banana Cupcake from Butter Lane Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Butter Lane Bakery (NYC)

The Vanilla Cupcake is the most popular Cupcake at New York City-based Butter Lane Bakery, but owner Lisa Liu said that her favorites are the Banana Cupcakes.

Let’s hear it for Banana Cake and Banana Cupcakes!

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Eclairs

A variety of Eclairs from Éclair Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

A variety of Eclairs from Éclair Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

A recent Wall Street Journal article described some U.S. bakeries’ and consumers’ fascination with lesser known French pastries – Caneles, Paris Brest, etc.

This got me thinking.  What about well known French pastries — Napoleons, Croissants, and Éclairs?  While I was hungrily eyeing up a gorgeous Almond Croissant this past weekend, it’s generally the Éclairs that capture my attention and lead me to gluttony.  (I’m pleased to report that I resisted the Croissant temptation — for now.). So let’s look at Éclairs.

Espresso Éclair from Maison Kayser - Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

Espresso Éclair from Maison Kayser – Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

An Éclair is a long pastry made with pate a choux dough (a sticky dough). It is usually filled with custard or whipped cream and is then iced.  While it seems complicated, pate a choux dough is supposed to be relatively easy to put together.  Of course anything involving a pastry bag makes me want to run.

Are Éclairs becoming more popular?

Raspberry Éclair from Éclair Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

Raspberry Éclair from Éclair Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

Stephane Pourrez, owner and head pastry chef of New York City-based Éclair Bakery, said “When I started to work in NYC a few years ago, the macaron was one of the most popular items.  The macaron is still very popular but I can notice now a real passion for Éclairs.”

Chocolate Éclairs from Maison Kayser - Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

Chocolate Éclairs from Maison Kayser – Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

A spokesperson for Maison Kayser, a French bakery/cafe with branches in New York City, had this to say:  “The Éclair is part of the very classic French pastry.  Today there is a resurgence in returning to the basics, the classics and to more simple things.  The Éclair illustrates this trend.”  And Maison Kayser’s most popular Éclair flavor?  A very classic Chocolate.

Gibassier from Patisserie 46 - Photo Courtesy of Patisserie 46 (Minneapolis)

Gibassier from Patisserie 46 – Photo Courtesy of Patisserie 46 (Minneapolis)

Mandy Heathcote, Catering Director for Minneapolis-based Patisserie 46, points out that more and more European pastry shops are popping up throughout the States.  So it’s not surprising that classic European pastries are becoming more popular in this country.

Of course these classics can be updated.

An assortment of special Eclairs from Maison Kayser - Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

An assortment of special Eclairs from Maison Kayser – Photo Courtesy of Maison Kayser (NYC)

As Maison Kayser’s spokesperson explains “….there are trends in making these pastries lighter and less sweet overall.  Today pastry chefs express more creativity as well and have improved their techniques, allowing them to work more with flavor — fresh fruits for example — and reduce the amount of sugar being used and also to produce lighter creams.”  And as an example of this, Maison Kayser will debut a Blackberry/Raspberry Éclair in October.

Pineapple, Cheesecake, Brownie, and Passion Fruit Eclairs from Éclair Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

Pineapple, Cheesecake, Brownie, and Passion Fruit Eclairs from Éclair Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Éclair Bakery (NYC)

Éclair Bakery’s Stephane Pourrez reports he is working on two unique Éclair flavors — a Brownie Éclair and a Chestnut Rum Éclair.  And Éclair’s web site heralds the arrival of two new Éclairs — Pineapple and Cheesecake.  Even though Éclair offers a huge number of flavors, the Classic — Vanilla Custard with a Chocolate Glaze — is the most popular.  However, Stephane notes the Red Velvet Éclair and the Intense Dark Chocolate Éclairs are also very popular.  (I don’t understand why the Coffee Éclair isn’t the most sought after variety, but I digress.)

Caneles from Patisserie 46 - Photo Courtesy of Patisserie 46 (Minneapolis)

Caneles from Patisserie 46 – Photo Courtesy of Patisserie 46 (Minneapolis)

Patisserie 46’s Mandy Heathcote notes “We have created ‘savory Éclairs’ for our catering and think these will become very popular.”

