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Entries in wisconsin (4)

Monday
Mar182013

Unusual Sweet from Wisconsin: Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Recently, I found myself poring over the fantastic volume Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers. The reason why I was looking through this book is this: I was seeking out unusual regional specialties or bakeries that I simply needed to visit. What can I say? I love armchair food travel. 

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

One thing caught my eye right away, as in on page 2: a story about wild rice in Wisconsin. As it turns out, wild rice is a pretty big deal in what many would consider the Dairy State. It grows "freely in cool, northern rivers, shallow lakes, and other wetlands", and commands a high price, because the harvest is done by hand. This love and care gives it a unique, nutty flavor that Uncle Ben could only dream of attaining. 

For generations, the Native Americans of the area have harvested rice in a ritual that brings together the whole family. Unfortunately, this tradition seems to have been dying in recent years. 

But at least a few brave Wild Rice soldiers want to bring back the tradition. And as part of their dedication to bringing back the wild rice harvest, the fine people of Bear Clan Wild Rice do various events to raise awareness.

Wild Rice dessert Topping

At these events, they hand out recipes for wild rice, including this unusual one, which is in the book and caught my attention right away: Wild Rice Dessert Topping. At first it struck me as an odd recipe, but when I thought about it further, it came to me sort of like this: I like rice. I like dessert. I think rice pudding is great, but why should it have all the fun?

And so I gave it a try. If you have wild rice on hand, the recipe is a snap. Getting used to the flavor might involve a learning curve--it's definitely different. Earthy, and nutty, sort of granola-esque but with that distinct rice flavor, it works best with fairly neutral flavored desserts--I tried it on top of vanilla ice cream. It's a fascinating flavor, and once I got past the "oh! weird!" aspect of it, I found it highly enjoyable.

Wild Rice Dessert Topping (Printable recipe here!)

  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (original recipe suggests dried cranberries or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (original recipe calls for pecans)

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, so that it can all meld together. Wild Rice Dessert Topping Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Spoon the mixture over ice cream, custard, or pudding directly before serving.

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Tuesday
Sep272011

Sweet and Epic Pastry Road Trip to Chicago

Guess what? I recently took a long drive. A really, really long drive. All the way from Seattle to Chicago. From the Rainy City to the Windy City. Across much of America, that great, big country.

And I ate a lot of sweet stuff along the way. While the driving schedule was fairly tight (I had to make it to Chicago in time for the Renegade Craft Fair), and I wasn't able to stop at every bakery I wanted to based on the hours I was passing through various cities, I did manage to put away my fair share of sweet treats; here are some of the highlights. Let's go:

Washington

Mary Lou's Milk Bottle, Spokane WAThe first stop? Mary Lou's Milk Bottle in Spokane. What could be sweeter than stopping for a shake at an establishment shaped like a milk bottle? The huckleberry shake was delicious here, perhaps slightly thinner than I would have liked, but the flavor and pretty hue made up for it in my mind.

Last time I road-tripped, I also stopped at Rocket Bakery, which some say makes the best pink frosted cookie in the state.

Idaho

Sadly, La Vie en Rose was closed by the time I rolled into Coeur D'alene, but next time!

Observation at an Idaho rest area: This is where I started to notice that we were seriously entering Huckleberry Country. Even the rest area had an end cap display devoted to the berry, including sweets like Huckleberry gummi bears. This trend would continue through Montana and Wyoming.

Montana

Missoula: 

Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaTime for some morning sweets!

Le Petit Outre was the first stop, for coffee and sweets, including a cranberry bread (not cake, I know, but quite good!) and cookies. And caneles.

Poppyseed cake from Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaNext up was Bernice's Bakery, where croissants and a slice of poppyseed cake were obtained. Of note: Poppyseed Cakes are apparently big business in Montana, and I have even heard a rumor that this is where they were invented (who knows? Do you?). I asked a local, who had an interesting theory on their popularity. She she said that drug use is big in the state, and that the poppyseeds might be popular because of the purported high they offer. I'm not sure if I'm convinced about that, but I thought it was an interesting thought.

