Tag Archives: sweets

Kitchen adventures: festive rice krispies treats

Up until last week, I was pretty much a rice krispies treat hater. I’ve always sworn by the fact that stirring cereal into melted butter and marshmallows is a poor excuse for “baking,” and considering they’re chocolate-free, a bite of one of these can be completely forgettable. Then, my friend Natalie gave me the genius idea of switching up the original recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s salted brown butter rendition, using Cocoa Krispies instead of Rice Krispies, and adding orange candy to make something festive for Halloween. When my friend Katie turned to me to say “these are different, and they’re really f*ing good” at the Halloween potluck where I unleashed the finished product, I knew that this American-born baked good and I had turned a new leaf. The opportunities to elevate this simple, three-ingredient classic into a creative and delicious dessert are surprisingly endless. I was blind, but now I see.

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

After the epiphany, I couldn’t wait to try a different variation of the recipe for my friend Leah’s birthday this weekend. And I have to admit I got the inspiration from the adorable ones I saw at SusieCakes, which had specks of fall leaf sprinkles. I altered the Smitten Kitchen recipe only slightly, adding 6 tablespoons as opposed to an entire stick of butter (the original recipe on the cereal box calls for 3), and throwing in festive birthday sprinkles with the cereal. Within minutes I had whipped up a treat that was adorable and absolutely addictive.

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

perfect birthday treats

perfect birthday treats

The recipe can be found here, is very easy to follow, and upgrades the original in a MAJOR way. Any mix-ins should be added with the Rice Krispies so they don’t melt. I suggest cutting with a thin sharp knife, and if you’re really obsessive like me, cutting a millimeter of the outer edge to outfit each square with four perfectly straight edges. I’m so glad I discovered a new go-to, simple recipe for potluck events – I hope you’ll try this!

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Kitchen Adventures, Sugar Surge

SusieCakes: another SF bakery to the rescue

l

Thanks to SusieCakes, I now have a place where I can find the perfect slice of cake – chocolate, red velvet, coconut, or carrot cake-mood alike. The thing that gets me about most cupcake shops is that 1) they limit themselves to cupcakes when they could easily make cakes and 2) the cupcakes are laden with excess, sugary frosting, and 3) they are just too fancy for my taste. SusieCakes stocks their display case with a variety of beautifully frosted treats that are straight forward, homey, and scrumptious. It’s my west coast Amy’s Bread. My favorite? The red velvet mini cupcake, but for any homestyle flavor you’re craving, you really can’t go wrong here. They even sell SF Giants cupcakes.

tiny shop

tiny shop

red velvet

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

Definitely worth a special trip if you’re not in the neighborhood, or check out one of the 8 locations throughout California!

Grade: A+
Location: 2109 Chestnut btwn Steiner and Pierce Streets
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Sugar Surge: Breads Bakery – the most buttery and delicious chocolatey treats

I am a bakery fiend, you should all know that by now. So when I heard about the Breads Bakery opening near Union Square, I put a reminder on my calendar to head there as soon as time allowed. What excited me most about visiting this Israeli-run bakery is the rugelach, crescent-shaped Jewish cookies traditionally made with cream cheese and filled with chocolate or fruit. They’re awesome, and I’ve been eating them since I was sitting in my mom’s grocery cart at Grand Central in SF.

When I went to Breads the $1.50 tiny rugelach was the first thing I purchased. To my surprise, it was hands-down the best, flakiest, chocolatiest rugelach I’ve ever tasted. Most have a very dense, chalky texture, but this one is as light and fluffy as a croissant. The inside is soft, and the outside is golden brown and crispy. Absolutely addicting.

tray of rugelach

tray of rugelach

rugelach

buttery rugelach

The second time around, they were giving samples of their ridiculous triple chocolate chip cookie, which did its job in leaving me no choice but to buy one. I thought I knew the city’s best cookies, but I evidently failed to acknowledge that one of my favorite versions can be found here. The golden crust surrounds a chewy, soft dough layered with milk and dark chocolate rounds. It’s magic.

cookie

cookie

Then, just over the weekend I stopped by for a quick snack while shopping – how could I resist when the sign caught my eye while walking down fifth avenue? I almost went for a savory treat – the cheese sticks are delicious – but I again opted for the sweet chocolate bread. Amy’s Bread makes a wonderful sourdough twist with chunks of dark chocolate. This, however, takes the cake, and while it’s not as rich as a chocolate croissant, it packs the same dark chocolatey punch.

I’m three for three at Breads Bakery – every single chocolate treat I’ve tried has been a score. And with tons of samples for tasting, they’re my favorite type of place! Next time I’m committing to one of the cheese & egg tartlets.

Grade: A+
Location: 18 East 16th Street between 5th Ave and Union Square West
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Filed under Bread Basket Breakdown, Cheap Eat, Sugar Surge, Union Square

Sugar Surge: The Chocolate Nation’s Fudge Truffle Slab

choclateI’ve been to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris and in New York. I scour every country I visit for the local chocolate. I stop by Jacques Torres in Chelsea Market weekly for a $3 work day pick me up. I may be unsure of my destiny, but I don’t hesitate for a second when I profess that I’m the most die-hard chocolate fan I know. As a result, finding a life-changing batch is like scoring gold, and I often like to make sure my loved ones can partake in my addiction.

That brings me here tonight, as I sit with a block of what I think is not only the best chocolate I’ve had in recent history, but some of the most soul-striking chocolate I’ve tasted in my life: The Chocolate Nation’s 1.5 pound dark chocolate and caramel truffle fudge slab. At $50 a pop, I’m lucky enough that the company’s inspiring owner Grace Lissauer, whom I befriended during the holiday gift fair I had planned at Google, was kind enough to give me an entire box as a holiday gift. When I opened the glossy white carton to find the smooth, dense chocolatey brick, I had an immediate flashback of overdosing on samples the day of the event. I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase – the last thing I needed during holiday season’s party-eating-boozing frenzy was a fat block of chocolate in my kitchen. Slippery slope.

But now, I couldn’t be happier that it’s mine. And while you only need a cubic centimeter to satisfy any chocolate craving, I’m hoarding it as if cocoa beans are going extinct tomorrow. Rich truffle fudge stabilizing a thin layer of caramel, all covered in a dense shell of dark chocolate and crunchy pink Hawaiian sea salt becomes a precious, awe-inspiring chocolate that is so uniquely delicious. And the common reaction when I happen to slice a sliver of the slab to share it? People take a bite, their eyes roll around in pleasure, their brows burrow in angst because they want to eat more but their subconscious thinks otherwise, and then they sigh in disbelief of the chocolate’s mesmerizing effect. The way it so beautifully disintegrates in your mouth like a spoonful of rich chocolate frosting makes it as moving as a piece of art.

chocolae

photo from website

photo (1)

my current batch

So before I freak everyone out with my intense descriptions of this tasty chocolate, my advice is to order this online immediately so you can relate. Stick with this despite the fact that The Chocolate Nation’s website offers chocolate from a variety of hand-selected purveyors.  No need to buy the entire $50 block; you can purchase a smaller box of “bites” for just $15. It’s the perfect gift, but I again urge you to buy some for yourself first. It’s like putting the mask on the child before yourself when the plane is going down. It’s essential.

Grade: A++
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Sugar Surge: L’Arte del Gelato

larte del gelato

After a long day’s work and a dinner in the office, I’m often found looking for a sweet treat to reward myself for being both diligent and economical. Tonight, I left on a mission for ice cream and b-lined it to L’Arte del Gelato in Chelsea Market knowing I could get a small, (sort of) guilt-free cup of smooth creamy sweetness. As the only customer in sight at the counter, I took my time to sample a laundry list of flavors including biscotti, chocolate chip, Christmas cake, panna cotta, olive oil, and chocolate. The lady behind the counter surely wanted to hit me with her metal spatula by that time, so I quickly decided on the stracciatella and the biscotti and walked away.

ice cream

colorful flavors

straciatella

stracciatella

The gelato is adorable in its little white cup, but bite after bite, I remained unimpressed. Why does everyone love this place? While the product is sugary, cold, and creamy, it melts in no time and is no more remarkable than what I find at the grocery store. I’m a diehard Grom fan, and after forming an addiction to their round tins of thick, dense pistachio gelato in Florence, I’ve yet to find another gelato that’s just as impressive (though Mario Batali does quite the job at his restaurants). Contrary to what I think, though, people absolutely love this place – it’s constantly touted in the press and on Yelp it has a close-to five star rating. Not to mention that Tom Colichio recently called it out in his SeriousEats Neighborhood Guide.

I may just be more accustomed to a richer, more intensely flavored gelato, but I’ve confirmed that next time I want to drop $5 on a 3oz cup of frozen dessert, I’ll likely buy a carton of chunk-filled Ben & Jerry’s.

Grade: B-
LocationMultiple

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Kitchen Adventures: Saltine Toffee

saltine toffee fresh out of the oven

A few years ago I went to a party and fell in love with what I discovered to be saltine toffee, essentially heavily buttered and sweetened crackers layered with rich chocolate and nuts. I had never heard of such a thing, but after researching the recipe online, I realized that this unique variation of one of my favorite sweets is ridiculously easy to make. Even better, it only calls for five ingredients: brown sugar, butter, chocolate chips, slivered almonds, and saltine crackers – my kind of recipe!

With only two hours to whip up a treat for my old college roommates before our reunion, I resorted to making this last night. Little did I know that they (and my parents) would become official addicts after tasting it. This toffee is honestly addicting – buttery, slightly salty, and though it’s satisfyingly rich, the saltines actually add a crunch and airiness that lightens what would otherwise be a pretty dense treat.

So, I say go for it. What’s the big deal giving up forty minutes of your life if the end result is something sweet and undeniably addicting (or is it addictive)?

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 11 oz. bag of semi sweet chocolate chips

40 saltine crackers

Slivered almonds or any nut of your preference (optional)

Directions: Line cookie sheet with foil and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray. Lay down saltine crackers side by side.

line side by side

Melt butter in sugar until foamy, about 3 minutes.

butter and sugar

Pour over saltines and spread evenly, and put in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips; once melted, spread chocolate with spatula to evenly cover the buttery crackers.

wait about 30 seconds...

Add nuts and cool completely before putting in the refrigerator to harden. After about 30 minutes, break up with your hands and serve it up! Store in an airtight container in fridge.

almost ready...

Finished product!

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One Lucky Duck: Tiramisu and Chocolate Tarte

tart and tiramisu

Every now and then I use my teammate’s mutual sweet tooth as an excuse to take a field trip downstairs to peruse Chelsea Market’s glorious assortment of treats. While this habit would normally be hazardous to our health and productivity, her veganism gives me the opportunity to try something that’s seemingly indulgent but actually (relatively) healthy. Fortunately, One Lucky Duck, a vegan and raw food take-away food shop, always stocks its refrigerator with rich, chocolatey sweets. The only downfall? Smoothies are $10+, and even the smallest oreo-imitation cookie costs over $5. But on an intense work day, there’s no better cure than a $15 tiramisu and a $12 chocolate tart. Made with coconut meat, raw chocolate, agave, pure maple syrup, and every other possible wholesome ingredient that turns something dairy free into something delicious, these desserts are a cross between a culinary science project and a piece of art. They’re rich, creamy, and unimaginably close to the best rendition of the egg and butter-laden real deal.

dense and creamy

My advice? If you have the cash to spend, you’re prioritizing healthy eating, and you’re having a sudden sugar craving, splurge and try one of the dessert specialties at One Lucky Duck. Make it a habit, though, and you may have to take out a loan.

Grade: A+

Location: Chelsea Market

Website: http://www.oneluckyduck.com

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Oreo Cookies at One Lucky Duck

There’s quite a split between those who hate the raw food vegan trend and those who live by it, but I’m somewhere in the middle. I could never, ever be a vegan (cheese). That said, I actually love some of the options available at One Lucky Duck’s raw and vegan food shop in Chelsea Market, and it’s getting to the point where I crave them throughout the day. Tonight I couldn’t leave work without grabbing a Lucky Duck Oreo Cookie, which was served cold out of the refrigerator and made of cashews, cocoa butter, maple syrup, cocoa powder, agave, and a few other random ingredients that make it look almost identical to the real thing. It tastes a thousand times better, and when these raw, health conscious ingredients come together they transform into a creamy and magical delicacy (and it should at $6 a pop).

mm oreo!

