Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Last month I participated in Jihva for Ingredients #1 : mango. The ingredient for Jihva this month is strawberry, and the event is hosted by the Baking Fairy. Over the past month, I have been making all sorts of strawberry desserts: strawberry juice, strawberry marshmallow, strawberry ice cream and strawberry short cake (which will soon be posted). With strawberries on my mind, I chose to try a recipe that has intrigued me for some time — a strawberry terrine with fresh coconut.
This strawberry terrine is from the Notebooks of Michel Bras: Desserts. The ideas in Bras's book are exquisite and original. His poetic sensibility for art and food is apparent. Throughout the book are sketches, recipes, information about ingredients and photographs of nature. The book ties together all its elements in an atmosphere of creativity, imagination and pleasure.
The composition of the terrine is actually rather simple. The tricky parts are: (1) defrocking the coconut; (2) making sure that your softened butter incorporates with the coconut, sugar and water mixture; and (3) cutting the finished product, as it is rather pliable. The difficulty cutting the dessert results from the high proportion of strawberry to coconut: you need to pack the strawberries tightly because they are basically holding themselves and the dessert together. This dessert shows off the clean and distinct flavours of strawberry and coconut — a lovely and unusual combination.
I recommend preparing this dessert three to four hours in advance to give it plenty of time to set.
Strawberry Terrine with Fresh Coconut
3 pts. (600 g) strawberries
1/4 cup (80 g) grated coconut
3 Tbsp (4 cl) water
3/4 cup (160 g) sugar
6 Tbsp (80 g) butter
1 1/2 gelatin leaves
1/2 cup (120 g) heavy cream
1 Tbsp (1 cl) red wine
9 inch (22 cm) aluminum pan mold
Wash the strawberries quickly. Drain them and remove the stems. Put aside on a dry towel.
In a mixing bowl, combine the grated coconut, water, 1/2 cup (120 g) sugar, and softened butter. Mix thoroughly. Soften the gelatin in cold water and dissolve it in 2 Tbsp (30g) boiling heavy cream. Slowly mix the cream into the coconut mixture. Allow to set. Whip the remaining heavy cream and gently fold into the coconut cream.
Assembling the Terrine
Cut 2 pt. of the strawberries in half. Alternate layers of strawberries and cream in the mold. Pack the strawberries in as tightly as possible. Remember that this is a strawberry terrine with coconut and not the other way around. Chill the remaining strawberries at least 1 to 2 hours.
Prepare the coulis by blending the remaining strawberries, sugar and red wine.
Remove the terrine from the mold by placing the mold in a basin of hot water. Slice the terrine with a knife dipped in hot water. Serve with the coulis.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Hello and welcome to sweet pleasure – a blog devoted to baking, pastry and all things sweet. My name is Sam and I am just a regular guy who is interested in art and pastry. For me there are many commonalities and connections between these disiciplines: from concepts, forms and colours, through aesthetics/composition and materials/ingredients, to techiniques. I hope to create, examine, explore, document and write about food related topics that I would like to learn about. I welcome any feedback and suggestions you may have.
Life is uncertain. Eat desserts first!
“Pleasure is a state…bliss…an action, and both of them, in our culture, are held to be unspeakable, beyond words.” Richard Howard in the forward to Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text
Pleasure is the literal translation for the French word plaisir. Plaisir means, among other things, amusement, delight, enjoyment, fun, indulgence, and joy. This constellation of meaning embodies my excitement and love for art, food and pastry. Pleasure is something we rarely talk about. We feel it, experience it, and embody it. This blog is my modest attempt to share and document my experiences.
Plaisir Sucré was my initial idea for the name of my blog. I changed to Sweet Pleasure, an English translation, for practical reasons: English is my first language and is currently the dominant language on the web in North America, where I live.
Plaisir Sucré is also the name of a cake created by the famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. In 1993 Hermé constructed Cherry on the Cake. This revolutionary cake was daring in its use of milk chocolate, an ingredient looked down upon, especially in Hermé’s native France. It created a major stir in French pastry circles and was widely discussed. Plaisir Sucré is a revamp of Cherry on the Cake—a plated version of the mythical cake. It has the cake’s components, minus the cherry, its flavours and its wonderful textural interplay. The Plaisir Sucré has five elements: (1) hazel dacqouise, (2) hazelnut praline, (3) milk chocolate ganache, (4) milk chocolate whipped cream and (5) thin sheets of tempered milk chocolate.
