Rugelach

Kenny & Ziggy’s Rugelach (Three Different Flavors) / Photo Courtesy of Kenny & Ziggy’s

Let’s get a good description of “Rugelach.” (My definition, which is “ A delicious, rich cookie-pastry, even more scrumptious if raspberry jam is involved,” probably won’t cut it so let’s move on,) According to noted Jewish cuisine cookbook author, Joan Nathan, Rugelach are crescent-shaped cookies, originating in Europe. They’ve become one of the most mainstream Jewish desserts.

Culinary Combo Bakery’s Apricot and Raspberry Rugelach / Photo Courtesy of Culinary Combo Bakery

As with so many other foods, recipes for Rugelach have been tweaked over the years. When made in Europe, sour cream was often used. But with the popularity of Philadelphia brand Cream Cheese in this country, Rugelach became associated with a cream cheese dough.

New York Style Chocolate Rugelach from Pariser’s Bakery / Photo Courtesy of Pariser’s Bakery

While the dough is quite tasty, I think the real appeal of Rugelach is the filling.

Culinary Combo Bakery’s Raspberry Nutella Rugelach / Photo Courtesy of Culinary Combo Bakery

Southfield, Michigan-based Culinary Combo Bakery offers the more traditional flavors– Apricot, Raspberry, and Chocolate—along with Apricot Walnut Raisin, Cinnamon, and in the fall, Apple. And this bakery has also experimented with slightly more exotic flavors—Cranberry and Raspberry Nutella. Here’s what a Culinary Combo Bakery owner had to say about the inspiration for some of the different flavors: “Honestly, we get bored, and we say, ‘let’s try something new.’ Sometimes it works out great, like our newest flavor, Cinnamon. But other times it’s a miss and we have to go back to the drawing board.”

Date Rugelach from Pariser’s Bakery / Photo Courtesy of Pariser’s Bakery

Motti Margalit, owner of Pariser’s Bakery in Baltimore, Maryland, bakes two types of rugelach: a New York style, which is flaky, and an Israeli style which is yeast-based. A variety of flavors are on the line-up: Chocolate; Cinnamon; Cinnamon Raisin; and Raspberry. When I asked about one of his more unusual flavors, Date, (the other is Fig), Motti explained that a friend’s mother in Israel baked Date Cookies. And in fact, he imports the Date spread as it’s not available in this country. Motti said he’ll hold off adding to his Rugelach line-up since it can be difficult to obtain supplies now.

Kenny & Ziggy’s Raspberry Rugelach / Photo Courtesy of Kenny & Ziggy’s

While we might not associate Rugelach with the state of Texas, these treats are popular menu items for Kenny & Ziggy’s, a Houston-based deli. As Ziggy Gruber expected, his early Jewish customers were familiar with them. But he was surprised at how many Houstonians knew exactly what they were, even to the point of making comparisons with other Rugelach they sampled. Interestingly, sales of the different flavors are seasonal. Chocolate is more popular in winter months, Raspberry in the spring and summer, and Apricot in the spring and fall. While Kenny & Ziggy’s sells roughly equal amounts of these varieties, since Apricot is favored by Rugelach traditionalists, it might have a slight edge.

Mr. Lee With His Rugelach / Photo Courtesy of Lee Lee’s Bakery

Think only Jewish bakers create Rugelach? Think again. Alvin Lee Small, known as Mr. Lee, is an African American baker and owner of Lee Lee’s Baked Goods in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. He was a baker at a New York hospital and began tweaking a Rugelach recipe, convinced he could improve on it.

Festival of Lights Ice Cream Cone / Photo Courtesy of Ample Hills Creamery

Why should chocolate sandwich cookies have all the fun? Yep, that’s right. Rugelach has joined the ice cream party. Brooklyn-based Ample Hills Creamery combines pieces of Court Street Grocers’ Raspberry Rugelach with a cream cheese ice cream. Sadly, this flavor, Festival of Lights, is only available around the Chanukah holiday—and its distribution is limited to Ample Hills’ scoop shops. Another Rugelach-ice cream combo can be found at Lee Lee’s Baked Goods. Mr. Small adds his rugelach to vanilla ice cream that he crafts from scratch with farm-fresh milk.

