Local chefs update New York classics

We asked three inspired pastry chefs to reimagine the city's most iconic sweets.



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  • Black-and-white cookie

  • Pichet Ong at Spot Dessert Bar

  • Cannoli

  • Brooks Headley at Del Posto

  • Cheesecake

  • Alex Stupak at wd~50

Black-and-white cookie

Black-and-white cookie

Inspired by Pocky sticks, Pichet Ong revises the biscuit at Spot Dessert Bar

Pichet Ong has titillated New York sweet tooths by applying his playful Asian palette to Western desserts at celeb-chef--backed restaurants like Spice Market, as well as at casual pastry shops such as Spot Dessert Bar and Village Tart. But while he's created riffs on plenty of Gotham favorites in the past, including Thai tea-and-mango tiramisu and a goat-cheese cake, he had never tasted a black-and-white cookie until this summer (ironically, he bought iconic NYC treat in Philly). "It was what I expected," he says. "Kind of a bland, dry cookie with sugary icing." In order to resurrect the lackluster dessert, Ong channeled one of his favorite bedside snacks: Pocky sticks, the chocolate-covered, straw-shaped biscuits that are hugely popular throughout Asia, particularly in Japan and China. He ramped up the B&W's yin-yang effect by contrasting sweet white chocolate with extra-bitter Valrhona chocolate, recalling the dark cocoa used in an amusingly gender-specific variety of Pocky Sticks dubbed Men's Pocky. Unlike the packaged inspiration, Ong's thick, breadstick-size wands are freshly baked, using a savory, butter--infused cracker recipe that's slightly sweetened with condensed milk (another Asian pantry staple). If you're like Jerry Seinfeld and believe the key to eating a black-and-white cookie is to get a bit of each side with every bite, ration the dark-chocolate pearls tacked onto the white end, or snap the stick and munch the two halves in tandem.
Try it now: Spot Dessert Bar, 13 St. Marks Pl between Second and Third Aves (212-677-5670, spotdessertbar.com). Each $2.75, three for $6.50.



Brooks Headley whips up a reverent yet deconstructed version at Del Posto

When the craving strikes, hardcore punk drummer turned pastry ace Brooks Headley gets his cannoli fix at stalwart Brooklyn patisserie Fortunato Brothers (289 Manhattan Ave at Devoe St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-387-2281). But his appreciation for the Sicilian staple didn't stop him from pimping outhis own version with high-quality Italian ingredients and a Greenmarket twist. Headley refines the traditional filling by subbing in salty-sweet stracciatella gelato made with funky sheep's-milk ricotta from Rome, streaked with melted fair-trade chocolate shavings. And rather than confine the filling to a dull tube, he spears the free-form scoop with shards of a golden-brown, just-fried pastry shell, a recipe that he adopted from Italian chef Lidia Bastianich. Headley then swaps out the typically garish accoutrements (candied cherries, nuts and sprinkles) for a bed of candied and salted super-green Sicilian pistachios, which give the dish textural crunch, and strawberries from the Union Square Greenmarket. He adds simple slices of the fruit, and also purees some with malic acid, to produce a tart sauce he likens to a liquid Sour Patch Kid (albeit an ingenious, locavore-friendly interpretation of the candy). Topping off the whole Old-Country-meets-NYC creation is a refreshing hit of hand-torn mint and—in true Italian-bakery fashion—a dusting of powdered sugar, which the chef calls "a totally underutilized dessert tool in 2010."
Try it now: Del Posto, 85 Tenth Ave between 15th and 16th Sts (212-497-8090, delposto.com). la carte $15, with prix-fixe lunch $29.



Alex Stupak starts a new tradition at wd~50

"When I imagined a bad cheesecake, I first thought of a diner cheesecake, which always has that fluorescent glaze on the top of it," says wd-50's innovative dessert whiz Alex Stupak. "Whether it's cherry or pineapple, chances are no fruit ever actually came in contact with that product." To rescue the Gotham dessert from the lifeless glow of the display case, he aimed to preserve the cheesecake's sweetness and visual garnishes while enlivening the dish with in-season produce and unexpected flavors. The colorful result is a study in contrasts: Individual nuggets of creamy cheesecake are enveloped in a wild-blueberry glaze and paired with tangy crme frache, lime zest and crunchy piles of snickerdoodle streusel (the house-made cookies are a favorite at staff dinners). Plump blueberries announce the freshness of an oblong scoop of blueberry sorbet, while a final chefly flourish—dollops of smooth plantain puree—provides an additional sweet note. "Blueberries make me think of cereal, and you think about putting banana in cereal...but bananas are too obvious, so that's where the plantain came in," Stupak explains, and then stops himself. "In this day and age, I don't believe food has to make sense anymore. It just has to taste really good." Mission accomplished.
Try it now: wd~50, 50 Clinton St between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-477-2900, wd-50.com). $15.

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