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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Roger Smith Food + Tech Conference, April 2014

The Roger Smith Hotel - Site of the Conference - Photo Courtesy of The Roger Smith Hotel

The Roger Smith Hotel – Site of the Conference – Photo Courtesy of The Roger Smith Hotel

The focus of the Roger Smith Food + Tech Conference is a fascinating one, “the exploration of our ambiguous love, hate, and fear of food technologies.” It’s a surprisingly broad topic.  The Conference sessions and specific areas covered ranged from modernist cuisine to processing cacao to 3-D printing of restaurant dinnerware to smart appliances. Here are some of the more interesting points brought up at the sessions I attended:

American Heritage Chocolate - Photo Courtesy of American Heritage Chocolate

American Heritage Chocolate – Photo Courtesy of American Heritage Chocolate

Mechanizing Cacao: Processing the Food of the Gods

— At least 12 pieces of equipment are needed for the various stages of processing cacao – for splitting open the pods and removing the beans; fermenting and sorting the beans; roasting and grinding the beans, etc.,

— A metate is a slab – a stone-age technology – that’s still used today in some areas, such as rural parts of Guatemala, to grind cacao.

— Cacao production is one of the few areas which benefits from industrial processing.  A finer grinding of cacao can lead to chocolate with a smoother mouth feel.

— However, in an opposing trend, a division of Mars, Incorporated, American Heritage Chocolate, eschews high technology to produce its chocolate.  Instead it uses the technology and raw products that were available to the American colonists.  Consequently it’s a coarser texture chocolate. And some artisan chocolatiers today also produce chocolate with a coarser texture.

 

Baklava Brought in for Attendees of the Thousand and One Layers Panel

Attendees of the Tales of a Thousand and One Layers Panel Were Able to Sample Baklava

Tales of a Thousand and One Layers (Baklava)

— The layering of pastry originated in Central Asia.

— Baklava pieces are often diamond-shaped but can take other shapes such as rectangles. The pieces are cut before being baked.

— Baklava is extremely labor-intensive.  It’s all about the thinness of the dough. And the rolling out of the paper-thin layers requires much practice and precision, not to mention upper body strength.  As part of the rolling process, each of the layers is rolled back on to the rolling pin.  

  

Technology of Cake

— A quote (from Rachel Laudanum) was repeated- “Cake is America’s gift to the world.”  What people think of as cake is American cake.  It had its origins in the 16th century as a yeast cake.

— A hoop was used to help shape cake but it was difficult use.

— One of the most important technological advances that made butter cake easier and faster to produce was baking powder.

 

The Future is Now: The Brave New Worlds of 3-D Printing, Outer Space and Non-Thermal Technologies

— Americans waste 40 pounds of food per person each year.

— That’s why food technologies such as HPP (high pressure processing) and UV (ultraviolet light) are important. These technologies make foods safer and extend their life.

— HPP: foods in their final packaging are inserted in a machine and subject to very high pressure. Food suitable for HPP are coconut water, cold-pressed juices, etc.

— UV light: microorganisms are killed after their DNA absorbs the light energy. Fruit juices are very well suited to UV light treatment.  

  Modernist Cuisine: A Dialogue

— Wylie Dufresne started his restaurant, WD-50, because he wanted a place where he could continue his culinary education. He believes that while there’s no one right way to cook, if you understand the variables impacting cooking, you can make more informed cooking decisions. Wylie thinks you can learn a lot about frozen foods from Clarence Birdseye.

 The Roger Smith Food + Technology Conference provided much food for thought!

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Babka

Eli's Chocolate an Raisin Nut Babkas (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Eli's

Eli’s Chocolate and Raisin Nut Babkas (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Eli’s

Babka is a sweet yeast cake that’s quite adaptable. According to King Arthur Flour and The New York Times, Babka (or Baba) is commonly served on Easter Sunday in many Eastern European countries and is typically baked in a fluted round tube pan.  An Americanized Eastern European Jewish version, filled with cinnamon or chocolate and topped with streusel is more like a coffee cake.  It’s often baked in a loaf pan and while it’s not a Chanukah dish, it’s often served at Chanukah.