New York Style Cinnamon Raisin Rugelach from Pariser’s Bakery

So, is Rugelach a cookie? A small pastry? Hmm, as long as we enjoy them, does it really matter?                                                            

Linzer Cookies

Homemade Linzer Cookies/Photo credit: Marcia Mermelstein

Which Cookie is: a colorful and popular addition to Cookie trays, a staple of Christmas Cookie exchanges, a Valentine’s Day favorite, and even a mainstay of some Jewish-style and kosher bakeries? Yes, that’s right, the delightful Linzer Cookie. But before we talk about its adaptability, let’s briefly cover its origin.

Linzer Tortes originate in the Austrian city of Linz. (What’s the difference between a “torte” and a “cake”? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Some equate “torte” with “cake.” But it can also refer to a flourless cake or a fancy cake.) While variations abound, Linzer Torte dough, typically rich with butter, almonds, lemon zest, spices, and sometimes flour, is filled with jam. A pretty lattice top completes the torte. Linzer Cookies, the “progeny” of Linzer Tortes, typically are buttery, nutty sandwich Cookies filled with jam. A window is cut out of the top Cookie to see the contrasting jam center, and powdered sugar can be sprinkled on top.

Best Damn Cookies’ Amoro Linzer Cookies/Photo credit: Simon Leung Photo

Unlike drop Cookies, rolled and cut Cookies, like Linzers, can take a variety of shapes—from circles to squares, to heart shapes for Valentine’s Day, to trees for Christmas, to dreidels for Chanukah. (A handy tip for those of us who believe that the function of the Cookie is to hold the jam: In her book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, Rose Levy Beranbaum explained she likes making Linzers as squares because that shape offers the best ratio of jam to Cookie.) 

Best Damn Cookies’ Carrot-Citrus Rye Linzers (along with other Cookies it offers)/Photo credit: Best Damn Cookies

Mo Sahoo, of Best Damn Cookies in Manhattan, thinks Linzer Cookies permit chefs to use their imagination to create something that speaks to them. As an example, its Carrot-Citrus Rye Linzers (developed in conjunction with Gertie, a modern diner in Brooklyn) add earthy tones, as compared with more traditional Linzer Cookies that are often bright in flavor. Mo also thinks Linzers have a very interesting history, which adds to their popularity. Best Damn Cookies offers a special Linzer Cookie for Valentine’s Day, an Amoro—a chocolate-hazelnut Cookie with a blood orange marmalade filling. And different Linzers are on the Cookie line-up over the next year.

But it’s not just the shape of the Cookie that makes them so versatile. The dough or filling can be varied. As noted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article (December 14, 2017), Linzer Cookies have been adapted for American tastes and you can even find Linzers with caramel. (I’ve been dreaming of Buttery Walnut Cookies with a Coffee Caramel filling, but I digress.)

Classic Linzer Cookies/Photo credit: King Arthur Baking

Which states are the biggest fans of Linzer Cookies? Well, if we use online search activity as our metric, people in the Northeast are real Linzer devotees. The top five states are: Maine; New Jersey; Rhode Island; Vermont; and Massachusetts. With their strong (and wonderful!) Wedding Cookie Table tradition, I’m surprised Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are not in the Top 10. But then again, many different kinds of (fabulous) Cookies adorn Cookie Tables at weddings in these three states.

Here’s to a sweet Valentine’s Day (with or without Linzer Cookies)!                    

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Egg Creams

A homemade Egg Cream/Photo credit: Marcia Mermelstein

Dessert Surveillance is back after a (rather long) hiatus. While my husband and I have had to modify our diets, thankfully, writing, reading, and thinking about desserts is carb-free!

For this post, I’m focusing on a dessert that’s a drink—Egg Creams.

How to make an Egg Cream

How to make an Egg Cream/Photo credit: Fox’s U-Bet: Gold’s Brand

So, how many eggs are in an Egg Cream, and what’s the quantity of cream? Guess what? These ingredients aren’t part of this magic elixir. Instead, it’s a delicious mixture of seltzer, milk, and syrup, and the syrup of choice is Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup. Strongly carbonated seltzer is vital. Chocolate is the traditional flavor, and while I believe Egg Cream tradition should be respected, let’s not get too hasty in condemning Vanilla or Coffee Egg Creams. (At the Brooklyn candy store I frequented, pretzel rods were served with Egg Creams, a surprisingly tasty pairing, but I digress.)

