A decadent treat at a Pilsen cafe

August 3, 2008 4:44:13 AM PDT
The Pilsen neighborhood was celebrating a big carnival over the weekend. "Fiesta Del Sol" gets under way Thursday. The family-friendly event has rides, games and food, and our Hungry Hound says if you plan on being in the area, you should also check out a great cafe for a one-of-a-kind dessert.

Pilsen is home to many unique finds, from carnitas to liquados, and of course, pasteles. But one cafe has been focusing its efforts on just two types of desserts for the past few years, both of which are outselling everything else on the menu.

Cristina Chavarria loves to bake. So much so, in fact, that her desserts have eclipsed the sales of the other items at Kristoffer's Cafe and Bakery in Pilsen. While many people sip coffee during the day, most of them can't resist a slice of her fantastic Tres Leches.

"I think it's our unique recipe. Our signature cake is the vanilla covered with chocolate, which you really don't see," said Chavarria, of Kristoffer's Cafe.

For her "three milks," she first adds some vanilla extract to half and half, then a can of condensed milk, and finally, some evaporated milk. It's all stirred together. As soon as her beautiful yellow cakes are removed from the oven, she uses a special knife to slice off the top, making them even. Those tops, by they way, are for sale up at the counter. In an elaborate choreography, she removes the cake, then covers it with plastic wrap, then returns it to the pan. Finally, the three milk combo is gently poured all over the cake, so that it completely soaks in like a sponge. After it's been in the refrigerator for a day, she'll coat it with a thin layer of homemade frosting.

"I'd rather have people enjoy a good piece of cake. And we don't like to hide our cake with the frosting, so we just lay it small on there--thin," said Chavarria.

In addition to chocolate, there's also coconut, and at least a half-dozen other great flavors. One of her most famous creations is called a Chocoflan, and it's even more addicting than the tres leches.

It starts with a thin layer of caramelized sugar that goes into a cake pan. Then she makes a flan, blending in eggs, condensed milk and evaporated milk to cream cheese. The flan is poured into the pan, over the caramel.

Separately, she makes a chocolate cake, using cocoa, eggs and chocolate chips. Again, this mixture is poured into the cake pan. And here's where the mystery comes in: after baking, she shakes the pan to loosen it from the sides, then turns it over, revealing something magical. The cake and flan have separated into two delicious layers, set beneath a caramelized cap.

"You get the best of both worlds. You have a very moist chocolate cake and then you have a great piece of cheese flan on top," said Chavarria.

Some other great flavors include Caramel, Pina Colada and Kahlua. Slices of Tres Leches or Chocoflan cost $4.25. Kristoffer's also make carrot cake as well as german chocolate cake.

Kristoffer's Cafe & Bakery
1733 S. Halsted St.
312-829-4150
www.kristofferscafe.com


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