Stop at Whistle Stop!

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As autumn falls upon us, you, dear reader, will most likely be heading to Michigan to pick some apples. It’s just what you do. And what pairs oh so nicely with freshly picked apples? How about some freshly baked peanut butter treats? (please see the ginormous peanut butter choc chunk cookie and BRILLIANT peanut butter/butterscotch/chocolate/rice krispies ROLL above. Also: why hasn’t anyone thought of rolling rice krispies treats before??!? It seems the only way to do it.)

Whistle Stop Grocery in Union Pier is right there on Red Arrow Highway, ready for your bakery (and general coffee, breakfast, lunch) needs. So close to so many orchards (including my fave Twin Maple), it’s the perfect stop off before and/or after apple picking. Plus they have a cutie little outdoor picnic table area so you can keep catching some autumn breezy sun while you eat.

 

 

WLW: Goldenrod Pastries

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It has recently come to my attention that Nebraska has more than just corn and cornhuskers. Gone are the days of just passing through, because about two years ago a baking blog became an actual bakery, and Goldenrod Pastries became a reason to stop in Lincoln.

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Basically, it looks like they have it all. Cardamom or lavender poundcake, sour cherry or honey turmeric macarons, lemon curd or rhubarb crumble buns, lime sherbet or raspberry rose or peanut butter/cashew brittle cupcakes, turtle cheesecake made with goat’s milk caramel and local pecans, cosmic brownies with fancy sprinkles. Dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, whatever dietary situation you endure, you will not be restricted here. And whatever you want to write on a custom cake, you will not be restricted either.

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I generally like a wandering road trip where I have the ability to stop and see the world’s largest ball of twine or pick blueberries at a roadside farm. But the next time I’m making a cross-country trip, I’ll have to be a bit more precise with my schedule. Because I either need to call ahead for my custom cake order (prob a reasonable 6″ round confetti cake with mocha frosting, fresh fruit and glitter that says HERE FOR IT) and/or stay at least a night in ol’ Nebrasky in order to maximize the quantity of pastries I’ll be able to put away. I mean, really, f a Sbarro’s oasis and canisters of Pringles. Imma need some fancy fuel to keep me awake and happy on my next car trip through the plains. And this colorful, crazy, sassy bakery has now been added to my road atlas.

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*all photos by: @goldenrodpastries

 

at Jennivee’s, I’m the girl with the most cake

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If you’re driving near Sheffield/Roscoe in June, you’re probably looking for Cubs parking/cursing yourself that you’re in the neighborhood on a game day. Well while you’re navigating one-ways and praying for a win, please kindly drop me off at 3301 N. Sheffield and just text me when you’ve found a spot. Because my new pre-game (preferably NOT on a game day) is eating all the cake at Jennivee’s Bakery.

Located somewhat surprisingly where it’s located, Jennivee’s is a delicious cake mecca in an ocean of Old Style and peanuts, street fests and strollers. I love these cakes so much I will fight my way past ZZ Top cover band groupies and spilly frat boys to get a slice or 3.

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This Filipino bakery is open latelate. They continue to bake throughout the day. The slices are BIG (and – IMO – are preferable to the cupcakes). You will be caught off-guard by how light and fresh and not dense everything is. You’ll want to faceplant, but let’s keep it classy – there are floor-to-ceiling windows in this bakery and they don’t need that kind of advertising.

After much deliberation, I, along with my hardworking assistant, got:

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a slice of mango cakesupermoist mango chiffon with mango mousse and a layer of fresh mango slices. Can cake be refreshing? It can. This was like a cake version of a mango lassi.

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a slice of blackout cake – dark chocolate cake with chocolate pudding layers. Deep cocoa-y intense but not overly rich. Like, no prob, let’s eat the whole thing.

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a slice of purple velvet – ube chiffon cake with ube mousse with fresh coconut strings mixed into the mousse layer. Like a goddamn springy cloud. If you’ve never had ube and are thinking “WTF is this, a potato loaf?,” do yourself a favor and learn about it and then get this cake for your gateway slice. There’s no going back.

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We also had a pistachio cupcake and a citrusy tres leches cupcake – whipped cream NOT buttercream frostings, thank the heavens, bc Jennivee knows what’s up. I will be going back for a slice of spumoni cake, a slice of red velvet, a slice of caramel cake, a slice of Nutella cake, a slice of Sansrival cashew cake, a slice of EVERYTHING.

 

 

breakfast box:

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Oak Park Bakery’s kolacky

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THE BEST.
THE END.

JK, JK.
Do I only love these because they were my first childhood kolacky and they remain nostalgically delicious? No. I can admit when a childhood fave is best left in the past (I’m looking at you, live-action Alice in Wonderland starring Sammy Davis Jr. as the Caterpillar. Shame.) These are, in fact, the best kolacky I have ever had. Please consider that I have eaten more than my fair share, and these remain gold medal.

