If it wasn't for Chicago's French pastry school, the region wouldn't be nearly as sweet. In recent months, ABC7's Hungry Hound has introduced you to graduates who are setting up their own pastry shops and bakeries. One of the newest is Dessert Menu in Dyer, Indiana.
This most recent addition is giving northwest indiana residents yet another reason to indulge their sweet tooths with world-class treats.
Some businesses are born of lifelong passion. Others - like the charming, two month-old Dessert Menu, in Dyer, Indiana - are born of frustration from not having a great dessert option nearby. The light bulb went off for Renee Wilson years ago, while she and her future husband were dating.
"We were leaving the movie theater, and he wanted cheesecake actually and I wanted ice cream, but something good, not run-of-the-mill, you know what I mean," said Wilson.
So she enrolled in Chicago's French Pastry School, graduated, and immediately returned to her community to open up a pastry shop and bakery with the same big-city high standards.
"I wanted to bring to the area desserts that everyone may not necessarily be familiar with, especially like the macaroon," she said.
That one dollar splurge is a bargain. Flavors rotate and sometimes, she'll add an extra little something special, like a piece of hazelnut crunch to the center. Those same crunchy pieces might also find their way onto a milk chocolate and raspberry ganache or more likely, featured in a hazelnut-heavy Paris Brest. The treat - shaped like a bicycle tire to commemorate a famous race between Paris and Brest - is made from scratch: they start by making a pastry cream, involving eggs, sugar and heavy cream; while that's spread out on a baking sheet to chill, the shell is baked and brushed with egg white, in order to hold those pieces of hazelnut on top. Then hazelnut puree is combined with the pastry cream and piped onto the bottom half of the shell, which is covered with the other half and served.
There are luscious eclairs, topped with chocolate and filled with vanilla bean-flecked custard.. plus homemade Belgian liege waffles, embedded with sugar pearls, that you can top with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Wilson realizes that even though she's selling high-end pastries - Napoleons and lemon curd tarts don't come cheap after all - she's going to keep her prices down, to reflect the neighborhood.
"I do take cost into consideration. We still provide our quality ingredients, we use fine chocolate, we use European butter; we do not skimp on our ingredients at all," said Wilson.
In a few weeks, the shop will also start baking its own bread, which means a big improvement for sandwiches all over northwest Indiana.
1950 Hart St., Dyer, IN