Pastry Walkabout Part I

Miss Fats fears saying this out loud, but Spring may have finally arrived in Chicago.  Sure, she shouldn’t complain: winter was pretty damn mild, at least snow-wise.  But Miss Fats seems to have found herself with a small dose of SAD (confusing considering the fact that she spent most of her life in the greyest city on the planet) and needs some sunshine asap.  Well the last couple of days have BEEN ABOVE FREEZING AND SUNNY (say what?), which basically means spring is here in full force.  So she’s puttin’ away that parka and busting out the standard wool coat (hello, friend, I haven’t seen you in three months).  What spring means is Miss Fats can emerge from the toasty confines of her apartment and hit the streets of Chicago and continue to learn this city hard.

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Miss Fats’ favorite way to get to know a city is by walking the hell out of it.  She will literally just wander for hours: looking at buildings (fantasy apartment search), pop in and out of shops, and learn the streets.  But where to begin?  Rather than randomly selecting a place in the city, Miss Fats tends to orient these derives (pretentious grad student French nonsense) in search of a sweet treat.  Typically she’ll select a bakery, shop or restaurant that sounds tasty and head out into the unknown.  Where the wander takes her from there, no one will know/like there is such a thing as “unknown” with bestfriendiphone.

So, in celebration of Spring’s kickoff, Miss Fats will be sharing a couple of neighborhood/treat pairings to encourage all you winter hermits out there to emerge into the daylight, if only to grab a delicious cookie and quickly retreat back into your hole.

Lakeview (East): 

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Lakeview (right around Diversey), is a frequent wander spot for Miss Fats.  This is probably because critical elements of her livelihood exist here: Aveda Institute (for those cheap haircuts), Korean Tacos (more on those later), Trader Joes, and most importantly, Molly’s Cupcakes (2536 N Clark). Miss Fats’ first trip to this neighborhood happened about a year ago thanks to a groupon for a “new” cupcake shop in town.  Little did she know what she was in for.  This is Miss Fats’ go-to cupcake shop in the city.  It’s damn expensive, but they know how to make a decadent cupcake MIss Fats-style.  Her favorites include the Ron Bennington (peanut butter filled genius) and the Butterscotch (no words). They tend to abide by Miss Fat’s cupcake formula: gotta have a great cake base, tasty filling, and the right amount of frosting.  Miss Fats has now sampled more cupcakes from here than she’d like to admit, but she personally favors Molly’s more decadent cupcakes.  The fruit and pie-themed ones are solid, but the chocolate or sugar explosions are out of this world.

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So now you’re full of cupcake goodness, wandering around the shops and have purchased too many nuts and fancy things that come in little plastic containers from Trader Joes.  You’re debating whether or not to hit the zoo while you’re up here (I mean hey, why not? It’s free.)  While you’re deciding, Miss Fats recommends a stroll down Clark to Orange (2413 N Clark) for a weird, but refreshing sweet treat: Frushi.

Each day Orange serves up two frushi (fruit sushi) options: a maki (roll) and sushi.  Miss Fats tends to be a spoiled, annoying sushi snob, so you may be asking why she’s recommending this.  Because frankly, it’s not sushi.  It’s a deconstructed/reconstructed tasty rice pudding dessert.  The frushi Miss Fats had featured a little bed of thick coconut rice pudding topped with a mandarin orange slice, and the roll had some mango flavored rice action with a little grape on top.  Nonsense? Yes. Delicious and fun? Also yes.  Miss Fats encourages all of you to get out there and remember whimsy.  She knows it’s hard.  But winter is over, people.

Lakeview (West):

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Miss Fats hasn’t made her first journey to this neighborhood a couple of days ago.  She’s not sure why this particular stretch of the city had yet to be hit, but boy had she been missing out.  Dinkels (3329 N Lincoln), people.  How could she have missed this?  Dinkels is the classic bakery that has everything from candies, to bright frosted buttercream sheet cakes and house made pastries.  Naturally, Miss Fats opted for their doughnuts.  These are no gourmet, bougie, $3 doughnuts: they’re just the classics served up without all the fuss.  For $1 you can get just about any flavor and Miss Fats ended up taking bakery boy’s rec: classic old fashioned.

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This was a SOLID doughnut.  The perfect dipper for your morning cup of coffee.  Crispy outside, tender inside and completely unassuming.  Miss Fats is glad Dinkels is so far away because it could be mighty easy to just pick one of these up with a cup of coffee everyday.

West Lakeview is perhaps less scenic than some of the other north neighborhoods, but this particular stretch has a number of great “Old Chicago” buildings and businesses.  It took basically all of Miss Fats’ self-control to not spend the entire day hopping from one diner to the next.  Those diner milkshakes were seriously calling her name, especially with a little sun shining on her back, but somehow Miss Fats managed to resist. (/will probably be back next weekend…)

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If you wander down Lincoln (with that Dinkels donut in hand), you’ll eventually hit Diversey and you should probably hang a right and head over to Fritz Pastry (1408 W Diversey).  Miss Fats had sampled one of their chocolate chip pretzel cookies at Wormhole Coffee a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued by this mysterious bakery that clearly understands the beauty of the chocolate pretzel combo.  After a little googling she learned of their doughnuts and it was a no-brainer. Had to happen.  Unfortunately Miss Fats lives very far from here and was not able to get herself that far north in time for a doughnut.  All sold out. Oh well.  The cute little shop had some tasty cookies left for her, so she selected a chocolate peanut butter oatmeal.  This was a damn good cookie.  Better than the pretzel (shocking, I know).  It was surprisingly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  And, of course, excellent salt balance.  Miss Fats could have used a little more peanut butter flavor (naturally), but overall this was a lovely cookie/sunshine experience.

