Category Archives: Sweet Treats

Teen Entrepreneur is on a Roll

By Peter Gianopulos

Jenna Swain

For posterity’s stake, remember this name: Jenna Swain. The 14-year-old from Wheaton already has her own business, selling cups of rolled ice cream—ultra-rich cream that’s spackled onto a cold griddle, frozen into pancake-thin sheets, then scraped into what looks like icy fruit roll-ups.

She launched her portable pop-up, which she dubbed High Rollers, when she was just 12. She bought her first griddle—special thanks to mom and dad for allowing her to test it in the family living room—and taught herself how to pour, freeze, and roll. By then, she’d developed a reputation for selling her handmade bracelets—plus store-bought suckers—to kids at her school for a profit. “I just like making things and finding creative ways to sell them,” Swain says. So she did just that, setting up shop at the Wheaton French Market.

Rolled ice cream from High Rollers

Immediately, she dazzled folks by folding Oreos and homemade caramel—and later on, cotton candy—into her ice cream. She never squandered her profits; she reinvested them in her business. Now, she has four griddles plus cotton-candy machines and crepe-makers. She still scrapes away at the Wheaton French Market but also will sell at the at Wheaton Town Square marketplace, Cream of Wheaton fest, and the Downers Grove summer concert series. (Check for her schedule).

So do yourself a favor: Go buy some ice cream from Jenna. Years from now, when she’s a titaness of industry, it’ll make a hell of an ice breaker at parties to say you used to buy Peep’s flavored ice cream from her way back when.


Photo: High Rollers Company

Duck, Duck, Donut

By Peter Gianopulos

Donuts from Duck Donuts

Shuffle into your typical doughnut shop, and chances are, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s tastes and predilections. The chief doughnut maker controls all. In the mood for something that screams strawberries? Sorry, it’s a blueberry morning. Hankering for a cookies-cream number or something sprinkled with Oreo bits. Not today. It’s National Snickerdoodle Day.

Enter Duck Donuts, a build-your-own-doughnut concept, launching its first Naperville location this spring. Thankfully, the chain’s name was inspired by its place of origin—Duck, North Carolina—rather than any kitschy attempt to make doughnuts that resemble webbed feet or Donald Duck’s iconic bill. What’s unique is the sheer variety of choices. Visitors start with a base vanilla doughnut, then can glaze, powder, sprinkle, crumb, Oreo, and drizzle them to their heart’s content. Pick any combination: perhaps a fruity lemon glaze with coconut sprinkles, or a cocoa bomb: chocolate glaze, sprinkles, chocolate icing. Or guests can choose from preselected combos, from the French toast (maple icing, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar) to the Bacon in the Sun (maple icing, chopped bacon, salted caramel drizzle).

The Naperville location, owned by hometown doughnut lover Kevon Gardner, offers a full array of accompaniments, including coffee, ice cream, milkshakes, plus one treat: What may be the area’s first vanilla doughnut breakfast sandwich, which—you guessed it—can be customized in a number of ways, including gilding it with maple syrup and chopped bacon.


Photo courtesy of Duck Donuts

Log On for Bûche

By Peter Gianopulos

Bûche de Noël

A batch of holiday sugar cookies? You can handle those. Ditto for a pan full of gingerbread people or Christmas-tree shaped brownies. But making an authentic bûche de Noël, France’s iconic yule log-shaped Christmas treat, is far from child’s play, even for pros like Meghan Fiene, who runs Fiene’s Bakery in Naperville. Fiene’s grandmother used to make a downright legendary bûche de Noël, so luscious and light that no one in her entire extended family could replicate it. Now, after graduating from pastry school at the College of DuPage and practicing every December, Meghan has cracked the code. The secret, she says, is to use real vanilla to offset all those rich chocolate notes and to carefully roll the cake while it’s still slightly warm.

“You want to fold it the way you would a Swiss cake roll,” she says. From there, it’s all about artistry. A little sugar to mimic falling snow or piping on ivy for extra color. Fiene says most of her holiday offerings—like cranberry orange crumb bars and Italian-style butter cookies—were inspired by family recipes, but her bûche de Noël is special, as it proves that what all of us know already: When it comes to Christmas baking, grandmother knows best.


Photo courtesy of Fiene’s Bakery

A Hole in One

A customer recently strolled up to the counter at the Donut Experiment (2770 S. Highland Ave., Lombard), leaned in close to owner Norris Ingbretson, and gleefully proclaimed, “You did it!” Ingbretson was unfazed. When you run a doughnut shop that boasts a completely open kitchen—customers watch, Wonka-like, as their doughnuts are mixed, molded, sizzled in oil, and then crowned with their choice of toppings—expressions of unbridled joy are not uncommon. 

The man had just devoured a house specialty: a spicy-sweet peanut-butter glazed doughnut with peanut bits and a Sriracha drizzle. “It tasted like a pad Thai doughnut,” said the enthused heat-seeker. “I’ve never tried anything like it.” 

Given that customers can choose from six different glazes, 15 sprinkles (bacon bits to fruity pebbles), and a variety of drizzles, chances are you’ll find your perfect doughnut, too. —P.G.

Photo courtesy of The Donut Experiment