Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lemon Tart in a Cornmeal Crust with Mascarpone Cream and Fresh Raspberries

Though chocolate is unquestionably my favorite flavor, lemon is a close second, and I love to create new lemon desserts or variations on old classics. I have a favorite lemon tart that I make throughout

 the year, and I simply change-up the crust and topping to suit the season. Since summer provides an opportunity to showcase wonderful fresh berries—strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and 

blackberries—I decided to top my vibrant tart with a rich Mascarpone Cream and a sprinkling of fresh-picked farmers’ market raspberries. This time I chose to encase the filling in a 

cornmeal crust, which has a nutty flavor that complements the tart filling and sweet-tart berries. If you like, you can spread the Mascarpone Cream over the tart right before serving and top it with 

the berries. Any fresh berry—especially wild blueberries—will make a wonderful summertime topping.

P.S. Though I don't often get personal in this blog, I feel obliged to tell you all that my beloved cat Jemal died last week, and life has lost some of its luster. He was my best friend for 13 years, and stuck by me like glue. In the morning he would wait patiently for me to get dressed, so that he could help me put on my shoes and engage in some roughhousing—his favorite part of the day. Jemal was also a

gourmand—he loved to eat more than just about anything. Jemal loved the taste of cheese-flavored popcorn, in particular, and would wait until I finished eating it so that he could lick my fingers. One terrible day, he ate a bunch of pistachio shells, unbeknownst to me, and stopped eating entirely. The vet was stymied and, in the meantime, Jemal’s liver began to fail. Specialists, surgery, a feeding tube and $9,000 later, my boy was back to his old self, and he lived happily for another seven years. Life was always an adventure with Jemal, as in the time he somehow managed to disable a bird and bring it into our apartment as a new play-friend. Or when he got pinned behind the hot water heater at a relative’s house for 45 minutes before we could get him free. He was a real character and lived life to the fullest. His spirit will always dwell in my heart. In the meantime, we still have Jemal's sister, Emily, who seems to be thrilled with his demise. After all these years, she's now Top Cat, and she couldn't be happier. Life goes on.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black Currant Tea Fruit Soup

Summer has just arrived, but New York has already seen some very hot days. Chances are, we’ll see some more soon. When it’s really hot, even ice cream seems too rich to eat. When the temperature is 

over 90 degrees, I usually crave something really refreshing and light. And, needless to say, easy to prepare – turning the oven on is just not an option. I’m happy to say that this black currant tea-

flavored fruit soup fits the bill perfectly. With a black currant tea and lemon infused syrup as its base, the only other components are fresh fruit and sorbet. The beauty of this dessert is that you can 

change the flavor profile of the tea syrup and coordinate the fruit and sorbet to complement it. Pair a lychee or passion fruit tea syrup with exotic fruits and sorbet, or a raspberry or mint tea syrup with

fresh berries and a berry sorbet. You can make your own sorbet, or use store-bought – happily, there are myriad flavors of high-quality sorbet available in the supermarket these days.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America 2011

Last week, Dessert Professional, the magazine I co-edit, presented the Annual Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America awards, honoring ten pastry chefs for their contributions to the industry. The event took place in the spacious kitchens at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education).  Here’s our list of the 2011 Top Ten Pastry Chef in America:

Antonio Bachour – Executive Pastry Chef, Quattro at Trump Soho, New York, NY and Solea at W South Beach, Miami
Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez – Pastry Chef, PRINT, New York, NY
Tariq Hanna – Pastry Chef and Owner, Sucre, New Orleans, LA
Sylvain Leroy – Pastry Chef and Technical Advisor, Paris Gourmet, Carlstadt, NJ
Francisco Migoya – Associate Professor, The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
Jerome Landrieu – Pastry Chef and Director, Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy, Chicago, IL
Yoni Morales – Executive Pastry Chef, Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corp., Las Vegas, NV
Oscar Ortega Pastry Chef and Owner, Atelier Ortega, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Ron Paprocki Executive Pastry Chef, Gordon Ramsay at The London, New York, NY
Jean-Francois Suteau Executive Pastry Chef, The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA

Dessert Professional’s Hall of Fame inductee this year was Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago. Pfeiffer was the subject of the film Kings of Pastry, a documentary about the Meilleurs Ouvrier de France competition. If you haven’t seen it, do. It’s worth it, especially if you’re a dessert junkie like me.