The recipe for the Plaisir Sucré is in Pierre Hermé’s book Chocolate Desserts. Although it’s manageable for the experienced home baker, this cake does require patience and time because of its many components. If you are planning to make this dessert at home, I strongly suggest decreasing the recipe’s portion size, as the Plaisir Sucré is rich, decadent and intense. This dessert is definitely a showstopper!
Friday, May 26, 2006
This month’s Sugar High Friday, which is being hosted by the knowledgeable and prolific Ruth of Once upon a Feast, has a ginger theme. For the event, I decided to make a ginger dessert by the distinguished pastry chef Claudia Fleming. On my recent trip to New York, I hoped to sample some of Claudia’s desserts. I knew she had left New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Amuse. I did research and found out that she and her husband, chef Gerry Hayden, were in the midst of opening North Fork Table and Inn on Long Island's East End. Because it was not yet open, I searched further and discovered that Fleming and Hayden had designed the menu for the IFC Waverly pub in NYC. On the menu was Claudia’s Guinness stout ginger cake. So, I went to the IFC Waverly eagerly in search of her desserts, including the ginger cake. Yet, sadly, I was out of luck. The company that runs the IFC Waverly pub had cancelled her dessert menu, apparently because of cost and a lack of business.
So, here I am making the Claudia Fleming dessert that I didn’t have a chance to try. My contribution to Sugar High Friday #19 is Claudia’s Guinness stout ginger cake served with her ginger and gingersnap ice creams and a chocolate ginger sauce. It is variations on the theme of ginger and a tribute to Claudia Fleming. The ginger cake has a rich, intense flavour. The ginger ice cream is a pure pleasure—people who admire ginger’s spiciness and kick will absolutely love it. The gingersnap ice cream is comfort food, reminiscent of ginger snap cookies and with more complexity than the ginger ice cream.
Claudia’s recipes can be found in her sole cookbook, The Last Course. I very much hope that Claudia will put out another pastry book.
Guinness stout ginger cake
1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 Tbsp baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 Tbsp grated, peeled fresh gingerroot
1. Pre heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.
2. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.
5. Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.
6. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Ginger ice cream
4 oz peeled fresh gingerroot, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
12 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and 1 cup of the sugar and bring to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
3. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add a little to the egg yolk mixture to warm it, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, whisking the milk constantly as you pour.
4. Return the custard to the stove and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl. Stir in the crushed peppercorns and the salt. Chill the custard until it is thoroughly cold, at least 4 hours.
6. Strain again and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Gingersnap ice cream
2 oz peeled fresh gingerroot, sliced (about 16 quarter-size slices)
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp cracked black peppercorns
1/2 nutmeg crushed
2 cardamom pods, cracked
12 large egg yolks
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp dark molasses
Pinch of salt
1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and let it blanch for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ginger to a heavy saucepan. Add the milk, cream, granulated sugar, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and allow the spices to infuse for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, and molasses.
3. Return the milk mixture to the heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add a little of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to warm it, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture, whisking the milk constantly as you pour.
4. Return the custard to the stove and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt and strain the custard through a fine sieve, Chill until thoroughly cold, at least 4 hours.
5. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Although I have made my share of desserts and have some chocolate making under my belt, I do not have much experience with confections. So, I recently decided to expand my knowledge of candy and confections. I started with marshmallows: they are light, soft, fun and seem to be in vogue. They also bring back some fond childhood memories. As I have discovered, marshmallows are one of those things that are much better made at home!
My first attempt at marshmallows a few week ago met with little success. They didn't achieve enough volume and were awfully sticky. My theory of why is fairly simple; the recipe did not bring the sugar to the correct temperature and I substituted white corn syrup—an ingredient I didn't have. Fortunately, I found another recipe and some white corn syrup. This marshmallow recipe can be found at Brownie Points. I halved the recipe for the three batches I made. I wanted to test flavourings that could be added to marshmallow; so, I experimented with a powdered spice, an alcohol and a fruit. The three I tried were cardamom, melon liqueur and strawberry.
add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom to the gelatin and water mixture
I used 1/2 cup of Midori Liqueur—a melon flavoured liqueur from Japan. I reduced the midori liqueur to 1/4 cup to concentrate the flavour and to take out the alcohol. I added the reduced Midori to a gelatin and 1/4 cup water mixture. I also omitted the vanilla extract. It is important to remove the alcohol content from the liquor; otherwise, your marshmallow will not get the volume required.
I used a 1/4 cup of strawberry juice. You can also use strawberry puree. Add the juice or puree to the gelatin mixture with 1/4 cup water and omit the vanilla extract. To make strawberry juice, place strawberries in a double boiler and heat for 15-20 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve or cheese cloth to recover as much liquid as possible.
