Welcome to Sugar High, a new series devoted solely to spotlighting the best ways to sate a sweet tooth in St. Louis. We'll sample the best the city has to offer at restaurants, bakeries and holes-in-the-wall, and provide some insight on how these confections are made along the way.
From flaky, award-winning pies and decadent flourless chocolate cakes to caramelized, custard-filled canelé and plump French macarons, there isn't a European-style, from-scratch treat at 4 Seasons Bakery (2012 Campus Drive; St. Charles; 314-288-9176) we've tried and didn't like. Husband-and-wife co-owners Agi and Aaron Groff met while learning the tricks of the trade at Culinary Institute of America, and the techniques acquired from their baking and pastry pedigrees are evident in each item's tactful execution.
When asked to choose one signature dessert, Agi Groff hesitates for a moment -- after all, how can a pastry chef play favorites with her own creations? -- and names a nostalgic sweet from her home country: käsekuchen, a German-style cheesecake.
"It's a German cheesecake that's really popular and goes back to my heritage," she says. "I missed it, so I started experimenting with them."
While the traditional recipe calls for quark, a soft ricotta-like cheese, Groff found that Greek yogurt yielded the desired taste and texture. 4 Seasons Bakery sells käsekuchen in individual-serving squares dotted with plump fruits -- in this case, cherries. True to the bakery's namesake, expect to find different options including apricots, peaches, pears and apples when they're in season.
The German cheesecake filling takes on a tangier flavor profile than its American-style counterpart and has a sugar-cookie base. Creamy and lighter than the cheesecake we've all come to know, the käsekuchen gets its subtle sweetness from vanilla-bean sugar and a delicate crunch from a crumb topping.
Those willing to venture to 4 Seasons Bakery will find the treats within well worth the trip. Unable to make the trek? Look forward to to finding the Groffs and their expertly baked goods at the Maplewood Farmers' Market this spring.
Previously on Sugar High: - Libertine's "Candy Bar" - Cleveland-Heath's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie - Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks' Sticky Toffee Pudding
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