I set out to find some smaller producers of that simple, delicate balance between sweet and burnt sugar known as the caramel. Unsurprisingly, I found no fewer than 11 great caramels ranging from the classic sweet and chewy to passion fruit-mango, and even one flavored with bergamot, an herb with surprising notes of black pepper.
Fork's rendition of Sticky Toffee Pudding is triple-bathed in a rich, caramelly toffee sauce and also features a unique and astoundingly complementary porter ice cream.
It's official: doughnuts are a trend. In the past year and a half since we created this roundup, at least five new doughnut shops have opened. Incredibly, most of the new places are frying up some seriously high quality products.
I was recently invited out to Eli's Cheesecake World in Chicago's Dunning neighborhood by Eli's son, Marc Schulman, who has been president of the company since 1984. After spending some time with him and executive pastry chef Laurel Boger in the factory/store, I walked away truly impressed by the company's history of innovation as well as their dedication to quality ingredients.
It's hard not to immediately like a pastry chef who, after being asked if he personally likes the dish in question, answers with an enthusiastic "Yeah! Have you had it?" I have indeed had it, and written something of a love letter to it, even.
When creating a new dessert, Greg Mosko can be inspired by anything from a pear to a BLT. For the past three years, Greg has been getting inspired as the pastry chef at North Pond, where his Cranberry, Ginger dessert is currently on the menu through the end of the month.
Ready for Valentine's Day? We have all of you reservation-less, plan-averse lovers covered. Pull the old "it's a weeknight, so I knew you'd rather fill up on milkshakes than wine" card and bring your date (or friend!) to one of these lower key spots.
One of Ed's best sellers is his baked version of S'mores. Marshmallow fluff and Hershey's chocolate bars (a requirement for any classic s'more) are sandwiched between two layers of buttery graham cookie.
In this month's version of "We Drink All the Hot Chocolate at..." we go on a little soul-warming vacation south of the border with the five hot chocolates at Xoco (just kidding: this is not actually a new column we're starting...or is it?).
In the world of small artisan food-makers, Katherine is a little unusual. Instead of a passion for one specific item born out of years of professional culinary experience, she has years of experience on the business side of the restaurant industry. Click through the slideshow to gain a little chocolate knowledge or reserve a spot at one of KAC's monthly Truffle Parties where you can create your own uniquely flavored truffle.
Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop features an ever-changing menu of sweets, including scones, bread pudding, and a delightful take on the pop-tart, which McCabe makes with a pie dough recipe adapted from her grandmother.
Lindsay was kind enough to show me the process behind their S'more Pie. This is one of many rotating pies, so if you're craving this picture-perfect pie after clicking through the slideshow, be sure to call ahead for availability or better yet, give them at least 48 hours notice and place a special order.
I'll repeat what I've said in the past: in terms of sweets, Chicago is a blessed city. In no particular order—because it was hard enough to pick my favorites—here are my top ten for the year.
I would like to propose a new holiday tradition for you and two to three out of town guests. Instead of walking around in the cold looking at a zoo covered in lights, I suggest a significantly warmer activity in the form of seven different kinds of steamy and delicious hot chocolate at Mindy's Hot Chocolate.
When Dana Cree invited me into her world of desserts at Blackbird, I was obviously excited, but I had no idea the outrageous experiences in store for me. Not only was I serendipitously around for a 15th anniversary toast before the start of service, but I also got to talk to Dana during a staff meal.
Anna Shovers has hit her stride in a seasonally-focused and ever-changing kitchen where Paul Kahan has given her free reign over desserts. One of her more recent creations is a chocolate cake with an unlikely addition: beets from local farmers' markets.
The Land of Middle Eastern Sweets is an area about as well known to me as the Gangnam Style dance, which is to say I recognize it when I see it but have no hope of personally reproducing it. But on a recent trip I discovered a fantastic sweet called knafeh.
Among Alliance Bakery's many eye-catching delights are several different entremet, or multi-layered mousse cakes, which may seem intimidating in their beauty and elegance. Brad Hillyer took some time on a bustling Saturday afternoon to show me how The Ellen is constructed.
Years of experience go into a sticky bun worth going out of your way for: Baker & Nosh's fulfills all of the usual sticky bun requirements (buttery, tacky goo and crunchy pecans), but it's also made with a fantastic brioche dough, so instead of being Cinnabon-soft, there's a little more crispy, buttery crust here than your usual bun.
As part of the Chicago Chocolate Festival taking place at Navy Pier this weekend, Chicago Chocolate Week has gathered restaurants across the city in a celebration of chocolate that started yesterday and runs through Sunday, November 18th. If you're overwhelmed with all of the options, Storefront Company is a great place to kick off your week of chocolate madness.
Ahh the caramel apple. What other treat gives you such sticky, crispy, crunchy satisfaction while simultaneously reminding you of the best of all seasons? I can't think of any, but maybe that's because I'm distracted by the addition of chocolate to this caramel apple.
In Colombia, a buñuelo is basically a sphere of fried cheese bread. Let me more accurately describe that. At Mekato's, a buñuelo is basically an exceptionally delicious cheesy doughnut hole on steroids. Don't you want to see how it is made?