How popular is Babka?

Zucker Bakery's Chocolate Babka

Zucker Bakery’s Chocolate Babka (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Zucker Bakery

Melissa Feit, a baker and co-owner of New York-based Zucker Bakery, reports “Our [Chocolate] Babka has always been a bakery favorite, but it recently became more popular due to an article written about it on the Serious Eats blog.  Since then, our production has greatly increased.  We’ve talked about adding more varieties in the near future (possibly including Orange, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, etc.).  As far as trends, the weekends become busy when people partake in brunches.  And of course, holidays!”

And when both Chocolate and Cinnamon are in the Babka line-up, which is more popular?

Greens & Ackermans' Round Cinnamon Babka (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Greens & Ackermans

Greens & Ackermans’ Round Cinnamon Babka (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Greens & Ackermans

At Greens & Ackermans, a bakery based in New York with online sales, Chocolate is the more popular Babka variety.  Both the Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka are available in different sizes – ranging from a Mini to a Full-Size Loaf to an even larger Round Babka.  And Greens is experimenting with new Babka flavors.  An interesting trend relayed by Greens:  Babka is becoming increasingly popular for corporate gifts.

How has Babka been gussied up?

Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery

Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Breads Bakery

New York-based Breads Bakery has won acclaim for its Chocolate Babka.  What’s in it?  Nutella and Chocolate Chips.  Breads Bakery’s Uri Scheft said he likes taking classic pastries and putting his unique twist on them.  For the Jewish New Year he adds apple to Babka.  (Note: on the Jewish New Year, apples are often dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a Happy New Year.)  And around special holidays Uri has added other ingredients, such as halvah (a sweet confection made of crushed sesame seeds and honey) to Babka.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Breads Bakery.)

I’d love to see a Babka with White Chocolate, but then again I love White Chocolate!

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Carrot Cake

Extraordinary Carrot Cake from Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Extraordinary Desserts

Extraordinary Carrot Cake from Extraordinary Desserts (San Diego, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Extraordinary Desserts

 

I like Carrot Cake.  I really do.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that Carrot Cake is a bit like a chameleon.  Since Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, Carrot Cake is sometimes viewed as a “health food.”  And certainly some recipes for Carrot Cake call for modest amounts of oil or butter and sugar.  (Perhaps they’re more Carrot Tea Loafs than Carrot Cakes).   But traditional Carrot Cake is usually quite rich and sweet — and is often made even more delectable and decadent with a cream cheese frosting and filling.   Yet even these rich Carrot Cakes are still covered by a “health food halo.”  In fact, according to Sylvia Lovegren, author of Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, in the 1970s especially, Carrot Cake was found at many health food restaurants.

Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes by Sylvia Weinstock with Kate Manchester - Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes by Sylvia Weinstock with Kate Manchester – Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

And in keeping with the Jekyll & Hyde aspect of Carrot Cake, this “health food” is the centerpiece of many celebrations.  A recipe for Carrot Cake appears in “Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes” by Sylvia Weinstock, noted wedding cake master baker and decorator.

So, how popular is Carrot Cake?

 

Carrot Cake from Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop

Carrot Cake from Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Buttercup Bake Shop

Nathaly Abreu, Director of Operations for New York City-based Buttercup Bake Shop said “Our Carrot Cake has gotten more popular through the years.  It seems to be that one Cake that everyone comes in asking for. We do make Carrot Cupcakes for special order and if there are extras, we do sell them to our walk-in customers.  Seems to me that Carrot Cake is giving Red Velvet Cake a run for the money.”  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Red Velvet Cake.)

 

A Slice of Super Chunky Carrot Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery

A Slice of Super Chunky Carrot Cake from Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery

According to Lynn Magnoli, owner of Icing on the Cake Bakery in Los Gatos, California, “Carrot Cake has been on the Icing on the Cake Bakery menu since day one, 29 years now.  It has not lost popularity.”  It’s the Bakery’s third most popular Cake (behind Fresh Banana and Chocolate Buttermilk).   Known officially as Super Chunky Carrot, this Carrot Cake is studded with raisins and walnuts.