Lincoln Park/ De Paul:

IMG_2426So Miss Fats would probably never live in Lincoln Park (hah! not like she could ever afford it), but it makes for a pretty walk and is kind of the ideal spot to pick out your future fantasy home.  She’s a big fan of wandering down Lincoln Park’s many quiet side streets that boast fancy townhouses kept safe by little pristine gates (fear me, Lincoln Park!).

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She knows this neighborhood has a TON of bougie bakeries and food shops, but the reason why Miss Fats continually returns is for Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W Webster).  Yeah, yeah.  I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about this glorious bakery.  It’s been featured on tv shows, magazines and is continually raved about.  Which is usually something to be weary of, but for once the bakery is worth all the hype.  Miss Fats loves Sweet Many B’s because it fails to ascribe to all the fads.  This is a classic bakery that is only concerned with making delightful and damn good-tasting treats everyday.  You’re not going to find a tomato cupcake here; only chocolate covered marshmallows topped with sprinkles.  It’s hard to resist buying everything here, but Miss Fats favorite is the  Toffee “Cabinet Pudding,” which is basically bread pudding made with leftover cake.  THAT’S RIGHT.  So it’s Sweet Mandy B’s insane caramel sauce that hooked Miss Fats from the get-go.  The perfectly salty, sweet, buttery sauce is pure heaven.  And the cabinet pudding features chunks of moist chocolate cake drenched in this sauce.  It’s literally one of the most incredible desserts Miss Fats has ever put in her mouth.  It’s not always around, so if you see it: get on it.  Order it immediately and ask them to warm it up.  Then sink into it’s moist, gooey indulgent center.  Miss Fats dreams about the bottom of this dessert: where all the caramel has pooled and created a soft layer of soaked cake and salty-sweetness.

Miss Fats’ ultimate afternoon in Lincoln Park includes a long wander through the neighborhood so she works up a serious appetite for that pudding.  She takes that pudding to go and strolls down to the movie theater a couple of blocks away, parks herself in front of a screen, and dives into that dessert.  Most of the time when the lights come up, Miss Fats finds herself covered in caramel sauce: like she cares.  Did you see that pudding? She got to eat that.

So Miss Fats has officially over-excited herself.  She needs to take a break and think some more about that cabinet cake.  But she’ll be back with part two of this post that features an array of traditional treats and weird dessert options.  Go out and explore in the meantime.

Also, these are just Miss Fats’ favorites, but as you’ve now read, she’s always in for a new adventure.  Has she missed any critical shops in these neighborhoods? What are your favorites?

Butterscotch 3.14159

Miss Fats would like to begin this pie tale with a quote from her friend- who when nearly done with a slice, queried: “What… IS it?” The mystery dessert which Miss Fats baked in honor of March 14 (3/14 aka PI day!) was in fact, a simple Butterscotch Pie.

THREE THINGS:
Pie crust. (Pre-baked.)
Oh dear.  This is what happens when you work real hard making that crust all balanced with flour, butter and water, and then take the time to chill it but then get real lazy come roll-out time. Clearly Miss Fats didn’t take the time to make this crust big enough, or round enough, and instead opted to just throw it in the pan and squish the edges all up…. Then she baked it.  Clearly without being properly weighted.  Oops.  But they were in a time crunch! Pi Day was nearly over and this shit had to get done.

Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie Crust

2. Butterscotch filling. Basically you cook up a crap ton of heavy cream, brown sugar, some egg yolks, butter, a little flour, cornstarch, + vanilla. Oh yeah, and Miss Fats added salt, because THIS RECIPE CALLED FOR EXACTLY NONE. ?! That’s the whole point of butterscotch, it’s the epitome of sweet-salty! Anyway, cook that all together and you get this:
Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie FillingButterscotch gloop! Pour the gloop into the crust and chill. Miss Fats made this close to the stroke of midnight on March 14th… so the Pi Day pie was DONE on Pi Day, but wasn’t admired/consumed until the 15th. So it received a full 24 hours worth of chillage and became more of a Ides of March thing…. let’s just call it Pides of March Pi Day Pie. C’mon, let’s!

3. WHIPPED CREAM. The final step is to whip up another crap ton of cream and smother the now extremely chilled pie. It’s like that time when it snowed three feet here in Chi-town, and everyone freaked out and called it Snowpocalypse, only in this scenario, Chicago is the pie, and the cream is the snow, and whipped cream blizzards are way more fun. The original recipe called for two cups of whipped cream. Miss Fats made that much and maybe used… half of it, which gave the pie a serious smother. So halve that, unless you have a whipped cream disorder and need it to stay alive. Miss Fats doesn’t want you to die on her watch.  Given the rushed pie-making process, the whip cream seriously cleaned up Miss Fats’ mess.  A little swirl of creamy, fluffy goodness will do that to the ugliest of desserts.
The final product:

Miss Fats Butterscotch Pie/Butterscotch 3.14159

Pretty nice, eh? This pie would comfortably serve about ten reasonable people, or 7-8 gluttons. (We will leave it to you to guess how many servings we got out of it.)

The pie ended up being a tasty salty, sweet creamy combo.  While chowing down on this pie, the J half of Miss Fats was like, “I had a chocolate bar I thought about melting on top but I thought it would be weird.” To which M responded, “WHY WOULD THAT BE WEIRD?!”  In the future, Miss Fats definitely intends to add some chocolate sauce action to the top, since clearly chocolate belongs in almost everything.  Additionally, after indulging in Lickity Split’s coffee butterscotch concrete, she’d probably be into serving this butterscotch pie with a heaping scoop of coffee ice cream.  Yeah she know it sounds weird, but that combo must be tried: totally out of control.

While sitting around enjoying the pie with friends, the room went quiet as hungry mouths were filled with salty sweetness.  The silence was only to be broken by the best review Miss Fats has ever received, “I want to take a quiet bath in this pie.”

Miss Fats highly recommends that you do.

No MORE: Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting

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Miss Fats is dedicated to sampling cupcakes across the city in search of her favorite shops and baking inspiration.  And naturally she does her research.  This has taken her to some hits and misses, but there’s been one shop haunting her for the last eighteen months now: More.  This super fancy Gold Coast shop has been featured on numerous lists and television specials, boasting “creative” and “boundary-pushing” cupcakes.  (ensue eye roll)   Part of Miss Fats’ hesitation stems from her belief that its a damn cupcake and there’s a certain degree of homemade simplicity involved in any truly successful dessert.  Not to mention flavor and texture should come way before any decorative nonsense.  Ok. Done with rant.  Anyway, Miss Fats finally sucked it up and decided to try out these infamously strange cupcakes.

IMG_2202Their tiny little shop featured a wall of stark plexi fancy time.  She wasn’t entirely sure she was getting “food.”  However she pushed on, and inquired about popular flavors and recommendations.  She ended up with one of their salted caramel cupcakes (more on that later) and a goat cheese walnut pear.

IMG_2209(Miss Fats apologizes for the poor photography.  This cupcake was consumed in a bar nearby.)

Now Miss Fats has had goat cheese involved in her cupcakes before (not to mention crazy delicious goat cheese cheesecake), so she thought this cupcake would be a safe median between their disgusting-sounding tomato cupcake and the more traditional flavors.  However she was so so wrong. This was one of the most confusing and unpleasant cupcake experiences of Miss Fats’ life (and she has had a lot of cupcakes).  The dry dry mass of cake was flavored with dried thyme, which brought out an overly savory flavor in the goat cheese frosting.  The frosting itself was oily, and super goaty, which would have been fine if the cake had been sweeter and less crazy savory.  Miss Fats felt like she was eating some weird goat cheese spread that had syrup poured over top and was left to sit out and dry up for a couple of days.  Don’t even get her started on the filling.  She’s not even sure what happened.  The pathetic little patch of pear foam/watery jelly (?) had absolutely no pear flavor and was just lost in the mess of herb and cheese.  More’s cupcake has quickly risen to the top of most disappointing cake experiences of Miss Fats’ life.  She had about two bites, sampled the separate components, and threw her four dollar cupcake away.

But Miss Fats is not into a purely negative cupcake experience.  She believes joy can always emerge from cake.  She considered More’s flavor-texture failure to be a challenge: could Miss Fats do better?  Hell yes she could.  So she’s bringing her version to you all; welcome to the Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting.

IMG_0241These little dudes feature a simple brown butter cake stuffed with a gooey pear filling and topped with a balanced goat and cream cheese frosting.  They are entirely sweet. No savory here, people.  Not to mention they’re damn easy.  The only slightly tricky step is browning the butter, but other than that, the cake can be made with one bowl.  The filling can easily be switched out for any fruit in season, or even any jam or compote you have on hand (Miss Fats would totally recommend  a scoop of Bon Maman pear compote or apple butter.)

IMG_0246For those of you who might think goat cheese frosting is gross, you are wrong.  Well you might not be wrong, but Miss Fats recommends trying out this recipe before you write it off.  Her frosting features a mix of goat and cream cheese, which allows for the tanginess of the goat to come through, but doesn’t totally over-power the other components.  The frosting recipe can (and should) be used to top some of your other cakes as well.  Who doesn’t want a carrot cake with a little goat action?

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Brown Butter and Pear Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting:
makes approximately 18 cupcakes

cake: adapted from browned butter cake
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

filling:
1 bartlett pear, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt

frosting:
1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)
5 oz of goat cheese
1/2 cup butter (softened)
4 cups powdered sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt

1. make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  To brown the butter, heat pan over medium heat and add your butter.  Stir continuously as the butter begins to foam up.  Continue stirring as the butter begins to take on a rich brown color and creates an insanely good nutty smell.  Once it’s reached a dark golden tone, remove from heat so as not to burn.  Beat sugar and eggs until slightly thickened (about two minutes).  Once the butter has cooled slightly, add it and the milk, and vanilla and beat until just combined.  Mix in all the dry ingredients until just combined.  Fill a lined or greased cupcake pan with approximately 3/4 of the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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2. make the filling: heat the butter over medium in a saucepan or skillet.  melt the brown sugar and flour in the butter.  Add the spices and salt.  Toss in your pears, and allow to cook for about a minute.  Adjust spices and sugar depending on how sweet your fruit is and your preferred flavor.

IMG_02713. make the frosting: beat cream cheese, goat cheese and butter on high speed until completely combined and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in vanilla, lemon juice and salt.  Carefully sift in powdered sugar in stages, beat, starting on low and moving to high.  After about three cups of sugar, taste and decide whether or not you’d like to add the remaining sugar.  Finally, beat in the milk.

4. assemble the cupcakes: using a small spoon, remove the center of the cupcakes.  Fill with a heaping tablespoon of the filling.  Top everything off with the goat cheese frosting.  To keep it pretty, Miss Fats recommends filling a ziplock bag with the frosting and cutting the tip off to create a little ad hoc pastry bag.  Swirl it on top and finish off with a little slice of pear.

