Sweet Treats on the Shoreline
I thought a run down on some of the best desserts on the Shoreline would make for an interesting list. But sometimes I have to save myself from myself. So, I sent intrepid e-list blogger, Kirsten Carbone, out into the world of after dinner treats. She tasted her way up and down the Shoreline and here’s her report. Any of these gorgeous treats would make a statement on your holiday table or a sweet dinner party offering.
Hen & Heifer, Guilford
If you’re like me, you may have a hard time choosing from all the eye candy at this French-inspired bakery, just off the Guilford green. But if you must… the pear almond tarts are as impressive to eye as to eat. Seckel pears from nearby Bishop’s Orchards are poached whole with white wine, vanilla and spices, then nestled into a tart crust with almond cream. You can almost taste the attention to detail. I’m told the crust was tweaked a bit to develop a fork-friendly texture with little crumb. Seckels work beautifully with these tarts as they are petite and exceptionally sweet. Buy them individually ($7.50), in 6” (serves 4-5 at $35) or in 9” (serves 8-10 at $60)) – and do it soon, before pears go out of season.
And for those who dream of caramel in fall, like me, don’t miss the salted caramel cookies ($3.25) – a new ultra-rich specialty here, disappearing almost as fast as they are baked. For gluten-free peeps, the violet macarons are a uniquely sweet choice with a fabulous, light texture and subtle violet color. Chocolate, vanilla and caramel are available, too. www.henandheifer.com
p.s. Hen & Heifer chef Whang Suh presents a multi-course tasting at Dessert for Dinner at Field House Farm on 11/5/14. Find out more here.
Dagmar’s Desserts, Old Saybrook
Super fresh desserts with an Austrian and Bavarian twist – and lots of notable press – make this Old Saybrook bakery a must-try. Here I fell in love with the Ginger Cake ($28), a bundt so dark with molasses and spice you might mistake it for chocolate. Who knew I could adore molasses and fresh ginger in a cake so much? A confectioner’s sugar drizzle and candied ginger pieces placed over top make this cake equally beautiful to look at.
Another beautiful cake for the season is the hazelnut pumpkin roll with ginger cream cheese filling. I’ve made these traditionally for years and know that a light, springy- textured cake and delicate touch is needed to roll the filled cake successfully. Cream cheese and pumpkin marry fabulously here ($38, serves 12).
And if you’ll be entertaining piles of guests, Dagmar’s signature apple strudel (appearing faithfully every fall) can be up to two-foot length, as it was served at a recent Oktoberfest event in Madison, but typically serves 6 ($19.95) or 10 people ($34). For those skipping the gluten, Dagmar’s flourless hazelnut cake ($34) has the perfect hint of hazelnut and pear. dagmarsdesserts.com
Pursuit of Pastry, Old Saybrook
I could shop in this Old Saybrook confectionery just for the adorable Tiffany’s-like pastry boxes, but there’s much more to love at Pursuit. A fleur-de-lis on the box might be the defining clue; classic French pastry is the reigning technique here. You will have lots to choose from, but for a sumptuous fling, don’t miss the Crème brûlée, which happens to be gluten-free. So much fun tapping the spoon to break through the crystallized caramel to get to the creamy custard – and this one was perfection. These are available as individual custards at $3.50 each.
The flourless chocolate cake is also outstanding and, yes, gluten free as well. Dense but still creamy, chocolate aficionados will melt over this one. These can be made in 6” round ($18). But no special occasion needed to satisfy that chocolate craving; these also come in the perfect size for one at $3.50 each. And for fun, seasonal cookies that are gluten-free and kid-friendly, try the apple or pumpkin macarons, decorated in cheerful representative colors. Finely ground almond flour is the base for these light, meringue-based wafers that are traditionally filled with gelée in France, but here with a Swiss meringue buttercream ($1.75 each).
4 and 20 Blackbirds Bake Shop, Guilford
My to-die-for favorite at this Guilford bake shop is the pecan tart. Owner Nancy Ackermann’s recipe is passed down from her mother, and she says an equal ratio of pecans to custard is the key to this recipe. Oh, what a custard! A buttery, flaky crust makes the perfect vessel for all this sweet madness. These are available individually ($5.75) and in 7” (serving 5 at $24) and 9” sizes (serving 8 at $36). Get one for the party and one for yourself.
The glistening Austrian apple cake caught my eye, too. A rich, cookie dough crust lines a Granny Smith apple- and sour cream custard-filled cake. 7” rounds serve 8-10 ($38) and 9” ones serve 14 ($58). If you’re a fan of cheesecake, go for the pumpkin, with optional whipped cream piped dramatically on top, finished with a candied ginger garnish. A small serves eight ($34) and large serves 14 ($54). Truly decadent. Finally, for a pumpkin pie with flair, opt for this one where individual maple leaf cut-outs made with an exceptional nut crust of walnuts and pecans are wedged around the pie. So pretty, and the height and presentation make this a fun centerpiece for holiday tables. ($34). 420blackbirds.com
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From 4 & Twenty Blackbirds
247 Main Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
From Dagmar’s Desserts
Specializing in bavarian and austrian pastries, cakes and strudels.