Hell yeah, Hellas!

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I first became aware of Hellas Pastry Shop when I ate more than my fair share off the cookie table at a 1/2 Greek wedding this summer. I knew it was located in Lincoln Square, but as I traveled up and down Lincoln Ave. in my mind, I couldn’t place it. The reason, dear reader/eater, is because it’s on Lawrence NOT Lincoln.

Understatedly unassuming, Hellas is a Greek pastry shop on the corner of Lawrence and Talman. Everything is super fresh (like “wait just one minute I have to finish this dough and then I’ll be right out” fresh) and here’s what to get:

ANYTHING “macaron.” Oval and encrusted in almonds and sandwiching apricot jam, or round with an old lady red cherry in the middle, these are light and chewy and addicting.

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And then there are the honey cookies. A substantial cookie with finely ground nuts soaked in honey, they are surprisingly melt-in-your-mouth but still best with a side of tea or coffee.

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Then there are cookies that look like huge crescent shaped piles of snow. I was actually asked if I was planning on ordering any of these when I started my box so they could be placed on the bottom and not snow on everything else. Joke’s on planning though since I ordered so much that my couple-of-these-5-of-those all needed to be transported to a larger box. (snow banks were still properly maintained)

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They also make baklava enrobed in chocolate. Also spinach pie and also eclairs, and they’ve been around since 1969 and I’m certain I’ve driven past approx 10000 times and probably blindly parked right out in front at least 5 times. And now if I get a parking spot within even a 1/2 mile radius, I’ll be stopping in Hellas.

 

 

Cookie Masterpiece

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Chicago PSA: the MCA has a permanent interactive “exhibit,” Marisol, and you don’t even need tickets.

Pictured above (and below) is the pièce de résistance simply titled, “Chocolate Cookies,” and copies of the work are for sale at the exhibit counter for a mere $3.

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The visionary crispy chewy base provides an impeccable canvas for the boundless melted chocolate and complementary smattering of flaked sea salt.

Displayed originally on paper with ink, I’ve found the cookie “looks” best when reframed in mouth.

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current addiction PSA

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Where have I been for the past few months? I’m not afraid to talk about it, let’s get it out in the open….. I’ve been in and out of cookie rehab for my newest addiction (/taking care of a new baby).

Hi, my name is Courtney, and I’m addicted to Newman’s Own Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I CAN’T GET ENOUGH. I need a cookie IV or an intervention – NO, DON’T TRY TO STOP ME.

Question: what raises more alarms/eyebrows? Buying 20 bags of cookies at once, or returning to the store every other day to buy another bag of cookies….with a sneaky carrot or carton of eggs thrown in as a cover up?

Luckily(?) my dealer is just a short stroll down the street. And sorrynotsorry, I’ve already pressured at least 4 peers to just tryyyyy one, and now they’re hooked too. I don’t know what the cookie equivalent of the Pringles mottos is, but once you pop, you can’t stop. Truly. The “serving size” is 5 cookies. A generous joke, but still a joke. I think they forgot to add a zero…..

Anyhoo, they’re organic, so basically vitamins, and they donate to charity, so basically you’re eating to help solve world problems.

Remember Nancy Reagan telling you to just say no? Well, I’m telling you to just say YES. If you see these on the shelf somewhere, do yourself a favor a buy a bag (or 5).

 

 

 

 

 

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…..

 

Introducing Wish List Wednesday!

Wish List Wednesday: for the places I plan to go and the things I plan to eat, just probably not in the very near future….

First stop: Leckerbaer. A Copenhagen bakery reinventing the Danish butter cookie. JUST LOOK AT THESE COOKIES.

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Salted caramel and black currant, passion fruit meringue, blueberry pistachio nougat, raspberry madeleines, peanut butter creampuffs, apricot brownies, hazelnut/licorice/sour cherry cakes…. Seasonal flavors and year-long standbys. They even make Kransekage for New Year’s Eve….maybe that’s when I’ll visit.

You can eat your treats there, or take them to go. The only thing you can’t take with you is, of course, the intoxicating bakery smell. But Leckerbaer thought of that too….they sell their cookie dough so you can bake the cookies yourself and make your home smell like a bakery (the next best thing to moving in). Genius.

*photo by @leckerbaer, bc I haven’t been there yet, duh

the most wonderful time of the year

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I woke up in a *slight* panic Friday morning thinking, “when do Girl Scout cookies start??” I did some quick investigating, and lo and behold: they started that day. For real. Call it my dessert 6th sense.

Now, I have recently temporarily relocated and I don’t know anyone I don’t know anyone with Girl Scout-aged kids. Since a fundamental part of the GS Honor Code is “to help people at all times,” (and I can only imagine they now issue a ‘Technology’ badge), they have blessedly added a tool to their website that allows you to search for cookie pop-up sales based on zip code. Perfect for me/you/anyone needing a cookie fix whilst commuting through an unfamiliar cookie zone.

Ok. Now that we all have our cookies, let’s address the elephant(s) in the room. I know I usually only post nice things (who wants to hear about gross desserts? not me), but you’ve got your nice thing for the day, and I just can’t stand by silently any longer:

  1. Cookie size. They. Are. Smaller. No doubt about it. And this is not my adult-sized eyes playing optical tricks on me. Much like the shrinking ‘fun size’ candy bar tease at Halloween, they aren’t fooling me. If you are going to decrease the cookie size, you’d better increase the serving size (not mentioning – or maybe I am – the doubling of cookie prices along with the reduction in cookie size….ahem) I’ll say that the recommended serving of 2 cookies should probs be upped to 4 cookies. 3.5 minimum…..but who wants a half-eaten cookie laying around? No one. Therefore, serving size = 4 cookies.

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2. Samoas vs. Caramel deLites. What’s going on here? I know (and now you know) that one of two bakeries bake your GS cookies. The name of your cookies depends on who is doing your baking, and this is based on location. (If Little Brownie Bakers is supplying your area, you’ll get Samoas and Tagalongs. If ABC Bakers is doing the baking, you’ll get Caramel deLites and Peanut Butter Patties. #themoreyouknow)

Names aside, my real beef is with the amount or caramel being used, or lack thereof, as the case may be. When my cookie supplier first changed (let’s say circa 1991), I thought: “Caramel deLites is a dumb name. But it looks like they might be using more caramel, so I’ll go with it.” But long gone are the days of caramel blobs pooling in the plastic trays. Now my inappropriately named Caramel deLite is barely chewy. I can basically SEE the cookie through the thin veil of caramel/coconut/chocolate. Not ok. Caramel deLetDown.

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Rant over. Cookie eating commencing.

 

 

Is a cookie walk like a bar crawl?

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Hey,

Is a cookie walk just like a bar crawl except you go to cookie stores? And what’s a cake walk? Something that’s easy?

-Justin

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Dear Justin,

Um, not quite. A cookie walk is usually a charity event where volunteers bake/donate a ton of cookies and then you buy a box to fill with your selections. Kind of like an extreme bake sale. They are great during winter holidays – you can load up your box(es) with all different kinds of cookies to try (your favorites or ones you’ve never seen before/have been too lazy to make), and then share them at a holiday party (or keep for yourself to snack on during a festive bar crawl?). Check out the pics below from a recent cookie walk to get a better idea of it all!

A cake-walk is a carnival game kind of like musical chairs. You walk around on a numbered path while music plays. When the music stops a number is called out, and if you’re standing on the called number you win a cake of your choice as a prize. I guess that’s as easy as it gets!

Happy holidays and season’s eatings!
-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.