Why are OP Bakery’s kolacky so good? I’ll tell you:

  1. They are made with flaky, light pasty, not hard shortbread.
  2. The jam/filling is fresh and the jam/pastry ratio is on point (it’s not some old gummy red or orange decorative blip).
  3. They are made fresh each morning, and since they basically fly off the front window display shelf, they’re not sitting around getting stale like those poser kolacky bowties oft found at the refreshment table in a funeral home basement (if I knew how to insert the SARS face mask emoji, you’d see it here).

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The bakery offers 12 flavors of kolacky and my faves are apricot, raspberry and cheese. I’ll usually throw in a cherry or almond or prune for good measure, and I have to don serious blinders not to also add an all butter coffee cake or a few butter cookies…..

 

Hot Cross Buns: more than a recorder song

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“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!”

Now that you have a slightly off-key whistle stuck in your head, let’s take the time to consider that hot cross buns are an actual thing and not just some rando lyrics made up by your 4th grade music teacher.

Why have you maybe never seen them in a shop? Probably because they’re only around right before Easter and also maybe you don’t celebrate Easter. But if you’re reading this blog, you probably do celebrate sweet bread items that are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea, so religion aside, here’s the deal:

Hot cross buns are a traditional English spiced sweet bun made with dried fruit and marked with a cross on top to signify Good Friday/the end of Lent. The cross is meant to symbolize the crucifixtion and the spices are meant to symbolize the embalming spices used at burial. Yummmmmm.

But really we’re talking about a nutmeggy cinnamonny brioche dotted with currants or raisins or orange peel (or whatever tastes festive) and then decorated with a quick sweet X on top. Sounding much better. And more sensible for Easter breakfast than a green-dyed coconut nest with some ol jelly bean eggs.

Where can you get your HCBs if you don’t feel like baking?

Oak Mill Bakery in Chicago
Pekara Bakery in Champaign
Clementine in LA
just Google something if you’re in NYC

Call ahead to all of these spots since the buns sell out quick and then you’ll just have to wait until next year/see if you have embalming spices in your pantry and start pre-heating your oven now. And in case you couldn’t remember the tune/it isn’t stuck in your head yet, here you go:

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You’re welcome!!!

to bake or to buy?

Dessert Oasis,

Is it more/less/equally acceptable to purchase a really great bakery item when you are asked to bring a dessert to a party, or should it really be homemade?

Sisters, sincerely yours,
Susie Not-So-Homemaker and Store-Bought Sally

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Dear Sus and Sal,

Some people just do not have the strength of baking (or moussing or ice creaming or candying or etc). That is that. If you can’t make your way off the dessert list and onto the hummus list instead, there is no argument that a great item from a great bakery always = great.

Now, do not confuse “great bakery” with the grocery store down the street. And do not confuse “great item” with a plastic tray packing overly dyed cupcakes that taste like the aforementioned tray. Though you may not be able to bake a cake yourself, I believe that you do have the sense to know that no one appreciates having to feign excitement over an old buttercream sheet cake layered with soggy strawberries.

Plus, bringing a great bakery item gives you the opportunity to share/introduce a special treat/new find with friends who may not be in the know. You might even be renamed a dessert connoisseur! (though maybe you should drop some hints re: “I can’t bake don’t ask me to bring dessert again” while guests are enjoying your bakery goodies so that you sidestep an unwanted dessert connoisseur future….)

Basically, if you really love it, bring it. If you’re just planning on throwing a box of Chips Ahoy! on the table, you’d be better off bringing the hummus instead and pretending you missed the dessert memo.

Good things come in pink boxes,
Dessert Oasis

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Have a dessert question?  Email me at courtneysconza@gmail.com – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.

and the award for prettiest pastry case goes to:

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Bottega Louie.

The intersection of 7th and Grand in downtown LA is not a Cali dreamscape. It is a melting pot of hurried fashion students / random LA business suits / cars circling for parking / people waiting for the bus / dogs barking / horns honking / people selling gold jewelry / people asking for money / film crews / exhaust…..exhausting. Gritty. Grimy. A little bit just gross.

But when you walk through the doors of Bottega Louie, you are greeted by a barricade of macarons, a flanking of pastry cases, tall ceilings. It’s big and bright and still loud, but I’ll take dishes clinking, martinis shaking, coffee fumes and loungy lunchtime chatter over a sticky urban concrete gutter mess any day. Respite from the outside world. At ease.

Now that you are safe and protected by glass and marble and sugar: What. To. Get??????

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First thing to realize: it is impossible to choose just one thing. Save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress and don’t even try. This is the kind of place where grown adults have their faces pressed up against the glass like kiddies in an aquarium.