This year’s Top Ten event was downright magical. Guests – among whom were pastry luminaries such as Jacques Torres, Rose Levy Beranbaum and Nick Malgieri – sipped champagne and sparkling rose as we mingled and tasted the offerings of the talented group of award-winning pastry chefs. The desserts were exceptional, and this year’s group of chefs were as gracious as they were talented. Special thanks to Rick Smilow of ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), where the event was held, and to Paparaji and Jeff Lazar of Dessert Professional for their great photos. Recipes for all ten desserts will appear in the August issue of the magazine. To subscribe, visit Following are some of the desserts the ten chefs whipped up for this event.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blueberry-Cornmeal Cakes

I came across some handsome Jersey farm blueberries at my local farmers’ market yesterday, and they didn’t disappoint. Small and sweet-tart, they were several cuts above the generic supermarket

 breed. At first I thought I’d use them in a batch of blueberry muffins, but then remembered I had been meaning to try a recipe from one of my favorite dessert books, The Last Course, by Claudia

Fleming (Random House, 2001). According to Claudia, who is a top-notch pastry chef, her Blueberry-Cornmeal Cakes “have a delicious sugary crust like a muffin top, but unlike muffins, the

crumb is moist, buttery and very tender. The blueberries are studded throughout the batter, and while they bake, they pop, becoming jammy and concentrated.” How could I resist such a

description? The recipe is similar to the one for classic financiers – those small, buttery French cakes – but, with the addition of some yellow cornmeal, these have a slightly crunchy texture. Serve them

with tea, as Claudia suggests, or pair them with ice cream or fresh fruit for dessert. One thing: her recipe claims to yield 12 muffin-size cakes, but it makes more like 22.

Blueberry-Cornmeal Cakes

From The Last Course by Claudia Fleming (Random House, 2001)

Makes 22 muffin-size cakes or 48 2-inch miniature tartlets (the original recipe claims it yields 12 muffin-size cakes, but this is clearly wrong!)

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups (306 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (89 g) almond flour
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (64 g) cake flour
¼ cup coarse yellow cornmeal
8 large egg whites
Grated zest of ½ orange
1 cup (138 g) blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to let the butter cook until some of the white milk solids fall to the bottom of the skillet and turn a rich hazelnut brown. Strain the browned butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and discard the solids.
2. Sift together the confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, cake flour and cornmeal. Place the sifted ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. On the lowest speed, add the egg whites and zest; mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium-low and stir in the browned butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the blueberries. (The batter can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead.)
3. Butter and flour two muffins tins or 2-inch mini tartlet pans. Spoon the batter into the pans and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (14-16 for the mini tartlet pans), or until the cakes are golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Classic Italian Pick-Me-Up

There’s a good reason why you can almost always find tiramisu on a restaurant’s dessert menu. It’s really quite delicious. And it’s especially good on a hot summer night, at the end of a light meal – creamy mascarpone and rum-flavored mousse, paired with 

espresso-soaked sponge – it’s one of those indulgences that never feels too rich or too heavy as you’re enjoying it. Espresso and rum are certainly two of my favorite pick-me-ups. This recipe is based on a tirimusu cake I developed for The Cake Book; I turned the cake 

into a parfait, using layers of genoise to soak up the espresso syrup. If you’re pressed for time (or lazy, as I frequently am), feel free to use store-bought ladyfingers or sponge cake in place of the genoise. There’s a lot going on in this dessert, and I doubt your guests will  

be able to tell whether or not your sponge is homemade.

Tiramisu Parfaits

Makes 6 parfaits

Classic Genoise:
1 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
¾ cup (5.2 oz/150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3 oz/85 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Espresso Syrup:
1 cup (240 ml) hot espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup (1.7 oz/50 g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mascarpone Cream:
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (5.3 oz/150 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1 pound (454 g) mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons (45 ml) dark rum
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dutch-processed cocoa powder for dusting top of parfaits
Chocolate-covered espresso beans

Make the Classic Genoise:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of 2 9-inch round cake pans. Dust the pans with flour and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar by hand. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the eggs are warm. Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
4. Resift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. In two more additions, sift in the remaining flour mixture, again folding in gently. Have the melted butter in a small bowl. Scoop about 3/4 cup of the cake batter into the bowl and stir until blended. Fold this mixture into the remaining cake batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
5. Bake the cakes for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans set on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the wire rack and cool.

Make the Espresso Syrup:
6. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the espresso and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the vanilla extract and set the syrup aside.

Make the Mascarpone Cream:
7. In a medium stainless steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and water. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and continue to whisk constantly, until the mixture thickens and is hot to the touch, about 7 minutes. Immediately scrape the mixture into a cold bowl. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until completely cool, about 15 minutes.
8. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone cheese at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the cooled egg yolk mixture and rum and mix until blended.
9. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and vanilla extract at high speed until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture.

Assemble the parfaits:
10. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter to fit the diameter of your parfait or verrine glasses, cut out 12 rounds from the cakes. Arrange one of the rounds in the bottom of a serving glass and brush it generously with Espresso Syrup. Top with a layer of the Mascarpone Cream. Top with another cake round and brush with more syrup. Fill the glass with more cream, smoothing the top. Repeat with remaining cake, syrup and cream to make 6 parfaits. Dust the top of each parfait with sifted cocoa powder. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans.