Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category


Winter Citrus

January 19, 2010

Thank goodness for citrus in the winter. My dessert menus at the restaurants need some color and bright flavors. It even brightens up the pastry department and our moods. You can only handle so much rain and this week it’s not supposed to stop. I am not complaining about brown desserts as chocolate, caramel and nuts are all shades of brown but I need something to break it up. Ordinary oranges, limes and lemons are available as always but January also brings Meyer Lemons, Cara Caras, blood oranges, mandarins and kumquats. These varieties are only around now for a few months so take advantage of them while you can.

Cara Caras are very juicy pink fleshed navel oranges. They segment nicely for a plated dessert or served on top of cheesecake. Blood oranges (also known as Moro Oranges) with their deep red color are originally from Sicily and common all over Italy.  They make great sorbet. Both of these oranges are grown by Sunkist so are available across the United States. Meyer Lemons can be harder to find as they are not grown on a large commercial scale. In California they are called the backyard lemon as you can see the bright yellow fruit on trees in yards all over the Bay Area. I have nine small trees in the front of my house where the rhododendrons used to be. The lemons are a much better use of space. Only probably is I when I come up my driveway I love to see the trees full of lemons so I put off picking them. Cookbooks by California chefs call frequently for Meyer Lemons. This can be frustrating for people from other parts of the country as they can’t get them. (Last year I gave an East coast friend fifty Meyer Lemons for her 50th birthday.) Meyers are a thin skinned lemon thought to be a cross between an orange and a lemon. They are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. They work wonderfully in desserts. Sometimes I will add a little regular lemon juice to give Meyer lemon curd a little lemon kick.

Here is my favorite recipe using Blood Oranges.

Blood Orange – Vanilla Creamsicle

Emily Luchetti

Serves 6

Blood Orange Sorbet

2 3/4 cups blood orange juice, strained (about 12 blood oranges)

1 cup sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Large pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla Custard

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out

2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons plain gelatin

2 tablespoons water

 3 blood oranges, peeled and segmented

To make the sorbet: In a large bowl, combine the blood orange juice, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until scoopable, about 2 hours, depending on your freezer.

To make the vanilla custard: Combine the vanilla bean, seeds, cream, milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until almost simmering. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the vanilla bean steep in the liquid for 10 minutes.

Stir together the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl, discarding the vanilla bean. Stir the gelatin mixture into the cream with a heat-resistant plastic or wooden spatula. Let the liquid cool to warm, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Stirring prevents the gelatin from sinking to the bottom of the hot liquid.) Pour the vanilla custard into 6 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

To serve: Unmold by dipping the bottom of the ramekins in a bowl of very hot water. Run a knife around the inside edge of each cream and invert onto a plate. Arrange the orange segments around the creams. Place a scoop of sorbet on top of the vanilla custard. (You can also serve it in the dish if you don’t want to unmold it. Put the segments and sorbet on top.) Serve immediately.

In Advance: The creams may be made a day ahead. Once firm, cover with plastic wrap. Teh sorbet can be made a day ahead too.


The Agony and the Ecstasy of Testing Book Recipes

January 8, 2010

The cookbook I am currently working on has 175 recipes. That’s a lot of sugar, flour and butter. When I go to the store I put a bag of flour, a bag of sugar and 5 pounds of butter in my shopping cart. Then I look at my list.

Testing a recipe for a cookbook is different than testing and putting a dessert on a restaurant menu. I have to rely on 2 different skill sets. One is the creative side of my brain where I have the fun of brainstorming what sounds good. The other part is the meticulous measuring and documenting exactly how I make it. For a restaurant dessert I can write them in pastry “shorthand” as I know what level of experience the cooks have. I am also there to explain anything if they have questions. For a cookbook I have to think about what parts of the recipe a home cook could get confused on and make sure they don’t.  The recipes need to be much more precise. More people are making them and people interpret things differently. What does it mean to slice something thick vs. thin? What does whip until stiff mean? People have different kitchen equipment and ovens work differently. I can’t just say bake for 25 minutes. I have to give a clue of knowing when it is done- skewer clean? Cracked on top? As much as I love my KitchenAid stand mixer I know not everyone has one. If you use an electric hand mixer mixing can take several minutes longer. I have to account for this.