Recommended by a hotel concierge was Black Cat Bake Shop, renowned for their chocolate eclairs.

Bozeman:

On the Rise, Bozeman MTFor morning treats, you must hit up either Sweetpea Bakery or On the Rise. This trip it was On the Rise, for a weighty oat bar, a tart, and a rich quiche (not sweet!). The reverence for carbohydrates is clear here, with buttery crust and deliciousness abounding. But on to lunch...

Burger Bob's, BozemanShake o'clock! At Burger Bob's, largely thought of as the city's best burger joint, the chocolate shake was made with vanilla ice cream and rendered “chocolate” with syrup—perhaps not ideal for chocolate shake die-hards, but I thought it was pretty good.Burger Bob's, Bozeman

Billings:

Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings, MTIf you have time to go nowhere else, you MUST hit up Caramel Cookie Waffles in Billings, Montana. Owned by a cute-as-pie couple, this place is THE supplier of caramel-filled dutch waffle cookies, and they do a good job. But wait, there's more!

Chocolate chip cheesecake from Caramel Cookie WafflesThey make a mean cheesecake (which they will top with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, thankyouverymuch), oatmeal cookies, huckleberry caramels, and—wait for it—they even had NANAIMO BARS!

Nanaimo Bar from Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings MTThis made me feel right at home, and theirs have a delicious secret: instead of graham cracker crumbs for the base, they use the crumbs from their waffle cookies. Nom! Yum! Awesome!

...but that's not all that Montana had to offer.

Durango Restaurant rest area, MontanaAnother thing I love about Montana is that their huckleberry reverence is so clear in every eatery. Even a casino rest area had delicious huckleberry ice cream, though their shake maker was broken (what?!?). Last time I went on a pastry road trip, I had a fantastic Huckleberry bar at a rest area, too.

Wyoming

Sheridan, WY: Sadly I didn't get a chance to stop there, but I want to give a shout-out to Java Moon because it was so highly recommended by a reader. Next time!

In Sundance, WY, I spied this. I was sad to answer "no" at the moment the question was posed to me.

 

South Dakota

Krispie bar from South DakotaWhat would a stop to South Dakota be without a krispie bar or Special K Bar? I picked this one up at a gas station. Too delicious. But moving on to Wall, and Wall Drug...

Wall:

Wall Drug, South DakotaIf you have never been to Wall Drug, well then, consider it a must. Their doughnuts are pretty dreamy.

Wall Drug, South DakotaSo is the pie.Available for purchase at Wall Drug, SD

The ice cream was not as special as the baked goods to me, but still respectable. They also have fudge. Including a flavor called Tiger Butter. What's Tiger Butter? Oh:

Rapid City:

Guess what? I also got a speeding ticket in—wait for it—RAPID CITY, South Dakota. The police officer became my new best friend as we both have the same birthday, but he still gave me the ticket. Vive l'aventure, sweeties!

Mitchell:

A stop in Mitchell, South Dakota provided a sweet retreat: not only did I get a glimpse of the Corn Palace, but I also got to stop for some tasty vittles at what I was assured was the best breakfast in town, at the VFW Hall.

 The biscuits were simple but perfect morning fare, and the cookies and pie were down-home tasty.Buttered biscuit from Mitchell, SD

Down the street, highly-recommended Daylight Donuts had already sold out of treats, but I do hope I'll get to try them out one day: also disappointed were a husband-and-his-pregnant wife, the latter having a massive doughnut craving. Very cute, and clearly these are craveable doughnuts if the shop sells out so early!

Minnesota

Because I was booking it across the state to get to Chicago in time, I didn't have much time to stop and visit Cake Eater Bakery, and sadly the Minnesota State Fair was already over.

In Rochester, I had previously visited Daube's, and would have loved to have visited again.

Spied somewhere in MinnesotaI forget where in Minnesota, but I saw this display of fruit...puddings? They were called parfaits. It reminded me of retro cookbook pictures, but this was the real deal.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin: is there anything it can't do? It's got amazing dairy, delicious meat products, and plenty of sweet treats.

