Category Archives: The Sweet Scoop

Vosges Chocolates And Swedish Bakery Breads


WHO DOESN’T LOVE CHOCOLATE ?
AND WHO DOESN’T
LOVE FRESH BAKED BREAD?

When it comes to chocolate, Chicago based Vosges Haut-Chocolat is on a mission is to create a luxury chocolate experience rooted in a sensory journey, bringing about awareness to indigenous cultures through the exploration of spices, herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, nuts, chocolate and the obscure. Vosges explores the many cultures, artists and theories of the world’s people through the medium of chocolate. Owner/Chocolatier Katrina Markoff personally chooses every spice, flower and chocolate brought into the Vosges Chicago kitchen.


DID YOU KNOW? Most truffles average $2.50-$3.00 each. But if you’re lucky, you can snag a box of 16 truffles for $16, every once in a while! Vosges has strict quality control but accidents happen! And a truffle may get bruised a little here or dented a little there, a nut may fall off the top…when they get 16 of those that don’t make the best of the best, they are boxed up and sold at a reduced rate. So of course, available quanities vary. Vosges has two locations here in town –


Chicago – Downtown 520 N. Michigan Avenue 312.644.9450
Chicago – Lincoln Park 951 W. Armitage 773.296.9866
(Also available in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace, in SOHO in New York City, and select Neiman Marcus stores).





Located in Andersonville, Swedish Bakery began in the late 1920’s. That’s some history! Traditional Swedish products continue to be made, as well as an infusion of other European and old fashioned American items are produced at this neighborhood institution. Pies, cakes, cookies, breads! It’s all here. Fresh baked warm bread melts in my mouth! But you can also catch some great deals here on day-old and two day-old breads, coffee cakes, and sweet rolls. Bread gets reduced to just $1 and sweet rolls and coffee cakes can be reduced from 25% – 50% off!


Swedish Bakery 5348 N. Clark, Andersonville, 773-561-8919



Michael Snell
Derrick Sorles
Best of the Best Dining Chicago

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SWIRLZ CUPCAKES LINCOLN PARK




THE COOKING GODDESS DIPS INTO CUPCAKES!


Lincoln Park is known for great places to eat, eclectic and unique stores and beautiful two and three flat buildings on shady tree lined streets. Now, it’s also known for sumptuous cupcakes!


Just off Lincoln Avenue on Belden, Swirlz Cupcakes is owned by Four Unlikely Friends who turned a love of the tasty treats into a flourishing business. Cupcakes are now “hot” all across the country – due in part to boomer nostalgia and the insatiable human need for a daily treat.


Pastry Chef Jeremy Sher’s passion for cupcake perfection is reflected in the use of top shelf ingredients such as Euro style butter, premium French chocolate and Italian buttercream frosting.


There’s not only love and beauty in the cupcakes – they also make their way across the street to Children’s Memorial Hospital. These treats always put a smile on the faces of children and their parents – a welcome oasis from daily adversity. The cupcakes are made fresh every day, so any unsold cakes also are donated to Deborah’s Women’s Shelter, the 18th District Fire Department, and other local non-profit organizations. This community good will attracts more customers! There’s such loyalty to “the goodness” of Swirlz that people often board flights at O’Hare with a box or two of cupcake comfort in hand.


One of the unique aspects of Swirlz is their Gluten Free (GF) offerings. For those with this allergy, the search for food products that taste good becomes an obsessive quest. Customers come from as far as Wisconsin and Iowa to buy the flavorful treats. They are rice-flour based, moist and cakey. The GF cupcakes are available every day (with a different flavor each day). GF Flavors include Chocolate Grasshopper Mint, Lemon Twist and Chocolate Peanut Butter.


Swirlz has reduced sugar cake offerings every day, flavors include chocolate on Vanilla, Chinese 5-Spice and Lemon on Chocolate – a “Weight Watchers friendly” cupcake that will only cost you 4.5 – 5.5 of your daily points!


My friend Julie and I sampled the red velvet, carrot, chocolate, vanilla and the “surprise” cupcake of the day, mango. My personal favorites were the vanilla, carrot and red velvet. What’s interesting about these cupcakes is that the overall taste of the two key components is not “overwhelmed” by sweetness, as many cupcakes can be. The cake itself is rich, moist and dense. The two fabulous frostings: buttercream and the cream cheese based are silky smooth. The depth of the quality ingredients is apparent by taking the time to really taste each frosting. One is tempted to lick off all the frosting and go for more. The cream cheese frosting (which I confess is traditionally not my favorite) – is a perfect accompaniment to both the carrot and red velvet offerings.- It is blended with whipped Italian Buttercream!


Swirlz can produce cupcakes for catered events, weddings and showers. Traditional size cupcakes are $3 each, with mini’s priced at $1. Minis are made only for special events. Swirlz even delivers!