When I get an idea in my head for a book recipe, I first think about how it will work and then I go into the kitchen and test it. Very rarely is it finished in one try. It takes several attempts and sometimes up to 6 or so to get it just right. After I have tested something 6 times and I am not close I give up. I admit to myself it was a better idea than it was a dessert that someone would actually want to eat. Sometimes after 4 tries I feel I am getting close to having it correct but I will ask myself-Do I really like this or am I just tired of testing it and want to go on to the next recipe? It’s easy to lose perspective after you have tasted something that many times. Often that’s when I ask my husband to taste it or send the recipe to my home baker friends and relatives. I ask them to bake it and let me know what they think. This is very helpful as it keeps me on track. I write recipes for home cooks as it puts the control and fun in their hands. They don’t have to go to a restaurant to eat a good dessert. They can enjoy it at home. They get the pleasure of creating something with their hands and the pleasure of sharing it with others. I gauge a good recipe by if a home cook can 1) make it, 2) enjoy it and 3) want to make it again.

During testing it can be a bit discouraging when I have a recipe that has numerous penciled cross outs and notes in the margins and I decide I need to make it “just one more time”. When I get a recipe right and a home baker lets me know that they made a recipe of mine and they loved it, it’s all worthwhile. It gives me the energy to wrestle the next middle of the night idea I have to a working recipe that someone will bake over and over. If you want to be part of my testing team send me an email. I would love to include you in my recipe creations.


Christmas Sweets

December 18, 2009



It’s official. I have finally decided what I will make for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day desserts. Making up my mind is not a simple task. There are so many choices. Since it is Christmas I want to make sure they are worthy of the occasion. For weeks I go back and forth muttering several options to myself. It drives my poor husband crazy. On Monday I will tell him we are having one thing and Wednesday I say something else. He will say “But what about the …. you were so excited about two days ago?”  Once he has heard me say the same dessert several days in a row then he figures that is what he will get to have.

I always choose classic desserts. It’s a traditional holiday so I like to go with something time-honored. In past years I have served Crepes Suzette, croquembouche, tiramisu, passion fruit soufflés, Baked Alaska and buche de noel. This year I have decided to make a frozen bouche de noel with chocolate cake and brown sugar ice cream. I will cover it in meringue and serve lots of chocolate and caramel sauces on the side. Come to think of it I better make two so there is enough for Santa. I leave a note telling him where to find leftover dessert. Funny thing it is always gone in the morning.

For Christmas Day we will have Gingerbread with warm apples and cider sabayon. While this is not a classic dessert by other people’s standards it has become part of our Christmas since I first developed the combination in 1991 when I worked at Stars Restaurant.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.


Frozen Bouche de Noel

If you want to stagger the production over a couple of days, make the cake and ice cream on the 22nd or 23rd. Spread the meringue on the 24th.

Serves 8 to 10

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Chocolate Roulade

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons water

6 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the ice cream: Combine the cream, milk, brown sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until almost simmering. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool over an ice bath to room temperature. Refrigerate the custard for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until firm but still spreadable, about 2 hours, depending on your freezer.

While the ice cream is freezing, make the roulade: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 11-inch-by-17-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and water together in a double boiler over hot water. Stir until smooth.