Carrot cake from Mauston Rest Area, WisconsinOne of the standouts, for me, was unexpected: the Mauston Rest area. This truck rest stop surprised me with a full-service bakery full of amazing (and huge!) treats. The carrot cake was seriously one of the highlights of my trip: moist and flavorful cake, with sweet-sweet-sweet cream cheese frosting with the perfect lightly-gritty sugar consistency to balance out the cake. It was divine. They also had all sorts of other goodies, including these enormous pig and cow cookies - the scale really isn't evident from this photo, but rest assured each one was as large as your head and half of someone else's head too.

Madison:

Obviously I needed to drive by Ella's Deli, but didn't stop this time. Sometimes when time is tight I like to hit up a local grocery store--sometimes they have baked goods from a bunch of local bakeries. And I had some good luck at the Willy Street Co-Op, where they had baked goods made on site, such as strawberry crumb bars:

Willy Street Co-Op, Madison WI...as well as sweets from local bakers Larsen Bakery, Batch Bakehouse (who made the monkey bread pastry pictured below), Greenbush Bakery, and East Side Ovens.Batch Bakehouse, Madison WI

Illinois

Reaching Illinois, a waffle was obtained at the Country Kitchen restaurant. Waffles don't hum to me frequently, but this one did, and I was rewarded by a pecan-filled and covered waffle. I was a little put off by the fact that the pecans on top, which were dry, but adding butter and syrup to the waffle made it into something really special.

In Chicago, once I made it to the Renegade Craft Fair, a mandatory stop was made at the Alliance Bakery, where I always enjoy a little something. Sadly no trip to the Angel Food bakery was in my cards what with the time restraints, but I can't wait to visit on my upcoming book tour! I wish I could have gone to every place on this list though.

Happily, Black Dog Gelato had a stand just up the street at the fair, so I finally got to sample some of their stuff. You will not be disappointed if you go.

Another sweet find was Puffs of Doom, a cream puff maker of epic proportions. The portions themselves are modest but the rewards are huge: filled with cream and creative fillings of both sweet and savory persuasions. 

Sweet and savory treats were obtained at Milk and Honey cafe, where pastries are made in-house and everything I have ever tried there is delicious.

A big highlight? Natalie of Bake & Destroy brought me one of her crack-filled Peanut butter pillow cookies, which kept me buzzing with happiness all day. Another huge highlight was a delivery of Vegan chocolate snickerdoodles by my pal Bunny Knuckles, who knows how to make me smile.

Vegan chocolate Snickerdoodles by Bunny Knuckles; heart cookie from Artemio BakeryI tried out some heart-shaped cookies from Artemio Bakery, which were sugary and crumbly and quite satisfactory.

My bff customer Margaret stopped by, and then the fair started and I sold so many copies of my book that I think I might be a bestselling author now.

I also had the extreme and exquisite pleasure of eating at a restaurant called Moto. This place made me want to say “golly” I was so delighted the whole time I was there. And for dessert, they had made a sweet surprise: cookies with a CUPPIE image transfer on top! I kind of freaked out, in a good way. They also let me tour the kitchen, which I thought was oh-so-kind of them. It reminded me of Scott of Seattle Food Geek, who would fit in gorgeously there.

Frozen Custard from Niko's GyrosAn unexpectedly wonderful treat was the custard at Niko's Gyros. I also had the extreme pleasure of visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park; my curiosity having been piqued after reading Loving Frank: A Novel, I also visited the once-home of Mameh Cheney.

Nearby, Petersen's Ice cream was serving up ice cream pies, as well as pints, scoops, and shakes. I saw a lady lose her scoop from the top of the cone while I was there, and it really made my heart hurt.

Prelimary sketches were made at the home of Michelle of Bleeding Heart Bakery—I'm gonna finish that when I go back for my book tour. But can I just tell you a bit about her newest location? Brunch is King there, and they have a doughnut breakfast sandwich and all sorts of crazy-delicious treats. If you live in Chicago, why are you not there right now, friend?

For more of my pastry traveling adventures, click here.