Cookies from Renaissance Confections (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Renaissance Confections

Cookies from Renaissance Confections (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Renaissance Confections

Renaissance Confections, based in New York City, is known for its Carrot Cake.  Renaissance’s founder, Debonda Kay, also thinks Carrot Cake is becoming more popular. “It seems to be everyone’s favorite Cake, and customers can’t get enough of it in any form.  We do sell Carrot Cake Cookies — regular ones as well as gluten-free, fat-free and vegan.” Renaissance Confections also sells Carrot Cupcakes.

Two Varieties of Carrot Cupcakes from Carrot Cake by Mike (Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting) - Photo Courtesy of Carrot Cake by Mike (Seattle, WA)

Two Varieties of Carrot Cupcakes from Carrot Cake by Mike (Orange Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting) – Photo Courtesy of Carrot Cake by Mike (Seattle, WA)

Mike of Seattle-based Carrot Cake by Mike also thinks Carrot Cake is becoming more popular.  “When I started this adventure I thought there would be a small cult following of Carrot Cake purists, but I am amazed at how many people tell me that Carrot Cake is their absolute favorite Cake…”  He reports that his most popular Carrot Cake is the 8″ Double Layer Round Cake.  “I find that the majority of our individual orders are to families wanting to celebrate the birthday of the Carrot Cake connoisseur of the group.  Our 8″ Cake is perfect for 10 – 12 servings and when you make it a double layer those servings are quite generous.” Of the various frosting varieties, the Traditional Cream Cheese frosting is definitely the most popular but people also request the Lemon Cream Cheese frosting and the Coconut Cream Cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake-cup from Bee's Knees Baking Co. (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Bee's Knees Baking Co.

Carrot Cake-cup from Bee’s Knees Baking Co. (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Bee’s Knees Baking Co.

Carrot Cake doesn’t have to look like Carrot Cake.  New York City-based Bee’s Knees Baking Co. creates portable Cakes, known as Cake-cups.  A Carrot Cake-cup is on the menu and Billy Mayer of Bee’s Knees said that spring brings increased demand for the Carrot variety.

I think it’s time for a slice of “healthy” Carrot Cake!

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Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal Scotchie Cookie from Schmackary's Cookies (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of Schmackary's Cookies

Oatmeal Scotchie Cookie from Schmackary’s Cookies (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of Schmackary’s Cookies

Oatmeal Cookies aren’t showy or glamorous.  And in a Cookie tray I suspect they’re often passed over for Brownies or Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (I’d actually lunge for the Oatmeal Cookie, but not if the alternatives involved White Chocolate Chunks or Chips.)

I wanted to find out what varieties of Oatmeal Cookies are available and how loyal a following they have. Here’s the Oatmeal Cookie roundup:

Bluebird Bakers' Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies (Portland, OR) - Photo Courtesy of Bluebird Bakers

Bluebird Bakers’ Browned Butter Oatmeal Cookies (Portland, OR) – Photo Courtesy of Bluebird Bakers

Chickie Massa, of Bluebird Bakers in Portland, Oregon, notes: “Our Browned Butter Oatmeal is our second most popular Cookie, coming right on the heels of our Chocolate Chunk with Sea Salt.  We probably sell close to 1500 of them a week, between our wholesale and retail outlets. It is and will be the only Oatmeal Cookie that we offer because I just don’t think I could come up with another one that would be as popular!  I don’t know if Oatmeal Cookies are increasing in popularity overall, but demand for the Browned Butter Oatmeal that we make has increased at a steady pace over the years.”

Lark Cake Shop (Los Angeles, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Lark Cake Shop

Lark Cake Shop (Los Angeles, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Lark Cake Shop

Three Oatmeal Cookies are in the lineup at Lark Cake Shop in Los Angeles: Cranberry Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal, and Golden Oatmeal.  The most popular?  Golden Oatmeal.