Whip the egg yolks on high speed until light in color, 2 to 3 minutes with a stand mixer, 3 to 4 minutes with a hand mixer. Reduce to medium speed and add 1/3 cup of the sugar. Increase speed to high and continue to whip until thick and ribbony. On low speed or by hand, stir in the 1/4 cup of the cocoa powder and the salt. Stir in the melted chocolate.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy and begin to increase in volume. Gradually whip in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a steady stream. Whip until satiny, stiff peaks form. In two additions, fold the whites carefully into the chocolate mixture. Gently and evenly spread the mixture in the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed with your fingertip and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, lay a clean thin cotton dish towel on the work surface with a short end toward you. Dust an area of the towel the size of the cake pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Remove the cake from the oven and run a small knife around the inside edges of the pan. Place one of the long ends of the cake pan on the right side of the towel and invert the pan and the cake on top of the towel so it falls at the end of the towel closest to you and on top of the cocoaed area. Carefully remove the pan and then the parchment paper. If the cake is not sitting at the end of the towel, fold the towel under itself so it is. From the end closest to you, carefully roll the cake and the towel up together like a jelly roll. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

To assemble the roulade: If necessary, soften the brown sugar ice cream while the cake is cooling. It should be firm but spreadable. Carefully unroll the cake. (If it splits anywhere, carefully push the broken pieces together.) Gently spread the ice cream over the cake with a thin metal spatula, leaving a 1/4-inch border on all sides. Reroll the cake without the towel. Place on a large platter or baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, about 3 hours, depending on your freezer. Cover with meringue (see recipe below). If desired torch just before serving.


1/2 cup egg whites (about 4)

1 cup sugar

In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar until combined. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the egg whites are very warm. Remove the whites from the hot water and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed with a stand mixer, or high speed with a handheld mixer, until stiff, glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Remove the ice cream log from the freezer. Using a small spatula, spread the meringue about 3/4 inch thick over the cake completely covering it. This can be done several hours in advance. Do not cover. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Just before serving, using a butane torch, constantly move the flame over the meringue about 1 inch from the surface of the meringue until lightly browned. Or briefly put underneath a preheated broiler.

Gingerbread with Apples and Cider Sabayon

The gingerbread can be made a couple days in advance. Store at room temperature. The apples two days ahead and the sabayon one. Keep both of these refrigerated.

Yield: 9 by 13 inch pan


1 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan.

Mix molasses, boiling water and baking soda together in a large bowl. Cool to room temperature.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light. Mix in the egg.

Sift together the ginger, cinnamon, flour and baking powder. Add the salt

In three additions, alternately add dry ingredients and the molasses mixture to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly after each addition to make sure there are no lumps.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool before cutting.


7 medium apples (Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Braeburn)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons (Approximately) apple juice or water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch kosher salt

Peel, core and slice the apples 3/16 inch thick. Cook the apples with the remaining ingredients until the apples are soft but still hold their shape. If the liquid evaporates before the apples are cooked, add more apple juice.

Cider Sabayon

8 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch kosher salt

3/4 cup sparkling apple cider, hard cider or 1/4 cup Calvados and 1/2 cup apple juice

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

To make the sabayon: Fill a medium bowl two-thirds with ice and water to make an ice bath. Fill a medium pot one-third full of water and bring it to a low boil. In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and sparkling apple juice until smooth. Place the bowl over the pot of water and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, about 2 minutes. Place the bowl in the ice bath. Cool, whisking occasionally until at least room temperature. Remove the bowl and discard the ice bath.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the apple mixture.

Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Serve the gingerbread with the apples (warm or room temperature) and the apple sabayon.


Truffles- The Chocolate Kind

December 10, 2009


Recently I was on the San Francisco television show View from the Bay demonstrating how to make walnut cranberry truffles. Here is a link.

Truffles are a perfect holiday treat for many reasons.

  1. They are made with chocolate.
  2. They are small so you can indulge without going overboard.
  3. They last for quite a while so you can make them ahead.
  4. As a hostess gift they are something different than a bottle of wine.
  5. The flavor combinations are infinite.
  6. They are made with chocolate. Yes, I know that is # 1 but it bears repeating.

Here are a couple different recipes for truffles. If you take the chocolate from the fridge and it is too hard to scoop let sit at room temperature for a bit. Conversely, if it is too soft put back in the fridge. Enjoy!

