Desserts

So tasty, but so rich. We often leave off the dessert, or settle for a bit of expensive bittersweet chocolate with a nice Port or something more exotic like R.L. Buller's fine Australian Muscat wine. Another possibility is to offer cheese and fruit for dessert, although I confess we often use this for the appetizer course instead. Sometimes you get into the mood to show off a bit, or perhaps just to bake a dessert.

Mojito Pie

We developed this recipe for a Guest Chef night that was called, "A Taste of Havana." It's super easy to make, but everyone who's tried it raves about it. We think of it as what a Key Lime Pie would be if it grew up in Havana


Graham Cracker Crust 9"

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons of rum

2 cups whipped cream

lime zest

mint leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 350F Muddle lime juice and mint leaves. Strain out juice and discard the mint Whisk together condensed milk and eg yolks until combined. Add the minty lime juice and rum and whisk by hand for 1 minute until combined and slightly thickened. Our filling into crust and bake on the middle oven shelf for 15 minutes Transfer pie to a cooling rack, let sit until it reaches room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until chilled and set. Add whipped cream, lime zest, and mint leaves just before serving.

Blueberry Croissant Pudding

We are fortunate to live near multiple extremely good bakeries here in Aptos, California. The quality is out of all proportion to our demographics and size of the community. For example, we recently were in Manhattan, and tried like crazy to find some bakeries to visit for breakfast that would measure up. In the end, we were largely disappointed despite appealing to Yelp for guidance. Thomas Bouchon's bakery was near our hotel and was the biggest disappointment of all. But I digress.

We have these great bakeries. They're so good that a plain old croissant becomes a wondrous breakfast with a cup of Kona coffee. Eventually I came across a recipe for bread pudding that calls for croissants instead of ordinary bread. You can just imagine how short the time was before my synapses fired and I wanted to put a culinary 2 and 2 together, hoping it would make 6. So here is our recipe, without further ado:

Ingredients:

8 Croissants
2 cups fresh blueberries
5 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Cut your 8 croissants into 2 inch slices and toast them in a 375 degree F oven for about 10 minutes. Combine the toasted croissants with 2 cups of fresh blueberries in the baking dish. Whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, and spices.

Note: If you're using a vanilla bean instead of the extract, slice it lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the mixture to make sure all the flavor is released!

Spoon that mixture over the croissants in the baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds on top. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Put your baking dish in a baking pan 1/2 full of water (the water bath ensures even cooking) and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until it starts to brown and set properly.

Serve warm with a cool topping--whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream are both excellent.

Tarte Tatin

After reading a bunch of raves in many different cookbooks and web sites about this rustic French Apple Pie, I just had to try it out for myself. The accolades were right on target. Tarte Tatin, pronounced Tarte Ta-TAN, is fantastique!

6 large Golden Delicious apples

juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons butter

14 ounces Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

Peel the apples, cut them into quarters, and then cut of the core of each piece to leave a flat side on the apple. Put the quarters in a bowl with the lemon juice and half a cup of sugar. Toss to coat.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the remaining cup of sugar, spreading it evenly over the butter. Add the juices from the bowl the apples are resting in. Cook the mixture over medium low heat for abot 15 minutes, stirring and watching carefully that it does not burn. The color should be a rich brown when the mixture is done.

Add the apples to the pan, keeping the rounded side down. Top the apples with the reamining 2 tablespoons of butter after cutting the butter into small pieces.

Cook the apples over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Occasionally spoon the liquid over the apples. Make sure the apples cook evenly by moving the pan around and watching the bubbling carefully. The liquid will turn to a thick dark tan when the apples are ready. Don't overcook or the apples will turn soggy. Remove from heat when they're done.

At this point you can pause, or continue immediately with the pastry. I like to serve the dessert warm, so pausing allows you to time the meal properly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Flour a work surface and work the dough quickly until it will cover the skillet containing the apples. Lay it over the apples, working the edges under the apples as best you can. Remember, this is a rustic dish--it is meant to look a little rough!

Place the pan in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the puff pastry has risen and is a golden brown. Remove from the oven. Place a pie pan over top and rapidly flip the whole thing over so that it lands crust side down.

The Tarte Tatin is ideally served warm, so let cool half an hour before serving with vanilla bean ice cream.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Strawberry Delight

Add this luscious dessert if you need a real over-the-top dinner party! Actually, while it looks decadent, the fresh berries and relatively light cookies keep it from doing the kind of damage your typical "death by chocolate" desserts can do.

Fresh Strawberries

Whipped Cream

For the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips

To bake the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 to 4 baking sheets. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set the bowl aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together in a bowl. Ad the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until thoroughly blended. Stire in the oats and chocolate chips, mixing well with a wooden spoon. The dough should be crumbly.

Drop heaped teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 15 minutes or until firm around the edges but soft to touch in the center. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

To finish:

Alternate layers of cookie with strawberries and whipped cream. By the way, kids and guests like to build their own too! Also, there will be extra cookies for later.