Eclairs and other Petit Fours from Dufflet Pastries - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

Eclairs and other Petit Fours from Dufflet Pastries – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet Pastries (Toronto)

The miniature-dessert trend has spread to Éclairs as well.  The only Éclairs Toronto-based Dufflet Pastries offers are part of a bite-size collection of Petit Fours.

I think it’s time I show my appreciation of classic French pastries by indulging in an Éclair!

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Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwich from Coolhaus

Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwich from Coolhaus – Photo Courtesy of Coolhaus

How can you go wrong with Ice Cream Sandwiches?  These frozen treats combine two great desserts – Ice Cream and Cookies.  While I remember scarfing down Ice Cream Sandwiches as a kid, I have fond memories of the Chipwich, which burst on the dessert scene in New York in 1981.  It consisted of Vanilla Ice Cream sandwiched between two Chocolate Chip cookies.  And I think the edges of the Ice Cream were rolled in Chocolate Chips.  (I don’t remember if a Chocolate Ice Cream version was available.)

While Chipwiches were quite good, Ice Cream Sandwiches have come a long way.  The number of flavors and varieties available now is staggering.

Ice Cream Sandwiches from Melt Bakery - Photo Courtesy of Melt Bakery (New York City)

Ice Cream Sandwiches from Melt Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Melt Bakery (New York City)

Among the whimsically named flavor combinations on New York-based Melt Bakery’s menu: the Lovelet (Red Velvet Meltcakes + Cream Cheese Ice Cream); the Mortician (Crackly Chocolate Cookies + Malted Chocolate Rum Ice Cream); and the Elvis (Peanut Butter Cookies + Banana Ice Cream).  And the most popular flavor?  The Classic (Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies + Vanilla Ice Cream).  There are seasonal specials each month; August is heralding the arrival of Corn Ice Cream.

Sweet Wheels' Salted Oatmeal Cookie with Coconut Ice Cream - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Wheels (Seattle, WA)

Sweet Wheels’ Salted Oatmeal Cookies with Coconut Ice Cream – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Wheels (Seattle, WA)

Seattle-based Sweet Wheels is a food truck specializing in handmade Ice Cream Sandwiches.  Standard Ice Cream Sandwiches include a Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookie with Vanilla Ice Cream; an Espresso/Chocolate Shortbread Cookie with White Coffee Ice Cream; and a Salted Oatmeal Cookie with Coconut Ice Cream.  And you can create Custom Sandwiches by combining these Cookies with different Ice Cream flavors.  Sweet Wheels’ Ron said “When people read the menu without having had our Ice Cream Sandwiches, they often choose Sandwiches with Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies.  However, when people are returning customers, with some experience eating our Sandwiches, then the Salted Oatmeal Cookie with Coconut Ice Cream is first.”  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Oatmeal Cookies.)

Whiskey Lucky Charms Ice Cream & Snickerdoodle Cookies

Whiskey Lucky Charms Ice Cream & Snickerdoodle Cookies from Coolhaus – Photo Courtesy of Coolhaus

Coolhaus, with a national fleet of Ice Cream trucks and two storefronts in Southern California, is known for its architecturally inspired gourmet ice cream sandwiches.  Co-founders Natasha Case and Freya Estreller began naming their Ice Cream Sandwiches after architects and architectural movements that inspired them.  Interesting Ice Cream flavors abound.  How about Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone? Or Bourbon Pecan Pie? Or Chocolate Chipotle? Or Root Beer Float? And Cookie choices include Chocolate Chunk Pretzel; Double Chocolate with Sea Salt; Gluten-Free Coconut Almond; Potato Chip & Butterscotch; and S’mores.

These are Natasha Case’s answers to my questions:

Of the many flavor combinations you offer, which is the most popular?
Our most popular Ice Cream Sandwiches are twists on classics, like Mintimalism (Dirty Mint Chip Ice Cream with fresh mint and brown sugar + Double Chocolate Chip Cookies) and Im Pei-nut Butter (Peanut Butter Ice Cream + Double Chocolate Chip Cookies)…but also really innovative ones like…. Lucky Charms Ice Cream & Snickerdoodle Cookies.

Will any new flavors be added?
We’re always creating new Ice Cream flavors and brainstorming unique Sandwich combinations.  I don’t think we’ll ever stop adding new flavors.