Anzac Cookies (with Chef Timers) from Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA) - Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery

Anzac Cookies (with Chef Timers) from Icing on the Cake Bakery (Los Gatos, CA) – Photo Courtesy of Icing on the Cake Bakery

Icing on the Cake Bakery in Los Gatos, California offers an assortment of Oatmeal Cookies: an Oatmeal Raisin with Walnuts Cookie, an Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookie, an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie, an Anzac Cookie, and an Oatmeal Raisin Cream Sandwich Cookie.  Lynn Magnoli, owner of Icing on the Cake, said that Oatmeal Raisin with Walnuts is her most popular Oatmeal Cookie. It’s classic and a top seller, and always has been.  When I asked about the popularity of Oatmeal, Lynn remarked “The great thing about Oatmeal is the texture.  It will always be a staple ingredient of classic American baked goods.”

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from Nielsen's Pastries (Seattle, WA) - Photo Courtesy of Nielsen's Pastries

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from Nielsen’s Pastries (Seattle, WA) – Photo Courtesy of Nielsen’s Pastries

At Nielsen’s Pastries in Seattle, Washington, Oatmeal fans can chose between an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and a Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie.  Purists can rejoice—the Oatmeal Raisin is more popular.

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from August First Bakery (Burlington, VT) - Photo Courtesy of August First Bakery

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from August First Bakery (Burlington, VT) – Photo Courtesy of August First Bakery

Jodi Whalen of August First Bakery in Burlington, Vermont replies: “Our Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is very popular and we find that there is a population of people who really, really love them. We actually haven’t thought about trying other varieties, but now that you mention it, it might be worth a go (White Chocolate & Cherry?).  I haven’t seen an upswing or trend in Oatmeal Cookies here in Vermont.  However, we do sell a lot of homemade granola (hot, cold, and by the pound) and our new Apple Crisp, topped with our granola, flies off the shelf. So yes, maybe there is a rise in Oat consumption?”

Oatmeal Cookies (center) from Rosie's Bakery (MA) - Photo Courtesy of Rosie's Bakery

Oatmeal Cookies (center) from Rosie’s Bakery (Massachusetts) – Photo Courtesy of Rosie’s Bakery

Judy Rosenberg of Massachusetts-based Rosie’s Bakery, said the Oatmeal Cookie is very popular.  Although it’s made with all natural ingredients, she’s trying out a healthier version with whole grain flour, coconut oil instead of butter, and turbinado sugar instead of regular sugar.  Judy thinks a key trend is finding ways to make healthier (but still delicious) versions of our favorite treats.

Schmackary's Cookies in New York, NY - Photo Courtesy of Schmackary's Cookies

Schmackary’s Cookies in New York, NY – Photo Courtesy of Schmackary’s Cookies

New York City-based Schmackary’s Cookies is no stranger to Oatmeal Cookies.  Flavors are rotated and current Oatmeal offerings include an Oatmeal Scotchie and a Chunky Monkey. Other Oatmeal flavors include: Caramel Apple Crisp; Blueberry Cobbler; Yogi Bare (vegan & gluten-free); White Chocolate Cherry Chunker; and Red, White and Blue. The most popular Oatmeal Cookie?  The Oatmeal Scotchie.  Zachary Schmahl, Owner/Creator/Cookie Master, explained “Oatmeal Cookies are definitely an area where I’ve been focusing my energy lately on coming up with more flavors.”

Cookies from OatMeals (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of OatMeals

Cookies from OatMeals (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of OatMeals

OatMeals, in New York City, is an Oatmeal bar.  In addition to bowls of Oatmeal, the cafe also sells baked goods made with Oatmeal.  These Oatmeal Cookies are sold every day:  Lemon Ginger Oatmeal; Old Fashioned Iced Oatmeal; Chocolate Chip Oatmeal; Classic Oatmeal Raisin; and Iced Pumpkin Oatmeal.  The two favorite Cookies are the Iced Pumpkin Oatmeal and the Chocolate Chip Oatmeal.  Samantha Stephens, Chef/Owner of OatMeals said “I think Oatmeal is having a revival/resurgence and I’m happy to be spearheading a lot of this movement.”

