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:

jtc_hotchoc_wicked

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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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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