An early Fox'x U=Bet Syrup delivery truck
An early Fox’s U-Bet delivery truck/Photo credit: Fox’s U-Bet-Gold’s Brand

Egg Cream history is a little murky, but there’s consensus that this treat originated around the early 20th century in New York City (probably the Lower East Side of Manhattan or Brooklyn) and is tied to the Eastern European Jewish immigrant experience. Fountain drinks were typically served at candy stores, drugstores, and soda fountains, and a big appeal was social—being able to enjoy these beverages with others companionably. From the vantage point of the store owner, drinks “fancier” than plain seltzer commanded higher prices and were therefore more lucrative.

What’s the present-day egg cream situation? To get a (very, very) rough sense of how popular egg creams are now, I performed some (highly) unscientific web research, looking (well, sometimes drooling) at online menus of 112 ice cream parlors, soda fountains, delis, candy stores, and diners across the country. My results: out of 27 New York Metro area-based purveyors, 11 offered Egg Creams (41%). However, once you leave New York, Egg Creams are harder to find. Only 7 of 85 non-New York establishments listed this sweet treat on their menus (8%). Of course, we have to keep in mind that Egg Creams don’t travel well, and therefore, might not be listed on delivery/take-out menus. For example, I confirmed with Jake Dell, third-generation family owner of NYC-based Katz’s Deli, that Katz’s is still offering Chocolate Egg Creams in its restaurant, although you can’t order them from its to-go menu. 

Are Egg Creams becoming more popular? I posed this question to a NYC-based luncheonette as well as a soda fountain based in Southern California.

Egg Creams at NYC-based Lexington Candy Shop
Lexington Candy Shop’s Vanilla and Chocolate Egg Creams/Photo credit: Lexington Candy Shop

Lexington Candy Shop (based in Manhattan)—John Philis, third-generation owner, believes Egg Creams are becoming more popular as a result of social media and thinks Egg Cream seekers fall into one of three groups: (1) New Yorkers who are old enough to remember Egg Creams (2) Younger New Yorkers who have heard about Egg Creams but haven’t yet tried them since they’re not so easy to find (3) Tourists who found out about Egg Creams and are eager to sample them when they’re in the Big Apple. Lexington Candy Shop was featured on a Travel Channel Food Paradise episode, and that’s led to more Egg Cream traffic to his store. Regarding flavors: While Chocolate reigns supreme, and Vanilla is second, Lexington Candy has regulars, coming in every day for Coffee Egg Creams. (Perhaps it’s a good thing Coffee Egg Creams weren’t popular when I was growing up. I’d be even more of a coffee fiend than I am now, but I’m digressing again.)

The soda fountain at Soda Jerks Santa Monica Pier
The soda fountain at Soda Jerks Santa Monica Pier/Photo credit: Soda Jerks Santa Monica Pier

Soda Jerks Santa Monica Pier—owner Kevin McCafferty said it was hard to say if Egg Creams are becoming more popular. Most of his Egg Cream-ordering guests are from New York City, and they know about Egg Creams from their own research. At Soda Jerks Santa Monica, Egg Creams are competing with a wide variety of sundaes, ice creams, and other specialty drinks. Kevin McCafferty also reports that Chocolate is his best-selling Egg Cream, followed by Vanilla and then Coffee.

It will be interesting to see if Egg Creams follow what I’m calling the “Bagel Route” and become less tied to New York and more of a nationally available item.

A very healthy, happy, and sweet New Year to all!    

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Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar

Logo of the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar - Image Courtesy of the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar

Logo of the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar – Image Courtesy of the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar

Artisanal food fairs and shows are fun.  I like discovering new and hot products and enjoy hearing the stories of food entrepreneurs.  And product sampling, particularly when Sweets are involved, is just gilding the lily!  From the vantage point of food entrepreneurs, these shows can be a great way to build demand and ultimately generate wider distribution for their products.  (I know I usually wind up purchasing at least a few treats, but I digress.)  Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on The Big Chocolate Show.

At the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar in New York City, I was surprised to see so many vegan and healthier Dessert offerings.    