Can Coolhaus share any Ice Cream Sandwich trends with us?
Ice Cream Sandwiches in general are becoming a bigger trend this year.  I read an Entrepreneur article late last year where they predicted Cupcakes and Donuts would be out and Ice Cream Sandwiches would be in….Beyond that, I’ve seen people get really innovative with Cookies, like Churro [deep-fried dough] Cookies for example and unique types of macaroons.  There are also a lot of Ice Creams using Asian ingredients with high acidity right now, i.e., yuzu [a sour citrus fruit].”

I’m ready for an Ice Cream Sandwich!

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Cherry Pie

Michigan Sour Cherry Pie from First Slice - Photo Courtesy of First Slice (Chicago, IL)

Michigan Sour Cherry Pie from First Slice Pie Cafe – Photo Courtesy of First Slice Pie Cafe (Chicago, IL)

I top Oatmeal with chopped up Cherries.  While this breakfast will never be as tasty or decadent as a slice of Cherry Pie, it’s still quite good.

I think what makes Cherry Pie (and even my Oatmeal-Cherry combo) so special is knowing that most Cherry types have a short season.  Therefore the Cherry Pie (or other Cherry delicacy) should definitely be savored.

And of course Mother Nature can make fruits even scarcer.

Cherry Rhubarb Lattice Pie from Three Babes Bakeshop - Photo Courtesy of Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco)

Cherry Rhubarb Lattice Pie from Three Babes Bakeshop – Photo Courtesy of Three Babes Bakeshop (San Francisco)

Lenore Estrada from San Francisco-based Three Babes Bakeshop said this year’s drought depleted the Cherry crop.  The Cherries that growers had left were sold at the higher, retail prices.  Lenore said “We offered Cherry Pies only one week this year and they sold out within minutes of their announcement on our menu – they are loved!”

Cherry Almond Double Crust Pie from The Pie Hole - Photo Courtesy of The Pie Hole (Los Angeles)

Cherry Almond Double Crust Pie from The Pie Hole – Photo Courtesy of The Pie Hole (Los Angeles)

The Pie Hole, based in Los Angeles, offers an extremely popular Cherry Pie.  But it’s only available in the summer.

Lauretta Jean's Cherry Pie - Photo Courtesy of Lauretta Jean's (Portland, OR)

Lauretta Jean’s Cherry Pie – Photo Courtesy of Lauretta Jean’s (Portland, OR)

Of course, canned Cherries can be used for Cherry Pie.  Kate McMillen of Lauretta Jean’s, based in Portland, Oregon, said she offers a very popular Tart Cherry Pie, based on her grandmother’s original recipe.  In keeping with the recipe, a specific canned Cherry is used.  Kate said “That pie will be available in the fall again when we can get our hands on the right Cherry – they are processing and canning the Cherries now.”  Also on the Cherry Pie line-up:  a Sour Cherry and Apricot Pie, available for just a few weeks.

Whether it’s available for a short few weeks or year-round, people sure like Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie from A La Mode Pies - Photo Courtesy of A La Mode Pies (Seattle)

Cherry Pie from A La Mode Pies – Photo Courtesy of A La Mode Pies (Seattle)

Chris Porter, of Seattle-based A La Mode Pies, said its Sour Cherry Pie is very popular.  In fact, “it’s a favorite that never leaves the menu…..it’s hard to operate a Pie shop without a Cherry Pie on the menu.”

And Cherry Pie can be gussied up and paired with other fruit.

Mini Cherry Pies ("Cutie Pies") from Petsi Pies - Photo Courtesy of Petsi Pies (Somerville, MA)

Mini Cherry Pies (“Cutie Pies”) from Petsi Pies – Photo Courtesy of Petsi Pies (Somerville, MA)

Somerville, Massachusetts-based Petsi Pies offers a Cherry Crumb Pie, made with red tart Cherries.  But as Bakery Manager Jackie Bowers notes, if you prefer other toppings, your choices include Oat Crumb (instead of the regular White Crumb), Lattice, or Pastry.  And it’s available in different sizes, including a 2″ “Cutie Pie.”

Cherry + Peach Pie from Simply Delicious Pies - Photo Courtesy of Simply Delicious Pies (Shaker Heights, OH)

Cherry + Peach Pie from Simply Delicious Pies – Photo Courtesy of Simply Delicious Pies (Shaker Heights, OH)

Beth Kaboth, Co-owner /Manager of Simply Delicious Pies in Shaker Heights, Ohio, said that while the plain Cherry is the most popular of the Cherry Pies, other varieties include Cherry + Apple + Blueberry and Cherry + Peach.

Ontario Sour Cherry Pie and Tarts from Wanda's Pie in the Sky - Photo Courtesy of Wanda's Pie in the Sky (Toronto)

Ontario Sour Cherry Pie and Tarts from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky – Photo Courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (Toronto)

Toronto bakery, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky offers a variety of Cherry delicacies: Ontario Sour Cherry Pie; Apple Cherry Crumble; Cherry Apricot Pie; and Very Berry Pie.  Wanda’s Leora Winkler notes that these pies are available in different sizes. Cherry Pie purists should rejoice – the Ontario Sour Cherry Pie recently won an award at a pie competition.

I’ll be dreaming of Cherry Pies!

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The 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show (also known as the Specialty Food Show)

Summer Fancy Food Show

The Summer Fancy Food Show, held at the Javits center in New York City, is the show for all things gourmet – including of course, dessert.

What was popular at this year’s show?  Desserts with pistachios.  Brittles – lots – and in plenty of interesting varieties, such as Butter Cinnamon Pecan, Cashew, Almond Mocha, and of course traditional Peanut.  Other “brittles” – that are more thin brownies or cookies, with the consistency of crackers. Oats – not just as a hot cereal, but as an ingredient.  Salted caramel, either as the star of a dessert, or as a supporting player. Healthier desserts.  And of course gluten-free products.

Here are some products that illustrate some of these trends:

Seth Greenberg's Brownie Crunch

Seth Greenberg’s Authentic New York Brownie Crunch – Photo Courtesy of Seth Greenberg’s Authentic New York Brownie Crunch (NYC)

Seth Greenberg’s Authentic New York Brownie Crunch is available in a number of different varieties, such as Cinnamon Cappuccino, as well as three new spicy flavors (Jalapeño, Chile Pepper, and Chipotle).  What’s behind the spicy flavors?  Seth Greenberg was inspired by a chicken with mole sauce dish he enjoyed while in Mexico City.

Big Bite Brittle from Droga Chocolates - Photo Courtesy of Droga Chocolates (Los Angeles, CA)

Big Bite Brittle from Droga Chocolates – Photo Courtesy of Droga Chocolates (Los Angeles, CA)

– Big Bite Brittle is buttery peanut brittle sprinkled with fleur de sel.  It’s available from Droga Chocolates.

The Carmelia Bar from Valrhona - Photo Courtesy of Valrhona

The Carmelia Bar from Valrhona – Photo Courtesy of Valrhona

– One of Valrhona’s new chocolate bars is the Carmelia.  While it has a milky flavor, it also has a contrasting salted butter caramel flavor.

Pistachio Toffee from Gearharts Fine Chocolates - Photo Courtesy of Gearharts Fine Chocolates (Charlottesville, VA)

Pistachio Toffee from Gearharts Fine Chocolates – Photo Courtesy of Gearharts Fine Chocolates (Charlottesville, VA)

Gearharts Fine Chocolates’ Pistachio Toffee is buttery toffee with lightly salted pistachios and it’s dipped in bittersweet chocolate.

The Muffkie from The Food System, Inc. - Photo Courtesy of The Food System, Inc. (Stafford Springs, CT)

The Muffkie from The Food System, Inc. – Photo Courtesy of The Food System, Inc. (Stafford Springs, CT)

– The “Muffkie” is a small muffin top.  Since it’s chock full of pistachios and whole grain oats and lower in sugar and butter, it’s a healthier snack.

These are some other interesting products I noticed:

The Lover White Chocolate Bar from Chocolat Moderne - Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

The Lover White Chocolate Bar from Chocolat Moderne – Photo Courtesy of Chocolat Moderne (NYC)

– The Lover White Chocolate Bar from Chocolat Moderne is a white chocolate bar filled with passion fruit caramel and it’s scented with cardamom.  This chocolate bar is a 2014 sofi finalist (awards bestowed for culinary innovation).

