Earlier this week, I had the chance to take my younger daughter out to dinner in downtown Los Angeles. We picked a place with a TV—actually a bunch of TVs—so we could watch what turned out to be (sadly) the last game of the World Series.
After dinner, we agreed to walk to another place, a patisserie and café that sells all kinds of fancy sweets and desserts, sumptuously displayed on marble shelves behind glass. Macarons of every color. Cakes. Eclairs. Donuts. Fruit tarts. Petit fours. Napoleons. French and Italian pastries made with imagination and beauty. It was hard to choose one, but we finally settled on a slice of tiramisu to share. It was light, rich, delicious, just the right combination of coffee and cocoa—and not a dessert I often eat.
Later that night, I thought back to that phantasmagoria of beautiful sweets, that wonderland of options, and wished we had just picked a simple chocolate chip cookie that I saw wrapped in plastic, sitting all by itself next to the cash register. As much as I sometimes crave alluringly crafted cakes or other lavish desserts, there’s nothing I like better than a good chocolate chip cookie. One that’s soft and chewy, not too sweet, not overloaded with chocolate. That and a glass of milk or a cup of coffee? Hard to beat.
But that’s just me. And I do admit that around this time of the year I get a strong hankering for a good piece of pumpkin pie. What about you? What is your go-to dessert, that one sweet you’re always happy to eat? Or maybe you don’t really like sweets and prefer something savory like cheese and crackers? There’s a reason that’s on the menu, too.
Yes, come Monday, we’ll return to the serious issues facing our body politic. But for this Saturday, let’s take a little break from the nonstop cycle of (mostly bad) news. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.
If you can afford to contribute $50 a year or just $5 a month for a paid subscription, I hope you will. This sustains the work of America, America, keeps nearly all the content available free for everyone, and gives you full access to the comments section for every post.
*Photo by Guven Polat via Getty Images.
I bake. What is most fulfilling isn’t the satisfaction in seeing the result of hours (sometime days) of baking, and it’s not in the taste of something sweetly delicious. Rather, I adore the feeling when I see the delight in another’s eyes, the chuckle of anticipation when the person pulls the plate in to take the first bite. The light in the eyes of the kid next door, calling out to a parent « It’s the neighbor bringing treats! ». To be a cook is to want to give others something that’s fundamental, that’s soul-filling. When I’m on the receiving end, the best dessert is the one that was made thinking of me. The cook gave me her time. That’s more precious than any ingredient.
Great question; thanks. Totally took my mind off the world’s problems.
I really am not a dessert person except for....a home made apricot tart. So this is what you do. You have to create what in france we call a ' pâte brisée '. ' brisée' means it will heavenly crumble inside your mouth, and it is mostly flour, lot of butter and a little water but you must barely knead the dough as it is what keeps it crumbly. Then you lay it on your buttered tart mold and simply lay half ripe apricots on it, throw some sugar, not much, on top, so you keep a little acidic taste to the fruits, and teeny bits of butter and then in the oven.
No cream added before laying the apricots, please !!... this way you have only the simple taste of buttery flour and melting apricots.
I hate desserts but this, oh my goodness !!! And you can only make it for a few weeks while apricots are in season so you are left to wait for another year to taste it again...
🤩 🤩 🤩
My mother worked in a small family owned bake shop once. I used to help her by sealing the hot waxy end paper coverings of bread. She used to get so mad at a few women who always asked, "Is this fresh?" "I'll get you some from the back that isn't out yet," she would answer. Yesterday's that hadn't sold then came out, was wrapped, and away walked the ladies thinking they had gotten the best. I thought how great to be able to have brownies, cookies, tarts all for the taking at my desire. Well, after two weeks, I could hardly look at the stuff.