Brownies and Blondies from Pure Genius - Photo Courtesy of Pure Genius (NYC)

Brownies and Blondies from Pure Genius – Photo Courtesy of Pure Genius (NYC)

Brooklyn-based Pure Genius crafts Brownies and Blondies that are high in protein and fiber and relatively low calorie.  They are also vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, and soon to be verified non-GMO.  What makes them high in protein and fiber?  Chickpeas.  Pure Genius’ founder, Nancy Kalish, has a sweet tooth but wanted to eat healthier Desserts.  She didn’t like what was available so she decided to create some healthy but much tastier options herself.  After hundreds of attempts, Pure Genius was born.  Different flavors/varieties are in the works.  Currently, Pure Genius’ Brownies and Blondies are available in Whole Foods stores in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and in other stores in the Northeast and Southeast.  

A Brinkles treat - Photo Courtesy of Brinkles (NYC)

Brinkles Treats – Photo Courtesy of Brinkles (NYC)

For those wishing to indulge in more decadent Desserts, the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar delivers.  Choices include Cupcakes, Bruffins (a brioche-like pastry with fillings), Brinkles (amped up rice cereal treats), Macaroons, Macarons, and more.

Rhona Hershkowitz, founder of Gold Dust Bakes (NYC), at the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar

Rhona Hershkowitz, founder of Gold Dust Bakes (NYC), at the Artisanal Sweet Treats Bazaar

And if your tastes run more to elaborate, show-stopping layer cakes, you can create them yourself – with some help from New York-based Gold Dust Bakes.  This firm offers Cake Design Kits, which include a design for a Cake, a photo of it, detailed instructions, and the items needed for decorating it.  You supply the basic Cake and Frosting.   Six different core designs are available, with a new and different design rotating each month.  Founder Rhona Hershkowitz, is an interior designer as well as a skilled baker and cake decorator. Her goals are to help bakers gain confidence in their Cake decorating skills as well as build a community of people who love to bake.  As Rhona notes: Baking transports us to another world and is making us happier. 

I know baking makes me happier!

Happy eating and baking!

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The Big Chocolate Show: October 8th -9th in NYC

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Waterfront NY Terminal Stores Building – site of The Big Chocolate Show – Photo Courtesy of Waterfront NY Realty (NY)

A new Chocolate Show came to town — The Big Chocolate Show — held at the Waterfront NY Terminal Stores Building in West Chelsea.  Classic American flavors and treats shared the exhibit space with more cutting-edge Chocolate and Desserts.

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TCHO’s Mokaccino Milk Chocolate Bar – Photo Courtesy of TCHO (Berkeley, CA)

TCHO showcased its Chocolate Bars with time-honored flavors, such as Coffee (the Mokaccino Milk Chocolate Bar — made with Blue Bottle Coffee) and Chocolate Mint (the Dark Chocolate Mint Chip Gelato Bar).   But TCHO’s new line will include Chocolate with floral notes, such as Bergamot (a citrus fruit) and spice.   Cat, a member of TCHO’s Sales team, made an interesting observation: Chocolate follows fashion.  And, indeed, we’re now surrounded by clothes and accessories with floral patterns.   (I recently succumbed to the charms of a floral print wallet, but I digress.)

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Lemon-Olive Oil Bonbons from Gotham Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of Gotham Chocolate (NYC)

Speaking of Citrus — an intriguing complement to and star of many Desserts — Gotham Chocolate (an offshoot the well-known New York City-based Gotham Bar and Grill restaurant) displayed its Lemon-Olive Oil Bonbons.  And Christopher Elbow Chocolates offered its Citrus Caramel Collection.

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Moon Pies from Lovie’s Nostalgia – Photo Courtesy of Lovie’s Nostalgia (NYC)

You knew it was a U.S.-based Chocolate Show when you spotted the Moon Pies at the booth of Lovie’s Nostalgia.  What is Moon Pie?  A Southern treat — marshmallow filling sandwiched between two graham crackers, with a coating, often of Chocolate.  Interestingly, Lovie’s Nostalgia is a New York City-based baker.

sugarcube

Sugarcube Dessert and Coffee’s booth at The Big Chocolate Show – Photo Courtesy of Sugarcube Dessert and Coffee (NYC)

As for the more cutting-edge desserts (literally!), how about geometric Chocolates crafted with molds manufactured by a 3-D printer?  The aptly named Sugarcube Dessert and Coffee sells these treats and others at its New York City bakery and café.  Or Organic Dark Chocolate Matcha Green Tea Bars from VillaKuyaya?