Saturday
Sep262009

Pastry Road Trip: Wisconsin-Style Black and White Cookies at Ella's Deli, Madison WI

Black and white cookie from Ella's Deli, Madison WI
When I recently passed through Madison, Wisconsin, I hadn't intended on stopping by Ella's Deli. Full disclosure? I didn't even know it existed.
Ella's Deli, Madison WI
But the moment I drove by and witnessed its awesomeness firsthand--there's a carousel outside, for crying out loud--wild horses couldn't have kept me away.
Ella's Deli, Madison WI
Advertised as Madison's "finest and first deli", this eatery serves up sandwiches and diner-style fare, but I zeroed right in on the bakery case. Their dessert menu is ice cream-heavy, with all sorts of delectable shakes, sundaes--including grilled pound cake sundaes. But something decidedly more modest intrigued me: the black and white cookie in their bakery case.

Now, this cookie may look like the New York-area style cookie, but it is actually quite different. Where the kind I grew up with in New Jersey were soft, cakey drop cookies with a fondant-type icing, Ella's version appears to be a rolled butter cookie, very dense and topped with a light vanilla and chocolate icing. But I am not stating this difference as a complaint: while it may not be the same type of black and white cookie as the ones in the NY metro area, it is certainly a delicious version. The cookie was crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and with the sweetness of the frosting on top, a completely decadent treat. After devouring it, I found that I didn't have an appetite for "real" lunch--and I didn't care.

Ella's Deli was a serendipitous find indeed, leading me not only to sing the praises of Madison, but also to lead to perhaps the most perplexing question of all: why don't more eateries have carousels outside? Surely we could all use a side of magic with our meal more often.

Ella's Deli, 2902 East Washington Ave., Madison, WI (608) 241-5291; online at ellasdeli.com.

Wednesday
May212008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sandy Ploy, the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen

 

Cupcake from Swirlz, from Sandy's recent tour of Chicago Cupcakeries
From our home base in Seattle, where the streets are practically paved in cupcakes, it's nearly impossible to believe that there still exist cities which lack a proper cupcakery. However, this is the case in Milwaukee, where though custard and kringle reign aplenty, there is nary a cupcake shop to be found. 
Luckily, Sandy Ploy is on hand, heading the campaign to bring cupcakes to Milwaukee. Why should bakers sit up and take notice? Well, Ploy is no idle enthusiast: not only does she work at one of the nation's major food magazines, Taste of Home, but also manages a site, mkecupcakequeen.blogspot.com, which represents an all encompassing cupcake love that makes it easy to see why she's referred to as the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen. Here's what we learned when we recently caught up with her to discuss the plight of being cupcake-obsessed in a land devoid of cupcake shops: 

Cakespy: Can you tell us a bit about how your cupcake obsession started?
Sandy Ploy: Believe it or not, it only started about 18 months ago. I was researching cupcakes for the April/May 2007 issue of Taste of Home. I was blown away at all of the great cupcake shops and blogs I came across online. But..the clincher was JOHNNY CUPCAKES. (sigh…excuse me while I have a Mrs. Robinson moment). When I saw that cupcake and those cross bones I knew I had found my niche. A little sweet and a little rough…just like me!
Cakespy Note: It's true. That Johnny is a hottie with a naughty body.

 

CS: How do you feed your cupcake obsession?
SP: Well, aside from collecting awesome Cakespy art – a little schmoozing never hurts – I am an addicted cupcake cookbook collector. I check out several blogs (Chockylit, Cupcakes Take the Cake, All Things Cupcake, Bake & Destroy) on a regular basis. In March I entered and then won my first cupcake competition - the 2nd Annual Cream City Collective Crazy Cupcake Competition. My winning cupcakes was a coconut cake with a sweet curry lemon curd filling and a sweet basil cream topping. Now, I have found myself embroiled in IRON CUPCAKE, which is basically an ongoing cupcake challenge between myself and a local chef. So far our challenges have included wasabi, mustard and next is cocktail.

CS: Although Milwaukee does not have a cupcake-specific shop, there are bakeries which sell cupcakes. Are there any that you suggest?  