IMG_0276Miss Fats hopes you all enjoy these cupcakes as much as she did.  This is a bit of a working recipe, so she’s not completely satisfied with her current filling.  It might just be the pears she got, but Miss Fats thinks they need a bit more intensely pear flavor.  Her current filling more closely resembles the flavors of good old fashioned apple pie.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but next time she’ll probably cook those down into a tasty jam-like filling.  Any you readers out there have a suggestion for some super pear flavor?

Recipe Review: Chocolate Butterscotch Muffins

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These little guys are incredibly deceptive.  I mean, just look at them: they look completely harmless and could easily be mistaken for a boring healthy bran muffin.  WRONG.  These are basically cupcakes masking as “muffins.”  Only instead of a fluffy, oil-based cake, you’re getting a rich, dense and moist cupcake-muffin hybrid that’s perfectly paired with butterscotch chips.

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Miss Fats got the recipe from the folks over at The Kitchn, who seem to rarely fail her.  The recipe is incredibly easy: no mixer, no melting chocolate, and no sifting.  Since Miss Fats is lazy, and doesn’t have a dishwasher, naturally she adapted this to be done with one bowl.  That’s right, these chocolate delights can be made with minimal clean up.  All she did to omit the “wet ingredient bowl,” was follow the first step for combining the dry ingredients, then she made a well, threw all the wet ingredients in and made a half assed attempt to stir them together a little before combining everything together.  This seemed to work.  No tragic baking failure occurred.  She did find, however, that her muffins took a little bit longer than the original recipe stated: it says between 17-20 minutes, but Miss Fats’ took closer to 22-25.  However, the instructions to wait until the tops are no longer shiny is the best advice: just watch for that glistening top to transform into a rich and crisp chocolate top.

IMG_0224Miss Fats can’t even look at these.  They are so damn unassuming.  Little do people know that these muffins are in fact rich, chocolately butterscottchy flavor parties.  They are perfectly tender and moist on the inside and the muffins tops crisp up just right for a little bite on your way to fudgey breakfast heaven.  These easily top Miss Fats’ favorite muffin recipes.  Many more will be made in the future.

Best Gourmet Doughnuts in Chicago

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Chicago seems to have finally caught on to the gourmet doughnut trend (way to be two years behind).  In the last year, Miss Fats has noticed a crazy increase in the number of spots featuring doughnuts and the opening of a handful of delicious gourmet shops across the city.  With the release of Saveur Magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Donuts,” article, Miss Fats thought it was high time she ranked her favorites for you all. As you all know by now, Miss Fats has an unhealthy addiction to fried dough, and considers herself a self-taught expert in gourmet doughnut knowhow.  She’s slaved over testing out all the hip and is prepared to give you her official ranking. Miss Fats realizes that many of you might disagree, so please share thoughts and your own rankings, but know that she put some serious research in. Get ready for some sweet fried food porn.

In reverse order…

5. Do-Rite Donutsphoto (5)

New kid on the block. Do-Rite Donuts hasn’t been in its loop location long, but they boast small-batch gourmet donuts, including vegan and gluten free options.  Miss Fats was very excited about the prospect of getting a HOT, fresh donut.  Her’s was warm, but not too exciting.  Don’t get her wrong, Do-Rite made a DAMN FINE old fashioned.  They had a perfectly crispy outside and delicious cakey inside.  Seriously a textual orgasm.  However Do-Rite comes in 5th because they need to turn it up a notch flavor-wise.  You see that crazy delicious looking lemon pistachio raised donut up top? Yeah, you think that would be a total mouth party.  Unfortunately it was just good.  Not great.  Lacked lemon flavor and not everything was jiving together exactly.  The same can be said for the two old fashioned: butterscotch (boy was Miss Fats excited for that one) and meyer lemon.  The butterscotch just tasted like a perfect old fashioned glazed donut, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Miss Fats highly recommends it. But Miss Fats wanted her butterscotch flavor and it never happened.  Same goes for the lemon.  Give me some tang, Do-Rite.  Miss Fats feels that with a little more extract and some experimenting, Do-Rite could easily rise to the top.  She puts them to the challenge.

4. Glazed and InfusedGlazedandInfusedBear

Miss Fats apologizes for the lack of Glazed and Infused pictures.  As some of the first gourmet doughnut shops to open in the city, Glazed and Infused has been visited sporadically over the last year, and therefore lacks proper documentation.  She’s a big supporter of Glazed and Infused multiple locations and easily accessible fried dough goodness.  Pictured above is their monstrous bearclaw that was filled with insane almond paste that did away with Miss Fats’ most tragic marzipan memories.  She has now had the opportunity to try their PB&J jelly, as well as the Triple Chocolate.  And it’s that chocolate doughnut that helped Glazed and Infused earn this spot.  Holy shit chocolate goodness.  Now she doesn’t recommend this doughnut for those out there who might just “like” chocolate.  You need to love it to truly appreciate the excess of this thing.  That shit is basically covered in ganache, not glaze.  She wishes she had the same things to say about the PB&J, but unfortunately Miss Fats took one bite and it exploded all over her.  Never a good sign.  Despite it’s amazing homemade jam inside (and all over Miss Fats’ shirt), it lacked peanut flavor.  Total fruit overload. Literally.  Therefore Glazed and Infused earns its respectable spot at number four.