Mother used to get up in the morning and make food, just in case somebody should stop by that day. Her cinnamon rolls were heavenly. Not the old bready things slathered with hardened icing sold in stores. Hers were a special rolled up dough baked with butter and brown sugar. We also had home made flaky mouth watering biscuits that we topped with strawberries She made bread that tasted like dessert. I have tried all the different breads at the grocery bakery-crusty, everything, sesame seeds, French, Italian - they all taste the same. Apparently same dough for all. And just as there are less chips in bags, smaller candy bars for the same prices, the bakery's single slices of cake with butter cream icing, $5+, are now, half the size. As for cakes, pies, cookies, I make my own. I think people have become either busy or lazy . They even buy already done hard boiled eggs.
So my favorite, as always, is a hot fudge sundae, and I make my own chocolate. 7 pats of butter, 2 1/3 cups sugar, pinch of salt, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup milk, Simmer for an hour. Add 3/4 cup cocoa, vanilla to taste, and beat for 15 minutes. Whip rest of heavy cream for topping. Makes many. Yummy.Cheap. $8, $9 to buy one out.
If it's morning, nothing beats a pain au chocolat and cafe au lait. Delicious flaky pastry with just the right amount of soft dark chocolate, chased by a warm roasted coffee sip whose bitterness has been perfectly tempered by warm, frothed milk. If possible, drink in Paris. If Paris is not at hand, enjoy anywhere!
My sweet mom has passed. She was the master artist of conversation and pie making. Was it the pie or her soul speaking?
I meant to add, love that you had a date night with your daughter. Those are memories she will cherish the rest of her life.
With just the right amount of regularity you are among the few I subscribe to who pull it's community out of the news and ills sweeping the world..to things like "What's your go to desert?" It must be the therapist in you Steven that you know just when it's time to lighten all of our burdens..
In that spirit, for 8 days in December I will travel to NY to unplug from all burdensome things as best I can..To stay with old friends, sip coffee while gazing magnificent sunrises and sunsets at the north shore of the Long Island Sound..There will be no discussion of politics, war, or anything akin to it..With the exception of a long overdue visit to lower Manhattan to the site of the World Trade Center.. The most serious decision I am likely to make will be whether to have the Pistachio or the Vanilla Bean..following my slice of pizza..However, I may find myself troubled as to what to do if presented with a slice of Key Lime Pie..
Everyone knows how to make brownies, right? Well, in my recipe, I I substitute Grand Marnier liqueur instead of water. Serve it with French vanilla ice cream, or Chantilly cream, and voilà, a desert made in Heaven. Highly addictive, but it’s my go to when I have to whip up a quick dessert.
I (unfortunately) have a big sweet tooth. But they must be high quality sweets as pictured in your post. I love cannolis the most but also love tiramisu, cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, warm apple crisp. And French macarons YUM!
I always love a slice of good Key Lime Pie or a couple of Wakers Shortbread Cookies..But if I had my druthers it would be Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio ice cream or Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean..
I love to bake and eat créme brûlée. It’s delicious, only a few ingredients required, and easy to prepare. My mother-in-law’s cinnamon rolls call for a mashed potato dough. Moist and delicious; they bring back memories of family. She taught me to bake her mom’s approximately 100 year old recipe.
I had to sit and think about this one. After seeing the picture you posted, my eyes glazed over a bit. I love desserts! My favorites are cakes, cookies, and just about anything else. Tiramisu, homemade strudel, palachinca (crepes in Croatian), chocolate mousse. I'm stopping because the list could go on...
I keep a stash of Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cups for a quick dessert. I really don't have room for anything more than a couple of those after dinner!
I’d be happy to eat a good slice of pumpkin pie any day, but I really miss my Dad’s ricotta cheesecake. He was a master cook and baker. I also love a really good, fresh Baba au rhum, but it’s hard to find one.
This is fun! Chocolate mousse and chocolate eclairs. Both French, I guess. (Chocolate chip cooks are a close third.)
PS: thanks for taking us away from the ugliness for a few moments with this thread. I live in Ohio, so I really, really needed it.
For me it’s a gingerbread cake that is so packed with ginger and peppery spices that your whole mouth is left warm and tingly.
Carrot Cake… with lots of cream cheese icing. Love icing—there can never be too much (for me!)
