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Pastry Road Trip: The Sweet and Tart Cranberry Walnut Bar from Alliance Bakery, Chicago

Cranberry walnut bar, Alliance Bakery, Chicago
While I was recently selling artwork at the world famous Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, I was lucky enough to have a booth located very close to Alliance Bakery. True, I had heard mixed reviews about this place--but after one of my awesome boothmates got (and highly praised) their vaguely Napoleon-looking treat called the "Ellen" (made up of pistachio-cinnamon mousseline with pistachio praline and white chocolate mousse--like, whoa), I knew I had to make a stop. Walking up to the entrance, I wasn't sure quite what to expect: the exterior has old-school neon sign and flamboyantly decorated cakes on display in the front window.
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
But once you step inside, it's immediately evident that this is a very special place. They have huge, wraparound bakery cases full of all manner of cakes, pastries and cookies, which made the visit fun right away for me, because half the fun is ogling everything and choosing, right?
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Ultimately I settled on an intriguing bar cookie: the cranberry walnut bar. I know the combination sounds unusual, but here's the deal. The bar cookie, which is made up of a sweet walnut-y, caramel-y mixture set atop a cookie crust, is very sweet. While bars like this are often  delicious, sometimes the sweetness can be so overwhelming that the flavor lacks depth. Here's where the cranberries come in. The little bursts of sweet, acidic tartness cut through the extreme sweetness, rounding out the flavor and adding excitement to every bite (yes! excitement!). It worked beautifully, and made what could have been a run-of-the mill bar cookie very memorable.

Not only was I pleased with the bar cookie, but I am so intrigued by the sweet-and-tart combination that I think I might just add a topping of cranberries the next time I make pecan pie.

Alliance Bakery, 1736 W Division Street (between Hermitage Ave & Wood St), Chicago, IL, (773) 278-0366; online at alliance-bakery.com.
Alliance Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Reader Comments (9)

This literally made my mouth water. I'm tempted to drive to Chicago just for this.

This sounds great. I'm going to have to tell my Chicago friends to stop by! ...and maybe send me a cranberry walnut bar.

October 1 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I could live there!

October 2 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

I found this place too when I went to the Renegade Art Fair (I stopped by your booth, but was too shy to say hi seeing as I'm just a lowly blog stalker), their green tea mousse cake was amazing!

October 2 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

oooh! love their perfectly flat buttercream and ganached cakes in their displays, and those macaron "burger" things! :)

October 2 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

Cakespy: I "command" you to duplicate and post the cranberry walnut bar recipe. Please.

Anna: I can't believe you! I am very disappointed, as I am the biggest geek on earth and there's no need to be shy! :-)

Lyndsay: I love how they are coconut macaroons MEET French macaron!

Courteous: You will be the first to know. I'm on the case!

October 2 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

i'll be following the trail. the cranberry-walnut bars sound amazing. hailing originally from New England, i'm always in search of some way to integrate this tart little fruit. thanks for sharing your sweet adventures!

However did I miss Alliance Bakery last time I was there? Thanks for the heads up.

October 4 | Unregistered CommenterChou
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