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Eclat Chocolate’s Milk Chocolate Bar with Pennsylvania Dutch Pretzels – Photo Courtesy of Eclat Chocolate (West Chester, PA)

So much chocolate — life is good!  (Of course, I’ll be eating nothing but salad for weeks to compensate for my samples (and purchases!).

 

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Cherry Desserts

Sour Cherry Cheesecake from Dufflet - Photo Courtesy of Dufflet (Toronto)

Sour Cherry Cheesecake from Dufflet – Photo Courtesy of Dufflet (Toronto)

Cherry season is here and I’ve been adding fresh Cherries to yogurt or cottage cheese.  This is quite tasty, but of course, I’m dreaming of Cherry Desserts— Cherry Pie, Cherry Crumb Cake, Cherry Cheesecake, and maybe this will be the year that I attempt a Cherry Clafoutis—a cross between a Cherry Pudding and a Cherry Pancake.

Cherries on the Vine - Photo Courtesy of Chukar (Prosser, WA)

Cherries on the Vine – Photo Courtesy of Chukar (Prosser, WA)

Cherries and Cherry Desserts seem to be even more popular now.  At this year’s Fancy Food Show, I noticed a whole host of Cherry-based products: Cherry Juice, Dried Cherries, Biscotti with Cherries, Cherry Jam, etc.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on the Fancy Food Show.)   And since they’re high in antioxidants, a health halo surrounds Cherries.   

Chocolate-Covered Cherries from Chukar - Photo Courtesy of Chukar

Chocolate-Covered Cherries, Nuts, and Berries from Chukar Cherries – Photo Courtesy of Chukar Cherries

Based in Prosser, Washington, Chukar Cherries is best known for its Chocolate-Covered Cherry confections (made with dried Cherries) but it also sells other Cherry-based products.  Chukar’s Maria Munoz believes Chocolate-Covered Cherries and Cherry Baked Goods have been gaining in popularity.  In fact, for the 2016 holiday season, Chukar will add to its line-up of Cherry Baked Goods.  Current Baked Goods offerings include a Cherry Raspberry Coffee Cake and Cherry Almond Biscotti.

Cherry Clafoutis from Le Panier - Photo Courtesy of Le Panier (Seattle, WA)

Cherry Clafoutis from Le Panier – Photo Courtesy of Le Panier (Seattle, WA)

And getting back to Cherry Clafoutis:  It’s the one Cherry Dessert offered by Seattle-based Le Panier.  Le Panier’s Operation Manager, Chris Bray, said it’s usually offered from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  And he noted the seasonal nature of Cherry Desserts: “It seems that, as people have come back around to thinking of foods seasonally, people tend to embrace them when they are at their best.  You may not always find much in the way of Cherry Desserts in the winter, but there’s a good chance you’ll find some when Cherry season hits.”

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)

And the short Cherry season makes us all appreciate Cherry Desserts that much more!     

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2016 Fancy Food Show

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As a chronicler of dessert and business trends (and perhaps much more importantly, a glutton), I attended the Specialty Food Association’s 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show,

What did I notice?

A lot of caramels; chocolates and desserts infused with spirits; and sometimes a combination of the two.  Coconut was everywhere.  A fair number of nut butters; treats made with nuts; and nuts for snacking.  Interestingly, peanuts seem to be embraced now, instead of shunned.

Here are some of the interesting products I saw and/or sampled:

Milk Chocolate Apple Caramels from Lake Champlain Chocolates - Photo Courtesy of Lake Champlain Chocolates (VT)

Milk Chocolate Apple Caramels from Lake Champlain Chocolates – Photo Courtesy of Lake Champlain Chocolates (Burlington, VT)

Milk Chocolate Apple Cider Caramels from Lake Champlain Chocolates — I don’t know of any other apple-filled chocolate product.  It is a 2016 sofiTM finalist in the Chocolate category. (The sofiTM awards are bestowed by the Specialty Food Association.)