3. The Doughnut Vaultphoto (7)

Now this was a challenge.  The Doughnut Vault is one of those spots that boasts a long line, up-to-the-minute twitter feed, and VERY limited hours.  For literally months, Miss Fats tried to get herself one of these doughnuts.  She religiously followed on twitter, examining the busiest days, the best hours, what daily special she’d aim for… Not to mention in order to get one of these bad boys, Miss Fats would have to hurry her ass to a bus by 7:30 am to get to their Merchandise Mart location in time for some serious line waiting.  With her schedule last spring, that really only left Saturdays for Miss Fats to attempt to get her doughnut on.  So one cold, wet morning she braved the early bus and got herself to the line by 9 am.  She waited and waited, refreshing her twitter app, watching the day’s doughnuts disappear.  She was so close. But no luck.  This unfortunate situation kept Miss Fats away for a bit, as she longingly watched the tweets of delicious treats go by.  Finally three months later, she went for it.  She had a Thursday morning free.  She arrived a little before 10 am and there were still plenty of flavors left.  She settled on the Buttermilk Old Fashioned and Blackberry Jelly.  The jelly was pretty unremarkable.  It was a solid doughnut but little can really be remembered about that pastry.  The Old Fashioned on the other hand is why Doughnut Vault has outranked Glazed and Infused.  This was pretty much perfect.  Tender, crispy, and not too sweet.  BALANCE: They have it. Is it worth the wait?  Probably not for most.

2. Firecakes

photo (9)This little shop just opened downtown and Miss Fats was ON IT.  Miss Fats needed to be downtown at 9 am one Saturday morning so she felt entitled to treat herself to a morning donut.  She stopped in at Firecakes just after they opened and got to choose from their fresh full selection.  Because it was practically dawn, Miss Fats impulse purchased the GIANT Butterscotch Praline and Raspberry Blood Orange Jelly (she had intended to try a cake donut for you all). She does not regret this decision at all.  Hell no.  Let’s begin with the Butterscotch: holy shit it was filled with fresh butterscotch pudding.  Need she say more?  The doughnut itself was tender and chewy and topped with a crispy praline glaze. fuck yes. The jelly was the same raised dough business but it was filled with a tangy and fresh mixture of blood orange and raspberry jam.  That shit oozed out into a powdered sugar and sticky mess that Miss Fats proudly wore all over her face all day long (despite being at a super important academic conference. priorities, people).  Now to make sure she’d done proper work for you all, Miss Fats returned for a cake doughnut.  And she was NOT DISAPPOINTED.  In fact, the Valhrona Glazed Chocolate doughnut might have been the greatest cake doughnut Miss Fats has ever had.  Like Glazed and Infused, it was basically topped with a rich chocolate ganache and peppered with cacao nibs.  The cake itself was the star, though: PERFECTLY tender, yet rich and dense.  Some sort of magic happened in that doughnut and Miss Fats doesn’t want to know anything about it.  Just keep them coming.

HOWEVER: on a side note, Miss Fats also tried their Bacon Maple Pineapple mini doughnuts.  She was very unimpressed.  These little bites did nothing.  She supposes the maple flavor was good, but she hardly thinks a sad piece of pineapple and some bacon bits belong together on a lame doughnut bite.  Skip it.  Miss Fats highly recommends that Firecakes toss them from their menu.  

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I am lame. Do not purchase me.

1. Nightwood Sunday Brunchphoto (10)

Alright. Here it is: Miss Fats top choice for Chicago’s gourmet doughnuts.  She’s talked to you all before about these gems, and she stands by them: Nightwood Sunday brunch doughnuts are the greatest in the city. Miss Fats might be obsessed with their Butterscotch Bacon doughnut.  It comes hot to your table with a sweet, sticky glazed outside, topped in a heaping pile of maple-y, crispy bacon. Shit, is there anything better than a hot doughnut, people??  The bacon doughnut seems to be available every week (or at least for the last month or so), but the filled doughnut changes week-to-week.  Miss Fats has had the opportunity to try the Chocolate Cherry Cashew and Vanilla Custard Burbon Caramel.  Both were damn good. She’s complained a bit about the lack of cherry in the chocolate before but still fully supports its oozing ganache filling.  The vanilla was full of flavor: stuffed with a fresh vanilla pudding and topped with a boozy caramel sauce.  Miss Fats’ friend pointed out a slight lack of salt, which she found was true if you couldn’t quite get the right bite of that milk crumble.  And don’t forget: you get three crispy little doughnut hole friends rolled in cinnamon sugar.  Just go mopping up your caramel sauce with one of those little suckers and pop it in your mouth.

Miss Fats realizes that Nightwood might not count per se, because it is in fact not a doughnut shop.  Nor are doughnut available more than one day a week.  She fully recognizes that there are many other restaurants out there that feature house made doughnuts, and Miss Fats will get to you!  But for now, she stands by these Sunday treats and encourages you all to go out and have some of the greatest fried dough treats of your life.

Shout out: Beaver’s Doughnut Truck

Miss Fats wants to give a special shout to Chicago’s only mini doughnut  truck: Beaver’s Doughnuts.  This delightful truck parks on Miss Fats’ campus multiple days of the week, tempting her with fresh fried goodness.  Though Beaver’s does not make the short list, she appreciates their cheerful truck and dedication to hot, freshly fried doughnut bites.