In the end, I was pleased with how the marshmallows turned out. I'm fond of cardamom as a spice; so I liked the cardamom marshmallow best. Marshmallow is surprisingly simple to make, once you have a little practice.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Curious to see what Canadian food bloggers sent each other in the first Canadian Blogging By Post (CBBP) event? If so, click on the word "package" in the list below to see the amazing treats each blogger received. Some packages haven't arrived, but as soon as they are posted I will add them. You may also want to look back at the recipe round-up for CBBP #1 to see the fabulous chocolate desserts that bloggers made.
The packages received by Jasmine from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict.
The package received by Elizabeth from Rabbit Hole.
The package received by Cindy from Sourcream Timbits.
The package received by Rob and Rachel of Hungry in Hogtown.
The package received by Tania of The Candied Quince.
The package received by Vanessa of Tongue and Cheek.
The package received by Candy of Dessert by Candy.
The package received by Zoubida from Kitchen Culture.
The package received by Christine of Knife Skills.
The package received by Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice.
The package received by Raspberry Sour of The Sour Patch.
The package received by Kelli Ann of avoir une famille n'est pas comme un téléroman.
The package received by Linda of Kayak Soup.
The package received by Jen from The Canadian Baker.
The package received by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.
The package received by Sam of sweet pleasure : plaisir sucré.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone for participating. CBBP #2 will be hosted by Tania of The Candied Quince. The exact date for CBBP #2 has not been set; however, it will take place in early fall and have a harvest theme. I am sure Tania will fill us in on the details in a couple months. CBBP events are open to Canadian bloggers. Please feel free to participate.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
When Jasmine from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict tagged me for the recipe meme, I was leaving for New York. I tabled the meme for a short time due to work and CBBP #1. Now that I have a little breathing room, I thought I’d get down to it.
From where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?
My recipes come from a variety of sources. Many are from friends, family and places that I have worked. I like to construct recipes from principles and techniques with which I have a firm foundation. I also use my favourite cookbooks: for instance, I am fond of the Joy of Cooking. More recently, I find myself looking at recipes on the Internet, in magazines and within other food blogs.
How often do you cook a new recipe?
I like to prepare one new recipe a week—two or three if I am feeling ambitious. Otherwise, I’m pretty lazy.
Where do you store your favourite recipes?
I have a computer database in which I store many of my recipes, and I seem to come back to it time and again. Like Jasmine, my database is organized and cross-referenced in a number of ways: alphabet, category, flavour, ingredient, source, etc. I also have a binder where I store duplicates of the recipes. The recipes are in plastic sleeves, so that when I make a mess, which is often, they can be quickly wiped off.
How large is your recipe pile? Is it organized? If so, how?
My cookbooks and pastry books are getting unruly. During my recent trip to New York, I bought seven. Yes, my luggage ended up being heavy! I previously mentioned my online database, but since we are talking recipe pile, I have approximately 24 binders of recipes. They are labeled from A to Z and are organized by author. Other binders on my shelf include notes, research and clippings from magazines and blogs.
What is the oldest recipe in your “to try” pile?
Are you ever going to make those recipes in your to try pile?
No—not all of them. Many are only there for inspiration or emergencies.
Do you follow a recipe exactly or modify as you go?
If I have never made a dessert/pastry before, I generally follow a recipe to the word. If I think a recipe is fantastic, I usually don’t mess with it. I only modify and change a recipe when I think it could be improved or when I wish to test its limits.
What is one new recipe that you’re scared to try?
I’m not afraid to try recipes. I’m often too lazy to make something that will take an inordinate amount of time. Except, when I have a purpose, I will be in the kitchen till the task is done.
Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme (“new” as in only blogging a few months). Kristina from the Branches of an Olive Tree
Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with?
I post comments to anyone I visit regularly,
Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments.
make life sweeter!
Tag anyone else you want.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Last Saturday, my lovely partner Michael and I had a dessert party. Michael has been relatively silent on my blog but is extremely important for he is often reading, editing and sampling new dessert recipes and ideas. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.