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Uncle Chips (Washington D.C.) - Photo Courtesy of Uncle Chips

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Uncle Chip’s (Washington D.C.) – Photo Courtesy of Uncle Chips

An Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is on the menu at Uncle Chip’s in Washington D.C.  Shannon of Uncle Chip’s mentioned that people “are surprised by how much they like Oatmeal Raisin once they try it.  Some of them stick with it, too.  I think a lot of what people eat has to do with habits and what they did as children.  I had one customer this morning who told me he’s just always been an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie eater and there’s no other way.”

Captain Cookie & the Milkman Logo (Washington D.C.) - Image Courtesy of Captain Cookie & the Milkman

Captain Cookie & the Milkman Logo (Washington D.C.) – Image Courtesy of Captain Cookie & the Milkman

Who says you have to walk into a bakery or a restaurant to satisfy your fix for Oatmeal Cookies?  Captain Cookie & the Milkman, in Washington D.C., operates Cookie, Ice Cream, and Milk trucks.  The Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is a big draw and some people come to the trucks for that Cookie only.  Oatmeal Cookie specials include Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin with Black Pepper.  When customers order Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream Sandwiches they most often order Vanilla or Black Cherry Ice Cream as the filling for their Sandwiches.

 

 

A Salted Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich from Sweet Wheels (Seattle, WA) - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Wheels

A Salted Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich from Sweet Wheels (Seattle, WA) – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Wheels

 

Sweet Wheels also sells handmade ice cream sandwiches through a truck.  You can get Ice Cream Sandwiches with Salted Oatmeal Cookies.  And the Salted Oatmeal Sandwiches are quite popular with the regulars.  Ron of Sweet Wheels says “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 Sandwich is first.”

I had no idea there were so many varieties of Oatmeal Cookies!  Clearly, I need to expand my horizons!

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Red Velvet Cake and Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cake from the Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC) - Photo Courtesy of the Buttercup Bake Shop

Red Velvet Cake from the Buttercup Bake Shop (NYC) – Photo Courtesy of the Buttercup Bake Shop

With red cake and white frosting (usually cream cheese), Red Velvet Cake and Cupcakes are some of the most striking of desserts.

Although Red Velvet Cake is often thought of as a Southern specialty, its origin may be a little murkier. According to Colman Andrews, author of The Taste of America, Red Velvet Cake was popular at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in the 1920’s. This might be before it was enjoyed in the South.

How do you get the cake to turn red? Typically red food coloring.  However a pigment in cocoa powder (an integral Red Velvet component) helps the red hue along, especially when mixed with acidic ingredients.

Red Velvet is certainly a showy dessert, but is it a popular one?  The answer seems to be “yes.”

Red Velvet Cake from SusieCakes Bakeries (Northern and Southern California)  - Photo Courtesy of SusieCakes Bakeries

Red Velvet Cake from SusieCakes Bakeries (Northern and Southern California) – Photo Courtesy of SusieCakes Bakeries


Susie, of SusieCakes Bakeries, located in both Southern and Northern California, said  her Red Velvet Cake and Cupcakes are extremely popular.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Bumblebee Bakeshop (San Francisco) - Photo Courtesy of Bumblebee Bakeshop

Red Velvet Cupcake from Bumblebee Bakeshop (San Francisco) – Photo Courtesy of Bumblebee Bakeshop


Red Velvet Cupcakes and Cake are so popular, they’re the top seller for the Bumblebee Bakeshop, based in San Francisco.