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Beaver’s specializes in fried to order mini doughnuts that can be tossed in the usual doughnut hole coatings: powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  OR you can top those suckers off with a range of tasty gooey delights.  Miss Fats indulged in their Turtle Doughnuts, which featured chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.  This gooey hot mess had to be eaten with a fork, but it was oh-so-good on a crap, cold Chicago afternoon.  Not to mention, Beaver’s served Miss Fats ten mini doughnut when she only ordered six.  DOUGHNUT WIN.  Despite the fact that they had been recently hanging out in a vat of oil on a truck, these little guys were still surprising light and crispy.  The reason why they don’t make the list is because they unfortunately had that grocery store doughnut hole flavor.  This was mostly masked by the toppings, but Miss Fats doesn’t let these things slide.  Your doughnut dough should be able to stand on its own (she feels that same way about the cake part of a cupcake).  But Beaver’s is a damn fine enterprise and she’s always a fan of moving fried dough vehicles that want to warm her up with gooey doughnutness.

Worst Doughnut in Chicago:

Ok, so Miss Fats is probably being to dramatic about this one and should let it go, but whatever. She’d just like to remind you all to avoid the pathetic “Italian” doughnuts at Spiaggia Cafe.  These sad little fried things deflated into a chewy mess as as soon as she bit into one.  Just don’t do it.  They’re too lame for words.

Spiaggia

So that’s it, people.  Miss Fats has laid down some truth for you all.  She hopes you go out and try all of these tasty treats and reports back on your favorites, and potential disappointments. Do you all agree with Miss Fats’ list?  She knows she’s missing some critical Southside favorites, but Miss Fats considers those to be in a league all of their own.  They are clearly doing their shit right: the classics, served up without any of this shmancy nonsense.  But for those of you who like a little nonsense in your life, she recommends eating a $5 doughnut covered in bacon.

Recipe Review: Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie Bars

IMG_0208Make these IMMEDIATELY, people.  Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie bars are no joke.  They seem non descript, with their average looking blonde color and square shape: no decorations, no shmancy ingredients.  But these affirm that a simple cookie just might be a thousand times more delicious than the fanciest of cupcakes.

IMG_0199Miss Fats made these little guys to celebrate the end of classes and provide a little cushioning for that paper extension she needed.  Given her current butterscotch addiction, she gravitated toward Passports and Pancakes’ tasty looking recipe for a little salty-sweet treat.  Since Miss Fats was baking for a smaller crowd, she halved this recipe and had no problems with the result.  The original recipe seemed to make too many: 40 cookie bars? But NOW SHE KNOWS WHY.  These bars were gone so fast, Miss Fats was just left mourning the loss of some butterscotch saltiness to stick in her mouth.  This was a solid and simple recipe that allows for a good deal of play with ingredients and servings. Passports and Pancakes’ recipe allows for an adjustment of salt based on taste, but Miss Fats seriously recommends upping it to at least 1 1/2 tsp (for the half recipe) to make sure you get that perfect balance. Also, since she’s a grad student and cannot afford nuts, she threw in some extra white chocolate chips she had on hand instead of almonds.

IMG_0211Miss Fats would like you to know that this recipe technically doesn’t call for crack. It just tastes like it.

Shout Out: Irazu

Since moving from Seattle, Miss Fats has seriously missed her “joints:” or those delicious, cheap and shady go-to eating spots that never disappoint.  In Chicago, she has hardly frequented enough seedy eats to stake her claim, but she’s seriously thinking Irazu will be the first of many.

IMG_2188This, essentially “hut,” just north of the heart of Wicker Park, delivers a wide array of tasty Costa Rican dishes for small change.  Right now, the place boasts a plastic outdoor canopy and heat lamps, but Miss Fats is sure it will be a delightful outdoor patio come spring and summer.  Not to mention it’s BYOB.  For her meal, Miss Fats ordered the Pepito sandwich: grilled chicken, onions, spicy peppers, black beans, cheese and a delicious tomatillo salsa.  Yeah and it was only $5.  Next to that giant ‘wich is the tastiest pile of rice and beans you’ll find.  DON’T BE DECEIVED.  You may THINK that black beans are a throw away side dish, but you haven’t tried these.  Holy shit so much flavor in a harmless little legume. Seriously, people: those beans literally had more flavor than the chicken and cheese combined.This rice and bean combo you can see above is the Costa Rican staple gallo pinto: eat it immediately.

IMG_2185Hah, you thought Miss Fats could stop herself there. Ok, so look: Miss Fats is well aware that Irazu’s Wicker location and presence of a website hardly qualifies it as a real “joint.” And unfortunately this insane dish above only reinforces this: fresh mahi mahi ceviche.  But she doesn’t care because this SHIT WAS CRAZY CHEAP.  For a giant bowl of fresh tasty, tangy fish, she and her dining partners shelled out a meer $12.  Between the three of them, they were unable to get through the whole bowl.  Miss Fats cannot wait for some serious summer time at Irazu, chowing down on some cold, citrusy ceviche with side of black beans.  She will be back, Irazu.

Oscar Food, Fashion and Felines

Obviously Miss Fats had an Oscar Party.  And obviously there was an excessive amount of food and celebration.  It was a long day and night, so Miss Fats is going to Joan and Melissa Rivers this evening to you and stick to the important things: food and fashion (cats implicit).

[Disclaimer: J got really sick and totally slacked on doing her half of the work lately, so the untimeliness of this post is totally her fault. But you shouldn’t take it out on her, she’s suffered enough. She had to eat nothing but stupid soup and pudding snack packs for like, a week.]IMG_2067

This was the massive spread of food Miss Fats got to indulge in all night.  There were nine dishes total: one for each best pic nom.  Don’t worry, Miss Fats tried them all.  The savory dishes can all be credited to Miss Fats’ friend, who slaved away all day (way to not get the message of the all anti-slavery films, friend).  Since she cannot speak to the specifics of these dishes, Miss Fats is going to give you a quick photo tour of all the amazing dishes of the night.  She leaves everyone else to just be envious of how awesome her friends are.