Chocolate Peanut Brittle from Sir Francis Bacon - Photo Courtesy of Sir Francis Bacon (Atlanta, GA)

Chocolate Peanut Brittle from Sir Francis Bacon – Photo Courtesy of Sir Francis Bacon (Atlanta, GA)

Peanut brittle from a company with a rather unusual name, Sir Francs Bacon Peanut Brittle. Why stop at plain Peanut Brittle when you can snack on Brittle gussied up with bacon and then coated with milk chocolate?

Clairesquares' Shortbread & Caramel Dark Chocolate Squares - Photo Courtesy of Clairesquares (San Francisco, CA)

Clairesquares’ Shortbread & Caramel Dark Chocolate Squares – Photo Courtesy of Clairesquares (San Francisco, CA)

Clairesquares’ Shortbread & Caramel Dark Chocolate Squares — This product is a 2016 sofiTM finalist in the Cookies, Brownies, Cakes or Pie category.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake Ice Cream from Steve's Ice Cream - Photo Courtesy of Steve's Ice Cream (NYC)

Brooklyn Blackout Cake Ice Cream from Steve’s Ice Cream – Photo Courtesy of Steve’s Ice Cream (NYC)

Brooklyn Blackout Cake Ice Cream from Steve’s Ice Cream — Growing up in Brooklyn, I have fond memories (as most Brooklynites did) of Ebinger’s Blackout Cake – a filled and frosted Chocolate Cake, complete with Chocolate Pudding inside. 

Turkish Coffee Ice Cream from McConnell's Fine Ice Creams - Photo Courtesy of McConnell's Fine Ice Creams (Santa Barbara, CA)

Turkish Coffee Ice Cream from McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams – Photo Courtesy of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams (Santa Barbara, CA)

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams’ Turkish Coffee Ice Cream — The Company’s tag line for this product: A true coffee fanatic’s ice cream.  (Well, I am a coffee fanatic…)

White Chocolate Sauce from Somebody's Mother's - Photo Courtesy of Somebody's Mother's (Houston, TX)

White Chocolate Sauce from Somebody’s Mother’s – Photo Courtesy of Somebody’s Mother’s (Houston, TX)

I’ve written about the next two products before, but can’t resist mentioning them again: White Chocolate Sauce from Somebody’s Mother’s and Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream.

So few days….so many carbs!

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Coffee Desserts

Mochachino Cake from Buttercup

Buttercup Bake Shop’s Mochaccino Cake – Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC)

I admire people who don’t need a daily cup or two or Coffee.  Of course, I don’t fall into this group.  And in fact, I’ve been known to turn non-Coffee drinkers, into Coffee aficionados.

Java Junkie Bar from Jacques Torres

Java Junkie Chocolate Bar from Jacques Torres – Photo Courtesy of Jacques Torres (NYC)

Since I love the aroma and taste of Coffee (and require the “get up and go” this miracle beverage imparts) and adore Desserts, what better than to combine the two?

Espresso Cake from Billys Bakery

Espresso Cake from Billy’s Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Billy’s Bakery (NYC)

Looks like I’m not the only fan of Coffee Desserts.

Graeters Mocha Chocolate Chip

Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Graeter’s – Photo Courtesy of Graeter’s (Cincinnati, OH)

Graeter’s, a Cincinnati-based ice cream company, founded in 1870, sells two Coffee-based ice cream flavors – Mocha Chocolate Chip and Coffee.  Mocha Chocolate Chip is so popular it’s one of Graeter’s six core flavors, offered in grocery stores outside of its main trading area.  While the company had contemplated offering just one Coffee-based ice cream – Mocha Chocolate Chip – there were enough fans of Coffee Ice Cream to convince the company to keep offering both Coffee flavors.

Eclair Coffee Eclair in a row

A Coffee Eclair (and Other Flavors) from Eclair Bakery – Photo Courtesy of Eclair Bakery (NYC)

New York City-based Éclair Bakery, a French bakery, offers an extensive variety of Éclairs, including, you guessed it, a Coffee variety.

