Caramel Wins Over Chocolate in this Dessert!

When it comes to dessert chocolate and caramel are two of my favorite flavors. Truth be told, chocolate almost always edges out caramel, but not these past few weeks. Early last month as host of my book club, I included some caramel almond squares as a sweet treat for my fellow readers. The group ate them with abandon, even asking to take extras home for their spouses and partners. Then a few days later, on a rainy night, my husband and I invited out- of-town friends for a last-minute, take-out Mexican supper at our house. I baked the caramel squares again, and once more watched as they and their two sons helped themselves to seconds and even thirds.

Several nights in a row, I found myself headed to our kitchen for a midnight snack that included one of these shortbread bars topped with a mixture of toasted almonds nestled in Continue reading

What’s Old is New Again So Crepes for Dessert!

A few weeks ago my cooking pal, Barbara Morse, and I gave a class titled The Art of the Crepe. It had been years since either of us had given such a course, but we were betting that there was a new generation of cooks who had never made crepes. Our gamble certainly paid off. Every seat was filled and our students—both young and older—were all enthusiastic about an evening devoted to making light and airy French pancakes.

We included a tip sheet explaining that either a classic French 7-to 8- inch iron crepe pan or a nonstick skillet of similar size would work. A long, metal spatula for turning crepes in the pan, and a quarter-cup measure rounded out our utensil recommendations.

We explained that it’s best to let the batter rest before using, and that when cooking Continue reading

A Decadently Rich Dessert Memory from Paris

This summer while in Paris I dined in a new restaurant, Le St Joseph, located outside the city in the suburb of La Garenne-Colombes. Chosen by my good friend, and impeccable Paris food critic, John Talbott, the bistro turned out, as they say in the Michelin guide, “to be worth the detour,” or in our case, a 30-minute cab ride.

From the beautiful cream of pea soup garnished with tiny diced feta, golden croutons, and grilled spices to a salad of roasted eggplant, fresh orange segments, and yellow tomatoes, topped with transparent goat cheese chips and toasted pepitas, everything was delicious. I remember best the dessert; a coffee panna cotta covered with a dark chocolate ganache, and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and cookie crumbs.

Long after I returned stateside, visions of this delectable confection swirled in my mind. Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a gloriously smooth custard made without eggs, bound with gelatin, and served chilled. The recipe here calls for both whole milk and heavy Continue reading

A New Way with Carrot Cake

carrot-cake-squares-with-orange-syrup-and-creme-fraiche-icingThere are probably as many versions of carrot cake as there are cooks who make it. Although I’ve been convinced for years that my family’s favorite recipe for this classic cake,covered with cream cheese icing, could never be surpassed, I recently discovered a new interpretation that I like even better.

When my assistant, Emily Bell, returned from a walking trip to the Outer Hebrides, she called to say that she had tasted a fabulous carrot cake at an inn on this Scottish island outpost. I couldn’t imagine that it would be that different. “Try it!” she insisted. I did and was won over with my first bite. Continue reading

Fabulous Warm Peach Dessert in 45 minutes!

Individual Peach Clafoutis 1 3648x2736-001The peaches this year in New England have been exceptional! I can’t remember a recent summer when this fruit has been more bountiful or had such juicy, flavorful flesh. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores in our small town have all proudly displayed bins—of both yellow and white—ripe enough for eating on the spot. As a result, I have been bringing home bagfuls of the fuzzy orbs and using them in various ways.

One of my favorite creations has been a recipe for individual peach clafoutis (pronounced CLA FU TEA), a specialty of the Limousin, an area in south central France. It is one of the simplest yet most delicious French desserts a home cook can prepare. Traditionally, it is made with cherries that are covered with a rich pancake-style batter, then baked. My version, however, calls for fresh sliced peaches scented with hints of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. When baked the batter rises just slightly above the sides of the pan and then falls like a soufflé as it rests. Continue reading

A New Way with Crème Brûlées!

Creme Brulee Almond Pistachio Brittle 1In September I wrote an enthusiastic post about a soup and salad supper I served my book club, and included the recipe for the scallop and corn chowder offered that evening. Although I mentioned that honeyed crème brülées made a delectable ending for our menu, I didn’t include that recipe. It didn’t take long for a member of my book group to ask, “But what about the directions for those velvety honeyed crème brülées with the crunchy nut topping?”

The truth is that this particular dessert was still a work in progress even the night of our meeting. I’d made several versions the week before, but was still tweaking the recipe! A few more tries, and voilà–the flavors and textures were finely balanced. Continue reading