Walnut Cranberry Truffles

Yield about 30, 3/4 to 1-inch truffles

3/4 cup heavy cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

In a small pot, bring the cream to a boil just around the edges. Add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cranberries.

Transfer the chocolate mixture to a pie pan or 9 inch pan. Refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.

Using a teaspoon scoop the truffles. Return to the refrigerator and let firm up again, about 30 minutes.

Place the walnuts on a plate or pie pan. Roll the truffles in the nuts and then roll them lightly between your palms until they are a nice round shape.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Makes thirty 1-inch truffles

 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, ground

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the cream over it. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the peanut butter. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour to overnight.

Place the ground peanuts on a plate or in a pie dish. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

Using a measuring teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out 30 heaping spoonfuls of the truffle mixture. Place them in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. When all of the scoops have been made, lightly roll them between the palms of your hands to give them a nice round shape. If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.

To scoop truffles: Dip the spoon or melon baller in hot water after every couple of scoops. Tap gently on the sheet pan to loosen the truffle mixture. To keep your hands clean while rolling truffles, where thin rubber gloves. This will also keep the truffles from getting too soft if you have hot hands.

Roll the truffles, a few at a time, in the ground peanuts. You may need to gently press the peanuts into the truffles to get them to stick. Place in a single layer on another wax paper- lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before serving the truffles, let them sit at room temperature to soften slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. This will make them a little creamier.

Mocha Truffles

Makes thirty 1-inch truffles

3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon ground coffee

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

1/3 cup cocoa powder

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the coffee, and cover the pan. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the cream into a bowl and discard the coffee. Return the cream to the pan. Again, heat the cream until it is bubbling around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat.

Put the two chocolates in a medium bowl and pour the cream over them. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour. You can leave it overnight.

Place the cocoa powder on a plate or in a pie dish. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

Using a measuring teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out 30 heaping spoonfuls of the truffle mixture. Place them in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. When all of the scoops have been made, lightly roll them between the palms of your hands to give them a nice round shape. If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.

Roll the truffles, a few at a time, in the cocoa powder. Place in a single layer on the second baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before serving the truffles, let them sit at room temperature to soften slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. This will make them a little creamier.


What’s the Big Deal about Pumpkin Pie?

November 20, 2009

photograph by Minh & Wass

When I was growing up my family never had pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. We had a turkey with all the trimmings but dessert varied from year to year – chocolate, apple -whatever my mom was in the mood to make. It wasn’t until I became an adult and went to other people’s houses on Turkey day that I discovered the fixation with pumpkin pie. I asked my parents why we didn’t have the traditional dessert. Her response was ‘Your dad and I don’t really like pumpkin pie so we always made something else.” Maybe genetics is why I am not a big fan either. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin and I make a great pumpkin pie. I can somewhat understand what attracts people but if it is on the buffet table it is one of the few desserts I will pass on. (Thank goodness there is at least one dessert I don’t feel obligated to try.)

The Pilgrims did have pies and pumpkin at their first Thanksgiving but the pumpkin wasn’t in the pie form we know today. They didn’t have many of the ingredients. In Colonial times autumn was pie making season. Pies were made to put away for later in the year. Cold cellars, acting as refrigerators or even freezers, would preserve pies for months. Mincemeat pie was popular because it preserved the meat. Today you don’t see it a lot of mincemeat on holiday menus but back then people were happy to have a way to stock up and not have their meat go to waste.

When Thanksgiving was first celebrated it was the major holiday of the year. Birthdays weren’t recognized and Christmas was for religious people. Religion was a big part of Thanksgiving with some people attending two sermons a day but it was also recognized in New England by Quakers and others who went to Meeting Houses and not churches. It was about giving thanks in general. Thanksgiving originally was not on a set day. A dignitary would select the day, anytime between the middle of October and the end of December. Each colony and then later when there were states, each state would celebrate when they chose to. Thanksgiving became a national holiday when President Lincoln decided it would be on the third Thursday of November.