Eds real scoop_affogato

An Affogato from Ed’s Real Scoop – Photo Courtesy of Ed’s Real Scoop (Toronto)

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking your Coffee Dessert.  An Affogato is a shot of Expresso over a scoop or gelato or ice cream.  But if you’re looking for something a bit more elaborate, Cynthia Leung described a very intriguing sounding  drink crafted by her store, SOMA Chocolatemaker in Toronto: “Three separate layers, all of equal portions, of: dark chocolate; espresso; and semi-whipped cream.  All meant to be drunk together (not mixed), a study in contrast….”

Soma Chocolate_Vietnamese Coffee Truffle

Vietnamese Coffee Truffle from SOMA Chocolatemaker – Photo Courtesy of SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto)

And Coffee can liven up Chocolates.  Cynthia pointed out that Coffee and Chocolate have been paired together for a long time.  Her Vietnamese Coffee Truffle, with a coffee-infused dark chocolate layer covering a white chocolate ganache, is a popular item.

King Arthur Flour espresso powder

Espresso Powder from King Arthur Flour – Photo Courtesy of King Arthur Flour (Norwich, VT)

But Coffee doesn’t always steal the Dessert spotlight.  Adding a small amount of Espresso powder to a recipe calling for Chocolate adds a depth of flavor and enhances the Chocolate flavor, without calling attention to itself.

Coffee Flour

Coffee Flour from Coffee Flour

When I was doing research for this posting, I read about an alternative flour — Coffee Flour.  As a city dweller, I generally don’t read farming magazines, but according to a fascinating article in Modern Farmer, there are actually two types of Coffee Flour.  One type of Coffee Flour is obtained from grinding up less roasted Coffee beans.  Adding this Coffee Flour to baked goods bestows a mild, nutty flavor and packs a real antioxidant punch since less roasted Coffee Beans are higher in antioxidants.  And the second type of Coffee Flour is derived from grinding up other parts of the Coffee plant.  Fittingly, a company with the name, Coffee Flour, is spearheading the production of this second type of Coffee Flour, which is a nutritional powerhouse and really more of a spice than a Flour.

How can I enjoy Coffee?  Thankfully, more ways than ever before!

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Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa

City Bakery_Salted caramel hot chocolate

City Bakery’s Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of City Bakery (NYC)

I usually prefer to eat, rather than drink, my calories and carbs.  But I’ll sometimes make an exception for Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa.  “Hot Cocoa” is sometimes used interchangeably for “Hot Chocolate.” But there is a difference. Hot Chocolate refers to the luxurious beverage made from ground-up chocolate pieces.  Hot Cocoa doesn’t contain cocoa butter so it’s not as rich but added cream and milk enrich this hot beverage.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with traditional Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa, I wanted to find out how chocolatiers and bakers are pushing the “Hot Chocolate envelope.”  Here are some of the more innovative Hot Chocolate/Hot Cocoa varieties:

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Wicked Hot Chocolate from Jacques Torres – Photo Courtesy of Jacques Torres (NYC)

Jacques Torre’s Wicked Hot Chocolate.  Why is it “wicked”?  Because it’s spiced with allspice, cinnamon, ground ancho chili peppers, and smoked ground chipotle chili peppers.

Hot Chocolate_Medium

Hot Chocolate from the Hot Chocolate Restaurant – Photo Courtesy of Hot Chocolate (Chicago)

The Black & Tan.  It’s on the menu of the aptly named HotChocolate restaurant in Chicago.   To ensure you’re getting your chocolate fix, this beverage is comprised of 1 part Hot Fudge to 2 parts Hot Chocolate.

polar bear hot choolate with icebeg_marshmallow on top

Ode to Polar Bear Hot Chocolate from City Bakery – Photo Courtesy of City Bakery (NYC)

The Ode to Polar Bear Hot Chocolate.  This offering, from New York City’s City Bakery, is for fans of White Chocolate.  Perched on top of the hot white chocolate is a floating iceberg (homemade marshmallow).  Or how about Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate?  Yes, this Hot Chocolate sports not just a homemade marshmallow, but a toasted one at that.  While traditional Hot Chocolate is always on City Bakery’s menu, special flavors are offered during the annual Hot Chocolate Festival.

serendipity

Serendic

Serendipity’s Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.  Who says Hot Chocolate has to be hot?  As the name implies, it’s served frosty cold, with straws.

Hmm, we still have several days of winter left.  Plenty of time to enjoy Hot Chocolate!

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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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