At the beginning of each month my mom and I sit down to develop a list of specials at our bakery. As one of Chicago’s leading wholesale bakeries, hundreds of restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, coffee shops and other food service businesses around the city rely on us to meet all of their dessert needs. Just as chefs work hard to keep their menus seasonal, we aim to provide them with a selection of new dessert options that have their customers asking for seconds.
What some fail to realize is that many of the desserts they’re eating while dining out aren’t actually baked in-house, but instead by a commercial bakery like us - JR Dessert Bakery – a 37-year-old family owned bakery in Chicago’s West Rogers Park area. We make everything by hand using all-natural ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong, some of Chicago’s top restaurants have world-renowned pastry chefs whipping up daily masterpieces in their kitchens, but the reality of the situation is that the majority of food establishments can’t afford to have a full-time dessert person on staff, which is where we come in.
The secret to our success is to somewhat remain a secret. We prefer to act as an extension to a restaurant’s kitchen and have been successful at doing so by remaining current; hence, the importance of those monthly specials.
As tastes have changed, there’s an emphasis in the food industry to buy local, stay seasonal, and keep it fresh. That’s exactly what we aim to do. Some months are easier than others. For example, our strawberry rhubarb rustic tarts are a big hit in July as is our pear Bundt cake in September. But the ultimate seasonal ingredient has always been pumpkin.
For many, pumpkin is the taste of autumn, and its arrival signifies the end of summer and beginning of fall. If you walk into just about any cafe they’ve got their pumpkin spice lattes prominently advertised. Meanwhile, pumpkin soups, raviolis, ice creams and bars are all the rage. Around this time of year, chefs and bakers galore rush to put pumpkin into just about whatever they can, because it sells – and really well.
Our customers start asking us about our pumpkin specials in late August eagerly awaiting our October 1st deliveries. Over the years we’ve developed a nice selection always featuring some sort of pumpkin cheesecake, pie, cupcake, muffin and cookie option for the month. This way we ensure a high quality product while continuing to maintain the production of all of our other sweets. The trick is to only feature popular seasonal ingredients for a limited time. Just as customers start to get bored we’ve moved into a different month with an entirely new list of specials.
We believe the key to a truly delicious pumpkin dessert is based upon the other ingredients you chose to mix it with. In many ways baking is an exact science and the most successful in this field treat it that way. Our top seller – the pumpkin cheesecake - is a delicate blend of pumpkin puree with rich cream cheese topped with crushed walnuts and a fresh whip cream piping. We sell the dessert whole or pre-cut in order to guarantee that each slice is absolutely perfect when it eventually hits the diner’s plate.
Whether you are cooking at home for your family or are a caterer planning an event for two hundred guests, we highly recommend using pumpkin as an ingredient in your next menu while always remembering those other three keywords: local, seasonal and fresh. It’s a trend that’s clearly here to stay and could literally pay off in the end.