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.
Many moons ago, as director of the Yankee Kitchen Cooking Schools, I had the opportunity to work with the inestimable Barbra Tropp of the China Moon Café in San Francisco. She came to Seattle to teach a series of classes for the school and the first thing she wanted when she arrived was a whirlwind shopping tour of Chinatown.
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?
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.
I intended to do a quick pudding post but, well, one thing led to another, and now I’ve done a mountain of research instead. The exploration began with a simple hankering for Caramel Pudding. I grabbed a standard formula from somewhere, went straight to the kitchen, and whipped it up in less than 10 minutes.
The only problem was that the end result had hardly any caramel flavor, even though I started with burnt sugar, and the texture was a little lumpy after chilling. In other words, not the perfect pudding I’m going to pass on to YOU.
I was pondering how to introduce the newest member of our family to you, dear readers, when my fabuloso sister-in-law, Mary-beth, suggested tying in Torta della Nonna, which truthfully, I knew nothing about. She fell in love with this simple and rich Italian tart in Italy, during a 5-day cooking course, at the beautiful Capezzana Wine and Culinary Center. Mary-beth says she ate a small slice of this tart every day during that stay and wishes she could continue that ritual indefinitely. This is her kind of tart. Let it be known that Mary-beth, former cooking instructor and continuing culinary maven is no slouch in the kitchen. If she says this cake is to die for, I believe it. And I must try it.
However, still unable to utter the “G” word without grimacing, I have been more preoccupied with what my darling granddaughter is going to call me than with announcing to the world that she has, at long last, ARRIVED. Even if that announcement involves a wonderful tart.
A couple of weeks ago, in the post titled, Oh You Great Big Beautiful Blondie, I included a recipe for Caramel Blondies with a Peanut Butter Caramel Blondie variation. The post shows a layer of Blondie batter with dollops of Peanut Butter Caramel over the top and a second layer of batter being spread over the caramel. The lead photo also features the Peanut Butter Caramel Blondie variation.
Portland, Oregon is gelato country. Not ice cream country—jeh-lah-toh country. No matter which direction I set out on my walk each day from Northwest PDX, I pass at least one gelato shop along the way.
The challenge is to walk by without stopping in for “just a taste.” One taste always leads to another taste, which always leads to a scoop each of two complementary flavors–one tart fruit based, the other cream based (as in sweet cream, cream cheese, crème fraiche, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, or mascarpone). To my palate, it’s a perfect partnership.
Bless your heart if you are actually reading this post rather than running for cover to another food blog. Yes, I know this combination sounds a tad bit unusual, but I assure you it is Pure Genius.
Lest you think I’m being immodest here, the idea is not mine. The combination was recently featured in Gourmet Traveler, and that’s where I first encountered it.
Peanut Butter & Garam Masala Cupcakes with Creamy Dreamy Peanut Butter Frosting, Peanut Praline & Caramelized Banana
I know it’s officially summertime in the Northwest, even though the weather has been cold, wet, and generally grey all month. Strawberries are ripe in the fields, but they look forlorn, and I am strangely uninterested.
It’s COLD, and there is this growing emotional need for something indulgent, nostalgic, and comforting. A strawberry isn’t going to do it. I should be eating sprightly salads bursting with all the freshness of early summer, but instead I want cupcakes—golden, tender, completely decadent–peanut butter cupcakes–loaded with swirls of, you guessed it, creamy, dreamy peanut butter frosting.