Pears Baked in Marsala Wine and Brown Sugar-Cinammon

Here's a dish that's elegant, easy to prepare, delicious, and not too heavy. What more could you ask for in a dessert? The Marsala wine gives it an Italian flair that's great when you want to serve a nice dessert with your pasta or other Italian dinner.

A Marsala Pear and some R.L. Buller's Fine Muscat dessert wine...

Ingredients

6 ripe pears (we like D'Anjous)
4 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup Marsala wine
4 tablespoons white wine (go ahead, open a nice Chardonnay for drinking while you cook!)
2 cinnamon sticks broken up
crème fraîche (2/3 heavy cream, 1/3 plain yogurt whipped to a thick cream)

Preparation

Cut a slice from the bottom of the pears so they'll sit upright for baking. Remove the cores.

Spread a little butter on the skin of each pear.

Stand them up in an ovenproof dish and dust them with sugar.

Pour the Marsala and White Wine into the dish. Scatter the broken up cinnamon over the pears.

Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Remove the foil, lower oven heat to 300, and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

The pears should be tender and the skin slightly shriveled.

Serve warm with their juices and a little crème fraîche.

Magnificent!

Pears Await the Oven...

Hand Dipped Chocolate Strawberries

These little devils are something the entire family loves, and they are so easy to make. The essential tool is a double boiler. Crank up your double boiler, add Nestle Semisweet Morsels, and once melted, begin dipping. There's probably richer chocolate to be had, but this is easy and tastes fantastic. Right after dipping roll a few of the strawberries in nuts or coconut flakes. They benefit from a brief stay in the refrigerator (or our wine cellar) to help the chocolate harden. You may want to place them on a buttered pan because they will stick to plates if you let them dry there.

These also make a great treat to enjoy with Coffee and a Movie (see below).

 

Lousiana-Style Rice Pudding

I've always loved rice pudding. It's a simple dessert, but always tasty and not as overwhelmingly rich as some other desserts.

6 servings:

1 quart milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of uncooked long grain rice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

Combine the milk, rice, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, the egg yolks, vanilla, cinammon, and nutmeg in a bowl.

When the rice is done, stire the raisins and the sugar and egg mixture into the rice pot. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly for about 4 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mix together the cream, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the rum in a large mixing bowl. Use a mixture to beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the cooled rice mixture.

Spoon into serving cups and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Serve chilled.

Chili Fudge

You'll be amazed at the wonderful pairing chilis and chocolate make in this recipe.

One can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (or more, if you want to kick it up a notch)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 lb milk or dark chocolate (use chips, pastilles or pieces you've cut)

1. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch to 9-inch square baking pan, and line with a piece of parchment or wax paper.

2. In a metal or glass bowl, blend together the salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and vanilla with the sweetened condensed milk.

3. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (double boiler), add the butter and chocolate, stirring the mixture occasionally as it melts.

4. When everything is blended and smooth, spread the mixture into the prepared pan and chill in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.

5. Run a warm knife around edges of pan to loosen the fudge block and flip it over onto a cutting board. Remove the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1- to 2-inch squares. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Chocolate Mint Fudge

The perfect complement to the Chili Fudge above is this mint fudge recipe.

One can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup white confectioners' coating
1 tbsp peppermint extract
1 drop green food coloring

1. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with waxed paper.

2. In heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips with 1 cup sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Spread half of the mixture into prepared pan; chill 10 minutes, or until firm. Reserve remaining chocolate mixture at room temperature.

3. In another heavy saucepan over low heat, melt white confectioners' coating with remaining sweetened condensed milk (mixture will be thick.) Stir in peppermint extract and food coloring. Spread this mixture on chilled chocolate layer; chill 10 minutes, or until firm.

4. Spread reserved chocolate mixture over the mint layer; chill 2 hours, or until firm.

5. Run a warm knife around edges of pan to loosen the fudge block and flip it over onto a cutting board. Remove the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1- to 2-inch squares. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Palmiers

Light, tasty, jazzy, and easy to make. How do you go wrong with this pastry cookie dessert?

Ingredients (Makes about 20 cookies)

1 cup sugar, divided
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinammon
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees

Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and Kosher salt and pour it over a flat surface that you can work the dough on--a board or marble.

Unfold the sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar mixture.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and cinammon and spread it evenly on the puff pastry.

With a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it has expanded to a 13 inch square and the sugar is pressed into the pastry.

Fold the sides toward the center so they meet in the middle.

Fold again to meet in the middle.

Go again until you can just fold the layers in half and get a roughly cylindrical roll.

Slide the roll into 3/8-inch slices and place them on a baking sheet that is either buttered or protected with parchment paper.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes, until carmelized and brown on the bottom. Turn with a spatula and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes until the other side is caramelized. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Coffee and a Movie

The simple approach would be to serve Café Mocha, Latte, or Bailey's Coffee together with a Home Theater Movie Matinee. Check the links and you'll know what I'm talking about!

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All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.