If you've ever enjoyed the perfect sweet-sour balance of a Lemonhead or the addictive crunch of a Red Hot, you'll be happy to know you've been eating locally this whole time (good job, you trendy locavores). We recently tried all of the classic candy available at the Ferrara Pan Outlet to help you decide what to pass out for Halloween.
Chef Lee Wolen graciously welcomed me into his bustling kitchen on a recent afternoon to show me how he and his team prepare this perennial crowd favorite.
Much like at Yusho, Alex Bachman's deep commitment to crafting drinks is evident simply by reading the ingredients in Billy Sunday's cocktails. He's known to develop his own bitters, syrups and tinctures, and the highest cabinets of the back bar are loaded with jars of exotic botanicals. But for all the custom housemade potions he concocts, "Tradition is the core of it all," Bachman said.
If you like sticky sweet all-American flavors, this is the dessert for you. It's a little bit of work to put together but it will definitely impress and it makes a great birthday cake.
This cheesecake is soft moist, and full of strawberry-almond flavor. A touch of crème fraîche makes for a gently tart kick.
Simple, clean flavors make this orange cake a year-round go-to.
This cake transforms into something extra amazing after a night of chilling in the fridge. The caramel-soaked edges become chewy and addictive and the bananas melt into something akin to a glaze.
This recipe is my attempt to re-create the original version of this pie from the Brooklyn pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbirds. It comes pretty darn close to replicating the original, which features a flaky all-butter crust, a layer of rich ganache, and a layer of gooey oatmeal that gets all caramelized and crisp on top.
Order the Ace Burger easy on the bacon jam, and it's one great burger.
Rich, chocolatey, salty, sweet, and easier to make than you might think.
In my family, we have a Christmas morning tradition of feasting on French toast casserole, bacon, and generous pours of maple syrup. Sometimes there are a few grapefruits tucked into plates, but it is mostly a sweet, decadent affair. After making LocalSavour's Warm Custard Spoon Bread from the new Food52 Cookbook, I may make a case for changing up the main course. This spoon bread won the "Best Holiday Breakfast" contest, and with very good reason--this bread is magic. Somehow, the process of whisking together a loose cornbread batter, pouring it into a hot pan, and topping it off with a generous pour of heavy cream yields a three layer masterpiece made of custard, cake, and cornbread. Surely there must be some baking science behind it, but I'm content to leave that to the experts. Magic spoon bread is just fine by me.
All you need is butter, brown sugar, Kix, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and some chocolate to make this crispy, crunchy cereal-based version of my perennial holiday favorite Chocolate Crack.
Slightly less molar-cracking than the commercial version, this DIY cereal offers plenty of rich nutty flavor with a light malty sweetness.
This super-quick, Thai-flavored chicken and noodle soup is packed with hot, sour, salty, sweet, and aromatic flavor and goes from pantry to table in about 20 minutes.
This pie is every peanut butter and chocolate lover's dream. A crumbly, chocolate cookie crust cradles smooth and dense peanut butter filling, which is covered with a generous layer of dark chocolate ganache. It's an adult version of the candy classic, and big enough to treat lots of friends.
This is the only Paula Deen recipe I've ever made and every year I do, I think, really? Two sticks of butter? And a whole box of powdered sugar? And four eggs? And a brick of cream cheese? Yes, just go for it all. They're pretty decadent but only relatively speaking for Paula (there's no mayo or deep-frying involved). One little square is powerful—definitely more intense than pumpkin pie. And when you get tired of the pumpkin, just sub in another form of gooey.
While pumpkin bread is wonderful in its simplicity, it is possible to heighten your seasonal eating by adding a healthy helping of chocolate chip cookie dough to the batter. It gives the bread a decadently gooey center, and the spiciness of the pumpkin bread works beautifully with the brown sugar and chocolate in the cookies. Feel like gilding the lily? Go ahead, serve it with ice cream.
Tiny and chubby apple cider doughnuts herald the fall season at the farmers' markets. This cake version is the 2.0 version.
[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt] About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab...
A letter in the mail is a wonderful treat. But a letter is even better when it's delivered by way of a sandwich cookie snack.
The Cone Crust Pizza from Pizza Hut Middle East is the daredevil design of the season, vying with the Cheeseburger Crown Crust for freakshow pizza supremacy. Our dedicated correspondent in Dubai didn't cower in the face of this cream cheese and chicken-stuffed beast, but dove right in to take you inside and deliver the scoop on the stunt pizza of the moment!
A creamy, deeply peanutty scoop with the complex flavor of honey.
The ice cream base is a simple one, peanut butter with a hefty enough dose of vanilla to simulate nougat.
Until recently, Dinkel's Bakery was simply a great place to score doughnuts. But a month ago the classic Lakeview bakery added a cafe space and a whole new sandwich menu.
Garlic powder can inspire a striking level of animosity. Once ground and sifted into a small jar, just popping the lid off this DIY version of the seasoning sealed the deal for me.
Soft tapioca pearls lend a chewy texture to a cool and creamy chocolate pudding.