Who doesn’t love Creme Brulee? Or better yet, Chocolate Creme Brulee? And February is all about love and chocolate at LunaCafe. But, there are so many formulas for Chocolate Crème Brulee, I hardly knew where to begin. After some initial testing, I figured that the important thing was to first get the perfect proportion of egg yolks to cream, then the perfect types and amount of chocolate, and finally the perfect process. The romantic flavor pairing was added after I worked out the basic formula.
I began this exploration with a question. “What is the difference between sticky and regular gingerbread?” Put another way, “What makes sticky gingerbread, well, sticky?” A couple of rounds of baking later, I had identified the differences. Namely, sticky gingerbread starts with a fluid, molasses-heavy batter, which, if not over baked, creates a beautifully moist cake, which if wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two and then brought back to room temperature, has a dense, chewy, somewhat sticky texture.
I have developed dozens of cheesecakes over the years. At one point, I even launched a cheesecake company.
But a recent request from a reader made me realize that my focus has been almost exclusively on baked cheesecakes. A quick scan of my files shows only two no-bake cheesecakes. This post is one small and very tasty step toward correcting that omission.
I am very fortunate that the newest member of our family, Christopher Weaver, LOVES cheesecake. Because I love to create endless variations, and can’t afford all those calories hanging out in the fridge taunting me. Chris is a workout machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calories. If there are a few slices of cheesecake left after a family dinner, he saves me by taking them home.
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.
You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.
Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.
So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision is difficult. I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.
This post began as a response to repeated requests from a tenacious reader for The Best Ever Butterscotch Pudding (her words). She was impressed with Ultimate Vanilla Pudding (Perfect Stovetop Custard) and Ultimate Chocolate Pudding and wanted the same perfect results with a butterscotch flavor. She had tried a few recipes on the web but was disappointed in the results.
I know, I know! Molten Chocolate Cake, or Lava Cake, as it is sometimes called, is so YESTERDAY. I am almost perturbed today when I see one on a dessert menu.
I mean, really, can’t the pastry chef think of SOMETHING ELSE? Haven’t we moved beyond warm, fragrant, oozing, fudgy chocolate soufflé cakes and their requisite ice cream accompaniments?
It’s All Chocolate! All Month! in the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. As usual during the Month of Love, I am covered in chocolate: milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa powder. All in an effort to come up with the most delectable, memorable Valentine’s Day dessert ever.
This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.
But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.
Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?
Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I’ve shared two of them with you already. What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to elevate a simple dessert to epicurean heights is to add a brightly colored, brightly flavored dessert syrup. You can serve a dessert syrup over ice cream or gelato, alongside panna cotta or baked custard, with tea cakes, or as the key flavoring of an Italian soda, lemonade, or limeade (recipe below).
To my palate, this is the perfect Panna Cotta. It is lightly set and lightly sweetened with a good balance between fat and lean dairy ingredients.
To develop this master recipe for panna cotta, I created a recipe grid that compares key ingredients across examples from 20+ respected cooks. As you might imagine, the key proportion of gelatin to total amount of liquid is all over the place in these examples. You should not be overtly aware that there is gelatin in this dessert when you are eating it. That aspect should be quite subtle.
This article includes tips & tricks for creating the most wonderul Panna Cotta imaginable, plus six inspired variations.
When I happened upon the inspiration for this cake (Gourmet Traveler Magazine, Yoghurt & Almond Cake with Orange-Caramel Peaches & Vanilla Yoghurt), I puzzled over the ingredient proportions and procedure. Was there enough fat to produce a moist cake? Was there enough flour to produce a cake that could carry its own weight? Was the egg proportion too high?
Over the past year, I sampled Coconut Cream Pies across the Northwest restaurant/bakery landscape and kicked around the tenants of the perfect custard cream pie with dear friend and culinary maven, Rosalyn Rourke. One thing led to another, as the saying goes, and the next thing I knew, on Roz’s insistence, I was hunting down a Lindt Excellence White Coconut Bar. After one taste, the Coconut Cream Pie turned into Rosalyn’s Coconut White Chocolate Dream Pie. After all, her appreciation for white chocolate and coconut was the inspiration.
Recipes can be inspiring, but there is nothing as satisfying as truly understanding the underlying formula and technique of a particular dish. Once you’ve got those under your belt, you OWN that dish and can riff it successfully and endlessly. That’s when the real fun begins.
Take the concept of dessert crepes (pronounced kr?ps in French or kr?pes in English) for instance, which are a type of very thin pancake. You can go straight to a comprehensive French cookbook, grab the basic dessert crepe recipe and process, and rely on that forever. Or, if you are more curious, you can gather 10-20 solid resources, compare the formulas and processes, and then hit the kitchen and test your way through them. When you are done, the entire world of desert crepes will open up for you and reveal its secrets. You will become the Zen master of dessert crepes.
To set the record straight and to put my mind at rest, as near as I can determine after years of looking for the ultimate and absolute distinction between scones and shortcake, there is none.
Shortcake is a lightly sweetened cream biscuit–which is exactly what a scone is. So if you can make a perfect scone (and YOU CAN after reading The Best Scones in the Entire Universe), you can also make perfect shortcake.
It never fails. When the temperature drops like a rock and snow is in the air, I start craving gingerbread cake. It’s one of those ultra-comforting sweets that has so sparked bakers’ creativity over the years that it now boasts hundreds of variations. Maybe thousands. Look at the lineup of gingerbread cakes on TasteSpotting.
However, for gingerbread inspiration this year, I had only to open the new Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café cookbook by Harvard educated mathematician turned professional baker, Joanne Chang. I scored the cookbook earlier this fall while at the South End location of Joanne’s Flour Bakery in Boston.
There are few things in the candy domain that cause more consternation or downright fear than FUDGE. Just utter the word in some circles and everyone starts reeling off their horror stories. “Oh I can’t make it. It never works for me.” “I tried it once and it was a big grainy mess.” “I had to dump the whole thing in the garbage.” “It never set up, no matter how many times I tried to make it.” “I followed the directions EXACTLY, and it just didn’t work.”
Well, if any of these remarks sound like something you might say, you have come to the right place. For I, dear reader, am determined not to let a gooey, sticky, hotter than Hades, mass of caramel, with or without chocolate, get the better of ME. No way, no how, ain’t happening.
You’ve heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, it was definitely the impetus for this Thanksgiving dessert, as I was torn between pleasing my stepdad, Mike, who loves White Chocolate Cheesecake and my daughter’s boyfriend, Chris, who expressed a desire for Peanut Butter Cheesecake (which I quickly swapped for pumpkin in honor of the holiday.)
The combination of the two flavors was even better than I expected, with the white chocolate lending the pumpkin a measure of sophistication.
I ran into an interesting clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee) formula in an old magazine in a box in the garage recently and almost dismissed it because there can be no better clafouti than Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake.
As you may recall from that post, clafouti, an earthy cake from the region of Limousin in France, is comprised of a layer of cake-custard, topped with a layer of juicy fruit. The result can be rather more like cake or rather more like custard, depending on the proportions in the batter.