SP: Simma’s Bakery in Wauwatosa is notorious in the city for their amazing baked goods. Also, The Cake Lady on the south side of Milwaukee makes the most amazing cakes in town and will do cupcakes via special order.

CS: Do you have a favorite cupcake shop outside of Milwaukee?
SP: Hands down, it is MOLLY’S CUPCAKES in Chicago. It is like a playground, a cupcake shop, a bar and a toy store all rolled into one. Two brothers own the shop, named it after their elementary school teacher and have injected their favorite toys and lunchboxes as décor in the
 shop.

 


CS: Can you tell us about some of the best cupcakes you've ever had?
SP: The best frosting ever is at Swirlz in Chicago – they use an Italian buttercream – it is light and exotic and absolutely incredible. Dot's Cupcakes in Pasadena, CA makes a delicious Caramel Apple cupcake that is so indulgent, I like to visit them whenever I go to CA to visit my family. And, I won’t brag too much, but I love most of what I create at home.

 

CS: Tell us about the worst cupcake you ever had (shudder).
SP: Well, that is easy and not at all surprising…grocery store cupcakes make me ill. ‘Nuff said.


CS: You've made some pretty crazy cupcakes yourself--ummm, the dark chocolate bacon ones (pictured left) come to mind. Tell the truth--were they delicious?
SP: The combination of pork fat and chocolate is rockin’! Although, one of my latest creations – the corn dog cupcake – is probably the one that I have gotten the most praise for (pictured above). Regardless, I love the challenge of combining unexpected ingredients in anything I cook.

CS: Getting away from cupcakes for a moment (don't worry, it won't be long), can you tell us what bakeries or regional baked good specialties can't be missed in the Milwaukee area?
SP: I have lived in Milwaukee for about 12 years now. By far and away the most coveted baked good is the Racine Kringle - a danish pastry similar to a buttery phyllo filled with fruit, nuts and other sweet gourmet fillings. EVERYone knows a Kringle and loves to nibble on them!

CS: You work at Taste of Home--pretty much any foodie's dream office! In our minds, your office is a magical land full of free food samples, bustling with flambees being tested, chock full of double crust pies and of course, rows and rows of cupcakes, all just there for the taking. Can you confirm or deny this vision?
SP: Minus the flambees, that pretty much sums it up. We receive over 90,000 reader submitted recipes per year. Between the test kitchen and the photo studio. Food is abundant – and snack can almost always be found. More often than not, the amazing smells of various baked goods, meats, sauces, soups, etc. are wafting up the hallways…and occasionally there is fish – and whether it is a fantastic recipe or not, that rarely smells good amongst the cubicles.

CS: What do you see as the next big thing in the cupcake baking world? Or, what would you like to see?
SP: I am a big advocate of ‘grown-up’ cupcakes. Unique flavors and combinations that are not necessarily your run of the mill kiddie cupcake.

CS: *If* a baker looking to open a cupcake shop in Milwaukee were reading this, would you have any suggestions or words of advice?
SP: PLEASE COME! Keep it accessible, not too prissy. There is definitely an audience for them, I am amazed we don’t have any. I wish it were me doing the opening - If there was a cupcake angel out there wanting to finance my dream, I would love for them to land on my shoulder.

CS: If someone ever tried to challenge your status as the Cupcake Queen of Milwaukee, would you settle it once and for all through A) A dance-off B) A Bake-off, C) Knock them upside the head with your (cupcake-shaped) scepter, or D) All of the above?
SP: By all means, steer clear of my cupcake shaped scepter, it flings sprinkles into the eyes of anyone who challenges my royal status.

Cakespy Note: Don't mess with Cupcake!

Danger on the StreetsCS: Some say that "pie is the new cake". What do you have to say to this?
SP: I was never good at math, so I will pass on the pie.

 

CS: What will be your next cupcake adventure?
SP: I am dying to get to NYC and visit the overwhelming selections of cupcakeries in a city just throbbing with life and excitement! I suspect another trip to LA is more likely to happen first.

 

Eager for more? Check out Sandy's photos at flickr.com, and of course check out her blog at mkecupcakequeen.blogspot.com!

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