NYC Desserts Tournament: Fight to the Death

>> Sunday, February 07, 2010

Blame it on Serious Eats: New York for the inspiring Sugar Rush section that introduces all kinds of desserts and pastries available in the Big Apple. I was tempted to go and try them all, so I sorta did.
I went around town and collected 7 samples and took them back to share with the Boyfriend. We decided we'll just have dessert for dinner one night and load on carbs and sugar, hang on to each other and brace for the crash afterwards.

A few months ago I had a craving for zeppoles, a sugar coated eggy, springy doughnut. So when I heard about there's a place in New York that's specialized in Zeppoles, I flocked there. Led Zeppole is a cute little shop with a n extremely difficult door to open and close, someone has to fix it. With standing room smaller than an elevator, you're confronted with a counter lined with cannolis, cream puffs, funnel cakes, zeppoles and other fried pastries. The extremely friendly my fellow Asian shopkeep informed me that unlike other stores, everything you buy from their store is made fresh to order. The tons of pastries in the counter are just for show. The zeppoles are not balloon shape that I'm used to but more resembling a crooked blimpy doughtnuts. Powdered sugar were piled up like the blizzard we had out our windows. The price cannot be more reasonable. ($2.50 for 3) The shopkeep also further informed me that if I never had a fried Oreo, I should really get one and so I did. Fried sugary, chocolatey, crunchy and a bit spongey. Delicious. The zeppoles however did not fair so well, after a night in the fridge and reheated in the oven. I guess fried food must be eaten fresh from the fryer, so I guess I can't fairly evaluate them. If you ever find yourself in that part of town with fried food cravings, it's a spot that you must try.

Zeppoles from Led Zeppole ($2.50 for 3)

During a tour of New York a few years back, I was brought to near the World Trade Center and within the building there was this little pastry shop that have amazing looking pastries lined up in a very pretty way. I was in a rush and didn't get anything but I also though it'd be amazing to have the chance to go get some and of course I have forgotten the name of the shop. After browsing around, I found out that they were Financier Patisserie. They offer more classic and showy French pastries. The only thing that irked me was that the particular branch that I went to this time around time square was located in the same building that houses Fox News. It almost made me not want to go there.

The two pastries that I got from there were a coffee eclair and a chocolate chestnut cream dome. The shop specializes in French pastries and during different weeks, a different eclair was featured. When I went this time, they have their coffee eclair and a vanilla bean eclair. The coffee eclair I've got is filled with coffee cream and have a coffee flavored glaze on top. Slightly sweet, rich, I'm into the flavor so I liked it a lot, though the cream can be lighter and the whole pastry less sweet in general. The chocolate and chestnut cream bombe is also on the sweet and rich side. I guess it's hard to not be light that otherwise. When you cute it in half you can see the chocolate cream and the chestnut cream is separated clearly inside a crisp tart shell, the whole thing is covered in a layer of smooth dark chocolate. A cup of hot tea would be a great accompaniment.

Coffee Eclair ($3.25)

Chocolate and Chestnut Cream Bombe ($4.25)

On Towleroad, they reported Anderson Cooper had been raving about a little dessert called Crack Pie from a place called Momofuku. He has mentioned it on his tweets and a few talk shows. That got me interested since the name of the restaurant/bakery sounds Asian, the item's name has the word "Crack" in it, it's made of very simple ingredients and when some food items are being openly endorsed, I want to see for myself.

The crack pie doesn't look like anything special, a little too small for the $5 it costs, but the taste is really impactful. The custard in the middle tastes like brown sugar, eggs and butter, maybe with a little hint of condense milk. To counter the gooey goodness is a firm pie crust with an interesting chewy texture that comes from toasted rolled oats. People compared it with a pecan-less pecan pie, but it's a little more than that. I believe it's an educated calculation, not quite as addictive as it claimed to be but good.

I also got a piece of banana cake for good measure. The sudden fame of the Momofuku empire is in its new imaginative combination of different ingredients. To invent old classic and put ordinary ingredients in strange situation and see how it flourish, sort of like a reality show. Here we have a cake with too many layers for its own good. Banana cakes sandwiched between chocolate fudge with a hint of molasses, hazelnut fudge, hazelnut crunch and a light layer of salt on top to add to its complexity. There's no way I can eat a bite with everything combines, so was it supposed to be enjoyed compartmentally to get all the little different combinations possible? The cake is good in general, but it seems to have tried too hard.

One thing I forgot to get is their pork belly bun sandwiches. It's done to the style of a peking duck buns, with scallion, hoisin sauce and all. Sounds absolutely delicious. I swear I'll get one if I happen to be passing by next time.

Crack Pie ($5)

Banana Cake ($5)

While going to New York the past few times, I've noticed Magnolia Bakery around Rockerfeller Center having unusually long lines and while reading on Serious Eats, a lot of people seems to like the place for their cupcakes. Apparently they got a cameo in Sex in the City and people are flocking there. Philly have their trends of cupcake shops and honestly you can't really do anything outrageously awesome with good old cupcakes. The writers of Serious Eats shared my point of views and instead of going there for cupcakes, one of them swear by their banana bread pudding. Since the boyfriend loves banana and peanut butter, I got the bread pudding along with a piece of peanut butter ice box pie.

The ice box pie is light and mild. I thought it was a bit less sweet than I'd like but after a few more bites, I started to appreciate the subtlety. There's a light layer of peanut butter right on top of a flaky crumbly crust, then more peanut butter is whipped up into a light, light cream. Then piece of Reese's mini cup are sprinkled on top along with some toasted peanuts. Looks simple, but taste amazing.

The crown jewel of this trip turns out to be the banana bread pudding that is sold in a cup. The man behind the counter ask whether I wanted a small or a large one. Not knowing how good it'd taste, I opt for a small one. Looking back I would have gotten two large tubs or maybe even a $24 bowl that would serve 10 people. It would have been well worth it. Sweet vanilla pudding cream with fresh tasty banana pieces mushed into it and some hidden pieces of vanilla wafers. The vanilla wafers already absorbed some liquid and they turned very soft. The whole thing is so good, it's ridiculous. If I can only eat one dessert for the rest of my life... wait, why choose? That would be silly.

Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie ($4)

(The Best) Banana Bread Pudding (Ever) ($4.5 for 12 oz)

What about the diet again?

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