Is "the New Cupcake" the Cupcake?

Categories: News, Sweets

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Photo by Nate Steiner via Flickr
Why are cupcakes still popular?
Macarons are the "new cupcake." Or is it pie? Or how about cake balls? No, it's going to be doughnuts. But, what about popsicles?

This has been the non-stop conversation over the cupcake trend since the personal-sized treats topped with a swirl of frosting became popular in the early 2000s. Despite several "new cupcakes" making their appearance in the baked goods market, the cupcake remains the favorite.

A recent Slate article tracked every single food that has ever been labeled as the cupcake's replacement over the past eight years and found that 57 foods were called "the new cupcake" in news articles. In March and April 2010, nine different publications said macarons were the new "it" dessert -- we even supported that claim this past year.

But, if all of these sweets and treats (some were savory, like burgers and hot dogs) were supposed to knock cupcakes off the totem pole, then why haven't bakeries stopped selling them? And why haven't all the cupcakeries gone out of business? We spoke with several bakery owners who all sell cupcakes, whether it's alongside other products or their only product, to share their thoughts on the trend, and if they think the cupcake is on its way out the door.

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Cloud 10 Creamery's New Summer Flavors Are Certainly Unique

Categories: Sweets

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
I'm sorry, what? Tomato?
Ever since last September, I eagerly await the change of seasons in Houston, not because I'm waiting for that first cold front of the year (which right now feels like it may never come), but because each new season brings a new round of ice cream flavors at Cloud 10 Creamery.

The gourmet ice cream parlor in Rice Village has been churning out delectable and sometimes head-scratching flavors under the guidance of pastry chef Chris Leung. Leung is known for infusing Asian elements into his ice cream, resulting in combos like hazelnut-miso or the spring sundae, which featured red currant mascarpone ice cream and a green matcha cake.

A couple of weeks ago, Cloud 10 Creamery introduced us to the new summer flavors, and while not all were available when I swung by, those that were are pretty impressive.

Tomato ice cream, anyone?

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Tout Suite Opens Soon Bringing Macarons, Eclairs & Homemade Food

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Photo courtesy of Tout Suite
Tout Suite is getting close to opening in East Downtown.
Tout Suite, sister company to Sweet Bakery in CityCentre, is just weeks away from opening. Despite typical delays from meeting city permit requirements and whatnot, the cafe, bakery and coffee shop is inching closer to opening its doors in East Downtown at 2001 Commerce. Tout Suite translates from French to English as "right away," and that's the premise behind this establishment.

Anne Le, president of Tout Suite, describes it as a European-style cafe, bistro and bakery where customers can snack on an array of pastries and sweets while sipping on a cup of coffee, or enjoy a quick, inexpensive and tasty meal.

"Since we've outgrown our very, very small bakery in CityCentre, we found this other opportunity to not only expand our kitchen, but to also serve other food that we are passionate about," Le says. "So, beyond our cupcakes and our macarons we worked hard to build our reputation on, we're branching out to also simple soups, salads and sandwiches to offer the neighborhood that we chose to be in more than just our baked goods."

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Chef Chat, Part 2: Roy Shvartzapel and What's Next For Common Bond

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Chuck Cook Photography
Chef Roy Shvartzapel of Common Bond Cafe & Bakery and a display of freshly baked breads
Check out the first part of our interview with Chef Roy Shvartzapel.

At Common Bond, colorful desserts are lined up like painted soldiers behind a glass case. A big metal rack holds generously sized loaves of freshly baked bread. There's a selection of coffee drinks and you can even grab a light lunch before the kitchen closes at 3 pm.

Is it surprising that people are willing to line up at Common Bond in the morning and wait 45 minutes for breakfast? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.

While we were interviewing chef Roy Shvartzapel, a gentleman with a white beard from Lafayette walked up to compliment him on the quality of the croissants. "A friend told me that of all the things that surprised him about Houston, the thing that surprised him the most was finding croissants here as good as what he had in Paris," he said. "You've done a great job here."

And why are those croissants so good? In part 2 of this interview, we talk about the mechanics of making the perfect croissant dough. We also get the scoop on another other baked goodie that will make its first appearance just in time for the holidays and find out about chef Roy's ultimate goals.

EOW: What do you think about the 45-minute average wait time here at Common Bond?

RS: I've visited places like that over my career and used to say "One day, I'm going to have a place where people wait in line for things that I make." I think there's a value in that. Not for me, but particularly in a city like Houston that's the ultra in non-pedestrian. We, on a scale from one to 10 in pedestrian life, are at a zero. We're not even at a one. It's the infrastructure. We cannot have, for example, a subway system. We're just not designed that way.

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Chef Chat, Part 1: Roy Shvartzapel's Culinary Journey to Common Bond

Categories: Chef Chat, Sweets

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Chuck Cook Photography
Chef Roy Shvartzapel of Common Bond Cafe & Bakery
His last name may be a little challenging to pronounce correctly, but chef Roy Shvartzapel of Common Bond is practically a Houston native. After traveling the world and working in some of the most renowned restaurants, he came back home to open the wildly successful, upper-crust bakery at Westheimer and Dunlavy. I get the feeling that this guy has two or three books in him, if only he had the time to write them.

Common Bond only opened a few months ago, but it's already so popular there's an average 45-minute wait in the mornings to get in. My Facebook feed is peppered with photos of friends waving around big, crunchy, brown croissants with as much pride as if they were carrying a Louis Vuitton satchel.