We should celebrate the pumpkin this time of year as it is in season and grows locally practically everywhere. There are lots of wonderful things to make with pumpkin for dessert- cheesecake, cranberry pumpkin pecan upside down cake, pumpkin steamed pudding, pumpkin ice cream with caramel sauce. You don’t have to stop making pie, let’s just move beyond it and offer something new. Here’s a pumpkin recipe for something different. If you want to make pie, email me and I will send you a really good recipe. Even though it won’t be on my plate this year.

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

You can make this a day in advance. Store at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap.

Serves 8-10

8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 cups cranberries

4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, and oil.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.

Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together. Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Cool completely before serving. Serve with Chantilly Cream.

Chantilly Cream                 

Makes 2 cups

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.


And the winner is…

October 29, 2009

Thanks to everyone for their ice cream sandwich ideas. You all sent in some delicious combinations. It will take me quite a while to make them all. They are inspiring.

It was really hard to pick a favorite. Next time I will ask you to mail me samples. Fedex and dry ice required of course! My favorite of all was submitted by Sarah. In honor of fall her entry was pumpkin-butterscotch cookies filled with brown-butter ice cream.  As Sarah said, “These cookies are cupcake-like, so the sandwich’s texture is something like a whoopie pie. Yum!” I second that YUM! There’s a reason you are starting to see brown butter on dessert menus across the country. It brings so much flavor to anything and everything.

If you have never made brown butter it is easy. Put butter (I use unsalted) in a pot and cook over medium heat until it starts to brown. It will fill the kitchen with amazing aromas. Stir it occasionally as you don’t want bits to stick to the bottom and burn. The trick is to get it a rich brown color but not to let the little pieces turn black. Some chefs strain the butter but as long as none of it is burned I leave them in. I like the color. As soon as it is finished pour it into another container. If you leave it in the pot it will continue to cook and get too dark.

In other ice cream sandwich news, I have created some new combinations for a conference I am attending at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa next month. The conference is an annual think tank for food professionals. Chefs come in from around the world and we all share ideas and of course, food.  This year’s theme is Frontiers of Flavor: World Street Food, World Comfort Food. As soon as I heard the title I instantly thought of the ultimate American comfort food ice cream. And what better way to enjoy it than from a cart in an ice cream sandwich. No plates or utensils required. In keeping with the international theme, I created four different sandwiches based around Thai, Vietnamese, Latin American and Asian cuisines.

Thai- Coconut Meringues with Mint Lime Ice Cream

Asian- Pistachio Orange Shortbread with Rosewater Ice Cream

Vietnamese- Ginger Cookie with Cardamom Coffee Ice Cream

Latin American- Chocolate Cookies with Dulce de Leche Swirl Ice Cream

Here’s the recipe for my Thai creation.


Coconut Meringue with Mint Lime Ice Cream Sandwiches

Yield 10 sandwiches


Coconut Meringues

6 ounces egg Whites

.75 ounces sugar

3.5 ounces sugar

3 ounces powdered Sugar

2 ounces sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, finely ground, not toasted

  1. Whip Egg Whites until frothy.  Add first amount of sugar and whip to stiff peaks
  2. When Meringue reaches stiff peaks add second amount of sugar, whip to very firm peak
  3. Place meringue in a bowl and gently fold in powdered, third amount of sugar and coconut.
  4. Pipe meringue into 1 3/4 to 2 inch circles with #802 tip (about 1/4 inch) on parchment lined sheet pans.  Bake 150-200 degrees until dry.


Mint Lime Ice Cream

4 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

Zest from 3 limes

5 grams mint leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

  1. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt.
  2. Scald milk and cream with lime and mint.
  3. Temper into eggs.
  4. Make creme anglaise to 170 degrees.
  5. Strain and cool over ice bath.
  6. Stir in lime juice.
  7. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.S
  8. pin into ice cream.
  9. Harden off in freezer.


