Welcome to Sugar High, a 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.
Cafe Ventana (3919 West Pine Boulevard; 314-531-7500), a self-proclaimed "bohemian bistro with a French Quarter feel," offers the one pastry that any cafe touting a N'awlins theme ought to: beignets. The hand-cut fritters are brought to life in a bath of hot oil and come with the requisite dusting of fluffy powdered sugar.
"It's a two-day process," says baker and kitchen manager Pam Barr. "We make our dough and let it really develop in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, we roll them out and cut them. Then, we fry them to-order."
The base of the beignets is a basic yeast-risen sugar dough with shortening added to it, says Barr. Airy in the middle and a crispy, golden brown on the outside, the square-shaped dough pieces puff up during the cooking process to yield a fluffy, pillowlike product.
Alternatively, resident bookworms and caffeine guzzlers craving sweets can opt for a chocolate option, made with the same dough cut into circles and stuffed with dark chocolate. Fresh from the fryer, the chocolate comes out smooth and gooey.
Besides these indulgent treats, Cafe Ventana also offers a variety of cookies, brownies, muffins and more to accompany a long menu of lattes and more.
"I think we have a nice, relaxed atmosphere here," says Barr, mentioning the dining room's cozy fireplace. "And the beignets really fly out the door. They're worth coming in for."
Previously on Sugar High: - Frida's Raspberry-Chocolate Avocado Mousse - India Palace's Gulab Jamun - Melt's "Violet Beauregarde" Waffle - Brevan's Patisserie's "Brendan" - Winslow's Home's Chocolate Cake with Espresso Meringue - La Patisserie Chouquette's Eclair - Black Bear Bakery's Raspberry Oat Bar - Gelateria's London Fog Gelato - 4 Seasons Bakery's German Cheesecake - Libertine's "Candy Bar" - Cleveland-Heath's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie - Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks' Sticky Toffee Pudding
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