This is no overnight success story. After graduating from Culinary Institute of America, Chef Roy traveled the world for years, working for some of the top chefs in the world--sometimes for months with no pay just to learn their craft. His journey has not not just been about feeling the well-heeled masses, though. He's also lived and worked in the one of the poorest areas in the world. So, besides having great culinary knowledge to share, he's accumulated some valuable perspective on life's values as well.

In part 1 of our interview, Chef Shvartzapel describes the long, star-studded culinary journey that began in Houston and took him all over the globe until he made his way back home to open Common Bond. We'll pick up the story tomorrow in Part 2 and talk about some issues of importance to us consumers, like that 45-minute wait time.

EOW: Where were you born?

RS: Israel

EOW: When did you come to Houston?

RS: Two

EOW: How did you get into baking?

RS: The love affair began when I was in college. I grew up in a home where food was central to all things, which is typical in a Middle Eastern home. If you'd have asked me pre-college if I could see myself becoming a chef, you could have just as easily asked if I imagined becoming a conductor in a symphony. It was just as plausible--meaning, not plausible.

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Petite Sweets Introduces Frozen Custard Waffle Cone Sundaes

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Photo by Molly Dunn
The Funfetti sundae is one of the best flavors, and the easiest to eat.
Petite Sweets is known for its creamy, sweet custards. And this summer, rather than filling up a tall cup with the signature treat, the West Alabama bakery has crafted a variety of frozen custard waffle cone sundaes using the three standard flavors: Chocolate, vanilla and swirled.

Custard is similar to ice cream, but it has a smoother and creamier texture than ice cream due to the addition of egg yolks.

Petite Sweets starts with a plain or chocolate-dipped waffle cone, then fills it with frozen custard (you choose the flavor) and decorates it with an array of toppings to create one of the seven available sundaes.

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5 Best Chocolate Ice Cream Flavor Variations to Try

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It's yours for the taking at the grocery store
What's better than chocolate ice cream? [For the love of god, don't say "vanilla ice cream."] Chocolate ice cream mixed with other goodies! If you're looking for a little crunchy, chewy, salty, or sweet variation in your cocoa creams, check out these five flavors:

5. Double Fudge Brownie (Dreyer's).

Craving a brownie sundae but don't have the energy to go through that labor-intensive process of constructing one yourself? Pick up a half-gallon of Dreyer's chocolate ice cream studded with soft chunks of brownie and fudge swirls.

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Baker Spotlight: Bobby Jucker of Three Brothers Bakery

Categories: Chef Chat, Sweets

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Photo by Molly Dunn
Bobby Jucker, son of Sigmund Jucker, owns and operates Three Brothers Bakery with his wife and aunt.
For the past 65 years, Three Brothers Bakery has sold a multitude of European baked goods, such as rye bread, challah, Kaiser rolls and danishes, as well as many classic American treats like cupcakes, cakes, cookies and pies. Robert "Bobby" Jucker, son of one of the original three brothers, Sigmund Jucker, now owns and operates Three Brothers Bakery, along with his wife, Janice, and his Aunt Estelle, wife of Sol Jucker, Sigmund's twin brother.

Bobby grew up at the bakery on Braeswood where he would join his father and uncles in the kitchen to learn how to make various breads by hand.

"The first thing I learned was twisting egg rolls, and those are not Chinese egg rolls," Bobby says. "And then I learned how to make bagels by hand. And then once you know how to do that, it's like you're stuck there; you're doing everything now because stuff is getting thrown at you. So you learn how to make French rolls, and you learn how to do all the different breads and learn how to do rye bread and everything else. So, that's kind of how I learned. You just kind of get pushed into it and before you know it..."

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Fluff Bake Bar's Rebecca Masson Secures a Space for Her Brick & Mortar Bakery

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Photo courtesy Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson sometimes goes by the moniker "sugar hooker," because she brings sweets to the masses. And she's sassy.
Back in December, the "sugar hooker" Rebecca Masson launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to help build out her dream bakery. Hundreds of Houstonians donated more than $53,000 to the cause, but then Masson got back to work, and we didn't hear much more about the upcoming bakery. Until now.

Today, Masson announced that she's secured a space at 304 Gray in Midtown, the former location of Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar, for her bakery Fluff Bake Bar. She anticipates spending the next three to four months turning the space into the ideal dessert bar and opening late this fall.

"Every person who graduates from culinary school says 'I'm going to open a restaurant or bakery,' and out of 5,000 people, maybe five of them do," Masson says. "So I've been saying this since I graduated culinary school. It's time to pull on my big girl panties and do it!"

When it opens, the bakery will be the first of its kind in Houston, thanks in large part to Masson's experience in professional pastry kitchens across the country and her notion that everything tastes a little sweeter with some bubbly (and beer) to go with it.

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Eat Your Dessert First at Kraftsmen Cafe

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Photo by Troy Fields
Kraftsmen Cafe can fill up quickly on a Sunday at lunchtime.
Sometimes it's not a wise decision to eat at such a hopping place like Kraftsmen Cafe on a Sunday afternoon. But sometimes you forget that places like these fill up quickly with large parties, BYOB brunch groups and hungry patrons coming from church. The longer you stand in line, the hungrier you get. And that hangry mood begins to settle in as you wait at your table without food for over half an hour.

Of course, patience is a virtue, but if you stare too long at the bakery display case home to giant chocolate chip cookies, beautiful croissants and one of the biggest chocolate scones you have ever seen, then that willpower to hold out for your lunch goes out the window.

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