Michael recently completed his master’s degree; so it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to invite some people over from his degree program to celebrate. With the plans in place, I set to work developing a list of the desserts that I wanted to prepare. I initially intended the dessert sampling to be interesting, simple and as little stress as possible. It didn’t quite turn out as simple as I had intended. The dessert list constantly changed and expanded. In the end, I made approximately twenty different desserts for a party of twenty guests, who had no prior knowledge of what was in store for them. Here is the menu:
Blackberry Hazelnut Financiers
Caramel Hazelnut Chocolate Bar
Cheese Plate with Fruit
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Chocolate Mousse (Lactose Free)
Cream Puffs with Chocolate and Coffee Cream
Cream Puffs with Hard Caramel and Vanilla Cream
Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream
Lemon Blueberry Madeleines
Pineapple with Basil Cream
Vanilla Crème Brûlèe
The desserts took about three days to prepare. On the last day, we had the help of Carly, Chizuru and Emily, three friends of ours. They helped to make a cheese plate, dip strawberries into chocolate, pipe cream into the cream puffs, and sprinkle gold dust on numerous goodies and much more. Thank you Carly, Emily and Chizuru!
We set a table with 12 of the desserts, while the other goodies were brought out every ten minutes or so. Because all the desserts were “mini” in size, most of our guests, who were certainly adventurous, brave and sugar-resistant, tried almost all. The evening was fun, relaxed and casual, with a group of happy graduates enjoying dessert and each other’s company. We thank everyone for coming, as Michael and I had a wonderful time.
Here is a slide show of the evening’s desserts. Hope you enjoy; we certainly did!
Sunday, May 14, 2006
I arrived home on Friday to find a large brown box on my dining room table. Because I organized CBBP #1, I guessed immediately that the package would likely be from the lovely and talented Jasmine from Confessions from a Cardamom Addict. I wish that I could say that I chose Jasmine, but the match-up for CBBP was actually rather systematic. Here’s how it worked. I created a list of the bloggers who emailed me their recipe link and postal address in the order that they contacted me. The CBBP bloggers were then sent the contact info of the person above them on the list. Jasmine was the first person to send her information, and I had included my name last on the list. Consequently, Jasmine sent her package to me. Of course, I had no idea what Jasmine was going to send.
The generous parcel that Jasmine sent me included a warm handwritten letter explaining the contents of the package. When putting her package together, Jasmine kept in mind the Eat Local Challenge. So, she went to some of her local farmers markets for the majority of the items. The package included: maple syrup, apple butter, cherry jam, wildflower honey, a small cookbook, a trio of lovely photographs taken by Jasmine and, last but not least, small bags of black peppercorn, cardamom and homemade candied ginger. Jasmine said that these three spices represented her and her culinary traditions. The package was put together with thought and care. Thank you very much Jasmine! The nature of blogging by post is chance and surprise; that’s what makes it fun and exciting! Well done everyone!
*I will be putting together a post round-up of the packages that CBBP participants received. If you would like your post to be included, send me an email, and I will gladly add your post to the round-up.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Welcome to the round up for the first Canadian Blogging By Post event. The theme for this round is chocolate. Before CBBP was cooked up, I read in a magazine that chocolate is the new wine! I laughed. Journalists are always making these sorts of comparisons. Ironically, today there is some truth to the statement: at least, the demand for varied and high quality chocolates is present and growing. Artisan chocolate shops seem to be popping up everywhere, offering a range of chocolates in varying cocoa percentages and, even, bean origins. Sophisticated chocolate is now more readily available to the home cook. Also interesting is that three 2006 IACP cookbook awards went to books on chocolate. The popularity of high quality chocolate is growing rapidly.
Canadian bloggers from across the country shared with CBBP some of their favourite chocolate recipes. From desserts that dazzle to baking that comforts, these posts are an enticing collection that prove that good chocolate is here to stay and is not a trend.
Jasmine from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict posts Apple Fritters with Chocolate-Maple Syrup, which not only looks great but also represents Canada by using real Canadian maple syrup! I love that Jasmine’s dessert is another entry in her "cooking by proxy series”, in which her ex-partner cooks while she instructs.
Elizabeth from Rabbit Hole is not a foodie blogger but rather a scrap blogger. Her site reminds me that there are more than food bloggers out there! Elizabeth posts a delicious and wonderful looking Chocolate Mud Pie! Thanks Elizabeth for participating.
Strawberry from Sourcream Timbits shows us how to make an Indonesian snack called Kue Pukis. Don’t let the English phonetics of the name fool you: this snack looks good and the ingredients sound wonderful.
Rob from Hungry in Hogtown yet again shares an adventurous and inspiring recipe from El Bulli—Chocolate with Wasabi. Need I say more? Check out his post.
Tania of The Candied Quince serves things up Toronto-style by making Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from Torontonian Bonnie Stern. Tania notes: “These cookies are typical of Bonnie’s recipes. They are easy to make, call for readily-available ingredients, and offer outstanding results.”
Vanessa from Tongue and Cheek brings us mouthwatering Chocolate Macaroons with Pistachio Buttercream. Sounds delicious. Thanks Vanessa!
Candy of Desserts by Candy makes a wonderful looking Chocolate Panforte. Candy clearly tackles chocolate decadence head-on: her ingredients are unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, high quality cocoa, hazelnuts and Grand Marnier!
Zoubida of Kitchen Culture prepares Moroccan Nut and Chocolate Squares, which look absolutely stunning. The title of her blog states, “what happens in a Moroccan-French-Canadian woman’s kitchen…”. It appears wonderful things. Check out her blog.
Christine of Knife Skills brings us Black Bottom Pecan Praline Bars from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. Simple and satisfying.
Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice makes a wonderful looking Chocolate Pecan Spread. Inspired by Out to Lunch by Donna Dooher and Claire Stubbs of Mildred Pierce, Ivonne does it again.
Raspberry Sour of The Sour Patch makes Mexican Chocolate Ice Box Cookies for both CBBP and Cinco de Mayo. Her recipe comes from veteran Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. Mmm…chocolate and spice!
Kelli of avoir une famille n'est pas comme un téléroman explains her love affair with peanut butter. She makes a delightful Surprise Peanut Butter Cookie from Canadian Living.
Linda from Kayak Soup makes a fantastic sounding Mexican Chocolate Pecan Bar, which has been on the menu of Frontera’s Grill House restaurant for 13 years. Thanks for sharing Linda.
Jen of The Canadian Baker shows us how to make lovely Caramel-Layered Brownies—a simple and wonderful treat. It took her a long time to decide what to make, and she almost didn't participate. I am certainly glad she did.
Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess, who started the incredibly popular Sugar High Friday, shares another fantastic treat, Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk.
Sam of Sweet Pleasure : Plaisir Sucré, and the host of this event, offers his homemade Caramel Hazelnut Chocolate Bar. Is it as decadent as it looks and sounds? Feel free to give it a try!
I want to thank all the participants of the first Canadian Blogging By Post. I would especially like to thank Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Tania of The Candied Quince for their assistance and input in getting this event off the ground. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing and reading everyone’s post. All we do now is wait in anticipation for our packages to arrive in the mail. Cheers!
Saturday, May 06, 2006
When I chose chocolate as the theme for the first CBBP, I had in mind that I would contribute a recipe that everyone could make and appreciate. So, here is my favourite homemade chocolate bar. I suggest using good quality chocolate in the recipe. I used Callebaut milk and dark chocolate. Valrhona, Scharfenberg and Lindt are also safe bets.
The bar is constructed in layers. The base is made from milk chocolate, praline paste, and feuilletine, which is a small crunchy wafer. If you are not able to find or make praline paste, you can use Nutella. On top of the base, milk chocolate ganache is poured. Once the milk chocolate layer is frozen, dark chocolate ganache is used to form the third layer. If you enjoy true decadence, add a final layer of caramel sauce to finish things off.
Caramel and hazelnut chocolate bar
240g milk chocolate
75g praline paste or Nutella
145g cream 35%
200g milk chocolate
25g caramel sauce
160g cream 35%
220g dark chocolate
Fourth layer, caramel (optional):
140g cream 35%
Use a 9” x 13” sheet pan with at least 1” height
1. Melt milk chocolate in microwave for approximately 1 minute. Take out, and mix until smooth. If you still have chunks of chocolate, heat at 10 second intervals until chocolate is melted.
2. Once the chocolate is smooth, add praline paste or Nutella and mix until fully combined. Add feuilletine and mix until combined.
3. Then, pour the mixture in your sheet pan, spread evenly with a palate knife and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
1. Make a milk chocolate ganache: Heat cream on the stove or microwave until boiling and then pour cream over the milk chocolate. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and then mix until the ganache is smooth. If there are still chunks of chocolate, heat in microwave for 10 second intervals until it is smooth.
2. Add caramel sauce to the mixture and combine thoroughly.
3. Then pour and spread over the frozen feuilletine base. Work quickly using a palate knife to spread this mixture over the base, trying to get the layer as even as possible. Banging the bottom of the pan on the counter may help achieve a more level surface. Place in the freezer for 1 hour.
1. Make a dark chocolate ganache: Heat cream on the stove or microwave until boiling and then pour over the dark chocolate. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and then mix until the ganache is smooth.
2. Working quickly using a palate knife, spread this mixture over the prior layers, trying to get it as even as possible. Banging the bottom of the pan on the counter may help achieve a more level surface.
3. Place in the freezer for 1 hour before adding a caramel topping. If you are not adding caramel, leave the pan in the freezer for four hours before serving.
Fourth layer (optional):
1. Make a caramel sauce by placing 210g of sugar and 70g water in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook the sugar until the sugar turns a golden amber colour.
2. Once amber, work quickly. Take sugar mixture off the heat. Immediately add 140g of cream and stand back, as the mixture will bubble and splatter. Then, using a wooden spoon, mix until the cream and sugar are combined to make a caramel. If there are lumps of sugar that have not dissolved, return to the heat and stir until melted.
3. Let the caramel cool for 5-10 minutes before pouring a thin layer on top of the frozen bar. Work quickly, using a palate knife, to spread this mixture over the prior layers, trying to get it as even as possible. Once again, banging the bottom of the pan on the counter may help achieve a more level surface. Place in the freezer for four hours, or over night if possible.
To serve, cut the chocolate bar with a sharp knife that has been heated with hot water or a butane torch. This helps achieve a clean edge. I suggest cutting small, thin slices, as the bar is extremely rich. To bring out the flavours, I recommend letting the bar warm up for a few minutes before serving. You can keep the chocolate bar in the freezer for up to two weeks, but I am sure it will disappear before then.
Thoughts about my NYC experience
Some of the other establishments that I visited:
1. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory: This small ice cream parlour’s regular flavours include almond cookie, black sesame, ginger, red bean, taro and ube. Their exotic flavours include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan and rum raisin.
2. Rice to Riches: a store selling 30 different flavours of rice pudding! Their flavours include raspberry statement, rest in peach, hazelnut chocolate, coconut coma, pistachio saffron and many more.
3. Fluff: a fun, whimsical café that makes homemade versions of Hostess Twinkies, Snowballs and Susie Q’s, along with other great American classics.
Some places I look forward to visiting in the future:
1. Café Boulud: for desserts made by French pastry chef Eric Bertoïa—I can’t wait.
2. Michel Cluizel Chocolate Bar: this chocolatier offers a 35-minute guided chocolate tasting for US$35.
3. WD50: a hip and hot restaurant that serves innovative and playful food and dessert.
My hope is that these NYC posts will help you on your next trip to this great city, or even inspire you to visit.
See more pictures of my New York City dessert adventure!
In lieu of being able to afford to eat at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon, I will gladly settle for Bouchon Bakery. On the 3rd floor of the Time Warner Building, right above Per Se, sits Bouchon Bakery. There, Pastry chef Sébastien Rouxel of Per Se offers an assortment of lovely and affordable treats. During our breakfast visit, we sampled a seasonal Danish, a pain au raisin, and a chocolate TKO cookie. The seasonal Danish was filled and topped with roasted pistachios, which were fantastic, and additionally topped with apricot. The pain au raisin was made of plump green and red raisins twisted into light, buttery and tasty Danish dough. My companion claimed it was the best he’d ever had. The TKO cookie consisted of two chocolate cookies sandwiching a lovely butter-cream. Thomas Keller proves that he can also do casual pâtisserie very well. Two thumbs up for Bouchon Bakery.
Fauchon Paris in New York
As one enters Fauchon, it is hard not to be affected by the décor. Fauchon’s signature white, pink and black colours demand attention. I am told that Fauchon Paris in New York is a modest version of their flagship store in Paris. With a beautiful display of pastries, chocolates, cookies, jams and confections, Fauchon is a wonderful specialty store. While I was in Fauchon, I saw Susan Sarandon buying jams and chocolates as small gifts for friends. The clientele varies, but the store feels a bit chi chi. The items here are definitely pricier than the average chocolatier or pâtisserie, but is it worth it? In my opinion, yes. I sampled the apple tart, which consisted of a thin layer of pastry topped with thick chunks of caramelized apples held together by a surprisingly pleasant apple glaze. The pastry chef Florian Bellanger has designed a wonderful tart—absolutely delicious! I also bought a number of other yummy confections, chocolates, caramels and red fruit candies. Fauchon is a fancy shop, but one I adore. I can’t wait to visit their flagship in Paris.
This elegant shop sells some of the finest Japanese confections, known as wagashi, in New York City. Minamoto Kitchoan has stores in other cities, such as London, Paris, Singapore, Taipei, and Hong Kong, as well as shops in southern California and Japan. From red bean sandwiched pancakes, through mochi and dango (which are different forms of rice cakes), to jellies, sponge cakes and cookies, Minamoto’s pastries and confections are small, cute and beautifully packaged. With an interesting range of flavours not commonly found in Western bakeshops, Minamoto serves up some cool and creative sweets. I tried three confections. The first was a plum suspended in plum wine jelly garnished with gold leaf. Second, I had a cake that was filled with red bean paste. Third was Hakuunno-Hotori, a pastry filled with white bean paste. The confections here are unusual, inspiring and beautifully made and packaged. Pass by if you have never experienced wagashi and if you love Japanese design.
Well-known chef Tom Collichio of Gramercy Tavern and Craft has opened Wichcraft, a takeout chain that serves fresh and tasty gourmet sandwiches. This chain has become very popular, with new shops popping up around New York and a few scattered across the U.S. Wichcraft serves up sandwiches at price of about US$9. It also sells soups, salads, coffees, pastries and ice creams. Although somewhat steep in price, the food is made with quality ingredients. We sampled two sandwiches: the first included goat cheese, avocado, celery, watercress and walnut pesto on multigrain bread, and the second was a grilled greyer sandwich with caramelized onions on rye. I recommend trying their ice cream sandwiches, which cost US$3.50. The two on the menu the day we went were homemade graham crackers with cinnamon ice cream and chocolate cookies with banana ice cream. Although slow during the busy lunch rush when we were there, Wichcraft’s fare was tasty, fresh and higher quality than most fast food.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Cream Puffs in New York
Before heading to New York, I was curious about the current cream puff rage; so, I decided to investigate while I was there. With friends, I sought out cream puff purveyors in Manhattan and sampled their wares. If you want to do the cream puff taste test for yourself, the three shops I review are conveniently located in Greenwich Village and Chelsea.
My Beard Papa’s cream puff was decent but nothing to rave about. I felt that their reputation has unfortunately surpassed their puff. The choux paste was crunchy and the pastry cream filling generic. On the positive side, the bakery décor was funky and the staff pleasant. I credit Beard Papa’s for starting the cream puff sensation.
My cream puff at Choux Factory was slightly better than Beard Papa’s—better primarily because the vanilla cream filling had more flavour. Overall, the puff was simple in flavour and, I thought, a little too simple in presentation. The atmosphere was decent but the service rather poor.
Puff + Pao
The food at Puff and Pao, the newest cream puff purveyor in NYC, was hands down my favourite. With a light choux paste and freshly whipped vanilla cream, Puff and Pao does cream puff right. The interior of the bakery was comfortable and contemporary, and the service was friendly, diligent and incredibly knowledgeable. Puff and Pao also makes savoury paolitos, small Brazilian-style cheese breads, which were delicious.
These are my thoughts. Yet, if you are really fond of cream puffs, I encourage you to try making your own. They are not complicated to prepare, and the results will likely be at least as good if not better than what you can find in most shops. Follow instructions and use high-quality ingredients to get the best results.
ChikaLicious, a well-known dessert bar in Manhattan, is run by husband and wife team Don and Chika Tillmans. It is an intimate place seating twenty. With a modest and efficient staff, ChikaLicious turns out an array of beautiful plated desserts. I found the dessert tasting, which is the specialty, to be delightful. At US$12, the tasting includes an amuse, a plated dessert and an assortment of petit fours. For $17, customers also receive a glass of wine paired for the dessert.
During our visit, the amuse was a mint ice cream sitting atop a light and soupy chocolate gelée. My companions and I ordered three desserts. One was a carrot and pineapple mille feuille that consisted of a carrot cream that was sandwiched between crunchy noodle-like pastry layers. The mille feuille was topped with pineapple sorbet and plated with a carrot sauce. This dessert was an interesting and tasty play on mille feuille. The flavours and textures worked wonderfully together.
The second dessert was a honey parfait in a blackberry soup topped with tuile. The parfait was cold, light and refreshing, while the berry soup and tuile complemented its subtle honey flavour.
Third, we had a coconut panna cotta that was served with basil sorbet, mango-pineapple salad and sweet basil seeds. Of all three desserts, this was my favourite. The soft and delicate panna cotta worked beautifully next to the juicy chunks of fresh mango. The dessert paired fresh fruit flavours that complimented each other perfectly.
The petit four plate included a toasted coconut marshmallow, which was light and ethereal, a classic dark truffle, which was high in cocoa, and a thin vanilla bean cookie. It was a great way to end this fantastic dessert tasting.
The creative desserts at ChikaLicious were constructed on flavours, colours and textures that clearly worked well together. I am not surprised that ChikaLicious is often full and sold out before closing. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss ChikaLicious!
Room 4 Dessert
Slick, trendy and hip is how I’d describe Room 4 Dessert. This dessert bar is a narrow, twenty-seat, space in lower Manhattan that has a beautiful, modern interior. It is a three-month old hotspot that is a must for dedicated foodies. I would suggest arriving early or making a reservation, as the bar can easily fill up. The dessert menu is engaging and deceptively simple. There are three categories: first, desserts in glasses, second, tastings with multiple components and, finally, dessert alternatives, which include cheese plates and assorted petit fours. They also feature creative cocktails and a large selection of wines and spirits.
The desserts by the glass are beautifully layered creations that mix soft and crunchy textures with bold and interesting flavours. The “ice ice café” that my dessert companion ordered was an exquisite blend of coffee gelée, coffee cream, sweet basil seeds and ground cocoa nibs served with a frozen passion fruit parfait. The flavours and textures made my taste buds go wild.
There were four dessert tastings on the menu, and I sampled three.
First, “something about chocolate” included a warm chocolate financier drizzled with olive oil, a light chocolate soup called “bubbles”, a chocolate sabayon topped with brown sugar and a smooth silky chocolate ice cream that sat on a bed of feuilletine. Second, “red” consisted of a hibiscus jelly, raspberry bread, a beet sorbet on caramelized cereal and a vanilla parfait with a red wine caramel. Third, “pique nique springtemps” had a small bun with a pomelo and tomato compote, a beer sorbet, a rhubarb panna cotta with crumble and a rhubarb pomelo compote.
All three desserts were of a high caliber—engaging, experimental and artistic. Pastry chef Will Goldfarb does a wonderful job of pushing the dessert envelope. He creates conceptual desserts that have customers think and rethink flavours and techniques. They are desserts that delight and intrigue, that call diners to sample the entire menu.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Over the coming days, I will be writing five posts about my dessert experiences during a five day get-away to New York City. Upfront, I would like to thank Gwenessa, Phillip, Matt and Michael, who indulged me in my sugar-induced adventure around New York.
When I was planning my trip to New York, I decided that I wanted to try at least one high-end restaurant. There are many highly regarded chefs in New York; so the decision was difficult. After talking with friends and completing two weeks of research, I decided on Jean Georges, the premier restaurant of famed chef Jean-George Vongerichten. I made a reservation for lunch, because it's much cheaper than dinner and is easier to get space. Generally, reservations need to be made about a month ahead, especially for dinner.
For lunch, Jean Georges has a very reasonable prix fixe menu. For US$28, diners are able to choose two courses from an extensive and appealing list of about twenty items. The items are widely varied and include lobster, beef, lamb, scallops, and sea bass. Before one is served the two courses, an "amuse" or appetizer is offered. The amuse that I had included three items: a white asparagus soup with a raspberry infusion; a small toasted appetizer topped with crab and watercress; and a small spoon of fava bean compote. The quality was excellent—a perfect way to start lunch. The two courses that I ordered were pan-fried scallops (which were perfectly tender) with braised cauliflower and a Dijon mustard sauce and sea bass in a tasty light soup with baby vegetables. Both dishes were wonderful, and I found myself in happy bliss.
Of course, I had to order dessert, especially as the pastry chef is Johnny Iuzzini. Iuzzini, who is 29, has worked at some of the top restaurants in New York: Payard, Daniel and Jean Georges, to name a few. With such an impressive track record, my expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed. All the desserts on the menu are tastings, and with my lunch companions, I had the pleasure of trying two. The first was a duo of an Alsatian rhubarb tart with elderflower gelée and an almond meringue with a rhubarb and lemon grass sorbet. The second was a quartet! It included: crème fraiche cheesecake with Meyer lemon jam; chartreuse ice cream; blood orange sorbet in a tarragon sauce; and finally a kumquat strudel (which escaped my photo). At US$8 each, they were surprisingly inexpensive. I thought about ordering the two other desserts on the menu but resisted. The flavours, colours and textures were well integrated, creating dessert tastings that were solid in technique, pairing, taste and presentation. In short, Iuzzini’s desserts were spectacular!
When I thought our meal was about to end, our server wheeled out a small cart. On it was a wonderful assortment of mignardises (which are included in the prix fixe). We were served miniature macaroons the size of dimes, a small plate of wonderfully flavoured chocolates (licorice, earl grey, and coconut) and a trio of flavoured marshmallows (vanilla bean, coffee, and grapefruit). Did we eat them all? You better believe it!
If the excellent food and beautiful décor wasn’t enough, the service at Jean Georges was impressive. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful and extremely professional. Our lunch was brilliant. The next time I am in New York I will definitely book again.