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Second thing: they are known for their IG-ready macarons. So don’t bother debating if you should get multiple pastries OR a few macs instead. The word ‘instead’ is meaningless here. Just get everything. (not gonna lie, these are not my favorite macarons in the world or even in LA for that matter, but they are beautiful, and the boxes they’re packaged in are beautiful, and the earl grey version is beautiful and factually delicious, so just do it #YOLO)

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Third thing: there are def a mix of tourists and locals here. Tourists bc it’s so pretty. Locals bc it’s also actually good, and has a well-balanced mix of palate pushing creations alongside ah-just-like-how-my-grand-mère-used-to-make-it desserts. Crazy tartes but classic éclairs too. And where besides the Central Perk circa 1995 does one order a cappuccino anymore? Here! It complements your tray of pastries perfectly and is equally as photogenic.

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Plus, they’re open alllllll day long, like from 6:30am – 11pm, so you can reside at your safe marble table for a good, long time, but alas you cannot sleep here and so you’ll have to brave reality again at some point. Fingers crossed for a close parking spot.

 

 

Bottega Louie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinese paper cupcakes

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Maybe not their official name, I’ve called these “paper cupcakes” my entire life. (I think they may technically be called 紙包蛋糕 , and who am I to argue?)  If you stop in a Chinese bakery and mention “the cake baked in paper” you should be ok. 

Instead of colorful, patterned, pleated and possibly foil-lined baking cups, these cakes appear to be baked in some leftover Xerox paper. I’m sure the paper is culinary-grade, but there’s still a certain endearing whimsy to the possibility of sending out an office memo on the wrapper once you’re done. (ATTN: All Personnel: I’m eating cake again, please restock the supplies ASAP.)

All that aside, these are lighter, fluffier, eggier, and taller than a regular cupcake. They’re similar to a sponge cake or a chiffon cake, and you can get them at most Chinese bakeries. I go to Chiu Quon Bakery in Chicago’s Chinatown, where on this past Sunday morning, I snagged the LAST ONE!! (truth be told, had there been more, I would have bought about 4 of them and eaten them all….)

*everything at Chiu Quon is lighter/less dense than you would expect – the coconut tart, egg tart and the buns are all fantastic especially paired with a cup of coffee or tea, and ps: everything is about $1, so don’t be afraid to try them all!

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Chiu Quon Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oh my, Oh My!

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Oh my.

The Oh My! Caramel Pie from Beatrix is aptly named. (also printing ‘holy shit’ in the menu would not be classy)

It is a huge wedge accompanied by an equally enormous “dollop” of fresh whipped cream. It is rich and smooth, sweet and subtly burnt – like the flavor from the top of a crème brûlée was fused into the custard part of the crème brûlée then stiffened up to make a tall slice – able to hold its own, but backed by a barely-there shortbread crust.

It is a pie to save room for. To linger with conversation over. That tricks you into thinking you’ll never finish and you should just take it home and have it for breakfast, but then, oh my, it’s somehow disappeared.

*and i’ll be coming back for: fluffy angel food muffins and just-asking-for-a-photo-shoot emoji cookies.

Beatrix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

as if wine country weren’t dreamy enough…

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Sadly, I do not have 1000000 more photos for this post, so you will have to use your imagination. Imagine an enchanting room surrounded by sunny cases and sugary racks of pies, cakes, tarts, cookies, muffins, ice cream, brownies, cupcakes, brownie cupcakes, donut muffins…. Lemon, apple, plum, chocolate, passion fruit, raspberry, caramel, cinnamon…. Imagine that everything, EVERYTHING, looks and smells so so good that it is IMPOSSIBLE to choose just one thing. Just imagine…..mmmmmm……

You guys – you can bring this exercise in imagination to life, because this place really exists and you can order as many treats as you damn well want. I know this, because I have been there and done that. The Downtown Bakery and Creamery is the stuff of dreams. If ever you are in Napa/Sonoma, do yourself a favor (don’t disappoint me) and hop over to Healdsburg to be transported to bakery heaven.

I carried their business card around in my wallet for years so I could have their address ready for anyone who even off-handedly mentioned that they might be thinking about maybe perhaps going to wine country (I eventually gave the card to a friend headed to Sonoma when I couldn’t find a pen/had too much Sonoma “research wine” to realize that I could have texted the info…shame). I’m not even going to suggest the “best” things to get there, because it is all the best. THE BEST. Get it all.

I will, however, make the following (non-desserty) suggestions re: wine country:

  1. Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves – drink wine in a cave! pair little snackies wth your tasting!
  2. Dry Creek General Store – down the hill from Bella – the perfect place to fuel up for a long day of not using the spittoon.
  3. Scopa – make a reservation, and make sure someone orders the Nonna’s chicken – even if you’re thinking, “oh, I can make this at home,” just do it. you won’t be disappointed.