October 23, 2009



Now that daylights savings time is a little more than a week away I feel we are finally in autumn. As much as I love Indian summer days, the crispness of fall puts me in the mood to bake. This is the time of year I get excited about caramel. I use it all year round but it really shines and shows all its complexities when it is paired with pumpkin, apple, pears and other fall flavors. It is remarkable something so much a part of the pastry palate is just sugar and water. Home cooks are reticent about making caramel but once you learn how to do it a whole pastry world opens up- crème caramel, caramel pot de crème, caramel ice cream, apple caramel bread pudding- the list goes on and on. And that doesn’t even include caramel sauce and all its variations- caramel coffee, caramel peanut butter, caramel chocolate, caramel apple, caramel calvados, caramel ginger, caramel pineapple etc etc.

Whatever you make with caramel you start at the same place- cooking sugar until it is an amber color. Most French (and some American) pastry chefs make a “dry caramel”. This is made without water. I avoid making dry caramel as it has a higher chance of cooking unevenly and burning. Adding water takes a few minutes longer (the water has to cook off before the sugar can cook) but it is much easier.

Caramel sauce is the Grand Dame of all things caramel. The first thing you do is gently stir together the sugar and the water in a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan. Avoid using dark colored pots as it is difficult to gauge the color of the caramel. You want to gently stir it because you want to minimize the amount of sugar splashed up on the sides of the pot. Cook the sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and no longer looks cloudy. Dip a pastry brush in water and brush the inside sides of the pan above the cooking sugar to eliminate any sugar sticking to the sides. (You can also put a lid on top of the pot for a minute. The steam will dissolve any sugar on the sides of the pot.)

Increase to medium high (or high heat if your stove isn’t that powerful) and cook, without stirring, until the sugar is amber colored. This will take anywhere from 3-8 minutes depending on how much you are making and how high the heat is. While it is cooking put your oven mitts on. The caramel will first start to get colored around the edges. At this point swirl the pot gently to evenly distribute the part that is more colored. Once it is a rich deep amber color, turn off the heat. (If you have an electric stove, remove the pot from the burner as the residual heat will keep cooking the caramel.) Acting quickly, pour in about 3 tablespoons of the cream. You want to add it right after you take the pot off of the heat as the caramel will keep cooking and getting darker even though the heat source is turned off. Be careful as the caramel will sputter as the cream is added. Once you have added the cream, using a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, stir it in. If the cream sputters a lot, stop stirring. Let the bubbles subside and then stir again. Carefully add the remaining cream. As you add more cream and the caramel cools down you can add it more quickly. Stir until combined. Let cool slightly (should still be warm) and whisk in the butter. This allows the butter to be emulsified into the sauce rather than melt in.

The trick is to get the caramel at just the right color. Too light and your sauce will be thin and more tan in color. Too dark and it will have a bitter taste. Once you have made it a couple of times you will get the hang of it.

Here’s one of the best pastry tricks I know. Cleaning caramel pots can be dfficult when the caramel sticks to the sides of the pot. For quick clean up fill the pot half with water and bring it to a boil. The hot water will dissolve the hard caramel. Similarly, if you burn the caramel and need it to stop cooking so you can get rid of it, add a couple cups of water, carefully at first, just as when you add the cream, to dilute it and stir to combine. This mixture can be poured down the sink.

Now that I have walked you through making caramel sauce here’s my recipe. Use your imagination to decide what to serve it with. Sometimes I don’t get past vanilla ice cream but who would argue with that as long as there are some warm toasted sliced almonds and bittersweet chocolate chunks.

What’s your favorite thing to serve caramel with?

Caramel Sauce

Yield: 1 3/4 cups

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter

Stir together the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Brush the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to eliminate any sugar sticking to the sides. Increase to high heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar is amber colored, 3-5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Wearing oven mitts, slowly add a little bit of the cream. Be careful as the caramel will sputter as the cream is added. Using a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, stir the cream into the caramel. If the cream sputters, stop stirring. Let the bubbles subside and then stir again. Carefully add the remaining cream. Stir until combined. Let cool slightly (should still be warm) and whisk in the butter. Keep refrigerated for weeks if it lasts that long.