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M: Here are two yummy steaming bowls of meat and spice: The “shredded tarantino” was a spicy pulled pork served on top of cheddar biscuits; “hushpuppy’s gumbo” paid homage to the south with some andouille sausage action.

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Yummy gumbo

 

J: Can I just add that M made the cheddar biscuits and they were SHAPED LIKE HEARTS. And kind of tasted like Red Lobster biscuits. This is why I love her!

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M: “Manicotizone with Vodka” obviously is the tastiest prescription for depression ever.
J: This was disgusting. I hate melted cheese.

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M: With so many films set in the Middle East, there had to be a pita feast.
J: Little turkey (?) meatballs in a delicious white bean hummus with pita hats!

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M: Miss Fats’ personal favorite: “Hathaway’s Method” perfectly captured Annie’s pre-Mis diet.
J: Guys, it’s an empty plate. GET IT? GET IT!?

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M: This half of Miss Fats was on dessert duty for the evening.  Her first addition was a Life of Pie, which was a simple apple pie, complete with Pi cut out.  She was horribly disappointed with her crust so, out of shame, she refuses to speak any more about this dish.
J: Shut up. I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next day and it was delicious. I’m not saying it was Bang Bang level, but IT WAS A DANG GOOD PIE.

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M:   “Assassination by Chocolate” was a crazy combination of chocolate cupcakes, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with whip cream and a hand-sculpted hat made of brownie and dipped in dark chocolate.  CHOCOBOMB.  Oh and please note the inappropriate use of red frosting.  Yep.  Miss Fats WENT THERE.  Note: these were completely successful: Miss Fats wanted to die afterwards.

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J: Dear Abe, Miss Fats is very sorry that you had to die in such a violent and unexpected way, but these tribute cupcakes were freaking awesome, blood spatter and all.
This was really two desserts in one. The chocolate cupcakes were full of creamy ganache and totally were enough death on their own. You had to take your hat off (haha yes, take your hat off to this cupcake because it ruled) and eat it separately, and let me just say that was CHOCOLATE INSANITY. Ughh why don’t I have one of those right now. Dense rich brownie covered in super rich chocolate.

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She doesn’t want to brag, but Miss Fats came in first at the Oscar pool. In true Miss Fats form, she used the money she won to buy froyo the following day.

And now on to FASHION.

As a whole, Miss Fats found the dresses to be a serious snore this year. Way to out-do the women, dudes.  In order to make things better, Miss Fats has outfitted her best dressed with better heads in hope of recuperating some of the joy of the red carpet (which seemed to have been tragically strangled by 90’s chokers).

BEST DRESSED LADIES

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Sandra Bullock

M: First up: Bullock.  Miss Fats was into this beaded vintage-y gown.  She likes the scalloped beading because it reminds her of her excessive Downton Abbey binge sessions.  Though this is a pretty safe (and typical) move for Bullock, Miss Fats would still be into having a pretend picnic in tiaras with her any time.
J: Now that I’m looking at it again, I don’t like that you can see her knees through this. It was still a bazillion times prettier than all the other dresses. She should stop marrying d-bags and making super stupid movies though.

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Jessica Chastain

M: Miss Fats was a big fan of this beaded number.  I mean she loves her sparkle and Chastain worked that with her damn pretty face and skin.  Not everyone can do this goldy-peachy business, but Chastain looked good.  Which Miss Fats was VERY thankful for because so far she’s been pretty hit or miss (lets not recount the Globes hair situation. She needed cat head photoshop immediately.)
J: Not really excited by this. She didn’t look as shitty as Hugh Jackman’s scary wife so she made the list.

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Halle Berry

M:  Picking a third winner was tough for Miss Fats.  They ultimately went with Berry because at least she tried something different.  Plus there were sparkles. Clearly Miss Fats is attracted to shiny objects.  Miss Fats, unlike most, enjoys a youthful dress with sleeves, and Berry’s gown managed to look covered but still fun and oscar-worthy.  She’s not so into the little strappy things up front, but the curve-emphasizing work on the sides makes up for it.
J: My vote was either for the top half of Nicole Kidman’s dress or all of Clooney’s ladyfriend’s dress, but the bottom of Kidman’s dress was weird, and Miss Fats decided you can’t make a best dressed list if your only claim to fame is that you’re shtupping the Cloons, so CONGRATS HALLE! Your dress was visually non-repulsive, you are a legitimate actress, and Miss Fats did actually like the Art Deco-ish-ness of it.

WORST DRESSED

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Anne Hathaway

M: Don’t even get Miss Fats started on how DISAPPOINTED she was by Hathaway’s gown.  Unlike many, Miss Fats actually likes Annie and she typically tops the dressed list.  And frankly, Hathaway has kind of been killing it on the red carpet this season.  THEN SHE SHOWS UP IN THIS.  Why?  Why nipples? Why halter top? Why back necklace?   She does not understand why Hathaway wants to be the thirteen year old version of 90’s Paltrow.  The worst part?  Her dresses for her Les Mis performance and the Vanity Fair after party were far superior.  Easily would have won her best dressed of the night.  Bad move, Annie.
J: You really would think the heir to the throne of Genovia would have a better stylist. Miss Fats called this dress “fancy apron” all night, because, well, IT’S A FANCY APRON. Anne, did you bring some scones to the party? Were you at home all day roasting a chicken? Miss Fats couldn’t find a photo where the hideousness of this ensemble really came through, so CONSIDER YOURSELVES LUCKY.