Chef Jeremy Sher was kind enough to share this recipe with us:


Swirlz Lemon Curd


Yield: approx. 1 cup


Egg yolks 3      
Whole eggs 1       
Sugar 4.5 oz (½ cup + 1 T)      
Fresh squeezed lemon juiceLemon zest 3 oz (2-3 lemons)From 1 lemon      
Unsalted butter, melted 2 oz (4 T)      


 


1.Whisk all ingredients together in a glass or stainless bowl just until combined.
2.Make a double boiler by placing bowl over a pot of simmering water (do not let boil) and stir occasionally for approximately 20-30 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. It should coat the back of a spoon evenly when tested.
3.Strain and let cool (discard the zest).
4.Store in fridge for up to 1 week. Use on top of cupcakes, inside layer cakes or even on toast or pancakes in the morning. Enjoy!


BY LAURA HANSEN – THE COOKING GODDESS

Best of the Best Dining in Chicago

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BitterSweet Bakery in Chicago – Great Desserts



This cute little shop on Belmont, draws rave reviews!


Opened in the summer of 1992, this sunny pastry shop has become a landmark in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Fresh, delicate pastries and breakfast breads, to miniature lemon meringue tarts to fancy decorated cookies and cakes. All day long, neighborhood regulars dash in or hang out for a quick bite!


Small tables scattered around the bright, comfortable and a bit romantic space. Wedding cakes are a specialty here! And they even delivery to the reception, free of charge! You can custom design anything   from a traditional tier cake topped with red roses to simple almond-butter cake filled with espresso-milk chocolate mousse. To die for sweet endings are the big draw here, Bittersweet also does a bustling lunch business; favorites include their quiche and also ham and cheese croissants and homemade soups like roast tomato and potato-leek and carrot jalapeno.


1114 W. Belmont  (773) 929-1100


Best of the Best Dining Restaurants and Food ChicagoMichael Snell

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Chicago Brides Agree on the Sweetest Wedding Cake

 



If your like most brides in Chicago planning a summer wedding, hopefully you have already secured your cake or are tasting now!

Taste is subjective, I know.

However, when many people agree something is great,
 it pretty much is  great!






 


Enter Sarah’s Pastries & Cakes.

11 Oak Street, Chicago.

Confectioner SARAH LEVY, the 25-year old sweet queen who is probably best known for her custom-made-candy but lately, more and more brides are turning to her for their wedding cakes.



The master of the Kitchen-Aid mixer says,”They are the ultimate example of the joy that sweets can bring to someone’s life.” Sarah, who has been written up in several magazines and the topic of a couple broadcast news programs, uses luscious fillings that range from traditional chocolate mousse to pumpkin creme brulee. And if you haven’t got a cake yet for your big day, don’t fret; while two weeks notice is preferred, I am told SOMETIMES, Levy can whip up something fabulous in a couple days!


 


It’s all about FRESH and high quality ingredients! “We roast fresh pecans to use in our batters, fillings are made with real Madigascar Vanilla beans and carmel that is freshly made in the shop, as opposed to using carmel flavored syrups.” said Levy. Wedding cakes range $500-$700, and they’ll serve 100 people.




Best of the Best Dining Chicago

Michael  Snell

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THE COOKING GODDESS Inspires “TWO-GETHERNESS” on Valentines Day

By: Laura Hansen

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
Craig Claiborne, Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer


If you want to spend just a little time with that special someone in the kitchen on Valentines Day (or any other day for that matter), consider whipping up some crème brulee. It’s one of life’s perfect foods for many reasons. Can you think of any circumstance where you’ve tasted crème brulee and started to frown? I am always speechless when the creamy inside and crusty sugar meet my mouth!

The first time I experienced crème brulee was on a Holland America cruise ship. With much pageantry, a large cluster of white coated waiters descended from the kitchen and placed the dessert gift in front of us. That first experience is still vivid. I asked our waiter if I could have a second, and he dutifully obliged. Why is crème brule the PERFECT dish to make with your main squeeze? Well, of course, aside from the taste, it’s the blow torch. Although your special man hopefully will participate in all aspects of whipping up the dish, firing up that blow torch and seeing that raw sugar bubble and melt takes one back to being in the chemistry lab. I am sending along two options. The Expresso Crème Brulee should keep the two of you awake for a night of passion. The chocolate offering just adds the right amount of decadence to make the evening even more special………….


