Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category


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.

Anatomy of a Dessert or Testing, Retesting and Testing Again

July 17, 2009

pecans 3

Whether it is for one of my books, a magazine, or the dessert menus at Farallon or Waterbar, testing recipes is a slow process. Very rarely do I come up with an idea, try it once and love it.  I wish I had more testing days like that but they are few and far between. The reality is that sometime I make the same dessert 5 times before I feel it has hit that “worth the calories” bar of approval.

For the dessert menu at Waterbar, Robyn, Theresa (my pastry cohorts) and I have been working on a German Chocolate dessert. Most people are familiar with German Chocolate Cake- chocolate cake with a custard like layer of coconut, brown sugar and pecans. I wanted that general idea but I was looking to change it up. I thought the pecans, coconut and chocolate combination with ice cream formed in individual ring molds would be delicious.

My first attempt was vanilla ice cream with a German Chocolate swirl. No matter how stiff I cooked the custard it dissolved in the ice cream and did not make a ribbon. I then tried warming the coconut pecan custard and pouring it over the top and down the sides of the ice cream but it was quite unattractive. I switched to spreading the room temperature coconut mixture on top of the ice cream. I didn’t want just plain vanilla ice cream so I swirled in a milk chocolate ganache. Next I had to decide on the base of the ice cream bombe. (If I put the ice cream directly on the plate it would slide all over the place as the waiter carried it to the table.)  I tried both brownies and a coarsely chopped pecan and brown sugar mixture brought together with melted butter. I thought I would like the brownie the best as the pecans and brown sugar would be too sweet. But with chocolate sauce on the bottom of the plate the brownie made the overall dessert too chocolatey, covering up the coconut and pecan flavor. I reduced the amount of sugar in the pecan brown sugar mixture and that worked. Now that I had the pecan flavor in the crust I decided to take the pecans out of the coconut filling as I was concerned they would become soggy. To finish it off for garnish I added some toasted coconut around the pool of chocolate sauce and some candied pecans halves on top. Finally the dessert was complete. German Chocolate in a new form.

After testing a dessert this many times and even though I think I have it, I like to have others try it for a new perspective. My taste buds need a break. That’s where the staff comes in.  You don’t have to leave a dessert with a bunch of spoons on the pastry table long before sous chefs and waiters will ask with a smile- “What’s that, do you need a taster?” They are the best, always willing to help out when called for duty. It’s rough but someone has to do it.



July 3, 2009


As a pastry chef  I have mixed feelings about cherry season. On the one hand I LOVE the desserts I make with them- the buttery tarts, the custardy clafoutis.  I know it is summer when beautiful dark red cherries appear in the markets.

What I am not that fond of  is pitting the cherries. It’s tedious to pit 5 cups of cherries for a single pie but when you make 5 pies a day,  it’s enough to make you check the calendar to see how much longer they will be around. Pastry chefs share pitting tricks– wear rubber gloves; tie an apron around your neck to protect your chef coat from cherry juice,  put parchment paper down to control the mess. The biggest ongoing debate is the best way to pit a cherry-with a paring knife or a cherry pitter?

A knife cuts the cherry neatly in two so you have  perfect halves. (This method is good for when you will see the cherries on top of a dessert.)  But it is slow work.  A pitter is faster but some mangle the cherry.  Luckily a couple of years ago OXO came out with a great cherry pitter.  The pit pops right out of the cherry,  you don’t have to dig it out, and the cherry remains relatively intact. It also has a plastic guard on the bottom which minimizes the cherry juice going everywhere.  (I use a pitter for any recipe where cherries are baked in something.)

Cherry season is short.  California cherries ripen first and are in the stores in May and June. The dominant variety is the Bing.  Cherries from the Northwestern States are available June through August. In this area red cherry varieties are grown but also the Rainer which has a creamy-yellow flesh blushed with red.  So get our your paring knifes and cherry pitters and get pitting, it’s worth it.