Lately we found the ice cream Twix bars simply irresistible but in the fall my favorite is a gooey yummy piece of pecan pie! Love this Saturday diversion.
By the time I got making my comment I had forgotten what you saw at the convection smorgasbord.. I went back to take a second look.. I am also a huge fan of Macaroons.. when it comes to dessert one must have alternative go tos..LOL
Ice Cream probably. Whether it’s gelato or ice cream, probably my go-to
I guess my all time favorite would be a Hersheys Upside Down Chocolate Pudding Cake. There’s nothing like it for a chocolate fan. It was great treat for special occasions with lots of gooey goodness.
I haven’t made that for probably 15 years. After I was diagnosed with a T2 form of diabetes I completely changed my diet, tossing out the main white carbs: wheat, potatoes & rice. I discovered a whole new world. (Ask me about my peanut butter, pumpkin & banana bread 👩🍳 which is really good with strawberry or raspberry chia jam.)
These days when I need something sweet I get out this recipe for chocolate peanut butter fudge.
What a striking thing, the number of comments to this posting! Well done, Steven; just what your readers needed, when they needed it. There aren’t many desserts I don’t enjoy, but your story brought back two funny memories.
One, like Steven, I enjoy a chewy cookie. My wife finds only a crisp one acceptable. I suspect most people are in this either/or split.
The other is that when we first got married many decades ago, my wife got concerned about our diet and stopped making desserts. I got a hankering for a lemon meringue pie and so determined I would learn how to make one- I had never cooked. I have been cooking ever sense - it’s a zen experience.
Oh my, mine is rhubarb pie with strawberry whipped cream on top. Cannot find it often but could fall into it face first
I thought I knew my “go to” dessert until I started reading other people’s favorite desserts. I had to go eat a piece of pecan pie to get through the review. I am back now.
My “go to” dessert is usually a good Spanish flan or crème caramel. I recently ate at a dessert cafe called Better Than Sex. And, whatever the desert I finally settled upon from a daring and enticing offering was, it met the hype. It was one of my best desserts ever served in a sultry environment.
NOTE: The desserterie is a part of a chain and is located in Savannah, Key West, Orlando New Orleans, and (go figure) Greenville, SC. I recommend it for a fun, fulfilling time!
I love deserts too much
Love chocolate but a simple well made apple pie buttery flaky crust sweet cinnamony apples
Best part of apple festival in Oak Harbor, OH trying all the apple pies
It has been years, but my husband Tony and I love pecan pie!
Peanut butter cookies 🥰
Ironic that you should write this today Steven. Just this morning, I treated my sister to a
“Paris Baguette” bakery (a first). Much like (on a smaller scale) the photo you included. Your context and image brought back a fond memory for me regarding the famous “Porto’s Bakery & Cafe” in Glendale, CA. What a treat that was. I’d never experienced such delights before and never forgot it.
Upon reflection, as a child, banana-coconut-cream pie my mother baked (from scratch of course), was a favorite. Also, fond memory of old fashioned oatmeal cookies baked with my older sister (deceased now) was always a joy. Today, I’m grateful to be able to treat myself to just about anything I hadn’t had before, and find myself favoring a pecan braid at a local bakery. I, like others here, appreciate the “break” from other news Steven. Thank You.
I am totally and unequivocally a dessert person and while I would say anything chocolate, I have become more discerning in my ‘mature’ years. I am with you all the way on the chocolate chip cookie and default to this all too often or so my clothes tell me. Although I love many, my other is what a former neighbor turned me on to many, many years ago, Dieter’s Downfall. A ton of an assortment of chocolate with caramel thrown in for good measure. It is aptly named and never disappoints.
I remember fondly as a child going to Foster’s Freeze for a soft serve vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate, with the sweet little swirl on the top. I’d bite off the swirl and suck the I cream out, leaving a chocolate shell to enjoy with the semi-gooey cone. As an adult, a scoop or two of really good vanilla with an equally good warm dark chocolate sauce poured over brings the same satisfaction with a bit more sophistication.