Espresso Crème Brûlée   From Debra Fioritto Weber,
Recipe courtesy of: French Food Creme Brulee


•1 cup whole espresso coffee beans
•1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
•3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•pinch of salt
•4 large egg yolks
 •1/4 cup sugar, divided



CHOCOLATE CRÈME BRULEE    Recipe courtesy Paula Deen


1 quart heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1- ounce chocolate liqueur (recommended: Godiva Liqueur)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ounces cocoa powder
1-ounce unsweetened chocolate
11 large egg yolks


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


In a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add the heavy cream, sugar, liqueur, and vanilla. When the mixture is warm add the cocoa powder and chocolate and whisk until blended.


Place the egg yolks in a large stainless steel bowl.


Slowly add the warm chocolate mixture to the eggs a little at a time while whisking. Strain and pour into individual porcelain ramekins.


Place the ramekins in a large baking pan.


Pour enough hot water into the pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins.


Bake until firm in the center, about 30 minutes.


Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool completely.


Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Dust with sugar and caramelize with a propane torch. Serve immediately.

Best of the best Dining Restaurants Food Wine Chicago

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BitterSweet Bakery on Belmont



This cute little shop on Belmont, draws rave reviews!


Opened in the summer of 1992, this sunny pastry shop has become a landmark in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Fresh, delicate pastries and breakfast breads, to miniature lemon meringue tarts to fancy decorated cookies and cakes. All day long, neighborhood regulars dash in or hang out for a quick bite!


Small tables scattered around the bright, comfortable and a bit romantic space. Wedding cakes are a specialty here! And they even delivery to the reception, free of charge! You can custom design anything   from a traditional tier cake topped with red roses to simple almond-butter cake filled with espresso-milk chocolate mousse. To die for sweet endings are the big draw here, Bittersweet also does a bustling lunch business; favorites include their quiche and also ham and cheese croissants and homemade soups like roast tomato and potato-leek and carrot jalapeno.


1114 W. Belmont  (773) 929-1100


Best of the Best Dining Restaurants and Food ChicagoMichael Snell

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The Experience of Flan Best Flan Recipe


By: Laura Hansen
FLAN…………by any other name


 


“I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, and not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.”
Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet) 1960s


 


A few days ago, my friend Dawn and I treated ourselves to a long, luscious lunch. The week between Christmas and New Years continues to be decadent, and this lunch was chock full of that. She picked a winner – The Red Light  Randolph Street. Executive Chef Jackie Shen is one of the “50 best chefs in Chicago” and has been anointed the “Lady of Fusion.” We sampled lobster rolls, five spice pork ribs, calamari salad, steak infused with a variety of Asian spices, and fiery wasabi mashed potatoes were readily shared and gobbled up between us. But, somehow, there was still room for dessert.


 


And, what a dessert it was coconut flan – beautiful to the eye first. That first spoonful was a velvety smooth sensation of creaminess and a hint of coconut that provided a depth of subtle, comforting flavor that was truly amazing. On top were a few sumptuous blackberries beautifully anointing the flan. All desserts have been influenced by Pastry Sous Chef Susana Castillo. So, credit is always given when a chef creates magic.


Here’s a close recipe to enjoy. Flan is so very simple


 
Caramel:
2 cups sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Flan:
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Special equipment: 6 (6-ounce) opened and cleaned tuna cans.
Make the Caramel: In a small heavy saucepan bring sugar and
water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup,
without stirring, until golden caramel. Immediately pour some
of the caramel into each tuna can, tilting them to coat the
bottom and sides. Let caramel cool.


(Drizzle any remaining caramel onto a sheet of parchment
or waxed paper in decorative squiggles. Let the squiggles
harden and use them as a garnish for the flan.)


Make the flan: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.


In a large bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk,
eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Divide the mixture among the
tuna cans.


Place the tuna cans in a shallow baking dish and place on
the middle rack in the oven. Pour in enough hot water to
reach halfway up the sides of the cans. Bake the flan until
just set, but still wiggly in the center, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Transfer the flan to a rack and let cool. Chill the flan in the
refrigerator. (The flan can be prepared up to 3 days in advance.)


When ready to serve, dip the cans in a saucepan of hot water.
Using a finger, gently press down the edges of the flan, until
the caramel runs up the side, which indicates that it’s loosened.
Invert each flan onto a plate. Break the caramel squiggles into
pieces and insert them into the top of each flan.


Caramel Coconut Flan: Quesillo –


Recipe courtesy Susanna Goihman, Azafran restaurant, Philadelphia


A LITTLE FLAN HISTORY
Courtesy: Wikipedia
Crème caramel, known as flan in the US and Spanish speaking countries, is a kind of rich custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top. Both names are of French origin. The dish has spread across Europe and the world, and is known as ‘flan’ in Spanish-speaking countries. In the United States, the dish is now best-known in a Latin American context, so is called flan; in Europe, it is generally known as crème caramel, although in the UK it is sometimes colloquially called “caramel custard”.


Best of the Best Food and Wine Chicago

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