Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

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Beyond Pumpkin Pie

November 18, 2010

If you ask most pastry chefs what desserts they are making for Thanksgiving dinner they will include the obligatory pumpkin pie.  We make it because it is what certain family members and friends expect. We know they will be disappointed if they don’t have it. It isn’t on the top of our list and we would leave it off if we could get away with it. It’s not that pastry people don’t like pumpkin pie it’s just kind of boring, even a good one.

Native Americans grew pumpkin so it was probably on the first Thanksgiving menu but not in the pie form that we know today. The Pilgrims didn’t have flour so they couldn’t have made a crust. If their pumpkin dish was sweetened they would have had to use honey as white sugar wasn’t around either.

I know many will disagree with my ambivalent feelings about this humble pie but there are better pumpkin desserts. You can carry on the tradition of pumpkin but go outside the box. Make pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin ice cream cake, or cranberry pecan pumpkin upside down cake. All can be made a day ahead leaving more time to stuff the bird, go for a hike or watch football on TV.

If you are cooking the whole Thanksgiving dinner and are pressed for time, don’t worry about making your own pumpkin puree. Canned will work just fine. You can even find organic puree. Make sure to get plain puree and not one with added spices. In the latter the spice balance is way off.

To help you get started branching out; here’s a recipe for cranberry pecan pumpkin upside down cake. It will be on my table this year. What are you making for Thanksgiving dessert?

 Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake

Emily Luchetti

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

 Chantilly Cream (see recipe below)

 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.

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Strawberry Fields-Almost

April 15, 2010

The winter rains have just about stopped and the sun has allowed us to shed a layer of outerware. This change in weather puts me in the mood for fruit and fruit desserts. Customers at Waterbar and Farallon want them too as there is a definite swing away from chocolate desserts ordered to those with fruit.  I am chomping at the bit to put something colorful and seasonal on the menu besides citrus and pineapple. Strawberries have started to appear in both farmers’ markets and grocery stores and while it is tempting to quickly put some in your cart-pay close attention. Their quality is hit or miss. Some are sweet and juicy (everything you want in a strawberry) while others are bland and mostly white inside with big woody hulls. Strawberries need a little more attention from mother nature before they are at their best. (Beware of long stemmed strawberries seen in quantity around Mother’s Day. They seem to be grown for their stem rather than the flavor of the berry. Ironic when you consider you don’t even eat the stem. Also the price of these goes up around that weekend.)

To get the berry flavor I want and to satisfy my strawberry cravings early in the season I either cook the berries in a crumble or roast the berries. Here’s a recipe for roasting strawberries. You can serve them with anything you would serve fresh sliced strawberries. They come out jam like but are whole so you can use them in desserts. There is quite a bit of sauce left over after you finish making the berries. Reduce it as the recipe states or you can use it to make another batch of roasted berries (I mix it 50-50 with fresh sauce ingredients). It is delicious served over ice cream without any berries. Hopefully this will tide you over until the really beautiful berries are in the market. As an added bonus the kitchen smells wonderful when they are in the oven.

Roasted Strawberries

3 pints (6 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled

3/4 cup Pinot Noir or other dry red wine

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Put the strawberries in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together the wine, balsamic vinegar, and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the corn syrup. Pour the liquid over the berries. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the strawberries shrink and are jammy in texture, about 5 hours.

Strain the strawberry liquid into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook to reduce the liquid slightly. Let cool to room temperature and stir it back into the berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Meringue

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

Gingerbread

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.

 Apples

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.