Food writers tend to drop lots of superlatives in their work, but I generally try to avoid that level of praise unless something is really, really great. Which is why when I tell you that the Ceylon snickerdoodle filled with salted egg yolk at The Bakery at Fat Rice (2951 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square) is the best cookie I’ve had in months, you know I mean it.
In case you’re not familiar, The Bakery at Fat Rice is the pastry shop attached to Fat Rice, the acclaimed Asian/Portuguese restaurant. It offers coffee drinks, cocktails, and sweet and savory pastries out of one of the prettiest dessert cases in town. The Bakery is probably most famous for a version of a Chicago-style hot dog, which has been on the menu since the beginning, but there are a lot of new things to try, as new pastry chef Elaine Townsend has spent the last several months quietly revamping the menu.
Townsend came to Chicago from California in 2017 and did a stint at Blue Sky Bakery before coming to Fat Rice. While she had plenty of fine dining experience and formal pastry training, she hadn’t done much work with Asian pastries. “Doing something the way the Chinese have done it for hundreds of years is way different from the way the French have been doing it for hundreds of years,” she says. But after a lot of experimentation (and a lot of research visits to Chinatown and Argyle Street), she’s come up with a menu that’s worth a visit.
The best of the menu mixes sweet and savory, such as fudge brownies made with almonds and dark chocolate miso ganache. Or that cookie, which takes a ton of work to make: Townsend cures egg yolks, grates them, and forms them into a salty, savory yolk ball. That gets enrobed in snickerdoodle dough, and that cookie ball gets rolled in sugar spiked with Ceylon black tea before baking. (Sound labor-intensive? So is pretty much everything at the bakery: All the breads and puff pastry are rolled by hand, as opposed to far easier machine-assisted kneading and laminating.) The end product is intensely savory and salty, a novelty for a cookie, with a lightly bitter sweetness from the tea.
In the coming months, look for even more delicious delights to hit the menu for Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. And when you stop in, don’t be scared if nothing looks familiar. “I love introducing people to new things,” says Townsend.