BEST DRESSED DUDES

Daniel Day Lewis Cat

Daniel Day Lewis

M: DDL really stole the fashion show for Miss Fats.  I mean, who you do you think you are, DDL, with that navy and black suit? You cray on so many levels and Miss Fats is into it.
J: Day-Lewis be on that suit and tie shit.

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Christophe Waltz

M: Miss Fats loves this little guy.  Despite being small, Waltz always looks sharp.
J: He’s all like, lemme show you a few things. Long as he’s got his suit and tie, he gon leave it all on the floor tonight.

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Robery Downey Jr.

M: Black on Black.  Not many can do it. Downey can and clearly he knows it by that steady green-eyed stare.
J: Miss Fats has always said, put any dude in a tux/suit and he’s automatically 60% cuter. It’s freaking TRUE, people. This shit is hella sharp. So into it. Also have had new Justin Timberlake song stuck in my head for a month, in case you couldn’t tell.

WORST DRESSED

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Channing Tatum

THIS AWARD GOES TO CHANNING TATUM, BECAUSE HE WORE CLOTHES. Sorry Chan, being dressed is just not your best look.

jelly fauxnut muffins

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A reoccurring subject here on Sunday Sundaes is Miss Fats’ obsession with fried dough.  Clearly she has a bit of problem and should seek help.  Part of this fixation seems to stem from the fact that she does not fry or really experiment with yeast doughs; therefore the doughnut has become a treasured treat that she must seek out from others.  But then she found this recipe: pretend jelly doughnut muffins.

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Could this be Miss Fats’ way to wean herself off the hard stuff? Probably not.  But it might curb withdrawals.

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Now, be warned, these really cannot be conflated with a good jelly doughnut (of which Miss Fats is a HUGE fan and believes they get a terrible rep: more on that rant later).  THESE ARE MUFFINS. DO NOT BE MISTAKEN. But these little treats will provide some jam-filled pastry goodness with their crumbly, buttery muffin texture and surprise center.

These little guys can be made with whatever jam you have on hand.  Miss Fats went for variety with raspberry and lemon curd.  She found that the lemon curd did sink to the bottom a bit and didn’t provide the pretty little center, but that sharp citrus flavor may have won the battle between the two.

Jelly Fauxnut Muffins:
adapted from Baked Doughnut Muffins with Blueberry Jam
makes 12 muffins

3/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tsp of jam or preserve of choice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1 tsp cinnamon (for rolling)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cupcake pan.  In a large bowl, mix sugar, yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla until well combined.  Mix in butter as best you can.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until just combined.

2. Spoon about 2 tbs of the batter into the bottom of each tin.  Follow with 1 tsp of jam in each.  Top each off with the remaining batter, trying to completely cover the jam dolups.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown and fully cooked through.

3.  Allow muffins to cool for a few minutes in pan.  However you should run a knife along the edges to make sure none of the jam seeped out and has stuck to the sides of the pan (this will only make for a sticky mess if you allow it to harden).  In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.  Roll each muffin in the mixture.

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These muffins ended up with a crispy browned, sugar-coated outside, and tender, buttery inside.  Though Miss Fats would never say these live up to real jelly doughnut, they’ll do fine when she needs a filled pastry-object.  Miss Fats highly recommends digging into these while they’re warm with a hot cup of coffee.  Close your eyes and pretend it’s the real deal: these will almost take you there.

brunch for a crowd

Last Saturday Miss Fats put on her social chair hat (yes, that position is real) and threw a brunch for a crowd.  Her task was to feed between 20 and 30 people following a boozy department party the night before.  Since Miss Fats attended the prior night’s festivities, she wanted to keep morning cooking duties to a minimum.  BUT that doesn’t mean she wasn’t all about a spread.

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Clearly Miss Fats opted for the excessive cheese and meat platters.  Who doesn’t love a wide variety of cured meats and creamy cheeses?

IMG_2064Epic cheese plate. Miss Fats doesn’t really know that much about selecting cheeses, so she basically just went for one of every animal.  And since she wasn’t paying for it, obviously fancy jam had to happen.  Thanks to her brilliant friend, Miss Fats now knows the beauty of blue cheese and Bon Maman cherry preserves.

IMG_2059Yeah you know you want that salty porky goodness following a night of too much wine and department nonsense.

IMG_2055Along with some bowls of salted almonds, pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe and papaya, this end of the table featured all of Miss Fats cooking additions.  In the early morning hours she whipped up two quiche lorainnes, a batch of her patented peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (not sure the reasoning behind that menu addition), and some of that crazy delicious buttery lemon cream cheese coffee cake she told you all about last week.

IMG_2056Now there’s no way Miss Fats could have done this on her own, and she is no drink expert, so she handed bar duty off to her co-social chair who turned it out.  They had the good orange juice (no concentrate for Miss Fats), bellinis, and bloody marys (and of course a TON of coffee).

Miss Fats considers this brunch to be a big success.  Plenty of food for their large hungry crowd and even some leftovers for post party snacking.  It’s hard to say what the final budget came to (this was thrown in conjunction with the department Oscar party), but she’d say somewhere around $150-75 for everything (including alcohol!).  Miss Fats enjoyed this little get together, but can’t say she’ll be throwing any more of these big brunches any time soon:she prefers to leave brunch to the professionals.  She resembled this sleepy kitty afterwards: