Last Saturday when I arrived at my local farmers’ market in our small New England town, the crop that captured my attention was rhubarb. Resting regally on a folding table at one of my favorite stands were bundles of deep red and pale green stalks. I quickly picked up three bunches, knowing that the following week I needed rhubarb for a dessert in one of my cooking classes.
Although typically treated as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a plant with a tartness that requires a complement of sugar. The dessert I had planned was a warm rhubarb and strawberry crumble (which calls for both white and brown sugars); it takes only 20 minutes to assemble and then about half an hour in the oven. For the filling sliced rhubarb and strawberries are dusted with sugar and aromatic spices including cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. A traditional topping of flour, oats, brown sugar, and nuts (I used sliced almonds) Continue reading
A few weeks ago my long-time assistant, Emily Bell, suggested that I offer readers a chance to end their Thanksgiving feasts with silky smooth pumpkin panna cotta in place of the traditional pumpkin pie. She had a favorite recipe for this Italian specialty–typically a mixture of cream, milk, and sugar bound with gelatin–and quickly convinced me that we could rework it, adding pumpkin puree and spices. My mouth was watering just thinking of this confection, so I wasted no time heading into the kitchen.
It took several tries before the flavors were balanced and the texture perfectly creamy, but finally we had a winner. I proposed that we add as garnishes dollops of softly whipped cream and crushed pecan brittle. The snowy white cap of cream contrasted nicely with the dusty orange hue of the “cooked creams,” while the glistening pecan brittle with its crunch was a great foil for the smoothness of this dessert. Continue reading
Last night at my book club’s annual holiday potluck, guests brought two appetizers, two soups, and a half dozen desserts. Obviously, this group of avid readers had forgone diets to indulge in sweet temptations. There were three kinds of cookies, big (not petit) vanilla frosted cupcakes topped with pomegranate seeds, dense brownies, and a loaf cake studded with fruits. At the end of the evening the few remaining desserts were quickly divvied up and carted off to enjoy at home!
“Tis the season to eat without guilt,” so I am including a new recipe for a rich and creamy cappuccino cheesecake. Just like a cup of cappuccino, this cheesecake has an espresso-scented base (made with both cream cheese and mascarpone) and is garnished with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I also added a drizzle of chocolate sauce to complement the coffee flavor. Continue reading
When it comes to desserts, custards have been long-time favorites in our family. My dad adored a Southern staple of plain boiled custard. My spouse never met a crème brûlée that he didn’t like, and will fore go exquisite cakes, tarts, or pastries on any restaurant menu for custard with a burnt sugar topping. For me easy-to-make pots de crème are irresistible.
The French version of custard, pots de crème are assembled with a basic trio of eggs, sugar, and cream and can be complemented with an infinite variety of flavors. I’ve made dark chocolate ones garnished with white chocolate whipped cream, savored chocolate and chestnut creations accented with dark rum, and swooned over butterscotch and coconut pots de crème.
This spring, though, I decided to make classic pot de crèmes scented with vanilla, tweaking the traditional version slightly. Instead of vanilla extract, the pulp from a vanilla bean provided a more subtle taste, and in place of heavy cream, crème fraîche was a more delectable option. As a contrast to the custard’s velvet-smooth texture, I added a crunchy topping of pecans and toffee. Continue reading