Wicked Jack's Tavern Rum Cake - Photo Courtesy of Wicked Jack's Tavern (Marietta, GA)

Wicked Jack’s Tavern Rum Cake – Photo Courtesy of Wicked Jack’s Tavern (Marietta, GA)

– Marietta, Georgia-based Wicked Jack’s Tavern creates caramel-coated Jamaican rum cakes.  There is a legend that an elderly woman (“Ol Gran”) related to the owner of a Wicked Jack’s Tavern in Jamaica baked rum cakes that were highly sought after.

Lemon Sugar Cookies from the Grey Ghost Bakery - Photo Courtesy of the Grey Ghost Bakery (SC)

Lemon Sugar Cookies from the Grey Ghost Bakery – Photo Courtesy of the Grey Ghost Bakery (SC)

– Another company with an interesting back story is the Grey Ghost Bakery.  Based in South Carolina, the Grey Ghost Bakery was named for the legendary Grey Ghost – a friendly Low Country spirit that alerts residents of impending storms.  The Grey Ghost Bakery’s Lemon Sugar Cookie is a sofi finalist.

– A product with an amusing name is Counting Sheep Coffee.  While there’s a bold roast as well as an extra strong variety, you guessed it – they’re caffeine-free.

Downton Abbey Tea from the Republic of Tea - Photo Courtesy of the Republic of Tea (Novato, CA)

Downton Abbey Tea from the Republic of Tea – Photo Courtesy of the Republic of Tea (Novato, CA)

– I’m not a tea aficionado.  But I couldn’t help noticing Republic of Tea’s line of Downton Abbey’s teas since I’m a big Downton Abbey fan.  There’s a “Lady Cora’s Evening Tea,” a “Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea” and a few other varieties.

I’m so glad the Specialty Food Association has been holding the Show again in New York (after a few years in Washington DC).

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Early Summer Product Roundup

Key Lime Cookies from Broadway Baker (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker

Key Lime Cookies from Broadway Baker (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker

Let’s look at some products that are either seasonal, new, or just plain interesting.

Christopher Elbow's Fresh Lemon Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of Christopher Elbow (Kansas City, MO)

Christopher Elbow’s Fresh Lemon Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of Christopher Elbow (Kansas City, MO)

Christopher Elbow’s Fresh Lemon Chocolate – a combination of Lemon Pate de Fruit (a lemon jelly candy) and Lemon White Chocolate Ganache.  As I adore white chocolate and like lemon, and think they pair beautifully, I think it’s a pity you don’t see more desserts with this combination. Interestingly, even though lemons are available year-round, this is more of a seasonal summer treat.  Since lemon and other citrus fruits are so refreshing, citrus desserts are firmly entrenched in the summer months.

Broadway Baker's Key Lime Cookies - Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker (NYC)

Broadway Baker’s Key Lime Cookies – Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker (NYC)

Another summer citrus dessert is Broadway Baker’s Key Lime Cookie.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Key Lime Pie.). It’s a butter cookie infused with Key Lime juice and zest and to complete the summery Key Lime package, it’s topped with a smooth Key Lime frosting.

Jeni's Key Lime Pie Cultured Yogurt - Photo Courtesy of Jeni's (Columbus, OH)

Jeni’s Key Lime Pie Cultured Yogurt – Photo Courtesy of Jeni’s (Columbus, OH)

 

Key Lime also makes its presence known in frozen yogurt.  Jeni’s offers a limited-time “Cultured Key Lime Pie Frozen Yogurt” flavor. In addition to Key Lime juice, milk and yogurt, this frozen treat sports pieces of graham cracker crust.

Graeter's Summer Peach Ice Cream - Photo Courtesy of Graeter's (Cincinnati, OH)

Graeter’s Summer Peach Ice Cream – Photo Courtesy of Graeter’s (Cincinnati, OH)

Peaches are in season in the summer and what better way to celebrate their arrival than to combine them with ice cream.  On Graeter’s line-up is a limited edition Summer Peach flavor.

Mokaccino Bar from Tcho - Photo Courtesy of Tcho (Berkeley, CA)

Mokaccino Bar from Tcho – Photo Courtesy of Tcho (Berkeley, CA)

And for those of us that are serious about both our Coffee and our Chocolate and like the idea of combining them, Tcho’s Mokaccino Bar is a Milk Chocolate Bar with Blue Bottle brand Coffee.