Red Velvet Cake from Ruggles Café Bakery (Houston) - Photo Courtesy of Ruggles Café Bakery

Red Velvet Cake from Ruggles Café Bakery (Houston) – Photo Courtesy of Ruggles Café Bakery

 Houston-based Ruggles Cafe Bakery offers 30 different desserts on a daily basis. And Red Velvet Cake is one of the 10 most ordered desserts at the bakery.  Ruggles’ Alexia Nino speculates that one of the reasons Red Velvet is so well liked is the frosting “….. the general crowd is looking to get their cream cheese frosting fix…”

The Cheesecake Factory's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake, Distributed by Harry & David - Photo as Seen On the Web Sites of Both Companies

The Cheesecake Factory’s Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake, Distributed by Harry & David – Photo as Seen on the Web Sites of Both Companies

 Of the many different Cheesecakes offered by the Cheesecake Factory, Harry & David distributes 9 different ones.  It’s probably safe to assume these are the 9 most popular flavors.  And yes, you guessed it, Red Velvet Cheesecake is in this group of 9.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance Posting on Cheesecake.)

Blue Dot Donuts' Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Donuts (donuts to the left) - Photo Courtesy of Blue Dot Donuts

Blue Dot Donuts’ Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Donuts (New Orleans) – Photo Courtesy of Blue Dot Donuts

 What’s more, Red Velvet is not restricted to Cake and Cupcakes.  Blue Dot Donuts in New Orleans offers a Red Velvet and Cream Cheese Donut.  “Red Velvet Cake” is a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor, complete with Red Velvet Cake pieces and a Cream Cheese Frosting Swirl.  You can find plenty of recipes for Red Velvet Cookies – usually with a Cream Cheese Frosting or Filling.

 Let’s hear it for showy desserts!

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Muffins

A Nilla Zilla Cuffin (Vanilla with Pudding and Bananas) from Zayna Bakes (Chicago) - Photo Courtesy of Zayna Bakes

A Nilla Zilla (Vanilla with Pudding and Bananas) “Cuffin” from Zayna Bakes (Chicago) – Photo Courtesy of Zayna Bakes

I think I’m cheating a bit with this posting.  Strictly speaking, I think Muffins belong in a Breakfast category (and I’ve scarfed down many a Muffin for “Breakfast”). However since the Muffins I’m interested in are sweet and not savory, let’s bend the rules and include them in this Dessert Blog.

Tisserie's Zucchini Cream Cheese Muffins

Tisserie’s Zucchini Cream Cheese Muffins

When you think of “Muffin” do you think of a Blueberry Muffin only?  Blueberry Muffins are very popular and they’re the best selling Muffins for Tisserie, a wholesaler/retailer of baked goods.  However, Tisserie’s Ronald Harrar reports that more exotic varieties— such as the Zucchini Cream Cheese Muffin— are also very good sellers.  And he noted that while Muffins are very popular, Scones are becoming more and more popular.  Not surprisingly, a recently introduced Blueberry Scone has been well received.

Fresh Flours' Green Tea & Azuki Red Bean Muffin (muffin in the front)

Fresh Flours’ Green Tea & Azuki Red Bean Muffin (Muffin in the Front)

And talking about exotic Muffin varieties, the Japanese-inspired Green Tea & Azuki Red Bean Muffin is Fresh Flours’ signature and most popular muffin.  Less adventurous Muffin enthusiasts can enjoy Fresh Flours’ Blueberry, Lemon Ginger or Raspberry Oat Muffins.

Nutella Bella Cuffin from Zayna Bakes

Nutella Bella Cuffin from Zayna Bakes

If you can’t decide between a Muffin and a Cookie, you can have both if you bite into Zayna Bakes’ Cuffins, a cross between Muffins and Cookies.  The most popular Cuffin is the Nutella® Bella— a treat with both Peanut butter and Nutella®.  The Cuffin was created by accident; Zayna Salloum ran out of flat baking sheets and put Cookie dough in a Muffin tin. Zayna thinks she’s the only baker offering a Cuffin, but she’s heard of a Duffin—- a cross between a Muffin and a Doughnut.