Although I really enjoy our respectful and enlightening discussions of the serious things in the world, it is fun to take a Saturday off and think about sweet things. I try to avoid sugary treats, as they re not healthy on a regular basis. So, on a regular day my dessert is simply graham crackers, the cinnamon-sugar ones if I was able to find them in the store. However, when it is time for a real treat, apple pie is my absolute go-to favorite. This is a very timely discussion, because my town is having an interfaith Thanksgiving service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving (the service routes among the various churches and temples from year to year); and after the service, we have selection of great pies from which to choose. So, on November 19th, I will happily be giving thanks and then enjoying some great apple pie.
I used to roll out strudel dough thin as paper to size of the table... spread the dough with apples, currents, sugar, cinnamon and butter... roll it into a log, bent into a U shape.... bake. Oh my! Since I am no longer able to do this, I'm almost as happy with apple pie made with gravenstein apples. Or cherry pie made with sour cherries. We often make a pie just for the two of us to eat for breakfast.
A nice piece of warm apple pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. 😋
Bread pudding with bourbon brown sugar butter sauce over it. Moaningly good. Fluffy,
40 year old tawny port.
Divine is the only way to describe every single item in their pastry section and on their menu. Heaven would be dining there every day.
Since I have celiac disease, most of the kinds of things you had to choose from are forbidden to me. One dessert I love that I make myself but don't eat often because of calories is really simple.
Fold crunched up peanut brittle into whipped cream.
End of recipe.
Cheesecake, doesn't matter what kind of variation.
We lived in St. Louis when I was little. My mom worked as a book keeper for a downtown company located near Stix, Baer, & Fuller. Occasionally, she would drop by their deli and bring home a few pieces of cheesecake for our desert. It's not as though she didn't make other wonderful deserts, but those cheesecake dinners were always special. When I eat a piece of cheesecake, I think of mom and those special dinners.
More down to earth for my choice. Being an apple (mostly) orchardist since my childhood, I tend to crave either an apple bundt cake or moist applesauce bread. That earthy taste, accented with a good dose of cinnamon just hits the spot beside a piping hot cup of plain black coffee. Just had a slice of the bundt cake doused with a caramel glaze a little bit ago. Alas, with green tea this time because I have finished my coffee consumption for the day. Smiles!!
I don't eat a lot of dessert, but when it's offered, key lime pie is my go-to.
I love the Chantilly cake from Whole Foods. I like to get the slice that has a lot of berries in it. Also cheese cake is a great dessert. I like it plain or with fruit. I usually get a slice from the Cheesecake Factory for my birthday.
A Crème Brûlée is so simple yet decadent. Especially after an Italian stuffed pasta sampler at a local eatery. 😘
Napoleon is my go to but not often.
My mother's recipe for chocolate chip cookies. She had a small paper cookbook from the restaurant where it was invented in upstate NY. Soft, chewy, chocolaty. MMM. Peach pie in the summer when they are wonderful. Pumpkin at Thanksgiving. However, my go to fancy dessert, that outshines anything I have ever tasted is a double cream torte in a meringue shell. Half of the whipped cream is with cinnamon and vanilla. The other you add melted chocolate chips to. It is to die for. My mother called it Chocolate Torte Royale, and got the recipe from some women's magazine in the 1950's.
Banana pudding. It takes me back to my childhood and I made it for my kids.
I am a connoisseur of oatmeal raisin cookies. Everywhere I go, I check out the oatmeal raisin cookies. Big ones, little ones. Crispy, crunchy, chewy. Oatmeal + raisin. No other additions, although I have had an oatmeal cookie with cranberries that did pretty well. Nothing like a good oRC to brighten up my day.
Key Lime Pie
Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is the ice cream other ice creams wish they could be. Having said that, I would pay a king's ransom to have one more piece of my Mom's Apple Cake.
I wish we had a place like that near us. We don't even have a bakery! As to my favorite dessert, it's cherry pie. I like the combination of sweetness and tartness. I also like apple pie. I'm not much on cake, but I do like a good fruit Danish. And pumpkin pie is good around Thanksgiving.