Guido Sobino's White Chocolate Bar with Crunchy Hazelnuts - Photo Courtesy of Guido Sobino (Italy)

Guido Sobino’s White Chocolate Bar with Crunchy Hazelnuts – Photo Courtesy of Guido Sobino (Italy)

Of course, I couldn’t include just one White Chocolate candy.   Italian Chocolatier, Guido Sobino, offers a Bianco Pralinato (White Chocolate Bar with Crunchy Hazelnuts).

Venchi's Chocolate-Coated Cremino Bigusto Piemonte Bar - Photo Courtesy of Venchi (Italy)

Venchi’s Chocolate-Coated Cremino Bigusto Piemonte Bar – Photo Courtesy of Venchi (Italy)

Chocolate-Coated Cremino Bigusto Piemonte is a chunky bar with a layer of white chocolate, a layer of hazelnut paste and to make things even more interesting, both layers are wrapped in a thin coating of dark chocolate.  This Chocolate Bar is the product of another Italian Chocolatier, Venchi.

Choc Chick's Organic Cacao Butter - Photo Courtesy of Choc Chick (UK)

Choc Chick’s Organic Cacao Butter – Photo Courtesy of Choc Chick (UK)

Do-it-yourselfers can purchase cacao butter only – that’s right, cacao butter,  the foundation of white chocolate.  Since you’re adding sugar and flavorings you’re customizing your White Chocolate Truffles.  Choc Chick, the company that offers this Cacao Butter, also sells kits with Cacao Powder so you can craft your own Chocolate Truffles.

So many summer desserts…..why isn’t summer longer?

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Key Lime Pie

Buttercup Bake Shop's Gingersnap Lime Pie (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop

Buttercup Bake Shop’s Gingersnap Lime Pie (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop

In the Northeast we finally have spring weather and my thoughts are turning to warm-weather desserts.  (Of course I’m always yearning for dessert- the only question is which one.)

With a graham cracker crust filled with a mixture of fresh squeezed Key Lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks, Key Lime Pie heralds the arrival of lazy spring and summer days.

But while Key Lime Pie is a warm weather treat, as you”ll see below, its popularity is turning it into a year-round dessert.

Pie Sisters Shop in Washington D.C. - Photo Courtesy of Pie Sisters

Pie Sisters Shop in Washington D.C. – Photo Courtesy of Pie Sisters

Erin Blakely, one of the three owners (who are sisters) of Washington DC.-based Pie Sisters said “Key Lime is an extremely popular flavor.  We keep it on our menu year-round because it is one of our top sellers.  It’s especially popular in the spring and summer because it is citrus, cool and refreshing.”

Kermit's Key Lime Pie on a Stick: Covered with Dark Chocolate (Florida Keys - Photo Courtesy of Kermit's

Kermit’s Key Lime Pie on a Stick: Covered with Dark Chocolate (Florida Keys – Photo Courtesy of Kermit’s

Kermit's Key Lime Pie on a Stick Covered with White Chocolate (Florida Keys) - Photo Courtesy of Kermit's

Kermit’s Key Lime Pie on a Stick Covered with White Chocolate (Florida Keys) – Photo Courtesy of Kermit’s

Since this is a Key Lime posting, I wanted information from a bakery in the Florida Keys.  Karen Puglisi, the Sales and Marketing Director for Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, said “Key Lime is a very popular flavor that we have woven into our entire product line, which includes jellies, marmalades, cookies, candies, cakes, barbeque sauces, dressings, and more.”  While Kermit’s offers Key Lime Pies and Strawberry Key Lime Pies, Karen noted that the most popular item is (frozen) Key Lime Pie on a Stick – it’s enrobed in dark chocolate, or for us white chocolate fans, white chocolate.

Key Lime Cheesecake from Charlie's Cheesecake Works (San Jose, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Charlie's Cheesecake Works

Key Lime Cheesecake from Charlie’s Cheesecake Works (San Jose, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Charlie’s Cheesecake Works

San Jose-based Charlie’s Cheesecake Works creates Cheesecake in a number of different flavors, including, you guessed it, Key Lime.  Charlie Major, President of Charlie’s Cheesecake Works said “We used to make Key Lime Cheesecake primarily in the summer months, with the Strawberry, Mango, and other summer fruits, but over the past several years we found that people want Key Lime all year round.”  He thinks people are branching out to more exotic fruits and Key Lime fits the bill.

Krispy Kreme's Key Lime Pie Doughnut - Photo Courtesy of Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme’s Key Lime Pie Doughnut – Photo Courtesy of Krispy Kreme

And to illustrate that Key Lime Pie is becoming mainstream:  Krispy Kreme offered a Key Lime Pie Doughnut during the early spring.  And there was a rumor that Google was naming a new Android operating system, Key Lime Pie.

We shouldn’t take our Key Limes for granted, though.  Currently, we’re experiencing a Lime shortage.  In the U.S. today, most of our Limes (Key Limes and regular Limes, known as Persian Limes) come from Mexico.  And according to The New York Times, severe rains, a bacterial disease killing citrus trees, and criminals stealing fruit from the groves are decreasing our Mexican Lime imports.  However, this crisis is thought to be temporary; new crops are maturing.
 
I already celebrated the arrival of spring – with an individual Key Lime Tart!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Chips - Photo Courtesy of Ghiradelli

Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Chips – Photo Courtesy of Ghiradelli

Chocolate Chip Cookies are a truly classic American dessert.

So what would make them stand out?  An extremely unconventional baking method?  Sounds like that might do it.

As reported in The New York Times in 2009, (and it originally appeared on MSNBC),  a New Hampshire woman baked Chocolate Chip Cookies on the dash of her Toyota RAV4.  Since the temperature inside a car can get quite high, it can function as an oven.

For those seeking Chocolate Chip Cookies prepared in a somewhat more traditional manner, what varieties are available and what’s popular?

Levain Bakery's Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie -Photo Courtesy of Levain Bakery (NYC)

Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie – Photo Courtesy of Levain Bakery (NYC)

New York City-based Levain Bakery offers a Classic Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie as well as a Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie.  A spokesperson for Levain said “All of our Cookies are popular, but the Classic (Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie) tends to get the most press so it is our most popular Cookie…….Chocolate Chip Cookies offer so many options:  large or small; with or without nuts; fat or thin; soft or crunchy; super sweet or salty; so many variations so people can be satisfied with their own favorite “Chocolate Chip Cookie.”  The Levain spokesperson also observed that foreigners are fascinated by American Cookies.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from Broadway Baker (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from Broadway Baker (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Broadway Baker

Chocolate Chip Cookies are one of the most popular Cookies for New York City-based Broadway Baker.  (The number one spot goes to Lemon Raspberry Shortbread Cookies.)  Jim Osorno, owner of Broadway Baker said he has also made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies.  And he’s working on a gluten-free version with unsweetened coconut and crushed pecans.

Wildflour Pastry in Charleston, South Carolina - Photo Courtesy of Wildflour Pastry

Wildflour Pastry in Charleston, South Carolina – Photo Courtesy of Wildflour Pastry

Lauren Mitterer of WildFlour Pastry in Charleston, South Carolina, reported:  “We offer a regular Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Double Chocolate Chip Cookie.  We have occasionally done Mint Chocolate Chip and Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies, although they are not in the daily offerings.  I think they [Chocolate Chip Cookies] are holding steady….with chefs pushing the envelope in flavor combinations, they are a nice return home.”

Classic Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie from Bumzy's - Photo Courtesy of Bumzy's (San Francisco)

Classic Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie from Bumzy’s – Photo Courtesy of Bumzy’s (San Francisco)

Toni of San Francisco-based Bumzy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies pointed out that National Chip Cookie Day is May 15th.  She also noted that the “Bumzy’s Classic,” a plain semi-sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie, tends to sell out first.  But the Double Chocolate Chip Cookie is also very popular.  And the “Bumzy’s Classic with Nuts” also goes over well with customers.

I’m ready to dig into a piece of Americana!

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Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Jim & Patty's Coffee (Portland, OR) - Photo Courtesy of Jim & Patty's Coffee

Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Jim & Patty’s Coffee (Portland, OR) – Photo Courtesy of Jim & Patty’s Coffee

 

Years ago, the cakes I drooled over were gooey – rich with filling, frosting, and cream.  Now I find myself gravitating more to Bundt Cakes and Coffee Cakes. (Lest anyone become alarmed, this is NOT to say I’ve sworn off gooey cake.)

Of course the age-old question is “Why isn’t Coffee Cake made with Coffee?” After all, there’s Chocolate in Chocolate Cake.  Well, one theory is, since this Cake was often served with Coffee, it was given the name “Coffee Cake.”

Let’s start at the beginning.  What is Coffee Cake?  It’s a sweet cake-like bread typically eaten at breakfast or brunch, and sometimes served warm.  Coffee Cakes often sport streusel toppings – crumbly mixtures of flour, sugar, butter, and spices.  To liven up Coffee Cakes, they may be filled with cinnamon and sugar or even cream cheese.

How popular is Coffee Cake?  And what varieties are out there?

The Sugar Cube's "Crack Coffee Cake" - Photo Courtesy of The Sugar Cube (Portland, OR)

The Sugar Cube’s “Crack Coffee Cake” – Photo Courtesy of The Sugar Cube (Portland, OR)

Kirsten Jensen of The Sugar Cube, based in Portland, Oregon, said the Coffee Cake is one of the most popular breakfast items. In fact, it’s called “Crack Coffee Cake” because it’s so addictive – people keep coming back for it.  Crack Coffee Cake has a moist Coffee Cake base, studded with liberal amounts of seasonal fruit.  It’s flavored with spices such as Saigon cinnamon, ginger, fresh nutmeg, and cardamom.   And it’s topped with toasted pecans, brown butter, more spices, and oats.  Kirsten believes it’s all about the crunchy topping.  She thinks Coffee Cake evokes memories of conversations had while sitting around the family breakfast table.

Crumb Cake from Sweet Sam's (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Sam's

Crumb Cake from Sweet Sam’s (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Sam’s

Sweet Sam’s, a New York City-based bakery that ships nationwide, offers five types of Coffee Cakes.  The most popular Coffee Cake is the Crumb Cake – its cake base is piled high with crumbs.   Taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places respectively are:  Coffee Streusel Cake (with a filling of finely chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar); Blueberry Crumb Cake (blueberries are in the cake base and the topping); Apple Crumb Cake (diced apples are in the cake base and sliced apples are in the topping); and Chocolate Chip Crumb (semi- sweet chocolate chips are scattered throughout the cake base and topping).

New York City-based sugar Sweet sunshine has “The Real Deal” Coffee Cake on its line-up and it’s one of the most popular breakfast Cakes.  Peggy, one of the co-owners, thinks its popularity is due largely to its cinnamon swirl.

The Andersonville Coffee Cake from Swedish Bakery (Chicago, IL) - Photo Courtesy of the Swedish Bakery

The Andersonville Coffee Cake from Swedish Bakery (Chicago, IL) – Photo Courtesy of the Swedish Bakery

The Swedish Bakery specializes in European-style Pastries and Cakes. While this Chicago-based bakery typically offers 10 different Coffee Cakes in its store, customers can order any of the 35 Coffee Cakes on Swedish Bakery’s Coffee Cake line-up.  The most popular Coffee Cake is the Andersonville – named after the Chicago neighborhood in which the bakery has been located for more than 80 years.  The Andersonville, a Swedish Coffee Cake, has a cardamom dough base with almond and cinnamon fillings.  Pecan Streusel, Coconut Custard, Plain Streusel, and Chocolate Chip Streusel are some of the popular American-style Coffee Cakes.  The Swedish Bakery doesn’t plan to add any new Coffee Cakes this year.  According to Eliza Williamson, the General Manager, “We like to keep it simple and traditional for our customers.  They know what they want and we’ve got it!”

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Café (Chicago, IL) - Photo Courtesy of Southport Grocery and Cafe

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Café (Chicago, IL) – Photo Courtesy of Southport Grocery and Cafe

In the bakery case of Chicago-based Southport Grocery and Cafe, you can find Coffee Cake.  Southport’s version is made with sour cream.  In the Cafe you can also order Grilled Coffee Cake.  The Cake is cut in half and house-made cream cheese is added.  The Cake gets caramelized on the top and bottom, while the cream cheese melts.  Jake Davis of Southport thinks Coffee Cake is popular as it reminds us of our families and spending early morning hours huddled over a pan of fresh baked Coffee Cake.  And as Jake notes, while Coffee Cake is simple, you can add a little something to it, such as bacon crumble, fruit jam, etc., to take it to a whole new level without going overboard.

I’m ready to bake, or better yet, eat, Coffee Cake!

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