Mind Your Muffin's Lemon Poppy Muffins

Mind Your Muffin’s Lemon Poppy Muffins

Muffins are generally not known as health foods.  After all, they are little Cakes (or in the case of Cuffins, Cookies).   However some companies are meeting the growing demand for healthier Muffins.  One such bakery is Mind Your Muffin.  Its Muffins contain whole grains, have no artificial preservatives or trans fats and are low in carbs and sugar.  The most popular Mind Your Muffin product is the Lemon Poppy Muffin.  And for customers adhering to a Paleo diet, gluten-free and grain-free Muffins, known as Cave Bites, are offered.

A Williams-Sonoma Muffin Pan

A Williams-Sonoma Muffin Pan

Of course, you can always whip up your own Muffins.  They’re easy to make.  And with different sizes (and shapes) of Muffin pans, you can bake:  Mini Muffins; Texas Muffins (extra-large Muffins); Muffin Tops; and of course Regular Muffins.  Enjoy!

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Brownies and Blondies – Part 2

Chocolate Chip Blondies from Cake and the Beanstalk

Chocolate Chip Blondies from Cake and the Beanstalk

At the end of November, 2013, I investigated the popularity of Brownies vs. Blondies. (See the November 23rd Brownies and Blondies posting.) This was an eye opener for me. Before I conducted this research, I was convinced Brownies were more popular than Blondies. Surprisingly, my research seemed to refute this. But some interesting questions remained. Are Blondies a New York thing? Were Blondies more popular because the companies I spoke to were based in New York (even though they ship their goodies nationwide)?

I’m trying to answer these questions now. And that’s why I’m obtaining information from non-New York-based bakeries/restaurants.

A sign in Cake and the Beanstalk

A sign in Cake and the Beanstalk

Dan Klein, owner of Cake and the Beanstalk, a Philadelphia-based coffee bar/bakery said his Blondies are about twice as popular as his Brownies (walnut and plain combined). Blondies are available with mix-ins, and the most popular mix-in is Oreo cookies, followed by Butterfinger bars. Dan indicates that Brownie sales come closer to Blondie sales during the colder months. A sign in Cake and the Beanstalk, above, reflects the popularity of his Blondies—and after a snack of iced coffee and Blondies, I too feel that I can conquer the world!

However, as you’ll see below, bakeries/restaurants in other parts of the country appear to be much more Brownie-oriented.

Goodies from Sweets for the Soul

Goodies from Sweets for the Soul

Los Angeles-based Sweets for the Soul offers 13 kinds of Brownies. According to owner, Lilly LaBonge, the bakery is passionate about chocolate and uses Valrhona chocolate in its Brownies. The most popular Brownie is its Salted Caramel Brownie, with house-made salted caramel. A Blondie, with toasted pecans and white chocolate is available for customers that who don’t want to eat regular chocolate.

A Fudge Brownie from the Corner Bakery Cafe

A Fudge Brownie from the Corner Bakery Cafe

Corner Bakery Café is a nationwide chain of cafes offering baked goods, breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, pastas, and soups and the company’s corporate headquarters is in Dallas.  Two varieties of Brownies are on the line-up: Fudge and Cream Cheese. The Fudge Brownie is the more popular Brownie and in fact it’s one of Corner Bakery Cafe’s top three best-selling sweets. Seasonal flavors round out the offerings. The Sweets menu is Blondie-free.

Cream Cheese Brownies from Piece of Cake in Georgia

Cream Cheese Brownies from Piece of Cake in Georgia

To obtain a slightly larger sample size, I looked at the web sites of 16 bakeries.  These bakeries are located in: Arizona; California; Georgia; Illinois; Maine; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Nevada; Pennsylvania; Oregon; and Texas. 

Of these bakeries:

— 12 offered Brownies but no Blondies

— 3 offered Brownies and Blondies, but the line-up was skewed toward Brownies

— 1 offered Brownies and Blondies, but the line-up was skewed toward Blondies

What to make of this? It appears as though the Brownie is the winner, nationwide, although there are pockets of Blondie fans. And of course, since my sample size is small, it’s impossible to draw definitive conclusions.

However, to show my allegiance to Blondies, I think I’ll enjoy one tonight. 

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