Emma Freud: How to eat like a New Yorker - Best puddings

Emma Freud's Big Apple adventure continues with her exploration of New York's finest sweet treats. Ever tried birthday cake truffles or a luxury, handmade Rice Krispie bar? Let Emma fill you in...

Emma Freud

This month I’ve been hard at work investigating (i.e. eating) the most interesting sweet food available in Manhattan. Harsh brief, I know. There’s so much good pudding work going on here that it’s hard to know where to start… goat’s milk ice cream, matcha-flavoured pastries, fusion bakes like last year’s cronut (doughnut/croissant) or this year’s brookie (cookie/brownie/cupcake). But I discovered the ones that really hit home tend to involve flavours that remind you of your childhood in the UK: birthday cakes from the time when birthdays were magical, butterscotch Angel Delight, Ambrosia creamed rice, uncooked brownie mix you licked from the bowl. Those food triggers are joyful, but it turns out that to hit them as an adult, the ingredients need to be seriously better than their originals.

Childhood treats

I visited Rice to Riches, a Soho shop that only sells exquisite rice pudding in 20 flavours. Eat one spoonful (I ate several spoonfuls) of its vanilla & mascarpone rice pudding and you’ll find it’s everything Ambrosia felt like, but in truth really wasn’t.

Remember the first time you ate a marshmallow and thought you had ingested an actual cloud? To an adult palate, that same sweet-shop classic tastes less euphoric and more like a collection of E additives, synthetic colour and chemicals. But pop one of Three Tarts’ handmade vanilla marshmallows into your grown-up mouth and the experience of biting down on a beautiful miracle returns.

Similarly, Snowdays on 7th Avenue shaves cream into paper thin flakes on a huge rotating blade and serves it with lovingly crafted toppings. The shaved coconut cream drizzled with salted caramel and topped with shards of vanilla wafer is everything you ever dreamed snow should taste like.

In the East Village

Momofuku Milk Bar is the legendary, edgy bakery that invented birthday cake truffles: tiny balls made from the leftover scraps from their perfect birthday cake, crumbed and mixed with vanilla milk, rolled in white chocolate and then covered in a sweet speckled sand. In the ice cream department, Momofuku’s bestseller is ‘cereal milk’ – made from the liquid left in your bowl after you’ve finished your Frosties. Pasticceria Rocco is an Italian family bakery famous for its rum baba. Rocco’s rum babas are so juicy, so rum-soaked, so light and so delicious that I now can’t go without one for more than a few days. 

This week was my youngest son’s 12th birthday and, bizarrely, he doesn’t like cake. I bought some tubs of uncooked cookie dough from a Manhattan company started by a gluten-intolerant designer. We ate it straight from the tub for breakfast – her signature chocolate-chip dough, holiday cake batter and oatmeal M&M’s cookie dough – without fear of tummy ache as they somehow contain no raw egg.

And for his birthday tea, I ordered a Rice Krispies cake lovingly made by Brooklyn baker MisterKrisp. It was luscious: just like, but frankly better than, the ones made by six year olds for the cake stalls at school fairs which only get bought by their parents. It’s been a delicious mission. The tastes that go deep, the ones that you mention to your friends when you get home from foreign travels, tend to be the ones that hit an area in your stomach and heart called 'reminds me of my youth'. 

Have you revisited any of your childhood favourite flavours? Do Emma's sweet treats tickle your pickle? Let us know in the comments below... 

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