I prefer my cookies better cold (thanks to memories of my friend Sarah’s mom’s frozen chocolate chip cookies), so this ice cold, deep chocolate cookie really hits my sweet spot. Anti health fanatics, don’t knock it ’til you try it – you may be doing yourself a favor when you discover this thing can actually pass as healthy.

Grade: A

Location: 75 9th Avenue, Chelsea Market

Website. http://www.onelucyduck.com

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The Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Truck

One winter’s night my freshman year at UC Davis I became crippled by some of the most severe stomach pains I can remember. Curled up on my bed in a ball, I called on my friend Polly to help the helpless and requested that she bring the only imaginable remedy: a pint of ice cold chocolate Haagan Daaz. When she arrived ice cream in hand, I dove right in. And believe it or not, I came back to life and suddenly realized I had discovered the cure to an upset stomach.

Fast forward 7 years later (frightening) and not much has changed except that I’ve become my own care taker. Last night after eating mashed potatoes on top of raisin bread (don’t ask) at my sister’s apartment, I felt undeniably ill. The memory of the ice cream treatment occurred to me, and I walked straight to the butter yellow Van Leeuwan truck outside the Standard Hotel that’s been tempting me since the start of summer. Though over 5 flavors were out of stock, I was thrilled to try my two scoops of hormone and preservative-free ginger and pistachio ice cream. I’ve always associated Van Leeuwan with the excessively gourmet, but I soon learned I had been too quick to judge. While they may not offer chunk monkey or cake batter flavored scoops, Van Leeuwan happens to have the truest untouched form of classic ice cream possible. Their product is created from just three ingredients: hormone-free milk, cane sugar, and eggs. The ginger flavor, mildly spicy but perfectly creamy, tastes so pure it’s enlightening. You never realize you’ve been eating the bad stuff until you try the good, and I’m not sure if I can ever go back to buying Ben & Jerry’s at the corner bodega.

3 gorgeous generous scoops in 100% renewable cup

I savored every last bite of the ice cream so slowly that for 20 minutes, I completely lost all consciousness of my stomach pains. I can’t say that I was 100% cured right after (or even this morning), but the memories of the unadulterated, perfectly crafted goodness of pistachio and ginger ice cream definitely served the purpose of a worthwhile distraction. Good thing it’s positioned just two blocks away in case of an emergency.

Grade: A+

Location: various; check website

Website: http://www.vanleeuwanicecream.com

*pictures courtesy of Etsy.com and theyoungandhungry.com as I was too mesmerized to photograph

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Fat Witch Bakery

I pass Fat Witch Bakery on a daily basis as it’s housed in Chelsea Market, home to the Google office where I work. I remember being so naive as a New York newcomer two years ago, assuming that Fat Witch brownies were the best around as a result of their marketing and eminence among NY tourists. 1000 free samples later, I can confidently say that I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Fat Witch Brownies are the worst brownies I’ve ever tasted.

free samples - one redeeming quality of fat witch

I was reminded of this fact when I found a box of them in our office kitchen today, the remains of a client meeting. Knowing that I’ve never been impressed by them, I still decided to sample a piece to get a chocolate fix. Why, I’m not sure, because the brownies don’t even taste like chocolate. If I had chewed with my eyes closed, I would have surely guessed that I was eating some kind of blondie drenched in butter. The flavor that first comes to mind when eating a Fat Witch is the butter – overpoweringly greasy, mouth oiling butter. Where’s the chocolate??

Caramel Witch

Flavor aside, I do commend Fat Witch for their unique theme (each brownie has an original, play on “witch” name), and their cute and creative wrapping. They are tempting to buy as gifts, as they can be assorted and shipped around the country. They even have minis, which they call “Witch Babies.” Still, when you’re selling one product and one product only, there’s just no excuse for it to be less than damn good.

There’s my rant for the day. For those concerned, I eventually made up for the wasted chew-time with a delicious slice of red velvet from Amy’s Bread, courtesy of my cube-mate.

Grade: C-

Address: Chelsea Market, 9th Ave between 15th and 16th Streets

Website: http://www.fatwitch.com

*pictures courtesy of Yelp

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